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Authors: Paul Collins

Dyson's Drop

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Dyson’s Drop

Paul Collins sold his first professional fantasy story in 1977 to the US magazine ‘Weirdbook’. The best of his short stories have been collected in
The Government in Exile
(1994). A later collection,
Stalking Midnight,
was published by cosmos.com.

His first fantasy novel for younger readers was
The Wizard’s
Torment.

Paul also edited the young adult anthology
Dream Weavers,
Australia’s first heroic fantasy anthology.
Fantastic Worlds,
and
Tales from the Wasteland
followed.

Together with Michael Pryor, Paul is the co-editor of the highly successful fantasy series,
The Quentaris Chronicles;
he has also contributed seven titles to the series as an author. Paul’s other works include
The Jelindel Chronicles, The Earthborn Wars
trilogy and
The World of Grrym
trilogy written in collaboration with Danny Willis.

Paul has been the recipient of four literary awards, the A Bertram Chandler, the inaugural Peter McNamara, the Aurealis and the William Atheling. He has been short-listed for many others, including the Speech Pathology Australia, Chronos and Ditmar awards.

Paul has worked as a pub bouncer, served time in the commandos, has a black belt in both tae kwon do and jujitsu, was a kickboxer, and trained with the Los Angeles Hell Drivers.

Visit him at
www.paulcollins.com.au
and
www.quentaris.com

 

Also by
Paul Collins

Cyberskin

Dragonlinks

Dragonfang

Dragonsight

Wardragon

The Wizard’s Torment

Swords of Quentaris

Slaves of Quentaris

Dragonlords of Quentaris

Princess of Shadows

The Forgotten Prince

Vampires of Quentaris

The Spell of Undoing

The Earthborn

The Skyborn

The Hiveborn

Allira’s Gift
(with Danny Willis)

Lords of Quibbitt
(with Danny Willis)

Morgassa’s Folly
(with Danny Willis)

Trust Me!
(Editor)

Mole Hunt

Trust Me Too
(Editor)

DYSON’S DROP

Book 2 in The Maximus Black Files

Paul Collins

 

Most works of fiction are collaborations in their many manifestations. Although authors are gods to their worlds, we have angels. Mine include Randal Flynn, Sean McMullen, Avi Polymorph, Sue Jimenez and Meredith Costain.

First published by Ford Street Publishing, an imprint of Hybrid

Publishers, PO Box 52, Ormond VIC 3204

Melbourne Victoria Australia

© Paul Collins 2012

24681097531

This publication is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the publisher. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction should be addressed to Ford Street Publishing Pty Ltd, 2 Ford Street, Clifton Hill
VIC 3068.
www.fordstreetpublishing.com

First published 2012

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data: Collins, Paul, 1954-

Dyson’s drop
I
Paul Collins. ISBN: 9781921665660 (pbk.)

Series: Collins, Paul, 1954- Maximus Black; bk. 2.

For secondary school age. Subjects: Spies -juvenile fiction. A823.3

Cover design: Les Petersen ©

Book design by Grant Gittus

In-house editor: Saralinda Turner

Printing and quality control in China by Tingleman Pty Ltd

OLD-FASHIONED methods were sometimes the best. Who would have thought that in this day and age you could place a glass against a wall and listen in on a conversation? Maximus Black, sublieutenant in the ranks of the
Regis Imperium Mentalis
(RIM) and special attache to Colonel Jake Ferren, screwed up his face in concentration as he pressed his ear to the base of the glass. He was in a small vacant room adjacent to Colonel Ferren’s office. Of course, he wasn’t only relying on old-fashioned methods, the work done on the cilia hairs of his inner ear, doubling their number, also facilitated his eavesdropping.

Sure enough, the Colonel was taking a highly confidential call on his
n-space
receiver. Gravitonic telecommunication to this day had never been successfully bugged, though Black was itching to give it a shot. And, unfortunately for Black, Jake was extremely cautious in what he said, despite the room’s sophisticated anti-bugging hardware and dampening fields.

Probably just paranoid,
thought Black.
Definitely old school.

‘Rench will bear watching. Just wish I knew what his game was,’ Jake was saying. ‘No, this whole mole hunt thing is getting out of hand. It’s as crazy as a hen house around here. What? Hen house. H-E-N H-0-U-S-E. Look it up.’ He paused a moment.

‘That’s what I’m telling you. Accusations and counter-accusations are flying in all directions. Got a grudge against somebody, just whisper it in the right ear, and hey presto, they’re on disability leave until an investigating committee can get around to clearing them. Or not. We’ve already lost some good people.’

In the next room, Black nodded gleefully. ‘Give me chaos or give me death,’ he murmured to himself, quoting some long-dead politician. Maximus Black was, of course, the mole that everyone was looking for. He was also privileged to sit in the eye of the storm his presence had created. It was a year since a sudden priority message had been received at RIM from Special Field Agent Anneke Longshadow. Anneke had broken into the headquarters of Quesada, one of the biggest armoured Companies in the galaxy, only to discover that RIM had been penetrated at the highest level.

What mad twist of fate, Black often wondered, had seen Black himself take her call?

No matter. The desperate hunt for the mole had lurched into being and, thanks to nimble footwork on his part, Black had gotten himself assigned to the Task Force leading the hunt. Irony upon irony.

It had been an
interesting
year.

In any case, Anneke Longshadow had died six months ago, heroically saving the lives of a million people (she’d received a medal, posthumously), lives Black had unblinkingly tried to sacrifice to save his own skin from those damnable Sentinels. Oh, how he would like to bring those semi-religious zealots to their knees, along with their pitifully obsolete
Septum Misora.
Who gave them the right to lay down the rules for what could and couldn’t be done in the galaxy?

Certainly, Black had no intention of being bound by rules, theirs or anybody else’s.

Jake finished his call. Black listened long enough to ascertain that Jake was voice-writing paperwork, then exited the room after making sure the corridor outside was clear.

As Black rounded a corner he bumped into someone striding briskly towards him. ‘Out of my damned way!’ barked the man. Black opened his mouth for an angry retort, but stopped himself as he recognised Major-General Rench, the man Jake Ferren had just been talking about.

‘What’s that, Lieutenant?’ Rench snapped, his face beetroot red. ‘What did you say?’

‘Nothing, sir!’ Black snapped to attention and saluted. Rench threw him a sloppy salute back and shouldered past, muttering.

Black watched Rench march up the corridor and burst into Jake’s office. Black smiled to himself The man was an idiot with all the subtlety of a wounded bear.

For the rest of the afternoon, Black processed his paperwork. At least holographic document shuffling was visually entertaining. He sent out mid-level priority field assignments to agents in various systems, and then went home. As he left through the main entrance he ran into Esprin Harbage. The slightly overweight lieutenant gave Black a sour look.

Black clapped him on the shoulder. ‘Esprin, how are you? Haven’t seen you for a while.’

Esprin hung his head. ‘I’m been
busy,
Maximus. You know,
working.’
The emphasis was intended as a rebuke to the fact that Black had inducted Esprin into the joys of a slave narcotic several months ago and had been sending secret assignments his way. Without the antidote to the narcotic, Esprin would die horribly within a couple of days. Hence the word
slave.

As Black watched the quintessential ‘fat boy’ - the one who got beaten up at school and laughed at -plod off to his desk for the evening shift, he wondered if he shouldn’t terminate Esprin. Oddly enough, Black felt sorry for him. Esprin was so clumsy, so downtrodden, and so bad at everything he did, it was a wonder he had made it so far in RIM. To be fair though, when cornered, old Esprin had a way of coming up with unique solutions to intractable problems. It was as if, somewhere beneath that chubby inferiority complex, there lurked a true man of action, one too afraid to show himself.

Tough, but that was the pecking order of life, Black mused. Some peck, and some are pecked.

Black, of course, was a peeker
par excellence.

He caught a rapid transit threader towards home, sailing serenely above the jam-packed buildings of Lykis Integer. But he didn’t go home. Instead, he bypassed the treadway leading to his door and plunged into a maze of backstreets and alleys, first picking up items he had concealed in a cleaning droid. Doubling back on himself several times, he took abrupt detours through conjoined shops. In a fashion shop he entered a scanning room, disabling the measuring machinery with his plasma burster. The short burst of dissolved steel plasma at two billion degrees cut a hole in the wall, through to the storeroom of the neighbouring building. Now he appeared on the other side of the city block he had entered minutes before from another point entirely.

After an hour, he took a drop tube down into the claustrophobic underbelly of Lykis, where the working classes lived and laboured, and lost himself in a three-dimensional maze. To keep himself safe as he progressed through the tunnels and plazas, he switched on an array of dampener and deflector fields, rotating their range and frequency at random and performing sensor sweeps in all directions.

No one was following him.

Despite this, Black took advantage of the ‘cleaners’ he had built into walls and archways at specific locations along his route. Disguised as ordinary utility panels, and supervising the host of municipal functions required of such panels, they also cleansed chosen targets like himself of bugs, worms, and hi-tech surveillance tracker beams that might have locked onto them.

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