The air limousine touched down softly inside the spacious hanger bay of Governor Ykcor’s official residence. The residence, at the top of one of the most exclusive and most secure residential towers in Hadus, exuded opulence at a sickening level. Even the hanger bay, used only to house the limousine and a few more service vehicles, was clad in rare slabs of polished stone, and had an arched ceiling covered in jewelled marble sculptures that glistened in the slowly rotating spotlights that illuminated them.
The effeminate bodyguard who was piloting the limousine spoke over the communicator from his cabin. “Your residence is now considered safe, governor. You may remain here until the alert at the GovernmentTower is over.”
The governor nodded. “Good. Let me out, and then inform my kitchen staff that I wish to dine in thirty minutes.”
The thick armoured door of the limousine opened smoothly.
Governor Ykcor looked at his assistant, who seemed to be lost in thought. “Get out, Albiam!”
Startled, the assistant moved quickly.
Gathering up his heavy robes, the governor stepped out of the limousine. Assistant Muts took the governor’s arm, helping him to his feet.
The governor looked down at his short, bald and dumpy administrative assistant. “What is wrong with you tonight, Albiam? You do not seem to be giving me your full attention.”
The assistant looked at the governor for a moment, and then he looked out of the still open hanger bay doors. The busy evening vista of the city’s towers glimmered in the heat of the night. The two police vehicles that had escorted the limousine hovered just outside. “I have much administrative work still to do. It is weighing on my mind.” He returned his gaze to the governor. “If you don’t mind I would prefer to go back to my office.”
The governor frowned, and then sighed. He patted his assistant on his shoulder. “Your dedication to your bureaucratic duties is impressive, Albiam. That is why you have been my trusted assistant for more than a century. You have my permission to return to your work.”
Albiam Muts smiled. His sense of relief seemed incredible. “Thank you, governor.” He started to get back into the limousine.
The governor grabbed him. “No! That’s my limousine, and it stays with me at all times. You should know that!”
The assistant turned. “Sorry, governor. I forgot.”
The governor looked at one of the bodyguards. “Arrange for a car to pick up my assistant and take him back to the Government Tower.”
The bodyguard nodded and began speaking quietly into his communicator.
Governor Ykcor turned back to his assistant. “Finish your work soon, Albiam. And then rest. You look over-stressed and anxious. You will not be of much use to me if you suffer a breakdown.”
“Of course, governor”
“Good!” The governor said, smiling. He turned and walked towards the hanger bay’s exit.
Five minutes later, and with considerable relief, Albiam Muts found himself in the back of a staff air car heading back over the glittering tower tops towards the Government Tower. The car was nowhere near as luxurious as the governor’s limousine, but it was comfortable and clean and fitted with a fair selection of beverage dispensers and pleasuring nodes. Most importantly, though, it was exempt from the speed restrictions of the city’s civilian air traffic.
The fifty kilometre journey was completed in less than six minutes.
Albiam Muts did not enter his office. Instead he scurried straight for a service elevator, inserted his security clearance card, and then headed down to the base of the building, 800 levels down.
After several minutes of descent the elevator stopped at level 1 and its single door scraped opened. The assistant stepped out and into a barely-lit room filled with row upon row of dense metal piping – the destination for the Government Tower’s entire effluence network. Several consoles displayed status information on the surrounding pipe work and its contents. There was a constant gushing and sloshing sound. Even this late in the evening, when most of the tower’s three-million-strong workforce had gone home, there was obviously still a lot of effluence left to deal with. The rich and fat-saturated diet of a typical bureaucrat generated an incredible amount of waste.
Making his way through the piping, Albiam Muts headed towards the far side of the deserted room to a heavy doorway. As always he grimaced at the sight of the dust and grime that had been allowed to accumulate on this level. It was a revolting contrast to the lavishness of the governor’s level and the clinically clean and functional simplicity of the administration levels, and it disgusted him every time he passed by. But after many years this would probably be his last trip down here. That was something he planned to celebrate in extreme decadence after collecting his reward from Yug Evahsadeen.
Albiam passed his security clearance card over the panel next to the heavy doorway. After a second the door had read the special coding on the card. With a hiss of hydraulics the door sank into the wall, and then slid sideways. The grate of metal on concrete stimulated goose pimples to rise all over the assistant’s polished bald head. For a few moments it lost its sheen.
Stepping through the door, the assistant shuffled down several flights of harshly lit concrete steps, almost tripping in his eagerness. He reached the bottom. Touching a small panel on the wall, he waited.
Assistant Muts apologised. “I’m sorry.” He said breathlessly. “I was forced to evacuate the tower with the governor. It took me quite a while to…”
“Shut up and follow me.”
The assistant followed Aj Nin down a narrow passageway and through another doorway to a larger room.
Yug Evahsadeen was standing there silhouetted against a wall light. He stepped forward slowly, the bladed weapons on his belt clattered together. He stopped a meter in front of Albiam. “It is time for us to leave at last.”
The assistant nodded. “I’m glad you’ve completed your work here. Whatever it is you’ve been doing, I am happy to have been of assistance. I hope my services were satisfactory?”
Yug nodded. “Indeed they have been. Our work has progressed without hindrance. Although your services are no longer required, we still require you to remain forever silent about our presence here.”
Albiam Muts nodded once more. “I understand. I shall never utter a word about your existence.”
“Even to a bounty hunter?”
“Of course. You can rely on me to keep my word.”
The expression on Yug’s black-furred faced showed suspicion. “Governor Ykcor expects the same from you, I would expect.”
The assistant nodded. “Of course.”
“But you betrayed him in your dealings with me.”
Albiam started to sweat. “Yes, but… Well…”
“It was easy for me to persuade you to betray him. It will be easy for a bounty hunter to persuade you to betray me.”
“Assistant Muts shook his head. “Not at all!”
With a swift move and a scrape of metal, Yug Evahsadeen drew one of his longer blades from its clip on his belt. He held it close to the side of the assistant’s head.
Albiam Muts felt sick. Sweat built up on his brow, some of it stinging his eyes. He blinked rapidly. “Please, you can trust me! I will quit my post! I will return to my family’s farm in the northern…”
There was remarkably little pain at first. The assistant gasped as the blade – sharp and smooth – pushed slowly down through his neck and into his torso.
Yug spoke. “This for the best. I do not want you to suffer interrogation by a bounty hunter.”
Now agony. Albiam struggled. All his hope faded and terror filled his entire mind. He felt every millimeter of the blade’s progress as it cut into his esophagus and down into his lungs. Amongst the incredible pain he could feel the warmth of his blood as it rose up into his mouth.
With a swift tug, Yug withdrew the blade. Albiam coughed up a spray of blood. He sank to the floor, weak, and then vomited. He felt faint. His mind was consumed with pain; deep and unusual pain.
Looking up briefly, Assistant Muts saw Yug Evahsadeen and Aj Nin leaving the room.
The light went out.