It was an unaesthetic weapon but better than nothing at all. He approached the Jovian Sports Coupé and slid underneath it. Cocking the arm with the little finger as Jed had done, he readied the weapon. Bringing the finger down, he fired the gun. He shot at what he believed to be a hydraulics fluid compartment.
A panel clattered to the tarmac. No fluid leaked out. This might be a systems bay. He tore at the wires and cut at tubing. Something spurted, all over his new secondhand shirt; he didn’t know what though. If it was important, the onboard monitoring systems would notify the crew that the craft was no longer flight-worthy.
He slid the panel back into place, but not perfectly – it hung slightly loose, like the cracked shell of a hard-boiled egg.
He was about to slide out when he heard something to the east.
The elevator doors on the roof opened. Out strode three figures. He could only see their feet. One of the figures had unrealistically large calves, or was it calf blubber? At each step the fat within them swished like water in two sacks. The ground shook every time the gargantuan legs placed their heels upon the ground.
“I hope everything is to the Viscount’s satisfaction.” The calves wobbled as he spoke, as if the speaker was nervous or eager to please.
“We have you and Professor Hazard to thank, Nono. The Antlers of Amplitude will make an impressive addition to the Plutocracy’s collection. And if it does as we believe in other environments, the Viscount will be even more impressed.”
The blubber on the calves shivered. “The Zorgons are seeing the light, the light of progress, competition.”
“Not that it matters.” The first figure laughed.
A third voice entered the conversation. “But the League of Worlds? Won’t they object if the Zorgons want the Antlers back?”
The giant calves wobbled vigorously. “We obtained them legitimately.”
“Agreed. Besides, what is the League of Worlds anyway but a confederation of appeasers! They failed to stop the Second Asteroid Wars. They have no bearing on Earth’s affairs. That is up to the Council of Plutocrats. And always will be.”
Nono’s attention was drawn to the hovercab parked on the tarmac. “What’s he waiting for? He’s parked in a loading zone.”
“We’ll be off Nono,” the second figure said quickly, “now that everything is to our satisfaction.”
Marley watched the giant calves retreat and waited for the sound of closing elevator doors.
The remaining figures shuffled their feet. “The Viscount will be most pleased with this offering.”
“He will be more than pleased Rudolf.”
A moment’s silence.
“And he will be keen to publicly display the artefact when we reveal its latent property.”
“Property? What are you referring to, Jones?”
“Your security clearance is ‘Slightly Secret’. I can only hint at things.”
“I love secrets. Don’t tell me. Let me guess.”
Marley’s ears pricked up.
“Alright. You have three guesses.”
“Do the Antlers of Amplitude contain an extremely rare material which could be traded? For credits, millions of them?”
“I’m not sure what they are made of.”
“Do they make the wearer fall asleep or have visions?”
“Certainly not, although I like your thinking. They indeed do something to the possessor.”
“Do they make the wearer extremely fashionable?” Rudolf was sarcastic.
“Close enough!” He slapped him on the back. “The Antlers of Amplitude can enhance your charisma. But I do not think the Viscount will want to look like a deer when addressing the assembly. However, channeled correctly, we believe the Antlers can charge what appear to be ordinary substances with extraordinary properties. One of these substances is the red sand of Zorge. When an electric current is fed through these horns and focused on a handful of sand, the resulting mixture has mind-blowing effects.”
Mind-blowing, thought Marley, you can say that again.
“Rothball Hazard interrogated the Guardian before the accident. He was never the same after they revived him, miraculous though that was.”
Marley held his breath. He let them ramifications sink in.
The hatch of the Coupé closed. The engines fired up. Within seconds they sputtered. The pilot tested the wing flaps.
The compartment above Marley opened and fluid dribbled onto his face. He hastily slapped it shut. He wiped his mouth and scurried behind a funnel on top of the building.
The craft lurched a foot off the tarmac before its override systems activated and it fell back to the ground. It jolted violently, like someone on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus who has just got out of the shower only to discover the central heating unit has shut down and there are no towels.
The pilot ran an electrical systems check. Lights blinked all over the craft before the engines shut down.
Rudolf and Jones jumped out and scampered to the elevator.
“Looks like we’ll be staying longer than expected.” Before entering the lift, Jones noticed the pool of fluid underneath the Coupé. “What’s this? We’ve sprung a leak.”
“We must run a diagnostics test immediately.”
Marley was about to make a move on the scientists and with one glorious charge recover the Antlers. Besides, what could anyone do against a man with a cybernetic arm? But the moment was lost. The elevator hatch sprung open. Once more the formidable Frint Nono lurched onto the rooftop.
“I see you have a problem. Do not worry. Mechanics are on their way. They will have your craft up and running faster than you can say…my name.”
“Thank you Nono,” said Jones. Privately, he suspected that Nono was somehow involved – he had reappeared so quickly.
“Why don’t you come back to the comfort of the Executive Suite?” Nono said. “The mechanics will report to us there.”