Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
“There’s a lot to be said for old technology. Mainly: ‘ooh looky, spares’. Me and the old bus are both getting long in the tooth. But as she’s got six hundred years and I’m only approaching fifty, we’ll not embarrass the lady with ageist stuff.
She’s still got her original heraldry: a grey shield, with sable bar low and silver cross sinister. She’s called the ‘Last Lancer’ and damn me if she ain’t. The only surviving Rockwell B1, packing four Tetragrammaton XIV near-space drives, a twenty-hour rating for free space thanks to the Lenkormian Permaseal some foresighted owner had put on five centuries ago, and a suite of no-see-me and I-see-you that has yet to let her down.
This month we’re gracing the jungle planet of Durkedhil, where the locals are fighting a vicious civil war, supplied by some offworld profiteers. If it wasn’t for the imported arms, they would be throwing spears and cussin’ each other out, like they did before man and company came along with their ‘Uplift the Primitives’ spiel.
The Durkedhil have assault rifles, mustard gas and napalm to go with their loincloths and proto-heraldry. You would not believe just how happy a tribesman whose entire existence is surrounded by, and dependent on, trees can be to burn them down if he thinks that will stop his brother-in-law from getting them.
They have about a year before they doom themselves. The GalPol cannot touch the weapons merchants, because the population of the planet is willingly engaged in active trade. No matter that it’s a dying market in dying.
This is where people like me come in. We’re ex-GalPol, ex-military, or both. We share a belief that places are better without big guns. We like old technology – I admit mine is older than most – and we hate weapons peddlers. One of us will get the call. One of the others will get the payment. Then pretty soon, United Antiques will stage another display in the name of peace. Antiques aren’t weapons of war by intergalactic statute. They’re curiosities that people can view at travelling shows – or watch hurtling through their skies.
Free space is a dangerous place, but messing around in atmosphere carries different penalties and most shuttle pilots are nth-generation space monkeys. To use an old phrase we like: ‘They can’t fly for shit’.
Interdicting a planet is almost impossible. Stopping the deliveries in atmosphere is easy. The Last Lancer and I are the most recent piece of the puzzle, because the weapons companies have started to put hard bases down to host protection for their deliveries. They call them ‘caravanserai’ but in reality, they are nothing but heavily-fortified warehouses. A Rockwell B1 can carry enough destruction for twenty of ‘em. So while the lads and lassies are mopping the skies, I clean up the ground.
We should be done here in a month or two. On average it takes two months of no profits and big repair bills to get a planet declared ‘commercially non-viable’. Then they’ll be off supplying the next armaggedon down the way, and we’ll be waiting for another call from like-minded people who care about people rather than profits.
Now if you’ll excuse me, Last Lancer and I have warmongers to flatten.”
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