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Episode 38

Infiltration

The crowds were thin as we walked into the restaurant. It was a nice place.

“Don’t pick at your makeup,” Jock hissed at Park. All of us were dolled up in civvies. Getting into the city had been a piece of cake thanks to a few of Royal Cousin Beauregard’s men. We hiked to the edge of the woods, changed into civvies, then a taxi picked us up, driven by one of his guys. The checkpoint waved us through and then we were dropped off in town. Easy. The makeup did feel weird, though. All three of us had various cuts and bruises from combat and three guys who looked like they’d been brawling would attract suspicion, so a corporal with stage makeup experience gave us a touch-up. Weird, I know. It was a big deal to be chosen—we were going to make bank. Jock, Park and I had really shone in taking Cemetery Hill, so we were thrown right back in. I itched to have a rifle or at least a couple of grenades but this mission wouldn’t allow for that. Corwis didn’t really have a gun culture like some worlds. Sad. Instead, each of us had a concealed pistol and a knife. We also had stunpens. They were simple—looked like a little pen, had multiple doses of a fast-acting knockout drug in it. Thump it into someone and they were out like a light. Bad thing was you had to be close to use it. I had to keep myself from patting my gun now and again, I felt so naked walking around in civvies.

The maître d’ approached and bowed slightly. “Good evening, gentlemen. Do you have a reservation?”

“Yes,” Jock replied. “Arnette.”

I could smell steak and fried potatoes and my mouth was watering. It would be a heck of a lot better than camp food. I’d almost do this mission for free if they threw in a tankard of bitter and some ice cream for dessert.

The maître d’ checked his tablet and frowned.

“I’m sorry, sir. It appears your reservation is not on here.”

“It’s not under my name,” Jock said. “Arnette was the gentleman we were supposed to meet.”

“No, it doesn’t appear to be in the system at all. We do have a table, however, if you would like one for your party.”

“No, thank you,” Jock replied, much to the dissatisfaction of my growling stomach. I knew steak wasn’t important to the plan, but hey, I wasn’t going to turn it down on purpose. Of course, we had bigger problems than steak now. If we’d been compromised, we were in big trouble.

Arnette was supposed to be Prince Beauregard’s alias of the evening. He needed to get out of the city safely and we were his escorts back to camp. Word was that he’d be replacing the king once we were through. That explained the half-hearted shelling of the city. We weren’t going to pound it until the guy was safely out. As soon as we got out of the city with the Royal Cousin they’d probably unleash hell.

We stepped back into the street behind Jock, acting as casually as we could. “Come on,” he said, “let’s get to a less crowded spot and work this out.”

A few moments later we were leaning against a wall on a nicely-tiled walkway between two buildings as if waiting for dates to show up. Captain Marks had told us to slouch before sending us off. “Posture is a dead giveaway,” he said. “We can’t do anything about your obvious fitness level, but just look at civilian guys and act like them. And don’t start fraternizing with the local girls.”

Easier said than done, I thought, as a buxom brunette in a red dress and a white scarf bobbed past me and looked me over. Hey, some guys just have it.

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Jock was on his comm. It looked like a regular phone but radioed directly back to base. He frowned as he read a message.

“Change of plans,” he said. “Something went wrong.”

“Yeah, I figured that out when you turned down dinner,” I said.

“Worse than that,” he said. “We’ve got no sign of our contact at all. He’s either compromised or he’s hiding.”

“Great,” Park said. “So what now?”

Jock dialed a number and held up a finger. A short, whispered conversation ensued, then he hung up and dialed another number. After a minute, he ended the call and turned back to us.

“First, the prince’s men say Beauregard was picked up by a few heavies and hasn’t been seen since.”

That didn’t sound good. “So we’re out of here?” I said.

“Negative on that,” Jock said. “Seems we have eyes on the other prince, the new heir. We’re going to bring him in instead.”

“For what?” Park said.

“He’s a hell of a bargaining chip, and we’re not far from his location now.”

“Where’s that?” I said.

“Planet Spice,” Jock said with a grin.

“It’s gotta be a whorehouse,” I said.

Jock nodded happily.

“Great,” I said, “and me without my booster shots.” Ace was going to be pissed he missed this mission.

“We’re about twelve blocks from it,” Jock said quietly, looking at his phone. “The prince has three guards we’ll have to take out. We’ll go in, see if we can get a room next to his, then blow through through the wall and take him. Follow my lead and act natural. We’re just healthy young men out on the town. Now let’s roll.”

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Wardogs Inc. series cover
Infiltration episode cover
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Wardogs Inc.

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