Here is the final snippet of The Colchis Job, available today on Amazon. (link: https://amzn.to/2AIUnBM) The Colchis Job is a military science fiction novel set in the Four Horsemen Universe. For the first three snippets, follow the links: Snippet One, Snippet Two, Snippet Three.
A few hours later, as we closed to orbit over Anauros, my plan had come together. Ruel had been giving me nervous looks ever since I’d come up on the bridge. Whether that was because he knew that Mulcahy had come forward or because he’d heard about the guard on the armory, I wasn’t certain. Either way, it shouldn’t matter.
“Stable orbit achieved, Colonel,” Heather Valsaint reported, “Anauros landing control wants to know our intentions and if we have any cargo to send down.”
“Miss Valsaint,” I replied, “Let them know we had a run-in with some pirates in their outer system. Inform them that we’re going to bring down the survivors and let them deal with them. Tell them we’ll send down a sample of some of the equipment and weapons we’re here to sell, too.” I didn’t look at Ruel but I heard a muffled hiss, “I think I’ll take our shuttle down with them myself, there’s some questions I’d like to ask them.”
Ruel spoke up then, “Colonel, how about I take care of that, for you?”
I looked over at him, an expression of practiced surprise on my face. I hoped I wasn’t over-doing it. “Are you certain?”
“I know some people down there,” Ruel smirked. “I’ll make sure those pirates get what’s coming to them.”
I grinned back, smiling for an entirely different reason now. “That could work. I’m not sure I trust these people, though. Better take a team of people you trust.” I couldn’t help but fiddle with the watch on my wrist, feeling the cool metal against the warm palm of my hand. It was a nervous habit of mine and I hoped it wasn’t too much of a tell.
Ruel’s expression went blank and I wasn’t sure if I’d overdone it or if he was having trouble changing his plans. I was offering him a chance to hit the ground with some of his chosen people, with trade goods, weapons, and a chance for him to link up with some of his criminal contacts. It is either the best or stupidest plan I’ve made since taking control of the ship. He could pack our shuttle full of well-armed pirates and go for attempt number two to seize the Argos.
He gave me a friendly grin as he thought it through himself, “Sure, thing, sir. I’ll take Schottler, Obradavic, and Cadrun.”
I frowned as I considered it. I knew that Cadrun and Ruel were close. I hadn’t figured Obradavic and Schottler were in whatever Ruel had planned, neither of them were from Third Platoon originally, which meant he’d done some recruiting behind my back. Still, those were the four who I’d ordered Reedie to take with him to secure the armory when the pirates had attacked. If Ruel had subverted them, then he’d want them with him on the ground, preparing to attack the ship.
He would also want someone on the ship to open the airlock and prevent us from blowing it like we had with the pirates.
“How about you take Mulcahy and Scott, too?” I asked. “I think four might not be enough to handle the prisoners and to deal with any kind of customs and such they’ll have here.”
Ruel’s expression flickered. I could see him trying to figure out whether he could deal with two marginally honest mercenaries and still keep someone on the ship to help him take it over on his return. I could see Valsaint and Reedie looking on, both of them clearly confused by the interaction. They knew I didn’t trust Ruel, and they didn’t know why I would send him to the planet alone.
“How about La Voie and Rice?” Ruel asked, almost gritting his teeth.
There we are… Rice had been the one to “find” the dead Lieutenant Bohannan after the firefight on Bedarine Seven. Which meant that Ruel had probably ordered him to kill his platoon leader. La Voie, on the other hand, wasn’t on my radar, other than the fact that he’d fallen asleep during the firefight back on Bedarine Seven. I wasn’t sure if he was on drugs or if he was narcoleptic, but the fact that Ruel wanted him along was a down-check in my book.
“If you think those two will be useful…” I trailed off, not wanting to sound too eager. I could see Reedie’s eyes bulging behind Ruel and he looked like he was holding his breath and starting to turn purple.
“Probably the best ones for this job,” Ruel gave me another friendly smile, though I could tell he was frustrated and trying to stay in control.
“Fine,” I nodded. “Professor, have you loaded those crates?” I asked over the radio. I’d given him the assignment as a punishment for having let the pirates aboard in the first place.
“Yeah, uh, sir, but are you sure about this–”
I interrupted him before he could go on. “Great. Go ahead and clear the shuttle airlock. Sergeant First Class Ruel is going to be bringing the prisoners down there.”
“Roger,” Grimes sighed. I could tell from his tone that he thought I was insane or stupid, but that was normal. I looked at Ruel, “Better get moving, right?”
“Yeah,” Ruel grinned at me and I could almost read his mind. He was already seeing himself commanding the Argos.
“Lots of luck,” I said as he stepped off the bridge. All of it bad, I hope…
“Staff Sergeant, uh, I mean Colonel,” Grimes asked as he came onto the bridge, “I still don’t understand why…”
“Not now,” I waved a hand and looked over at Valsaint. “They’re landing?”
“Bring up the audio,” I said crossing my arms. I’d had Grimes conceal a radio in the shuttle’s passenger area.
“…remember, get those crates open and get the weapons out. I’ve already radioed ahead. A friend of mine will be waiting. Arm up and start passing out weapons. I want to blow out of this spaceport before the authorities even know we were here. Once we hit the ship, Schottler and Obradovic, you head for the armory, Rice and La Voie, you take a team to engineering, and the rest of you will follow me to the bridge…”
“I think that establishes their criminal intent,” I smirked. “Please forward that recording to the local authorities as a statement of conspiracy, intent to mutiny, and piracy.”
“What about the crates of weapons?” Valsaint asked nervously.
“But I didn’t load any weapons,” Grimes protested, wiping his hands on his pants. “He had me load four crates with sewage from the backed-up sewage processor. The really nasty, chunky stuff, too… God that was gross.”
I heard laughter across the bridge and my smile broadened. A moment later, disgusted shouts came over the radio and I felt a warm, pleasant feeling wash over me.
“That was a shitty job, sir,” Grimes noted looking disgruntled.
I snorted, “Well worth the effort, I’m certain. I only wish I could see Ruel’s expression as we break orbit.” I nodded at Valsaint. “Miss Valsaint, break orbit, if you would. Tell landing control that we’ve dropped off some refuse in need of processing… and tell them they can bill us for disposal if needs be.”
I sat back in the command chair and took a deep, satisfied breath. My satisfaction didn’t last long, though. I cursed and pressed the button to do another radio call, “Reedie, please send for the cleaning crew, the bridge still smells like fish.”