Cy stood in his dress uniform in front of Gerard, Pyrite, and Ox. Toliver stood off to one side.
“For your aid in bringing Colonel Kilmer to justice and in destroying the business networks of Boss Clawf, I have been authorized to suspend your sentences and to give you clemency for the offenses you committed while under Kilmer’s threat.”
“That’s not quite expunging them, Cy,” Gerard said.
“No,” he said with a defeated tone. “Nor can I give you the million credits you were promised.”
“Six zeroes and no one,” Pyrite said. “At least we aren’t in the clinker again like Masq.”
“I’ve booked you passage to Culmina. From there you should be able to sign on to a freighter or otherwise find passage to wherever you like.”
“Culmina’s a dump,” Pyrite said.
“Yes,” Cy said, “but I thought it better than jettisoning you out an airlock, which was all the Colonial Federation was willing to do.”
“You paid?” Ox asked.
“I didn’t have much choice,” Cy said. “I thought you deserved better than what they offered.”
“And what of me?” Toliver asked.
“It’s worse for you. The Colonial Federation’s Armed Services won’t press charges for the crimes you committed under Kilmer’s orders, but they’re not willing to keep you either. You’ve been discharged. Many of your comrades weren’t so lucky, particularly those who participated in the prison massacre. I’ve booked passage for you to Culmina, too.” Cy looked at the four of them and smiled. “It was a pleasure to work with you.” He laughed. “I honestly didn’t expect to say that. Fare—”
The wall to Cy’s right exploded. A malnourished Moorvat entered, flanked by a fit but elderly woman holding a souped-up plasma rifle and a weathered man in a brown coat and wide-brimmed hat.
The weathered man, Caliban Slade, pointed at Cy. “Teef,” he said to the Moorvat, “that one.”
Teef stepped forward and wrapped Cy in a bear hug. Ox ran to help Cy, but the elderly woman, Vass, shot him point-blank with her rifle. Ox went down.
Vass shook her head at Pyrite and Gerard. Toliver ran towards Cy from the other direction, but Caliban decked him. Cy struggled to free himself, but Teef had his arms pinned and Cy was still weak from his wounds and the blood lost during his encounter with Kilmer.
Caliban, Vass, and Teef backed out of the hole they’d made in the building. Three ropes were waiting for them. Caliban connected a rope to a harness that Teef was wearing; Teef’s hold on Cy never slackened. Vass grabbed a hold of her rope as Caliban followed suit and tugged, and the four of them were lifted up to a hovering ship.
“Bounty Hunters,” Gerard said with a sigh.
“You know them?” Pyrite asked.
“By reputation,” Gerard said. “Caliban Slade and his crew. Usually they kill Moorvats on sight. If they kept him alive, they must have had a reason.”
“Oh well, when’s our Transport leave for Culmina?” Pyrite asked.
“As soon as Ox and Toliver wake up.”
“You’re going after him, aren’t you?”
Gerard smiled. “He’s done the same for me.”
BossClawf entered a smoky meeting room filled with a long table and bodyguards standing behind each person at the table. Boss Clawf sat down at one end of the table. The man at the other end, Boss Antwerp, puffed on his Gnossian cigar and smiled.
“It seems you’ve had some troubles,” Boss Antwerp said.
“Nothing a little revenge won’t handle,” Boss Clawf replied.
Boss Antwerp smiled. “We don’t seek revenge against family.”
“You know what I meant.”
“But youdid not catch mymeaning,” Antwerp said. “For family, we don’t seek simple revenge, but retribution, restitution for what has been lost. Because they’re family, they know what they’ve done. We must show them our displeasure, our pain, by cutting out their heart.”
“Yes,” Clawf said, unsure what else to say.
“First, you must settle with your niece. Then,” Antwerp said with a fiendish smile, “we will settle with you.”