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Copyright © 2017 by Black Key Books
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The man stumbled through the courtyard, veering across the wide space like an errant asteroid. Crowds parted around him, barely sparing the man a glance. He dressed like most of the others though he seemed to have forgotten it. His blazer was open, his tie a whipping missile striking his face in the wind. Bad luck that he'd chosen a recycling day, when this section pushed out its stale air for the clean stuff. The fresh oxygen would help with the hangover, though, which the man would ride out in the holding tank.
Mox nodded to the centurion beside him, eyes hidden by the helmets they both wore. Through his visor, Mox looked at the drunk and squinted. A green outline appeared around the staggering man, who was now looking around realizing his predicament. The rest of Mox's vision coated over in translucent data. The man's name was Ryder Kand, and he'd been admitted to Luna on business from Earth. His first trip, according to the logs. And a sizeable bank balance.
“Plenty of coin, first time up,” Mox said.
“Classic case of moonwalking,” Yuri replied. “It's your turn.”
“Don't remind me.”
Mox suppressed a sigh and moved towards the drunk. Two weeks of daylight, and the sunshine was being spoiled by another one of these idiots. Launching their way to Luna on their climb up the corporate ladder, getting blasted in Luna's low pressure, and giving Mox grief.
All around the drunk, people were moving towards a quartet of buildings ringing the courtyard. Luna's government center. All four corner towers connected to each other through sky bridges; arcing hallways and offices hanging in lattice shapes above the courtyard. During every brightening, as Luna called the two weeks of sun the vast city traded with the far side of the Moon, the courtyard filled with prismatic rays pouring through the glass dome.
Mox set his hand on the drunk's shoulder, catching the man staring up at the light. Ryder turned towards Mox, looked at the helmet, the body armor, the flowing red cape, and gave a slippery grin.
“Now there's what I was looking for!” Ryder announced. “A guardian angle!”
“Angel, you mean?” Mox replied. “Do you know where you are, Mr. Kand?”
Ryder furrowed his brow.
“The Moon?” Ryder said, looking around.
“You're not wrong. Have you been drinking, Mr. Kand?”
Ryder stared at Mox for a few seconds, his eyes getting larger with every tick of time's clock. His mouth worked through a variety of expressions before settling back into the grin.
“Oh yeah!” Ryder yelled, throwing his fists in the air. “It was a great party. You should've been there.”
“Sorry to have missed it. Now that your party’s over, though, it’s time to find where you’re supposed to be.”
Mox reached up to his helmet and tapped a small circle just over his ear. It activated a broadcasting mic along a secure channel, allowing any other centurions in the area to tune in.
“Ops, can you run a check on a Ryder Kane?” Mox said. “He's standing in front of me, drunk, and I need to know what he's doing here.”
“Check that,” a buzzing voice, someone at Ops, replied.
“Ops? Who's that?” Ryder said, eyes tightening for a moment before dropping back into their wide-eyed innocence. “Also, man, I'm trying to get back to my hotel. You mind showing me to the Grand Mare?”
“Yeah, let's go for a walk.”
Mox took Ryder's arm and directed him towards one of the courtyard exits, the one leading towards the mag station and, more importantly, away from most of the crowds. Sarge always pushed them to act on instinct, to trust that feeling when things weren't right, and follow it till they found the source.
“Need an extra hand?” Yuri's voice came into the helmet.
“Watch my back,” Mox replied.
“Who're you talking to?” Ryder asked.
The man's speech wasn't slurring as much, even in the couple minutes since the conversation started. Mox handled drunks by the dozen. By far the most common problem on Luna, mainly tourists. Sobering up when you've got a caped centurion in your face wasn't exactly rare, but doing it that fast . . . Again Mox heard Sarge in his head, beating in The Commandment.
“Don't worry about it,” Mox said. “What business are you in, Mr. Kand?”
“Hey, man, I'm drunk,” Ryder replied, the slur surging back. “I work with coin, you know? It's complicated.”
They were nearing the exit to the courtyard, a series of escalators, half of which went down into the bulk of Luna's space. Underground and away from radiation. Caves made habitable through coins willingly spent to be free from Earth’s governance. The centurions provided protection, and The Commandment was their sword.
Anybody, anything, at anytime is worthy of suspicion and investigation.
“This your first time on Luna, Ryder?” Mox said as they stepped onto the escalator.
“Might be,” Ryder answered, clinging to the railing. “In fact, I believe it is!”
Mox took in the words. His helmet analyzed their cadence, fed them through to Ops. Liars had their tendencies, people with things to hide did too. Ryder's speech was veering around in speed, in enunciation. Drunks could do the same, but Ryder was establishing a pattern. His voice arced up towards the end of his sentences, the slur making itself known. But at the start, when Ryder was still working through what to say, that was clear and clean.
“Hey, you're going the wrong way,” said a voice to Mox, from the next escalator over, going up.