Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Zenn realized fairly quickly he’d misunderstood the conversation. Terrance Hopter had said “I’d like to hire you. Party at the beach house, Friday night, seven thirty.” Zenn agreed, and upon asking about the dress code Mr Hopter had said simply “black tie”, and terminated the call.

As soon as he climbed out of the cab he realized his mistake.

The guests were dressed in something between casual and not at all, it was the staff who were sporting black tuxedos.

This wasn’t the kind of work Zenn had done in a long, long time.

As he stood contemplating his options a pair of immaculately underdressed women exited a snub nosed sports coupe, the driver leaning in close and whispering in his ear as she slipped the valet fob and her hand down the front of his pants. “Make it shiny”, she squeezed, the smell of the chemostim on her breath made his lip curl.

He vacillated between fury and resignation as he piloted the coupe back to the parking lot. He owed Hopter, a lot. He assumed he would be able to work if off with honest jobs; wet work, demolitions, large scale data extraction or deletion. If this was Hopter’s idea of punishment, Zenn wasn’t playing.

In the lot he found the rest of the team he’d been most recently busted with. Zippo was picking through a pile of personal items he’d undoubtedly liberated from the parked cars, Turk was lying on the ground in front of the gatehouse, feet propped up on the wall, and Gaze was half way through the pass key rack taking inventory.

Zenn slammed the coupe door hard. “You believe this shit?” Zippo was the only one to look up. Turk just grunted.

Gaze spoke without turning around. “We’ve got the richest mothers in SoCal here tonight. Do you know how much money is unattended in these pricks homes while they’re here at this bohemian love fest?”

Zenn smiled.

“How many of them have orbital evac gear?”

The question stopped Gaze and turned her around.

“You planning on leaving?” She cocked her head to one side, a half smile forming on her lips.

“I think we all know where we stand with Hopp Crotch right now. None of these assholes are going to go anywhere for days. We pick a ride that comes with keys, that gets us in a house. Pick the right house and we have cash and evac lift to the orbital station, and anyone with an evac booster has a cruiser in a slip upstairs. We can be on a sub space ride before anyone even looks for their pants, much less anything else.”

Zippo stopped picking.

“Gaze, you plotted a money train off any of those keys?”

“You know I have.” The half smile widened to a grin.

“Turk? Zippo? Any reason to stick around here?”

Zippo stuffed some odds and ends in his pocket as he stood up and straightened his cuffs. “I don’t believe in reason.”

Turk just grunted.

Somewhere between the orbital relay and the shipyards on Mars the ownership of the cruiser they’d liberated changed several times, and before they left for good the ship was theirs clean and clear.

“Well then,” Zenn curled his fingers around the arms on the Captain’s chair, “here’s to new beginnings.”

Gaze and Zippo harmonized a hearty “Oorah”.

Turk just grunted.

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