Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

A figure looks both ways along the street. Nothing but dust devils spinning across the plasmac. With a resigned shrug, he steps up to the entrance of the Constabulary House, waiting for it to scan him.
Inside the building, he ambles over to the nearest desk and lands his backside on it hard. The figure crouching behind the desk comes up fast, hand flicking to holster, then relaxes upon seeing the crest on his uniform. She settles onto the bench behind the desk.
He smiles.
“Space-Side Investigator Atom Pruemyn, reporting as ordered, and wondering why. I arrived without having to fight my way in. Where’s the emergency?”
“Planet-Side Enforcer Judith Blass. Chief Harub insisted I call after I spotted the problem. It’s an unusual situation.” She looks up at him and smiles: “The honourable crustacean doesn’t want to touch this. He’s up for promotion next quarter.”
Atom hooks a bench closer and shifts himself off the desk. Seated, he looks back to Judith.
“Tell me this isn’t connected to the two of yours who’re up for commendations?”
He sighs: “Go on, then.”
“Planet-Side Enforcers Turterril and Gathgore held off a band of marauders for three days, killing over half of them in the process. Chief Argondy, leader of our reinforcements, was so taken with their humility he put them up for commendations when he returned to Constabulary Central. They were informed a week ago, and disappeared two nights later.”
“Without the slightest trace. All devices abandoned.”
“Which vessel did they steal?”
“No vessels are missing.”
“Nothing has been taken, apart from the savings they accumulated over the last eleven years on Planet-Side duty.”
“A hidden stealth ship? Impressive.”
“That’s one word for it.”
“Still not quite enough to fuss a hard-shell like Harub, though.”
Judith chuckles.
“Hard-shell? Must remember that. What fussed him was the surviving battle video, and the data on their devices.”
“Do tell.”
“The video showed the two of them fighting multi-op style: embedded arm blasters, calf jets, energy blades, the lot. Their devices were set up to prevent or override detection using Fleet War Command codes. Likewise, their fictitious personal and career records were protected from detection or query.”
“Those abandoned devices being the source, you were able to see it all…” He sits forward: “You’ve had persons unknown masquerading as Planet-Side Enforcers for eleven years?”
“Unknowns with combat enhancements using military apps. We didn’t have a clue, and then misplaced the two about-to-be-lauded imposters. Harub is beside himself.”
Atom chuckles.
“Now there’s an image. Tell me, did you get on with them? Were they good at their duties?”
She smiles warmly as memory briefly distracts her.
“They were lovely, and superb Planet-Side Enforcers.”
Atom nods.
“There’s no clue as to their actual identities?”
“Our ID specialist is sure they wiped their records and trace data when they quit their former lives.”
“Combat configurations?”
“Eighty percent likely to be ours.”
“Ingrained techniques at that level are hard to disguise – unless they’re instructors… Disturbing, but no actual help.”
“What’s our next step?”
“Request two Enforcers from Central. If anybody asks, Turterril and Gathgore leveraged their commendations to get roving duties out on the frontier. You said they were superb. That legacy sets a standard rarely met by real Enforcers. Utilise it. I’ll deal with the confidential reporting,”
“We do nothing?”
“Unless you’d like to make this embarrassing incident public, yes. They don’t want to be found, are civilised and peaceful, but could be devastating if cornered. Let them go. Other agencies might pursue them, but I doubt it. Too much could go wrong.”