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Authors: Diane Duane; Peter Morwood

Kill Station

BOOK: Kill Station
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If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as

"unsold and destroyed" to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this

"stripped book."

SPACE COPS: KILL STATION is an original publication of Avon Books. This work has never before appeared in book form. This work is a novel. Any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental .


A division of The Hearst Corporation 1350 Avenue of the Americas New York, New York 10019

1992 by Bill Fawcett & Associates Cover art by Dorian Vallejo Published by arrangement with Bill Fawcett & Associates Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 91-92089 ISBN: 0-380-75854-7

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law. For information address Bill Fawcett & Associates, 388 Hickory, Lake Zurich, Illinois 60047.

First AvoNova Printing: January 1992


Printed in the U.S.A.

RA 10 987654 321

"Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break

A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind

"I beg cold comfort."

Shakespeare, King
John, v.
vii. 42



heading for the Outer Belt, and Evan was eating Spaghetti Bolognese, his own recipe, and reading the message from their supervisor. It was a moot point which of them would give him indigestion first.

"For pity's sake," Joss said, "don't put that stuff there! You'll ruin the upholstery.''

Or perhaps there was a third candidate—Evan's shipmate. "You worry too much. It's just spaghetti."

"And the tomato sauce is acid. You'll ruin the leather."

"Ah, then," Evan said, sighing and moving the bowl off the right-hand seat and onto the instrument panel between them, "my mother would love you, you know that?"

"Not there, either!!"

The interior of the ship was indeed very neat and clean, but it could hardly help being so, for Joss had cleaned it about six times since they left Earth. Evan was having some difficulty dealing with his partner's frightful tidiness. But then, what could you expect of a new sop, almost still wet behind the ears, who had just been given his first patrol vehicle?

"It wants dirtying up a little," Evan said, grumbling on purpose as he turned away from Joss's fussing.

"You may want anyone who sees us to think we're just new out of Earth and crazy eager, but by the good God, / don't. Too much shine attracts attention."


Joss came and leaned over Evan's seat, very pointedly removing the flat plastic spaghetti bowl from the console between the two front seats. "Who was it, then," he said, "that I saw mooning over the last sealer coat, oohing and aahing and telling them where to put the shield? Hypocrite."

"Come back here with that!" Evan shouted after Joss and the spaghetti, but there was no point in it. They
close to their destination, and Joss was already into the ship's little galley, tidying again.

Evan sat back and sighed once more, looking out through the plex at the seemingly unchanging view of blackness and stars. It was true enough that having their own ship, so soon hi their partnership, was a bit of a plum. Nor was it a bad craft at all—not the usual two-man patrol "crib", but a ship with separate staterooms, with its own tiny detention facility, and with a computer core worth having. It was just as well: they would need the computer core where they were going. Even hyperboosted data signals couldn't go faster than light, and once past Mars they were a good two and a half light-hours from the computer facilities in the Solar Patrol HQ on the Moon. A daily back-and-forth dump from their core to the SP master reference would be the best they could afford. It was a little hard to get used to. The familiar voice of their online facilitator, Telya, was missing from their inner ears for the first time in months.

As senior partner of the team, and with both of them being in good odor from their last job, Evan had gotten away with insisting on the addition of some armaments that many sops didn't get to see put into their ships. Money had not changed hands—nothing so sordid—but Evan had used the old Glyndower charm, and had called in some favors among the people in Shipfitting at Solar Patrol headquarters, and his and Joss's supervisor, Lucretia, had pointedly looked the other way during the proceedings.

Well, mostly.

"POINT THREE," said the communication that was


presently showing on Evan's pad.
While I understand that your business on
required a great deal of capital outlay, the Commissioner has told me to impress on you that inappropriate professional largesse, such as the habitual spending of almost your entire year's salary in the pursuit of one drug manufacturer, is not to be further encouraged. This job is going to be a considerably lower-outlay sort of procedure. You are not to construe your being given a ship as meaning that you are free to mistreat it, damage it, or use it for unnecessary jaunting about. It simply seemed likely to transmit the wrong message if we sent two officers out to the Asteroids on a mere scheduled carrier—schedules being what they are, or mostly, what they aren't ..."

Evan shook his head and stroked one of the pad's control surfaces with a fingertip, making it scroll back up the message. It was a long one: Lucretia had been too busy to see them before they left the Moon on this run. She was in charge of security for the opening of the new HighLands L5—a big deal, very much a symbol of the United Planets' intercooperation, billions of credits of joint investment, thousands of scientists and researchers all working together with the newest and most advanced equipment for the betterment of humanity, blah, blah, blah. . . . The publicity hacks had been trumpeting the thing all over the media for months now. Evan had been heartily sick of the whole business even before it began becoming a major distraction for their supervisor, making her even more hurried and perfectionist than usual. He wished that, after the
business, Lucretia might have had a few words of praise to spare for them. But no such luck, as Joss would say. Lucretia had her hands full; and even if she
had time, Evan suspected she would simply have asked them coolly what they wanted—to be made a big deal of because they did their jobs? He sighed and went on with his reading.

"I don't know what you put in that sauce," said the voice from behind him, "but it's impossible to get the

dishes clean. You should market the stuff as a universal adhesive. Going over the Bill of Rights?" Joss asked, plunking himself down in the other seat.

"Precious few rights here," Evan muttered, and glanced over at his partner. Joss O'Bannion was shorter than the usual run of sops, but Evan, being a powered-suit operator, had for a long tune known better than to judge anyone's ability at anything whatever by their size. Under his short dark hair, Joss had something that was a great advantage—a bland sort of face that didn't stand out or impress one as being anything special: Oriental in cast, but with some of the usual Euro-mixture added, Finnish and French and heaven knew what else. Joss was well-built without being blatant about it, was in good training, and was quick on his feet and with his gun when he needed to be. All these qualities Evan valued. But more than these, he valued Joss's cleverness with machines, computers especially, and his ability to reason his way through the messiest tangles of evidence and illogic.

It was almost enough to make Evan forgive him for being so bloody

He glanced at Joss with what was meant to be good-natured scorn. "Don't you ever take your uniform off," he said, "even when you cook?"

"What? And get my civvies dirty?"

Evan snorted. "Cleaning is going to be expensive where we're going."

"So what won't?" Joss leaned back in his own seat and reached down beside it for his pad idly bringing


up the same message that Evan had been looking at. "A little restrictive about money," he said. "The Commissioner didn't get that pay increase, I guess."

"It's always feast or famine with that one, from what I hear," said Evan.

"Mmf. Well, we'll try to keep it under control. I can't see why people would need as much bribing on this job," said Joss. "Drugs are a problem in that there's too much money in it: the stakes are too big, and people expect


bigger payoffs. But in the asteroids there's no fast money. Only the long haul."

"Or the Glory Rock," Evan said. There were always tales of the one big hit on an asteroid that was something really precious—gems, sometimes even gold. Such things had been found. But what was left of them after the miner in question had paid his debts to the local suppliers, or the tax men, often took the glory off the rock in short order. If some other miner didn't take the Rock itself first.

"Hmf," Joss said. "Think that's what we're after this time? Somebody ripping off a few billion credits'

worth of palladium from a passing miner?"

Evan laughed at him. "You've been watching your daft vids again," he said. "Miners with donkeys. Little old men with long beards and foolish accents. What was that one?
Death Valley Tales?"

"Death Valley Days."

Evan grunted again and pretended to become absorbed in what was showing on his pad, before Joss could once again tell him that preposterous story about the old vid-show's presenter going into politics, and actually getting elected for something. When business was involved, Joss was strictly truthful, and would as soon lose a whole body of evidence as misrepresent one fact; but when it came to his collection of ancient vids, he was inclined to draw the long bow. "In all this space," Evan said, "I think we have something more going on than mere claim-jumping. Not that it doesn't happen."

"No, you're right about that."

Evan glanced up at the top of the communication. The Belts were an odd place, not quite like any of the other spaces that man had begun to tame. In all of those, according to the old rule, law on the planet surface—or inside the habitat—was administered by the local government. That law stopped at atmosphere, as the saying (and the legality) went, the point where the sky went black, and the Solar Patrol took over.

But in the belts there was no atmosphere, except inside


the domes of the older settlements, or inside the dug-out cubic of the newer ones. And the governments were not the familiar names of the inner system. No member of the loose confederation of habitats and worlds that was the United Planets had ever tried to lay specific territorial claims to even one asteroid.

That was sensible, because distance and expense would have made it impossible for any one nation or multinational to police. It was damn near impossible to police
The Solar Patrol had numerous small stations scattered around the Belts, on or in the biggest of the asteroid colonies or concatenations.

But their policy was largely laissez-faire, simply because there was no way it could manage not to be—not if the whole sop force had been posted out that way, with a sop on every thousandth rock.

Law was an iffy proposition in the Belts. Any law that a local asteroidal government made was binding locally: as far as the surface of the asteroid, or the top of its tallest dome. After that, no law until the next asteroid, two or twenty or two thousand klicks away. The Solar Patrol was law everywhere in between, and theoretically had the cooperation of all local law enforcement groups— theoretically. After all, no one wanted to be declared a "black spot," a place where the sops would not work if they were needed.

But cooperation came in a lot of shades, and a sop learned to work by himself and not depend too heavily on assistance from the locals.

Should real trouble arrive, the sop was again mostly on his or her own. There was a Space Forces base on Mars, another in orbit around Jupiter, but planetary orbits being what they were, neither of those would necessarily be in a position to reach any part of the Belts in better than a week or so. The Belts were therefore both a place of opportunity—for there were steady livings to be made out that way—and occasionally of extreme danger.

As the communication made plain.

"SITUATION: SPHQ has been receiving numerous reports of disappearances of citizens and personnel in the

BOOK: Kill Station
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