Episode 1


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Arturo Devlin stood at the balcony of the Rask mansion, looking out over The Lake at the luminous cityscape in the distance. Krania was the seat of power in The Quadrant, and its tower rose majestically above everything into the night. He was pleased with himself because he had successfully completed the final arrangements for the Zerb divorce, pocketing a hundred million Quadits in fees. His financial future was assured and he could now increase the scope of his activities.

"Arturo, what are you doing out here away from the party?"

The older female voice was mildly castigating. Arturo turned around and faced the woman. She was well fed, light haired, and richly dressed, with a heavily made-up but still beautiful child-like face.

"Ahh . . . Meerna, don't you think the better question is 'what are you doing out here away from the party?'"

"Fair enough, Arturo. But I think you know why I'm here."

"I can't say I'm absolutely sure. Enlighten me."

She hated that he had grown more powerful and could force her to divulge first what she wanted, but she gathered herself.

"My information was that Alicia was to step down after the divorce. It appears that she's staying on."

He knew that she already knew this. What was she after? He crafted his reply carefully.

"That may be . . . but who stays and who goes is none of my doing."

"It's enough of your doing, Arturo. Because of you half of the Zerb fortune is now in play and I don't like it!"

"Really? One would have thought your relationship with old Zerb tipped the balance in that regard. At any rate, things we don't like sometimes have a way of coming up."

"I can think of certain things about you that could also 'come up,' my dear Arturo."

The direct assault. He knew there was little she could use against him, but still there could be something. At least now she would tell him exactly what she wanted.

"Hmmm . . . let's not be too hasty, my dear. What is it that troubles you?"

"Only a minor annoyance. It's this matter of Sergei Zerb . . . he's been out of favor with his mother for some time, and I'm just not clear on who now inherits Alicia's half of the fortune."

"I see . . . You know, I'm going into the city tomorrow, and I hear that the "twinz" are not available. If they were to be made available for a pleasurable evening, I would be disposed to discuss reasonable terms for conveying that information."

She smiled, leaned over, and kissing his neck, whispered in his ear.


"Are we interrupting anything?"

The voice belonged to Tarn Rask, host of the party, and head of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the Quadrant. His son Roland was with him. The two men walked out onto the balcony toward Arturo and Meerna at the railing.

"Mutual admiration, nothing more, I'm afraid" said Arturo smiling.

Meerna turned to Tarn. "I'm having a marvelous time, Tarn. Your parties are always works of art." She glanced up at Roland, and smiled. "And, congratulations again, 'Security Praetor' Rask on the appointment. It suits you."

"Thank you, Meerna," Roland replied crisply. Tarn placed his hand gently on Meerna's shoulder.

"Now that we've found you, my dear, we can relay important party business. It seems that my wife, your lovely daughter Lena, Tira Von Arle, and other creative forces of the Kolony, require your presence to help with the entertainments in the main hall. It would be a pity to keep them waiting."

It was obvious the men wanted to talk, and it would probably be about something she wanted to hear. To her, that was the pity.

"I'm on my way," she said, and hurried off the balcony.

The men watched her depart, then turned toward the view of Krania shimmering across the lake. Tarn spoke first.

"You know, this asshole Kronstadt is beginning to disturb me."

"He's begininng to disturb us all," said Arturo.

Tarn slammed his fist down on the railing. "That idiot Derzet should never have appointed him Praetor of QuadOps. The sonofabitch now knows Quad infrastructure systems backwards and forwards . . ."

". . . From QSU main climate control pressure valves to every telecommunications up-link," added Roland. "That's why we're having difficulty tracking his communications."

Arturo looked at Roland for a moment. "Surely, Security must have the means to ferret out Kronstadt's movements," he said.

"I understand that we do, but I've only been on the job for three days and my chief deputy and several of his assistants have all come down with some sort of food poisoning. It seems they are paralyzed and can't talk."

"Hmmmm," observed Arturo, "a rather ideal turn of events for Kronstadt, I should think."

"He's had them poisoned, obviously, " said Tarn. "Look, we're dealing with a crude, ruthless bastard here! He's got one half of the Zerb money pledged, and the Narloff brothers, who have thousands of rental units on the Outer Boardz, are leaning toward his camp. He's certainly got dirt on some key people, a very good intelligence network, and he owes us nothing. That adds up to a lot of televotes."

Arturo realized that Tarn purposefully left out both Meerna and Lena in this calculation, hoping to sound him out about their roles in some way. He preferred not to engage in self revealing analysis at this stage, so he looked quizzically at Tarn and said: "You mean he's going to run for the Directorship without the 'support' of The Nine?"

"I mean exactly that, Arturo."

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