As my faithful few know, I am in the midst of a re-write on The Last Captain. I am in the process of shrinking eight major POV characters down to three. That takes a lot of work, much of it feeling akin to sticking one’s hand into a spinning bucket of razor blades.
Below is a section I cut in service to the story. Prometheus is one of my favorite characters, and this one of my favorite scenes. It just didn’t work from any other perspective, and he does not serve the story as a POV character, at least not for this book.
Anyway, I had to let folk see what I cut. My ego is like that.
I hope you like:
Prometheus checked the lines of his suit as the limousine rolled toward the meet. The warehouse district wouldn’t have been his first choice for the transaction, but he was the outsider here, and had to accommodate his buyer to some degree.
The limo slowed to a walking pace and several men from his security detail hopped from the lead and chase cars. They slowly rolled the last few meters to the meet, his hired men conducting a visual check of the area. Some looked a little less than the professionals he would have preferred for such dealings, but bringing his personal vehicle and driver had been about all he could afford.
He sighed at this obvious sign that he was on his own. The Syndicate wasn’t behind him on this one, leaving him feeling exposed. He understood why and was making moves to improve his situation, but things simply weren’t as easy since the War came to an end. Too much talent trained to mayhem out there working for rival organizations and the authorities actually had time for cases involving base criminals instead of chasing The Perfected. Peace made things harder, and more expensive. The Syndicate had a history almost as long as the Imperium, and Prometheus believed it was tied too closely with that government to avoid the post-war pains they were suffering. He felt, deep in his old bones, that the Imperium was in the process of disintegrating under its own weight, the War accelerating the collapse. The Syndicate was refusing to see it, and looked to go down with the ship.
Prometheus planned to carve out a spot for himself here beyond the core worlds. Keeping his plans quiet from his rivals and cohorts in The Syndicate made it hard to complain to them about being out in the cold. He’d paid for the trip and the goods with his own money. Setting up shop had been expensive, but he now had a solid line into the Governor’s office. That had cost him, but after this sale he’d be able to afford some more tech-savvy guard services. Even if the buyer got stupid, there were others. Finding them would slow Prometheus’ plans a bit, but wouldn’t put an end to them.
The detail was pretty thorough, but without the technology to detect power sources for the more esoteric of the assassin’s weapons or even a sniper in concealment, it was down to the mark one eyeball and the unprofessional muscle he’d hired.
Despite his assessment of the quality of his guards, Prometheus knew the motorcade made an impression on the buyer as they came to a stop in front of the warehouse. The doors were open, but a local-built luxury off road vehicle blocked most of the entrance. Gilles tried to look like the alpha lounging among his wolves, but only succeeded in looking like another mean mutt in a mangy pack of dogs. Gilles had obviously climbed from street-level talent. The local man’s lip curled in a sneer most likely meant to show his men contempt for the older man’s attention to security. The four men with him were visibly armed and, in Prometheus’ experienced opinion, trying too hard to look dangerous.
Something troubled the old man as he put his hand to the limo door. Borges stopped and looked up at Gilles, then at the street. There was nothing but the sneer on Gilles’ face to indicate what he was thinking. The street looked clean, but Prometheus hadn’t lived to his age by ignoring his intuition.
Balanced against his need to make the sale, safety took a slight hit. Extemporizing, he popped the door and waved Gilles over without getting out.
Prometheus waited for Gilles to decide whether he wanted to get into the car. Greed was a bitch, and Gilles took only a beat or two to decide he wanted the goods. He voted with his feet, walking forward.
“Have a seat, and we can get to it,” Prometheus said.
“What’s up, don’t wanna to get your pretty shoes dirty in the local mud?” Gilles asked, local accent softening the vowels.
Prometheus just stared.
After a moment the local got into the limo. Gilles wore some scent that made Prometheus’ nose twitch in irritation as the younger man sat. Prometheus noted the local making a conscious effort to leave the door open.
“You have the money?” Prometheus asked.
Gilles hitched a thumb at the vehicle blocking the warehouse door, “I do.”
Trying not to sigh, Prometheus pulled the thin case from inside his vest, “Your product. Get your money over here and get your product.”
“Right,” Gilles got out and raised his hand.
The shielded window separating the back of the limo from the front was suddenly painted red with the driver’s blood and brains, the hardened material starring as the round finally stopped. A heartbeat later Prometheus heard the shot through the open door. He twitched, the complex muscle movement triggering a number of responses, both in his body and the cortex linked to the car. Adrenaline made his mouth taste of iron and the world slowed down as store-bought nerves prepared for fight or flight. Acting on his escape command, the open door of the limo tried to snap closed.
Gilles didn’t do the smart thing, instead trying to hold the door open as the cortex began to maneuver the car away from the curb. More gunshots rang out, his security detail and the locals exchanging fire. The hydraulic system for the door wasn’t quite powerful enough to close with Gilles’ bulk holding it open. Pinned in the door, he started to shout as the vehicle began to drive off, whether in pain or fear, Prometheus didn’t care.
Prometheus lowered himself below the window level as another penetrator round slammed through the driver’s compartment. Thankfully, the round slowed enough to become trapped in the clear armored partition again. Several lighter rounds, fired by one side or another in the firefight, pattered against the armored skin of the passenger side near Gilles, failing to penetrate.
Gilles struggled to get in as Prometheus pulled an oddly-shaped pistol from a shoulder rig. He armed and pointed it at Gilles just as the man maneuvered himself into the back seat. The weapon discharged with a Thup! of compressed air as the door snapped closed behind him. Gilles shouted with more surprise than pain as the fat projectile thumped into his chest like a heavy punch. The real pain came a second later when the round activated on contact with his body armor. The catalysts carried in the round reacted with the polymer and ceramic matrix of the armor, the resulting heat of the reaction boring a fist-sized hole in the armor and a centimeters-deep crater in Gilles’ chest.
Prometheus felt the heat across the passenger compartment as the local man slumped lifeless to the floor. Smoke curling from his mouth and chest.
The sniper hit the limo again as it rounded the corner. This time the shot came through the rear driver’s side window shattered the partition and disappeared into the rich upholstery next to Gilles’ corpse. Prometheus prayed the sniper kept trying for him instead of disabling the car. Not that the in-wheel four motor design was easy to stop with a few shots, but it could be done. The battery packs were fairly vulnerable.
Prometheus cursed as the sniper seemed to read his mind. The heavy vehicle juddered as a round entered the rear and interrupted some vital process.
A second later an internal siren blatted, indicating a major system failure in the cortex driving the vehicle. More smoke, smelling of things that should not burn, belched from the vents.
Bad sign. Prometheus thought, holstering the borer.
Thinking the sniper was more likely to shoot anyone coming out the driver’s side, Prometheus climbed around Gilles’ still-smoldering corpse and put his hand to the handle. Thankfully, the cortex was still able to recognize his hand, and popped the door open. The limo was slowing already, only making about thirty or forty kay. Still fast enough to break bones or a skull and easily fast enough to stun and render him incapable of evading further.
Best make sure it isn’t my skull then, Prometheus thought.
He singed his hands grabbing Gilles by the still-hot lapels of his armored jacket. With a powerful surge of the finest muscles money could buy, he heaved Gilles and himself out the door. The corpse and the old man hit the pavement with a thud. The ground snatched the corpse-sled from under Prometheus almost immediately, but not before the dead man absorbed a good deal of the force of the impact.
The sky rolled into view, followed closely by the pavement, then the sky again. Prometheus sucked in a breath, regretted it as something in his chest complained. He got to one knee despite the pain, started to move. More gunfire from around the corner, followed closely by the high whine of over-stressed motors.
The chase car from his security detail came into view, hurtling past the intersection to slam into the base of pillar supporting a billboard on the far corner of the intersection.
The pillar cracked off the base, coming to rest on its broken support a few meters from the base before slowly toppling forward. Prometheus saw a man toss a long rifle aside and scramble to jump from the falling billboard. The billboard came down atop the sniper and the vehicle that had destroyed it, crushing the driver’s side and the sniper beneath.
One of Prometheus’ men exited the passenger side of the vehicle, raised his weapon and squeezed off a few rounds back toward the warehouse. No return fire came his way as he cleared the rear of the vehicle and smoothly crossed to the far side of the street, weapon at high ready.
Prometheus pulled the borer again, watching closely. If Gilles’ men were down and the man had been truly stupid, or merely indecisive, the money might just be in the warehouse or in the big, flashy all terrain vehicle he’d come from. Besides, a ride would get him out of here faster.
Cautiously approaching the corner, Prometheus almost took a few rounds from his own hyper-alert guard. The man’s lips moved in a silent curse before he returned his attention to the bullet-riddled vehicles and open warehouse doors.
The security man finished slicing the pie, firing a quick flurry of shots into the warehouse from across the street. Someone screamed and there was a clatter like a dropped weapon.
Slick. Professional. I take back what I was thinking about the locals, he thought as he watched the other man work, Now if I could just remember his name.
A siren could be heard in the distance as Prometheus’ man retreated behind one of the pillars of the overpass and re-loaded.
Once the man, whose name would still not come to him, had his weapon up and trained on the door again, Prometheus began to advance. Doing a little slicing of the pie himself, he moved counterclockwise and in so that he could reveal as much as possible of the warehouse interior and as little of himself to anyone inside before approaching. It was a tricky maneuver since he didn’t want to cut off his man’s line of sight or make himself a target before he caught sight of any opposition. He moved as smoothly and fast as possible, trying to remember everything he’d ever been taught way too long ago and still remain loose enough to respond accurately.
A few breathless moments later and he’d determined that there were no longer any live targets in the vehicles or warehouse.
Prometheus nearly jumped out of his skin as the man spoke. He hadn’t even heard his approach.
Recovering, he punched his chin at Gilles’ truck, “Let’s see if that abomination is working.”
Vytas! Vytas is his fucking name, Prometheus finally recalled as the man hopped into the driver’s seat and started the truck. Armored, the big utility vehicle was relatively unmarked by the firefight, but loud as hell. Some kind of internal combustion engine and a modified exhaust combined to make the thing snort like a demon.
The limo would be hard to replace, but Prometheus was more than happy to have survived. Tomorrow was another day, and another deal. Given the quality of the victims, Prometheus even dared hope for a moment that law enforcement would write this one off without too much thought.