And this is the end of Chapter One, folks. I'll probably post something else between Chapters One and Two, just to satisfy the people who aren't into the story at all.
The safe was empty.
Amanda looked again.
The safe was still empty.
Immediately, Amanda turned around. Something had clearly gone very wrong, but the time and place to think about it was not in the vault where the safe had been emptied with 1.5 minutes before the guards showed up to ask her questions about the whereabouts of its contents, questions she couldn’t answer. She could think about all this later, when she was safely in her space-ship returning home.
That thought flickered and died in her mind when she saw seven flickers of light fade into seven olive-green individuals pointing seven very large rifles at her. She recognized the flickers as the tell-tale signs of mimetic camouflage suits deactivating. She hadn’t noticed them before because they’d been staying perfectly still—trained eyes could detect a person in mimetic camouflage when they moved by the flickers at the edge of the image-field, but when they stayed still, even the sharpest eye couldn’t spot them. These men must have been very bored.
These men must also have been placed here specifically to wait for her. Someone had set her up for this. One of about five people who had either suggested she go for the Styrax Medallion or who knew she had plans to go after the Medallion had tipped off the Imperial Monitors to her intentions, and they’d set up a trap for her. She realized that she’d been grassed.
The door at the end of the hallway opened, and Gavin Lloyd walked in still wearing his forest-green suit. He flashed an identity badge at her. “Krau Amanda Delacourt,” he said, the tone of earnest uncertainty in his voice at their last meeting replaced by a clipped formality, “I am required to hereby inform you that you are being placed in detainment for the following crimes: The attempted theft of the Styrax Medallion, in contravention of Tinarian Statute 1415.7B, the assault of an officer of a private security firm, in contravention of Tinarian Statute 2374.9A, the unauthorized entry into a private residence…”
Amanda let the charges wash over her; she knew they were meaningless. Enough to put her away for life, but she wasn’t really being arrested for attempting to steal the Styrax Medallion. She was being arrested for all the crimes they knew she’d committed but couldn’t pin on her; all the brilliant thefts she’d pulled but had never gotten caught in, all the tricks that had left the police baffled and angry. They could never prove it, but they knew it was her, and now that they’d caught her, they were never going to let her go. She’d spend the rest of her life in Nirvana for her crimes.
Amanda had occasionally wondered how she’d react if she got caught; she was confident enough to believe it wouldn’t happen, but it was nonetheless an interesting hypothetical question. Would she attempt to fight her way free, killing police in a daring bid for freedom? Would she die in a blaze of glory, forcing them to kill her rather than live a life in imprisonment? Would she perhaps break down in a fit of terror, once she realized that she couldn’t get away and that her crimes had caught up with her? She’d imagined all these scenarios from time to time. As Gavin finished reading off the list of charges and finished his formal arrest with the classic words she’d heard on so many police vids, “I must now take you into detainment until a fair and just trial may be convened,” she knew the only possible way to respond.
She smiled wickedly at him and held out her hands to be cuffed. As he walked over to her, pulling out a loop of flexisteel and wrapping it around her wrists, she grabbed his lapels and pulled him in close. The guards began to shout, cocking their weapons, but all she did was plant a long, slow, smouldering kiss right on her captor’s lips.
After a long moment, she let him go and said, “It’s a fair cop, guv.”