Sergio met a smiling receptionist, a human and not an android, and gave her his name. Her eyes grew round.

“If I could speak with somebody about certain deposits I have here in the bank, I would be eternally grateful.”

She immediately jumped up from the desk to go find somebody, leaving Niles and Skylar waiting.

Moments later, an older gentleman in a dark business suit emerged from an office, trailing the receptionist. He wore a genial smile and locked eyes with Sergio from across the bank lobby, sticking his hand out when he approached.

“Mr. Sergio! It has been too long. I must say, I am surprised to see you. We didn’t know you were on Thalia when the Republicans attacked.”

Niles shrugged. He said, “Well, you know how it is. We have our ways.”

The comment seemed mysterious, and the bank manager waited for him to divulge more.

Instead, Sergio said, “I have to make a withdrawal today. Times of war and all that. I am here for my gold certificates.”

“Of course, of course. Please, step into my office and I will have you sign the appropriate forms.”

Skylar and Sergio followed him back to his office, where he offered them seats in plush leather chairs sitting in front of his expansive desk.

He sat down, and brought up a holo, smiling apologetically at Sergio.

“We have to do a full biometrical scan, as you well know, in order to access the safe deposit box.”

Sergio nodded.

Skylar said, “Isn’t that hard to do without StarCen?”

The bank manager shrugged. He said, “We keep copies on hand for contingencies, although honestly this is the first time I can remember when we’ve had to go without the AI for any length of time.”

Sergio spent the next several minutes going through an iris scan, a palm reader, and finally a DNA scan.

Satisfied, and apologizing for the security measures, the manager stood and led them to a discreet side door which opened to stairs leading down.

“This is our side entrance to the safes, which are in the basement of course.”

“Safes?” Skylar said. “How many safes does a bank need?”

The manager gave a self-deprecating chuckle. He said, “Madam, we are a galactic bank, and as such we are the largest and most important financial institution on Thalia. We are a central facility and all gold and credit tokens are transferred through us for the whole planet.

“But to answer you question, we have the safe deposit boxes safe, another for credit token distribution, and a third for gold.”

“Impressive that you store physical gold here,” Skylar said in an admiring tone.

The manager’s chest swelled a bit at her praise.

“Indeed. And we are delighted to have customers of Mr. Sergio’s caliber willing to entrust us with safeguarding his belongings. Ah, we’re here.”

The manager placed his entire hand inside a small box in front of a vault door. Skylar recognized it as a more secure scanner, one that would not only scan his prints, but ensure he was alive and not under stress. This helped ensure nobody could use his corpse to gain access, nor threaten his life in order to get inside.

“Sorry to be a bother,” Skylar said. “But while you two are doing that, is there a restroom I can use?”

“Certainly. Go right down the hall, that way.”

Less than a quarter hour later, Sergio departed carrying a briefcase filled with gold certificates. He and Skylar thanked the bank manager, who remained courteous, bordering on obsequiousness, the whole time.

They walked down the sidewalk and back to the alley, cutting between two buildings until they came to the first sensor LuteNet dropped.

Sergio said, “Did you . . . see everything you needed to see?”

Skylar nodded and said, “We’re ready to come back, Lootie.”

Both popped away in an instant.


The Mule and the Iguana remained in geostationary orbit above Lesden until well after darkness had fallen on the city.

Raleigh wrapped up negotiations with Lightfoot about splitting the goods.

Lightfoot said, “I still say fifty-fifty, Chris.”

“Our guy clued us in, got us in, and helped us locate everything. Technically we don’t owe you anything.”

“Yeah, but you’re not like that, Chris. I know you. You and your sense of right and wrong, of moral obligations. Have I ever told you how weak that makes you look as a pirate?”

Chris smiled, even though Lightfoot could not see him at the moment over the neural net.

He said, “Many times. In fact, that particular difference of opinion helped break us up, remember?”

Lightfoot sighed. “Very well. I know you’re not going to budge, and I am grateful, I really am. I heard what you did for Lee Po’s family and the Slender Sylph Company. You gave them a cut after returning to Lute even though Lee got himself killed along with the rest of his crew before you scored your big hit.

“So, yes, I know we don’t ‘deserve’ anything, and yet you’re still giving us a cut just because you agreed to partner up with us when you got here.”

Raleigh said, “What made you get reasonable all of us sudden?”

“Just tell me how much of a cut you want to give me, Chris.”

“Well, I was thinking . . . there are three vaults. One for gold, one for tokens and one for safe deposit boxes. We’ll take the gold and tokens, and you can loot the boxes.”

Lightfoot’s voice perked up immediately.

She said, “There might be some good stuff in there, Chris. You sure that’s the way you want to cut it?”

“Yeah. I hope there are some nice surprises in there for you, Krystal. But, let’s be polite to all those League people and only have Lootie take coins and jewelry and such. There may be items of sentimental value such as paper wills in there. Let her decide what to take.”

“Aw, you’re such a softie for a thief, bank robber, and pirate.”

“If it’s stealing from the enemy, I don’t think it’s bad. But there’s no point in making them suffer beyond monetary damages. So, are you game?”

“I’m game. Let’s do this.”

“Alright. Lootie, begin with the gold vault. Port everything in it up to the Mule’s hold.”

“Will do, Captain.”

In the bank’s vaults, LuteNet looked in via the sensors Skylar left earlier in the day. While ostensibly visiting the restroom, Skylar ported into all the vaults and left behind sensors so that Lootie could “see” everything. With no StarCen to stop her, there was nothing beyond the physical walls to stop thieves.

LuteNet made a calculation on the bars of gold stacked up on the floor. A second later, the gold disappeared and popped into place in the Mule’s hold. Then the other contents disappeared in the other vaults. In three seconds, the vaults were bare.


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