Danzig Kleiner pulled the ball cap low over his face as he stole through the busy crowd which, ant-like, flowed through the ashen breadth of the Kryos Aerospace Complex sub-terminal warehouse. The gentle thrumming of the ceaseless ceiling filtration system scantly audible over the footfalls of harried, blue-jumpered workers, plunging to and fro in a gargantuan effort to clear the facility of all non-essential Kryo Industries hardware before Astrid Sodabrucke’s inspectors, arrived prior to the public ceremony to inaugurate closer relations between the Aecer Consortium and the Federation Bureau.
Kleiner passed through the center of the storage area, observing a strange woman with dichromatic eyes perched atop one of the neatly compressed stacks of scrap that lined walls. The woman smiled and waved. Kleiner arched a brow and hurried on to pause beside one of the laborers adjacent the central thoroughfare, reading from his wrist-bound affin mod. On the screen, a Vis Corp news report: “Vigilante and KSRU leader Acelin Syzr moved from Northwing Detention Facility to the Isling Center ahead of trial.”
Kleiner’s battered face contorted with bewilderment and inclining aggravation. Hands going tight about the polymer crate he carried. As he strode through the towering masses of judiciously catalogued metal, he whispered into the concealed comlink affixed to the inner lining of his upturned coat collar.
“What kind of game are you playing?”
A languid voice replied beyond public audibility through Kleiner’s earpods. “You’ll have to elaborate if you want an answer.”
Kleiner took a deep breath and lowered his voice further and moved away from the central lane between the great mounds of industrial detritus and the workers there sifting, collecting and packaging.
“You told me Syzr would be here for the ceremony.”
“And so he shall.”
“Then why is Vis Corp saying he’s being moved to Isling?”
“My dear fellow, why would you expect them to report truthfully on his whereabouts when they reported he had attacked you? As I told you previously, its a distraction, to make those with a grudge against him think he’s somewhere he’s not, so he can be moved safely. Standard practice.”
“But why would the Consortium bring him here? You never explained that. Makes no sense.”
“Recall the recent assassination attempt on that abominable industrialist. They need all the security they can get. What better security than the KSRU, incognito? They also need a head to roll for the mob. In faking Syzr’s imprisonment, the Consortium achieve both ends at once.”
“Hadn’t considered that.”
“Careful. With a wit so razored, you’re liable to cut yourself.”
The line cut out. Kleiner cursed under his breath, tensing, reactively striking the air.
Kleiner turned about to discover a middle-aged foreman, smooth-shaven and furrow-browed, framed by two high aisles of metal, baring a countenance of supreme disapproval.
“Yeah, you. What’re you doing back here? We’re on a timer.”
“Sorry, sir. This place is so big… Its like a maze. Gets disorienting. I… forgot where I was supposed to take this,” with some effort, Kleiner held up a smooth cargo container slightly wider than his body, emblazoned with the distinctive insignia of Kryos Industries. It made no sound as he moved it. The foreman studied the object a moment before speaking.
“Just old spare parts.”
“No time to sort it. Orders were to clear everything that wasn’t bolted down fast as possible. Sodabrucke wants the place empty as an old shoebox. Don’t ask me why. Waste of good material… But, well,” the man shrugged and trailed off before gesturing to the crate. “Take that to the compactor.” Kleiner raised his brows in confusion. The foreman sighed. “Gods below, you temps are useless. Its in the basement. You need me to lead you by the hand?”
“Right. Basement. Sorry. I remember.”
The foreman shook his head and dismissed Kleiner with a wave and left off to a cry for advice which emenated from an adjacent aisle of arcane machinery. Kleiner grinned and ferried the container to the facility basement where the thick sparing jutted from the walls. Before him a great pillar loomed. Another behind it. Another behind that. A forest of shadow and steel. The man set the crate down on the ground and looked nervously to the stairwell behind him. Nothing suggested a presence. He knelt and unlocked the small container, flipped the lid and removed a small square packet, the back of which was secured with a thin, translucent sheet. He looked to the left, observing the bulk of the industrial trash compactor, then returned his attention to the artifact and removed the sheet, revealing an adhesive surface, rose and affixed the device to the back of the column, such that it was concealed from the view of any who might enter from the one and only entrance. Momentarily a voice resounded.
“Lee told me he sent you down here.”
Kleiner froze, his eyes going wide with fear, swiftly subsumed by mounting anger. He peeked around the column to which he had affixed the packet and beheld a portly young man with a pleasent, round face and a messy shock of blond hair. Like all the rest of the workers, he wore the deep blue uniform mandated by Fabrdyn Manufacturing and Recyc.
“You’re new, right?”
“Whatcha got over there?”
“Nothing. Scrap.” Danzig removed a multiratchet from his belt, knuckles white about the handle, and knelt by the column, as if inspecting it, though no aperture afforded the tool purchase.
“Are these… explosives?”
The worker moved before the crate and bent to the cargo.
“Where’d you find um?”
Kleiner shot up and hit the curious entrant in the gut with the ratchet, then secured the stunned man by the collar and swung him into the column, golden head bouncing off metal. A sanguine image thereafter. The blond worker issued a gutteral moan and spasmed, struggling to a crawl. Face red and wet. A multiratchet to the back of the worker’s head brought exit to an end.
Kleiner looked to the silent man, then to the adjacent garbage compactor.