With a fumbled speed unbefitting his age Saul Tython Oomanchen raced around his office, packing as much as he could into his large black briefcase. Toothbrush. Burger. Tiny little mascot statue of Jim Bexley Speed, the sporting legend.
Screw it, take everything, he thought as he wrenched a second edition of the Magna Carta off of the wall to reveal a safe. Still piling things into the bag, he stuck his thumb in a little groove on the side and, when the door popped open, swept the contents in with his hand.
He checked his watch. 4:17.
He still had 9 minutes to get off of the ship before it blew. Saul was an entrepreneur, if nothing else.
His company had started the interest in trans-stellar luxury cruise.
Recently, however, the company had fallen on hard times. The war had affected business adversely. His accountant had predicted bankruptcy in less than a month. Foreclosure notices followed suit. Unpacked bills. His contenders closed in like a pack of wolves hungry for the kill.
Well, thought Oomanchen as he slammed the bag closed and ran for the door as fast as his pudgy legs could carry him, I'm not going down alone. I'm gonna take the whole trade with me! It was a simple plan, really. A small nuclear device attached to the second engine manifolds was set to detonate in 8 minutes. Nothing major; just enough to destroy a quarter of the ship. The attack would, of course, be blamed on terrorists. Paranoia would rise; the war would get worse; and most importantly, thought Oomanchen, the travel industry would cease to exist.
Who was to profit? Him. He could claim insurance on the liner and take at least a small profit with him before he vanished completely. Where would he go? Somewhere nice, he thought to himself. Somewhere with a beach and dazzling girls. He heard Ursa Minor Beta was good this time of year for people who didn't plan on living too long; where better to hide?
He checked his watch again as he neared the emergency shuttle. 6 minutes. He was running out of time; he wouldn't be able to get out of range if he didn't hurry.
Oh no, he thought as he turned the corner, it's that irritating security guard again.
At that same moment, the guard saw Oomanchen and thought exactly the same thing about him. As it happened, Evan had just spent the last thirty minutes having a unusual day running around with a girl he hardly knew for reasons he barely understood himself to do with the security of the ship. And in this case, had just heard something very interesting about Mr. Oomanchen.
"Lost again Mister Oomanchen?" He said in a jocular tone. Not wanting to be hassled a second time about unauthorised shuttle entry and definitely too close to the end timer to want to discuss it, Oomanchen pulled out an M6D Personal Defence Weapon System Pistol and, before he had time to react, shot him twice in the chest. He then pushed him out of the way as he jumped in the shuttle and closed the door.
On activation of the shuttle engines, the emergency bulkheads started to close. Evan, with all the strength he could muster, rolled himself onto the other side of the bulkhead doors and just barely evaded the intense hot blast of the shuttle raft engines as the doors closed. He star up straight and chuckled lightly to himself as he ripped off his best to reveal he was wearing a Kevlar vest with several burst bags of syrup down his front. He took a quick lick of the fake blood and gave a side wards nod of vague approval of the taste as he switched on the radio and informed his colleague that Oomanchen was no longer on the ship. The voice on the other side responded in the affirmative.
In the shuttle, Oomanchen checked his watch one more time. 3 minutes. He was nearly home free! The distance between them was increasing slowly, but just enough that he would be out of the blast radius in time. He laughed to himself with a hint of sadistic humour as he thought about the pool parties of Ursa Minor.
Would it be premature to open a bottle of Bollinger? Eh, why not. While the money was still in the bank, it wouldn't make any difference anyway. To hell with the taxmen. He set his briefcase down next to the computer screen. The time said 16:23.
The time was 16:23.
What? How!? Oomanchen checked his watch again. 4:18. His watch was slow!
Never mind; it wasn't a worry. He could just make it if he increased speed to maximum.
"You seem to be in quite the hurry mister Oomanchen."
Startled, Oomanchen turned around and found himself pointing the M6D at none other than Cywren Caster; that nuisance back on the ship. Despite raising her hands, she still had that infuriating air of smug confidence, of someone who was in control of the situation. She was wordlessly gloating at her own victory over him, as if she were the one holding the gun. "Very clever, miss Caster. How did you work out that it was me?"
Cywren huffed derisively. "Oh please, don't flatter yourself. You're no mastermind. It was obvious from the beginning you were up to something. You practically left a trail of breadcrumbs leading from Sonny; to Burns; to you."
Oomanchen nodded. "How are my esteemed colleagues anyhow?" "Sonny? Sonny' just fine, we caught him just before he set it off. He had no clue you were planning to betray him. Burns is a little... worse for wear; he just had a rather nasty accident during a shoot-out."
He nodded again and made a "hmm" noise. "He always was a loose end."
Cywren looked at him with disgust. "And you were incompetent. You seriously thought you could get away with... this. You were willing to kill hundreds of innocent people just to save your own filthy hide. Have you no morals?"
"Screw the morals, I have money! And I plan to keep my fortune, miss Caster! And despite your best efforts, you still won't be able to stop that bomb from going off! What you don't know is that it had a timer installed in case Sonny didn't come through. Call it redundancy."
Cywren cocked her head to one side, a wry look on her face. "What, you mean this bomb?" She held up the nuclear device. Oomanchen stared at it in horror. He looked back at the clock. Ten seconds. Without thinking he dropped the gun and scrambled for the bomb, knocking it out of Cywren's hands and sending it clattering to the floor. He desperately jumped down at it and pulled off the casing. Five seconds. Which was the disconnect or wire? It was always the red one right? Oh god. They're all blue!
"You stupid- don't you see what you've done!. Were all gonna die!"
"Yes" said Cywren, "so it would appear."
Oomanchen stared uncomprehendingly at her flippant response before looking down and wincing as the bomb started beeping. He looked away and waited for the inevitable.
He opened his eyes. He was now handcuffed. The bomb's LED screen now said "have a nice day :)". He nodded again with sudden realisation. He was booked.
"Like I said" said Cywren, "it was obvious what you were up to. I just happened to get to you first. In other words, mister Oomanchen, consider yourself under civilian arrest until such time as the authorities can take you in. I sincerely hope that they never let you out for what you tried to do."
There wasn't much talking after that.
- - -
"You did a good job back there, Cy." Evan still had a sore chest from the experience, but he was healing well. "If that slime all had got away-"
Cywren nodded. There would've been no evidence. To all intents and purposes, Saul Oomanchen would be legally dead.
"So how would he claim the insurance money then, if everyone thought he was dead?" Evan thought out load.
He was right, Cywren thought. One massive oversight in his riddled-with-oversights plan. How he managed to become head of a travel company was anyone's guess.
Evan cleared his throat. "You still think about Avalon, don't you?"
She didn't turn around, and she didn't answer immediately. "I don't want to talk about it."
Evan nodded. "You're gonna tell somebody someday. I guarantee it." And with that he set his mobility chair in reverse and hovered away.