Tycho Villiare never asked why his employers had chosen to duel.

Gentlemen seldom fight duels themselves. One gentleman may challenge another to a duel, but since duels end in death, a state most gentleman find inconvenient, Men of Arms are employed to fight duels for them.

Men of Arms do not come cheap. Tycho Villiare was one of the most expensive Men of Arms on his colony world. He had been a solider of Her Majesties Royal Marines, a combat Iron in a heated mech-suit, cutting out insurrection like a scalpel. He could kill a household without harming a hair on the head of the family dog. After ten years with the service, his employment as a Man at Arms was his retirement. The large sums he demanded for his time meant that he only need work one day out of a year. When the Duke of Rodchester found himself engaged in a duel of consequence with the half-blood bastard Count of Carlo, he found it quite natural to use a good section of his fortune to employ Tycho Villiare to fight the duel for him.

The Count of Carlo, being of royal blood but little royal wealth, would have found it difficult to employ a Man at Arms to fight for him. Even so, he could have begged a loan in order to secure such a man, but he did not. The half blood bastard came to fight the duel himself.

This pairing was most irregular. Men at Arms may fight each other in a duel on behalf of other gentlemen, and two gentlemen, so motivated, could fight a duel themselves. However, it was unnatural for a man such as Tycho, a talented commoner, to fight a royal, even a half-blood. Tycho himself was not terribly concerned, for he expected that either the half-blood royal would become scared and back out of the duel, or the Duke of Rodchester would find his honor so affronted that he would dismiss Tycho from the fight.

Tycho did not fail to consider the Dukes considerable weight and age in his estimation of the Dukes ability. What Tycho failed to consider was a fault of his own character, for he could not comprehend that the Dukes love of his own skin was far greater than his love of honor and duty. The Duke, though powerful, was never a man who was prone to any great exertions.

The day of the duel was a fine crisp spring morning, all blue skies and dewy grass. The Duke sat in the stands with his company, sipping his morning tea. The Count was alone and standing, a long and lean figure, in well-worn boots and an ancient raygun that bore the dull gleam of constant cleaning.

Tycho used the pulse gun of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, standard issue, set to single fire. It was an unremarkable weapon, and certainly nothing compared to the ornate weapons that hung unused on a Dukes belt.

The Cybernetic Judge instructed the two men to stand back to back, to walk fifteen paces, to turn and draw. The Count and Tycho both took their shots. The Cybernetic Judge timed Tycho to be point one three seconds slower than his average draw time. Some say he was hesitant to shoot a royal, nervous about the consequences of such an action.

A moment after the shots were fired there was a scream. The Duke was slumped over in the stands, blood on his pale pink chair. The Count was on the ground, convulsing, red on his white shirt. The young fiancée of the dead Duke ran out of the stands, picking her skirts up high, heedless of her ankles exposing to the world. She did not go to the side of the Duke, but ran past him to sprawl next to the Count on the grass. She cradled the Counts head in her arms and wept, caressing his face, kissing his forehead. She did not look at Tycho, the man who still held the weapon that killed the Count. Tycho was no more than a force of nature to her.

Tycho carefully placed the pulse gun on the grass and walked away, his duty done.