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Introduction:

This contains all the chapters
Chapter 1

Recovering a fugitive

My life began with my older sister. We were sold to a… school when I was still a baby. Even when I slept they used a sleep teacher to make me learn. Everything from chemistry to engineering, by the time I was fourteen I could have been anything; doctor, engineer, chemist, computer programmer… anything.

The fact was we were trained to kill, we were assassins and could use any type of weapon. Even though I was young they had given me the name Morpheus as my clan name. It came crashing down when I was sixteen. My sister went out for a mission and when she returned the masters stunned her while she was in my room talking to me.

I was confined to my room while she was taken away. It was four days later when the alarms began. When we heard an alarm everyone was supposed to go to their armory and then move to defend the school. I was calm as I rushed to my armory and quickly gathered what I needed. Instead of going to defend the school I went looking for Samantha.

I headed for the school display room. It was where someone was made to talk in front of the school to show everyone how to torture a person. I was afraid of what I would find. When I pushed open the door and stood looking into the large room my fears were confirmed. From across the room I could see the bloody battered body of my sister hanging from the far wall.

I stepped into the room as another door opened and an outsider stepped in holding an assault rifle. I ignored him as I took another step towards Samantha and another door burst open with three other students. My reactions were swift, I drew and fired three shots before the outsider could even bring his weapon up. I ignored the falling bodies and the outsider as I crossed to my sister’s body.

I put my pistol away and knelt to unlock the first ankle restraint. I moved to the other one and then stood to work on one wrist. My sister fell into my arms as I tried to reach the one remaining restraint. The outsider was suddenly there and reached up to release Samantha. She dropped and I lowered her to the floor. I knelt beside her and for the first time in a long time I felt tears on my face.

I felt the hand on my shoulder, “you are not safe kid.”

I snarled and caressed my sister’s dead face before standing, “stay out of my way outsider.”

I pulled my pistol as I headed for the far door. The next hour was a blur of death as I moved through the school killing. The last was in the grandmaster’s quarters and they were guarded with the best students and technology available. After I stepped away from the headless body of the grandmaster I went back to Samantha, I did not care what happened to me.

It was the Imperial Marshal from before that came for me. I was the only student left alive and they needed to access the data net for the school. I ignored their techs and moved through the bloody halls until I reached what seemed like a vacant wall. I pressed against the wall and waited ten seconds before reaching to the right and hitting the light switch.

The wall moved back and then sideways. I walked into the small room that held racks of computers on three walls. I sat at the one small station and brought it to life. I glanced back at the marshal that had followed me, “what information do you need?”

He glanced at a tech behind him and he squeezed around him. I let the tech plug a siphon into the main frame and turned away. I went back to my sister to find some stranger putting her in a bag. I almost killed him on the spot when the marshal touched my shoulder, “she will be taken care of.”

I glanced at him, “where? Samantha was all I had.”

He squeezed my shoulder and that was the start of a new life for me. The system government tested me and determined I was educated. Of course I would have to go back through an advanced school to get a good job. The imperial marshal from the school was the one to suggest becoming a marshal. The process was hard and I had a one in a million chance to make it through the two year testing and selection program.

I walked into the Canis VI headquarters for the imperial marshals. I was carrying my ready bag and wore a nice suit. The weapon scanner screamed and the two guards spun, reaching for their weapons. I stood still and moved one side of my suit coat to show the badge on my belt, “my ID is not in the exempt queue yet.”

The whole lobby had moved away as one guard stepped close to check my credentials. He was also reaching for my weapon and I cleared my throat, “you touch it and I will kill you.”

He froze and his partner moved to point his pistol at me, “your name marshal?”

I smiled thinly, “Morpheus.”

They both froze, I had broken every record at the Marshals Academy and my name was well known. The guard stepped back and his partner turned and input my ID. The scanner turned from red to green and I nodded and started for the far lifts. When I stepped out on the office floor I knew the system marshals had purposely left my ID out of the planetary marshal lists.

They were standing around grinning as I headed towards the far side of the room to the commander’s office. I set my bag on the chair outside the office and knocked. I heard a woman’s voice, “come!”

I opened the door and walked in. Sitting in the commander’s seat was a fair skinned older woman. In the chair beside her desk was imperial marshal Jessop and I smiled, “you missed my graduation Simon.”

He smiled, “I had the commander send me a recording.”

I looked at the woman as she sat back to look at me, “ma’am, I am Morpheus. Central assigned me as a replacement.”

She nodded, “this is not like the academy. Marshal Jessop is an old friend and was giving me a little off the record briefing on you.”

I nodded, “the school…”

She smiled and shook her head, “I already know that. He was explaining some personal things, like your penchant for ice cream.”

I grinned and moved to sit in one of the chairs in front of her desk, “it was not something we were allowed to have in the school.”

She sighed, “I have a problem young man. I only have one marshal I can assign as your training officer. Unfortunately she is headed out to hunt down a fugitive on Sigma II. You will accompany her and stay out of her way. Observe what she does and listen when she tells you something. The life span for a marshal can be very short.”

She touched a comm button, “marshal Camdra please come to my office.”

I heard a voice clearly, “she went to dispersing ma’am.”

Commander Tosin sighed and looked at me as she closed the comm, “very well. Go to dispersing and get with marshal Camdra. See me when you return.”

I nodded and started to stand when I heard the yell from the outer office. I sighed and reached into a inner coat pocket for a tiny vial, “why does everyone keep trying to look in my bag?”

Simon grinned, “his pet just bit someone touching his bag.”

I shrugged, “if you will excuse me?”

She nodded and waved before looking at Simon, “pet?”

I closed the door as I stepped into the outer room. The marshals were gathered around one that was holding his hand. They all turned to look at me and I tossed the vial to the wounded man, “take it before the poison takes affect.”

I reached for my bag and picked it up before heading to the lifts while the marshals just watched me. I glanced at the floor listing before stepping into the lift. I stepped out on the third floor and followed directions to a small office with a window above a counter. Standing in front of the window was a stunning brunette that was cussing, “damn it! What do you mean I am not authorized!”

I walked up behind her and she unconsciously shifted and half turned. I cleared my throat, “excuse me.”

She turned and I saw the badge on her belt and I smiled, “my name is Morpheus. Commander Tosin assigned me to you.”

She tossed her hands up, “what else can go wrong!”

I grinned and bent to set my bag down, ignoring the small and young dragon that swarmed out and up my arm, “perhaps I can help?”

She growled as she gestured to the window, “might as well.”

I stepped up and looked from the android to the form on the counter. I grinned and took out my stylist and started making changes and adding my name to the form. I pushed it across and the android bowed slightly, “the only available ship is the Star Princess. They only have one room, a suite.”

I gestured to the form, “check my code.”

It looked and then nodded, a packet spat out from the slot in the counter with marshal Candra’s name and then another with mine. I accept both and turned to hand one to her. She was staring at the small dragon on my shoulder, “what is that… thing?”

I smiled and glanced at my shoulder, “that is Dragon. She is a symbiotic synth I designed and constructed.”

She looked at me, “android?”

I shook my head, “she is an organic construct.”

She shook her head, “he brought his pet.”

I did not bother to explain and bent to grab my bag. Marshal Camdra glanced in her packet and swore, “we only have an hour before shuttle boarding!”

I shrugged, “I have not unpacked.”

She growled as she turned to the door, “meet me in the lobby!”

I followed her as she walked quickly to the lift. While she headed up to private quarters I headed down. I glanced around and moved to lean against a wall across from the main entrance. I was still waiting a few minutes later when the golem walked in. Before the alarms started screaming I was moving. I shoved a guard away as he stepped in front of the golem with his weapon drawn, “do not shoot!”

I stood still and looked straight into the golem’s face, “gentle being, this is the new corporate building for the Eternal Faith Church. How may I light your way?”

It froze and a few seconds later, “this is the headquarters for the imperial marshals.”

I bowed slightly, “I am sorry to inform you but the imperial marshals were killed in an explosion. This is now the home of the Eternal Faith Church.”

I could see guards and other marshals appearing and ignored them. The golem turned back to the door, “I will seek elsewhere.”

Dragon slipped down my body to follow the golem as I walked behind it. It was several meters outside the door when she swarmed up its back and bit at the base of the neck. She dove towards the door and spread her wings. I caught her as I watched the golem stand frozen.

I ignored Dragon as she climbed back to my shoulder and turned to the guards, “notify hazardous disposal that a golem is locked in stasis outside the doors. Tell them I want a data dump before they destroy it. Have them send commander Tosin a copy of the data.”

I walked back to where I had dropped my bag as guards and marshals moved to check the golem. A golem was basically an android with a bomb in it. A small bright eyed marshal glanced at me as he came back in, “how did you do that?”

I smiled, “I have studied golem logic circuits. When it thought its target location was wrong it went out to contact its controller and verify. The address and ID of the controller will be at the top of its program queue. As for putting it in stasis that was Dragon.”

I glanced at my shoulder and he looked at the miniature dragon and then back at me, “but...”

I started for the door as I saw marshal Camdra appear. The crowd outside cleared a path for us and we waved a transport down. She almost ignored me as we checked in and headed towards the slide that whisked us out to the boarding shuttle. After that it was a short flight up to the starliner and then we were checking in with the ship purser who frowned at our weapons when the ship scanners went off.

We followed a steward to our suite and thanked her before going in. Camdra looked around as she stood by the wide bed. I set my bag on the comfortable looking couch and Dragon stuck her head out. I put my hand on the couch, “my nest.”

Dragon swarmed out of the bag and then started walking down the couch and jumped to the back to walk back. She lay down and put her head on her front paws. I pulled a small compact device from my bag and began checking the room as marshal Cambra cleared her throat, “what are you doing?”

I glanced at her as the detector vibrated in my hand, “checking for listening devices.”

She snorted, “they would not dare...”

I gestured to a wall display and held up one finger. She blinked and her face got a set look as she started for the display I had pointed to. I moved on and continued to check the large room. I pointed out three more devices before reaching the bed. I stopped at a large metal ball on one side of the head board. I looked at the device in my hand and changed a setting. I looked at Cambra and pulled a finger across my throat.

She was removing the last listening device and nodded as I set the detector on the bed and pulled a small case from inside my jacket. It only took a minute and then I was holding a three centimeter jell sphere. I glanced at Cambra as she stopped next to me, “I think we are going to have a talk with the captain.”

I shrugged, “this is actually pretty common on starliners. The monitors for the listening devices are set to alert if they detect certain words or groups of words. The gas is to overcome anyone they think threatens the ship.”

She looked at me, “how do you know all that?”

I grinned as I headed to the couch, “the school I grew up in was Hades.”

I glanced back when she did not say anything, she did not seem to recognize the name. I sat and Dragon stood and hopped down into my lap. I scratched under her jaw and looked at Cambra, “the school was built by assassins to train assassins. Almost from birth we were taught everything they could think of. It was not just weapons work or a martial art.”

I smiled, “while in the Marshal’s Academy I tested for and received advanced degrees in chemistry, engineering, computer programming and sciences. I also have advanced degrees in bioengineering, micro biology, bio chemistry and bio computer engineering.”

She looked stunned and then looked at Dragon and her eyes narrowed, “it is not a pet.”

I shook my head, “she is alive but she is much more than people think.”

Cambra grinned, “teaches me to suck eggs.”

She sighed and sat beside me, “okay, we are headed to Sigma II. The fugitive is Paul Ton Helibrandt, sentenced to public death for the murder of three thousand people. He has a cult following that managed to kill the execution guards and free him. Sigma II is mostly an agro world with small communities. Intel thinks Helibrandt is hiding in or around a community named Posidin. It is an ocean side community of some size.”

I nodded and sat thinking, “and his followers are the citizens of the community.”

She nodded, “they wanted me to lead an assault team in.”

I shrugged, “by the time you cleared every building he would be gone.”

She nodded, “I was thinking it might work out if I went in covertly.”

I shook my head, “they would know the moment you stepped off the transport.”

She looked at me, “you have a better idea?”

I grinned, “yes. We do not bother hiding and just go in together. The followers and Helibrandt are not going to panic or feel threatened.”

She shook her head, “yeah they will just shoot us.”

I grinned, “no. They will try to shoot us and when they do we will have them.”

She looked at me and I smiled, “I will take whoever they send and they will give us Helibrandt.”

She snorted, “his followers would rather die.”

I stood as I felt the faint vibration of the ship as it began to move. I looked back as I placed Dragon on my shoulder, “and when I tell them we are going to kill every follower in public?”

She jerked, “what?”

I headed for the door, “we need to get to the jump rooms.”

She stood to follow me, “the emperor and the royals are not going to kill all those people.”

I did not say anything as I led the way to the center of the ship. The crewman directed us across the walkway and followed us in as we headed to two seats. I relaxed and let Dragon climb down into my lap, “I did not say we would do it. I said we would make whoever tries to kill us think that was what we were going to do.”

She smiled and reached over to scratch Dragon under her chin before looking at me, “that is not bad.”

We relaxed as the crew began coming in and then the captain walked in calmly and sat in the fancy seat in front. A few minutes later I felt as if I was being turned inside out. When it stopped I glanced around and stood to help marshal Camdra up. I looked around the room again and many people were vomiting or looking comatose.

The crew were just starting to rise and Camdra glanced at me, “how the hell can that not effect you?”

I smiled as I cradled a dazed Dragon and headed towards the door, “training.”

I walked through the quiet ship until I found the lounge and went into the serving room to pour a glass of juice. I left and walked to the large display that showed the stars outside the ship. I settled into a comfortable chair and leaned back as Dragon seemed to sigh and start crooning. It was several minutes before the crew member that served the lounge came in.

She took one look at me and froze. I was looking out the window but saw her take a breath and start walking nearer. She cleared her throat, “excuse me sir. Pets are not allowed in the lounge areas.”

I looked at her and smiled, “Dragon is not a pet.”

She looked at Dragon who was looking back, “ah…”

I smiled, “my name is marshal Morpheus. Dragon is a symbiotic synth. I designed her to help me when I work.”

Her eyes widened when she heard I was a marshal. She blushed, “is there anything I can get you marshal?”

I shook my head, “I was just admiring the view.”

She smiled and turned away. It was not long before some of the other passengers began arriving. As it began getting noisier I stood, lifting Dragon to my shoulder. I was almost to the passageway when a large bearded man stepped in front of me, “I do not like marshals.”

I looked at him amused, “I do not like rude people.”

He blinked and then grinned slightly, “what if I break a few of your bones?”

I grinned, “what if I paralyze you?”

He laughed and struck, his fist moving through where my head had been as I shifted sideways. Before he could pull it back my hand snapped out to grab it, pull and twist. Dragon hissed as the man looked up from the floor and grinned, “damn you are fast.”

He rolled to his feet and bowed slightly, “it is good to see you again youngster.”

I waved away the four crewmen that had suddenly appeared and headed towards us, “I thought you were still on Bishop?”

I held my hand out and he clasped it, “I was but Imperial Auditors never stay in one place to long.”

I nodded as I turned to the hallway, “so you have business on Sigma II?”

He shook his head, “it is just a stop over.”

He glanced at me as we walked, “I checked and you still have not touched the funds you received from the school’s accounts.”

I shrugged, “I guess I just have not needed them yet.”

He sighed, “I know you do not want them son and I know why. Your sister gave her life so you would not have to be a killer. No matter what else they taught you, they also gave you a gift. Those funds are as much from your sister as from anyone else.”

I looked at him and sighed, “I know you mean well but…”

He touched my shoulder, “use it when you need it. Just do not ignore it because of what they did to Samantha.”

I nodded and took a breath before looking at him, “want to meet my training officer?”

He smiled, “how about at dinner? Say the fifth hour?”

I nodded and watched him walk off. Richard was one of the few people that knew I was worth millions, not that I ever intended to touch the money. I turned and headed back to our suite. Camdra looked up when I came in, “got lost?”

I smiled, “met an acquaintance.”

She nodded and looked back at the data pad she had been studying, “perhaps it will not be as hard as I thought.”

I looked at her as Dragon leaped off my shoulder to fly towards the couch and her nest. I moved to the chair beside hers, “what were you thinking?”

She tapped a part of the map she had been studying, “this is the only compound not identified by the community. We go in under stealth and monitor it.”

I nodded, “sounds good. But we will need sat look downs before trying to get close. Are we sure his followers have not breached security around the planetary net?”

She nodded, “that was confirmed before he was sentenced.”

I sat back, “Dragon can do a check inside if we have to do an entry.”

Camdra looked at the tiny dragon and her eyebrows went up, “just what can she do?”

I smiled as I looked at Dragon, “she can do recon, sending whatever she sees to me or recording it... She can do much more. She can send a specific stasis pulse through her bite and well, she can do a lot of things. She can smell most organic and inorganic poisons.”

Camdra looked at me and nodded, “that is useful.”

I nodded, “her bite will silence any guards for up the six hours.”

She grinned, “very useful.”

I looked at the map and smiled, “actually I prefer doing things this way. Any chance you can send a star comm to request sat monitoring until we get there?”

She grinned, “I have ten minutes reserved in the communication center.”

I nodded and sat back, “my acquaintance would like to meet you. His name is Richard Centanal, he is an Imperial Auditor.”

Camdra looked at me, “most people in government avoid auditors.”

I smiled, “they called him in to get a handle on the… school financial records. They wanted the names of people that paid them and I was the only one around to access the system.”

She nodded, “makes sense. What time?”

I stood to walk to the couch and lay down, “fifth hour.”

It was a long two week trip which was made bearable by watching marshal Camdra and Richard. Almost from the first instant there was something that drew them together. When we boarded the shuttle down to Sigma II I stopped at the assistant purser and dropped the listening devices and jell sphere of poison into his hand. His eyes snapped to my face and I shrugged, “we are imperial marshals.”

The ride down to the planet went smoothly and we exited with the crowd only to turn into a restricted section at the port. We walked through a scanner that began flashing red. Camdra barely paused before touching her badge to the ID scanner to quiet it. The guards relaxed as I moved my jacket so they saw mine. We walked into a room with lots of monitors and three people, two women and an older man.

Camdra cleared her throat, “I am marshal Camdra. Do you have the sat recordings I requested?”

The old man nodded and stood to pull a compact sat comm down from a shelf, “you can return the sat comm when you leave planet. I programmed it for the sat you wanted for real time observation. The recordings are by date and time code.”

Camdra nodded and bowed slightly, “thank you.”

He actually smiled, “just do not let that bastard get away. My niece was one of his victims.”

She smiled as she held the sat comm out to me, “you know the marshals always get their man.”

I opened my bag and Dragon swarmed up my arm as I slipped the sat comm into the bag in her place. The man stared at her and then grinned, “anyone with a dragon will get the job done.”

I smiled and turned to the door. Camdra caught up a few steps down the hall and we kept walking in silence. Outside the port building we stepped onto a slide belt that whisked us out towards the transportation area. When we reached the end of the slide we stepped off to walk to towards a hovering vehicle. An elder man stepped out from another and nodded.

He wore the uniform of the planetary constables with braid that told us this was a senior official. Camdra bowed slightly as I pulled a small compact device and began checking the vehicle. The man frowned but she captured his attention, “standard procedure for a recovery marshal.”

He hesitated and then smiled, “I understand, trust no one and nothing.”

I stopped beside Camdra and nodded, “clean.”

She nodded to the vehicle and handed her kit bag to me. I took it and opened a back door and put both bags inside. I glanced at Dragon, “guard.”

She rubbed her face against my neck and dropped to the seat before I closed the door. I turned as Camdra got a briefing on several followers of Helibrandt that had been arrested. I glanced at an approaching man and then spun and brought my pistol up. Even as the hidden pistol appeared from behind his leg I was firing.

I did not want him dead so I shot him in both shoulders and then in each hip. While Camdra pushed the constable away and drew her weapon I moved forward. I knelt next to the man, “who sent you?”

He cussed and tried to spit before glaring at me. I sighed and pulled a narrow tube from inside my jacket and touched his temple, “who sent you?”

His answer was a monotone, “disciple Helibrandt.”

I looked at Camdra, “it looks like he expected us.”

She nodded and then shrugged, “let the local Leos have him.”

I nodded and stood, putting the tube and my pistol away. Camdra looked at the officer as we walked towards the vehicle, “he is all yours.”

I slid into the passenger seat as Camdra lifted the vehicle and spun it before heading away from the direction we needed to go. I reached back to my bag and pulled the sat comm out. I started watching the recordings on fast forward.

I finally sat back, “this is the community armory and safe house. They have two roving patrols, one inside and one outside. The fence is touch sensitive and set to kill. I count at least twelve cameras on separate circuits. The sat also picked up a laser grid inside the perimeter and tremor plates.”

Camdra shook her head, “it is not going to be easy.”

I grinned, “the good news is Dragon can kill the inner perimeter security and cameras.”

She smiled as she glanced at Dragon, “you are gorgeous Dragon.”

Dragon purred as she put her head on my lap. I scratched behind her ear, “the armory is not listed with the planetary constables.”

She nodded as she changed direction, “it is fair game than.”

I sighed, “how do you want to take out the guards?”

She looked at me before turning back to what she was doing, “we will try stunning them but if that does not work…”

I nodded and she looked at me, “does having to kill bother you?”

I sighed and relaxed as I set the sat comm to real time, “it is not that it bothers me. My sister gave her life so that I would not become an assassin…”

Camdra nodded, “so you feel a debt to not kill unless you have to.”

I looked at her and finally nodded, “yes.”

She smiled, “good. Killing because it is easier is not the way marshals work.”

I nodded and started watching the sat comm while petting Dragon. It was six hours before Camdra stopped. She had been low to the ground and using ridges to keep us from being seen. She settled the vehicle to the ground behind a screen of thick brush. I glanced up and nodded, “I will watch for Helibrandt if you want to get some rest.”

She grinned and stretched before crawling into the back. Dragon surprised me when she lifted her head and looked back before turning to crawl after her and I grinned, “traitor.”

Over the next two days we took turns watching but did not see Helibrandt. When he finally came out Camdra hissed and I glanced towards her as I warmed a cup of water for tea. She grinned, “he is there.”

I turned the warmer off and moved towards Camdra, “it will be dark in a couple of hours.”

She nodded, “he went into the safe house with a few other nasty looking characters.”

I opened a door and stepped up before starting to strip. Camdra looked at me with an eyebrow raised but I ignored her as I started pulling the dark suit out of my bag. Next was a variety of weapons and equipment. I finally climbed into the vehicle behind the wheel. She nodded and handed me the sat comm before moving into the back to get ready.

I watched a few more people arrive before Camdra came back and then we sat waiting for it to get dark. I lifted the vehicle and slowly headed towards the compound we had been watching. A quarter mile before we reached it I set the vehicle down. We got out and Dragon took flight, I had patiently explained to her several times while we watched so she knew where she was going and what she had to do.

If I concentrated I could see through her eyes. It was as if there was a vague shadow as she sent what she saw to me. By the time we reached the perimeter fence it was down and so were the cameras. We went to the ground and waited for the outside patrol. I shot one in the throat with a high density stunner, the light armor he wore did not cover his throat.

Camdra moved to the fence and watched as I used a black arc torch to cut through the fence. I glanced at her when I got an image from Dragon and whispered, “Dragon says the other guard is coming around to your left.”

She nodded as I went back to work, a moment later I heard her stunner. I pulled the cut fence apart and slipped in. She followed and we headed toward the side door we had chosen to use. She went to one side while I stopped in front of it, I nodded and she hit the open button. As the door slid open I moved through it and to one side with my stunner up and ready.

Camdra followed me in and took the other side of the hall. We started checking rooms and a few moments later I found the tunnel entrance. We looked at each other and then Dragon was there with a warning and we were running. We cleared the fence and dropped to the ground before the building suddenly exploded in a sheet of searing flame.

Camdra was cussing as she rose from the ground. I rose off Dragon and turned to face the distant community. I started walking and a moment later Camdra caught up, “what are you doing? Everyone will be after us now.”

I glanced at her, “they will be moving him from the closest house. He will not be staying in this community. If we do not take him now it may take weeks before we find him again.”

She nodded, “true but what about…”

I looked at her calmly, “they just tried to kill two marshals.”

Camdra’s face hardened, “true.”

I could hear the distant sirens as I neared the large house. Two men turned at our approach and reached for weapons, I did not slow as I drew and fired. Camdra’s shot echoed mine and both men crumpled to the ground dead. Dragon was at the door as we came up and spit acid towards the lock. She leaped and flew off as the area around the lock hissed and started smoking.

Camdra only paused before kicking the door in. I followed her in and fired at three men that jumped to their feet. Her stunner buzzed quieting as two dead men fell and then Helibrandt fell on top of them. I holstered my pistol and crossed to him before kneeling and yanking him up and over my shoulder. Camdra led the way out and headed towards our vehicle.

The siren behind us closed but headed for the burning compound. Camdra opened the back door and I placed Helibrandt in before rolling him onto his stomach. I searched him while she slid in behind the controls. I used a restraint drug to keep him unconscious before securing his wrists and ankles. I slid into the vehicle as Dragon dropped out of the dark night and onto my lap.

Camdra did not even wait for me to finish closing the door before lifting and spinning the vehicle. Our return to the port was as indirect as it was leaving it. The tall building we came to was brightly lit and the blue white sun of Sigma II was just coming up. When she stopped the vehicle I stepped out with my weapon drawn. She followed and then moved to the back door and used a neutralizer to bring Helibrandt around.

She released his ankles and yanked him out of the vehicle. He opened his mouth to snarl and she slugged him, “shut up dead man.”

He was surprised as she nodded and I led her towards the front entrance. I walked through the doors and the weapon scanner screamed before I placed my badge on the reader. Several security officers were scrambling around and relaxed until they saw our prisoner. The floor plans in all marshal buildings are the same and I led the way to the lifts.

I turned sideways to grab Helibrandt by the hair as I stepped into the lift, “you move and I will shoot you through the spine.”

His eyes were wide as he nodded hesitantly. Camdra slipped in on his other side and the lift sped skyward. I shoved him out when the lift stopped on the prisoner floor. Camdra walked swiftly ahead of us as I holstered my weapon and started pushing Helibrandt. We went through a small waiting area and then into a hallway.

Camdra waited beside an empty chamber and I pushed Helibrandt against the wall. She expertly used a clothes zipper to cut his clothing off and removed the restraints. She grabbed him by the hair and pulled him back before shoving him through the doorway. The doorway flashed and then a red tinged haze sprang up blocking the door.

She turned, “put the jumpsuit on dead man.”

I followed her as she headed the other way down the hall. We walked into an open area with chairs and couches and I grinned as she continued on towards the showers. I set my bag down and walked to open a window and closed it after Dragon sped through.

I walked to a chair facing the hallway and sat down, “computer? I am marshal Morpheus, marshal Camdra is my training officer. Our prisoner is Paul Ton Helibrandt, notify the planetary constables he is back in custody and awaiting an execution date.”

I relaxed as a wet Dragon sped back from the showers a few minutes later and dropped onto the arm of the chair. I bent and opened my bag before pulling her towel out and dried her. Camdra appeared looking clean and refreshed a few minutes later. She nodded to the hall, “did you log us in?”

I nodded as I stood, “yes. No response from anyone yet.”

I picked up my bag and headed towards the showers. I washed quickly and ran my dirty clothing through the cleaner slot. I put a new suit on and folded the other before putting it away in the bag. I walked into the lounge area to see Camdra scribing our fugitive report with Dragon draped over her lap.

She looked up when I dropped my bag beside hers on a couch, “they scheduled his execution for seventy two hours. Planetary Militia just dropped in on Posidin and surprised a few people getting ready to attack this building.”

I shrugged as I sat beside her, “dumb. Everyone knows a marshal’s prisoner is dead if they try to take him by force.”

She grinned, “another lesson kid, people do not believe what they are told.”

I nodded and looked at the hallway, “you want the first watch?”

She shook her head, “go get some rest. I activated the auto defenses.”

I stood and headed for a semi dark cubicle to one side of the hallway. Inside was a narrow bed and table. I lay back and let myself relax. I woke to a pinging alarm and rolled off the bed with my weapon in my hand. When I stepped out of the cubicle Camdra was just stepping from another. She was on the other side of the hallway and nodded as I moved to the corner and turned to point my weapon down the hall.

She echoed my move and we looked down the hall to the far waiting area. Standing frozen were two uniformed constables. Camdra moved down one side as I turned and moved quickly to a far door. I touched a plate beside the door and shook my head at the four man team frozen on the landing. I pressed a yellow button and they jerked and spasmed as electricity flooded their bodies.

I turned and walked back to the waiting area where Camdra had the two men on the floor in restraints, “there was a four man team on the emergency stairs.”

She nodded, “these two think we do not have the authority to detain anyone or do our jobs.”

I smiled, “followers?”

She nodded again, “I think it is time to call the emperor and request a suppression and mediation team.”

The men jerked and she grabbed one and started dragging him to the lift. I grabbed the other and followed her. It was two hours later while we were drinking tea and relaxing when the holo table chime sounded. Camdra glanced aside and smiled, “yes commissioner?”

The grey haired man looking back smiled, “Camdra I should have known. The emperor is sending the team. He said to tell you he owes you and your… trainee, a bottle of his best brandy.”

Camdra grinned, “tell his nibs he still owes me one from last time.”

The commissioner smiled, “I will be sure to remind him. Now for your prisoner, we have talked to the governor and the execution has been moved up to midnight.”

She smiled, “standard pickup?”

He nodded and Camdra nodded back, “thank you sir.”

He smiled and then looked past her at me, “marshal Morpheus his majesty wishes you to know you are doing a good job.”

I smiled, “thank you.”

He disappeared and Camdra sighed, “six hours and he becomes their problem.”

Six hours later I was standing beside Camdra with Helibrandt in front of us. The lift pinged and four constables stepped out. One was the senior official that had met us at the port. He smiled, “thank you marshal Camdra.”

She pushed Helibrandt towards them, “if he tries to escape just shoot him.”

They all grinned as they pushed him into the lift. I sighed and turned to head back to the lounge, “want me to check dispersing for a transportation time?”

She nodded, “I will finish the paperwork.”

Twelve hours later we were lifting off planet in a shuttle.


Chapter 2

Manhunt

I looked up from the stack of reports I was going through and marshal Edwards grinned. He was a short stocky man with grey hair and a wicked sense of humor. I glanced at Dragon as she looked up expectantly and sighed as he slipped her a small piece of sweet meat, “what now?”

He laughed, “the boss wants you.”

I looked at him closely and then stood, “Dragon guard my desk.”

Edwards shook his head in mock sadness as I headed towards the commander’s office. A few of the others looked up but most ignored me. I knocked and then opened the door and walked in, “you wanted me?”

Commander Tosin turned from her terminal, “yes. The planetary constables on Garfield have requested our assistance in hunting down a criminal.”

I moved to one of her chairs, “what makes it one of ours?”

She smiled absently, “the wanted man was a trained commando.”

I thought about it and nodded, “do we have a file on him?”

Commander Tosin slid a tiny disk across her desk, “classified so a lot is missing.”

I nodded and slipped the disk into my jacket, “limits?”

She actually sighed, “alive if possible, dead if necessary. The constables would prefer him dead.”

I shook my head as I stood, “they never learn. Okay I will see what I can do.”

I headed back to my desk, “time to go Dragon.”

She stood and stretched before leaping and spreading her wings. I let her land on my shoulder as I headed towards the lifts. I went up to the living quarters and walked to mine. I pulled my ready bag down and left. I took the lift down to dispersing and then headed to the port. This time I was traveling aboard a passenger cargo ship.

Three weeks later I grinned at the XO as I approached the shuttle down to Garfield, “I will miss our games of chance Tony.”

He grinned, “only because you never lose.”

He took my hand and then reached up to scratch Dragon’s chin, “watch his back Dragon.”

She yawned showing her needle like teeth and he laughed, “take care Morpheus.”

I nodded and boarded the shuttle, when I walked out of the terminal I knew something was wrong. Dragon still rode my shoulder and leaped into the air. I headed towards the slide to the transportation area with her soaring above. I was halfway there when a constable stepped onto the slide in front of me. He walked against the slide to approach me and stopped a few feet away, “marshal Morpheus?”

I looked him over, “yes.”

He nodded, “I am constable commander George.”

I waited and his face reddened, “I came to meet you because it is important that we talk.”

I continued to wait as we drew nearer to the end of the slide and the restricted parking area reserved for marshals. He looked around, “Samuel De Varga is a dangerous criminal. We have a shoot on sight order for him. To be blunt we do not want him taken alive.”

I smiled, “the imperial marshals are not hired killers. We take our man alive and only kill when necessary.”

He looked into my face, “here on Garfield you will do as we tell you.”

I laughed and stepped off the stopped slide, “constable I am a deputy imperial marshal. I do not take orders from any local system. Now you asked for our help, if you do not want it I will go back to headquarters.”

He stepped closer and snarled, “listen you young…”

He gasped as my weapon was suddenly touching his chest. I pushed until he stepped back, “I suggest you listen constable. If you interfere with me again or threaten me I will place you in custody and have you taken to Canis VI. The sentence for interfering with a marshal can be severe.”

I looked at his white face, “now, once I check in with the governor I will start looking for your man.”

He backed up and I headed towards the lone vehicle in the marshals parking area. I did a walk around as I checked the vehicle. When I opened the door Dragon dropped down to fly through and land on the far seat, I set my bag in back and climbed in. I started the vehicle and turned it towards the capital as I lifted. I thought about constable commander George.

The way he acted was not like any law enforcement agent should. It was an hour’s flight to the government center and by the time I reached it I had come to a decision. I would stay and regardless of the system request I would find Samuel De Varga to hear what he had to say. I parked the vehicle in front of the building and opened the door.

Dragon leaped to grab on and climb to my shoulder as I got out. I headed towards the ornate doors and paused only to silence the alarm with my badge. I hit the lift button for the governor’s floor and got off to walk through a huge plush lobby. I stopped at a wide desk with three assistants, “I need to see the governor.”

The young man looked up at me and frowned, “the governor is in a conference and can not be disturbed.”

I looked at him calmly, “do I look like a politico or someone else she would normally see? My name is marshal Morpheus and I am here at her request.”

He snorted, “you can wait like everyone else.”

I shook my head, “what is it with this planet? Let me explain something to you. If I even think you are obstructing me I can shoot you. Now where is the governor?”

His eyes had widened slightly but I guess because I was not yelling at him he thought he was safe. He stood and leaned on the desk facing me, “I said…”

I grabbed him by the throat and yanked him over the desk before dropping him to the floor. I looked at the two women moving back from the desk and snarled, “the governor… now!”

One pointed to a large set of double doors and I turned and started walking towards the doors while looking at the two guards headed towards me, “get in my way and I will shoot you.”

I opened the doors and walked into a huge office. A tall grey haired woman looked up as I walked in and frowned. I crossed to her desk as she reached for her intercom. I cleared my throat, “I am marshal Morpheus. I do not sit around waiting for anyone. You wanted our help, since I have been on your planet I have been slighted, threatened and dismissed. Now either you want our help or I take the next ship back to Canis VI.”

She sat back and just looked at me. Finally she leaned forward, “you are a little younger than I expected.”

I just looked at her waiting and she turned to reach for a chip on the corner of her desk. She slid it across, “you will report to me when you kill him.”

I took the chip and glanced at her, “when I Capture him I will turn him over to the courts.”

She stood quickly and snarled, “listen to me Marshal! You will kill him on sight!”

I smiled as I turned towards the door, “if you can get the Emperor to give that order I might consider it.”

I crossed to the door and walked out. By the time I reached the ground floor there were a dozen constables waiting just outside. They blocked my way to the vehicle and I shrugged to let Dragon know to fly. A few watched her take off but most just looked at me as one of the constables stepped forward, “you are an arrogant bastard.”

I smiled thinly, “I have been told that.”

He leaned closer and snarled, “if you want to live to…”

He did not even see the blow that struck his throat. As he fell to the ground choking I drew my weapon, “listen very close. I am a deputy of the Imperial Marshals. You will move out of my way and stay out of my way.”

They were stunned and backed away with hands raised. I waited until the way was clear and started for my vehicle as I holstered my pistol. Dragon dropped out of the sky to fly through the open door. I slid in and closed the door before raising the vehicle and turning to head for the system fleet headquarters. I spent the time thinking about the way everyone was behaving.

I slowed and dropped to the ground beside the guard building that was flashing red alarm lights across the fleet boundary markers. I opened the window and held up my badge, at first the guards had an angry belligerent look until my ID flashed green on the gate scanner. He looked at it in surprise and then at me as I shrugged, “notify the commander I am on my way in.”

I lifted the vehicle and headed for the distant set of buildings. Fleet bases were always laid out the same so I headed for the tall tower in the center. I dropped closer to the ground as I entered the cluster of buildings and slowed to a stop at the front steps of the tower. Dragon climbed my shoulder as I stepped out and headed for the front doors.

The two fleet commandos on each side of the door stared ahead and ignored me as I approached. The doors remained closed and locked and I shook my head, “I am getting tired of this game.”

The two were still reacting as the huge glass doors shattered and I slipped the small tube back into my sleeve. I headed through the shattered glass ignoring the weapons they held. I walked straight to the lifts as a dozen commandoes burst through a side door and entered the lobby. I touched my badge to the red glow on the lift controls and pressed the top floor.

When the lift stopped and I stepped out there were six commandoes blocking my way to the commander’s office. I looked at them, “I am marshal Morpheus. Move or I will move you.”

They glanced at each other and then opened a hole. I ignored everyone as I headed straight for the large double doors. I pushed them open and stepped into the huge office. The commander looked back from the window he was looking out of, “so the marshals are going to do their dirty work.”

I smiled as I crossed the office and sat in a comfortable chair, “if you mean capture and bring him before a judge than yes.”

He turned to face me, “the governor has not told you…”

I held up my hand, “commander, you of all people know the imperial marshals do not take orders from locals and we do not normally do kill missions. Now I came to you for a brief on Samuel De Varga. What is the fleet impression of him and what do you know about the charges against him?”

He looked surprised and then grinned as he walked to sit in another chair, “I should have known you marshals would not take their crap.”

I nodded and sat back to listen. We were interrupted a few times before he was finished. I stood to cross to the window as Dragon glided from my shoulder to the commander’s desk and the small bowl of salted fish and crackers. I looked out not really seeing the base below us, “so you think they assassinated the previous governor and are using De Varga as the scapegoat?”

He sighed, “yes. De Varga was a good man and as far as I know never left his homestead.”

I turned, “you have not said and the record did not hint at a wife or mate.”

The commander looked away, “I have not passed this along to the locals. De Varga pledged marriage to a local woman named Sintha Mathison.”

I nodded, “a Mathison is listed as a distant neighbor.”

He nodded and absently picked Dragon up and scratched under her jaw, “that was why he accepted colony credit to settle here.”

I sighed and headed for the door, “come on Dragon.”

She leaped from his arms and flew towards me as I pulled the door open and looked back, “I will see what I can do commander. Try to keep your personal from doing anything... violent.”

He grinned as Dragon landed and climbed onto my shoulder, “I will try.”

I headed towards the lift as several commandos rose to their feet. I walked through the busy lobby and stepped out the opened door and walked around the maintenance men replacing the shattered glass. As I left the base I noticed a vehicle in the distance to one side. It seemed to keep pace with me and I sighed, knowing it was probable someone trying to follow me.

Halfway to De Varga’s steading I settled to the ground in a small patch of woods and opened the door for Dragon, “Guard. Put anyone that comes in stasis.”

She leaped away and flew up into the trees. I settled back waiting and I was not disappointed. Fifteen minutes later two men entered the patch of woods moving towards my vehicle with drawn weapons. I watched as they split up and came up on each side of the vehicle. The man on the far side of the vehicle suddenly jerked and froze with his mouth open before falling straight back.

The other man froze and pointed his weapon at me, “where is De Varga?”

I returned his look and smiled, “I would drop that weapon if I were you.”

He snarled, “De Varga asshole!”

Dragon landed between his shoulder blades and bit. He jerked and stopped moving with a look of shock on his face. I shrugged and held out my arm, “thank you Dragon.”

As the man fell she leaped and flapped to me. I closed the door as she slipped onto my lap and I lifted the vehicle to resume our trip. I stopped in the yard of a neat looking ranch house and got out and walked around with a feeling of being watched. Dragon shifted a few times on my shoulder but I only reached up to reassure her. The few pieces of equipment were well cared for and seemed in good condition.

I finally turned to the house and walked to the front door. I did not knock, I placed my badge against the lock and then opened the door. I stepped in and smiled at the young woman staring back wide eyed from the front window, “my name is marshal Morpheus. I am an imperial marshal looking for Samuel De Varga, you would be Sintha Mathison. If Samuel surrenders to me I will bring him before an imperial judge and he can defend himself against these charges.”

She glared, “you are here to kill him!”

I shook my head, “imperial marshals do not kill unless we have too. I will find your fiancee and I will bring him before a judge.”

She spun and ran out of the room and a moment later I heard the back door. I nodded to myself and started a slow and careful search. I did not find much but I did not expect to, not with a commando. I walked out the back door and slowly looked around before heading for a distant tree line. I found the hidden watch post quickly and then let Dragon fly as I started the slow work of trying to follow De Varga.

Just from the tracks or lack of tracks I could tell a lot. Dragon sent a warning of a hidden man ahead and I slipped off the trail I was following to silently move closer to the waiting man. As soon as I saw him I knew it was not De Varga. I cleared my throat and he spun quickly bringing the long barreled rifle around. The cocking of my pistol made him stop moving.

His eyes were wide as I looked back calmly, “now why would a neighbor lay in wait on Samuel De Varga’s back trail?”

He only looked back at me and I sighed, “drop the rifle.”

It hit the ground and I holstered my weapon, “now why were you laying in wait for me?”

He shifted and glared, “damn hired killer.”

I smiled, “imperial marshals only kill when defending themselves.”

His eyes narrowed, “that is not what the constables say.”

I shrugged, “they can say whatever they like. I will bring De Varga before a judge to defend himself against the charges.”

He looked at me for a long time and finally nodded. I turned and went back to following the trail only to have it stop in a stream. I glanced up at Dragon and she started a slow spiral out. Finally she called and I headed towards her. I found his trail and started following it again with Dragon above me. I knew seconds before he fired and spun and dropped.

The forest echoed with the shot as I moved quickly into cover. I shifted and then began to move around the shooter. I knew Dragon was looking and had not found the sniper. It was more of a stalking game than hunting. It was a long twenty minutes before I found him. I cleared my throat, “do you want to play it out or surrender?”

There was silence and then, “you are just going to kill me.”

I smiled and put my weapon away, “if I wanted you dead we would not be talking.”

It was a moment before the clump of low brush moved and De Varga stood up. I nodded and walked forward, “Samuel De Varga I am marshal Morpheus and you are under arrest.”

He actually grinned, “Morpheus?”

I nodded and he turned placing his hands behind his back. I turned him back around and locked his wrists together in front of him, I knelt as Dragon dropped onto his shoulder. When I stood with his rifle he was grinning, “I saw your pet but could not believe it was what I saw.”

I smiled at Dragon, “she is more than a pet. If you try to escape…”

He nodded, “I thought as much.”

I turned and we started the long walk back to his homestead. It was getting dark when we got close and I sent Dragon ahead. The warning she sent was enough to make me pull De Varga back, “wait.”

It took a few minutes for Dragon to finish her scout and then I was pulling De Varga sideways and around the homestead. He glanced at me, his voice low, “watchers?”

I shrugged, “constables with sniper rifles.”

I moved slowly so we would not draw attention. Dragon dropped down onto the back of the first and bit his neck as he jerked. I nodded to the image she sent and squatted, pulling De Varga down. A moment later the other man was down and in stasis. I stood, pulling De Varga up and behind me as I walked towards my vehicle. Dragon dropped down onto his shoulder as I stopped beside the door.

I dropped to the ground and looked under the vehicle before sighing and reaching under. I carefully pushed a needle through a small hole in the side of the pressure bomb and pulled the release. I turned and stood as De Varga looked at the bomb. He looked up into my face, “I do not think they like you.”

I smiled and opened the vehicle after setting the bomb down. He sat in the seat and then stiffened as I turned the new pressor field on and shrugged, “sorry.”

I lifted Dragon off his shoulder and let her hop across to the other seat. I sat De Varga’s rifle on the floor under the front seat and climbed in. A minute later I lifted and turned to head away from the city or base and accelerated. When I entered the city much later it was from a different direction. I did not bother with the street entrance to the marshals building, I landed on the roof pad.

I got out and Dragon clung to my jacket as I opened the back door and shut the pressor field off. I waited and De Varga climbed out, “not taking any chances.”

I gestured before grabbing my bag and he started for the roof door. There were two doors and I used the one that had a blue badge on the lock plate. My badge unlocked the door and opened it. I let De Varga enter and I followed to close and lock the door behind us. Five floors down the stairwell stopped and I unlocked and opened the detention level door.

After I had checked De Varga for weapons, I placed him in a cell. I locked out the floor lift to the marshal detention level. I logged in my prisoner with the marshal’s computer before I logged into the court database. I scheduled a morning hearing with an available judge and closed the database. It was not long before the calls started.

I had them all dumped into the marshals message bin and went to wash and relax in the lounge. When I got out of the shower I dried off and then held the towel out. Dragon came out all bouncy and happy and I dried her and then changed into a clean suit. I relaxed in the lounge and watched Dragon play a game of pounce. I stilled when the alarm pinged and moved quickly to the cell hall and the entryway.

The four man response team stood frozen in the stasis field and I shook my head and moved down the hall. I moved through the field easily taking weapons. When I turned the stasis field off the four constables started to move and I drew my weapon. I gestured and they hesitated before doing what I told them. I locked them in a cell and headed to the stairwell door.

The four man team there was as cooperative as the other team and I locked them up and decided a call to the commissioner would be in order. I sent a short brief on my arrest and the actions of the local law enforcement officers. I lay back on a couch with Dragon on my lap. The comm chime sounded a few hours later and I turned my head to see the holographic image of the commissioner.

I smiled, “good morning sir.”

He grumped, “it is night here.”

I grinned, “that is a marshal for you.”

He smiled slightly, “I was reviewing the fleet base commander’s report when your report came in. The emperor has decided to let the locals know they are still part of the empire. I know you did not ask for help but the base commander will be sending a few people to escort you and your prisoner to the courthouse.”

I shrugged, “I was tired of playing nice. His nibs should have finished adding the courts to our building. It would save a lot of time.”

The commissioner smiled, “than I guess the commandoes will save a lot of lives.”

I returned his smile, “actually I was thinking of just inflicting a lot of pain and suffering.”

He laughed, “that is much better and drives the point across to not fuck with a marshal. His majesty has been worried that you have been damaged and will not use the proper amount of force.”

I grinned, “I only use force when necessary, although lately the locals are trying my patience.”

He nodded, “from your report I can understand that. Anyway deliver De Varga to the courthouse and let the judge decide, that is what the emperor is paying her for.”

I nodded, “will do.”

He smiled and the holographic image shut off, I checked the time and relaxed. I was up a few hours later and ate before heading to the cells. I fed the prisoners and checked the roof cameras to see the two fleet sting ships floating above my vehicle. An eight man security team squatted on their heels waiting beside the door. I gestured to Dragon and she leaped into the air before gliding across to land in my arms.

She climb to my shoulder and I opened De Varga’s cell and held out the wrist restraints, “it is time.”

He smiled, “and I am still alive.”

He put his wrists into the restraints and I stepped back. As he passed me Dragon leaped and landed on his shoulder. He glanced at Dragon before heading toward the stairway door. I checked the vision plate and then opened the door, when we came out onto the roof the commandoes stood.

I saw the looks towards De Varga and gestured towards my vehicle, “two man teams in a diamond. Never get between me and my prisoner. Maintain a sniper alert and if the locals get in the way let me deal with it.”

I looked at each of them, “questions?”

The sergeant grinned, “the commander said your name is Morpheus?”

I nodded and he looked at the others, “well in that case lead the way.”

When I set my vehicle down in front of the system court building a crowd of constables was waiting. The commandoes moved out of the vehicle and I pulled De Varga out. As I headed towards the front doors constable commander George stepped in front of the other constables and drew his weapon. A single flick of my wrist made him jerk and then start screaming as he fell to the ground.

Several constables reached for weapons only to be hit by my small darts. I pulled De Varga to a stop as they lay screaming on the ground, “you men are supposed to be law enforcement officers. This man is in custody, killing him now would be murder…”

“Not if I say different.”

I turned to see the governor walking towards me as she reached into her jacket. My hand flicked as Dragon struck. The governor stood frozen with her mouth open in a scream. I turned back to the constables, “it is over. Let the judge decide his fate.”

They hesitated and then several nodded and moved sideways, opening a way. I glanced at the commandoes, “one of you grab commander George and someone else get the governor. The judge can decide their fate too.”

I glanced at the other constables squirming around and whimpering, “the others should be fine in another ten minutes.”

Dragon leaped from the governor’s body as a commando bent and grabbed her by the suit. Another moved to get commander George as I started forward. Dragon landed on De Varga’s shoulder as we went through the wide doors. I led the way across the elaborate lobby and the tall doors to the courtroom opened. I walked down the aisle and stopped beside a short pillar with a glowing blue top.

The bench was empty until I placed my badge on the top of the pillar. A middle aged woman appeared in a holograph behind the raised bench, “what do you have marshal?”

I gestured to De Varga, “this is Samuel De Varga. The planetary government requested our intervention in his arrest. I have several constables in custody for assaulting the marshals detention level. I also have constable commander George in custody for attempted murder of my prisoner as well as Governor Davis for the same offense.”

The judge sighed, “very well. Samuel De Varga place your hand on the witness scan.”

He glanced at me and then stepped up to place one hand on the top of the pillar where my badge had been. A shimmer appeared beside the judge and seemed to flicker before she was looking at De Varga, “this report tells me you were seen firing the weapon that killed governor Peters. The witness is constable commander George. Your service rifle was recovered at the scene with your prints and DNA. What do you have to say?”

His face had darkened, “my service rifle was destroyed upon my retirement from service. Its destruction was witnessed by my company commander and attested to by the company armorer. At the time of the assassination I was on base meeting with my retirement councilor.”

I heard a hiss of indrawn breath from the commandoes and ignored it as he continues, “the base security log will show this. I had a meeting that afternoon with constable commander George at his request. When I arrived he tried to shoot me and I escaped.”

The judge nodded and glanced to the side as the holo screen flickered. She looked back at De Varga, “the security logs confirm you were on base but the councilor has not filed the appointment with the base computers. The fleet armory record confirms that your weapon was destroyed.”

The judge looked past De Varga at the commandoes and the two prisoners, “one of you bring constable George to the witness scan.”

I pulled De Varga to the side and commander George resisted, making one of the commandoes slam his hand down onto the scan. After George it was the governor’s turn since he claimed she was the one to order the assassination. Like all imperial court trails it was recorded and played on the planetary comm net.


Chapter 3

Escorting a prisoner

I climbed out of the vehicle and walked towards the large imposing building. Dragon poked her head out of the sling and looked up into my face and I smiled, “the warmer will keep them warm if you want to ride on my shoulder.”

Her gravid state had come as a surprise. Like only a few creatures she was technically both male and female. Although sex did not really come into it, she became pregnant after she reached a certain age. First was her gravid state and then she laid three to five eggs, (this time it was only three). She kept the eggs warm and seventy to eighty days later the young hatched. They bonded to a sentient person shortly after hatching.

Dragon slipped out of the sling and swiftly moved up onto my shoulder as I touched my badge to the door plate. I walked into the large lobby and across to the man relaxing behind the counter. I nodded to him, “I am marshal Morpheus. I am here to escort a prisoner.”

The man sighed and turned to touch an intercom button, “the marshal is here warden.”

He pointed to a corner that opened to reveal a lift, “leave the pet.”

I smiled as I turned to the lift, “Dragon is not a pet. She is a deterrent.”

When I stepped out several floors above the lobby it was to two prison officers and a tall civilian. I started across the wide hallway and the tall man turned to hold out his hand. I glanced at it as Dragon hissed a warning that had the hand pulled back quickly. I shrugged, “Dragon has eggs and is a little suspicious.”

All three looked at Dragon as I looked around, “where is my prisoner?”

The warden cleared his throat, “I thought we might talk first and give you pertinent information.”

I smiled, “he is a killer and never to be trusted. His followers will try anything to free him so everyone around us is not to be trusted. I may look young warden but I know what I am doing.”

He looked at Dragon, “really?”

I laughed as I reached up to caress her face, “let her bite one of your men and you will see why she is not a pet.”

They looked at each other and the warden shook his head before turning to one of the men, “have Edwards brought up.”

I waited and a few minutes later a large man was pulled out and pushed down the hall. He kicked out at one of the guards and growled as the guard snapped a club down into his leg. When they reached me Edwards lunged towards me and then began screaming in pain.

I looked at him on the floor and knelt to pull the tiny dart from his neck, “the pain becomes worst each time you are stung. I am marshal Morpheus, you will call me marshal. You will do what I tell you, when I tell you.”

He struck out with both hands still in restraints. I brushed it aside and struck into the side of his neck. I stood as he screamed again and nodded to the warden, “the release?”

He was looking at me as if I was some strange creature and nodded to a guard who was grinning as he held out a comp screen. I took it and signed for Edwards before handing it back and looking down, “get up.”

He growled and struggled before coming to his feet. He jerked when Dragon leaped and came down on his shoulder, “GET IT OFF!”

I slapped him, “Dragon is trained. If you attack or make any aggressive move she will bite you. One of two things will happen, either you will be locked into stasis or you will die. Now shut up and move.”

I took his arm and turned him to the lift as the guards moved out of the way. We were starting across the lobby when he shifted and started a move to strike me. I slipped back and Dragon bit his neck. I caught him when he began to fall and she hissed as she swarmed up onto my shoulder. I sighed, “okay go ahead.”

She rubbed her head against mine as I crouched. She slipped down my chest and back into the sling as I slung Edwards over my shoulder. The guard that had been watching was wide eyed as I stood and started for the doors. I opened the back door of my vehicle and dumped Edwards in the back before turning the pressor field on. I walked around and got in before lifting and turning the vehicle.

I did not drive straight to the starport, I headed away. I made a large circle before turning to head back towards the port. I slipped into the city traffic instead of flying above it. When I turned off at the transportation lot it was sudden. I got out and moved back to shut the pressor field off before pulling Edwards out. I reset the vehicle controls and yanked him up and over my shoulder.

I was walking through the port building when they struck. I do not know how they got weapons past the door scanner but four men were suddenly standing in front of me with drawn pistols. I guess they thought I would just do what they said. I did not even stop walking as my hand came up and my weapon fired. Two men fell back and the other two panicked and tried to duck away for cover.

They never made it as I shot one and then the other. As the port building alarms began I juggled Edwards and reloaded my weapon. Dragon swarmed out angrily and moved up onto him to hiss at everyone that came near. I holstered my weapon to display my badge before continuing towards the gate I needed. I hissed at Dragon and dropped Edwards beside the gate leading to the shuttle.

Her small jump as she left Edward seemed to slow as I turned at just the hint of sound. My weapon was coming up as a man stepped out with a rifle already against his shoulder. He never got the chance to fire as I squeezed the trigger and his head snapped back. His fall backwards was in slow motion as Dragon finally dropped onto my shoulder.

I glanced at her as she rose up to mantle and hiss angrily. I shook my head and removed the sling with her eggs and set it in a seat nearby, “nest.”

She rubbed my face and dropped down to the seat and crawled into the sling. I sat beside her and leaned back as port officers descended to pull the body away. They kept looking at me as I relaxed but they did not come closer. It was several hours before a clerk arrived at the boarding gate. Edwards groaned and she looked at him before looking away.

When he turned his head towards me I shrugged, “I warned you. Next time she might just kill you.”

He glanced around and licked his lips, “where is it?”

I smiled, “around.”

By the way he kept flexing I knew he was testing his restraints. I sighed and stood as the gate opened. I turned to put the sling on and then stepped towards Edwards. His leg cocked and my hand flicked a tiny dart out. He started screaming and everyone that was headed towards the gate stopped and backed up. I waited and then yanked him up and pulled the dart from his neck, “you just keep asking for it.”

He snarled as I shoved him through the gate. In the shuttle I strapped him in and touched a slim needle to his arm. He sucked in a breath as he froze and his eyes looked at me. I nodded, “one move on the way up and you will be screaming for a very long time.”

He swallowed and nodded and I faced ahead. The ride up was bumpy and from the few looks I knew I had several more followers on the shuttle. When we reached the ship I waited for all the other passengers before standing. I waited and he stood up but I saw him shift his weight for a kick. As his foot snapped out I stepped aside and brought another small dart down into his leg.

His scream went on for a long time before it stopped. I kicked his feet, “get up!”

He glared but I only looked back. Dragon had come out while he screamed and had moved to a seat back. As he struggled to his feet she leaped and swarmed up onto his shoulder with an angry hiss. He jerked, “GET IT OFF!”

I slapped him, “you have already pissed her off. Keep yelling and I will be delivery your body.”

He glared and started to turn his head before freezing as her teeth touched his neck. I watched as he finally straightened and gestured down the isle, “move.”

I walked beside him and gestured the shuttle crew and the ship’s purser back as we came to the hatch into the ship. Instead of going to my suite I guided him through the ship as a man tried to follow stealthily. I pushed Edwards across and into a jump room. I guided him to the back and pushed him down in a seat. I sat beside him and again he felt the touch of a needle against his arm.

Dragon hopped to my shoulder and rubbed my cheek before crawling into my lap. It was not long before the room began filling as the ship started moving. The jump came suddenly and Edwards started to move, first to pull his arm away and then to strike. His scream made everyone try to move away and went on and on. I shifted Dragon and put her into the sling with the eggs before standing.

I knelt to pull the needle out before standing again, “you know each time you do that it damages you.”

He glared and I shrugged, “suit yourself.”

I stepped back, “get up.”

He rolled and came to his feet before turning to look at me, “you will slip sometime.”

I gestured and led him out and through the ship. After I closed the door to my suite I pushed him towards the bed. When we reached it his body went tense and then his eyes widened. I pushed and he fell onto the bed. I moved him around before pulling the colored pin out of his arm, “sweet dreams.”

I went to the couch and sat before pulling the sling off and setting it beside me. The first attack came that night. Edwards had awaken and tried to just lie still until I came closer. I was meditating and he finally sat up and swung his feet off the bed. I turned my head and gestured to the table, “eat.”

His eyes narrowed but I had just gone back to meditating. The slight sound at the door had me moving before it even started opening. My weapon fired and the first man’s head snapped back. My second shot took a woman in the throat as my other hand absently flicked towards a charging Edwards. As he crashed to the floor screaming I shot another tall ugly woman with a pulse rifle.

I waited and walked to look out into the hall before turning to walk to Edwards. I knelt and pulled the tiny dart out before standing and stepping back, “get up.”

He cursed and snarled and I showed him another dart. He rolled to his feet as a ship’s crew member stepped into the doorway. Edwards started to move and froze before falling, I smiled and glanced down at Dragon by his knee. She was leaning off the couch and hissed before moving back. I nodded to the crewman, “let the purser and captain know what happen.”

I moved forward and lifted Edwards before carrying him to the bed. I dumped him on the bed and went to start cleaning up. When he came out of stasis he turned his head to glare, “when you slip I am going to rip that flying bat thing apart.”

I smiled and rubbed Dragon’s head, she was curled up in my lap and purring. Edwards sat up and started to move off the bed. Her head snapped around and she glared as she hissed. He stopped moving and looked at me. I rubbed her back before looking at him, “go use the facilities and wash.”

He nodded and stood with his eyes on Dragon. I let him leave before pushing her towards the sling, “I will find something for you to eat.”

She hissed softly and crawled into the sling as I went to the food dispenser. When Edwards came out I knew he had something he thought was a weapon. I gestured to the bed and he ignored it. I shook my head and my hand flicked out. He screamed and kept on screaming as I stood and walked to him. I knelt and ignored the tiny dart in his arm as I started searching.

I found the broken piece of metal and pulled the dart out as I stood and stepped back, “stand up.”

Edwards growled and lurched to his feet, one foot snapping out. I side stepped, bringing my hand up under his foot and he started screaming again as he hit the floor. This time I just waited for the chemical to wear off. When he finally relaxed and glared at me I shrugged, “I warned you.”

This time when he stood and I pushed him towards the bed he went. I pulled the tiny dart out as he stiffened and collapsed onto the bed, I also removed the colored needle. A week later the ship reached Neon, that was where the second attack came. I was moving Edwards towards the shuttle airlock when a man stepped out in front of us.

I had made sure we were going to be on the last shuttle down. I pushed Edwards forward and to one side as I drew my weapon. The man was trying to bring a weapon up that had been hidden behind his leg. He did not make it as I killed him with a shot to the head. I turned and fired back down the hall behind us. It should have been clear but two men were coming out of rooms on each side of the hallway.

They both fell, one with a hole in his chest and the other with his head half gone. I absently side stepped and my empty hand snapped out. Edwards flew back into the wall as I turned to look at him coldly, “one more time and you are dead.”

He wiped blood from his broken nose and growled as he slowly stood, “maybe.”

I snorted and pushed him into the shuttle and then down the isle and into the first seat. I sat beside him and he froze as the needle touched his arm. I smiled as I relaxed beside him, “this one kills.”

When we landed Edwards was sweating as I stepped back for him to stand. Dragon had come out of her sling and was on his shoulder as he slowly stood. This time I used the back way through the port. I stepped out the port attendants door and glanced around before I hailed a hire vehicle. Edwards was tense the whole ride but a needle touching his arm kept him from moving.

I tossed the credit chit to the driver when we reached the large stone gateway. I moved out and Edwards hesitated before following. This was where I played an ace, I took his elbow and touched a button on a small box inside my shirt. For an area of ten feet around us everything became foggy. He jerked and then stopped moving as he felt Dragons teeth at his neck.

I pulled him along through the gateway and touched my badge to a thick metal door. It opened and I pushed him inside before following. I knew this was where he would get desperate and touched his wrist with a colored needle. Dragon leaped to my shoulder as Edwards slumped to the floor. I turned the box off and looked across the room at the two guards behind the thick armored glass.

I shrugged and put Dragon in her sling before squatting and lifting Edwards to my shoulder. I walked to the only other door in the room and one of the guards opened it. I moved to the waiting men and knelt to drop Edwards onto the floor before standing and pulling out my comp screen. I held it out to the only civilian in the room.

The warden shook his head, “you cost me a case of bourbon marshal.”


Chapter 4

Protecting a judge

I glanced up as the tiny dragon zipped by me and landed on the stand behind me. I smiled and sat back, “welcome back Cambra.”

She grinned, “Samantha is fantastic.”

I glanced back at Dragon with her daughter and smiled, “how did the prisoner like her?”

Cambra snorted, “I think she likes threatening people. As soon as Edwards saw her, he stopped moving.”

I grinned and stood up, “did they have any problems with the execution?”

She snorted again as she turned to walk with me, “the sedative you gave me kept him quiet.”

She nodded to the commander’s office, “how is the new commander?”

I grinned, “he has been ignoring me. You can ask one of the others, they seem to think he is a hard ass.”

Cambra grinned, “good for him.”

“Morpheus!”

I glanced at Cambra, “you had to mention him.”

She grinned as she walked towards her desk and I headed towards the new commander’s office. He looked up when I just walked in and frowned. I ignored it and walked to the desk and sat in one of his seats, “you called?”

He nodded and sat back, “someone thinks highly of you. Sector commander Jessop and the quadrant commander both requested you.”

I nodded but did not show anything. He leaned forward, “someone has cracked the imperial justice data banks. Sector commander Jessop has requested you for a protection detail. Why he has not assigned one of his own I do not know.”

I shrugged, “who needs protecting?”

He sighed and slid a data chip across the desk, “judge Harriet.”

I glanced from the chip to him and he smiled slightly, “rings a bell?”

I looked at him, “you have read my file.”

He sat back, “I have.”

I waited and he gestured, “your badge.”

I pulled it and tossed it to him. I was curious to see what he was going to do. He pulled the badge from the case and turned to push it into a slot in the wall behind his desk. There was a flash and he was pulling it out and replacing it in the case. I caught it and glanced at it, “sergeant?”

He smiled, “you have made an impression with the emperor.”

I put the badge back on my belt, “I only did my job.”

He laughed as he stood, “the emperor said maybe he will send you a bottle of brandy.”

I snorted and stood, “I will not hold my breath, he owes me several.”

I picked up the data chip and turned to head for the door. I should have known everyone would be waiting. I sighed at the loud cheer as I stepped out of the office and started to catch the egg that was thrown. Dragon dropped from the ceiling and everyone laughed as she caught the egg in her front claws and soared away.

I shook my head at Edwards, “you never learn.”

He grinned as he reached up to the tiny dragon on his shoulder, “Sampson will protect me.”

I headed towards my desk, “who is going to protect him from you.”

Everyone laughed again and turned to head back to their desks. I gestured to Dragon as she landed on her stand, “time to go Dragon, we finally got a mission.”

She leaped from her stand and grabbed my shoulder before moving onto it. I put a couple of files away and bent to grab my bag beside the desk. I used the lift and dropped down to dispersing. I walked in and smiled at the tall young marshal at the window, “you are back Michaels.”

He glanced back and grinned, “just got in.”

A tiny head shyly peeked around his neck. She was almost completely hidden in his long hair as she hugged his neck. I smiled as I walked passed him to the other window, “how did Georgia do?”

He grinned as he stepped back from the window, “she was great. She put two in stasis before they even knew I was not alone and then she forced the prisoner to walk along beside me as timidly as a lamb.”

I laughed, “I am glad it worked out.”

Marshal Michaels had been a surprise, he had arrived just as Dragon was pushing her three babies away to be bonded. I half expected, well hoped Cambra would bond with one. Edwards had been a surprise to everyone and Michaels, well... Dragon had searched the room after her daughter screamed at everyone and forced him to come close enough for her daughter to leap into his arms.

I pulled a form in front of me and quickly filled it out before pushing it to the android. The android barely looked at it, “I am sorry marshal Morpheus there is no transportation going out.”

I looked at it carefully and noticed Michaels as he stopped and turned towards me, “give me the ship departure list.”

The android turned and pushed a slip of plastic across. I glanced at it, “there are three cargo ships that can transfer me at the sector nexus and a luxury liner headed to the planet I need.”

I looked at the android, “book me on the liner.”

It shifted, “the liner exceeds our dispersing quota. I am sorry marshal Morpheus there is no transportation going out.”

I glanced at Dragon and she slipped off my shoulder as I reached for the payout comp. I placed my badge on the comp, “deduct the fare from my account.”

The android seemed to vibrate, “I am sorry marshal Morpheus there is no transportation going out.”

It froze suddenly and Dragon poked her head around its neck before scrambling around. I reached through the window to punch a few buttons and a packet spit out the slot. I touched the building communicator, “this is marshal Morpheous. I am in dispersing, the android has been hacked. I need a tech here to do a full spectrum system check.”

“I am on my way marshal.”

I turned and bent to grab my bag and grinned, “this is not a good way to start a mission.”

Michaels grinned, “I will wait for the tech. You know you make them nervous.”

I smiled as I nodded, “see you when I get back.”

I glanced at the departure data as the lift whisked me down to the lobby. I nodded to the guards on my way past and walked out the doors. I hesitated and stepped in front of the man trying to enter, “excuse me, I was looking for another hostel this one seems to be full.”

The golem hesitated, “this is the office for the imperial marshals.”

I frowned as Dragon slipped down my back, “no, this is the Imperial House. A first class hostel which is booked up, would you know where another is?”

It frowned and tilted its head before freezing. Dragon dropped off it as I turned to the doors and opened them. I looked at the two guards, “notify hazardous disposal, we have another golem. This time tell them that if they destroy it before they vacuum it I will do bad things to them.”

They looked at each other and nodded as they headed towards the door. Dragon swarmed back up onto my shoulder as I walked towards my vehicle. When I walked into the starport I knew I was going to have a long wait and headed for the VIP sleeper rooms. The single almost unheard beep made my eyes snap open and my weapon come around.

The locked door opened quietly and an old lady smiled at me. I fired before her half hidden hand could come out of the bag she was holding. I was up off the bed and moving before the body even started to fall. Dragon’s scream of rage was more than enough to draw attention. I knelt beside the body as I continued to scan around us.

I finally holstered my weapon as several guards began to get closer. I was careful searching the body and the bag. I ignored the weapons and guards pointing them as I finally straightened with the compact silenced pistol. I slipped it into the small of my back and stood.

I nodded to the guard supervisor, “the body is to be considered a level one threat to your men and the port. You need triple dense gloves and body bag. Use the industrial incinerator to burn the body and make sure everyone that comes within a dozen paces is masked.”

He jerked and stared at the old woman’s body, “who was she?”

I glanced at the body, “he was a very skill assassin.”

I pulled my comm, “marshal Godson.”

A moment later the commander’s voice came on, “Morpheus we are still dealing with the golem and the android.”

I glanced around, “we have another worry. One of the older students from my school just popped in.”

There was a long pause, “what did they say?”

I smiled, “he was sent to kill me and I killed him.”

Again there was a pause, “have you notified the port guards on how to handle the body? You know what happened at the school.”

I looked at the supervisor, “I told them. I need a starcomm to sector commander Jesop. Tell him the school may be back and to take all precautions.”

“I will make sure he gets it.”

I shut the comm off and returned to the room. I collected my bag and Dragon before heading through the port. I set the bag beside me as I sat next to the boarding gate. After slipping the silenced pistol into my bag I put Dragon in my lap. I caressed and reassured her as I leaned back and scanned the area. It was several hours before the attendant came to open the gate and by then there was a small crowd waiting.

I knew that if the school was after me they would have someone on the liner but probably not on the shuttle. I also knew something they did not, the shuttles for this class of liner were new and had military grade anti missile defenses. When we boarded I flashed my badge and sat in the very front next to the door. I watched each and every person board.

We were barely off the ground before red lights started flashing. The acceleration was tripled and then tripled again, pinning everyone in their seats regardless of the anti gravs. I knew what it meant and tried to relax. The defenses must have worked because we were not hit and broke free of the planet. The shuttle took a little longer to dock with the liner and there were a lot more crew waiting to help passengers.

I ignored them as Dragon sat calmly on my shoulder and I collected my bag and started into the ship. The large burly crewman that moved in front of me backed away quickly when I pulled my weapon and touched my badge. He swallowed as he looked from the pistol to Dragon and finally into my face, “there was an incident…”

I shook my head as I strode past him, “of course there was.”

There were a few people that might have been from the school lounging around but they did not come close. I dropped my bag off in my suite and headed towards the jump rooms. I made sure to sit in a back corner and watched each person as they came in. After we jumped I was up and moving, carrying Dragon against my chest.

I moved to the ship’s lounge and pulled out a few sealed bottles of water. I walked back to my suite and pulled my weapon and stood to the side as I opened the door. The silent shot that came through the door was not unexpected. I tossed the bottles of water through and again the weapon fired. I nudged Dragon onto my shoulder and pulled a small disk from behind my belt.

I knelt and slid it through before standing as I counted. The image of me crouching appeared before I spun around the door. The assassin’s weapon fired into the holograph and I fired into the small women rapidly. I walked to her and looked down at the hole between her eyes and the three close holes in the center of her chest. I knelt to check her and stripped everything that could be lethal.

I carefully checked the tells on my bag and pulled out the detector before beginning a sweep of the suite. I shut down the bugs and disabled the poison gas. I also found a couple of nasty surprises the assassin had already left. I called the captain using my badge to declare an emergency. I explained about the assassin and how she was to be handled during disposal.

The crewmen that came were wearing evac suits which was good. I helped put the assassin into the hard plastic body pod and let them leave. Dragon had been clinging to the wall above the door the whole time the crewmen were there. I caught her as she dropped free and let her begin her own check. I spent most of my time in the suite.

The few times I came out I left tells that would let me know if anyone tried to enter. When we came out of jump I had my bag with me in the jump room and stood to head for the first shuttle down. Normal procedure was to go last but I did not wait and strode through the ship to the shuttle bay. I had to wait for the crew to get there and begin prepping the shuttle.

I told the senior crewman I would be using the first seat inside the hatch. I stood watching the shuttle while they checked and boarded the other passengers. The ride down was smooth and I stood as the shuttle was locked to the boarding tube. Dragon hissed angrily at one woman that stood to crowd closer and she jumped back, “what the hell is that!”

I turned to look at her and smiled as I reached up to touch Dragon, “that is a dragon. She is my partner and right now she is doing sentry duty.”

The woman glanced down at my belt and saw the badge. She grinned, “you are a marshal with a dragon for a partner?”

I nodded and she laughed, “what will the emperor think of next.”

I turned and moved towards the opening door. As soon as possible I slipped into the back ways of the port and came out by a rental stall. I had a public transport take me across the city and got out in front of the marshals building. As soon as I walked through the door I touched my badge to the ID plate before the alarm could sound.

I took the lift up to the offices and stepped out to walk across the large room as everyone went quiet. I set my bag on a chair outside the commander’s office before just walking in. Jessop looked up and opened his mouth before grinning and standing, “Morpheus!”

I grinned as Dragon launched herself across the room towards him, “you look older Simon.”

He caught Dragon and stroked her head and back, “don’t we all.”

I crossed and reached out to clasp his hand, “at least you are still alive.”

He frowned and let Dragon climb to his shoulder as he sat, “I have two marshals that are not.”

He gestured to the chair and I sat as he began telling me about the judge he wanted me to protect. When he finished I stood and Dragon leaped into the air. I headed towards the door and glanced back as she landed and clung to my shoulder, “have you found the school?”

Simon shook his head, “we narrowed it to this sector.”

I nodded, “let me know when you find it.”

I walked out and grabbed my bag as I crossed the room. A female marshal followed me to the lift and turned to face me as it dropped, “what makes you so special?”

I glanced at her as Dragon shifted, “I was raised in the assassin’s school called Hades.”

She jerked, “I thought everyone was killed.”

I smiled as I stepped off the lift on the lower floor, “a dozen people from the school survived.”

She followed me as I walked down the vacant hall towards the two marshals standing beside a door. I glanced at her, “the others were off planet on missions.”

She frowned, “killing people you mean.”

I nodded, “yes.”

I stopped in front of the marshals, “anyone come in besides the judge?”

They shook their heads and I stepped forward to touch my badge to the door screen. The door opened and I looked at the marshal that had followed me, “ask Simon… commander Jessop, if you really want to know more.”

She grinned with the two marshals, “Simon?”

I shrugged, “after it was over I lived with him for a short time.”

I walked into the judge’s apartments and the door closed behind me. The old judge looked up when I walked in and frowned, “I do not know you.”

I sat in a comfortable chair across from her and let Dragon leap into the air. I looked at her, “my name is Morpheus, deputy marshal Morpheus.”

She smiled, “Simon’s boy.”

I smiled, “in a way. He requested me from my commander to protect you.”

She sat back as Dragon landed on the couch back and walked closer, “how do I know…”

I laughed, “if I had wanted you dead your honor, you would already be dead. Dragon will accompany you everywhere. She is a bio synth and is linked to me.”

The judge looked at Dragon and reached out to scratch her under the jaw, “Dragon? You could not name it something nice.”

I grinned as I stood, “Dragon is a good name.”

I began a careful examination of the apartment and returned to find Dragon curled up in her lap as she read something from a screen reader, “tell Dragon when you need to go anywhere.”

She glanced at me and nodded as I turned to walk towards the door. For the next two hours I combed every floor in the building. I returned to Simon’s office and knocked before I poked my head in, “do you have anyone trained to work with explosives?”

He turned from talking to a middle aged man, “a few why?”

I held up the three small but extremely powerful bombs I had found and disarmed, “because I would like irregular sweeps on the floors below and above the judge’s chambers.”

Simon came to his feet, “are those live?”

I smiled, “Simon.”

He shrugged, “sorry.”

He pressed his intercom, “Smith, Atckins and Beck, come to my office.”

Simon looked at me, “how did they get them in?”

I shook my head, “I think they have a compromised badge.”

His eyes narrowed and I blinked as I got an image from Dragon. I turned and started running, ignoring everyone and everything. I hit the emergency override in the lift to make it drop three times as fast as normal. The two marshals guarding the judge’s door looked at me running towards them and one spun to open the door. I barely slowed as I came through the door drawing my weapon.

The judge was crouched behind the couch. Dragon was on a man’s back biting into the back of his neck. She did not stop as I approached and I holstered my pistol and waved the other marshals back, “he is an assassin.”

The judge almost whispered, “that is Jorge, my clerk.”

I did not look at her as I slowly walked around the man, “your clerk is probably dead. This man is wearing a skin mask.”

I pulled out a small needle and slipped it into a vein in the man’s neck. Dragon released him and dropped to the floor. The man slowly stirred which should have been impossible with all the stasis drugs Dragon had injected into him. His eyes shifted and met mine and I shook my head, “the build is a little thicker and the eyes are different but you are Domino.”

His eyes narrowed, “you betrayed us.”

I shook my head, “they betrayed me. They locked me away and tortured my sister before killing her.”

He blinked, “Samantha? But… why?”

I shrugged, “I does not matter anymore. Samantha wanted me out of the school.”

He swallowed, “she betrayed us.”

I snorted, “she tried to get me away to protect me, just as she always did.”

He closed his eyes, “kill me Morpheus.”

I looked at the judge, “do you know of any warrants or wants for a man named Domino?”

She shook her head and did something on her bracelet, “there is not anything but if he…”

I held up my hand, “did you kill the clerk?”

Domino shook his head, “you know I never took a life that was not paid for.”

I smiled, “people change.”

I looked at the judge and then back at him, “do you want out?”

He looked at me closely, “they would kill me.”

I shrugged, “they would try, just as they have tried killing me. You never liked killing. Give me the new school’s location and I will get you out.”

He smiled, “what would I do? All I know is how to kill.”

I laughed, “would you believe I even have the perfect job for you?”

Domino grinned, “who do I kill?”

I shook my head, “how would someone kill this judge? What would you do to prevent it?”

He looked at her and frowned, “bodyguard?”

I waited and he smiled, “protection security, yeah I could do that.”

He looked at the judge, “the people close to her are always targets and the easiest way in. Poison would be next, the food processor or a gas in the building vents. Bombs above or below if the assassin is an amateur. Her court AI system would also be a good way to get to her. The interface is easy to tamper with if done in one of the courtrooms.”

I was smiling as the judge stared open mouthed, “so? Do you want out?”

He looked at me for a minute, “they really tortured and killed Samantha?”

I nodded and he sighed, “get someone to take notes.”

I looked at the judge and she nodded before turning to make a call. I carefully stripped him of weapons and then sat him in a chair as six marshals came in including Simon. A deputy took notes as Domino talked and when he stopped Simon nodded to me, “and what do you want done with him?”

I smiled as the judge stirred, “we do not have him for any assassinations. The only thing we could charge him with is assault, illegal use of court ID and trespassing. We always have requests for protection, I think we should use him.”

Simon smiled and looked at the judge, “Olivia?”

She sighed, “as much as it pains me I agree.”

Simon looked at Domino and glanced to me, “let him go. I will take him upstairs to fill out some paperwork.”

I moved to stand in front of Domino, “if you betray my trust there will be nowhere to hide.”

He smiled, “for Samantha.”

I touched his neck with a tiny self injecting ampule and stepped back. He shuddered and turned to nod to Simon who led him out with a deputy. I glanced at the judge as she bent and picked Dragon up. I smiled as I collected all the weapons, “I need to go check a few things.”

She hugged Dragon, “of course.”

I left and went down to the main level before heading into the inner bowels of the building. My badge opened all the doors until I was in the computer core. I sat at an access station and began running checks and putting safeguards in place. I was there for three weeks until Simon received word the contract had been removed.

The young female deputy was with me the whole time. Her name was Amanda Swift and I think Simon was playing match maker. There was a whole battalion of commandoes that surrounded the new assassin school. I walked in alone with a weapon in each hand. When I came out it was with a dozen children, the assassins and masters were all dead.


Chapter 5

Prisoner exchange gone bad

I looked up as Amanda sat at her desk across from mine, “word is there was a huge mix up with a prisoner.”

She lifted Dragon from the corner of her desk and put her in her lap. I glanced at the commander’s door, he had not even blinked when I returned with Amanda. She had just handed him her transfer chit and he gestured to me, “partner up with Morpheus.”

So she had her desk across from mine. It was nice to have a partner, even Camdra seemed to like Amanda. The commander stepped out of his office and looked around before crossing the room. Amanda turned as he stopped and he tossed me a chit, “go to Mirror. Meet with constable Towson and take custody of Ser Jacob Benson. Transport him to Echo and do a prisoner exchange for Denison Tio and return Tio to Mirror.”

I nodded and bent to grab my ready bag. When I stood Amanda was just standing as Dragon swarmed onto her shoulder. I shook my head as I started across the room with her following. She was carrying her own ready bag and we went down to disbursing. She grinned when the only thing going out was a liner with one suite and one bed.

When we were finally relaxing in the lounge after the jump I opened the chip and started reading. She had been right, there had been a big mistake. Ser Jacob Benson and Denison Tio were identical right down to DNA. The only distinguishing mark was on Tio, a small scar beside his left eye. I finished and tossed the chit to Amanda who snatched it out of the air.

The crew and passengers began to come in and as usually one of the crew crossed to say something about Dragon. Amanda smiled politely as she listened to her speech and then ignored her. I shook my head, “Dragon is a registered weapon in the service of the Marshals. She will remain with us at all times unless you or your captain will sign a waiver of liability for any deaths that may occur.”

The woman’s eyes widened, “of course if she is registered.”

She left quickly and Amanda chuckled, “she would not hurt anyone unless they threatened you.”

I smiled and sat back, “you would be surprised.”

I noticed a quiet woman that began to watch us. She almost seemed to blend into the background. Dragon hissed and Amanda whispered, “I know Dragon but she is only a watcher.”

I stood before crossing to the woman, “may I help you gently lady.”

She acted surprised, “no, why do you ask?”

I shook my head, “because I always know when someone watches or follows me.”

She smiled, “but I was just sitting here minding my own...”

I held up a hand, “you were in the starport and bought a ticket at the last minute. You have tried to keep a constant eye on us. I do not know who or why yet and do not really care at this point, the watching stops.”

I turned and crossed to leave and Amanda was already up and walking out. The woman disappeared after that but somehow I knew she would be there after we landed. Our time on the liner was nice, we even ate dinner with the captain several times. She was impressed with Dragon after she hissed at a waitress bringing a meal and refused to let her eat it. It turned out something was wrong and the food was bad.

We took the first shuttle down to Mirror and used a marshal vehicle to go to the central detention. Dragon rode my shoulder as we walked through the doors and I touched my badge to the alarm pad. Amanda was following and waiting until we were clear of the door, “we have another watcher.”

I nodded, “it is that woman using a disguise.”

A short wide man met us beside the lifts, “marshals.”

I nodded, “constable.”

He frowned at Dragon and then his eyes widened, “you are Morpheus.”

I smiled, “yes.”

He grinned and held out his hand, “I am really glad it is you then. Ser Benson is small stuff but our man Tio is a different story. He has people that want him free and has money to make it happen.”

Amanda snorted, “not with us.”

The constable glanced at her and nodded, “I know but they will try force or coercion.”

She smiled, “that will not work either.”

I smiled, “where is Ser Benson?”

He turned to the lift as he waved to a guard. A moment later a guard and another man in a plain jumpsuit appeared. As they came close Dragon leaped and flew the few feet to drop onto the prisoner’s shoulders. He jerked back and I reached out to grab his jumpsuit, “Dragon is your protector and keeper. She has two bites, she can stun you and put you in stasis or she can kill you. Do what we tell you and you will be safe. Try to escape or fight and you will suffer for it.”

He swallowed and finally looked away from Dragon to me before nodding. I turned him and pushed him towards Amanda. I took the screen from the guard and signed for the prisoner and nodded to constable Towson, “I will see you when we return.”

He nodded and I headed for the door with Amanda pushing Ser Benson in front of her. I stepped out and looked around carefully before nodding and walking towards the vehicle as Amanda pushed Ser Benson out the door. We had a tight schedule since the liner heading to Echo was already loading. We were on the last shuttle up and I knew the watcher was frustrated since there was no other suites available on the liner.

We took turns watching Ser Benson during the trip but he did not give us any problems, he almost seemed relieved. We took the first shuttle down and walked to the marshal vehicle with our prisoner between us. The central prison was at the extreme edge of the huge city. As soon as I stepped out of the vehicle and glanced around I know there would be trouble.

I nodded and Amanda pulled Ser Benson out. I sent Dragon a command and she leaped into the air as I headed towards the main doors, “on your toes Amanda.”

She hissed, “I see them.”

I glanced around, “they might wait for us to leave but I would not count on it.”

When we walked through the front doors I touched the door pad with my badge before pushing Ser Benson towards the armored glass booth with a guard. The lobby guard smiled almost snidely as I slipped the prisoner’s transfer screen through the slot. The guard looked at the information and turned to make a call. The guard that led the prisoner out of the lift looked pissed.

The prisoner almost seemed arrogant. Another suited man stepped out of the lift and started towards us. I spun and shoved Ser Benson to the floor as Amanda tackled the other prisoner. The front windows shattered as projectiles ripped through the lobby. It was only for a second and then I was heading towards the front of the building, “secure them Amanda.”

I absently shot the guard lifting his weapon towards me in the shoulder and stepped out to see both gunmen stiff. I nodded and looked at several guards spilling out of the building, “take those two. They are in stasis right now.”

I turned to walk back in, “and do a scan on this guard.”

Amanda had both prisoners down and her weapon out. Dragon flew through the broken window and landed on my shoulder. I nodded to the warden as he stood, “that was round one.”

His prisoner turned his head to smile, “it is not over.”

I knelt and held out a vial, “my name is marshal Morpheus. I am sure your sources have told you who I am. This is a poison, if I do not give you the antidote or a suppressant in three days you will die.”

I touched the injector to his neck as he stiffened. The warden opened his mouth as I stood and winked. He closed his mouth and then smiled, “well mister Tio it has been a pleasure.”

I signed over Ser Benson and signed for Denison Tio. We had already checked departing ships and pulled our prisoner out and to our vehicle. Dragon took flight as we turned in the vehicle and we started our walk into the starport. I smiled as the seemingly old woman jerked and froze before Dragon dropped off her back and flew to me.

Amanda grinned, “serves the nosy bitch right.”

I knew whoever these people were they would be scrambling and probably had already booked room on the only ship leaving for Mirror. We were in the large ticketing lobby when the striker team tried to take Tio. Dragon leaped into the air as Amanda shoved Tio down and both my hands came up with weapons. I killed the first two that came from behind a ticket counter and then another rushing us from a doorway.

Amanda took two more down that were dropping through ceiling grates. The crowd of people were running and screaming as we knelt and scanned the area around us. I felt when Dragon struck and took out another man fighting through the crowd. Finally it was clear and Amanda and I both killed the last two men lifting assault rifles.

I stood and looked around before putting one weapon away and nodding to Amanda, “time to move.”

She snarled and yanked Tio up, “come on you!”

Dragon did not return to land and kept flying around us as I started for the gates and the two port guards that looked wide eyed. I flashed my badge, “try to keep everyone away.”

One nodded hastily before we were past them and stepping onto a slide. Dragon dropped to Tio’s shoulder and hissed in his ear. Amanda grinned, “not yet, wait to kill him when we reach Mirror.”

Tio flinched as I stepped off the slide and he was pulled off after me. I had been thinking ahead so the gate we stopped at was already loading. What Tio and his people did not know was the liner it went to was not going directly to Mirror. The cabin we were put in was small with one bed. Amanda and I dropped our bags before pulling him to the jump room.

During the trip I made arrangements for a ship to ship transfer when we reached the system we were heading for. Every three days I made a point of using a tiny vial I told Tio was a suppressant to keep the poison I had given him inactive. Amanda and I took turns watching and sleeping. When we reached the next system we waited until everyone had left before the captain sent his private cutter across to the cargo ship with us.

This time we had an empty crew cabin and strapped Tio to the bed most of the time. When the large cargo shuttle landed Amanda jerked Tio up as Dragon hissed in his ear. We had not called ahead so no one knew we were coming. I led the way off the shuttle and onto the hot tarmac before starting for a distant gate. When I picked up our vehicle Amanda nodded to Dragon and she turned and bit Tio.

He had a shocked look on his face as he went into stasis. I grinned as I lifted and turned to head toward the center of the city. I was not planning to walk in the front door this time and landed on the marshal’s pad on the roof. I nodded to Amanda and she slipped out and crossed to open the door. I moved around to open Tio’s door before pulling him out and over my shoulder.

Dragon leaped into the air and flew towards Amanda and through the door as she opened it. I stopped as I heard and felt Dragon’s warning, “intruders.”

Amanda spun as firing broke out inside. She stepped in to start shooting and I dropped Tio to follow her. Six men and women lay sprawled on the floor by the first unopened marshal’s door. Dragon flew out to land on my shoulder with an angry hiss. I turned back to Tio as I glanced around and then up at a vehicle flying high above us, “stay inside Amanda!”

I grabbed Tio after squatting and yanked him up and onto my shoulder as Dragon flew towards the open door. I walked towards the door and did not even slow when bullets impacted the roof in front of me. Amanda leaned out the door and fired up as I moved past her and then she slammed the door closed. Once we were down to the detention floor she opened the door.

I walked through and down to the lift before hesitating, “I think we need to use the court monitors to check below.”

Amanda looked at me, “you think they are waiting below?”

I looked at her and she grinned, “me too.”

I turned and walked back to the marshals holding cells and dumped Tio before shoving him into one. I walked into the lounge area to see Amanda using a screen. She glanced at me, “nothing in the lobby but there are several dozen armed men around in front of the building.”

I nodded and opened a comm, “constable Towson.”

It was several moments before he answered, “marshal?”

I sat down as Dragon landed and slipped into my lap, “yes. There were a few men waiting on the roof and we see a few in front of the building.”

“We see them.”

I grinned at Amanda, “would you like me to authorize puke gas?”

He laughed, “sounds like fun.”

Amanda was grinning as she accessed the database. A minute later she nodded and I headed to the cells as she followed. Dragon climbed to my shoulder until I opened the cell and started to pull Tio out. She leaped and glided to Amanda before climbing to her shoulder. Tio was still in stasis so I lifted him onto my shoulder. Amanda used the lift and dropped down before me.

When I walked out of the lift the men outside started to rush the building before stumbling. They dropped to the ground heaving and vomiting as I nodded to Amanda. She led the way across to the constables waiting by one of the courtrooms. I dropped Tio and used a tiny vial to bring him out of stasis. I stood when constable Towson stepped forward.

Amanda pulled a comp screen from inside her coat and handed it to him. He was grinning when he signed for the prisoner. A couple of constables pulled him up and shoved him towards the courtroom door. I looked at constable Towson, “I would have your response teams standing by.”

He grinned, “they are on their way with a company of Commandos supporting them.”

I nodded and turned to the lift, “if you would have your coroner retrieve the bodies in the marshals stairwell we would be thankful.”

Once we were back upstairs Amanda grinned, “I have never seen puke gas work for real.”

I smiled and crossed to a seat before calling Canis VI. Amanda disappeared with Dragon but I knew it was for a warm shower, Dragon liked those. I glanced at the holograph of the commander, “we turned Denison Tio over. The next ship back is not scheduled for a couple of days.”

He smiled, “any problems I should know about beside the incident in the starport on Echo?”

I shrugged, “a few men were waiting when we got here. They were in the marshals stairwell. We also used the marshals authorization for puke gas outside the front of the building to detour an attack.”

He grinned, “how did the constables like the new gas?”

I laughed, “they loved it. The men that attacked did not see it until they ran into it.”

He sighed and glanced to the side, “well, finish up there and get back. We have a couple of things brewing.”

I nodded as the holograph vanished and then there was a loud explosion that shook the building. I sighed and opened the building security vid feeds. I glanced at a small battle going on in front of the building. I shook my head, “I have had enough, computer?”

“Yes Marshal?”

I glanced at Amanda as she came out wrapped in a towel and waved her back, “I would like to speak to judge Mellon.”

“One moment Marshal, he is hearing a case.”

I sat back and waited as commandoes in full armor swept in and the battle ended. I looked at the holograph as the old judge appeared, “I am a little busy Morpheus.”

I smiled, “you are always busy sir. We and the system constables of Echo and Mirror have a problem. Denison Tio has people using his finances to attack and try to free him. I would like a court block on his accounts.”

He frowned, “interfering in private accounts is frowned upon Morpheus... but if he or someone associated with him is using it to deter peace officers...”

I waited and he nodded, “I will authorize it.”

I nodded, “thank you sir.”

I entered Tio’s name and info into the system and a moment later it flashed red. I nodded to the holograph again before the judge disappeared. I opened a building comm, “constable Towson.”

When he came on I told him about the imperial freeze of all accounts for Tio. He actually grinned before thanking me. It was much later when Amanda and I went down to the lobby. We stepped out of the lift as Tio and four guards that were supposed to escort him to the planetary prison came out of the courtroom. There were still several constables by the front doors.

The four guards began shooting and Amanda and I both reacted. I pulled my weapon and shot two and Amanda shot one before the last guard spun towards us. Tio had gone from grinning to white faced as he dove for the floor. Amanda and I shot the last guard at the same time and I started for Tio as he reached for a dropped weapon.

Dragon dropped onto his upper back and bit into his neck. He froze in mid scream and I knelt to pull the weapon out of his hand. Dragon leaped and flew towards Amanda as I grabbed Tio. I was lifting him to my shoulder when something made me drop. The front glass shattered and the guards left alive dropped to the ground.

The front of the building across from us exploded as a commando fired into it with a plasma arc. I shifted and turned to check Tio and found the neat hole through his shoulder. I shook my head and yanked him up as I stood, “I am tired of this. I think we are taking him to the prison ourselves.”

Amanda came to her feet and moved to the lift quickly. I followed with Tio over my shoulder and Dragon dropped to cling to my shirt. I glanced at her patting the small neat hole through my own shoulder, “it did not hit anything vital.”

I stepped out onto the roof to see Amanda already in the vehicle. I looked around before crossing and dumping Tio in the open back door. Dragon hissed as she leaped onto his body and I walked around to climb in. Amanda lifted and spun the vehicle before slamming us back by accelerating away at full speed. She glanced at me, “how bad?”

I looked down at my shoulder, “Tio took most of it.”

She frowned but did not say anything as I pulled my comm, “constable Towson.”

“Marshal Morpheus? Tio escaped.”

I smiled, “we have him and are on the way to your prison. They need to have a doctor standing by.”

“They will be waiting. We are already getting his lawyers screaming about the frozen account.”

I shook my head, “they can appeal but I seriously doubt the judge will unfreeze it now that a marshal has been injured.”

Constable Towson was quiet, “your partner?”

She snorted and I grinned, “have someone bring Tio’s screen to the prison.”

I shut the comm off and Amanda turned and dropped down right next to the front door of the prison complex. I opened my door and stepped out before opening the back door and pulling Tio out. Amanda came out my door and opened the building door as I shouldered Tio. I walked in as guards and a doctor crossed to us quickly.

I dumped Tio on the float gurney and blinked as the doctor ignored him to turn me. He was looking at the slightly leaking hole through my suit and started to pull it off. I caught his hands, “wait.”

I looked at Amanda and she moved the guards back before nodding to me. I carefully pulled the jacket off and then the shirt followed by a light thin under shirt that was actually a mesh. The doctor turned me to look for the exit wound and snorted, “it is still in you.”

I shifted and reached into the lining of my jacket. The slim bladed knife I pulled out almost shimmered. I looked at the doctor before handing the blade to him, “push it in to touch the blade to the pellet and then slowly pull it out.”

He opened his mouth and I nodded to Tio, “he needs to be taken to a secure site and I can wait.”

The guards were looking at each other as the doctor looked at the knife, “I have never seen... this is a retractor?”

Amanda shook her head, “I think he carries everything but a sink.”

The doctor looked at her before smiling and suddenly pushing the blade into the wound. I held still and pushed the pain away as he slowly pulled back. A small pellet was on the tip of the blade and I held out my hand. He handed me the blade before bending to lift his bag. I shook my head at the pain meds. He shrugged before carefully bandaging the wound, “you need to irrigate the wound and have it sutured close.”

I nodded, “thank you.”

He nodded and turned to Tio, “he is in stasis?”

I struggled into my shirt, “for another five hours or so.”

After I put on my jacket we left and Amanda pushed me into the vehicle, “take something or I will put you out myself.”

I smiled and relaxed as Dragon slipped into my lap, “you still have not done your homework.”

She glanced at me as she slid into the vehicle and absently lifted, “what did I miss?”

I rubbed Dragon’s chin, “I can not use pain meds or sedatives. My body was altered slightly so I can tell it to release natural chemicals my body produces.”

She shook her head as she began a slower trip back to the marshals building, “at least Denison Tio is no longer our problem.”


Chapter 6

Prison escape

I glanced up as the commander stepped into the room and everyone quieted. He looked at me, “Morpheus, take Swift, Taylor, Samson, Adams and Michaels. They had a prison escape on Devlin.”

I nodded and stood, “how many?”

He shook his head, “nine.”

I grabbed my bag and started towards the lifts. The other marshals followed me as I dropped to dispersing. We had a four hour wait in the starport before boarding a shuttle up to the cargo transport that was headed to Devlin. There were only a few people on the transport so we mostly spent our time with the ship’s crew.

When we walked out of the starport on Devlin and started for the walk to the marshals vehicle park I turned to look at the others, “Taylor and Samson partner up. Adams and Michaels, you are together. We take three vehicles.”

I handed Taylor and then Adams a list of three names, “each group has three names to track down. The DNA scanner has been on in the starport so our men are still here. If you get all your men you can assist those that have not. Do not take chances, I checked and all the men are killers and will not hesitate to kill you.”

I turned and started towards the vehicle Amanda had already chosen. I slipped in beside her, ignoring Dragon curled up in her lap, “the prison first.”

She nodded and lifted before turning and accelerating. When we landed in front of the prison everything was quiet. As we approached the front doors a guard turned to speak into his radio. I used my badge on the door scanner and it slid open. The guard looked surprised and put his hand on his weapon as a second guard joined him. I smiled slightly, “I would like to see the warden.”

They looked at each other and Amanda shook her head, “let me guess, you are new.”

She held up her badge, “we are imperial marshals and need to speak with the warden.”

They stiffened and one turned to the console to make a call. The other guard licked his lips, “we did not know you were coming.”

I shook my head, “you had a prison escape, that means it is our business.”

He swallowed and looked around before leaning closer, “I think a guard helped them.”

Amanda snorted, “of course a guard helped them. All the guards financials are being looked at by the auditors.”

His eyes went wide, “but...”

The other guard hit his shoulder, “quiet.”

I looked at the other guard, “you have a problem with him speaking?”

He smiled, “yeah.”

I nodded and stepped closer to the desk to reach over and place my badge on the prison data access scanner, “I am sergeant Morpheus of the imperial marshals. Duty officer Trent is suspended pending internal investigation of his financials and conduct. Notify the planetary constables office and have a constable sent to pick him up for a truth scan and interrogation.”

The guard’s face went white and I smiled as I calmly reached over and took his weapon. I handed it to the other guard while still looking at him, “we are marshals, if you want to play hard we know every trick.”

I glanced at the civilian getting out of the lift before looking at the first guard, “make sure he does not go anywhere until a constable takes him into custody.”

The guard looked a little red faced but nodded. I turned as the warden stopped, “I just relieved this guard and ordered him truth scanned.”

The warden stiffened, “you can not!”

I smiled, “every prison guard and official signs a waiver before they are accepted. The constables will scan him and anyone else we tell them to. Now, we need a list of guards that were on duty during the prison break. We also want a list of any that called in sick or were off.”

The warden nodded before looking at the guard I had relieved. He moved around him and behind the desk to access the data. The two lists he pulled up were transferred to a small data stick which he handed me. I slipped it into my comp and saw that the guard Trent had been on duty when the prison break happened. I glanced at him as Dragon leaped and spread her wing before dropping onto his shoulder.

He jerked and started to hit her and both Amanda and I cleared our throats. He froze and I smiled, “Dragon has two types of drugs she can inject. Poison which will kill you in about thirty minutes and a stasis drug.”

I glanced at Amanda, “officer Trent here was on duty when the prisoners escaped.”

She smiled, “care to tell us now officer?”

He licked his lips nervously, “I will wait for my union lawyer.”

Amanda snorted, “you really are dumb. You will get the lawyer after you are scanned and we get everything. And because you signed the waiver it will be used to hang you during your trial.”

The warden opened his mouth as I turned to him, “would you like to explain why it took you thirty minutes to notify the constables?”

His face reddened but nothing came out and I shook my head, “would you like to explain it under scan?”

He looked away and the other guard cleared his throat, “he was with one of the female inmates.”

Amanda shook her head and I sighed, “put in your resignation.”

I glanced at the guard, “call the deputy warden.”

He grinned, “he is out working with the constables.”

I nodded, “call him.”

I looked at the warden, “you will have a guard escort you back to your office to pack up your personal things.”

I looked at Trent as a slim constable walked through the front doors and absently touched his badge to the door scanner. I gestured to Trent, “take this man into custody and have your techs truth scan him.”

The constable nodded before moving to secure his hands. Trent looked desperate, “wait!”

We looked at him and he licked his lips, “okay, they paid me to look the other way and unlock their cells.”

I nodded to the constable, “have him scanned and get the account information that was used. Use the marshals comm freq to let us know who it belongs to.”

He nodded and roughly jerked Trent towards the door. Dragon leaped and caught Amanda’s arm as she held it out. I looked at the other guard, “the deputy warden? And call another guard to escort the warden.”

He nodded and I turned to leave. Amanda followed and chuckled when she slipped into her seat in the vehicle, “I had forgotten all about the standard waiver they sign.”

I smiled and opened my comp, “okay, now we start hunting. Morris Jacobs convicted of three contract killings. He used to be with the pilgrims group. We will try there first, Sage Island.”

Amanda nodded and lifted before accelerating away. Sage Island looked a lot like old earth farmlands when we finally reached it. We stopped in front of the island store, the only island store. By then we had information on the account used to bribe the guard. I sent it on to marshal Adams since it was from one of their escaped prisoners.

Dragon slipped onto my shoulder as I got out and stretched. I smiled and scratched her chin as my eyes glanced around and took in our surroundings. I led the way into the store and as soon as I did I saw Jacobs. He turned with a smile as he was talking to a young girl and froze. Dragon leaped into the air and his eyes shifted to her as I stepped to the side and drew.

Amanda was barely a second behind me, “do not move!”

The room had several people in it and an older man moved as if to step between us. Dragon flew straight into his face and he screamed as he flailed around. Jacobs spun to run and I fired through his right thigh as Amanda hit his left. I moved forward as Dragon left the man she had distracted, “the next person to interfere will be shot.”

Jacobs was on the floor yelling and holding his legs as I put restraints on and searched him and then checked the wounds. All the people had moved together and started murmuring. I yanked Jacobs up and looked at everyone, “this is an escaped prisoner. He kills people for money. Is that what you want living with you?”

They looked at each other before looking down. I pushed Jacobs towards Amanda as Dragon dropped onto his shoulder. I sat him down outside and pulled out the trauma kit from our vehicle. Amanda shook her head and pushed me back, “I will do it.”

I smiled and stood up, “why?”

She grinned as she pulled out scissors to cut open his pants, “because you do not use pain blocks.”

Jacobs looked at me and smiled, “one day I will come for you marshal.”

I bent and looked him in the eye, “have you heard of a school called Hades?”

He kept smiling as he nodded and I straightened, “I am one of the only survivors and you have no idea how inept you are.”

Amanda snorted as he paled, “even on a bad day you would not stand a chance.”

She finally put everything away and stood, “time to go.”

I lifted Jacobs and Dragon jumped to me as I put him in the back of our vehicle and turned on the pressor field. I walked around and got in as Amanda took her seat and leaned back. Dragon jumped and crawled into her lap to curl up. I lifted and turned before accelerating away. I set the course and flipped on the auto pilot and relaxed back in the seat, “one down, two to go.”

Amanda snorted and closed her eyes, “our next lucky winner is Charles Smith. Drug dealer and killer, he likes to beat his victims to death.”

I nodded and let my mind sift through his record. When I carried Jacobs into the prison lobby two different guards were on duty. Marshals Taylor and Samson were talking to another man by the desk. I smiled as one guard called the prison doctor and dumped Jacobs on the floor, “two down?”

Taylor grinned, “three, Michaels and Adams just left.”

Amanda laughed as she looked over the other man. Samson nodded to him, “this is deputy warden Metal. He said you fired the warden?”

I nodded as I looked at the deputy warden, “the reason he waited to sound the alarm was because he was with a female inmate.”

We all looked at deputy warden Metal as he reddened, “if I had known I would have pressed charges.”

I looked at the doctor when he came out and headed towards Jacobs on the floor. Amanda held out her comp screen, “sign for him doc.”

The doctor looked up at her, “did you have to shoot him?”

I smiled, “well we could have killed him.”

The doctor glared but the deputy warden grinned. I sighed, “sleep and then our next man.”

Samson chuckled, “getting old?”

I grinned as I turned towards the door, “no. The asshole is only known to move at night.”

Amanda smirked back at the other marshals as she walked beside me with Dragon on her shoulder, “he just does not want to kick down a lot of doors.”

We went to the marshals building and up to the temp living quarters. I lay back on a bed relaxing with Dragon curled up on my chest. While I did not really need as much sleep as others I knew Amanda did. I woke to the hint of movement at my door and Dragon lifted her head. The two men that came through held wide pattern toxin guns.

They did not even make it through the doorway before I killed them. I was running as they fell, “SWIFT!”

Four men turned from other doors and I did not hesitate, I fired into them. I slammed the marshal override on Amanda’s door and it opened to show her bed empty. I spun and looked around before looking at Dragon clinging to the wall, “find her.”

She looked around before dropping and flying towards the common room. I followed at a run and almost ran into her as I reached the common area. She looked at me worried, “what is wrong?”

Dragon dropped to her shoulder as I turned, “intruders.”

She leaned over to glance down the hall, “I was in the sat room looking for Lee Chew.”

I turned and went to start searching the men. I held up a small token, “there was no mention of any prisoner with Tong affiliations.”

Amanda looked up from another dead man, “this one has a token too.”

I found the building access pass on one of the men and one look told me it was counterfeit. I opened my comm to the other marshals, “this is Morpheus. A Tong hit team tried to take us out in the marshals quarters. Stay alert and watch your backs.”

I started dragging the men to the lift and sent them to the lobby. I went to dress and waited for Amanda before going down. The lobby was full of guards with constables checking bodies. I glanced at the guard commander, “the building security system has been compromised. Change all access codes and have a full security sweep done.”

He nodded and turned to bark orders. I faced a constable that had stood up from checking bodies, “which of the escaped prisoners was with the Tong?”

He blinked and then thought before looking at an older officer, “Chew?”

I sighed and looked at Amanda, “start a detailed planet search of known Tong strong areas.”

She nodded as I headed towards the doors. As we headed into the rough part of Devlin city Amanda started her search. I had reviewed Smith’s record and stopped behind a tall building that had seen a lot of better days. Amanda glanced around, “his old drug den?”

I smiled as I got out, “he had a woman that lived above it.”

She grinned as she closed her door, “of coarse, two birds with one stone.”

The back door was alarmed and there were several cameras. I ignored them as I started for the corner and jumped to catch the edge of the emergency slide. I pulled myself up and in and started my way up. I heard Amanda behind me but kept going. I went past each floor and stopped at the top one. I touched my badge to a tiny plate and the one way flap opened.

I carefully used a optic flex camera and then opened the flap enough to slip out. I stood by and held it until Amanda slipped out. She grinned and pulled Dragon off her chest before handing her to me, “my turn to go through first.”

I smiled and followed her down the hall and past several doors. She stopped at one and glanced at me before slipping a small coil onto the lock plate. A moment later the door clicked and she grinned as she returned the coil to her inner pocket. She pulled her weapon and shoved the door as she moved in. I followed and moved to the other side of the apartment hallway.

Dragon dropped to the floor and moved forward past Amanda and we started moving. The first room was the kitchen and the second the dining room. There was a squeak from the third and I grinned as I strode forward, “Dragon found him.”

Amanda snorted, “sneaky beast.”

Smith was in bed with a woman that looked like she had been drugged. Dragon sat beside his head as he lay frozen in stasis. I pulled him out of bed and Amanda handing me his clothes that he had tossed across the room and left. I lifted him to my shoulder and we walked out. It was a long walk down since the lifts did not work and the stairs were full of garbage.

Two young boys were beside our vehicle when we came out. I shook my head as Amanda grinned, “sorry boys, no free rides today.”

They looked at each other and one put a hand in his shirt. Amanda pulled her weapon, “you really want a trip to the penal workshops?”

They froze before lifting hands and backing away. I dumped Smith in the back and turned on the pressor field. I glanced at Amanda as we headed back to the prison, “did you get anything on Chew?”

She snorted, “several things. First he is not a street punk that was trying to make his bones. From all the Tong chatter he is a mid level boss making a point to his other front men.”

I nodded, “but do we have a location?”

She grinned, “we have several.”

I relaxed until Amanda stopped behind another marshal vehicle in front of the prison. I shut the pressor field off and reached for Smith. He started to move and froze at the teeth against his throat. I pulled him out with Dragon clinging to his neck and shoulder, “wise choice.”

Amanda chuckled as she followed behind us and kept watch. Michaels and Adams turned when I pushed Smith through the door and touched my badge to the alarm plate. They grinned and Georgia stretched her wings as we came closer and Dragon leaped to my shoulder. I pushed Smith to a guard and Amanda handed a screen to another, “you finished?”

Adams grinned, “yeah.”

I nodded, “we still have Chew.”

Amanda caressed Georgia as she stood beside Michaels, “if you are going to sleep set the interior sensors for intruders just in case.”

They nodded and I sighed before turning to the door, “see you later.”

I drove while Amanda rested and headed towards the first suspect building. It was deep in a warren of other buildings and I had to park on the roof of a large housing complex. It had taken awhile to get here and I nudged Amanda awake. She stretched and slid out, “if he is in the drug den there are going to be a lot of protection types.”

I smiled, “that is why you are taking Dragon and coming in the back way. She can use her acid to burn the door locks.”

Amanda grinned and caught Dragon as she swarmed up her front, “we make a better team anyway.”

I smiled as we walked to the roof door and then used the lift. I headed towards the front doors as Amanda and Dragon went towards the back. The streets here were narrow and crowded with people and debris. I walked towards the narrow building and took my time. When five young men moved towards me I shifted and slid into them.

My hands struck and I left the screaming youths behind as I slipped through them. I started down the wide clean stairs and four older men moved away from the wall and pulled long knives. I shook my head as twisting movements dropped small darts into my hands. I threw them as I continued down the stairs and the four men screamed as they collapsed.

I stopped at the door and looked at it before placing four tiny disks. I took a step back and a moment later the door seemed to shatter under a sudden frigid chill and sonic blast. I drew my weapon as I walked through the door to men running into the room. I shot three men trying to lift weapons and absently threw two more darts into two men rushing towards me with large knives.

I crossed the entrance and placed more charges before backing up. When this door shattered I walked into the room and smiled at Amanda as she kicked a man and shot another while Dragon clung to Chew who stood frozen in stasis. I crossed to Chew and bent to put him over my shoulder before standing. Dragon leaped to Amanda who led the way out through the front room.

The street outside was empty except for an older man who stood waiting for us. I smiled slightly as Amanda walked towards him confidently. He looked at her and then at me, “leave him and walk away.”

I continued to walk, “my name is Morpheus old man. I am from Hades, interfere and I will come for everyone in your tong.”

His eyes widened and he backed away and raised his hands, “we meant no disrespect.”

I snorted, “yes you did. Chew is gone, find someone worthy to replace him.”

We walked past him and Amanda grinned, “that school name does wonders.”

I glanced at her, “do not be fooled. He will check and probably one of their better hitters may try something.”

She snorted and moved forward to use the lift, “we should just have Justice come in here and do a sweep with commandoes.”

I smiled as I followed her into the lift, “make the call marshal.”

She laughed as the lift sped towards the roof, “maybe I will.”

When we finally reached the prison it was late but the lobby lights were still on. When I shut the pressor field off Chew did not move but I knew better. With the drugs in his system he would be out of stasis by now, “get out before I shoot you.”

His eyes opened and he glared, “when I get out...”

Amanda snorted, “you dumb con, you killed a guard. The emperor’s law has already decided your fate and it is not getting out.”

He looked at her before climbing out, “I still have people.”

I shook my head and had him turn. He shifted to strike at me and I let a needle slip into his arm. As he dropped to the ground screaming I knelt to slip the restraints on. I yanked him up ignoring the screams as I put him over my shoulder. Amanda shook her head as we walked towards the front doors. She silenced the door alarm when we walked in.

The two guards stared wide eyed as we crossed to them and I dumped Chew onto the floor. I bent and pulled the needle out as Amanda had a guard sign for him and I smiled, “he is not to have any contact outside of his cell... ever.”

The guard quickly nodded as we turned and walked out.


Chapter 7

A bad marshal

I glanced up as the room quieted and looked at the doorway to see a slim man. He glanced around and walked through the desks towards my end of the room. I looked at the commander when he walked out but the man that had to be a marshal stopped in front of my desk, “my name is Gunder Smith from the marshal auditors office.”

I sat back and smiled, “how can I help you?”

He shifted slightly and I drew my weapon. He froze with a small weapon half out of his sleeve. He licked his lips, “I should have warned you.”

He slowly finished pulling the weapon and set it on my desk, “have you seen one of these before?”

I put my weapon away and ignored Dragon as she leaped from her stand to my shoulder. I glanced at the weapon before looking at auditor Smith, “yes.”

He nodded, “would you make one?”

I smiled and pulled Dragon onto my lap, “no.”

He tilted his head, “even if the emperor asked?”

I grinned, “if he asked... in person I would consider it.”

He frowned and glanced around, “how many others know how to make one?”

I thought about it, “maybe three.”

Smith sighed, “we need the names.”

I touched my comm and input an address and a moment later a small holo appeared. I smiled slightly, “I am sorry to disturb you commissioner Drake. I have a marshal auditor named Smith here with a cell disruptor. He has questioned me about making one for the emperor and wants the names of the others that have the knowledge to do it.”

The commissioner sighed, “let the auditor know we already have the names. He is to turn over any and all information on the case he is working on to you. This is now your only case Morpheus, from his majesty’s mouth to your ears. You work it alone with the emperor’s seal.”

I looked at a surprised Smith as the commissioner’s holo vanished, “what type of case?”

His lips thinned, “we have suspicions that a marshal has gone bad.”

I ignored the murmuring in the room, “the file?”

He pulled a small data chip and set it on the table, “this is the only file.”

I nodded and continued to look at him, “tell me what is not in it?”

He sighed and looked down for a minute before looking at me, “do you know the Polic system?”

I smiled slightly, “everyone knows the Polic system. It is one of the richest systems in the empire.”

He nodded, “first there was a minor discrepancy in the accounting department and then we believe several escaped prisoner names were deleted from the data net.”

I glanced around as a few of the marshals around us hissed. I leaned forward and picked up the data chip before grabbing my ready bag beside the desk. I shrugged at Amanda, “destroy the weapon.”

She nodded and I started walking for the door. I did not bother stopping at dispersing and took a public vehicle to the starport. I used a public kosik and used my private account to purchase a ticket to Polic. I relaxed in the first class lounge and held Dragon as I thought about what I had to do. I pulled my comp and touched a button to isolate it before slipping the data chip into the slot.

I started reading and understood why Smith had the weapon. It was more then twelve hours before the liner heading out started boarding. I went up on the first shuttle and went straight to the jump room to wait. It was a long time before the crew and passengers began coming in. After we jumped I was up and walking out as others clung to their seats or were sick.

I left my bag in a nice suite and went to the first class lounge. It was a week before I transferred to the liner heading to Polic. I took the first shuttle down and walked through the crowed port. I used public transport to take me across the huge city. When the vehicle stopped in front of the marshals building I walked straight to the front doors and touched my badge to the door plate as I walked through.

I accessed the building secure data banks to find the location of all the marshals. I ignored the guards as they started for me and locked out all the marshal floors. I glanced at a guard, “no one leaves unless I authorize it.”

She swallowed, “your name marshal?”

I started for the lifts, “Morpheus.”

I walked off the lift to the murmuring of twice as many marshals than I was used to and Dragon shifted and flexed her wings. The room quieted as they turned to look at me. I glanced around, “my name is Morpheus and this station is now quarantined. There will be no transmissions out and no one will leave.”

A marshal commander stepped out the door to his office, “that is my decision marshal.”

I glanced at him, “not this time. Every marshal here or assigned here is now under my command. If you like I will have the emperor tell you personally.”

I looked around, “before I leave one of you will be going to the death chamber.”

They looked at each other as I set my bag on a desk and walked to the commander, “I will start with you.”

He backed up and I followed him into his office. Dragon leaped and glided out to a desk outside the office as I gestured to a chair, “sit.”

He just looked at me and I shifted before striking. He folded and dropped as I bent to lift his weapon and tilt his head, “I said sit.”

He glared as he tried to catch a breath and finally moved to the side and sat in a chair. I tossed his weapon onto the desk and walked around behind him, “one of the marshals here is bad. Not only have they allowed escaped prisoners to go free. They have stolen funds from dispersing.”

I pushed the tiny needle into his neck and walked back in front of him. I looked into his face, “one of you has also accessed my restricted and classified records and used some of the information to build a cell disruptor.”

He was frozen but his eyes flickered and I smiled, “now I will ask one question and you will answer. Are you the bastard I want?”

He licked his lips and croaked, “no.”

I looked at him for a minute before reaching out to remove the needle, “it will take a few minutes to wear off.”

I waited until he shuddered and glared at me before shrugging, “you are a marshal. Now are you going to interfere or help?”

He continued to look at me, “how do you know it is...”

I waved my hand, “you know auditors better than me. The theft came from this building. The data net corruption deleting the prisoners names came from the marshals on this floor. My sealed file was access by one of the marshals assigned here.”

He looked towards the door and finally nodded, “what do you want me to do?”

I smiled, “nothing. I will bring each marshal in here and ask my question.”

The commander frowned, “this is not standard and the court might...”

I waved, “when whoever it was accessed my file he accessed more than just my information. This is now a violation of imperial secrets.”

He blinked, “that is a...”

He nodded, “whatever you need.”

I gestured to his desk and turned to walk back to the door. Dragon was by my bag and standing on her back legs as three marshals hesitated in passing her. My hands twisted and I flicked my wrist. The men screamed as they fell and I looked around, “you have a choice, cooperate or all of you will be confined and imprisoned.”

I walked to the men and knelt to pull the tiny darts out, “you were told not to leave.”

I pulled one up and pushed him towards the commander’s office. I turned as a marshal pulled a weapon and pointed it at me, “I think you are the one that will be going to prison.”

I smiled and turned to face him fully, “that makes this easier.”

Dragon was suddenly landing on his shoulder and biting. The marshal froze and I walked to him and took the weapon before touching a vial to his throat. He shifted and shuddered as his eyes flickered. I stuck a needle into his throat and waited as he tried to move. The other marshals in the room stirred as I patted his cheek, “are you the back stabbing bastard I want?”

His eyes flicked and he croaked, “yes.”

I smiled, “who else is bad?”

He shivered, “no one.”

I nodded, “what did you do with the information you stole?”

He continued to shiver and shake, “sold it.”

I sighed, “that is it, make it hard. Who did you sell it to?”

He began to shudder with strain, “Boss Crip.”

I ignored the marshals hiss of anger, “who paid you to erase the prisoners names?”

His shudders were becoming trembling seizures, “Ser Jenkins.”

I reached out to pull the needle out and glanced at the closest marshal, “strip him and put him in a cell. He is not to speak with anyone.”

I looked around as Dragon leaped and glided to my shoulder, “now I want volunteers to bring Ser Jenkins in.”

The room shifted and stepped closer. I smiled and turned to the closest data interface. I unlocked the building and contacted the security. I turned and glanced around, “why are you still here? We have an asshole that corrupted a marshal and paid to keep prisoners free.”

They all started for the lifts as the commander chuckled from his doorway. I glanced at him, “where can I find Boss Crip?”

He pursed his lips, “we get updates for known criminals from the constables. I think the last on Boss Crip was in the underground but we do not have an imperial warrant for him.”

I touched the data interface, “commissioner Drake.”

It was several moments before the star comm holograph appeared and I could see the emperor behind the commissioner, “yes?”

I smiled, “I have the marshal. I sent the others to bring in the person that bought the prisoners freedom. We have another problem though, he sold the info to a person call Boss Crip. I will have a judge issue a warrant and go after him but the weapon information may have gotten out.”

The emperor turned and leaned towards the pick up, “I just sent an imperial warrant and commission. Do whatever you have to but get the data back. We do not want or need those type of weapons out there.”

I smiled slightly, “that makes this easier sire.”

The commissioner waved and the holograph vanished. I looked at the commander as he chuckled, “your badge?”

I sighed and pulled it out before tossing it. I touched the data interface and printed the warrant before tucking it away. I also had a new vehicle sent to the roof before turning to accept the new lieutenant badge from the commander when he returned. He hesitated, “mind if I tag along?”

I shook my head, “now that I have the back stabbing bastard I would not mind someone watching my back.”

I headed to my bag as he went into his office and returned with his ready bag. He glanced at me as we headed towards the roof, “your file did not say anything about being an auditor.”

I shook my head, “I am not. The information stolen from the data net was something from Hades. Weapons that are very... nasty. Commissioner Drake relieved the auditor and gave the case to me because of my knowledge of those weapons.”

I checked the vehicle before opening it and setting my bag in back. Dragon crawled up onto the seat back and sank her claws in as we got in. I glanced at her before lifting the vehicle, “where too?”

The commander thought and gestured, “southwest to the warrens.”

I turned and accelerated as he brought up a holo map. I glanced at it and went back to driving as he started making checks. He sat back a little later and looked at me, “I have a possible location.”

I looked at the holo and shook my head, “that far from any pad he will know we are coming before we even get close.”

The commander nodded and I sighed, “they always want to do things the hard way.”

When I passed the closest pad he glanced at me. I dropped between buildings and all the way down to the walk. I landed right behind the lifts heading down into the warren and opened the door as the commander went out the other door, “closer but he will know something is up.”

Dragon had clung to my shoulder as I climbed out and I closed the door, “I know.”

I walked to the lifts and touched my badge to the control plate. They were mostly just used to repair the lifts but this time I locked all but one from coming all the way up. The commander was looking at me sharply as I walked to an empty one and stepped in. It dropped down quickly and the lift stopped in a large area that was strangely quiet.

A moment later the commander stepped out and I touched my badge to this levels control plate. Barely a moment later a man stepped out from one coming up and froze when he saw us. I smiled, “want to stay out of prison?”

He glanced around before jumping back into the lift and went back down. I grinned and turned to head into the warren with the commander chuckling beside me. He started to turn down a side corridor but I continued and he hurried to catch up, “his location was down there.”

I smiled and turned at the next corridor and kept walking, “this Boss Crip is using old tricks and he is not the only one that knows them.”

I nodded to a doorway ahead of us when three men ran out. Dragon leaped into the air and started after them as they looked around. Their eyes scanned the corridor and locked on us. Two pulled weapons and I drew and fired. Both spun and dropped as the commander was still bringing his weapon up. The third man turned to run but Dragon dropped onto his back and shoulders and bit.

I started down the corridor, “is this the idiot Boss Crip?”

The commander cleared his throat, “yeah.”

He was rocking back and forth as his muscles twitched. I walked around in front of him and looked into his eyes as they shifted to follow me, “there is a price you pay for those drugs. One is your body has to be changed before it is truly effective against stasis drugs.”

I glanced at the commander as he stopped to look down at the two men on the ground, “I better call the constables.”

I smiled, “they are dead and can wait.”

I slapped Boss Crip lightly, “now this one is different. He was dumb enough to use a drug that was listed from Hades.”

I let Dragon jump to my shoulder and pushed Boss Crip and watched him fall over. I squatted and grabbed a foot, “I hope he likes the trip back. Coming down from the drug after a stasis drug has been used is going to cause a little pain.”

The commander squatted to grab the other foot, “oh? How much pain?”

We started dragging him back in the door he had run out of, “it will feel like ants eating him inside out, red hot fire ants.”

The commander laughed and glanced back, “good.”

I dropped the foot inside the door as I looked around at the weapons on the wall and the small man turning with a cell disruptor in his hand. My hand flicked and he began screaming as the tiny dart struck. I crossed and searched him before pulling the dart out. I waited and slapped him, “I need information.”

He glared and I held up the dart, “want me to put it back in?”

He flinched, “no.”

The commander shifted but I ignored him, “I have an imperial warrant. Would you like to take a trip to the death chamber?”

He swallowed and shook his head and I smiled, “I want the names of everyone that has bought one of these weapons and I want the copy stolen from the data net.”

His eyes flickered to Boss Crip and I slapped him, “he is on his way to the death chamber. Name and data or you will be following him. You assholes pissed in the emperor’s cup.”

He swallowed and looked at a large comp console, “there is a secret compartment on the right side.”

I smiled, “and it has a trap.”

He looked at me in surprise and I shook my head, “listen to me moron, my name is Morpheus and I grew up in Hades. Give me what I want or the next thing you feel will be a lot of pain.”

His eyes widened as he nodded and I yanked him up. I glanced at the commander, “Boss Crip is going to come out of stasis soon.”

He kicked him, “if he does I will shatter his spine.”

I smiled and pushed the small man to the comp, “get me what I want.”

He moved to the side of the comp quickly and slid a switch to the side. He pushed a button and reached to the wall to push on a discolored spot. Boss Crip began screaming and squirming around and the comp tech jerked and looked wide eyed. I slapped him, “did you idiots think everything in the data was safe?”

He reached out with a shaking hand to flip the power switch. There was a click and a small panel popped open on the side. He looked at me and I smiled slightly, “you take it out.”

He flinched and touched a button before moving to reach into the compartment. He slowly brought his hand out holding a data stick. I took it, “now the list of buyers, the manufacturer and a list of what else you idiots made and sold.”

He hesitated again and I struck. He screamed and staggered around before going to his knees. I pulled a small needle and turned to stick it in Boss Crip’s neck. He froze before passing out and I smiled at the commander, “noisy bastard.”

He grinned, “yeah but now he does not feel the pain.”

I laughed as I turned back to the other man, “that will last several days.”

I bent and pulled the needle out, “next time I leave it in until you die.”

He slumped and I kicked him, “get up and get me what I need or I will stop being so nice.”

The tech nodded slowly and stood before turning to the comp. A moment later sheets slid out and he looked at me, “that is everything.”

I smiled, “not yet.”

I moved to the comp and began putting in a program. The tech frowned, “what are you doing?”

I did not bother glancing at him, “making sure nothing is in the comp.”

When I stopped a few moments later I pushed the tech back and pulled his hands behind his back, “you are under arrest for violating the imperial secrets data net security.”

He stammered and then the smoke began to billow out from the comp console. The tech screamed, “NO!”

I ignored him as the comp was melted and turned to lift Boss Crip onto my shoulder as Dragon dropped onto the shoulder of the tech. I looked at the commander and handed the papers to him, “they are to be arrested with extreme prejudice and any comp on them or around them is to be destroyed without scanning or accessing.”

I glanced at the cell disruptor he had picked up, “call a EOD team and have this place stripped. Also send a EOD team to the manufacturer and have it searched and every person checked and questioned under a truth scan. Any items like that cell disruptor are to be collected with at least three men guarding them. They are to be destroyed as soon as possible.”

He smiled and nodded as I walked out carrying Boss Crip and pushing the tech. It still took two weeks to find everyone, collect all the weapons and drugs that had been made and destroy them. Every marshal in the Polic system watched as the corrupted marshal, Boss Crip and Ser Jenkins were put to death. It was also sent to every marshal station to be witnessed by the entire service.

The only real satisfaction I got was knowing the emperor was finally going to destroy the data.


Chapter 8

The death of a marshal

Each marshal is unique in their own way. I pushed the huge man in front of me through the front doors of the building. I touched my badge to the door plate to silence the alarm before pushing him again to get him moving. I glanced back at Amanda carrying her ready bag with one hand while the other was in a sling. The two building guards smiled but did not try to interfere as I pushed the man into the lift.

I was ready for him to try something again. I brushed his kick to the side with a foot before my unoccupied hand stabbed into a pressure point, leaving a tiny needle behind. I glanced down at the bag in my hand as Dragon struck her head out and smiled, “next time Dragon.”

She looked at the man as he grunted and gritted his teeth. I could see her thinking about coming out. She looked up at me again and I shook my head, “stay with the eggs.”

She slipped back into the bag and I shoved the huge man out of the lift. I glanced at the other lift as Amanda stepped out and smiled, “still tracking?”

She looked at the man, “I will be there when they shove his body into the incinerator.”

I grinned and started pushing the reluctant man down the side corridor. I stopped beside the first cell and set my bag down before pulling a small sonic cutter, “I would hold real still.”

He glared at me as I cut his clothing off and turned him before reaching around and removing the needle. I gave him a hard shove and he walked into the cell. I followed and removed the wrist restraints before stepping back. He turned and smiled coldly, “next time I am going to kill you.”

I laughed as Amanda touched her badge to the door plate, “next time you will scream and cry a long time.”

I turned and bent to grab my bag and headed back to the lift. We went up to the offices and walked into silence. I glanced around and Amanda cleared her throat, “what happened?”

Edwards looked up from some papers, “they killed Samson.”

I looked around, “who?”

The new commander appeared in his doorway, “Morpheus... have Swift report to the doctor and come see me.”

I looked at Amanda and she frowned before nodding. I set my bag down and headed towards the commander’s office. I walked in to see sergeant marshal Adams already with him. He waved to another chair, “you and Adams are going to Alpine. Adams will track the fugitive MacDavies and you will find the people that killed marshal Samson.”

I nodded, “what about Swift?”

He hesitated, “how bad was she injured?”

I smiled, “mostly bone bruised and a pulled tendon.”

He nodded, “she should be healed by the time you get there so she can go.”

I glanced at Adams before standing, “anything else?”

He smiled, “two marshals from sector four and two from the imperial sector will be meeting you there. I made it clear you would be in charge. Bring these persons in and do not kill them. The emperor wants their trial and execution public.”

I turned to the door, “they might be shaken and bent around the edges but I will bring them back in one piece.”

I walked out and picked up my bag. Michaels cleared his throat, “do not be gentle.”

I smiled as I headed towards the lift, “I was not planning on it.”

I dropped down to dispersing before going to the second level where Amanda was. I walked into the comfortable doctor’s office and sat as he poked and prodded her before giving her a few pills and helping her replace the sling. I stood, “we have a couple of hours before the shuttle up.”

She snorted, “might as well wait in the starport.”

When we reached the starport and sat beside the gate Dragon slipped out and curled up in Amanda’s lap. She pet her as she leaned back, “I will miss Samson.”

I nodded and she looked at me, “do we have any idea who did it?”

I shook my head, “as soon as we jump I was going to use the star comm.”

She nodded and scratched under Dragon’s chin, “think her eggs will hatch while we are there?”

I glanced at Dragon purring in her lap, “probably or after we leave.”

The ship we went on was a passenger cargo ship. Before we reached Alpine we knew who had killed Samson and who had ordered it. The three men were from a cult called The Profit’s Disciples. Adams was eager to reach the planet and find the fugitive MacDavies so he could join us. We walked out of the starport and headed towards the vehicle park.

I glanced at the two marshals waiting beside a vehicle and Amanda snorted, “how did they beat us?”

I smiled and scratched Dragon’s chin when she stuck her head out of the sling on my chest, “they are from the imperial sector and I would bet the commissioner or the emperor let them use a courier ship.”

She snorted and reached over to caress Dragon, “inside baby.”

I stopped and nodded to the other marshals, “I am Morpheus and this is Swift.”

The taller better dressed one snorted, “I am sergeant Davis and this is Paulson.”

I frowned, among marshals we do not really emphasize rank. I nodded and he gestured to the sling, “you brought your pet?”

I shook my head, “you do not read or check files do you.”

I headed for a vehicle as it stopped. I heard Adams talking to them as I checked the vehicle and finally turned, “Davis, Paulson, meet us at the marshals building.”

Davis stiffened, “that is sergeant Davis.”

I looked at him for several moments before shaking my head, “let me be very clear. I command this mission. If you want to be an ass you can call me lieutenant. Now, you and your partner meet us at the marshals building.”

I turned and slipped into the vehicle as Amanda chuckled and climbed in on the other side. I did not say anything as I lifted and spun the vehicle before accelerating towards the center of the mountain city in the distance. I sighed and relaxed and she smiled, “put him in his place every time he pisses you off.”

I smiled and then laughed as I got a picture from Dragon. Amanda laughed so I knew Dragon had sent it to her too. I reached to the dash, “constable commander Myers.”

It was a minute before he answered, “marshal?”

I smiled, “this is lieutenant Morpheus. I wanted to see if you had anymore information on the Profit’s Disciples.”

“I thought sergeant Davis was in charge?”

I looked at Amanda, “no. Sergeant Davis is only one marshal sent to help bring these men in.”

“Well, as I told him the Disciples are rumored to be in the underground city. We only have gossip from street sources that they exist. The fugitive MacDavies was bragging he paid them to kill that other marshal. The three men he named are not listed in the city data nets.”

I glanced at Amanda, “if these Disciples are not listed how did MacDavies find them?”

“We believe from a middle man named Parrot.”

I nodded, “location of this Parrot?”

“He runs a gaming parlor on the third lower level. 0367 Silver galley, sector five.”

I set the vehicle down on the edge of the roof pad, “thank you constable commander.”

“Call if you need anything.”

The connection ended and I opened the door and climbed out. I grabbed my bag and turned to head towards the door as Amanda joined me. I was studying the underground city maps when Davis and Paulson walked in. The other two marshals were following them and I sat back as Amanda turned from another desk. Davis sat and Paulson leaned against a wall.

I smiled at the two new marshals, “I am Morpheus and this is Swift.”

The shorter of the two smiled and held out her hand, “McCandless and my partner is Lee.”

The other woman nodded and I shook hands before gesturing for everyone to gather around, “we have a point of contact to catch. He was the middle man that arrange for the Profit’s Disciples to kill marshal Samson.”

I brought up the desk holo of his gaming parlor, “Davis and Paulson you go through the front, McCandless and Lee take this alley entrance. Swift and I will come through the back. No ones leaves until we have the owner, his name is Parrot.”

I looked at them and Davis was tight lipped but nodded when I kept looking at him. I moved the holo and a small map of the area appeared, “we can not use our vehicles to get in or out of the galleys so we use the underground lifts and trams. The green is our primary out, blue is the first alternate and the red our last resort.”

I looked at each of them, “watch your back and your partner’s.”

I touched Dragon, “I can get Dragon in through the vents so we will have eyes before we move.”

Lee and McCandless were nodding and Paulson looked interested but Davies snorted and I ignored him, “any questions?”

They shook heads and I stood, “time to go.”

We left bags and walked out and dropped down the lifts. The guards in the lobby gestured good luck as we walked out. We took the first public lift and dropped to the third level before heading towards a tram station. When we got off each team split up and Amanda glanced around, “a lot of street people here.”

I nodded as I reached into the sling and turned on the warmer and the rigid protection frame. Dragon slid out and climbed up my arm to my shoulder. I slowed by the corner of the gaming parlor and Dragon leaped and caught a vent grate. As I continued walking she disappeared into the vent. I glanced at the vid camera watching the back door and drifted across the dark alley.

Amanda softly whispered into the marshal net comm, “Morpheus and Swift set.”

A moment later Davis came on, “sergeant Davis and Paulson set.”

I shook my head as McCandless and Lee said they were set. I could see through Dragon’s eyes, “six heavily armed men in the main parlor watching the front and side doors. Another four leaning against the back wall. It looks like a dozen customers. Give me and Swift time to move into the back room.”

I started for the door but before I reached it there was shooting, “sergeant Davis taking fire!”

I almost cursed as I sent Dragon orders and slipped a small disk out of a pocket. I attached it to the door lock plate and stepped back. Amanda hissed as first the lock and then the door vibrated and then shattered. I walked into the room and threw a dart to make a man scream. A wild gun battle was raging in the front parlor so no one heard the man.

Amanda went to him as I crossed and walked into the other room. My pistol appeared in my hand as I stepped into chaos. I shot a man firing at Lee with a large bore scattergun and threw a dart to hit another aiming at Paulson. I shot another man between the eyes and a flick of my hand brought another scream from the last man spraying the room with a auto pistol.

Quiet returned except for the screaming from the two men I had hit with darts. Four men were frozen in stasis and Davis stood slowly. I turned to check McCandless as she straightened and sighed as I used my comm to call the constables. Dragon climbed my body and slipped back into her sling as I called in back up and medical.

The others were moving people into one corner and searching them. When I was done Amanda shoved the man from the other room out, it was Parrot. When the constables arrived I started for the door with Amanda shoving Parrot after me. The four men that appeared as we approached the tram had me spinning and shoving him and Amanda down, “ambush!”

Automatic fire sprayed the building above us and was answered a moment later by Lee, McCandless, Paulson and Davis. I rolled off Amanda and came to my feet to see all four men down. I shook my head as I saw two more heading towards us with hands inside shirts, “going to blue!”

I yanked Parrot up as Amanda fired to cover us and started pushing and then pulling him. When he suddenly resisted I spun and stuck a needle into him. He froze with a look of extreme pain and I lifted him onto my shoulder. Lee and McCandless rushed ahead to lead as Amanda, Paulson and Davis brought up the rear. We reached the lift that was our target and slipped in.

Our way to the next tram station was almost silent as was the lift up to street level. I frowned before looking at Amanda, “maybe the side door?”

Davis snorted and headed straight to the front doors. Paulson hesitated and hissed, “asshole.”

Lee and McCandless laughed and then we all hit the ground as fire raked the front of the building, shattering the glass. Davis dropped and turned to crawl as Amanda, Lee and McCandless fired into the widows it had come from. I did not wait and came to my feet and yanked Parrot over my shoulder. I started moving and a few moments later they caught up.

Lee ran ahead when I crossed the street and slipped through the service door. We used the lift up to the detention level and I dropped Parrot before kneeling and cutting his clothes off. I touched his neck with a tiny popper and he jerked and screamed. I yanked him up and slammed him into the wall of the cell.

The other marshals watched from the door, “my name is Morpheus. You will tell us everything about the Profit’s Disciples. Do not bother thinking a solicitor can get you off, the emperor has declared this an act of treason.”

He talked for over an hour before we closed the cell and went up to the office level. I turned at the desk to look at Davis, “why did you enter the parlor?”

He stiffened, “I am a sergeant in the marshals, my judgement is all the reason I need.”

I nodded and turned to the desk comm, “commissioner Drake.”

It was several minutes before the holo appeared, “Morpheus. What progress do you have?”

I looked at Davis, “we have the middle man that contacted the Disciples and he gave us a location and confirmed the names we were given. I am releasing sergeant marshal Davis to return to his company. He is a threat to our safety and completion of our mission.”

Davis stiffened but Paulson, Lee, McCandless and Amanda nodded agreement. Commissioner Drake sighed, “this is the third time we had complaints sergeant Davis. Return to your company for a competence review, this time your uncle will not protect you.”

The commissioner looked at me, “finish this.”

I nodded and the holo vanished. I looked at Davis before gesturing to the others as he spun and stalked off. I brought up the holo of the area around the address we were given. I turned to the desk comm, “constable commander Myers.”

A minute later his holo appeared and he grinned, “you made a mess in the gaming parlor. Fortunately it was several of those we wanted put away.”

I smiled, “we have another location called the Dungeon. I am informing you that we will be going there now.”

He grinned, “I will wait for the screams before sending my men in.”

I smiled and ended the call, “McCandless and Lee will take the back door this time. Paulson and Swift will go through the front with me.”

I showed them the primary out and then the first alternate and then our last resort. This time I had Dragon slip out and scout around the building before we left. She caught up and landed on my shoulder when we reached the first set of lifts. I let her slip into the sling and McCandless cleared her throat, “what is in the sling?”

Amanda grinned and reached into the sling to caress Dragon, “her eggs.”

She looked at McCandless, Lee and Paulson, “they should hatch in another day or two.”

They grinned back and walked out ahead of us. We took a tram and went into the heart of the mountains before we got off. I watched around us as we headed towards the lift banks, “watchers.”

Amanda nodded and Lee, Paulson and McCandless shifted back and glanced around. This time I locked the lift with a marshal override before opening the maintenance panel inside the lift. I shook my head at the crisscross of wires and the small remote receiver. I ripped the wires out and dropped the remote before crushing it under my boot heel.

I unlocked the lift and McCandless sighed, “we need to treat this place as hostile and let the constables know to begin lift and tram inspections.”

Lee nodded and a minute later the doors were opening. My pistol appeared in my hand and I fired before the doors were even fully open. The two men with auto rifles fell back as Dragon surged out of the sling and leaped into the air. Amanda went left out of the lift as I went right. Lee, Paulson and McCandless went straight as they spread out.

I felt Dragon a second later as she bit another man and lifted my pistol when a quartet of men charged around another corner. I was not the only one to fire as the four men jerked and dropped. I moved to the corner and slid around it smoothly as Amanda went around the one behind me. The man that stood frozen was dressed much better than the other men and held a comm device in his hand.

I moved up and checked him for weapons before glancing back. The others joined me as Dragon landed on my shoulder and crawled down and into her sling. I used a tiny popper vial and the man stirred before glaring, “I will not talk.”

I used a needle and he began screaming. I glanced at Amanda, “call the constables in. I also want the court building secured.”

She nodded as I turned back to the spasming man and finally reached out and removed the needle, “who leads the Profit’s Disciples and where can we find him?”

He cursed so I slipped the needle back into him. It took several minutes before he gave us the information. We turned him over to the waiting constables that were tight lipped. I looked at the senior officer, “take him to the court building and place him in an isolation cell. The charge is treason and terrorism with special circumstances.”

The constable swallowed and nodded, “imperial judge?”

I looked at him and Paulson cleared her throat, “the emperor will judge him.”

His eyes widened before he straightened and reached for our prisoner. I looked at the other marshals, “lethal force is authorized but try not to kill our men.”

They nodded and we started walking towards the private club called the Dungeon. McCandless and Lee split off and headed for the alley when we stopped. I started moving when the marshal comm beeped softly. I walked straight to the front door and pulled a sphere out as Dragon moved back to my shoulder. Amanda and Paulson went to each side of the door as I kicked it open and tossed the sphere.

I closed my eyes as I brought my weapon up and a second later the room flashed and repeating sonic explosions began. I opened my eyes and started into the room with Amanda and Paulson following. I pointed to a man staggering towards the back door and Dragon leaped off my shoulder. I threw three darts as a shot sounded from the back room.

The sonic explosions stopped and the remaining men not frozen looked at us before dropping their weapons. McCandless shoved a couple of men out the other door and Lee followed with a couple more. Lee snorted, “they have a very large stash of drugs.”

I nodded as the other men were searched and restrained. When they were done I gestured to Dragon and she flew back to me. I let the others secure the four men frozen in stasis while I called constable commander Myers. The constables that arrived looked at the pile of weapons we had tossed in a corner before shaking their heads.

We pulled Sinclare Christianson (the profit), Met Turner, Charles Smith and Dan Golith after us as we headed back to the marshals building. This time there was no one trying to ambush us. We found Adams waiting beside the cells. He looked over our prisoners as their clothes were cut off and each was pushed into a cell. I finally looked at him, “MacDavies?”

He turned and nodded to another cell and I walked to the doorway and looked in. The fugitive looked up from the hard bench, “what!”

I smiled, “want to spend every second until you are executed in extreme pain?”

He snorted, “my sentence was only for armed robbery.”

I shook my head, “you paid to have a marshal killed. The emperor will be judging you on charges of treason. You will not die easily.”

His face had gone white and Adams chuckled, “I should have thought of that.”

Our trip to the capital was on a courier and Dragon’s eggs hatched just before we boarded. Not only did the quadrant commander meet us, commissioner Drake was there. A large armored transport took us to the central marshals building which was attached to the training building for the Marshals Academy and they were all armed and waiting.

I smiled at the small man surrounded by nervous guards and nudged Amanda. There was an air of menace when we pulled the prisoners out but it was directed towards the prisoners. A dozen marshal candidates moved forward with arm and leg restraints. They led them away and commissioner Drake nudged us forward. I walked to the emperor and knelt, “sire.”

He grinned as the others knelt with me, “you have made a name for yourself since I gave your badge to you.”

I grinned as I stood, “just doing what you asked me to do.”

He laughed and nodded to the others. There was sudden silence as Dragon’s last baby stuck her head out of my bag. She looked around and I glanced down to see her struggling with Dragon before pulling away. She leaped and spread her wings as guards yelled and several pulled weapons. The emperor seemed calm as he held up a hand and caught the small creature.

It clung to his chest and crooned and I sighed before looking down at Dragon, “seriously?”

She crawled out and jumped to catch my leg before climbing up. I turned back to the emperor, “sorry sire, she is a baby looking for her life partner to bond with.”

He grinned, “she is charming. The reports say they can bite with poison or a stasis drug?”

I nodded, “they can spit a little acid too.”

He kept caressing her before looking at me, “did you have someone in mind...”

I sighed, “it does not work that way. Dragon normally looks for people with the proper mind but the baby makes the choice...”

He laughed, “and Crystal choose me?”

I nodded since if he knew her name they had bonded and the tiny dragon crawled onto his shoulder. He shook himself and turned to greet the other marshals with me.


Chapter 9

Escorting a ghost

Amanda and her companion Cynthia were out hunting a fugitive and I was stuck doing paperwork. In fact I was the only one still here. I glanced at the comm when the holo of commissioner Drake appeared and sat back, “sir.”

He looked tired, “I was told you are the only marshal left. I need you to do an escort. She is already there but needs an escort for her next stop.”

I nodded, “name?”

He snorted, “good question. She is not in any system but works for us in... private. Escort her to Hades and anywhere else she wants. She will find you at the starport VIP lounge.”

The holo vanished and I bent to grab my bag, “time to go to work Dragon.”

She leaped to catch my back and climb up as I stood and started for the hall and the lifts. I ignored dispersing, if she was not in the system they did not want a record. I used a public transport to get to the starport and headed in and straight to the VIP lounge. I glanced around but no one stood out. I spun at the slight feel of someone behind me and froze.

Samantha smiled and caressed my cheek, “you look well little brother.”

I tried to talk but nothing came out. She took my shoulder and pulled me to a privacy booth. She sealed it and accepted Dragon as she pushed me into a seat and sat beside me, “we need to talk.”

I found my voice, “you died.”

She nodded, “almost, they wanted me to suffer. I was given a zombie drug.”

I looked at her feeling hurt, “why didn’t you tell me?”

Samantha sighed, “because I needed as much help as you did. You had marshal Jessop that had taken you in. I had a woman take me in and help me even if I did not want to be an assassin I was conditioned.”

She looked down, “I have watched you many times. I was even watching when you graduated and became a marshal.”

I looked away, “but why not tell me or...”

She covered my hand, “because you were marked and watched. I accepted another position for the emperor and just being near you was dangerous. Hades was not the only place that had schools like ours and the emperor needed someone that was not in any data base.”

Samantha sighed, “I have still had close calls and had to kill...”

I looked at her before squeezing her hand, “only when you had no choice.”

She smiled, “perhaps but I do not like doing it.”

She looked around before standing, “we have a shuttle to catch. I already have our tickets.”

I took Dragon from her and stood with my bag, “why keep doing it?”

Samantha took my hand, “that is why you are here. This is my last mission and the emperor wants to make sure I retire.”

I looked at her and she laughed, “he dots on his little pet like a father.”

I smiled and shook myself before letting her hand go, “I do not think me escorting you has anything to do with you retiring.”

She shook her head as we took a slid walk towards the distant gates, “he wants you with me on Hades. I have never been back and the school I am searching for will be dangerous and difficult to find.”

I nodded and took a breath to get my balance. I moved a half step in front of her, “once we are secure you can brief me.”

We were silent while we waited for the shuttle up and during the ride. Once in the cargo ship we went to the suite and left our bags. Samantha started to check the room and I began going the other way. We piled the bugs and two gas bombs on a table before I led her out and through the ship to one of the jump rooms. Dragon crawled into her lap as we leaned back to wait.

She smiled and pet her as she relaxed. I watched the other people that had already been on the ship and then the ones that came aboard. It was several hours before the ship began to move and then finally we jumped and the world turned inside out. As soon as we returned to normal I stood and let Samantha out. The school she was looking for was teaching children to be spies and saboteurs.

They also taught how to kill and that was what had brought it to the emperor’s attention. I was a little hesitant around Samantha at first but settled down long before we reached Hades. We were on the first shuttle down and I led her through the normal customs without stopping. I changed tactics as we came out into the starport lounge area and crossed to a vehicle rental both.

I slipped my ID in the slot and paid for a fast sport vehicle. Samantha smiled when I led her out front and to the flashy vehicle, “this will stand out.”

I smiled, “not more than me taking a marshal vehicle.”

I looked at her after we were in, “where to?”

She leaned back with a sigh, “home.”

I looked at her for a minute and she finally turned her head, “I need to see it again.”

I shook my head, “that is not smart. The school will be watched.”

Samantha nodded, “the emperor left it intact with remote cleaning robots inside.”

I started the vehicle and lifted it before turning and accelerating. I did not need a map or directions, they were burned into my mind. It was quiet as we flew and Samantha looked at me, “do you know the planet Keys?”

I looked at her and nodded, “a pleasure planet.”

She smiled and leaned back, “a nice place to take a vacation.”

I kept looking at her before nodding and looking ahead. I brought the vehicle down inside the warning fence and parked by the side door. I slipped out with Dragon crawling onto my shoulder and moved around before I opened the other door. I continued to scan the area as my sister stepped out. She smiled and headed towards the door as I walked beside her.

Walking the silent halls and looking into empty rooms brought everything back. Samantha shook her head when we entered the display room, “sometimes I still feel what they did.”

I looked at her, “why did you come back?”

She smiled, “I was going to sneak you out.”

I nodded and reached out to take her hand, “how did they find out?”

She looked at me, “we never found out.”

I looked around before turning to pull her out, “if they knew, why stay?”

She glanced at me as I led her towards the grandmaster’s quarters, “we never figured that out either.”

I thought about the questions as I led her into the huge set of quarters, “I took his head for what I thought he had done.”

Samantha squeezed my hand and let it go, “time to get to work.”

I looked at her and she smiled, “you remember the masters and the grandmaster. There should be hidden panels or a hidden room.”

I nodded, “I killed the auto defenses but since they were here and fought I never looked.”

We moved apart and started searching the room slowly. I was going over the school layout in my mind and glanced to the right wall. According to the measurements that wall should be six feet further back. I moved to it and started looking at it closely. The grandmaster had been right here when I reached him. I grinned and looked at Dragon, “smell the poison.”

She leaned forward and I let her crawl down my arm. Samantha crossed to me, “what is she doing?”

I moved slowly as she held the back of my hand and leaned close to the wall, “smelling for poison.”

Dragon looked back and chirped. I leaned closer to examine the wall and the slight discoloration on what looked like a knot. I nodded, “that is one.”

I moved and nodded to Dragon and she went back to smelling. It was several minutes before she found the second. I lifted her to my shoulder and looked up before grinning at Samantha, “we would never get in this way without triggering a trap or bomb.”

She looked up, “the school library is above us.”

I nodded, “the tech holograph booths to be exact.”

She spun, “lets go see if we can cut through.”

I shook my head, “first we go to the work shop for proper tools and then we go up.”

Samantha grinned as she slipped her arm into mine, “suck eggs little brother.”

I grinned and glanced at Dragon, “not eggs big sister.”

She laughed and reached up to caress Dragon, “maybe not.”

Thirty minutes later I set the pack of tools down and began building a small vacuum chamber in a holograph booth. Samantha put an air mask on and knelt to start drilling a tiny hole. I finished and put my mask on before starting the pump. Dragon was sitting just outside the plastic and would know if I needed her to use acid to open the chamber.

Samantha looked at me as I watched the needle go down before nodding to her. She turned back and slowly moved the drill deeper. A laser drill would have been faster but knowing the grandmaster there may be explosive gas in the room below. My sister pulled the drill out and I handed her the tiny fiberwire for the holo camera.

She slowly pushed it into the hole until the holograph sprang up to show us the room. She nodded, “there is some type of gas.”

I turned, “checking the element detector attached to the camera.”

I read the list of elements, “explosives.”

She grunted and pulled the camera out before turning to the pile of things we had brought. She slowly inserted a tube before turning the valve on the small tank. There was a hissing sound but we sat and waited. Finally she shut it off and pulled the tube out and we checked with the camera again. I nodded after reading the element list, “safe.”

She pulled the camera out, “and the ceiling is clear to cut. Remove this damn vacuum chamber.”

I grinned and flipped a switch to open the valves and let air in. Samantha used a sonic cutter instead of a laser just in case. I tossed the plastic and frame out of the booth and let Dragon climb back to my shoulder. I watched until my sister grunted and lifted a square from the floor. I knelt and helped her before she started cutting the section that was the ceiling of the room.

When we pulled it out I felt the material, “this is demo plastic.”

Samantha felt it and looked into the hole, “it is a good thing I used sonics.”

I nodded and carefully set the piece aside, “me first.”

She opened her mouth and I grinned, “I am the one that is supposed to protect you remember?”

She smiled and moved back as she gestured, “just do not trip any traps.”

I sat and looked down before slipping in. I caught the edge of the hole and hung as I looked below me before dropping. I knelt to look at the floor and then carefully searched the room before moving and nodding to Samantha. She dropped down into the room with me easily and did her own check and then went to the single shallow counter.

She plugged a device into the computer and waited until the screen blinked and came on. I was checking items on the other walls without touching them. Samantha cleared her throat as she pulled the device out, “anything else in here?”

I smiled, “besides poison or weapons?”

She grinned, “yeah.”

I lifted a small case with a broken seal, “this.”

Samantha took it before looking at the seal, “this comes too.”

I gestured up and watched her climb onto the counter and jump before pulling herself out. I followed and locked the booth door behind us. I led her back through the school and out to our vehicle. I looked at the six constable vehicles around ours with a dozen constables pointing weapons at us. Samantha shook her head and I grinned, “I told you.”

A four man team started for us as I slowly opened one side of my coat to show my badge, “Imperial Marshal.”

The lead man gestured, “hands out to the side.”

I sighed, “constables you saw my badge and you see the animal on my shoulder. I am sure you know who I am but if you do not, my name is lieutenant deputy marshal Morpheus. I am not only authorized to be here I am the only one authorized by the emperor’s own authority. Now bring a reader to scan my badge before you piss me off.”

They looked at each other and the response officer gestured, “I am not telling you again.”

I looked at him and drew in one motion before stopping, “drop the weapon or I will kill you.”

He started to open his mouth and the constable commander straightened from behind his vehicle, “everyone calm down.”

I shifted to move in front of my sister, “I am on protection detail and here on direct orders of the emperor. Lower your weapons or I will be forced to take action.”

The commander moved out, “lower your weapons and put them away.”

I kept my pistol aimed at the response leader as everyone else straightened and lowered their weapons. He licked his lips and I saw his finger start to tighten. I shifted my aim and fired four times rapidly. He screamed as both shoulders were hit and then his legs. I shifted my aim as the other constables started to react, “freeze!”

They stopped moving and I looked at the commander, “move them back.”

He was tight lipped as he gestured and the men backed away. I glanced at the constable on the ground, “stay commander and come closer to your man. Keep your personal comm on.”

He stopped moving before slowly walking towards the downed man. I opened the door for Samantha, “inside.”

She slipped in and I closed the door and moved to the downed officer. I knelt and pulled a small narrow tube out before touching it to his temple, “who gave you the kill order?”

The commander opened his mouth before closing it as the man spoke in a monotone, “Ser Daniels of the Phoenix school.”

I looked at the commander, “he is to go straight into isolation after you have a medic check him. No one is to speak to him and he is to make no calls or send any messages.”

He nodded and I stood, “you may tell your other officers why I shot him.”

I walked around to get into the vehicle before lifting and carefully leaving. I glanced at Samantha, “the school knows we are here but not why. I think they believe we were after something left behind.”

She smiled as she continued to examine the seal, “I know who this seal belongs to.”

I looked at her as I headed towards an unregistered marshal safe house, “care to share?”

She sighed, “the emperor’s nephew and advisor on the commerce council.”

I shook my head and watched as she pulled out a fancy comm and attached what almost looked like another to it. The holo that appeared was blank and it was several minutes before the emperor appeared, “Samantha.”

He smiled at me, “I am sorry we had to keep you in the dark Morpheus.”

I nodded and Samantha held up the small case and showed the seal, “we found this in the grandmaster’s secret room.”

He squinted before straightening, “anything else?”

I glanced at her as she nodded, “I cloned the drive of a stand alone computer.”

He nodded, “do your own check and be careful when you open the case. My nephew may be an idiot but the masters running your school were not.”

Samantha grinned, “the Phoenix school knows we are here but not why.”

He smiled, “find the location Samantha.”

The holo vanished and my sister sighed, “I hated to do that.”

I looked at her, “he knows what to do.”

She smiled, “his nephew does not know it but he just retired.”

I dropped down and turned down a small side street before using my comm. I turned in at a well maintained house and drove into the garage. I stepped out and glanced around as the garage door closed and walked around to open the other door. I accept the two bags she handed out and stepped back as she stood with Dragon on her shoulder.

I had her follow as I entered the house and began to check every room. Samantha took precautions as I watched and finally opened the case. I reached for the small data stick and slipped it into my comp. The small holo of a man appeared, “you need to vacate the school master. I just found out my uncle has sent marshals to look for you. They had someone from your school give them information.”

He looked around and leaned forward, “I have done as you asked. When are you going to kill my uncle?”

I shook my head as the holo stopped and looked at Samantha, “this had better go straight to the emperor.”

She nodded, “I thought he was just a snitch but if he has tried to have the emperor killed...”

She held out her hand and I set the stick in it before standing, “if there is a spy school here it will not be long before they know about and find the house.”

Samantha grinned, “I hope they do, we need someone to talk.”

I looked at Dragon and she jumped and flew towards the back door. I followed and let her out before returning to watch as my sister talked to the emperor and sent the data from the stick. I waited until she was done before going to the kitchen and making dinner. After dinner I nodded to the couch and she smiled as she crossed to lay down.

I slipped out and let Dragon land on my shoulder as I moved into the shadows. I absently fed her as I slowly circled the house before stopping in a thick bush beside a tree, “see the vehicle Dragon?”

She leaped into the air as I moved away and when a thick cloud passed over another shadow crossed the street. I moved silently as I approached and pulled a small box as I knelt. Dragon landed and took the box before crawling forward and under the vehicle. It would shut the vehicle down and keeping it from moving. A moment later I saw her emerge and I slipped up to the side of the vehicle to yank the door open and toss a dart.

The woman behind the wheel jerked and opened her mouth before freezing. I looked around before leaning in and pulling her out. I put her over my shoulder and closed the door and headed across the street. I walked in the front door and stopped, “it is me.”

Samantha appeared out of the shadows and I started towards the front room, “here is your watcher.”

She followed and knelt to search the woman after I set her on the couch. Once she was sure she had everything including the capsule between her lip and gums she woke her. The woman shifted slightly as her eyes flickered and I smiled, “we went to the assassin school.”

Her eyes went to me and I nodded, “just tell us what we need to know and maybe we can make a deal.”

She licked her lips, “and I would be killed.”

Samantha snorted, “listen very close. In three days your school will no longer exist. Now I can either put you in prison for life as a traitor to the empire or I can make a deal.”

She looked at Samantha for a minute before nodding, “what do you want to know?”

I shifted, “before you start you should understand what will happen if you betray us.”

She looked at me and I smiled, “I will cut you into tiny pieces. I will use sense dust and do it one piece at a time over a very long period and I will start with your pretty face.”

Samantha snorted, “do not listen to him. He does not like hurting people and he does not like blood.”

The woman looked from me to her before smiling, “some assassin.”

I shrugged, “it was worth a shot.”

I looked at Samantha and grinned, “on the other hand I can perhaps offer a sweet. The emperor is going to be looking for a ghost. Someone that can slip onto a world to look for and find people or things, like your school. Perhaps that might interest you?”

She looked at my sister who grinned, “now that might be possible.”

I let Samantha keep talking to her as I listened. I could tell she was stalling and finally stepped closer, “enough.”

I reached out and touched her with a slim needle before turning her and putting restraints on and binding each finger. I pulled her up and revived her before smiling coldly, “you had your chance. Now you will face the death chamber for treason.”

Her eyes widened as I pushed her towards the hall and grabbed my bag, “get your bag Samantha.”

She followed me as I pushed and shoved the woman out to the vehicle. I opened the trunk and started putting her in and she began to struggle. I slapped her, “you think I do not know what you are doing? If your back up comes I will be forced to kill them. We will find the school another way.”

I shoved her in and closed the door before looking at my sister, “wait.”

I moved around the vehicle slowly and checked it before letting Samantha get in. I opened the outer garage door and then the vehicle door. Dragon flew in and landed on my seat before crawling across to my sister. I watched around us as we left and headed into the city and to the marshals building. I lifted and landed on top and got out to look around before letting Samantha step out.

I went to pull the woman out of the trunk and pushed her in front of me. When we came through the stairwell door onto the marshal floor I was not surprised to see the room full of marshals. I kept going as they watched and took the woman down to the holding cells. I cut her clothes off and pushed her into a cell as she kept trying to make a deal, “put on the prison clothes dead woman.”

I darkened the doorway screen and turned to lead Samantha back upstairs. She went to sit at a desk with a comp as I tossed my bag onto a chair and looked around, “I take it you are here to raid the school after we find it?”

The other marshals grinned and I sat and turned to a comp. I thought about what our school had needed and accessed the planet net for sewage and recycled waste. The list I started with was long but I started matching it with power records. I knew the school would hide those and nodded when I had four left on my list. From those I used a sat to check each location and sat back to grin.

I sent the information to the terminal Samantha was using and she glanced at me before looking at it. She straightened and looked at me again, “we need to go check.”

I glanced at Dragon on her shoulder, “all we need is to get close. They will have hidden vids and people watching. Dragon can gather intel.”

She glanced at Dragon and nodded before standing, “we should go while it is still dark.”

The house was on an estate so we stopped a couple of kilometers away. I had flown here close to the ground and parked in what looked like a lovers parking area. I let Dragon slip out before closing my eyes to watch. The signs around the estate were subtle, tiny hidden vid cameras and closed circuit laser trip alarms. I knew before she even approached the house that they had used a thermal scan to see if she was a real animal.

The windows only showed empty rooms but finally I saw another entrance. I was murmuring to Samantha the whole time as she added things to the estate map and relayed it to the other marshals. Slowly Dragon found six more hidden entrances and a dozen air shafts. One vehicle entered but none left before Dragon found a way to sneak in.

I was tense as she crawled and clung to ceilings while moving in and down. It was six hours before Samantha sighed, “enough.”

I opened my eyes and she smiled, “have her stay where she is. The marshals are en route with a full company of commandoes.”

I let Dragon know but continued to watch through her eyes. Between one moment and the next every entry into the school was blown and marshals and commandoes poured in. I lifted and accelerated towards the estate and lifted over the walls and landed in front of the manor. I got out and glanced around as I walked around the vehicle before opening the door for my sister.

At the front door I nodded to the marshal just inside and led my sister passed him. Two people were in restraints on the floor as we went through. We used a set of stairs in the kitchen and went down to the first underground floor. The hallway went out like spokes and Dragon dropped from the ceiling. Samantha nodded to a group of marshals and commandoes down a hall.

I let Dragon land on my shoulder as my sister spoke with the marshals and then we were climbing down another set of stairs. Young men and women were on the floor in restraints as we headed towards a large central room. When we walked in it was grim with men and women sprawled out dead. None had been shot, they had taken poison and died together rather then let us capture them.

After we left it was to go down another two levels until we were walking down wood paneled hallways. The large apartment we walked into had a richly dressed man in restraints. Four marshals were watching him and Samantha walked straight to him, “I want the comp codes and the location of your server room.”

He smiled faintly, “I do not remember where it is.”

I pulled my sister back when I saw him shift and Dragon leaped and landed on his shoulder. He froze but his eyes locked with mine, “going to put me in stasis?”

I pulled my weapon and touched his forehead, “hands in front of you.”

The marshals shifted as they realized something had changed. The spy master slowly brought his hands around and clasped them as I stepped back, “now it is my turn to ask questions. The server room.”

He just smiled and Dragon bit before leaping. He jerked in shock and then froze, “what did she just inject?”

I smiled, “poison. You have thirty minutes before you die.”

He licked his lips, “you would not.”

I gestured, “on your knees.”

I moved around and put the barrel against his head, “cross your ankles.”

I nodded to the marshals and they struck, grabbing hands and twisting until he was bent forward. I moved back to the front, “listen close coward. In a minute some of the toxins are going to be felt. You will feel stinging in your hands and feet, this will be followed closely a minute later by numbness.”

I smiled, “the stinging will be back, it will effect your arms and legs but feel much worse. When they go numb the real pain will begin in your stomach and chest. Your vision will become blurry and you will be extremely disoriented. It will be another minute before all your body functions stop and you die.”

I waited and he shifted before licking his lips, “I will talk.”

I shrugged, “we gave you a chance, now you will die.”

That was when he began talking, giving locations and codes and passwords. He gave us everything as I slipped a popper veil into a numb hand while he was distracted. The marshals brought a long pole and restrained his hands at each end with each finger locked in a stasis glove. Within hours those on the planet that were paid or associated with the school were in custody.

Within a couple of days those on other planets were caught. I stood in the starport and held Samantha’s hand, “since I know you can send an occasional message now...”

She grinned, “you know where I will be.”

I nodded and took a breath before hugging her and then bending to grab my bag.


Chapter 10

Death of a prisoner

I looked up as the commander walked out of his office. Amanda shifted to follow my look, “something up?”

The commander headed towards us and I nodded, “I think we just got picked for something.”

He stopped in front of my desk and tossed a data stick, “grab your things. A prisoner died in custody on Gable. They need a officer to head the investigation.”

I glanced at Amanda, “our custody or the constables?”

He turned away, “the constables.”

I stood and Dragon leaped from her perch while Cynthia flew to Amanda. We went up to our quarters to grab a ready bag and then headed to dispersing. Marshal Taylor was at dispersing cursing and glanced at me, “the dispersing comp went off line.”

I shook my head, “they need to replace it. It has not worked right since it was hacked.”

I turned to the wall monitor and pulled up ships leaving the system. Amanda touched the screen, “this liner.”

I nodded and glanced at Taylor talking on his comm before turning to leave, “I will get the tickets at the port.”

Amanda glanced at me as we walked to the lift, “out of your own pocket?”

I shrugged as I hit the ground floor button, “I will put in for reimbursement.”

She kept looking as we walked out and across the lobby and I sighed, “it is money from the school. I have not been using it but since I found out Samantha is alive...”

Amanda nodded, “I understand.”

She grinned, “so when are we taking a vacation so I can meet her?”

I smiled, “you just want to lay out on the beach and get a tan. I saw you peeking at the holo vid she sent.”

She laughed as she walked around to get in our vehicle, “true.”

I sat back as Dragon climbed down into my lap and Cynthia joined her. I caressed both as we lifted and headed towards the starport. We left the vehicle in the secure parking area and walked in. I headed to the kiosk and shook my head at the out of order sign before starting for a counter with a long line of people. I stopped to one side, “I need two tickets on the liner going to Gable.”

The woman barely glanced up, “get in line.”

I set my badge on the scan plate and her terminal froze. She looked at me with wide eyes and I smiled, “I need two tickets on the liner to Gable... now.”

She nodded as the man she had been helping shifted away. I lifted my badge and her terminal came alive. She looked something up and frowned before looking at me, “all they have is a first class suite.”

I pushed my comp towards her and she used a comp remote and blinked before printing the tickets. I accepted them and she blushed, “do marshals really make that much?”

I glanced at her before turning, “no.”

I handed Amanda the tickets as we started walking towards the gates. She did not say anything until I heard her stomach growl. I shook my head and turned in at one of the food lounges, “we have time and I better feed you before Cynthia bites me.”

Amanda grinned as she dropped her bag on a stool and sat on another, “that was when she was just a baby.”

I sat beside her and let Dragon jump to the bag as I ordered. I glanced at Amanda as we ate, “it will not be long before I am reassigned.”

She looked at me, “because Michaels got promoted to lieutenant?”

I nodded, “you are a senior sergeant and need to be partnered with a deputy.”

She sighed and nodded before going back to eating. She grinned and looked at me after we were done and leaving, “we could file for espousal assignment.”

I looked at her and smiled, “you would still have to have another partner.”

She nodded and was silent all the way to the gate where we gave our tickets to an attendant. She directed us to a comfortable lounge and told us it would be another couple of hours. Amanda sat and held Cynthia on her lap before looking at me, “but we would still be together when I was not on assignment.”

I caressed Dragon as she played with my fingers, “you are more trouble than you are worth.”

Amanda grinned, “I know.”

I nodded, “I will file the request when we return.”

I looked at her, “but when we take vacation and go see my sister you get to tell her.”

She laughed and bumped my shoulder before relaxing. First class in a liner is luxury with crew asking if they could help every time they saw us. Gable is a lovely planet with rolling green hills and shallow blue oceans. We walked out of the port and took the slide walk towards the parking area. Dragon and Cynthia both leaped into the air to fly as soon as we were outside.

After checking our vehicle they flew down and through the door Amanda held for them. I sat back, “the central constable detention building. They are all waiting for us.”

She nodded as she sat in the driver’s seat and lifted the vehicle. It was not long before we dropped and set down and I frowned at the newies in front of the building. We grabbed our bags when we got out and Dragon clung to my shoulder. I started for the main doors and one of several constables moved to intercept us. I showed him my badge and nodded to the newies, “move them.”

He looked back, “they refuse to leave.”

I stopped and turned to walk towards the crowd of newies. They shifted as if they realized I was someone. I stopped and looked back and forth, “move these vehicles out of the restricted zone and break this up.”

One went to shove something towards me and I shifted to the side as I pulled my weapon. They backed up quickly and I put my weapon away, “move the vehicles and break this up. There is a media room for you to wait in.”

I turned and took a step when one shouted, “who do you work for!”

I sighed and stopped before turning, “I am a marshal and work for the emperor and here on his orders. Now break this up and go to the media room before I have your companies fined and your license revoked.”

I turned again and joined Amanda by the door. She grinned and touched the alarm plate as we walked in, “want to bet they blow that up and change what you said?”

I smiled as we crossed to the main desk, “that would be a serious mistake.”

I nodded to the desk sergeant, “we need to speak with the constable commander, the detention center commander and the on duty doctor that pronounced Ser Davis.”

He looked at us and smiled, “marshals?”

I nodded and he turned to use a comm. I looked back and did not see the newies moving and sighed, “also have a response team detain those newies. Have the vehicles removed and destroyed and schedule an appointment with a system judge.”

He looked at me and then out the door before grinning, “yes sir!”

He barked orders to the other constables in the lobby and they headed towards the door. Amanda grinned and we turned as an officer in a plain constable uniform walked out of a lift. He crossed to us and nodded, “marshals?”

I looked him over and gestured to Amanda, “this is deputy sergeant Swift and I am deputy lieutenant Morpheus.”

He blinked and then turned to the lift, “everyone is waiting.”

When we walked into the large conference room two men stood. One I knew was the doctor and from the suit the other was the detention center commander. I looked at the constable as he walked around to join them and smiled, “I like the uniform constable commander.”

He smiled and gestured to the seats. I set my bag in an empty seat and sat while Amanda walked around and touched a device to the window, “laser bugged.”

I shook my head, “scrambled it but I want the ID.”

She nodded and I looked at the constable commander, “start with Ser Davis’s arrest. What was he charged with?”

I went through each detail, all the way to his death and the cause which was death by strangulation. I sighed, “what did the detention vids show?”

The detention center commander shifted uncomfortably, “they were hacked.”

I looked at the constable commander, “did you have a comp tech examine it and did he identify the hacker?”

He nodded, “but we have not found him.”

I gestured to Amanda who had been watching, “give her the name.”

I looked at the detention center commander again, “I want to speak with every guard, the monitoring tech and janitor that was logged in.”

He nodded and I stood, “get them here as soon as you can and put them in courtroom nine.”

They looked at me and I sighed, “it is an empty arraignment court with a truth scan pillar correct?”

They nodded and I looked at Amanda, “go find the hacker and use whatever you need.”

She smiled as she turned and headed towards the door, “the company that was bugging the room was solar news inc.”

I looked at the constable commander, “commander please brief the media in the media room.”

He nodded as he stood and I followed Amanda out but when I walked out on the main floor the desk sergeant waved to a courtroom, “the judge is waiting in courtroom four.”

I nodded and changed direction and walked into the court filled with newies. I went straight to the pillar and placed my badge on it. The judge glanced at my file, “marshal.”

I looked at the newies, “these reporters ignored a legal order to disperse and move vehicles out of a restricted zone. They were informed that I was here under orders from the emperor. They were informed twice to go to the media room to be briefed and ignored it. Pursuant to imperial law and under reporting of news and reporter conduct that these reporter have violated... I am asking the court to revoke their license and fine their companies one hundred thousand credits.”

The judge frowned as she pulled up another holo and finally nodded, “so ordered.”

The newies shouted and yelled before a chem mist covered them and they shut up. I smiled and looked at the judge, “in addition Solar News Inc attempted to bug my briefing with the constable commander, the detention center commander and the pronouncing doctor in an active murder case. Their laser tag was identified by deputy sergeant marshal Amanda Swift.”

The judge growled, “I fine Solar New Inc one million credits for the use of an illegal listening device and put them on notice.”

I nodded and turned to the door before walking out. I crossed to the desk sergeant, “I will be in courtroom nine. When I send anyone out they are cleared to return to full duty.”

He grinned, “that is quick.”

I nodded, “the longer this lingers the more it will stink.”

I walked down to the courtroom and glanced at the doorplate. I placed my badge on the plate, “authorize all entry but restrict exit unless I or another marshal authorize it.”

The plate beeped and I opened the door and walked in and down to the pillar. I put my badge on the pillar and a haze appeared where the judge would normally be, “star comm open access to the Imperial Judge office.”

“Copy marshal.”

A moment later a young woman appeared, “how may I assist you marshal?”

I smiled, “I am investigating the death of a prisoner. I wish to record testimony using the court truth scanner.”

She nodded and looked to one side, “one moment.”

She spoke again but I did not hear anything. She finally nodded and looked at me, “judge Milton has granted your request.”

The holo vanished and I turned to wait. Dragon grumbled and I smiled, “Amanda has your daughter, she does not need you mothering her.”

Men began coming in and I pointed to seats before gesturing one forward. I nodded to the pillar, “put your hand on the pillar.”

He frowned but did as I told him. The questions were simple, “did you kill Ser Davis? Do you know who did? Tell me what you were doing at his time of death.”

I cleared all the guards before Amanda shoved a man through the door. I turned to look at the others and gestured to a janitor and he stood, “I want a solicitor.”

I smiled, “let the others go Amanda, we have the killer.”

The man paled and looked around for a way out. Dragon leaped into the air to fly towards him as Amanda turned to authorize the others leaving. He suddenly rushed towards her and Dragon struck, landing between his shoulders and bitting. He stiffened as he fell and I moved towards him and waited until everyone was out except Amanda, the hacker and me.

I knelt and used a popper to bring the man out of stasis before pulling him up and after me to the pillar. I slammed his hand on the pillar, “when you killed the prisoner in custody you lost the right to a solicitor.”

I held his hand in place as he glared, “I will not answer.”

I smiled, “court recorder, this is a hostile witness.”

“Agreed.”

He stiffened and his eyes widened, “you are recording this?”

I looked at the white faced hacker, “killing a prisoner in custody is serious. Now did you murder Ser Davis?”

The janitor struggled not to speak as his body was surrounded by the blue glow of the pillar, “yes!”

I looked at him, “was it personal or were you paid?”

He glared, “paid.”

I nodded, “who paid you?”

He looked around, “he will kill me.”

I waited and he shuddered as the glow brightened, “Paul Hunter Steele, the candidate for the imperial seat!”

I looked at him, “why?”

He glared, “Ser Davis knew the corps owned him.”

I thought and looked at the empty judge’s bench, “were you paid in person? How do you know Steele was the one to pay you?”

He shuddered before blurting, “it was in person in his fancy office.”

I let his hand go before turning him and securing his hands. I pushed him towards Amanda, “he goes with us.”

She nodded as she shoved the hacker to me, “Mr Edelson.”

I turned him and removed the restraints she had used. He looked at me smugly, “the pillar will not work on me.”

I smiled, “let me guess, you hacked the courtroom data net.”

I set his hand on the pillar, “I have news for you. When a courtroom is empty the normal comlink is shut down and inaccessible.”

I looked at him, “did you hack the detention center and shut down the vids?”

He gritted his teeth as the glow surrounded him and then snarled, “yes!”

I nodded, “who paid you?”

He glanced back at the other man, “he did.”

I glanced at the empty bench, “let the record show he has indicated the murderer of Ser Davis.”

I pulled his hand off the pillar and twisted it behind him, “you are under arrest for comp hacking of a imperial data net and conspiring in the death of Ser Davis.”

I pulled him after me and placed my badge at the door plate, “place this courtroom back inactive and lock the recordings under Marshal security.”

I followed Amanda as she left with Cynthia on her prisoner’s shoulder. Dragon caressed my cheek as I went around Amanda and led her out and to our vehicle. The newies were gone as we put the two men in and I sat while she went around to drive. She landed on the roof of the marshals building. I led the way as she pushed the two men with Dragon and Cynthia on their shoulders.

I frowned at the empty feel, there should have been several marshals here. I stripped each man and shoved him into a separate cells before looking at Amanda. I headed for the lift and went up to the marshal offices. The desks were clear and it to had an empty feel. I sat and brought a comp online, “list the marshals on station or on mission.”

“All marshals have been reassigned.”

I looked at Amanda and she shook her head. I turned and made a star comm and waited until a dark holo appeared, “I am busy Morpheus.”

I smiled, “my apologies commissioner. The man that killed Ser Davis while in custody has named a man that is a candidate for the imperial seat as the one to pay him.”

The holo cleared and I saw commissioner Drake with several men, “which one and do you think he was telling the truth?”

I shrugged, “his name is Paul Hunter Steele and the man was under truth scan in court.”

He turned to look at the others before shaking his head and looking at me, “take him and formally charge him.”

He hesitated, “and after you have him in custody tell the damn media so they will stop thinking we are covering something up.”

I smiled, “I will schedule the media room as soon as we have him.”

The holo shut off and I stood, “want to bet we end up here?”

Amanda grinned, “no.”

I set the auto defenses and headed towards the roof, “lets try the government center.”

We set down in front and I got out and waited before starting for the door with Amanda at my side. I touched my badge to the door plate and nodded to the two commandoes before heading across the large lobby. I stopped at the large building comp board and input Paul Hunter Steele in the locator box. The comp screen blinked and then displayed a floor plan to a office with the floor number flashing.

We used the lift and Amanda began humming and I smiled as Dragon and Cynthia started to join her. As we walked out of the lift and headed down a hall two commandoes were escorting a man towards us. I smiled, “it is our lucky day.”

Amanda chuckled as I gestured to the commandoes and showed them my badge, “step away soldiers.”

They stopped and looked at us as I looked at Steele, “Paul Hunter Steele you are under arrest for the murder of Ser Davis while he was in custody.”

He looked around and pushed one of the commandoes, “protect me!”

I glanced at the solders, “move or go to prison.”

Those were magic words, they turned and stepped to the side as Amanda stalked after Steele while he backed up, “you can not... I am going to be...”

He screamed as Cynthia landed on his shoulder and hissed. Amanda turned him and slammed him into the wall as she secured his hands behind his back. I waited until she finished a search and nodded to the commandoes, “thank you for your assistance. Contact your commander to notify him Steele will no longer need a imperial council protective detail.”

I led the way back to the lift as Steele whined and complained that we could not do this. Everyone in the lobby turned to watch as we crossed to the front doors and left. Again we landed on the roof pad of the marshals building and went down to strip our prisoner and shove him into an empty cell. Amanda grinned as she pet Cynthia and headed towards the lounge area, “you get to brief the media.”


Chapter 11

A new post

I glanced at the door when it opened and the tall marshal walked in, “the fleet commander is waiting.”

I shook my head, “I can not wait for the new commander to get here and take over.”

He grinned, “suck it up. What did you have for me?”

I turned and picked a chip up before tossing it, “a fugitive on Maple. Take Tonks with you.”

He nodded and turned to the door, “Amanda and her newbie just returned and he wanted to see you.”

I sighed, “send the fleet commander in and tell Smith to take a seat.”

We had been on Gable six months as marshals arrived to fill the new sector headquarters. I had been promoted to captain as soon as we returned to Canis, three days later we left to return here. I sat back as the tall fleet commander walked in and gestured to a chair. She grinned as she sat, “getting settled in?”

I sighed, “once we have all the marshals it will slow down.”

She nodded and looked down, “I... we have a problem.”

I looked at her and she sighed, “Provost Marshal Dillon committed suicide.”

I waited and she looked at me, “his men are capable but something does not feel right.”

I turned as I thought, “we could step in but with what goal? And for how long?”

She sat up, “I want you to investigate his death and clear his case load.”

I stood and walked to the window to look out, “normally that would be the job for a captain but I can not leave until the new commander arrives and I do not have a lieutenant.”

I looked at her, “I can send sergeant marshal Swift since she is just back from assignment.”

She stood, “I will be grateful for anything you can do.”

I watched her leave and turned as the sturdy new marshal came in. I waited as he crossed and sat before I walked to my desk, “what do you need?”

He leaned forward, “a new partner.”

I looked at him and leaned back, “why?”

He cleared his throat, “I know you and Swift are mates but she lets that... animal...”

He stopped talking as Dragon leaped from her perch and landed on my shoulder. I smiled, “and how long have you been a marshal?”

He frowned, “a month.”

I reached up to touch Dragon, “these are not just pets. I am sure Amanda told you that. Did she tell you that she could use Cynthia and look through her eyes?”

He blinked and shook his head as I pulled Dragon into my lap, “did she tell you they can produce acid that can eat through a lock or detect poison?”

He shook his head and I smiled, “did she tell you their bite can put a person into stasis or inject a lethal poison?”

He shook his head and I shook mine, “did you think to ask her about them?”

He reddened and shook his head and I sighed, “Smith you may have completed the marshal academy but they do not teach everything and you will not learn if you do not ask questions. Now sergeant Swift has another assignment and this one is going to involve investigations and attention to detail. While you two are partnered start thinking like a marshal.”

He stood and then smiled, “I have been a little smug.”

I gestured and he walked out and I stood to follow with Dragon climbing to my shoulder and looked around the squad room, “Amanda?”

She looked up as two other marshals tried to pretend they were not listening, “take Smith and go to the fleet base. The provost marshal died and the commander has requested us to investigate his death and clear his case load.”

She stood and grinned, “at least we are still packed.”

I nodded and watched them leave before looking around and heading back to my desk. It was several hours before I shoved the evals into a drawer and looked up. It was evening and everyone was gone but a woman stood in the doorway. I smiled, “it has been awhile ma’am.”

She smiled, “somehow I knew I would be seeing you again.”

I stood and walked around the desk and went to take her hand, “I thought you were still on Central.”

She held up her commander’s badge and I grinned, “about time you got here.”

She snorted, “you just do not like the paperwork.”

I turned as Dragon flew across the room and gestured, “how about we go upstairs and talk over dinner?”

Marshal commander Deb Maloy grinned as she slipped her arm in mine, “I heard you have a spouse?’

I smiled, “she should be back by now. She has an on planet assignment.”

She had been one of my instructors at the Marshals Academy. When I led her into the apartment Amanda turned from reading a screen and frowned. I smiled as I gestured to the table, “Amanda this is Deb Maloy. She was an instructor at the academy and now she is our commander.”

She grinned as she set the screen down, “in that case welcome.”

Deb grinned as she sat and I went into the kitchen. When I walked out they had their heads together looking at the screen. I set the warmed meal packs on the table and then two small plates for Dragon and Cynthia, “so what does the doctor say about the provost marshal?”

Amanda snorted and pushed the screen across to me as they both reached for a meal, “there was no way he could have killed himself. He had enough drugs in him that I doubt he could even move.”

I looked at the screen and then frowned, “why did the fleet doctor annotate suicide?”

Commander Maloy was quiet as Amanda shook her head, “those were pre inspection results. He had two sworn statements from fleet security officers that witnessed the death.”

I pushed the screen back, “have Smith question them but...”

I closed my mouth and smiled, “but you know what to do.”

Amanda grinned and stuck out her tongue as commander Maloy laughed and reached out to pet Dragon and Cynthia, “how many are on assignment?”

I sighed, “all but two. We have twelve assigned right now so we are only up to half strength.”

She nodded, “and I brought a personal one for you.”

I looked at her, “nothing came in.”

She pulled out a data stick and slid it across, “straight from the emperor. Duke Izkovich is on planet and will be using one of the empty imperial judge apartments. He is temporally sitting on the dukes court to hear a case between barons Altson and Martinez. The emperor wants you to babysit him since he is young and has never sat in judgement.”

I sighed and Amanda grinned, “have fun.”

I stuck my tongue out as she and the commander laughed. After dinner the commander left and I sat with Amanda as Dragon and Cynthia played tag. She leaned against me, “Smith wanted a new partner?”

I smiled, “I think some of my nature rubbed off on you. For a new marshal and one straight from the academy you need to explain things like what Cynthia is and what she can do. Remember when we met?”

She grinned and bumped my shoulder before sighing, “he is not to bad but his smug attitude is irritating.”

I grinned, “ignore what he does as if he were a child and just do what you know how to do.”

She laughed and caught Cynthia as Dragon chased her across the room. I was up early and made checks before Amanda left and then I was going down and knocking on the door to the judge’s apartment. A servant answered and frowned at Dragon as I walked past him. I smiled at the well dressed man relaxing in a chair as he read something from a holo display.

He looked at me and blinked, “can I help you marshal?”

He was in his early twenties and I sat across from him, “I was asked to watch and assist you while you sit in judgement.”

He sat back and smiled, “and who would have you do that?”

I lifted an eyebrow and he blushed, “the emperor?”

I nodded. “I was told you have not done this before. There are certain guidelines you should follow.”

He looked at me, “guidelines?”

I shrugged, “normally I can not look at or review the case and that is not an area marshals are trained in. However, when sitting in judgement there are certain security precautions you need to learn. First until the case is finished and you give your judgement you do not leave your apartment, this is so you appear impartial.”

I looked at him carefully, “next is safety for you and any servants you may have. You do not use a window or go for walks. You use the door scanner to check the thermal image of your servants and confirmed who they are.”

I waved the servant away, “while you are sequestered you do not speak to anyone about the case. You do a complete security verification on your court AI before you connect. If one side or another seems hostile you do not hesitate and contact the marshal commander and request a marshal.”

I looked at him closely, “companions may enter but you are to check them like the servants and if one mentions or tries to talk about your case you report it.”

I glanced at Dragon as she sniffed and alerted and held up a hand. I touched her as she looked at the servant who looked nervous, “seek.”

I came to my feet as she leaped and flew straight to the servant. She landed as he stiffened and opened his mouth. I moved quickly, “do not move.”

Dragon turned and started down his arm towards his left hand. I pulled my weapon, “hold it straight out.”

He swallowed, “it is just a sedative.”

Dragon clawed back his sleeve and I caught the tiny vial. I touched my comm, “commander.”

It was a minute before she answered, “what is it?”

Dragon moved as I put restraints on the servant, “I need a marshal for protect duty.”

“What happened?”

I looked at the white faced duke, “duke Izkovich’s servant was turned.”

“We just got three in, I will send one down.”

I disconnected, “sitting in judgement is very serious your grace.”

He stood, “he has been with me for two years.”

The servant shifted and I lifted his hands behind his back. He winched and kept quiet as I moved to the door, “do not touch anything until I come back. Dragon guard.”

I pushed the servant to the door and opened it before taking him out. I smiled when I saw Michaels quickly walking from the lift with his Georgia peeking out of his hair, “they transferred you?”

He smiled, “they said you needed someone.”

I nodded to the closed door, “Dragon is on guard but the whole apartment has been compromised.”

He nodded, “I will start a sweep with Georgia.”

I pushed the servant towards the lift as Michaels knocked on the door. I stripped the servant at the cells and shoved him in before activating the energy screen, “who paid you?”

He looked at me calmly as if he knew he would get away with what he had done. I shrugged, “very well I will inform the next available imperial judge of your attempted murder of a noble sitting in judgement.”

He looked startled, “it was a sedative.”

I shook my head, “Dragon only alerts to the presence of poison.”

He moved towards the door screen and it buzzed to warn him. He froze and licked his lips, “it was baron Alverez.”

I nodded and gestured to the bed behind him, “put the jumpsuit on.”

I turned and headed back down to see the duke as I used my comm, “commander?”

She answered right away, “what now?”

I sighed, “we are going to need to truth scan the servant. If his story checks we are going to need the emperor to sign an arrest warrant for baron Alverez.”

She sighed, “I will have Baker truth scan him and call the commissioner.”

I touched my badge to the door lock plate and waited for it to open all the way before stepping in. Michaels nodded as he put his weapon away, “everything looks clean.”

I gestured and Dragon leaped off the chair the duke was sitting in and flew to me. I looked at the white faced duke, “is baron Alverez involved in your case in any way?”

He shook his head, “his barony is on the other side of the duchy.”

I nodded to Michaels, “stay with him.”

I looked at the duke, “go through the case carefully your grace. Look for any special interest group that may benefit if someone else took your place.”

I left and went up to the roof. My vehicle was all the way in a corner since I had not been using it. I went across the city and landed in front of the central constable building. I nodded to the few constables in the lobby as I crossed to use the lift. I went up a couple of floors and walking out on the forensic tech level. I checked a directory before heading deeper into the building.

The lab I stopped in had soft music playing and a lot of chemical smells that made Dragon growl. I touched her and smiled at the woman that turned to see me, “I am deputy Morpheus and I need a substance analyzed.”

She smiled back as she crossed to me and reached up to scratch Dragon on the chin before taking the vial, “has that cute marshal with the long hair and dragon gotten off yet?”

I watched her start working, “Michaels?”

She nodded and grinned at me, “we met on the ship when I returned from vacation.”

She straightened, “this is Zaranine.”

She looked at me and I nodded, “could you print out the official report and log the vial as evidence please.”

She turned back and a minute later walked to me and handed me a data chit. I tucked it away, “Michaels is on a protection detail but I will see if I can break him lose in a couple of hours.”

She grinned, “tell him to come to my place.”

I nodded as I left and headed back to the marshal building. I went down and stopped in the commander’s doorway, “what did the truth scan show?”

She looked up from paperwork, “he told the truth as far as he knows. Baron Alverez gave him the vial personally. I am waiting for the emperor to get back to me.”

I nodded, “the vial was Zaranine which is a poison that would be undetectable after death.”

She sat back, “I will call the commissioner back, you go review the duke’s case and find the connection to baron Alverez.”

I nodded and turned to head for the lift. When I stepped into the room Michaels relaxed and looked at the duke, “Georgia is mind bonded to me and not attached. They are synths that were designed to assist a marshal not as pets.”

I smiled, “I met a friend of yours. She said when you get off to come to her place.”

Michaels grinned, “thanks.”

I nodded and crossed to sit beside the duke, “I confirmed poison. I need to review the case and search for the connection to baron Alverez.”

He sat back and looked at me, “is the emperor going to...”

I gestured, “that is to be seen but we need to find out what this is about.”

He nodded and held out his legal case screen. I took it and began going through it and stopped a moment later. I looked at the duke, “this is over the vendor rights on the fleet base?”

He nodded and I stood and used my comm, “marshal Swift.”

I walked across the room as I waited and she finally answered, “Morpheus?”

I looked back, “have you or Smith reviewed the cases the provost marshal may have been looking into?”

It was a moment before she answered, “he had four open.”

I turned to look at the duke, “does any of them involve base vendors?”

“One.”

I nodded, “that would be the one you need to check. It looks like your case is linked with a ducal case and involves at least three barons. The one I am looking at is Alverez.”

“The two fleet security officers were paid off to kill the provost marshal.”

I sent Dragon across to the couch beside the duke, “and I have a servant paid to poison the duke sitting on a case to decide who provides venders to the base.”

She sucked in a breath, “Alverez?”

I nodded, “show his picture to the security officers and see if he paid them too.”

I disconnected and called the commander. She answered right away, “he is in a meeting...”

I smiled, “Swift’s case is linked.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded, “I think so. It seems to be about vender rights on the fleet base.”

She was quiet, “call the commissioner.”

I shook my head, “you are playing dirty.”

She laughed, “he is putting me off and you have the emperor’s ear.”

I disconnected and moved to the suite comm system, “star comm. Marshall Morpheus for commissioner Drake.”

The small holo appeared a few minutes later, “Morpheus we are busy so this better be good.”

I smiled, “you are not paying attention to your new commander sir. We have the attempted assassination of a duke sitting in judgement and the death of a fleet provost marshal that is linked. The baron Alverez personally paid the servant to poison the duke. We are also checking the two fleet security officers that were paid to kill the provost marshal.”

I took a breath, “the duke’s case involves the vendor rights on the base.”

He blinked and turned his head before leaning away. The emperor leaned into the holo, “was the servant truth scanned?”

I nodded, “would we call you before sir?”

He nodded back, “you have the warrant. Bring baron Alverez in and find out what he thinks he is playing at.”

I hesitated, “I would like to have a baronial audit done on his books too.”

He smiled, “tell duke Izkovich I want his case in court tomorrow. I will contact the imperial auditor in that sector.”

I nodded again as his Crystal poked her head into the holo field, “I will have the account frozen until they get here.”

The emperor pushed his dragon back, “apologize to commander Maloy for me.”

The holo vanished and I turned to the duke, “you heard his majesty?”

He nodded and sighed, “actually it is pretty clear who the rights should go to.”

I crossed the room, “who would sit in judgement if you died or were not here?”

He frowned, “earl Baker I believe.”

I sat in a chair, “and would he see things the way you do?”

He snorted, “I doubt it, he and baron Altson are...”

He blinked and looked at me, “so if I am dead Baker would give the rights to his... paramour and friend.”

I shrugged as I opened my comm, “commander.”

She answered quickly, “we just got the warrant.”

I smiled, “his nibbs sends his apologies. I will go after baron Alverez but see if you can get his accounts frozen until an imperial auditor arrives.”

“Swift called and your Alverez was the one to pay the two security officers.”

I nodded, “have her bring in earl Baker on a questioning warrant.”

She sucked in a breath, “what the hell is it with nobles?”

I stood, “it takes one to judge them so they think they are above the law.”

I shut the comm off and looked at Michaels, “watch him and I will be back.”

He nodded as Dragon flew towards me. The trip to baron Alverez gave me time to think. I landed in front of his estate manor since the noble link he wore told me he was here. I stepped out as the front doors opened and two servants stepped out. Dragon swarmed up onto my shoulder as I started for the front doors and displayed my badge.

One of the servants stepped in front of me, “the baron is not accepting visitors.”

I struck into his sternum and looked at the other servant as his hand moved inside his uniform jacket, “pulling a weapon on a marshal is cause for a death warrant.”

He froze as I shoved the other out of my way, “I am here with a warrant from the emperor. Get in my way again and it will be the last thing you do.”

I started through the doors as Dragon leaping into the air and flew ahead of me. I walked into the study as the baron was yelling and trying to aim a weapon at Dragon. A flick of my wrist and he was screaming as he fell out of the chair and onto the floor. I pulled my weapon and displayed my badge as four men rushed in, “leave.”

They froze and held up empty hands as they backed out. I waited and then crossed to the screaming baron. I knelt and put restraints on him before pulling the tiny dart out. I yanked him to his feet as he started threatening and slapped the back of his head, “shut up. You are under arrest for murder and conspiracy to commit murder and treason.”

He kept blustering and threatening as I pushed him ahead of me and Dragon dropped onto his shoulder. He screamed and jerked and I yanked him to a stop, “she is trained. If you struggle or attempt anything she will bite. She produces both a stasis drug or poison and since you tried to shoot her my bet would be poison.”

His eyes were wide as I shoved him out in front of me and to the vehicle. I put him in the back as Dragon crawled into the front. I turned on the pressor field and went around to get in. I landed in the middle of the night and pulled the baron out after shutting the field down. I pulled or pushed him as he began begging and took him down to the detention level.

I shoved him against the wall and cut his clothes off before pushing him into a cell and activating the door screen. I went down to the duke’s quarters and Michaels answered the door. I grinned, “go find your lady.”

He smiled as Georgia flew to him and left and I made sure the door was locked and alarmed before making a check. I sat and held Dragon in my lap as I pulled out my comp and started the report. When I was done I leaned back and relaxed as I waited. When the duke walked out it was morning. He looked at me before heading to the kitchen unit.

He carried his coffee to the holo desk and did a security verification of the court AI. He sighed as he checked the time and looked at the courtroom monitor. He pushed the holo filter and straightened as he started speaking. I stood and moved to the door when I saw the warning light for a visitor. I looked out and saw Amanda and opened the door.

She smiled when she walked in and looked around, “earl Baker gave it up. He put Alverez up to paying for the deaths.”

I nodded and looked at the duke, “did he say if Altson was involved?”

She nodded, “he knew. Smith is outside the court waiting.”

I headed to the duke and reached out to touch his shoulder, “recess.”

He looked back with a frown but nodded and told the court they had a recess for five minutes. The holo shut down and he turned, “do not ever...”

I cut him off, “the case is over. Baron Altson knew and was part of the conspiracy.”

He blinked and looked at Amanda before looking at me, “how... what do I say?”

I turned to Amanda, “have Smith detain the baron for questioning. I need to wake the emperor for two arrest warrants.”

She nodded and I looked at the duke, “go back in session and tell them that due to criminal charges the vender rights are going baron Martinez but wait a few minutes.”

He nodded and took a breath before turning to look at the monitors. I stepped away and went to the wall comm, “star comm. Marshall Morpheus for commissioner Drake.”

The duke was speaking before the commissioner answered and looked out of a holo at me, “what now?”

I smiled, “I need his majesty to issue two more noble arrest warrants. One for earl Baker and another for baron Altson.”

He blinked, “three nobles in one system?”

He shook his head, “give me a few moments.”

I waited for several before he was back, “you have the warrants. His majesty said to have them escorted here and he will hear the case himself.”

I nodded and he shut the holo off. I looked at Amanda, “I will get with Maloy but it looks like you and Smith get to do a transport.”

She shook her head, “wonderful.”


Chapter 12

A walk on the beach

It had been busy but things had finally slowed so Amanda and I decided to take a vacation. Keys was as beautiful as all the vids. We walked off the large rental boat and I grinned at my sister with her arm around the waist of a tanned man I recognized. Dragon and Cynthia were flying and chasing each other along the edge of the water.

Amanda squeezed my hand before letting it go, “hi.”

I paused at the buzz of my comm and frowned before pulling it from the small pouch I was carrying, “Morpheus.”

The commander sighed, “sorry to interrupt your vacation but since you are on Keys we have a call. They had a prisoner go missing before his trial.”

I sighed, “I will check into it.”

I disconnected and walked to Sam. She grinned and hugged me and I nodded to Domino, “I did not expect you.”

He shrugged, “your sister found me and asked me to come.”

I looked at Sam and she took his hand, “I have missed him.”

I smiled and looked at Amanda, “I need to leave for a bit, an escaped prisoner.”

She frowned, “but...”

I shook my head, “here on Keys.”

I looked at Sam, “would it be okay if she stays here?”

My sister grinned, “leaving your mate with me to plot against you?”

Amanda laughed as Cynthia landed on her shoulder, “now that sounds promising.”

I smiled, “just remember I warned you about being sneaky.”

I turned to use my comm and call the constables for a pick up. I walked with Sam after the constable commander said he would send someone to pick me up as well as brief me. The house was off the beach with a wide covered porch. She grinned as I looked around, “so...”

I looked at her and then at Amanda talking with Domino, “so you and Domino.”

She nodded and squeezed my hand, “is it okay?”

I smiled as I looked at her, “that depends on if it is what you want and if you are going to give me a niece or nephew.”

She grinned and then laughed like I remembered when I was very young, “well since you asked we have talked about children.”

I squeezed her hand, “you would make a good mom.”

She smiled as she looked at Domino, “I think tonight we are going to work on your request.”

She actually blushed and I grinned as I looked at Amanda, “she needs to relax.”

Samantha put her arm around my waist, “we will see that she does.”

I looked at her, “she is a marshal so no funny stuff.”

She laughed, “I promise.”

I went to grab my bag and called Dragon away from the ocean before the flyer got there. The constable that was driving looked at me as I sat back with Dragon in my lap, “vacation?”

I nodded, “the first in a long time.”

He grinned, “stay away from the fishing then, it is more like work.”

I smiled and then sighed, “you know about the fugitive?”

I listened as he talked and told me about a local man and had a few ideas. We landed at the starport and I went to get a marshal vehicle. I did a comp search before lifting and heading away from the island the port was on. I flew over three islands before I saw the boat. I made a check and landed and walking towards a large shack. The man that walked out looked and started to reach for the weapon on his belt.

Dragon dropped onto his shoulders and bit. He fell forward as I walked up and knelt to roll him over before touching the ampule into his neck. He shuddered as his eyes flickered and I finished disarming him. I patted his cheek, “I am marshal Morpheus and you met Dragon.”

He shifted and glanced at her peering over my shoulder, “she bit me.”

I smiled and stood, “yes.”

He stood slowly and I gestured, “time to return to the detention center.”

He sighed, “I am not staying.”

I gestured again and he walked to the vehicle and I opened a back door. Once he was in I turned the pressor field on and went around to climb in. I let Dragon settle in my lap before lifting and heading towards the island that had the large detention center and legal building. He was actually calm as I turned him over to the constables and left.

It was dark when I landed on the island my sister lived on. I started for the house and glanced at a wide hammock with Amanda sleeping on the porch. Samantha and Domino slipped out of the shadows as I watched Amanda sleep. I smiled but did not look at them and Sam kissed my cheek and pushed me towards the hammock.

I woke to birds singing and glanced at Amanda looking at me. I caressed her face before giving her a kiss and moving out of the hammock. Sam was up and sitting at a table on the porch with fruit. After eating we went for a swim and then took a walk on the beach. A half hour later my comm beeped and I sighed and answered, “this better be good.”

“Your prisoner escaped again.”

I looked at Amanda as she shook her head and I started back, “and did the constables check his island this time?”

“Yes but there was no sign.”

I headed towards the house and my clothes as I disconnected, “Dragon.”

She was chasing birds and turned to fly to me as I reached the house. I started dressing and glanced at Domino, “I will be back.”

He grinned, “maybe I should give you our shopping list.”

I snorted as I finished and headed towards the vehicle. I thought about Gilroy and lifted before accelerating away. I saw him on the sixth island closest to his and landed. He straightened as Dragon flew toward him and held up his hands as I got out and started across the sand, “this is getting old Ser Gilroy.”

He glanced at Dragon on his shoulder before looking at me, “I did not do anything wrong.”

I gestured back to the vehicle, “not my problem. Tell it to the judge and have them use a truth scan.”

He sighed and walked peacefully back to the vehicle and climbed in. I turned the pressor field on after Dragon leaped to cling to my chest and climb to my shoulder. I flew back to the detention center and turned him over to several constables before heading back to my sister’s. I got there in time for dinner and we took a nice walk before returning to the house.

We were up early the next morning and went diving on the reef just off shore. We were all walking on the beach later when my comm went off. I looked at Amanda as she laughed and shook my head as I answered, “you have got to be kidding.”

“Sorry but he escaped again.”

I sighed as I turned to head back, “I think I am just bringing him back and keeping him with me.”

The commander laughed, “every time he escapes the judge postpones his case and then schedules it for the next day when he is brought in.”

I dressed and headed for the vehicle as Dragon landed on my shoulder. This time I did not find him on the islands around his but I did not see his boat either. I landed and accessed the sats for this area and began checking boats. I found him heading southwest a hundred and fifty kilometers away. When I flew over the boat he glanced up and shook his head before turning to head to the nearest island.

I landed and let Dragon out before following. He glanced at Dragon when she landed on his shoulder, “hello Dragon.”

I shook my head and gestured back to the vehicle, “why can’t you just wait and see a judge?”

He grinned as he walked to the back of the vehicle and climbed in, “mom always said I was impatient.”

I waited for Dragon to move before setting the pressor field. This time when I arrived at the detention center I checked him in before pulling him after me with the deputies frowning as they followed. I walked him into a court and waited as the judge listened and made a ruling. When he was finished I walked forward and placed my badge of the pillar.

The judge sat back, “you are not scheduled marshal. How can we assist you?”

I turned, “Ser Gilroy has an annoying habit of escaping. I would consider it a favor if you could at least listen to his testimony under truth scan and...”

The judge chuckled, “you are vacationing here?”

I shrugged, “once I would not mind. Twice was a minor distraction but three times is irritating.”

The judge gestured, “come forward Ser Gilroy.”

He turned to do something and started scanning something. I had Gilroy put his hand on the pillar as I stepped back and to the side with the constables who were grinning. I listened to the testimony and blinked as the judge shook his head, “I see the license amount deducted from your account but nothing appears as issued.”

He made a note before looking at Gilroy, “if you had bothered to wait and get this sorted out it would have saved everyone a lot of time and effort. Your case of fishing without a licence is dismissed, for escaping I am fining you forty hours of community service. You can begin by guiding the marshal and thanking him for not shooting your stubborn ass.”

Gilroy grinned, “thank you your honor.”

The whole ride back he kept looking at me as I drove with Dragon in my lap. When I set the vehicle down I looked at him, “listen very close. My spouse is a marshal bonded to one of Dragon’s daughters. My sister and her mate are something else. Go sneaking around them and you will end up dead and buried... if you are lucky.”

He smiled, “so be nice and stay where you can see me.”

I shook my head as I opened the door, “no. Do not try to sneak and move normally and stay where my sister and her mate can see you.”

He followed me out as Dragon leaped into the air to chase a bird. I grinned at Sam and Amanda laying back on the beach with Domino swimming out further in the small bay. He turned out to be a good guide and we had fun walking on beaches no one else had seen to collect seashells.


Chapter 13

Running a gauntlet

I glanced at the commander when she peeked in the doorway to my office. I had removed the door the third time it malfunctioned and locked me in the office. She grinned, “safe to come in?”

I sat back and returned her smile, “unless you are bringing me more paperwork.”

She laughed as she walked in and sat in one of the two chairs in front of the desk, “Amanda is still out bringing those escaped prisoners in and everyone else is on assignment.”

I nodded and she glanced at Dragon sleeping on the edge of the desk, “I wish I had another marshal to go with you but...”

She sighed, “the world is Cage and we finally have Christian Delcruise sighted.”

I brought up the name, “material witness?”

She nodded, “a lot of people want him dead and there are going to be people hunting him.”

I bent to grab the ready bag I had not used in over a month, “Dragon.”

Her head lifted and she glanced at the commander before looking at me as she came to her feet. The commander chuckled as she stood and tossed a data chip, “I think she was ready to go.”

I headed for the door and Dragon leaped and flew after me. All the way to the starport I was remembering the case and Ser Delcruise. Cage was mostly an ocean world and either the cities were on floating islands connected together or underwater. I was hoping it would be on the surface because I knew people would just have to shoot at him and me.

The liner was nice and not to crowded, Dragon even captivated two little girls that played with her each day. I was the first off the shuttle and walked out with Dragon on my shoulder. The first person I saw was a large man that was frowning as he looked at Dragon and making gestures to several guards. He cleared his throat as I started past and I glanced at him, “yes?”

He nodded to my shoulder and Dragon, “no foreign animals allowed.”

I smiled, “she is a synth and my partner.”

The other men moved to surround me as he shook his head, “we do not care what she is, no foreign animals allowed.”

I shifted and moved my coat to show my badge, “my name is Morpheus, marshal Morpheus and Dragon is my partner. I really do not care what you allow or do not allow, get in my way and I will shoot you.”

He froze and licked his lips and he glanced at the others, “it is not allowed marshal.”

I stepped close, “it is against imperial law to stop or hinder a marshal, are you trying to hinder me?”

He backed up and held his hands up, “no!”

I looked at the other men, “fade.”

They backed away and I looked at him, “you would do well to learn to recognize Dragon’s species. Many marshals are using them and the emperor himself has one.”

I pushed past him and Dragon shifted to keep watching him as I strode away. I walked out of the starport and used a slid walk to another octagon where I picked up a vehicle. While I was flying towards the small floating town above the underwater city called Abyss I called the constables. Of course they did not have anything and were not looking for Ser Delcruise since it was not something involving their planet.

I set down and parked close to the underwater lifts. I hesitated before pulling extra magazines out for my weapon and then leaving the bag. I walked to the lifts with Dragon on my shoulder and crowded on with people returning to the underwater city. I got off on the upper level and started walking and looking around. The shop I was looking for was a crowded stim shop.

I slipped through the crowd to a tiny table in the back. The black clad fem that stopped at the table looked at Dragon before grinning, “what can I get you?”

I had my comp out and turned it so she could see the vid image, “him.”

She looked and then glanced around, “he is a bottom feeder.”

I frowned, “bottom feeder?”

She leaned over to whisper, “try the dives across town in the slums and on the dome floor.”

I nodded and then smiled, “how about tea with a piece of raw fish?”

She looked at Dragon, “for your friend?”

I nodded and she grinned, “the tea will cost but the fish is on the house.”

It was several hours before I saw Delcruise and I was not the only one. A hit squad was already moving in as I as stood looking across the room in the bar. Dragon leaped into the air as I started moving and pushing people out of my way. That would create a disturbance which is what I wanted. One of the assassins turned to see me heading towards their target and stepped in my way as he pulled his weapon.

I did not even slow, these were amateurs and wanted people to know who or what they were. I stuck a needle in his wrist as I shoved into him and knocked him out of the way. His scream caused everyone to freeze and turn to look. He was down and convulsing as I struck another with a needle. I stepped out of the crowd and close to Delcruise as he started to turn and run.

Dragon landed on his shoulder as I pulled my weapon and turned, “do not move.”

He froze with Dragon’s teeth against his throat as I aimed at one of the killers. He was lifting a weapon when I shot him in the throat. That created the panic and the crowd surged towards the door. When one of the other killers was free of the crowd he started to lift his weapon as I flicked a dart. He screamed when it struck and went down causing more panic.

The last man in the team had been knocked down and ran over by people trying to escape and I shook my head as I tossed another dart. I turned to Delcruise as he began to scream, “I am marshal Morpheus and you are my prisoner.”

He swallowed as he slowly turned his head, “I will not testify.”

I smiled, “I do not care if you testify. My job is just to return you to Gable.”

He opened his mouth and froze as Dragon growled and I gestured, “time to go.”

I ignored the still screaming men as I led him out. I held my weapon when I stepped out the door and lifted it as two men moved out of the shadows to lift their pistols. I shot each and shook my head, they should have been spread out. I glanced around before pulling Delcruise after me as I headed towards the lifts. I stopped when I saw the blank public vid display.

I sighed and pulled my comm, “constables.”

“How may we...”

The comm signal vanished and I growled, “hard it is.”

I put my comm away and pulled my prisoner after me, “listen close, you are marked and there are people here that are trying to kill you. Do what I tell you and you might live.”

I glanced at Dragon and she leaped into the air and flew ahead. I watched her until she swerved and landed on an exposed beam. I looked through her eyes as I continued to walk and as I went under her I lifted my weapon to shoot a woman aiming a rifle. I shot a man that spun out of a corridor and Dragon flew ahead again. When she landed I looked through her eyes and shook my head, “come back.”

I turned to head for a set of secondary stairs and she went past me and landed. I shook my head but continued to walk. When I turned the corner under her I had my weapon up and I shot the first of three men in the face. I shot the second and third in the chest as I pulled Delcruise after me and to the hatch. I opened it and let Dragon fly through and up the twisting stairs.

They were blocked on the next level but it looked very recent and I reluctantly opened the level hatch. I looked out and pulled back as men fired. I had seen what I needed and glanced at Delcruise, “when I start running, you follow or I will leave you.”

I shifted and reached to my back before pulling my backup weapon. I glanced at Dragon before hitting the hatch and running. I extended my hands and began firing, I was not shooting blind. I picked my targets and shot each in the chest. It had been over two decades since I had mastered this but some things come back when you need them most.

Delcruise was running behind me with Dragon flying ahead. The men were in hatchways and corridor openings. I followed Dragon around a corner and slowed to a walk. Delcruise stopped and I reached back to grab his jacket and pull, “they will be following.”

I took a moment to reload as we walked and Dragon went ahead. The more I thought about our situation the more I did not want to trust the lift to the surface. I used my comp and found a sub rental two levels up and across the city dome. Dragon warned me a few moments later and I stepped around the corner and into a new corridor.

Two men were trotting towards me with weapons and I shot each between the eyes. I started walking with Delcruise following closely. I could not believe there were no constables in the dome city. I turned in at another set of stairs and started up. It was clear to go higher but I was not going to risk the lift. I got out on the level with the sub rental and glanced around before sending Dragon ahead.

She warned me before a man wearing constable body armor stepped out ahead of me. I almost hesitated as he lifted a weapon and I shot him in the tiny exposed spot in the hollow of his throat. I glanced at his body as I walked by and realized the armor did not fit him properly. None of the people living in the dome were out in the corridors so someone had warned them.

I glanced around a last corner to see the rental shop before pulling Delcruise after me. I had to use my marshal override to unlock the shop hatch and shoved Delcruise in. Dragon landed on my shoulder before I closed and locked the hatch. The shop was quiet as I headed through into the back which was a large area with several airlocks. I checked beside each until I found a bay with a two man sub.

I started checking it and made sure the ballast tanks and air tanks were full. I put Delcruise in the rear seat and closed the hatch with Dragon in my lap. I undocked and backed the sub out of the bay once it filled with water and the outer doors opened. I turned and stayed close to the dome as I went up and around. I had removed the safety beacon so the sub was not sending out its transponder code.

When the sub reached the thick lift shaft I began to ascend while moving around it. I turned away just below the floating town and headed to a dock on one edge. My comm beeped and I glanced at it as we surfaced. I moved to the dock and opened the hatch before climbing out and looking around, “get out.”

Delcruise climbed out and I opened my comm, “marshal Morpheus.”

“What the hell are you doing! We have at least two dozen dead in Abyss and witnesses are saying it was you.”

I started walking as Dragon flew up and ahead, “I am doing my job constable commander. You and your people did not seem interested when I got here so deal with the results. I will have my commander send your governor a copy of my report. Now get off the comm before someone starts a trace.”

I shut my comm off as I looked through Dragon’s eyes at the parking area. I nudged her and thought of under the vehicle. I reached back and pulled Delcruise after me as I headed to the parking area. The vehicle was clean so I opened the back door and shoved him in before turning the pressor field on. I moved around and opened the door to let Dragon fly in before sitting.

I lifted and ignored normal traffic as I accelerated faster than anything except a marshal vehicle. I kicked out decoys, flares and chaff and was not surprised when a strike missile detonated behind us. I shook my head and opened my comm to the system fleet base, “base commander.”

It was a few moments before the call was answered, “admiral Glenn.”

I glanced back, “this is marshal Morpheus admiral and I have a situation. I am escorting and protecting a witness and have several unknowns constantly annoying me. They just used a strike missile and I do not want them taking out a shuttle by mistake.”

“Head due north and home on the fleet port beacon. I will divert a couple of sting ships to escort you and you can ride up in one of our shuttles.”

When I glanced back again I could see several vehicles in the distance. They were not gaining but they did stay with me, at least until two sting ships screamed past. It was another couple of hours before I arrived at the fleet base and landed at their port. The surface was mostly just connected floating platforms with the majority of the base underwater.

I pulled Delcruise out and grabbed my bag as Dragon settled on his shoulder. I set the vehicle to return to the starport on autopilot and turned to head towards the small group waiting for me. The admiral sent the men with him away as I approached and grinned, “the constables are screaming. Two of the vehicles made the mistake of firing on my ships and were destroyed.”

I nodded, “they did not want to assist me when I got here. Those in Abyss city found someplace to hide when I was attacked and had to run the gauntlet to get out. Now they are crying because I left bodies behind me.”

He turned and gestured, “the quarterly supply ship is here. It will be headed out if you want a ride back to Gable.”

I smiled and we walked with him towards a large shuttle sitting on a pad, “that sounds good.”


Chapter 14

Missing marshal

I was moving smoothly through my exercises with Amanda mirroring me. Dragon and Cynthia were watching from the side of the gym. Michaels cleared his throat as I slid back and away from Amanda, “we have a marshal missing.”

I continued the martial dance and circled, “who and where?”

Amanda slid in and I shifted while one hand swept her foot aside and she spun back and away. Michaels moved out of the way, “Palia system and it is Gilroy. He did an escort and turned the prisoner in before he vanished.”

I straightened and Amanda sighed as she copied me, “his vehicle?”

Michaels tossed two towels, “left by a marketplace. The constables have sealed all the city vids and searched but have not found him.”

I nodded, “commander Maloy?”

He grinned, “she was just on her way to the yearly constable conference and took Smith since he was the last to annoy her.”

Amanda snorted, “he is a lot better and has learned. The problem is he wants to do everything himself and let the constables clean up the mess.”

Michaels gestured, “me and Dale are going with you and Maloy wants both of you to go.”

I nodded, “Dale go to dispersing?”

He nodded, “we have a few hours before the first shuttle up.”

After a shower we met Michaels and marshal Dale in the lobby. The public transport was waiting and took us to the port. I paid as the others headed in and followed as Dragon sat up on my shoulder. I caught up before they got on the slid walk that led out to the shuttle gate. Dale kept glancing at Dragon and then Cynthia and then at Georgia.

He was just out of the academy and had only been here a week, “the only way you learn the answers is if you ask the question.”

He reddened as he glanced at me and Michaels looked at him. He looked at Amanda, “I know the emperor has a pet like yours but do you always take them with you?”

I looked at Michaels and he grinned, “finally. First they are not pets and never underestimate them. They are symbiotic synth organic constructs. The person linked to them can see what they see. They can spit acid and they have two separate glands in their jaws. Think of a poison sack and that would be close. One bite could kill but the other injects a stasis drug and charge.”

Dale grinned, “how do they know which to inject?”

Amanda shifted but let Michaels teach his new partner. He grinned, “they are linked to you and unless you tell them or they feel a direct threat to you they only inject the stasis drug. I have checked and I think my Georgia is the only one to use the poison and kill.”

He looked at me and I shook my head, “Dragon has killed three men.”

Dale looked at me and then at Dragon who looked back calmly. Michaels grinned, “they are very good at sneaking into places and letting us see what we are walking into.”

I nodded and Amanda snickered, “or just sneaking up to play a prank.”

I grinned, “the dead mouse in my desk was not funny.”

Amanda and Michaels laughed and I shook my head, “I am glad Edwards was reassigned to another sector.”

They laughed again and Michaels bumped his partner as we stepped off the slid, “he was a practical joker who for some odd reason Dragon’s daughter linked with.”

The trip to Palia was calm and Dale actually paid more attention once Dragon hissed in his ear while he and I were playing cards. He jerked and looked at her before looking at me and then grinning, “seeing through her eyes?”

Amanda chuckled as she read and Michaels looked up from some shopping catalog. I smiled as I tossed the cards on the table, “consider it a real lesson before someone starts shooting.”

He shifted and scratched under Dragon’s chin, “you are sneaky.”

She purred and climbed over and into his lap. He grinned at me as he kept petting her and sat back. The constable commander for Palia met us when we walked out of the port building. I nodded to him as my eyes scanned around us, “any word commander?”

He shook his head, “nothing and we have looked everywhere.”

I gave Amanda a hand gesture as Dragon leaped into the air. She was joined by Cynthia and Georgia as I gestured to the walk, “know of anyone watching you or doing surveillance?”

He shook his head, “no.”

Michaels spun and began striding towards an old man frozen with Dragon on his shoulder. I glanced at Dale, “you might want to help him with the prisoner.”

He reddened as he went to help Michaels. I looked at the open mouthed commander, “someone was and is watching commander.”

He nodded as he looked around and I sighed, “after this long with no word our marshal may be dead.”

He sighed and nodded, “we think so too.”

I gestured and began walking toward the slid out to our vehicle, “after we have a talk with the watcher and look at the vids we will know more.”

The commander nodded and glanced back at Michaels carrying the man, “how did you know he was watching?”

I watched Amanda checking one of the vehicles, “I saw the way he was paying attention to you and what you looked at.”

I turned as Michaels and Dale reached us, “was he carrying anything?”

Dale held up the small vid camera, “I checked the record and he has a few dozen images of people speaking with the commander.”

I nodded, “check your vehicle before using it and then take him to be truth scanned while you question him.”

Michaels gestured and Dale moved toward the other vehicle. I glanced at the commander, “your people are out of the search commander. We will find our marshal and what happened.”

He nodded and I moved to set my bag in back of our vehicle with Amanda’s as Dragon and Cynthia flew in. I sat in the front seat as Amanda lifted and turned, “want to check out the parking area where he was last seen?”

I smiled, “of course.”

I pulled up the planet constable net and accessed the vid they had stored. I watched as marshal Gilroy left his vehicle and walked past another and looked at it before heading into the market, “freeze vid.”

I backed it up and zoomed in on the vehicle he had looked at and got the registration. I ran it and frowned, “verify.”

The comp shifted and then beeped with the answer I expected, “planet wide registration watch list.”

It searched again before flashing a yellow ring and another vid appeared. I looked at the vehicle sitting outside of a building. I glanced at Amanda, “change direction.”

I gave her the building address and studied the area around the vehicle, “whoever owns this vehicle has security and surveillance.”

I hesitated before calling Michaels, “we may have something. Put the watcher in a cell and meet us. I am switching on my tracker.”

He cleared his throat, “are you sure? We could have a talk with this one first.”

I smiled, “Georgia can frighten him later. If you look at the vid of the parking area Gilroy was in, you see him checking a vehicle. It is unregistered and I have it on another vid now. It is under surveillance and there is discreet security around the building.”

“We will be there as soon as possible... Wait for us?”

Amanda snorted but I grinned, “someone wants a little payback but we can wait.”

I landed on a building a few over and watched the vid while we waited. When the other marshal vehicle landed I got out with Amanda. I sent Dragon to watch the front as Amanda’s Cynthia left and flew down to watch the back. I told Michaels and Dale where we were going before we headed for the stairs and then the building lift.

We walked out the front as Michaels and Dale went out the back. I started walking and scanning the area in front and to the left. Several men who looked like they were loitering straightened as we approached the front of the building. I glanced at the vehicle before turning towards the door. The men moved in from both sides as they started to pull weapons.

One froze and the others stopped as I pulled a pistol and Amanda pulled one and aimed. I gestured to the walk, “on the ground.”

One licked his lips, “we have not...”

He screamed after Amanda flicked a tiny dart into him and the others dropped. I moved to each man and stuck them with a tiny ampule that put them into stasis. I stood as Dragon leaped off the man she had bitten and flew towards me. I started to touch my badge to the door plate before changing my mind. I stepped back and shot the lock and yanked the door open.

Amanda did not say anything as she moved through first. The huge lobby had four men who had moved behind furniture. One came up with a weapon and aimed it before I shot him between the eyes. Another shifted out to fire and Amanda killed him with a shot in the chest. The last two moved together, I shot the one on the left and she killed the one on the right.

I pulled my comm, “constable commander, local.”

The Palia constable commander answered a minute later, “marshal?”

I was walking to the lift and shot the control, “we are at French Alley. Building 8374. Send your rapid response team, contact the fleet base for commando support. I want this building sealed.”

“But we need...”

I growled as Amanda returned from a quick search with Michaels and Dale, “on my authority as a captain in the marshals. Do it or you will be the next one we come for.”

I looked at the others, “we will take the front stairs and you two take the back.”

I yanked the panel off the lift control and reached in to switch wires and freeze the lifts before following Amanda towards the stairs. She moved into the stairs smoothly and fired as I got there. A man was still tumbling down the stairs and an illegally modified rail pistol was on the next landing. I started up and she moved to cover before following as I stopped to cover her.

Dragon and Cynthia both flew ahead and I stopped on the second floor and opened our comm, “watch your back. I am clearing the second floor.”

I slipped out and began moving through the empty rooms. There were packing tables and lots of chemicals. I growled when I saw the label for one of the chemical containers, “they are making Silk.”

I slipped a nose filter in and put on a small mask. Silk was one hundred percent addictive with no known way to stop. I was halfway through clearing the floor when I found someone. Four men in white clean suits were in a large lab. I shot through the haze and the fumes ignited and there was a sudden flash as the room exploded. The men were screaming as they fell and started rolling around on the floor.

I closed the door and moved into the next room and then the next. When I finally returned to the stairs I knocked, “coming out.”

I opened the door and Amanda turned back to watching the stairs, “Cynthia and Dragon had company a few floors up and the constables are here.”

I nodded and moved towards the stairs, “you clear the next floor Michaels.”

“Copy.”

Long before we reached the top floor the commandoes were around and on the building. They and the constables had both been warned to wear masks. We waited for Michaels to let us know he was set before I nodded to Amanda, “go!”

She hit the door latch as I moved through and fired into the waiting men. I shot three before they reacted and Amanda followed me in. Dragon and Cynthia were flying close to the ceiling before dropping onto men. I could hear firing through our comm as Michaels and Dale attacked out of the other stairwell. I shot a man in the chest as I hit one side of the corridor and Amanda hit the other.

The men were panicked as they turned to flee and I spun to fire straight down the middle corridor. A man standing with a military grade rifle jerked back as it fired. The ceiling covering was shredded as he fell and I started to move toward Amanda. I crossed the hall and kept moving as she covered and stopped at a door. I moved through low and fast and found myself in an old fashion freezer.

I straightened and looked at the racks around the room that held bodies. I moved through the room until I saw Gilroy and spun to leave, “I found Gilroy. He is dead.”

I stepped out of the room and covered as Amanda started down the other side. It took thirty minutes to reach the last large room. Michaels and Dale were with us as we shot the six men hiding behind desks piled up together. I walked to the door and placed four door breachers before moving back. A moment later the door shattered and all four of us moved through.

Only one man was in the room and I knew why Gilroy and gone looking for him. He smiled as he held up his hands, “I am not a threat and you know...”

I shot him between the eyes and moved closer after he fell. The others were looking at me as I knelt and poured a liquid all over his face, “get the commandoes. He is to be sealed in a class one bio hazard body container and burned using an industrial incinerator.”

I stood and moved away as his face began to melt and opened my comm and used a star comm link, “commissioner Drake.”

The call was routed and it was a few minutes before his small holo appeared, “Morpheus?”

I glanced at the others, “I need to speak with the emperor.”

He frowned, “what... wait.”

It was a minute before the emperor’s face appeared, “I am busy.”

I nodded and looked at the body on the floor, “I killed your nephew.”

He shifted, “where?”

I looked out the window as two commandoes in complete bio hazard gear came through the door, “Palia. Marshal Gilroy must have spotted him. He was running a major Silk factory. Gilroy went missing and we were sent to find him.”

The emperor sighed, “dispose of the body.”

He smiled slightly, “thank you for calling.”

The holo vanished and I turned to the others as I put my comm away. I gestured to Dale, “go with them and make sure the body is destroyed.”

He nodded and followed as the commandoes carried the container out. I looked Michaels, “this does not go into any report.”

He caressed Georgia, “who was he?”

I looked at Amanda, “the emperor’s nephew. He was supposed to be exiled to his estate but vanished. He was a traitor who tried to have the emperor killed.”

I started for the door, “we need to take Gilroy home.”


Chapter 15

A surprise visit

I looked at the doorway when I heard the outer room go quiet. I stood and moved around the desk once more thinking I needed to move the desk. I stepped out and looked at the eight large men moving through the room and spreading out, “what is going on?”

They ignored me and I growled, “answer or someone is going to die.”

The commander was gone so I was in charge and no one had told me anything about imperial guards coming. A throat cleared, “that would not be good Morpheus.”

I glanced at the slim man I had only met in person once but spoken with many times. I straightened and relaxed, “commissioner.”

He smiled and turned as a young teenage girl walked in with another dozen guards. I shifted and looked around the room, “seal the marshal floors. I do not care if there is a guard on the door check them and seal them.”

My marshals stood and moved quickly as I turned and knelt to bow my head, “your highness.”

She smiled as she crossed to me, “my grandfather sent me sir.”

I looked up and she stopped, “he wishes me to learn advanced hand fighting from you.”

She blushed, “he also said your spouse’s dragon is almost ready to hatch her eggs and I was hoping one might like me.”

I glanced across the room at Cynthia on her stand, “highness we do not always know who they will pick. The baby makes the choice and sometimes we are surprised.”

She laughed, “and Crystal was a good example.”

I nodded and she smiled, “we will cross our fingers.”

I stood as commissioner Drake crossed to me. He glanced around, “we brought a dozen marshals to make sure you would have time to spare.”

I sighed, “it has been slow but with the commander gone...”

He shook his head, “she will not be returning.”

I straightened and he shrugged, “retired commander Jessop is en route. Commander Maloy is needed at the academy.”

I grinned, “she likes teaching.”

He nodded and sighed as he looked at princess Katherine, “I will be leaving in a few days but her highness will be staying until she has what you consider the basics down.”

I looked at her, “I...”

I looked at Amanda crossing to me, “we will put her up in our quarters.”

The commissioner grinned, “so you can protect her.”

I nodded and he turned, “marshal Swift his majesty has a private message for you.”

She looked at me, “okay.”

He held out a data stick, “he said to look at it in private.”

I shook myself and glanced at Michaels, “Michaels? Get with the marshals the commissioner brought. They will need quarters and a desk, open the west expansion. Have sergeant Gregory open the seventh floor and reroute the lifts so they will stop there. Have maintenance set up a station outside the lifts so they are controlled from there.”

He nodded and turned to head towards the lifts as he used his comm. I looked at the commissioner, “the imperial guards can set up there and post their teams.”

He nodded and turned as a tall man entered the room and crossed to us, “your maid is in the lobby with your bags highness.”

He looked at me and smiled slightly, “Morpheus.”

I had met him a couple of times before and smiled, “I thought you were going to retire commander?”

He shrugged, “the emperor was very... persuasive when he asked me to protect his daughter.”

I nodded as the princess grinned, “grandfather does have the ability to do that.”

I took a breath and looked around, “right. I am setting your people up on the seven floor. Sergeant Gregory is getting with maintenance to make that floor the stop point for the lifts with a control station. The princess will stay in my quarters in the guest room. You can put her maid in the next set of quarters since it is empty.”

I looked at Amanda as Dragon leaped from my shoulder to the princess’s, “would you show her to our quarters?”

She smiled and held up the data stick, “want to bet what he wants?”

I grinned as I shook my head, “I know what he wants.”

I glanced into my office at a chime and sighed, “duty calls.”

I looked at the princess, “we will begin in the morning highness.”

I nodded to the commissioner and the commander before walking back to my desk and the comm, “marshal Morpheus.”

“We had a prisoner escape...”

I dropped down the lifts to our quarters and nodded to the two guards pointing weapons. They relaxed as I continued down the hall and stopped at my door. The guard on each side had watched me and let me enter. I walked into the living area and glanced at the maid humming as she ironed a martial arts gi. I shook my head, “go wash them and get all the starch and chemicals out.”

The princess turned from listening to something and holding Dragon and frowned as I headed towards the kitchen. Amanda grinned as she turned from the counter, “I did warn her.”

I shrugged, “if he wishes me to teach her it will be my way and unpleasant.”

She nodded and gestured to the basket Cynthia was laying in, “she and Dragon think they will hatch tomorrow or tomorrow night.”

I looked at the eggs and reached out to touch one before petting Cynthia, “I would say early in the morning.”

She stuck her tongue out as I turned and headed to the wall comm as it chimed, “Morpheus.”

I listened to the building guard commander and headed for the door, “lock the door Amanda!”

The lift stopped on the seventh floor and I gestured to commander Collins, “you need to come with me.”

He blinked and nodded before joining me and the lift dropped all the way to the ground. I passed Michaels and marshal Dale by the front door and stepped out. I barely glanced at the large board telling everyone this was the city sanitation building. Six golems stood still as if waiting and I walked to each to jab a dart into them.

I turned to the commander as he growled and gestured to the guards, “get the techs working. I want their comps dumped.”

They moved out as I looked at commander Collins, “someone knows the princess is here. I would recommend a scramble field around the building to stop anymore that try to enter.”

He nodded and turned to use his comm as I went in. I spoke with Michaels before starting my own check of the entrances. When I returned I waited for Amanda to unlock and open the door before stepping in. I smiled and murmured, “more golems.”

She shook her head, “you would think they would start using a scramble field to shut them down.”

I grinned as I headed towards the table, “I suggested it.”

I woke to the alarm and Dragon nudging my mind. I smiled and reached out to touch Amanda, “the eggs are hatching.”

She was already sitting up and grinned as she moved out of bed, “know it all.”

I went to the guest bedroom and knocked. A few moments later the princess opened the door, “yes?”

I grinned as I headed for the kitchen and Cynthia’s basket, “the eggs are hatching.”

She rushed past me and leaned over the table as Amanda made coffee. I sat and caught Dragon as she flew out to catch the princess. I held her against my chest as the eggs rocked and Cynthia crooned to encourage her babies. The first to break shell split it and stood up as if it owned the world. The princess grinned, “cocky fellow.”

Its head turned to look at her and then at Cynthia before it started walking towards the princess who was holding her breath. It was still damp as it climbed up her pajamas and looked into her face. The princess got a surprised look, “he said I belong to him.”

I smiled, “he said?”

She grinned as she hugged the tiny dragon, “well that was what it felt like he said.”

I nodded, “his name?”

She looked at it, “Nolan.”

I watched the next break shell and look around before Cynthia chirped and it moved towards her. The last egg took awhile before it shattered and a white dragon stepped away. It barely glanced around before heading straight for the princess. I looked at Amanda, “would you get the med scanner?”

She nodded as she scooped Cynthia and her baby up and walked out. The white dragon leaped to the princess who looked at her in surprise. She caught her and held her with Nolan before looking at me, “she thinks I am hers.”

I shrugged, “they have a mind of their own.”

I turned to accept the scanner when Amanda returned and held it out to the white dragon, “what is her name?”

The princess smiled softly, “Alexandra.”

I looked at the readout and smiled, “she may be white but everything checks out normal.”

I gestured to the counter as Amanda went to bring a small plate of ground meat, “they need to eat and sleep.”

While Amanda and the princess cooed and encouraged the young dragons I went to the wall comm. The royal guard watch commander answered, “yes?”

I smiled, “pass it on to all your officers. The princess has been adopted by two dragons. Their names are Nolan and Alexandra.”

“Two?”

I sighed, “yes.”

I disconnected and returned to the kitchen where Amanda and the princess were petting and caressing the three young dragons, “practice in a few hours.”

The princess looked at me and grinned, “not afraid my dragons will bite you?”

I smiled as I looked at Amanda, “not really.”

Amanda grinned and bent to whisper something and the princess grinned. I shifted to the side and brushed the foot up before turning to slid in and strike. I pulled the punch as the princess rolled back and away and came to her feet. She was panting and sweating as I continued to press her. She was very good but like all martial arts she followed a set of patterns.

I finally stepped back and gestured, “take a minute.”

She groaned and dropped to the mat, “and I thought I was good.”

The commander chuckled from the side, “and he is being very careful not to injure you.”

She glared at him, “not funny.”

I smiled and stretched as Michaels walked in and gestured. I crossed the mat, “trouble?”

He nodded, “counselors McBane and Donagal are down in the lobby demanding to meet with the princess.”

I sighed and glanced back, “and they brought their entire staff.”

He nodded, “plus guards.”

I shook my head and looked at the commander who had turned and was listening to his ear bud, “tell the counselors to send their staff and guards away. If they refuse or get belligerent let the building guards try their new zap field and put everyone in the lower detention cells. I will ask the princess if she wishes to speak with them. Also have them searched throughly, we do not need surprises.”

He grinned and turned to walk away as I returned to the princess, “we have a couple of system counselors demanding to speak with you.”

She stood and stretched, “are we done?”

I smiled, “until noon.”

She groaned and looked at the commander, “let my maid know I will need a massage and...”

I cleared my throat and she looked at me. I grinned, “no massage. Shower only, after our evening training session you can ask her.”

She sighed and bowed, “yes master.”

I headed for the entranced, “commander? I had my lieutenant tell the counselors to send the staff and guards away.”

I stopped and smiled sweetly, “if they cause a disturbance the guards have been authorized to use the zap field and put them into detention.”

He grinned, “I will let my men know.”

I looked up from the requests for marshals on my desk and frowned at the man beside Michaels in my doorway, “yes?”

Michaels shrugged, “counselor Donagal demanded to see you to file a complaint.”

I looked at the smug man beside him, “about?”

He took a step into my office, “about your security’s unauthorized use of a zap field and the unlawful detention of my staff and guards.”

I sat back and looked at Michaels, “why isn’t he in detention?”

The counselor opened his mouth as Michaels sighed, “he was in the fresher.”

I nodded and looked at the counselor, “first I authorized the zap field use. Second the order to send your guards and staff away was mine since they poised a threat to the princess. Third the detention of those that refused to leave this building after a legal order is lawful and they can be sentenced to a year in prison. Last, this is my office and the emperor’s building and you will respect it while here.”

I gestured to Michaels, “take him back downstairs. If the princess wishes to speak to him she will let him know.”

The counselor puffed up and took a step and pointed his finger at me, “I will...”

The tiny dart I threw struck him between the eyes and he fell screaming. I growled, “put him in detention after the drug wears off and let the judge know I am filing charges against all of them for trespassing.”

He grinned as he nudged the screaming man, “he and McBane have pissed most of the judges off.”

I shrugged as I looked at my desk, “not my problem. Let captain Darey know we have a few assignments and send Swift and Dale in.”

When Amanda walked in with Dale the last baby rode on his shoulder and he had a strange expression on his face. She had taken him as her trainee since Michaels asked her. I leaned back, “is Dale ready to solo?”

She nodded as she looked at him and I smiled, “marshal Dale I have a prison transfer I need done.”

I tossed the data chip, “it is a military prisoner that is wanted by the constables here on Gable.”

He nodded and grinned at Amanda before walking out and I sighed, “your badge?”

She frowned as she pulled and tossed it. I caught the badge and turned to slip it into the wall slot. I made the change and caught it when it came out. I tossed it to Amanda, “commander Maloy’s last act was to authorize your promotion to lieutenant.”

She grinned, “and we are not over staffed.”

I shook my head and looked at captain Darey as she walked in, “just in time.”

I picked up a small stack of requests, “these should be easy. I wish we were doing them but...”

She grinned as she crossed to the desk, “I saw your people doing routine patrols through the building.”

I nodded and gave the requests to her, “four requests for prison transfers off world and two escorts and one escaped prisoner. That last had a note, the prisoner was a former commando that got into drugs.”

She glanced through them, “we will take care of it.”

I sighed as I stood, “and it is time for another class.”

She grinned, “we watched the building security vid. She is good but predictable.”

I nodded, “that is what I am trying to train her out of.”

The princess was waiting as I removed my shoes and walked onto the mat. Dragon and the two young dragons were draped over a chair. The two young ones chirped and Dragon answered as I bowed, “remember what I told you.”

The princess nodded and bowed before shifting her stance. I slid in and struck as she tried to block and side step. I turned and stepped back as my right hand snapped out to catch Alexandra and the left to catch Nolan, “not this time.”

The princess moved forward, “do not hurt them!”

I turned both squirming animals to look at me, “you need to learn when there is a real threat. Go to Dragon.”

I tossed them into the air and they flapped and flew around. They finally returning to the chair where Dragon chirped at them and they ducked their heads. The princess looked at me and I bowed, “they need to learn too.”

She grinned and suddenly snapped a kick. I turned and brushed it up and she went back and down, “much better but you are sending out tells. You shifted your weight and changed the way you stood.”

She rolled to her feet and glanced at her dragons before nodding. The comm beeped and the commander touched his ear. I crossed to touch the wall comm, “Morpheus.”

“We have two inbound flyers the sats have detected explosives in.”

I shook my head, “notify the fleet commander and when they reach the no fly zone take them out.”

“Copy. The two counselors were sentenced to a year probation. They have both sent in official requests for you to be disciplined.”

I sighed, “Michaels...”

He chuckled, “I informed the nobles council of their probation and they have been officially removed from office. The rest of the counsel has sent a request to speak with the princess.”

I looked at the princess, “send the request to the nobles council and let them know she is only here for training before returning to her grandfather.”

I disconnected and returned to the mat as commissioner Drake walked in. The princess began to move and I moved with her, “watch how you place the back foot and relax more.”

It was an hour before we were done and the commissioner cleared his throat as the princess sagged to the mat, “the system elected counsel is upset.”

I shrugged, “they have always been arrogant and tend to think they have more power and authority than they really do.”

He nodded, “and are trying to bypass the nobles counsel to get the emperor to grant even more power.”

I smiled, “not my problem until they break the law.”

I looked at the princess, “come back at five.”

She nodded and stood before her two dragons leaped into the air as she started for the exit. I smiled as I watched her hesitate as they reached her and landed on each shoulder. The commissioner chuckled and I looked at him. He shook his head, “I wanted to speak to you alone.”

I waited and he shrugged, “we... the emperor and I thought she might acquire one of the dragons. That was why she was permitted to come. With all this elected counsel nonsense and the attempts on her life the emperor would like to bring her home.”

I nodded, “it would be safer and she is more than capable of defending herself.”

He looked around and I noticed the way he blushed, “and what else?”

He looked at me, “for some reason his majesty has taken a personal interest in your family. He has asked your sister if she would consider having a child.”

I knew there was more and waited and he took a breath, “he has asked Ms Swift to consider having a child.”

I was not surprised but turned to look towards Dragon as she flew towards me, “why?”

Commissioner Drake sighed, “that I am not sure of.”

I looked at him and he shrugged, “he would not explain it to me.”

I shook my head, “Amanda would have to leave the service.”

I headed for the exit, “I will speak to Amanda.”

I went to shower and change before returning to my office. I stopped in my doorway, “Michaels?”

I waited as he crossed the room, “the princess will be leaving either tonight or tomorrow. Get with the constable commander and her detail commander and arrange a no fly corridor to the starport.”

He nodded and headed for the lift as I called Amanda. I sat in one of the two chairs in front of the desk and a moment later she sat in the other. She smiled, “the commissioner told you?”

I nodded and she glanced at Cynthia flying through the doorway, “he will have to wait until we decide to retire.”

I grinned and relaxed, “he asked Samantha.”

She looked at me and grinned, “now that I want to see.”

I caught Dragon as she dropped onto my lap, “she was already thinking of it. She will make a good mother.”

Amanda nodded, “and it will be good for Domino.”

I smiled as I thought of that and then sighed, “I will let you tell his nibs we are going to wait.”

She grinned as she stood, “want to bet your adopted father knows?”

I stood and smiled as I headed for my desk, “no. Simon always seemed to have inside information.”


Chapter 16

Pirates

I glanced at the door when Simon stopped in it. He smiled and leaned against the frame, “I have a mission for you.”

I sat back and pushed the data films away as I reached for my ready bag, “tell me it is off world.”

He laughed and nodded his head, “a prisoner transfer to Graham.”

I stood as Dragon leaped from her perch and flew towards me, “let Amanda know I went out?”

He chuckled, “she is down in dispersing getting your vouchers.”

I stopped when I reached him and sighed, “Simon...”

He put his hand on my shoulder, “it has been three months since the emperor asked. You have made your choices but the two of you have not had much time together. Go do the prisoner transfer with Amanda and spend some time together.”

He handed me a data chip, “while you are out take a little time to go over the paperwork side of running things with Amanda.”

I took the chip and nodded before leaving and going down to dispersing. Amanda grinned and gestured with three packets, “and I did not even have to shoot the new android.”

I grinned and we headed for the lift, “we can take your vehicle.”

She snorted, “since you have not drawn one in a month it is the only one we have.”

I glanced at her and sighed, “you do not have to stay on guard. We both made the decision. You might have spoken first but it was what I was thinking. If or when I change my mind I will let you know. Children right now would distract me.”

She smiled and bumped my shoulder, “and if Simon talks you into it?”

I laughed, “I sent a text to Samantha and she said to send him to her before the baby is delivered.”

Amanda grinned, “I think they would be good for each other.”

We took the lift up and then went through and up the stairs to the roof. I relaxed as we flew towards the starport and pet Dragon in my lap. Cynthia crawled onto my shoulder a few minutes later and I smiled as I pet her, “Simon wants me to go over the paperwork with you.”

She groaned and I smiled sweetly, “I think he found your punishment.”

She grinned and set the vehicle down, “I heard a rumor that we had another commander coming.”

I climbed out as dragon climbed to my other shoulder and headed towards the prison doors. The guards had the prisoner waiting so we only had to sign for him before leaving. Of course he was one of those people frightened of animals and Dragon being on his shoulder terrified him. Everything went smoothly even if we were on a cargo transport.

It was when we jumped into the Graham system that everything changed. We were pushing our prisoner out of the jump room when the captain jerked and looked at us, “trouble.”

I looked at him as he stood, “what?”

He started for the hatch, “we have a ship closing fast and it does not have a transponder.”

I looked at Amanda and she grinned, “a pirate?”

The first officer went past, “do not even think it.”

I followed him and the rest of the crew with my eyes before looking at Amanda, “stay with our prisoner.”

I turned and started running for the bridge. I had never been there but I knew where it was. I caught myself at the hatch and looked at the captain and the bridge crew, “well?”

He growled, “pirates.”

I nodded and started to turn, “use the intercom to let me know which airlock they use.”

I trotted back to the cabin and opened the door before walking to Allison as Amanda relaxed and stuck a needle in his neck. I caught him when he collapsed and moved him to the bed, “we have pirates coming.”

I straightened and turned towards the door, “I plan to meet them at the airlock and take the fight into their ship.”

I opened my bag and pulled out nose filters and my laser and looked at Amanda as she dug in hers. Five minutes later we were in the corridor as the captain came on, “the starboard aft airlock!”

I turned and began to run with Amanda following and Dragon clinging to my shoulder. Several of the crew were already at the airlock when we reached it. I pushed through them and nodded to the first officer, “move your people back and set up a cross fire.”

I went to the evac suit rack and pulled one off as Amanda joined me. We put sonic blockers in and I opened the inner hatch and stepped in to wait after closing it behind Amanda. From an inner pocket I pulled a sphere and pushed a tiny button before dropping it. We moved to each side of the outer hatch and pulled slim lasers and waited.

It was several minutes before there was a clang and a minute later the hatch slid aside as bursts of sonic explosions started. Four men were in combat suits but without the helmets as they rushed in. They folded as they breathed in the invisible gas from the sphere. I turned around the hatch frame and shot the next two swimming towards the hatch.

Amanda leaned out to shoot another two while I moved to slip needles into the downed men. She spun and dove into the tube as she shot two more and started pulling herself along using the bottom hand holds. I shot another pirate aiming at her from the other end of the tube. She reached the other airlock and I dove in and followed her as she kept firing and covered me.

When I rolled out and stood she was stripping out of the evac suit. I ripped my suit off and moved to the inner hatch. Amanda hit the open panel and I moved through and dove as men fired plasma weapons. I shot three as Amanda shifted around the edge of the hatch to fire in the other direction. Both Dragon and Cynthia had taken to the air and flown into the ship.

A few moments and men were yelling and screaming and I came to my feet and started for the corner, “take engineering!”

I put the laser away and pulled my weapon. I moved around a corner quickly with it up and fired into three men rushed towards me. They went down and I started moving and climbed up a level as I headed for the bridge. I stopped at the closed bridge hatch and looked at the security pad. I grinned as I input a marshal override code and lifted my weapon.

An alarm began screaming and the hatch slid open. I shot the two men holding weapons in the shoulders and threw a dart into another. I moved onto the bridge as the last man began screaming. The other two were on the deck as they writhed around. I kicked weapons away from all three and knelt to turn each and put slim plastic restraints on them before putting them out with needles.

I turned and left and headed back to engineering as I opened the marshals comm, “bridge secure.”

When I reached engineering Amanda was playing pot shot with a single man hiding behind feed lines. Cynthia kept bitting a man as he shifted while sitting at a console and I growled, “move Cynthia.”

She looked at me and spun to leap into the air as I aimed and fired. The man was reaching out slowly before the round hit the side of his head. The last man screamed as both Dragon and Cynthia struck and Amanda moved towards him. I moved to the man I had just shot and knelt to check him before putting restraints on. I pulled out a small vial and put a tiny smear of blood in it before standing.

I added a drop from a popper vial as I headed for the hatch. I glanced back before I stepped out, “watch the one I shot. It was just a graze but he is a Stat user.”

A Stat user uses an extract from stasis drugs so it feels like he is moving faster. The side effect is that it makes it harder to put them into stasis. Of course when Cynthia’s stasis venom begins to wear off he is not going to like how it feels. I began to slowly and carefully search of the rest of the ship before moving to the airlock and calling the first officer.

I waited until he peeked around the hatch on his ship, “have a couple of your men come across. Send the others back through and let your captain know the pirates are either dead or in custody.”

He nodded and began giving orders as I searched the men in the airlock and outside in the hall. Next was to pull those alive together and then move all the bodies across to another airlock. Amanda began running ident scans on both the living and the dead. I searched the captain’s quarters and was sitting behind his desk when she came in.

I glanced at her, “they are working for someone on the planet.”

She nodded as she crossed to the desk to give Dragon a rub, “all the pirates are listed as prisoners.”

I sat back, “escaped?”

She shook her head, “according to the scan data they are still in prison.”

I looked at the log I had been trying to access, “this was a seized small transport that is listed as planetary property.”

Amanda growled as I used the desk comm, “fleet base Graham, commanding officer.”

It was a moment before someone answered, “commander Jennings line, lieutenant Davis speaking.”

I sighed, “this is marshal Morpheus I need the commander.”

“The commander is sleeping. He will be available at...”

I growled as I leaned forward, “lieutenant, I am a captain in the marshals. You will wake the commander right now or I will have you before the emperor on charges of treason.”

The line was silent for several minutes, “commander Jennings.”

I looked at Amanda, “commander on my authority you are to go to condition red. I want all guards and personal in the prison taken and replaced including the warden. Detain the system constable commander and get a combat shuttle up to the Brewer. On the starboard aft airlock is a converted small transport. We have the crew in custody for piracy. The ship is listed as seized planetary property and the crew are all listed as prisoners.”

“You think... aye sir, seize the prison, detain all prison personal, the constable commander and send up a shuttle.”

I stood, “we will take the shuttle down so send up a skeleton crew for the ship. I would also begin high orbit patrols until we know how far this goes.”

“Yes sir.”

I headed around the desk as I disconnected, “if you watch these I will get our prisoner and our bags.”

Amanda grinned as she turned to walk out with me, “babysitting sleeping prisoners.”

While I was on the cargo ship I spoke with the captain. I carried our prisoner back with our bags. I went to the ship bridge and sat in the captain’s chair as I connected to the star comm using a priority encryption, “commissioner Drake.”

It was a couple of minutes before it was answered, “do you know what time it is?”

I grinned, “since you ask probably in the middle of your night.”

“What do you need?”

I looked around the bridge, “we had a pirate try to take the ship we were on. The crew are all listed as prisoners. The ship is a seized ship belonging to the Graham system.”

He growled, “did you take... never mind. You know to take some alive. I will wake his majesty and get imperial warrants to authorize the prisoners to be compelled to speak.”

He disconnected and I stood to go back to the prisoners. It was forty minute before the military shuttle docked with the pirate ship. The first one through the airlock was a captain in the commandos. Four more followed him and he nodded to us, “marshals?”

I nodded and he grinned, “we always have fun when you lot decide to shake things up.”

He turned and gestured back into the shuttle and a dozen men started through, “we brought the crew for the ship.”

He waited until they had gone further into the ship, “we have the prison and all the guards including those off duty. The warden and deputy warden are both screaming for their legal rep. The constable commander is ready to skin someone.”

I nodded and turned to start moving the sleeping prisoners into the other ship, “we are going to need a transport to the marshal building and a couple of men.”

He grinned and gestured to his men, “I was hoping you would say that.”

Once the shuttle moved away it dropped and began a rapid descent and began using electronic countermeasures. We landed without incident and I woke the prisoners. The large transport was more than large enough. I let Amanda drive as I watched the prisoners and ignored their threats and pleadings. Word had leaked out about relieving and holding everyone from the prison as well as the constable commander.

We set down in front of the marshals building and I got out first. I looked around before nodding to Amanda and the commandoes. They began moving the prisoners out as I headed for the front doors. I touched my badge to the door scanner and looked at the lobby guards and the small crowd of people. To one side was a group of armed commandoes guarding a courtroom door.

I started towards the imperial court with the prisoners following. A small man strutted towards me and I shifted as Dragon stood on my shoulder and mantled. That stopped the man who glared, “under whose authority have you detained...”

I gestured for Amanda and the commandoes to continue into the court, “mine and the emperor.”

He sneered, “you have no right...”

I stepped closer to him, “and who are you?”

He looked me up and down, “assistant governor Mossen.”

I smiled and glanced at the guards who look nervous, “let me be very blunt assistant governor. We captured a ship in the act of piracy. The men that crewed the ship are all listed as prisoners. The ship is a seized vessel of the planet. Now I will find out who is responsible and they will face imperial justice. If it involves the government I will arrest those people for treason.”

His face had paled as he looked around, “and if we decide to invoke independence?”

I smiled, “then I arrest you for treason and the fleet begins planet wide sweeps using what force they deem necessary to put down the rebellion.”

I stepped closer and he backed up, “are you telling me you are rebelling?”

He swallowed and looked for help and I reached out to pat his cheek, “tell you what. Why don’t you come along and you can explain your view to the emperor and the judge?”

He stammered about being to busy as he tried to back away. I let him go and looked at the crowd and realized several were constable captains. I gestured to one of the guards, “escort the constables up to the marshal conference rooms.”

He nodded and turned as I walked into the crowed court with men arguing. I pushed my way through and touched my badge to the pillar. A holograph appeared with two men and I bowed, “I was not expecting you sire.”

He smiled, “I decided to shorten the process.”

I nodded and turned, “who is the warden?”

A man was pushed out and stammer that he was. I removed my badge and gestured, “place your hand on the pillar.”

He shook his head, “I want my representative.”

I sighed, “warden Nelson, the men I captured are supposed to be prisoners in your care. Now you signed waivers concerning your job and under the imperial articles I do not need to have your representative here. You will place your hand on the pillar or I will do it for you.”

He looked around before moving forward and putting his hand on the pillar. He stiffened and I turned to nod to the judge who began questioning him. It turned out he did not know anything about the prisoners and I snorted and gestured to a commando, “take him out.”

Next was the assistant warden and from the first moment I knew I had one of those responsible. He tried to fight placing his hand on the pillar and then tried to fight the compulsion to speak. It did not work and he began naming names, including assistant governor Mossen and two guards that had helped release the prisoners. The constable commander had not been involved.

I grinned and shrugged and he smiled, “safer this way.”

I nodded and gestured to one of the commandoes, “escort the commander out. If you want commander your captains are upstairs in a conference room. I am sure you would not mind sending a few of your men out to arrest those not here.”

He grinned as he turned and strode for the door, “my pleasure.”

I smiled and looked at the closest commando, “let your commander know to seal the planetary militia armory.”

He nodded and spoke into his comm as I turned to pull one of the two guards named to the pillar. I got the same names and the hint of a reason which was a coup and rebellion. I glanced at the dark face of the emperor before having him restrained. I cleared my throat, “sire?”

He growled, “I will have a team there as soon as possible. We have not even had a single complaint or I would have some idea what the hell is wrong.”

I smiled and turned to the next man and he was shaking as he put his hand on the pillar. After him I sent those guards not involve back to the prison and began questioning the pirates. They were quick to plead for mercy but the judge was having none of it. When the commandoes led them out it was to head back to prison for a death sentence.

Amanda grinned as she pulled our prisoner after her and fell in beside me, “so?”

I smiled and glanced at the prisoner who was very somber, “so we drop off our prisoner and go find assistant governor Mossen.”

She chuckled, “want to bet he has a few men waiting?”

I sighed, “no.”

The commandoes had already taken the large transport so we had to summon one. Once we got to the prison all the guards and the warden were in the entrance. I nodded to the commanding officer for the commandoes guarding the prison, “go ahead and release the prison back to them.”

He grinned and turned to the red faced warden, “it has been a pleasure sir.”

He gestured to his men and began making calls. I pushed our prisoner towards the warden, “if I were you warden I would pay a lot more attention to your job. I am sure the emperor will send someone to do a review. I can see slipping a single prisoner out but a whole crew of pirates?”

Amanda held out a screen for him to sign for the prisoner. The prisoner hesitated before reaching up and petting Cynthia, “good hunting marshals and I hope you get whoever is responsible.”

I smiled, “try not to con anymore people.”

We headed for the door and Amanda chuckled, “that is a first.”

I nodded as I headed for our vehicle, “lets try the assistant governor’s office. He struck me as self important and may try to use his office to stand us off while he rallies the planet.”

She snorted as she opened the door and climbed in behind the controls, “he can access the emergency comm net for the planet and claim the emperor is attempting to take total control of the planet.”

I grinned as I sat and she lifted and opened my comm, “duke Cross.”

The harried looking man that appeared in the tiny holo glared at me, “what the hell are you and the emperor doing!”

I sighed, “capturing a ship full of pirates? The men that freed them and the ones trying to rebel against the empire?”

He blinked, “pirates?”

I smiled, “your grace, you need to use your secure room. Shut the emergency broadcast system down and contact the fleet commander and the emperor. Follow your training and everything will be fine.”

He nodded and turned as the comm shut off and Amanda laughed, “scatter brain.”

I shrugged, “perhaps that is why the assistant governor thinks he can rebel.”

The vehicle settled on the roof of the central government building. I opened the door and waited for Amanda before heading for the roof access door. I shifted as we got closer and Dragon leaped into the air with Cynthia. I went to the left as Amanda went right and the two guards that burst out waving weapons were between us.

I flicked a tiny dart and both men began to scream as Amanda did too. They fell and I moved their weapons away before following her in the door. Two men were inside the door frozen against the wall with Dragon and Cynthia on their shoulders. Amanda went first and headed down the stairs with her weapon out. The door on the top floor was locked and the access plate had been smashed.

She snorted and I grinned as I pulled a knife and pried the panel open. I looked at the damage and then at her before I reached in and crossed two wires. There was a click and Amanda hit the door and went through. She started shooting as I followed and found her running while six guards fired at her. Dragon and Cynthia were flying towards the men but would not be in time.

I fired rapidly and the first two went down as their heads exploded. The other four jerked as they realized she was not alone and Amanda reached the huge desk she was running for. She dove over as I continued to fire and another man went down. The other three turned to fire at me and Dragon hit one and bit into his throat while Cynthia struck another by spitting acid in his eyes.

They went down screaming and the last man looked around in panic before I shot him in the head. I changed the magazine, “clear.”

Amanda peeked over the desk and then stood, “well that was fun.”

I snorted as I walked straight to the huge double doors of the governor and kicked out. They crashed open and the governor stood behind the desk holding a pistol in hands that shook, “stop!”

I shook my head, “first you need to take the safety off. Second pointing a weapon at an imperial marshal is grounds for us to use deadly force. Third we need the planetary governor so drop the damn weapon before I shoot you.”

He looked at the several other men in the room, “you are here to arrest me so the emperor can take over the planet.”

I snorted, “are you stupid? The emperor has enough to do without having more headaches. We are here searching for assistant governor Mossen who has financed pirates and supported escaped prisoners. This little coup ends now. You are imperial citizens, use half a brain.”

The governor blinked, “Mossen?”

I growled, “put the gun down. Get with the duke and stop this nonsense.”

He looked at the gun in his hand before setting it on his desk, “but Mossen said you were here...”

I looked at the other men in the room, “where is he?”

The governor gestured to the door, “the building armory.”

I spun and walked out, “stupid politicians.”

Amanda chuckled as she fell in beside me, “want to bet he has men with him?”

I shook my head as I walked into the stairwell, “no.”

The climb down was long and when we reached the bottom neither of us was in a good mood. I used my badge to override the door lock and glanced at Amanda. We both had our weapons out and I hit the door and went through. I went right and knew Amanda would go left as I shot a man lifting a rifle. Amanda shot another beyond him as I started down the right side of the hall.

I yelled as I moved and shot a guard moving into the hall with an assault riffle, “Imperial Marshals! Mossen you are wanted for treason, bribery, piracy and conspiring in a prison escape!”

I heard him a moment later, “it is a trick! He has killed the governor and has come for me!”

I snorted, “the governor is alive and in his office!”

“You lie!”

I glanced at a building intercom I was passing and grinned. I used my badge, “the governor’s office and connect to the building speaker system.”

It was a moment before he answered, “yes?”

I watched the armory door a few paces away, “assistant governor Mossen is in the building armory with guards. He has told them you are dead.”

He hissed, “I am not dead and this nonsense stops now! You tell the guards to put their weapons down and stay the hell out of your way. I just got off with the duke and the fleet commander. That son of a bitch Mossen has the empire thinking we are all pirates and thieves. Put him in chains marshal and I will hang the bastard with my own hands!”

I grinned as the speakers echoed his words and I heard Mossen, “that was not... stop! Let me go! Do not...”

There was the sound of someone striking flesh and then quiet. A voice cleared its throat, “we are coming out!”

They shoved Mossen out first and followed while showing empty hands. I moved forward with Amanda and yanked the assistant governor towards her as I watched the men. She slammed him face first into the wall as I began to check each man for weapons, “report to the Marshals building and courtroom one. I will vouch for you with the emperor and unless you lie he may over look this.”

They looked at each other and one cleared his throat, “you are not going to take us in?”

I looked into the armory, “you were conned. Do as I told you and we will not have to hunt you down.”


Chapter 17

Protégé

It was late and I still had several reports to review and four requests to decide on. I glanced at the door when a dragon flew in and landed on a chair back. I sat back and then grinned, “it has been a long time Samantha.”

The dragon chirped and was answered by her mother on her nest. I looked at the door as an older Cambra walked through it and she grinned, “hey kid moving up.”

I came to my feet and moved around the desk and caught her in a hug. I stepped back, “where have you been?”

She looked around before sitting in a chair, “playing second seat to a commander that wanted more field time.”

I grinned, “you are the new commander here?”

She nodded, “there are a lot of new things going on.”

I sat on the corner of my desk, “like?”

She let her dragon crawl down into her lap and pet her, “like your protégé Michaels, like Drake retiring. Like the new marshal commissioner coming out to spend time with marshals from line marshals to you and me. Like a new disbursing system and several station couriers for each sector.”

I blinked, “couriers?”

She grinned, “mostly they are fleet couriers.”

I nodded and she sighed, “he does not know it but Michaels is up for promotion.”

I smiled, “why and why not Amanda? She has the same type of record.”

She shrugged, “there is a new policy going into effect. We have a lot more marshals going through training. Almost enough to begin manning all the planetary stations. Since you and Amanda are... mated she is linked to you.”

I shifted, “they...”

She held up her hand, “our sector is going to be the first one they try this on. Each sector will be spilt and the captains will supervise a subsection. Their subsection will have a new lieutenant under the captain and a senior lieutenant to run another subsection.”

Cambra grinned, “the commander will have a captain, sergeant and two marshals. The other captain will have a lieutenant, a sergeant and two marshals. In his subsection the lieutenant will have a sergeant and two marshals. Each station on a planet will have one or two marshals.”

I thought about it, “so Amanda is up for promotion just not yet.”

She stood and started for the door, “and you are up for commander.”

I groaned and she laughed, “put that on hold and come have dinner.”

Since Amanda was home it was like old home week. She was exited about the new organization and they sat together talking about it for several hours. I remembered her words about Michaels, “what did you mean when you said Michaels was my protégé?”

She turned from Amanda and grinned, “in case it has escaped you, the extra things you do tend to rub off. First on your training officer.”

She grinned and winked at Amanda, “and then on your partner. Michaels has been watching you train and exercise and has picked up a lot more than you think. In fact you are going out with him on his calls to evaluate him. You get to promote him when he is ready and then you, Amanda, one of the sergeants and a couple of deputies are going to take over the station.”

I frowned, “and the new commissioner?”

She snorted, “the first few days he is with me and then you, followed by Amanda and then down the line to a sergeant and then a deputy.”

I nodded and relaxed and pet Dragon while I thought about it. I grinned, “does that mean I can split the paperwork with Michaels?”

Cambra laughed as Amanda grinned, “only if you check it after.”

Amanda laughed and we went back to talking and gossiping. When I walked into office the next morning I stopped at the door and looked across the outer office, “Michaels?”

He looked at me and stood before crossing the room, “you got something for me?”

I smiled as I looked him over and saw the hidden darts I had not noticed before, “in a way. You are with me for a few days while I evaluate you.”

He lifted an eyebrow, “for?”

I headed for my desk, “take a wild guess.”

He followed me in, “Amanda is...”

I held up a hand and gestured to a seat, “junior to you and it is complicated.”

He sat and I started reviewing the reports from last night and talking to him about what to look for as I slid them across the desk. After that we went through the requests and sent out three marshals including Amanda. I stood and grabbed my bag and grinned as I headed for the door, “the last we get together.”

He laughed as he followed and called Georgia and went to grab his bag. I looked into the commander’s office to see Cambra with a new officer, “I am taking Michaels out for a recovery on planet.”

She nodded and turned back to the marshal while I turned and headed for the lifts. Dragon landed on my shoulder before I reached them and Michaels joined me just as I stepped into a lift. I glanced at him, “you work the recovery while I watch.”

He nodded and cleared his throat, “Amanda should be considered for promotion.”

We walked out of the lift and started for the front door, “what makes you think she is not up for one?”

I stopped when I saw the elder gentleman talking with the two door guards. I started walking again and stopped next to the guards, “commissioner Alexander?”

He sighed as he looked at me and then straightened, “Morpheus. I was just trying to explain to these men that I have business on the marshal floors.”

I shook my head, “where is your guard sir?”

His face reddened, “I thought that since I was going...”

I sighed and shook my head, “you have your ID?”

He nodded and I gestured to the guard, “scan his ID and let the shift commander know we have the new imperial marshal commissioner with us. Find out where his bags are and have them brought to the building. Contact commander Cambra and send him up.”

The guards nodded and glanced at him as I headed for the door with Michaels. I glanced at him as we crossed to his vehicle, “Drake is retiring and Alexander is replacing him.”

He grinned as he opened the door, “it should be interesting.”

I snorted as I sat, “you do not know the half of it. They are splitting up the stations.”

He lifted and looked at me, “what?”

I relaxed and brought up the fugitive on my comp, “my guess is you will go to a major system with a new lieutenant a sergeant and a couple of men.”

He looked at me again, “and you?”

I sighed, “they want to promote me which means Amanda will be my captain and we may have a sergeant and two men.”

He shook his head and turned down a narrow side street, “but they are really splitting up the station?”

I nodded, “at least a couple of men will be assigned to each system. Those from the academy will still have to be partnered up for training and evaluation.”

Michaels sighed as he slowed and checked an address before settling to the ground, “it is going to cost a lot more to travel.”

I opened the door and stepped out with Dragon clinging to my shoulder, “actually they will have fleet couriers stationed on the planets to provide transport.”

He grinned as he started for the main door of a housing complex. I followed and watched as he used Georgia to check the apartment before unlocking the door with his badge. I had chosen the fugitive for a reason. When Michaels came in the man dove to one side as he reached for a weapon. Michaels did not even slow as he threw a dart.

The man stiffened for a moment before he grabbed the weapon and turned. Michaels had continued towards him as I pulled my weapon. I did not need it as Georgia landed on his head and reached around with claws. She stopped before blinding him and he froze and dropped the weapon. Michaels bent to pick up the weapon, “ser Adams I thought we would meet again.”

The man shifted but Georgia growled and he froze, “you win marshal.”

An hour later the fugitive was back in prison and we were back in my office. I sat back, “why did you use the dart on him?”

He grinned as he pet Georgia, “you mean because of his drug resistance. I did not want to kill him and knew it would give me and Georgia a couple of moments. He has a phobia about losing his eyes since they regrew the last ones.”

I nodded and turned to look at the new paperwork and pushed it across the desk, “I will check it.”

He nodded and moved closer before he started to work and I turned to see Cambra with commissioner Alexander. She stopped in the doorway, “the duke and his noble council asked for a mediator.”

I blinked, “that is not...”

She waved, “the mediator will be the governor but he asked for someone to assist and advise him regarding imperial law.”

I sighed and stood, “the government building?”

She nodded and turned away but commissioner Alexander cleared his throat, “would you mind if I went with you?”

I snorted as I let Dragon leap to my shoulder, “you are a noble sir. If the duke agrees you can dance on the table.”

Michaels laughed and stood but I gestured, “you finish the paperwork and I will check it when I return.”

He grinned as he moved around the desk as I headed for the door. The commissioner glanced at me several times while we walked. He finally smiled, “his majesty thinks very highly of you and so does commissioner Drake.”

We walked out onto the roof and I held the door to my vehicle, “his nibs still upset?”

He grinned as I walked around and opened my door. Dragon dropped to the seat and walked across to the commissioner’s lap. He waited for me to start the vehicle and lift before answering, “you mean because you and marshal Swift chose not to conceive a child?”

I glanced at him as I headed to the central government building which was not far, “yes.”

He snorted, “I believe he actually laughed. He said it would not be much longer anyway.”

I shook my head as I landed in a reserved parking spot and got out and looked around. I went around and opened his door and waited for him to get out with Dragon clinging to his shoulder. I stayed beside him as we walked to the roof lift and went down to the top level. We walked out and down the wide hall towards a large desk.

Three assistants worked the desk and one stood, “marshal Morpheus?”

I nodded and she smiled and turned to lead us to a set of large double doors. We spent the rest of the day on the floor below with the duke for the system and his nobles who had grievances. The next step for them if they were not resolved would be to bring them before the imperial court or the emperor. I only had to stop the governor twice to advise him.

Each time he was surprised but thanked me before thinking about it and then continuing. The issues were petty or seemed that way but to the nobles they were not. They involved their rights to managed their estates and lands as well as the people working and living on them. It was late when we finished and I watched as he had all the nobles sign the agreement he had worked out.

By the time we returned to our building the commissioner was grinning. I let him go at his quarters and went down to my office. I started checking the paperwork and glanced at the door when Michaels appeared. He grinned and came in to sit down, “Amanda is on her way up.”

I kept checking the reports and dropping them into the accepted slot for the commander’s review, “and?”

He chuckled, “her prisoner tried to poison her and Cynthia bit him. He was using some type of anti venom agent and it seemed to enhance the poison and the anti venom she used made it worse. They were just telling me at the prison that the doctor had to sedate him until he finds something to counter everything.”

I sighed and reached for the comm, “I would just let the bastard scream.”

I gave the prison doctor a chemical to use and suggested they put the prisoner in a detox cell for a week until all the chemicals had worked their way out. I glanced at Amanda when she walked in and disconnected, “I did warn you of the possibility someone might have an anti venom agent in them.”

She grinned as she pulled Cynthia down and onto her lap as she sat, “it was fitting.”

I finished and sat back as I looked at Michaels, “good work. Tomorrow you get to do the building inspection with the security commander of the guards. This month the commander will also need a complete walk through of our common and living areas in case they have to do a response. I want you to check the accesses and the security systems.”

He grinned, “and if I need maintenance?”

I looked at him and he nodded, “post a guard until whatever is repaired or replaced.”

I turned to access the central government building security vid. I copied the nobles mediation and sent it to his comp, “review the mediation and give me a brief on the subjects I had to advise the governor on and why.”

He nodded and I turned to dump all the new paperwork into my inbox. I sorted through it and set the reports aside and sent the new requests for marshals to Michaels, “review the requests and list the officers you would send and why.”

I shut everything down and stood, “you have an hour before you go home. If you need more time come in early.”

I started around the desk as Amanda grinned, “but you stay late.”

I grinned as I pulled her up, “but he has a new senior lab tech that just made supervisor and wants to celebrate.”

She laughed as she walked towards the door with me and looked back, “tell her we said congratulations.”

Michaels chuckled as he kept looking at his comp, “how did you know she was promoted?”

I stopped to look back, “as a captain you have to keep an eye on things like that.”

The next morning I reviewed what I had given Michaels with Camdra while sipping coffee. Commissioner Alexander was listening and paying attention but did not speak. I leaned back when I was done, “I think he is ready. I will check how he does today but that is basic work for a marshal.”

Cambra nodded as she leaned back, “you have been acting commander twice.”

I smiled at the change of subject, “yes.”

She turned and brought up the huge wall comp screen, “the first time was a little shaky until you got the hang of it. It is not like being a marshal, more like being an administrator.”

I nodded, “not what I like but someone has to do it.”

We both snapped to our feet at the building security breach alarm and started for the door. I hesitated before looking back, “stay here sir.”

Alexander nodded and I gestured to Dragon when she flew in. She swerved around me and flew towards the commissioner. Ten minutes later I was in the basement of the building with Cambra, Michaels and the security commander of the guards. We were looking into the stasis haze as six demolition experts in anti stasis and protection suits disarmed anti matter bombs.

I looked at the commander, “how did they get past the detection screen?”

Michaels growled, “they tunneled in.”

The commander nodded and I looked at Cambra and then looked at Michaels, “what countermeasures should we use?”

He smiled, “seismic and thermal sensors in every room below ground as well as additional explosive detectors.”

I smiled, “and?”

He looked at me before grinning, “sonic detectors.”

I nodded as Cambra snorted, “plus vid cameras monitored by the security AI.”

I turned to head back upstairs, “nothing I can do here but we need to move commissioner Alexander.”

Cambra followed while Michaels stayed to watch. When we returned to her office the commissioner stood as Cambra smiled and walked around her desk. She gestured to me, “your badge.”

I sighed as I pulled it and tossed it to her. She grinned as she handed it to Alexander who pulled the badge from the case. He turned to push it into a slot in the wall behind the desk. There was a flash and he was pulling it out and replacing it in the case before handing it to her. She grinned as she tossed it to me, “want the good news or the bad?”

I growled, “bad.”

She laughed as she sat, “the good news is you get to promote Michaels and Swift. The bad news is you and Swift were selected to teach at the academy.”


Chapter 18

Academy

I had gone over the class several times and for some this would be their last chance. I stood with Dragon on my shoulder and watched the huge holo of the suite of rooms. The next candidate came through the door suddenly and seemed to drift in and to the side like she was a shadow. She slipped around a corner and into the next room before she paused.

I frowned but she moved to one side instead of straight across. Captain Delk snorted, “she is a careful one.”

I ignored him as she stopped beside the last door and reached out to feel it before placing a breaching charge. I straightened as the door shattered and she rushed in and to the other side, “IMPERIAL MARSHAL DO NOT MOVE!”

The suspect stopped moving as she came closer and reached out and turned him. I smiled as she shifted and turned and the kick that snapped back was swept up. The man went down hard and she went with him and touched the barrel of her weapon to his head, “try it again.”

She put the restraints on him and yanked him up and searched him before pushing him out. I gestured as I turned, “have cadet Skyler see me in my office.”

Dragon was on the back of the chair across from me when she entered my office. She crossed to the desk and looked at me calmly but I could feel how alert she was, “you wanted to see me?”

I gestured to a chair and she slipped to another before she sat. I looked at her for a moment, “tell me cadet, do you know where or what I was before I became a marshal?”

She opened her mouth before closing it and glancing at Dragon. She nodded, “you were raised and trained in the assassin school of Hades.”

I smiled, “and where were you taught?”

She licked her lips as she looked at me, “I...”

I held up a hand, “more than being a marshal is at stake.”

She looked down before looking at me, “my father was known as Asp.”

I nodded, “is he still working or retired?”

She smiled, “retired with a wife and a half dozen children.”

I sat back, “why did you falsify your entrance application?”

She snorted, “the daughter of a known assassin?”

I shook my head, “your father was very good but outside of the school he was not known.”

She blinked, “but...”

I held up a hand again, “Asp had left the school not long after I got there. We knew him of course but he received his missions from the grandmaster.”

I turned and glanced out the large window, “you have put me in a position. Now I must redo your background and do a complete evaluation to decide if you are here because you want to be a marshal or for some other reason.”

She sighed, “that was why I did not say anything.”

I snorted, “do you have any idea what the next step involves?”

She shook her head and I turned back to her, “the next step for those that pass the fugitive recovery phase is an indepth truth scan. If your father put blocks in place or altered you, the scan would find it and you would be facing more than me.”

She nodded, “my father did not put blocks in or alter me.”

I gestured towards the door, “return to your class. By tomorrow I want your true background and your skills.”

She stood and headed for the door and stopped and looked back, “what if I had decided to kill you?”

I grinned, “the three weapons trained on you would have prevented it but the chair you choose would be the one to really stop you.”

She looked at it before grinning, “stun, I should have known and you used the synth to distract me.”

I gestured, “we will speak again.”

She left and a panel opened and lieutenant Mark stepped out. He looked after her, “how do you know she will not try to run?”

I turned to start grading, “I do not but after the school was taken Asp was never heard from except when he withdrew what could only be called a stake.”

I looked at him, “you have a class in an hour.”

He snorted as he walked out, “I could do it in my sleep.”

I watched him and let Dragon fly and land on my shoulder. I sat back to think and finally turned and used the secure comm. Commissioner Alexander appeared and frowned, “Morpheus?”

I sighed, “I have a problem. The daughter of one of those from the school is here. Her father dropped out of sight after the school was shut down. As far as our records show he never worked after. There is no planet or imperial want or warrant for him in any death. I would like to contact him with his daughter present. She passed the fugitive recovery phase so you know what is next.”

He glanced to the side before nodding, “do it but let him know we will watch him. Also have the senior marshals do the indepth scan and watch for avoidance or misdirection.”

I snorted, “have you ever had an indepth scan sir?”

He frowned, “well no, just the regular truth scan in front of the emperor.”

I shook my head, “believe me, you do not have a choice and can not try misdirection or avoidance.”

He blinked, “I see I will have to come over and have a go at it.”

I smiled as I reached out to disconnect, “I will sweep and seal the room so your secrets do not get out.”

I turned to the desk and reached up to pet Dragon, “one problem down a thousand more to go.”

She rubbed against my neck as I went back to grading. It was the last class of the day and I had fifty new cadets. Behind me on the wall was a constant changing screen. I looked at each of them, “if you become a marshal there are thousands of ways to die and only a few from or by a prisoner. You can call this chemistry or you can think of this as advanced poison avoidance therapy.”

They laughed and I held up a tiny dart, “it does not look like much but if it is one of the deadly poisons it could kill.”

I looked at them, “volunteer?”

A young woman stood, “I will.”

I gestured to those around her, “catch her.”

They shifted and nodded and my hand flicked. She jerked and screamed as she began to spasm. The other cadets caught her and tried to hold her while she writhed around. I moved forward and removed the tiny dart and she sagged and panted. I walked back to the front and turned to look at the cadets, “that was just a simple electro chemical that produces pain and then amplifies it.”

I nodded and Dragon suddenly dropped from the ceiling and onto the shoulder of a cadet that was passing a note. He froze as she touched her teeth to his neck, “now there are other drugs that are used like the stasis drug but be warned there are ways to counter it. There are as many or more natural poisons that can be used or altered.”

I gestured and Dragon turned and leaped to fly to me, “most are neural toxins and some can kill in only a couple of minutes.”

I looked at them again, “now for the rest of this class you are going to go over ways the poisons can be delivered.”

They nodded and I looked at the cadet Dragon had landed on, “Mr Young. You are already walking a very narrow line. What I and the other instructors teach you will keep you alive.”

He snorted, “this is just class.”

I looked at him calmly, “you think your uncle the duke will help you get through?”

He grinned and I nodded, “very well Mr Young you may return to your room and pack.”

He stiffened, “you can not!”

I smiled, “actually I can. I had a marshal like you that was supposed to help a team find and bring in the killer of another marshal. His disregard for other marshals and contempt for the one in charge almost cost the lives of four marshals. We do not regard rank like anyone else. I am as likely to escort a prisoner or do a recovery as a new marshal just out of the academy.”

I gestured to the door, “I will notify your uncle that you were not suited to be a marshal.”

He stood slowly as his face reddened, “I will appeal.”

I nodded, “good luck with that.”

I waited for him to leave before turning back to the class, “means of delivery.”

I watched and walked through the room as they worked and even gave a few hints. Five minutes before the class ended I spun and my hand flicked. Mr Young was in the doorway with a pistol and dropped to the floor screaming. I straightened as I walked to him and knelt to take the weapon before standing. I walk back to the front and turned.

I let him continue to scream and turned to the class, “tomorrow I want a list of chemical counteragents for the stasis drug. I also want the most common antidote for neural toxins. Dismissed.”

I turned to the desk and bent to touch the comm, “security.”

I leaned back as I pet Dragon and listened to Amanda tell me about her day and the hundred dumb things the students did or said. I glanced at the large door vid screen when the cadet touched the announcer, “come in.”

Cadet Skyler stepped in when the door slid open and looked at Amanda before crossing to me. She held out a data stick, “I really do want to be a marshal sir.”

I nodded and set the stick down, “would you contact your father and let me speak with him?”

She hesitated, “just speak?”

I smiled, “there is no warrants for him and he is not wanted by the empire.”

She blinked and opened her mouth before her eyes narrowed, “how do I know you are telling the truth?”

I gestured to one of the other chairs, “marshals do not lie to other marshals.”

I waited for her to sit as Amanda moved and sat on her other side. I pet Dragon, “first I have already spoken with commissioner Alexander. I wish to talk with your father and I am sure he knew this was coming. We will watch him of course, just as the empire tends to watch anyone as dangerous as we are. Tomorrow you will be first for the indepth scan.”

She nodded and took a breath, “you could just get the information then.”

I nodded, “and we would have even if you had not told me who your father was.”

I looked at Amanda before looking at her again, “many people and especially cadets think the scan is our way to find out their secrets. The truth is it does but what it tells us about the person is more important. From that one scan we learn your character, your inhibitions and your desires. In short after you complete the scan we will know if we can trust you to be a marshal.”

She looked surprise before grinning, “I did not think of that.”

I smiled, “you will not be able to use a drug or compound that will not be detected to beat the scan. We will know your complete bio before the scan even starts and it will be adjusted as needed.”

She nodded and then took a breath, “I will call father.”

I gestured and Amanda turned to pull a comm remote from the wall and toss it. I caught it and handed it to the cadet. She was nervous as she entered the address but a few moments later the starcomm was answered, “Pet?”

I smiled as she blushed and reached out to take the remote, “she is here Asp.”

He was silent, “what do you want?”

I relaxed, “this is Morpheus. Your daughter is at a stage in her training where we do an indepth scan. You knew this was coming before she left home.”

He sighed, “yes.”

I smiled at his daughter, “you are not wanted and you do not have any warrants. First I need to know if you have altered her or done anything to her.”

He snorted, “I did not need to. My daughter is a natural and very smart.”

I nodded, “so far she is at the top of her class. She said you have retired.”

He chuckled, “well from our old life yes. I do earn money doing surveillance here on this planet but I have a license.”

I looked at Amanda, “you know we will watch you now. I think you knew that was coming.”

He sighed again, “yes. I was not there when the grandmaster... when your sister was killed. I never agreed with the sadistic bastard when it came to torture. That was why I left the grounds as soon as I could. Treat my daughter fairly Morpheus.”

I smiled as I looked at her, “I treat all cadets fairly. Let me know if you wish to come to the graduation.”

He chuckled, “I have nothing against the emperor. I will let you know.”

I disconnected and relaxed, “now you only have to worry about classes. Go to bed, the scan is going to be very through and after it is over the cadets are pushed hard to see if they will crack.”

She grinned as she stood, “sounds like my dad’s training program for me.”

After she left I rubbed my temples before standing. Amanda caught my arm and pulled me towards the bedroom, “relax. Either she is telling the truth or she is not. If she is she will be a marshal and if she is not we know her and will send her home.”

Of course my night was broken by the two cadets found dueling with stun wands. Then a cadet was caught trying to sneak into another cadet’s room to pull a prank and then...


Chapter 19

Dead station

Three years teaching new marshals was both rewarding and frustrating. It ended just after the emperor stepped down and his granddaughter ascended to the throne. She was the one to swear the graduating class in. She had visited us many times while we were here. Sometime just to vent and try to get past my guard while sparing, other times it was to give advice or ask it.

I glanced at Amanda in her civilian clothes and smiled as she kept feeling her pelvis, “still want to wait to have it moved to an artificial womb?”

She grinned and stuck out her tongue, “yes.”

Dragon chirped and Cynthia poked her head out of Amanda’s bag. She looked up at her before looking at Dragon and answering. I grinned as Amanda snorted and started for the shuttle, “come on.”

The empress had spent a full day with Amanda shopping somewhere and when they returned Amanda had changed her mind about children. Not only that but her grandfather was sending his doctor out to remove and place the embryo into the artificial womb. I glanced at marshal Skyler as she caught up, “and did his nibs tell you to guard her?”

She smiled sweetly, “and her majesty.”

Amanda shook her head, “why?”

I grinned as we walked into the small private shuttle, “did you see the empress when her dragon’s eggs hatched?”

She grinned as she took a seat, “it reminded me of us when ours hatches.”

I nodded and looked at Skyler, “I heard captain Michaels is retiring to be with his spouse.”

She laughed, “he spends hours playing with their twins.”

I sat beside Amanda and glanced at the copilot, “Samantha sent me a message that they are opening the womb for her third baby next week.”

Skyler was speaking with the copilot as Amanda glanced at me, “and how does Domino feel about another daughter?”

I grinned, “the oldest has him wrapped around her finger.”

When Skyler came back to sit we talked about something else. The trip to Kent did not take long on the small courier and then we were taking a shuttle down to the planet. By the time we walked out of the starport Skyler was more than ready to get back to her own station. The moment I walked through the doors of the Marshals building I knew something was wrong.

I shifted and held my hand out, “get her out now!”

Skyler pulled Amanda back as I dropped my bag and moved into the room. I could see one foot sticking out from behind the guard desk, “Dragon.”

She leaped into the air towards the desk and I saw two dead guards through her eyes. I did not see wounds and slipped nose filters in before moving to the desk. I went around and squatted beside the bodies and examined them before I stood. I reached out and pressed a large red button on the desk and flashing red lights went off with loud sirens as the building was sealed.

I turned and started checking the courtrooms before using the stairs and going to the next level. This floor was for the guards and their offices. What I found was more dead... a lot more. I used my comm and called the planet constable commander. When his comm was answered it was by an assistant, “constable commander McBeth’s comm.”

I headed for the next floor, “this is marshal Morpheus. I need a full response at the marshals building.”

The man snorted, “sorry marshal but that is your responsibility and our officers have a lot on their plate right now.”

I growled as I looked out at dead bodies in the hallway of the next floor, “whoever the hell you are get me the constable commander now! You tell him marshal commander Morpheus wants a full response and if he is not here with it in ten minutes I am coming to shoot him for treason!”

I disconnected and called Amanda, “I am on the third floor and so far everyone is dead. You know where the safe houses are. Get to one and stay there until you hear from me.”

She growled, “I can...”

I cut her off, “poison gas is still circulating through the building and you are pregnant.”

“Damn it Morpheus!”

I smiled as I started for the next floor, “see you later.”

While checking the floor I called the fleet base and the commander. Like the constables an assistant answered, “this is Lieutenant Murphy, the commander is busy right...”

I broke in, “this is marshal commander Morpheus. I need to speak with the commander now.”

The lieutenant cleared his throat, “I will have him call you back...”

I snapped, “lieutenant I told you who I am. Now you find the commander and you give him the damn comm or I swear I will have you shot.”

It was a few moments before the commander came on, “who the hell...”

I growled, “shut up and listen commander before I relieve you. My name is Morpheus, marshal commander Morpheus. Now I am issuing a class three chem or bio alert and need the marshals building sealed and a containment field established. No one is to enter without a full containment suit. I need a decon unit at the front entrance as soon as possible. We are going to need a lot of body bags and your best medical examiner.”

I looked around the marshal floor at several dead and growled as I spun and headed for the stairs, “everyone inside is dead.”

He was quiet when he answered, “I will send everyone marshal.”

I disconnected as I opened the door and started down. The crowd of constables outside the front door looked pissed as I came out the stairwell door and crossed the lobby. The commander moved to the door as if I would let him in. I stopped at the desk to shut the loud sirens off before moving to the door. I gestured, “stand back, everyone in the building is dead. We have a level three chem or bio threat.”

The commander’s face went white, “when...”

I cut him off, “seal off everything from the street in. Fleet is sending people to seal the building and decon but you need to make sure no civilian gets close.”

He nodded and turned to start barking orders. I went back to the desk and accessed the comm and then made a call on the star comm. It was a minute before commissioner Alexander appeared. He smiled but I shook my head, “the station on Kent is dead. I will be recalling all marshals from the satellite stations. This might be a direct attack against imperial authority.”

He straightened, “I will let the empress know. She might want to send one of the fleets in just in case.”

He hesitated, “Amanda?”

I smiled, “safe but not happy.”

He smiled and then straightened, “find who did this and bring them in.”

The star comm ended and I turned to look out the lobby windows. It took six hours to seal the building and then decon each floor and remove the bodies. By then I knew what poison had been used and knew Dragon and I were immune. All the marshals assigned had been recalled and I was reviewing all security vids. I found the single maintenance man that had carried a long tank of something in.

It was the same tank the fleet decon team had found as the source of the poison. I was running the building bio scan data when the constable commander stepped into the tent. I glanced at him and turned, “time for us to speak commander.”

He stiffened as he crossed the floor, “you do not command the constables on this planet.”

I nodded, “normally you are correct but you as their commander know under what situation that is not true. Marshals do not and have not wanted to do your job. We do not want to oversee you or tell you how to do your job. However there are times when we must command and you as subjects of the empire are required to obey.”

I looked at the comp when it stopped with the identity of the suspect, “you and your constables have a hard enough job without becoming aggressive with the marshals or turning into traitors. We support you whenever you ask and expect the courtesy returned.”

He cleared his throat, “it does not seem that way with all the marshals spread out to different systems.”

I looked at him, “and has the marshals here not been able to do what was asked or expected of them?”

He blinked and finally shook his head, “no.”

I downloaded the data to my comp and stood, “than we are agreed. We both serve the people and help each other.”

He smiled and nodded and I started for the door, “Dragon.”

She leaped from the small folding table and flew to land on my shoulder as I stepped out of the tent. I nodded to the commando beside the door, “let the commander know I have an ID on a suspect. As soon as your people are done they can return to the base. Let them know I said thank you and will send a few cases of ale.”

He grinned, “thanks sir.”

I snorted as I started walking, “just marshal.”

I took a marshal vehicle to the city work yard and set down in the restricted area by the gate. I walked in and headed to the office and a pretty woman stood as I opened the door. She frowned at Dragon on my shoulder as I crossed to the counter and set my badge on it, “I need the location of city worker Dolan Edward Algorson.”

She looked at the badge and turned to a comp terminal, “just a second constable.”

I waited until she looked at me, “he is working in shop four. I can have security bring him up or...”

I turned, “I am a marshal not a constable and I will get him myself.”

I stopped at the door and looked back, “if you contact him and warn him I am coming you will face the death chamber with him.”

Her face went white as I left and walked around the office and headed into the complex. At least each large shop had very large numbers that could be seen clearly. When I stepped into the shop there were a dozen men working on machinery. Dragon leaped into the air as several turned to watch. I walked deeper into the shop and searched for the man I had come for.

I found him in the back using a laser welder. I glanced at the men following me with large wrenches in their hands and kept moving. When I reached Algorson he glanced up and then past me. I shook my head, “put the welder down and your hands up.”

He grinned, “why?”

I shifted slightly, “because if you do not I will shoot you in both shoulders before I break your legs.”

I pulled my weapon and brought it up to point at one of the men moving towards me, “interfere with me and I will kill you.”

He froze and licked his lips, “you can not kill all of use.”

I snorted as I kept looking at Algorson, “actually I can and will. This man is a traitor and will be going to the death chamber. If you interfere you will not live to join him.”

They looked at each other and Algerson shifted as one hand made an adjustment to the welder. Dragon landed on his shoulder and bit and he froze with a look of shock before falling. I turned to look at the other men, “last warning.”

One cleared his throat, “what did he do?”

I glanced at him, “he killed seventy three people.”

They looked at each other before backing away. I put my pistol away and put restraints on Algorson before using a popper to bring him out of stasis. I yanked him to his feet and shoved him in front of me as I headed for the front of the shop, “move dead man.”

He tested the restraints, “you will not be able to hold me. The duke will make you release me.”

I snorted, “he does not have a say in this. You will be tried before an imperial judge or possibly even by the empress.”

He laughed, “the duke says we are separating from the empire and your laws do not apply.”

I smiled, “really. And was he the one to have you use the poison gas?”

He smirked, “it worked. Just wait until...”

He shut up as we walked out the door. I glanced around as I started pushing him towards the front gate. I glanced at the office window and the pretty secretary on her comm, “how long before he sends someone to silence you?”

He glanced back, “He would not. I am his loyal...”

I shook my head, “you are a puppet and a dupe. He will have someone else ready to kill you before we even reach the marshal building.”

He struggled with the restraints, “you can not take me there.”

I smiled, “yes I can. I am immune to the poison you used.”

He jerked back and away from the vehicle as we reached it and tried to kick. Dragon put her teeth against his throat and he froze. His eyes looked around, “we are putting new tanks of coolant in all the building on the base.”

I looked at him as I opened the vehicle door and shoved him in and turned on the pressor field. I pulled Dragon out and went around to climb into the vehicle. I lifted, turned and accelerate as I opened the comm. It was a moment before it was answered, “this is Lieutenant Murphy, the commander is busy right now.”

I growled, “listen to me closely Mister. This is marshal commander Morpheus. Tell the commander there is a level one threat to the base and his people. All buildings are to be evacuated and searched for tanks of poison gas attached to the circulation systems. I am on my way and will explain when I get there.”

He snorted, “we will discuss...”

I disconnected and maxed the acceleration and hit the siren and lights and used a marshal override code. When I flew over the base boundary alarms went off. I hit the brakes as I dropped and slid to a stop in front of the fleet command building. They were not evacuating but the commandoes on the door had brought their weapons up.

I stepped out of the vehicle and held up my badge as I strode towards the door, “you two sound the base alarm and call the provost marshal. Tell him poison gas has been placed in some or all of the buildings and get everyone out.”

The commandoes in the lobby hesitated as I strode in and I let the weapon alarm continue to sound, “start evacuating this building!”

I reached the lift and went up to the command floor. When I walked out into the command lobby soldiers and commandoes were yelling over the building alarm and asking what was wrong. I growled as I headed across, “get the hell out of the damn building!”

I kicked open the commander’s door to see him arguing with someone on a comm with a lieutenant beside the desk. I started across the room, “get your people out of the building commander.”

I looked at the lieutenant, “you are lieutenant Murphy?”

He nodded as he tried to sneer and I reached for him and spun him and bent him over the desk, “you are under arrest for treason and disobeying a lawful order of a marshal.”

I looked at the open mouthed commander as I put restraints on, “wake up commander the base is under attack! Get your people out of the buildings!”

He spun and started barking orders as I yanked the struggling lieutenant up and reached for the commander and pulled him towards the door, “talk and walk sir.”

Five minutes and we were outside with the large crowd of fleet support personal. I explained about what my prisoner had said and turned the lieutenant over to the provost marshal who was livid when he heard what I had to say. They caught the contracted maintenance men before they left the base and found all the tanks of poison gas.

I turned my other prisoner over to the provost marshal to hold before I headed towards the other side of the city. The commander had sent up fighters and shuttles and found several dozen unregistered killer sats. I made another starcomm and it was answered right away. I nodded to the empress, “it is not good. Seventy three people were in the building.”

I glanced ahead, “the man behind it claims duke Quick is behind it and the system was separating from the empire. Men hired by him were caught on the base planting more tanks of poison gas in the buildings. There is also unregistered killer sats up and around the planet. The commander under his own authority has shut down all comm service to or from the duke’s estate and his government building.”

I dropped lower to the ground as I went through the security screen around his estate, “he is also sending two commando companies to secure the militia armories and detaining any that are formed up.”

She hissed and glanced to the side, “admiral I want two fleets in that system.”

She looked at me, “detain him and the other nobles and hold them. I am on the way and will judge them.”

I straightened, “ma’am that...”

She gestured, “just put the bastard in a cell until I get there Morpheus.”

The starcomm disconnected and I did not know if she had cut it or the commander. I slowed and came to a stopped in front of the wide manor doors. I stepped out with Dragon clinging to my shoulder and started for the doors when six armed men pushed them open. I did not even pause or slow as I brought my pistol up and shot the first two in the head.

The other four realized they were exposed and tried to seek cover and use their weapons. They managed to do neither as I shot two more through the body as they dived to the right. I shot the other two in the back as they turned to flee back into the building. I stepped over their bodies and into the manor and looked around, “seek Dragon.”

I headed towards a wide hall as a servant held up his hands, “where is he?”

He stammered and glanced back and into the hall and I gestured, “get out.”

I stepped into the hall with my pistol up and saw two soldiers trying to aim at Dragon. I shot one in the head and the other spun and lifted his weapon before Dragon spit acid. He screamed and dropped the weapon as he grabbed his face. I strode down the hall and kicked open the door they had been guarding. I spun and moved aside as more soldiers started firing.

I reached into my suit and pulled a small sphere and squeezed it before I tossed it into the room. I heard one say it was just smoke. I waited and they began to scream and I put nose filters in and gestured for Dragon to stay. I walked into the room and the dozen soldiers in it were writhing area on the floor in agony. At one end and behind a massive desk I found the duke with two very large bodyguards.

I yanked him onto his stomach and put restraints on him. I moved around the room and used tiny thumb grav restraints on all the soldiers. I pulled them out and into the hall before yanking the duke up and shoving him towards the manor entrance. Dragon dropped onto his shoulder as I used a small popper vial to quiet him. A dozen soldiers were outside when I shoved him out.

They pointed weapons and I shook my head as I lifted my pistol, “drop them.”

They hesitated and the duke shifted before Dragon bit. He screamed and jerked and the soldiers quickly let the weapons fall. I started pushing the duke toward my vehicle, “I have maybe thirty minutes to get you to the anti venom before you die.”

I gestured to the soldiers, “inside.”

They backed around us and to the door before going in and I spun to shove the duke into the vehicle and hit the pressor. I pulled Dragon out and moved around to open the door and slip in. I lifted, spun the vehicle and accelerated and reached back to use another popper. Once I went through the estate screen I opened the comm to the fleet base commander.

He answered quickly, “Morpheus we caught three companies staging to move on key positions.”

I nodded, “send out reaction teams and bring in all the nobles. What is the statues on the killer sats?”

He chuckled, “we captured one and destroyed all the others.”

I disconnected and called the constable commander. He answered a moment later, “yes?”

I checked around me as I approached the marshals building, “we need a private meeting commander. I need to give you sensitive information. I would also like to request your response team go to duke Quick’s estate and take everyone into custody. I need every comp or scrape of document inspected. Also you might want to look at your sub commanders in case the duke has subverted them.”

He sighed, “I suppose you want me to come to you.”

I smiled, “no. As soon as I tuck my prisoner away I will come to you.”

The empress arrived two weeks later and by then I had half the marshals on station and investigating each and every noble. The constable commander had found two of his sub commanders subverted and paid off by the duke with orders to kill him and take command in his place. The lieutenant was questioned under truth scan and had also been paid off.

In all sixty people went to the death chamber and twice that were sent to prison. The empress stayed another month before leaving. She had personally stood beside Amanda when the baby was moved to the artificial womb. Both Dragon and Cynthia had been very protective of the womb and tended to remain with or near it.


Chapter 20

Roving commander

I shifted the carrier with my infant son on my chest and glanced at Amanda as she pushed the stroller with our daughter. She smiled and ignored my look, “you are a commander and can carry your son.”

I snorted, “just because the empress has me roving for the next year does not mean you and...”

She lifted an eyebrow, “we are not staying here and playing house.”

I growled, “I knew I should have staked you out on the beach with Samantha, Domino and Simon.”

She grinned, “now I might have stayed there.”

Jewel peeked out of the stroller as we reached the gate for the shuttle up to the liner. That had been a surprise, Dragon chirped at her daughter who answered before climbing out and onto the top of the stroller. Amanda snorted as I showed the attended our tickets. She grinned as she opened the door, “just in time to board ahead of the rush.”

An older woman sniffed, “allowing pets to ride with people.”

I looked at her as Amanda laughed and went ahead of me, “pets?”

I shook my head, “you must not watch the news or you would know they are not pets.”

An older man behind her chuckled, “I saw the two save the empress and that strange old man she was visiting.”

I laughed as I followed Amanda and thought about Skyler’s father and how he had covered the empress and taken her down. She had been extremely embarrassed about how easily he had done it too. The four men that had managed to get that close had been part of a new school we were still looking for. Of course Nolan and Alexandra not only injected poison, they sprayed acid.

I helped Amanda move the stroller and sat my son in the special chair we had requested. People were boarding as I finally sat and watched them. Dragon had climbing into the seat with Simon but I did not need her to alert me when I saw the very stocky woman. I came to my feet as she started to pass and my pistol touched her temple, “go ahead.”

She licked her lips and I growled, “one...”

The man behind her shifted but I ignored him, “two...”

He stiffened and started to fall and the woman began to move. She froze with a look of shock before she began to scream. I let her fall and glanced at the other man and with Cynthia still on his chest. I looked towards the shuttle door and the attendant, “you just had a hold for this shuttle. Get everyone off now.”

I pulled my comm and called in, “this is Morpheus I have two assassins on the shuttle to my liner. Contact fleet intel and have the provost marshal send a squad with stasis containers.”

I knelt and pulled the needle out of the woman who I knew was a man in a bad disguise, “amateurs.”

I touched her neck with a popper as she began to react. She stiffened and I shook my head and stood to look at a calm Amanda with her pistol in her lap. I grinned, “now why would assassins target me now?”

She shrugged, “you have been a pain to any and every assassin and this new school may want to strike first.”

It took two hours before we could catch the last shuttle up to the liner. We put the children to sleep once we were aboard and then carried them to the jump room. The liner had an extra shock pod ready and we put them inside before sitting. After we left orbit and jumped I helped Amanda up and opened the pod. All three dragons were inside on the baby and my daughter.

We went to a lounge and woke the baby and Camdra. I sat back as Amanda began reading and absently tossing brightly colored balls. The three dragons took turns flying after and catching them while my daughter sat and watched. When we took the shuttle down a few weeks later the attendant was quick to help us first. I carried my son off with Dragon on my shoulder searching for a threat while I towed our bags.

Amanda pushed the stroller with Cynthia on her shoulder looking alert and young Jewel was on the top of the stroller. When I walked into the marshal building I touched my badge to the door scanner and kept going. The guards looked at each other as Amanda stopped to enter a code before following. I stopped at the desk, “let your commander know the temporary marshal commander is here.”

They looked at my son and grinned before nodding. Amanda had already gone up in the lift and I sighed as I followed. I pushed the bags into the lift and went up to the marshals quarters floor. I found the temporary quarters door open and walked in and let the bags go. Amanda appeared from the hall and grinned as she helped me take the carrier off, “now you can go play.”

I stuck my tongue out before I turned to go to the marshals offices. I glanced at the two marshals as I walked towards the commander’s office. She glanced up when I stepped in and grinned as she sat back, “Morpheus you are a welcome sight.”

I smiled and walked to a chair to sit as Dragon leaped and glided to the desk. Commander Sinclare had been promoted at the academy and was one of the few people that could listen to any dragon. She rubbed under Dragon’s chin after she landed and looked at me, “mostly we have been dealing with escorts. Sometimes I think this plan that spread us out is a waste of time and resources.”

I nodded, “the empress has been having her own doubts. Commissioner Alexander has gone so far as to ask an imperial auditor to look at the actually costs.”

She blinked as she sat back, “really?”

I shrugged, “perhaps I am becoming old fashion but we either need a single team on each planet or everyone at the sector headquarters again.”

She grinned, “a team being a captain, lieutenant, two sergeants and four deputies. That was what you suggested we should have in the academy.”

I smiled, “which we do not have.”

She sighed as she looked at her desk, “mostly you have a lot of reports to review and requests to redirect. I will only be gone for a month and if you need...”

I waved a hand, “I will find you if we need you but do not lose sleep.”

She nodded and started her briefing before I finally waved her out and took her place. It was both easier and harder running a sector with everyone spread out. I caught up as it began to grow late and shut everything down to head down to our living quarters. The moment I stepped out of the lift my senses began to scream. I spun and stepped aside as a projectile went through where I had been.

Dragon had leaped into the air as I drew and fired through what looked like a solid wall at the end of the cross corridor. I moved closer and there was a crash and suddenly the wall was falling. The woman that fell with it released a sphere and I spun and took a step before I dove. The sphere exploded and I felt a searing pain lance through my right calf.

I rolled to my feet and caught Dragon and checked her before cradling her in my arms. I glanced back as the apartment door opened and Amanda appeared with her weapon in her hand. A couple of other doors opened and I moved to the wall intercom by the lift, “this is commander Morpheus. We have a breach in the building security. I have a dead assassin on the eighth floor residential wing.”

I looked at the two marshals as Amanda frowned, “you need to contact the constables. They need a bio containment bag and the examiner needs to be warned of contact poisons and possible explosives on and in the body.”

“Yes sir... do you want us to station a guard at the door?”

I snorted, “no need to risk one of you. If an assassin gets into my quarters they will not be leaving.”

“Four guards are coming up to secure the scene sir.”

I sighed, “make sure they know to look and not touch.”

I shut the intercom off and walked towards Amanda, “still think traveling around with me is a good idea?”

She patted my chest, “just find out why they are coming after you and where the school is.”

I nodded and turned to look at the other marshals, “tomorrow is going to be a busy day so get some rest while you can.”

One grinned, “sounds good but the assassins probable will not sleep.”

I snorted as I glanced back at the lift, “after they finish I am sealing the upper floors.”

It was a couple of hours before the guards and the constables left. The assassin had several unpleasant surprises on her. I sat in the common area of our set of rooms and relaxed as I let my mind drift in meditation. I turned my head when Amanda came out to feed the baby before I stood, “I will be in my office.”

She nodded and looked at me, “you know the assassin could not have followed us so how did it get here?”

I smiled, “and what does that tell you marshal?”

She stuck her tongue out before grinning, “that one was waiting or the school may be here on this planet.”

I nodded, “which is why I am calling the fleet commander to put a company of commandoes on call. I will search the power and sewage usage per residential...”

She snorted, “look for high sewage usage in a commercial area too.”

I blinked before I nodded, “that is a good idea.”

When I reached the commander’s office I called the base and then brought the marshals in that were here and explained what we were going to look for. Amanda had been right, ten minutes and I had three hits on commercial buildings that were together with high sewage output. I pulled up the sats and we stood in the outer offices to look at the screen.

I began pointing out hidden vid cameras and disguised sentries or watchers. I called the base and summoned the company commander and platoon leaders for the commandoes. I let the building security commander know we had the commandoes coming and to send them up. I also had the other marshals monitor and block the guard comms.

Sergeant Meaks hissed and turned and I looked up from planning an initial strike on one of the properties. She looked at me, “one of the guards just tried to make a call to an encrypted comm.”

I nodded, “go take the guard and put him or her in isolation. Try to get something but if you can not call a judge for a truth scan.”

She nodded and started for the hall and the lift. I looked at the other three marshals, “monitor anything leaving those buildings and track whoever it is. Use the sat thermals to get a bio lock for identification.”

One nodded and turned away and I went back to planning. I glanced at the commando officers when they walked in. I leaned back and smiled, “we have a major problem and the empress needs your people to deliver a message.”

The company commander grinned, “with a sledge hammer.”

I nodded, “exactly.”

I turned and began going over what we had and what the commandoes needed. When I was done they left quickly and I called the constable commander. I headed through the building with the other marshals and unlocked a large room. I walked to a booth and stripped and set everything I had on a table beside the booth. I entered my marshal badge number and stepped in and suddenly a dozen arms were attaching special armor.

This was something new the empress had brought in. When I stepped out I caught Dragon and lifted her to the padded shoulder especially designed for her. I moved to the side and opened a locker and took out weapons and put them on. I looked at sergeant Meaks as she rushed in, “did you get anything?”

She growled, “he took something that brain burned him.”

I nodded and finished before heading for the door, “we meet at the ready point.”

When I walked out of the lift in the lobby several guards turned and straightened. I headed for the front door and opened the suit exterior speaker, “lock the building down. Seal all the doors and do not let anyone but marshals in. Activate the comm scrambler and monitor all hard lines through the lobby desk.”

I walked out and crossed to my vehicle and activated the security monitor and watched as it was scanned for explosives or poison. I growled at the red blinking light and entered a command to the suit. It was several minutes before a line of black marshal vehicles landed in the street and blocked traffic. The others were already out beside me and waiting and we walked to the vehicles and got in.

I made a check to see if anyone had left the target buildings while I drove. When I landed it was beside a platoon of commandoes in suits of combat armor. I strode towards the captain, “ready?”

He nodded, “my other platoons are in position.”

I checked my comp and gestured as I opened the suit comm to all frequencies, “only take prisoners if they are unarmed. If they have a weapon shoot and do not take chances. These are trained assassins that have already sent people after the empress. Secure each and every point of entry or exit.”

I nodded to the captain as I started towards the corner of the building that blocked the row of warehouses. I started to trot with a platoon following me and my marshals. One fired and the door I was heading for exploded before I reached it. I went through and several people spun from loading a vehicle. They were pulling weapons and I shot one.

I shifted to fire again as my marshals entered and fired. The men went down and I headed towards one of several doors, “find the way down!”

There was firing from other buildings as I broke through the door I was headed for. I slowed and carefully looked around the room before moving towards what looked like an open and empty closet. I shook my head as I touched the light switch beside it and the floor started to drop. I moved quicky and two marshals and a half dozen commandoes crowded on with me.

The floor dropped down about ten meters before stopping. We were just off a large open area and I held out my arm to stop the others from rushing forward. I knelt and looked across the room and let Dragon leap into the air and fly across. She spit acid on a panel and it began to emit sparks as pops and zaps appeared all across the floor.

I pulled my weapon and started across the room towards the only door. The others followed as Dragon leaped into the air and flew around until I opened the door and she dove through. I saw the people through her eyes as I shoved the door wider and fired into and through the door. The woman behind the door jerked and spun and the weapon she held was flung away.

Others down the hall started to fire as I knelt but the commandoes opened up and they were jerking and falling back. I stood and moved to the left side of the hall and started forward. I heard the marshals and commandoes coming down as those with me split up on each side of the hall and followed. One bent to check those that had been shot as I reached a corner and looked through Dragon’s eyes.

I pulled a sphere and tossed it before moving. There was a bright flash and then an implosion. Four people screamed as they died and I moved past what was left of them. I gestured to a door across the hall and the commandoes and a marshal breached it and rushed in. Room by room we moved through the maze like complex until it was secured.

Next was the hard part as I went through every room and searched for hidden doors. Those I found we treated as if they held someone or were trapped. They might have been training to be assassins but they were really no more than trained killers. In what had been their grandmaster’s quarters I found the last hidden door. Dragon used acid to melt the lock and bypass the traps.

When the door slid aside auto fire exploded out and into the room. We were prepared and not exposed and a implosion grenade was thrown in. As it went off I spun to enter and saw a woman lean out and fire. I felt the burning plasma as it hit the right shoulder of my armored suit before I shot her between the eyes. I moved into the room as a man came out of what looked like a solid wall.

He was lifting a rifle when two marshals following me fired and his body jerked and he spun and fell. At the other end of the room I found another door and moved to the side. As it began to open I looked through Dragon’s eyes and saw the richly dressed man lifting a plasma burner. I shifted and leaned out before I shot him in each shoulder.

I moved into the room as he screamed and kicked the burner away. I knelt and rolled him and yanked to force his hands into his back. I used stasis gloves with the restraints before I grabbed his hair and pulled him to his feet, “I want all your contacts.”

He glared and started to spit and Dragon was suddenly on his shoulder and bitting. He screamed and writhed and jerked as she kept repeating it. When she did stop I slammed him into a wall, “I want the contacts and you will tell me. I want the name of the one that hired you to kill the empress.”

He stiffened and jerked as he bit and I leaned close to smell before I quickly pulled a popper vial and injected it into his throat. He was foaming at the mouth and spasming as I held him up and watched his eyes. It was a minute before they cleared and I smiled, “that was a bad choice. In about two or three minutes you are going to feel extreme pain in all your limbs.”

It was not long before he was screaming and begging us to kill him while we held him up. He gave names and more than I expected and finally I used a popper and he passed out. I turned him over to the medic and walked out and headed straight back to my office. I sealed the door and made a starcomm and waited for several moments before the empress was looking at me.

I touched a couple of buttons and her eyes widened before she nodded and did something to match my encryption, “what?”

I growled, “we found the assassin school. I took the grandmaster alive.”

She nodded and then her eyes narrowed, “who paid?”

I shook my head, “fleet admiral Dunkirk and sky marshal Adams.”

She jerked, “are you sure?”

I nodded, “he was in no shape to lie. He also believes the fleet oversight council was in on it but did not have proof.”

She growled, “they are meeting now.”

I sighed, “use the school ma’am. Take them all and have the school instructors do an indepth truth scan on all of them. That will tell you who was involved and if any are innocent.”

She smiled and then nodded, “clean the mess up there Morpheus.”

She disconnected and I sat back before I unsealed the room and started checking on the marshals and the commandoes that had been wounded. It was hours before we had a list of all the people from the school that were missing or off planet. The grandmaster had not purged their AI or their files and our experts got everything.

Three of the five fleet admirals were found innocent and six of the nine on the oversight council were cleared as well. The sky marshal was the mastermind and thought he could take over the empire. The empress made an example of them with a public sentence and execution. When commander Sinclare walked into the office a month later I glanced up from the pile of reports and smiled, “just in time.”

She chuckled as she sat, “you have been busy. I was just told to recall all the officers in my command.”

I grinned, “the empress is actively recruiting for new marshals and doubling the instructors at the school. She is going to try placing teams in every system and not just one or two marshals.”

I stood as Dragon leaped to my shoulder, “well I have a couple of days before I leave for the next sector and plan to spend it with...”

She waved, “go enjoy your family.”


Chapter 21

Retirement

I grinned as Samantha tossed my son into the air while Domino led my daughter Cambra and their three back to us. All three had young dragons that followed Camdra’s Jewel in a swirling chase that made people stare. Amanda snorted as she nursed our daughter Samantha, “I can not believe they picked all three girls.”

My sister grinned, “family charm.”

I grinned as I turned to look towards the entrance to the royal park. A large party of guards were entering and spreading out while a smaller group headed straight for us. Two dragons leaped into the air and several more followed as they swirled and then followed them towards us. Dragon stood on her back legs and made a long warble.

She like Cynthia were on Amanda’s lap and seemed more then fascinated with my daughter. The flock of dragons slowed and circled before picking spots on and around Amanda. She shifted but ignored them since this was not the first time it had happen. Samantha looked at me, “so why are they all so interested in her?”

I shrugged, “the pictures I get from Dragon are shaded so I have no idea. I can say that if anyone tried to harm her I do not think any of them would use a stasis bite.”

She chuckled as the guards reached us and the empress slipped out of the middle. She grinned as she bent to peer at my daughter, “she is a perfect doll.”

I smiled, “so you escaped the crowd after all.”

She smiled as she moved a couple of dragons and sat beside Amanda, “they have a new petition that requests in the most polite language that I produce an heir.”

Amanda snorted, “it is time and you did...”

The empress sighed, “I know and actually that was one reason why I asked you here.”

She glanced around at all the guards, “what do you know about something called Cane’s Protectorate?”

My sister stiffened, “where did you hear about them?”

I looked at her before I glanced around, “we should not speak of that here.”

The empress frowned, “I can use...”

I shook my head, “how long have you known me?”

She sighed, “how bad can it be?”

I stood and moved closer before gesturing to the guards, “surround us so no one can see.”

I waited and then bent to whisper in the empress’s ear, “they were the first teachers for the school.”

She looked at me but I turned her head, “they are a clan and can disappear even while you look at them. As far as I know they are not assassins but... if they wished you dead it would happen. They are from ancient Sol and are extremely adept at stealth or killing.”

I pulled back, “where did you hear the name?”

She looked around, “my fleet intel briefing this morning mentioned a man from... they wished a meeting with me.”

I straightened and turned, “what does that have to do with...”

She sighed, “they have a client that wishes a union with us.”

I gestured, “time to go.”

I turned and walked out of the group and stopped. I scanned the park before speaking, “send one to speak with me.”

It was not a whisper or very loud but I could almost feel someone and knew they had heard. I turned as the empress and her guards left with my sister and Amanda. Domino moved the children ahead of him while dragons seemed to fill the air. It was ten minutes before the man seemed to step out of thin air, “you ask much assassin’s child.”

I relaxed, “you wish to meet with the empress and for that I will risk all if needed. Speak to me and tell me why I should allow you to speak with her.”

He smiled, “a long time associate has contacted us. The emperor of Cairo wishes a union for his youngest son. He could not propose it openly because of his nobles. The young man is... not our sort or yours. He is a dedicated young man who is very loyal to his father.”

I turned and glanced around, “why now?”

He snorted, “all know the she wolf is resisting her nobles demands to mate and have a child.”

I smiled as I looked at him, “she wolf?”

He shrugged, “she is very firm in her protection of her people.”

I chuckled, “true.”

I was thinking and finally nodded, “where and when?”

He looked at me carefully before pulling a card and handing it to me, “he will be here in two days. It is supposed to be a trade delegation from his father. We will be protecting him while he is here.”

I took the card, “I will inform her majesty.”

I turned and walked out of the park and headed for the palace. When I entered the empress’s study she was speaking with several minor nobles and a fleet admiral. I waited and saw her eyes flicker to me before she continued. She finally gestured and they moved away and I moved to the side of her desk. I glanced at her guards, “we need privacy.”

One looked at me before nodding and whispering and moving towards the door while the other guards herded people out. The empress sat back and waited and when the door closed she cleared her throat, “well?”

I searched her desk and picked up two comp screens and checked them before I tossed them across the room, “bugs.”

I looked at her, “the Cane’s Protectorate has two missions. To protect the prince of Cairo on his visit and to broker a possible union between you and him. All I have heard of him has been good but you would know more than I. In any case it is your choice.”

She turned to look out her armored window, “his name is James Alexander Cara. He is the youngest son and by all reports an honest man. I have met him a few times and he was very... likeable.”

She smiled slightly and then looked at me, “his father’s conditions?”

I shrugged, “that would be something he would have to tell you.”

She nodded and stood to pace and I waited and finally cleared my throat, “as much as I hate to say it you do need an heir. One with this prince will quiet your nobles and keep them from fighting to prove they should be the one to... assist you.”

She snorted and then laughed as she looked at me, “very well. I will ask Amanda if I can borrow you. You can tell this Cane’s Protectorate that I will consider a union but only after I meet with James.”

I nodded and cleared my throat and she lifted an eyebrow, “the Cane’s Protectorate is guarding him for a reason. They are not cheap and never used without reason. Let your guards know there is a threat. I will try to find out from where this threat might come and why.”

She nodded and then smiled, “I find that I am looking forward to meeting the prince.”

I chuckled as I headed for the door, “let your dragons know so they do not bit him if you decide to bed him.”

She laughed as I opened the door and gestured her guards back in. I did not have to go far to find one of the protectorate. I felt him long before he appeared to walk beside me. He glanced at me and smiled, “you are in a good mood.”

I smiled, “her majesty will consider a union but wants to meet the prince first. What I want to know is who you are guarding him from and why he needs you and not his royal guards.”

He looked at me as we walked out of the palace and I headed towards a connected estate we were staying at. He looked around finally, “several of his oldest brother’s supporters think to make sure there are no others in line to succeeded his father. His brother is not part of this and is trying to stop it but two cousins and a sister have died.”

I snorted, “he knows who is behind it.”

He smiled, “we believe so. The emperor is not convinced but has engaged us to protect the rest of his children.”

I looked at him as I stopped by the guard into the estate, “and you have orders for after the emperor dies just incase his son acts openly.”

He looked at me carefully, “perhaps.”

I nodded, “in any case that is the emperor’s problem and yours and in the future. Do not use your vanishing act around the empress. I will attend her and know if you are there.”

I glanced at Dragon as she dropped out of the sky and landed on his shoulder. He shifted as he looked at her, “and your... creatures will know. They can see us I think.”

I held out a hand and she jumped and landed on the wrist and climbed to my shoulder, “your people trained the masters that taught me.”

He shifted again and frowned, “a task we did not ask for or enjoy. There are many such schools now and we are not happy about it.”

He looked around, “we have watched you and your sister and are happy you did not choose the darker path. While we have sometimes walked it, the ones we took were always judged before taken.”

I looked at him and he smiled, “go prepare and be with your family.”

He walked away and vanished after a dozen steps. I walked into the estate and headed for the manor. When I stepped in the front door it was to hear shrieks as the children chased the dragons. I headed into the large living area and smiled as I watched the older children. I shifted as Amanda stopped beside me, “I think the empress is attracted to the younger son of the emperor of Cairo.”

She chuckled, “among a few others.”

I glanced at her, “I will be protecting her when he arrives. He will be asking about courting her with intentions to marry.”

She grinned, “I can not wait to return the favor she extended me.”

I looked at her and she headed through the room and then grinned as I followed. I spent the evening with my family and slipped out early in the morning. I felt the shadows as I left the estate and let Dragon leap into the air. The shadow stepped out of the night to walk beside me and chuckled, “you would have made a good brother.”

I smiled and glanced at him, “your name?”

He looked ahead, “you may call me Caleb.”

We walked in the gate to the empress’s estate and I gestured to the guards. One turned to speak in a whisper as we continued. When we stepped into the small dining room there were eight guards around the room and the empress across the table. She looked up from a comp screen and sat back while lifting a small cup of tea, “Morpheus.”

I smiled and gestured, “this is Caleb.”

Her eyes looked at him and I knew she saw more than most. She bowed her head, “how may I assist the Cane’s Protectorate?”

He bowed, “his highness, Prince James Alexander Cara will be here tomorrow. We are here to broker a union between you and him. His father wishes to let you know he is not asking for a union with your empire or alliances. His wish is the marriage and happiness of his son. His son has told him of you and of his admiration and attraction.”

He smiled, “understand majesty, this would hopefully be a marriage of the heart. James is a private person with no ambition to rule, in fact he detests the politics his father must wade through. He has a passion for flying and music.”

She chuckled, “and enjoys dancing and walks in the garden.”

Caleb smiled, “perhaps but we have not seen him do either with a lady.”

She sipped her tea as she looked at him, “and his trade delegation?”

He shook his head, “he leads in name only. He has a minister that is quite capable. He will of course review everything to make sure his father gets what he wants. He is coming for one reason, to court you.”

She smiled at me, “he was also fascinated by my dragons the last time he was here.”

She set her cup down, “very well I will accept his suit and we will see if we are compatible.”

He bowed, “we can ask no more and for that we will own you a debt.”

I looked at him as she lifted an eyebrow at me, “one we hope to never need.”

He smiled and turned and I walked him out to the palace gate. I returned and got with the empress’s guard commander. I smiled as I looked at the schedule and saw the time she had set aside for Amanda and my sister. I spent the rest of the day at her shoulder and ignoring the looks. Of course Dragon drew more attention when she would fly to the dragon perch where her children watched over their person.

As much as I wanted to spend time with my own family I stood outside the empress’s door that night or sat in a chair beside it. I took time to clean up before I returned and accompanied her on her morning round of meetings. I nodded to Calab when I stepped into the meeting room. I looked at a second man to one side of the other end of table.

He nodded and I turned to nod to the empress. She stepped in and everyone stood as she walked to the table. She had two trade ministers with her and smiled as she looked across the table, “welcome. We hope to come to an acceptable agreement...”

I lunged and caught her as Dragon, Alexandra and Nolan leaped into the air. I turned as I yanked her down and tried to cover her, “down!”

What I had felt was a change in pressure and a faint shimmer in the table. The table exploded out and around like a fan with thousands of needle flechettes ripping into everything. I pulled the empress up a moment later and ignored the searing pain in my right shoulder, “out!”

She spun, “the prince?”

I looked as I tried to move her and saw him being pulled up by the other man. She hissed, “bring him!”

She caught Alexandra as Nolan flew towards the door and Dragon landed on Calab. I pushed her, “not now!”

She growled, “damn it Morpheus get the prince!”

I sighed as I gestured to her guards that had rushed in, “bring the prince.”

I caught her and lifted her as I started for the door, “if you do not move I am going to give you lumps... your majesty.”

I heard laughing behind us as I carried her quickly down the hall, “seal the palace and get me the chamberlain!”

I ignored the lift and kicked open the stairs and pulled my weapon. The empress growled as I started down, “this is not...”

I shifted and fired as a servant turned while lifting a metal ball. His head exploded and he fell as I spun and knelt with her in front of me. The metal ball fell and luckily missed the floor and dropped down the center of the stairs. It exploded and Calab pulled me up and took the empress, “lead.”

Her eyes were wide as she clutched Alexandra and Nolan caught her shoulder. I sent Dagon down as I turned, “if your heir is responsible...”

Calab growled, “we will handle the one responsible assassin’s child.”

I glanced at him and then back and up at the white faced prince, “stay close.”

I started moving and heard Calab answer the whisper from the empress. I caught Dragon at the bottom of the stairs and checked the door before I opened it. I ignored the route to the safe vault and went right and down a hall. I turned in at a grey storage room door and held it open, “put them in here.”

I stood watch as they were brought in and leaned against the wall. Calab returned a moment later while the other man stripped his shirt off. Like me he had rips from flechette needles and Calab checked them and removed a couple. He rubbed a cream on the wounds and covered them with a piece of gauze. The man started to put his shirt back on and Calab gestured to me.

I shook my head and he looked into my eyes, “I will not...”

I shook my head, “when the empress is safe.”

I turned to peek into the room to see her and the prince bent over the two dragons. I smiled and looked both ways down the hall, “want to bet he ends in her bed tonight?”

Calab chuckled and the other man grinned. The empress spoke loud enough for us to hear, “I am of age to do that Morpheus.”

I grinned and glanced at her, “before Amanda and Samantha get their chance to convince you to have a baby?”

She giggled as the prince blushed, “I am not allowed to have an implant noisy.”

I snorted, “there are other methods.”

I looked down the hall as one of the guards appeared and headed for us. He nodded to me, “the commander is searching every servant and guard. The ministers are dead and we have tracked the remote signal to a servant in a room across the hall from the meeting room.”

I looked at Caleb and then frowned before turning to the room, “your highness?”

He looked away from the empress and the dragons, “yes?”

I smiled slightly, “was there anyone from your party that was supposed to be there but was not?”

He nodded, “the trade minister. At the last moment he said the meeting was only a formality and a greeting by the empress.”

I looked at Caleb and he shook his head and gestured to the other man. He spun and started down and hall and vanished after a dozen steps. I looked at the prince, “is the minister known to your brother?”

He stiffened, “I do not speak of...”

The empress touched his arm, “Morpheus cares not who anyone is. He is one of my most trusted Marshals.”

The prince sighed and nodded, “they have known each other for many years.”

I looked at Caleb and he sighed and nodded, “we will know soon.”

An hour later the royal guards had four servants that had managed to enter the palace. One was the servant that had used the remote to detonate the bomb. From him we got the Cairo minister’s name as the one to send them. Of course by then he had disappeared from their consul. We walked the empress and the prince back to her office and I stood to watch them.

I think the prince was more pissed than he showed as the empress worked. He used a comp to make calls and turned when the other man appeared outside the door. He nodded to me as I gestured the guards back. He moved to Caleb and whispered and then Caleb straightened, “excuse me your majesty.”

The empress looked up and the prince moved closer. Caleb shook his head, “I am sorry your highness but the minister had evidence that the attempt was planned and paid for by your brother.”

He looked at me, “we have a request from the emperor to speak with her majesty.”

I glanced at her and she nodded and the other man did something and her large wall comm switched on. It was a few moments before the emperor of Cairo appeared. He looked pissed but I saw the sorrow. He looked at the empress, “I must beg your forgiveness your majesty. My son has put you at risk and endangered your life.”

He looked at Caleb, “he will be taken care of.”

He sighed and then looked at her again, “do you think my son would be suitable as a consort?”

The empress blushed as she looked at the prince, “we seem to be getting along.”

I snorted and his eyes went to me before he smiled, “you I have heard of. What do you think?”

I looked at the empress and she lifted an eyebrow, “she is very attracted to your son. I would be very disappointed if she did not sneak him into her bed tonight.”

She laughed and stuck out her tongue before looking at the prince who put his hand on her shoulder, “I like her very much father.”

The emperor nodded, “then you have my blessing and a wish for a long and loving union.”

I glanced at commissioner Alexander when he walked in and hesitated, “a marshal needs a moment your majesty.”

She nodded and looked at the comm, “I have been clearing my week so your son and I can spend time together. I wish I had time to continue this talk but...”

He chuckled, “time is never easy for us. Thank you for your understanding.”

The comm disconnected and I looked at Caleb while the commissioner went to the empress. He nodded as the other man left and I knew the minister was dead and the heir would not live much longer. The day was broken by a few meetings and after a quiet dinner the empress smiled as she held the prince’s hand. We were at her private set of rooms and she turned and gestured us back, “good night.”

I smiled as I ignored her and opened the door, “Dragon seek.”

She leaped from my shoulder and Alexandra and Nolan both flew over my head and after her. It was a few minutes before Dragon returned and caught my shoulder as she landed. I stepped back and held the door, “good night your majesty.”

She shook her head as she pulled the prince after her and I closed the door and put my back to it. Caleb chuckled and bowed to me, “farewell assassin’s child.”

He glanced at the door before he turned and walked away and finally vanished. I watched and guarded the empress for two weeks before she announced her plans to wed prince James. The day before they had spent several hours with my family and Amanda had her private talk with the empress. The news out of Cairo was about the emperor’s son and a fatal accident.

After the royal wedding I took Amanda and the children to Keys where I bought an island not to far from my sister, Domino and Simon. I have begun to teach our children my skills but not the way I had to learn them. My daughter Samantha already has four dragons that have claimed her. She can listen to or look into and through any dragon and they will all protect her.

We finally found out why the old emperor had a special interest in us. When my sister had gone to the marshals her bio scan was recorded. It had caused an alarm to be sent to the emperor. The orphanage that had sold us had their records seized. The emperor’s dead brother had an unregistered consort who had died after him. Her two children had been put in the orphanage and later sold...

The End
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