the smuggler’s bible

Hamlet

He pulls the bodies out of the elevator car and rides down two floors, then takes the stairs. Horatio guides him, limping, through the lower floors by skimming the police networks and providing the building surveillance system with a complicated argument regarding the nature of objective reality.

“How are things at the spaceport?”

“Quiet. There was some buzz, but it has slackened considerably. I believe you are currently listed among the dead.”

“Wonderful. We’re leaving town. Get things ready, but be subtle.”

“Our business is concluded?”

“Yeah, we’re finished here.” Hamlet says. “I can’t think of anybody else worth killing.”

Hamlet

He is crawling on his belly toward the elevator when a machine against the wall begins to whine like a beaten dog. A hatch on the side is dented and bulges awkwardly. He thinks back, can’t remember shooting it. Probably one of Rosencrantz’s high-velocity rounds.

The machine gives up and dies, spraying sparks onto the carpet. Ventilation fans kick on to whisk away the spreading haze of blue-black smoke. Horatio speaks in his ear.

“Seems like they’ve finally stopped jamming this frequency. Does that mean you’re dead?”

“Nope, just dumb luck,” Hamlet says, coughing. “It’s good to catch a break.”

Hamlet

Hamlet hunkers down behind a pillar, thankful that it’s real metal and not a facade over cheap plaster. Bullets patter against the other side and ping off of floor and wall.

“Are you counting?” he asks through teeth clenched on a bandage, pulling it tight over a spreading patch of red on his upper arm.

“As well as can be expected,” Horatio says. “Eighty-five percent chance of a lull in sixteen seconds.”

“The odds are getting tighter.”

“There are more men shooting at you.”

“Uh huh. Police?”

“Among others.”

“Copy that,” Hamlet says, bracing to run. “Give me a countdown.”

Hamlet

Hamlet makes his way to the main admin building. Some lights are burning, but the door lock glows red under his hand. Then he hears the static—like an old signal coming from far away.

“Seen enough to convince you?”

When he turns around, there’s a fuzzy blue holo standing in the snow. He pings Horatio, but just gets dead air.

“I came all the way out here didn’t I?”

“You sure did,” the static says, and Hamlet hears the bolt slide in the lock behind him. “There are snakes inside, kid, but don’t forget the serpent back at home.”