Author : Benjamin Fischer

“I want to talk to the shaman.”

Borhani’s words drew blank looks from the Lakota braves. A few raised their eyebrows and the surliest of the lot paused his cigarette long enough to spit.

“The medicine man,” said Borhani.

“What the hell are you talking about?” said the surly one.

“Your wizard,” Borhani added.

“Ain’t got no wizards here,” came the reply.

Surly took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled. The soldiers waited, radiating their collective distaste of the foreigner.

Borhani started again.

“I’ve been told that your war party has strong magic. That you can call in the gods against your enemies.”

The Lakota shifted awkwardly, a few fingering the automatic rifles slung across their flak vests.

“Mister, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said a tall brave.

“The raid on Saint Cloud,” said Borhani, growing impatient, “where you were ambushed by antitank elements at that bridge over the Mississippi–you were able to regroup because a meteor strike stopped the counterattack. Who did that?”

A slow, toothy grin broke across the faces of the braves.

“You want Stars-Fall-At-His-Command,” said the tall one.

“Yes,” said Borhani.

“Well, why didn’t you say so?” asked Surly.

“Take me to him,” replied Borhani.

Surly flicked aside his smoke and started for a nearby hovercraft. Borhani fell in beside him, trudging quickly through the crushed grass of the circled war party. The plump camouflage skirts of a dozen raider skiffs marked out its edges. Surly led the pale foreign man to a particularly worn and dented specimen.

“Stars, you got a visitor,” Surly called into the cavernous hatch.

“Roger,” someone answered.

A lean, tanned Lakota wearing a grey field jacket clambered out of the hovercraft. A mean-looking submachinegun swung from a sling on his back. His face was just as welcoming.

“Major Stars-Fall,” he said, offering a hand.

Borhani shook it.

“Travis Borhani,” he replied. “Junior partner at Lino, Rubin and Ozgener.”

“Lawyer. Huh. What brings you?”

“Messenger duty,” said Borhani. “I represent off planet interests.”

“Don’t you all,” said Stars, taking an offered cigarette from Surly.

“My clients have been attempting communications for a few months,” Borhani said, “but connectivity has been poor to say the least.”

“We don’t do the net,” said Stars.

“We noticed.”

“Uh huh,” Stars said, lighting up.

“My clients sent me here to request that you surrender your targeting equipment and cease calling in orbital strikes.”

Stars gave him a blank look.

“You may turn it over to me,” said Borhani, unfazed, “or you may deliver it to our satellite offices in Springfield, Kansas City, or Topeka.”

Stars was silent for a minute, nursing his cigarette.

“I suppose you have papers.”

Borhani nodded, pulling a sheaf from under his coat. He held them out to the Lakota.

Stars shook his head.

“Naw, I don’t need to see them.”

“You are refusing?” asked Borhani.

Stars nodded.

“You realize that this will result in further legal action.”

Stars took another drag on his smoke, the hint of a smile in his eyes.

“Tell your bosses that they ain’t collecting nothing,” he said. “And even if they did, it wouldn’t do them a bit of good.”

Borhani shrugged.

“It takes codes,” Stars said. “The gear alone is useless. Tells me your clients aren’t legitimate, else they could just shut it down on their own.”

“I’m just the messenger,” said Borhani.

“Fine. But we burned Minnetonka last night,” said Stars as he climbed back into his ship, “and we’ll probably have another go at Duluth soon. When whoever’s in charge up there gets tired of me, I’ll let you know.”

Surly touched the lawyer’s elbow. It was time to go.


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