Here’s the second snippet for Odin’s Eye, coming this weekend! Odin’s Eye is the sequel to Fenris Unchained and a novel in the Star Portal Universe. You can find the first snippet here.
Time: 1200 Zulu, 24 June 291 G.D.
Location: Bliskin Station, Hanet System
“Yep,” Mike Majors nodded as he pointed out exterior damage to the ship’s forward ring, “That’ll need some repairs.”
It was a bit of an understatement, in Mel’s opinion. Having experienced the wrenching sensation of the off-balance warp drive, she would have said both damaged rings would have needed to be replaced. Their surfaces were covered in emitters designed to warp space… many of those emitters were damaged, out of alignment, or simply destroyed.
“I was hoping to get some upgrades,” Fenris said, his voice a gravelly baritone.
Majors didn’t even bat an eye at being addressed by the AI… which made Mel wonder just how many Guard laws that the Mercenary Guild bent or outright broke out here at Blisken Station where people paid extra to keep their secrets.
“That’s entirely possible,” Majors said. “Now, just off-hand I’d say it looks like you’re equipped with Tango-Seventeen drive field emitters, which were top of the line back a hundred years ago, but we can probably either upgrade or entirely replace them with something like X-Ray-Elevens.
“They’re the same series of emitters so we wouldn’t need to replace any power conduits or do any hull redesign. It would keep your drive field depth and give you even better speed at strategic warp, you’d be a match for most current military craft.”
“You have a good eye,” Fenris said. “Most humans don’t realize how deep a drive field I have.”
Mel rolled her eyes at that. She wasn’t certain whether the ship or the engineer was trying harder to flatter the other… either way, she knew it was going to cost the group money as the two worked each other over for more options.
“Oh, yeah,” Majors said. “I could tell that from just a glance. What I’m really interested in, is whether you’re satisfied with those disruptor cannon; they’re Mark Thirteens out of the Preserve, right?”
Like other engineers she had met, Majors wore a headset with an eyepiece that scrolled information to him. Mel could see ghostly text flit across it too fast for her to read anything.
“Yes,” Fenris growled. “Truthfully, I don’t think they provide the full output that they had on their specifications.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’d heard,” Majors said. “I also heard that they’re subject to projector failure when they’re fired in rapid sequence.”
“You know, I thought that was just a malfunction in my secondary systems, but that would explain the drop in rate of fire,” Fenris said.
Mel shook her head; this was about to get very expensive. She jotted down new main armament, even before Majors answered.
“Well, we’ve actually got some of their Mark Twenty-Fives in stock, pulled them off… well, I can’t really say what I pulled them off,” he winked conspiratorially at Mel, “but I’ve got a full set of those, which should be as easy as a one-for-one swap. There’s still a healthy market for the Mark Thirteens, so it wouldn’t cost much beyond installation and a bit of overhead. The Mark Twenty-Fives will give you a significant boost in firepower.”
It was a long moment before Fenris spoke, “I’ve looked at the specifications for the Twenty-Fives, I like that idea. What do you think about my power systems?”
“Well,” Major said after a glance at his eyepiece, “I’d say that they’re pretty solid. Power output is limited, but we could probably boost it with some…”
Time: 1400 Zulu, 25 June 291 G.D.
Location: Bliskin Station, Hanet System
“This looks like it’s going to be expensive,” Marcus said as he looked over Mel’s notes from the day before. “New drive emitters, new main armament, upgrades to the power systems, new secondary armament, and some defense upgrade options as well…”
Fenris’ growl answered him, “I’m worth it.”
“We know you are,” Mel said, “It’s just that we don’t know how much money we’ll have to do all this yet.”
She didn’t miss Marcus’s derisive snort; he thought letting Bob arrange things was tantamount to setting them all up to be murdered for their money or turned in to the Guard for a bounty.
“I offered to launder the money,” Fenris growled. “For that matter, I think I could probably simply hack…”
Mel held up her hands, “We talked about that, Fenris; the one place someone is guaranteed to notice hacking is when you start messing with money. Even just moving it around, someone is bound to notice. If you take it from accounts, even inactive accounts, they’ll notice sooner.” The last thing they wanted was anyone realizing there was a rogue AI on the loose.
“Fine,” Fenris said, “but I’d like repairs to begin soon.”
“They will,” Mel said. She didn’t mention how the ship had spent the past century making do with what it could manage on its own. The AI seemed to have exhausted much of his patience when he realized his freedom. At least he still values human life, she thought.
“I’d like to test my new systems out against an appropriate target after repairs are complete,” Fenris growled. “Maybe a pirate?”
Mostly values human life, she corrected herself. It seemed that like most men, Fenris wanted to play with his shiny new toys, even before he had them. “I’m certain we’ll figure something out.”
She looked around, “Bob left already?” The spy would have to physically travel to the Chrysalis system to make contact with the criminals he wanted to use to launder money.
That, in turn, meant that they had to use some of the cash to pay for his travel, as well as the travel of whoever went later after he set things up. Someone would have to carry the data codes for the money transfer and they would definitely want some backup and an escort of some kind. Probably Brian and Marcus, maybe me as well, she thought.
“He and Lace left this morning,” Marcus said. “I figure we’ll head out once it’s all set up. You bring the codes, Brian and I will back you up.” He didn’t bother to hide his suspicion of the agent. In his opinion Bob was just as untrustworthy as anyone else.
“We get a total value, yet?” Mel asked.
“Total account value is seventy-seven million, five hundred and thirty-four thousand, nine hundred and eighty-two Guard dollars,” Fenris said. “Though the exact value varies dependent upon exchange rates for the accounts in the Harmony Protectorate.”
Mel gave a low whistle, “That is a lot of money.”
She wasn’t certain about the going rate in the Harmony Protectorate. She knew they were a semi-autonomous collection of four systems that operated with a modified colonial charter under the UN Security Council… but still technically part of Guard Space. She hadn’t dealt much with them, since they had ruinous trade tariffs for foreign vessels.
Plus, she thought, there’s been a lot of ships disappearing out that way and even Vagyr’s pirates can’t account for all of them. It wouldn’t surprise her to hear that someone in the Protectorate was sheltering pirates.
Marcus grimaced, “I’m sure it won’t be nearly as much after we launder it. Standard cut for something like this is upwards of thirty percent.”
“Thirty percent?!” Mel demanded. “That’s extortionate!”
Marcus grinned, “It’s stolen money, so… yeah, it is extortionate. The kind of people we’re dealing with won’t do this from the goodness of their hearts and it costs them a pretty penny to do what they do. They’ll have to funnel the money through a dozen worlds, exchange it for bearer bonds or cash in transit and then funnel it back along the way. This much money, spread across a dozen worlds and systems, it’s going to take a lot of time and work. Plus they’ll probably have to bribe a few customs agents and several senior bank executives to hide those transactions.”
Mel just shook her head, “Still, thirty percent…” She hadn’t thought herself that attached to the money, but to see a third of it disappear so easily left her reeling.
“We’ll get cash to pay for some of the repairs, maybe enough left over to work some cover identities for us all, probably not enough to get a solid ID for you and I, though.”
Mel nodded at that. It seemed to be something of a fixation for Marcus, yet she couldn’t blame him. Without a new, solid identity, they were ghosts in the system. They weren’t free to move about any world, to step aboard any civilized space station, really, to accomplish anything. “We’ll have to register Fenris, too,” she said, “and pay for a Guild Charter if that’s what we’re going to do.”
“If we’re going to stay in civilized space I guess it’s our best option,” Marcus said. She didn’t miss the disapproval in his voice though. He didn’t like that option and he hadn’t yet explained why.
She looked down at her list and the preliminary estimates. Given how their funds were about to shrink, she didn’t know if they would have the money. Certainly they wouldn’t have the money for everything. So where could they afford to cut corners?
It wasn’t a question she could answer. For now, she just hoped Marcus was wrong about the going rate for money launderers.