Author : Colin W Campbell

When it all started, Duke was just one of these overpaid, do anything, off-home-world operatives.

The planet administrators were little impressed when he asked for a Council Meeting to propose a new section for what he called dirty-tricks. What happened at that meeting is now well written into the lore.

“So, why do we need dirty-tricks?” said one admin-guy.

“Look,” said Duke pointing to the clock on the wall.

Of course, their eyes went to the clock so they didn’t see Duke throw his water-bottle into the corner of the room. It made a noise loud enough to make them all jump and for the security-guys to reach towards the well concealed tools of their trade.

“So what?” said the admin-guy. “Now we know the time.”

“Yes, and I know where their weapons are,” said Duke.

They gave Duke his section. It was small at first but soon grew strong as the young planetary colony fought to survive its early years of political intrigue, pirate incursions, unequal trade deals, attempted coups and so on, the usual.

At first, it operated under gentle cover names. For a while it was The Office for Planetary Welfare then it grew into the Department for the Protection of Planetary Welfare. However, any young colony is pretty much a small closed society and soon everyone was calling it the “Ministry of Dirty Tricks.” Then at one Council Meeting that followed on from a generous lunch, they made it official. It was formally proposed, seconded and agreed and the department was raised to the status of a full Ministry and so Duke formally became the Minister of Dirty Tricks.

In the years that followed, anything published by Duke’s ministry became a collectors piece. Any well authenticated item bearing the heading “Ministry of Dirty Tricks” could command a high price at auction. Many thought this went a long way to explain how Duke was becoming ever wealthier. Others thought it might go only some little way to explaining his success but knew it would be best to keep such thoughts to themselves.

Concern grew back on the home world, for Duke’s power and influence were spreading unchecked across the known occupied reaches of the galaxy. An assassin was sent.

* * *

Jake knew well that would be assassins should not touch alcohol. But the ladies who worked as hostesses on the deep-space transports were well known for their discretion and it was a very long journey.

“It’s OK,” said the lady with the sky blue eyes and the expensive perfume. “You can only imagine how very discrete we can be here.”

It was not long before the drink was taking effect but Jake was careful to say nothing of his mission.

“Time to go now,” she said. Her sky blue eyes had a beckoning look and her hand felt reassuringly firm on Jake’s arm.

“Wow!” said Jake as he stumbled to his feet. “That is powerful stuff.” He gestured broadly towards his last glass, knocking it over.

“Don’t worry, I know where you’re going,” she said as they set off. Her words had a faraway quality as they echoed down the now mostly empty passageways of the deep-space transport.

And then they were there.

“So, this the way into your quarters?” said Jake, Turning, he saw a heavy door close behind him with his companion still outside.

“Actually, it’s an airlock,” said the lady with the sky blue eyes, the lady from the Ministry of Dirty Tricks.


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