Alien safari, p.7
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       Alien Safari, p.7

           Robert Appleton
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  Chapter Five

  Vaughn whistled in awe as he walked past the glittering heaps of glass and the piles of sawed-up trees and metal girders—the remains of several massive aviaries destroyed during that audacious raid on the facility a few weeks before. Over a dozen bulldozers and two sky-rig cranes were left unmanned in the middle of the site. The clean-up operation had been aborted midway through. He asked his armed escort, Spielman, a terse, unpleasant woman with a prominent razor-sharp jawline and an abnormally long neck, why the area was deserted.

  She looked round at Vaughn and crooked an eyebrow, but didn’t stop walking. She twisted into an arrogant backward stride that lasted until she’d finished looking Vaughn up and down a few times. “You for real?”

  Vaughn was silent.

  She turned away and spat onto the sand. “You’re the reason it’s deserted, you and all those other off-world suck-baits come to pick us clean. Don’t give a shit about what happens to us once Malesseur and his little harpy sink their talons in. I mean you’re supposed to be a lawman. Is that what you call justice? The bitch steals from us, destroys half our facility, kills over three hundred men and women out on the border, then gets caught red-handed. And ISPA just hands her over to her pop, scot-free, like it was all nothing but an aw-shucks, left-my-fare-in-my-other-wallet misunderstanding? Are you kidding me?”

  “I don’t think it’ll go down quite like that.”

  “Oh, you don’t, huh? Then tell me, lawman, why ISPA would send three of its Omega big shots here if not to exert political pressure on our Administration. If this is simply about legal jurisdiction, why has Simon Malesseur been allowed to set up camp here? He’s not a part of ISPA, never has been. And there’s—”

  “I’m not here for the dispute. So you can quit soapboxing and just answer my questions.”

  “Can I now?”

  “Yes, if you really want justice for what happened here.”

  Her turn to be silent.

  It had been one of Saul DeSanto’s first lessons in interrogation: find out what the other person wants most, use it to get what you want. It was generally an easy emotional button to push; in the case of this beanpole, she was hungry for retribution. Made no secret of it. Lori Malesseur and her mercs had humiliated Iolchis Core, they’d gone on a killing spree. This woman’s countrymen, maybe some of her closest friends, had been murdered. She was bursting to get even.

  “My investigation’s running hot,” Vaughn said, somewhat overselling his progress. “It’s linked to what took place here, but I’m getting conflicting stories about what really happened. The more time I waste on rumors, the colder the trail will get, the less chance I’ll have of nailing all those responsible.”

  The woman spun round, stopped Vaughn about ten meters from the entrance to the Administration building. “So there’s more than just Lori Malesseur behind this?” Her narrow eyes lit up. She gritted her teeth. “I knew it!”

  “Then maybe you can help me out.” To subtly empower her, Vaughn unmagnoed his utility baldric and his holster and sidearm and handed them over ready for the security scan inside the building.

  Spielman gazed at the Omicron accessories in her hands. “What do you want me to do?”

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