The Exile by TS Hottle “Nolan Rosc?”

Rosc turned on his barstool to see a black-haired Gelt approach. “Lattus Brac?”

“The same,” the Gelt said in unpracticed Humanic. “Tishla asked me to find you as soon as the Charys docked.”

Actually, Tishla had told him to meet Brac at a designated time and place. “What happened to the meeting on the Level 6 Zocalo?”

Brac grinned. “The Guardian has heard about our arrangement and wants a cut. If we move fast, we can seal the contract before the Royal Guard forces our hand.”

“And Delda Rallis?”

“Who?”

This was not good. “The Laputan man who brokered all this?”

Now Brac looked confused. “I’ll take you to him.”

“Uh-huh.” Rosc decided his drink should be a double.

“Look,” said Brac, “I know this looks weird, but I haven’t had time to update Tishla. We need to move. Now.”

Rosc paid his bill and followed Brac out into the docking bay atrium. Above them, Ramcat spun slowly, clouds swirling over mountains and forests, the lights of towns and cities dotting the darkness beyond the terminator. It held his attention for a few moments. When he looked back down at his surroundings, he found himself and Brac flanked by four large Gelt Warriors.

Another Gelt, yellow-haired and wearing an ornate tunic, stepped into their path. “Good evening, Mr. Rosc. I am Laral Farad, and I would like to know why you failed to complete the job I paid you for.”

So, this was the Gelt Yrdesh worked for on Hanar. He knew the gray-skinned weasel had to be in the Laral’s pocket. “I shot her. Her son died from the bio-weapon your people didn’t tell me about. My job is done.”

“The Lattus whore lives. Which means you failed.”

“Maybe you should have told Jeris to explain that. If you can find her, ask her about it.”

“We did.”

One of the Warriors picked up a small bag sitting at Laral Farad’s feet. Laral took it and unzipped it. Jeris’s face stared out at Rosc from within.

“She won’t be making that mistake again.” Farad motioned to another Warrior who drew his sword. “Neither will you.”

“You know Tishla killed Yrdesh, your lackey,” said Rosc. “Just stabbed him in the heart. Let him bleed out on her pretty white gown.”

“Yrdesh… Dead?” Laral’s face became a whiter shade of gray.

“Tell you what,” said Rosc, eyeing the sword he knew would kill him soon. “That woman is twice the Warrior you are. She’s bad ass. I’m glad I shot her just so I could witness who she really is. I’m only sorry her son died because I did a job for a worm like you.”

Laral pulled his own sword and drew back. Something sizzled past Rosc’s ear and took a chunk out of Laral’s blade.

“Laral Farad Jorlnec,” said a Laputan well over two-and-a-half meters tall. One of the Warriors snatched up the bag with Jeris’s head inside and zipped it up as the Laputan approached. “Now I know you’re not stupid enough to have anything to do with that headless corpse I just found ten minutes ago. After all, your House cannot afford to lose too many senior members after that little waif drove your Uncle Jorl to suicide. What happens if Umish buys it?” He pushed through the ring of Warriors surrounding Laral and Rosc. An energy pistol dangled at his side. “Bad enough you got sent home with your tail between your legs by a human female who was over a century old.”

“She was an admiral,” said Laral, “with an entire fleet behind her.”

The Laputan laughed a strange barking laugh that unsettled Rosc. “If I know the Laral family, defeat by a woman of any species is a disgrace. It’s why all our commanders were women late in our war of first contact with the Gelt.” He swung his gaze at Rosc. “Now his kind understands war. They don’t fight fair because they like their wars short.” He shoved his hand at Rosc. “Delda Rallis. I’m a friend of Tishla’s. And Farad here was just leaving.

A dozen Laputan Peacekeepers in full riot armor seemingly emerged from nowhere and encircled the group. All the troops towered over Rosc and the Gelt.

“You have,” said Delda, “one hour to leave Laputan space. Or I’ll be forced to name you as a suspect in the murder of Jeris Anyi. Move.”

Laral resheathed his sword and withdrew with his Warriors.

Delda looked back down at Rosc. “Come with me.”

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