the smuggler’s bible

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

Two men dead in the elevator. Hamlet shoves one aside and the door closes softly. There’s a messy splatter across the button panel. He picks the top floor. A chime and motion. He reloads, takes a deep breath. He’ll be exposed at the top. Fragile as an eggshell.

The door slides open and a burst of high-powered rifle fire chews into one of the corpses.

“Is that the Dane out there?” someone shouts. The rifle chatters again, then a second voice, much closer, says, “Don’t be sore, old friend. Things change. We’re taking advantage of a world that’s grown honest.”

Hamlet

The first man inside doesn’t realize the trouble he’s in. He lingers in the doorway, backlit, scanning the room. The muzzle flash surprises him. His gasp turns into a choking cough as blood sprays across his mirrored faceplate, a black smear under the strobing emergency lights.

“More are on the way, but there’s a gap,” Horatio says. “Slightly better than even odds if you stay in the seam and move quickly.”

“This uniform—” Hamlet starts. Then: “Those fucking adders.”

“Insufficient query.”

“Forget it.” He reaches for the dead man’s assault rifle. “Tell me where to find Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.”