Chance Taggert gazed down on the street with good old-fashioned, non-electronic binoculars. They had been imported, of course, like almost everything else on Halcyon before the war. But it would not be very long before they could manufacturer similar items right here on this planet. All industrial efforts focused on communication and transportation at the moment, but the day will soon come, he thought to himself, when we will be able make just about anything that’s needed.
He stayed in the shadow of the room so that his silhouette could not be seen from the street, an old sniper trick. Taggert was one of the few immigrants to Halcyon who had studied at the Epsilon Police Academy. He now found himself in charge of Governor Seldom’s security detail.
Right now, her security details consisted of assigned officers from the Winthrop Police Department.
At some point we’ll have to get formal and make it like the old Secret Service, he thought. For the time being, he was at least nominally in charge.
He stared down at the figure below, sitting at a table in a sidewalk café and ostensibly reading a newspaper.
The same man showed up every day, around five in the afternoon. Someone recognized him as a former janitor in the Administration Building, and word eventually came to Taggert about his appearance.
Taggert felt it was his job to follow up on anything suspicious, so he started watching the former janitor. Immediately he realized the man left shortly after the Governor walked home each day.
This naturally alarmed Taggert, and he addressed the situation with Seldom. He thought perhaps the Excelsior crew planned an ambush on her way home to the Governor’s Mansion down the street. He suggested increasing her guard detail and perhaps picking the man up for questioning.
She nixed both ideas. First, they would likely learn little to nothing by arresting the janitor right now. Second, if they increased the guard detail, the Navy would realize they had been spotted.
Instead, Seldom suggested she continue her routine and perhaps Taggert could follow the man. Maybe he would lead Taggert to where the crew was hiding out.
Taggert reluctantly agreed with her. She was the Governor, after all. But he set up a team to do the tail right. Taggert would be staying in the Administration Building, then remaining in charge of Seldom’s night watch at the mansion.
After Governor Seldom left the Administration Building with her guard detail and turned the corner, heading toward her residence, Taggert watched the janitor put the paper on the table and pay his bill. Then he walked off in the opposite direction.
Taggert watched in the binoculars as the first tail picked him up. Together they both headed out of sight.
Vargas made his way to the downtown public stable and paid up on his stall rental so he could retrieve his horse. He mounted up and rode for the city’s periphery. It was time to go back and report to Captain Benson.
He had watched the Administration Building every day, and he knew the Governor’s routine. She would leave sometime after 5:00, never before. The latest she left was a quarter after six.
Then she would be accompanied by five armed police officers as they walked two blocks to the new Governor’s Mansion. This was a nice looking building, especially in light of the fact it was built entirely with local materials. Or so Vargas had heard. Evidently Seldom made sure no imported wood was used, so all the boards were produced by mills right here in Winthrop.
There, Seldom would spend time with her husband and their two-year-old daughter. In the mornings, she left the mansion at 7:45 sharp, arriving at the Administration Building moments later with another five man guard detail in tow.
Thus went Governor Seldom’s work week.
Vargas now had an idea of when she was at her weakest, and when she was most protected. He would report to Captain Benson his knowledge and let her make a decision as to the best time and place to strike.
Within half an hour, he brought the horse to the city’s edge and proceeded to ride out of town. Construction was still new everywhere. One minute he was surrounded by outlying houses, the next he was enjoying open countryside as the sun dipped lower in the sky.
He followed a trail far from the main road, and began covering considerable ground. He never once looked behind him, although the party trailing him took care to not be seen as he wended his way through the foothills surrounding Winthrop on the other side of the lake.
As the sun slipped below the horizon, he finally made his way to an arroyo where the Excelsior’s crew had made camp.
He waved, moving forward slowly so as not to spook the other horses in the makeshift pen off to one side.
Curly saw him first and waved back, then left the campfire and walked toward him, intending to meet the horse halfway.
A voice boomed through the campsite, bouncing off the rocks. Everybody’s eyes darted to the far end of the shallow depression, where a dozen men on horseback aimed rifles at them.
One of them yelled through an old style non-electronic megaphone, the kind cheerleaders used to use at American football games.
“Crew of the Excelsior! This is the Winthrop Police! Surrender immediately!”
Curly drew a pistol at his side and pulled the trigger without even thinking. Its flint struck and the powder ignited, sending a Minni ball sailing toward the police.
As one, the twelve men aimed their muskets and fired into the campsite.
Four sailors went down. Two slugs plowed into Vargas’s horse, thunking into its left hindquarter.
The horse tried to run in terror, but did not get very far before stumbling, sending Vargas to the ground.
Benson and Kilmeade were closest to rifles. They each pulled one out of a tent and returned fire.
The police did not flinch, even as musket balls tore into the face and chest of two of their own. They pulled out their pistols and let loose another volley. More sailors went down.
Vargas ran for his wounded horse. It whinnied in pain, pitifully dragging a back leg, blood everywhere. He managed to pull open his saddlebags and rummaged around inside for a moment before bringing out his blaster.
The first shot he made was at the horse’s head, to put it out of its misery.
He watched 500 kilograms of horseflesh collapse to the ground, giving him a clear shot of the police at the far end of the arroyo.
Thoop! Thoop! Thoop!
Two more cops went down. They desperately rushed to reload their muskets, ramming lead balls home and scrambling with gunpowder.
Vargas screamed at them.
“You want some of this bitch? Come and get it! This is the Navy!”
Thoop! Thoop! Thoop! Thoop! Thoop!