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"Like some jacka.s.s. .h.i.t me when I wasn't looking," Holloway said.
"That happens to you a lot, doesn't it?" DeLise said. "You know, for someone who thinks they're smart, you do some very stupid things. Like not looking up to see if a security camera is actually there."
Holloway closed his eyes. "I'm going to have to give you that one, Joe."
"It's a cla.s.sic," DeLise said. "I'll be telling my friends about it for years."
"You're not really still planning to cave in my head, are you," Holloway said. "After tonight, too many people know you have motive."
DeLise snorted. "Christ," he said. "People in that bar are so scared of me, they don't even sit on my stool when I'm not there. Warren tells me that while I was out working at the camp, the place would fill up and my stool would still be open. s.h.i.+t, Jack. No one there is going to remember anything but that you hit me and I arrested you. Everything else is going to get fuzzy, real fast."
"So why did you do it, Joe?" Holloway asked. He cracked open his eyes again to look at DeLise. "Screw with my skimmer, I mean. You didn't answer that question in the bar. I didn't know you hated me that much."
"Not a lot of people like you, Jack," DeLise said. "Even the people who like you don't like you. And I never liked you."
"That sounds like an admission to me," Holloway said.
"I keep telling you, I have no idea what you're talking about," DeLise said, mildly. "All I know is that you a.s.saulted me, and then I brought you here, and then you got out of hand and I had to put you down. It's not that complicated a story."
"Good," Holloway said. "It means you might be able to keep it straight."
DeLise smiled. "I'm sure going to miss you, Jack," he said.
"You've said that to me before," Holloway said.
"I meant it both times," DeLise said. "Now, you get your rest. We have to make it look good when you resist and I have to drop you."
"Of course," Holloway said.
"Don't worry, Jack," DeLise. "I won't make it hurt too much."
"I appreciate that, Joe," Holloway said. "I really do."
DeLise smiled and walked off. Holloway tried to focus on the fact that he likely had only a few hours of life left, but eventually decided his head hurt too much to think and slipped back into unconsciousness.
Some indefinite time later, Holloway was nudged awake. "Holloway," said a voice he didn't recognize. "Time to get up."
"So I can get beat to death?" Holloway mumbled. "Call me unmotivated."
"You have a concussion, Holloway," the voice said. "It's a bad idea to sleep with one of those."
Holloway lifted an eyelid. The voice he didn't recognize was attached to a man he didn't recognize either. "Who are you?" he asked.
"Well, if everything goes well, I'm the guy who's going to keep you from getting beat to death in a holding cell," the man said. "Now get up, please."
Holloway grimaced and attempted to lift himself off the floor. The man reached down to help him up. "Steady," he said.
"Easy for you to say," Holloway said.
The man smiled, and then turned to the trio of security officers outside the holding cell, one of whom was Joe DeLise, now in uniform.
"I'm taking Mr. Holloway with me," he said. His voice had s.h.i.+fted from friendly to something else entirely. "He needs medical attention."
"He's not going anywhere, Mark," one of the security guards said. Holloway recognized him as Luther Milner, who ran the graveyard s.h.i.+ft. "This a.s.shole a.s.saulted a security officer. We have witnesses."
"Uh-huh," the man now known as Mark said. "These would be witnesses at the same bar where the allegedly a.s.saulted officer beats the s.h.i.+t out of anyone who sits on his favorite stool, right? Because anyone in that bar is going to make a credible witness."
"Hey, he hit me, me, Counselor," DeLise said. "Don't be trying to make it the other way around. That's not the way it played out." Counselor," DeLise said. "Don't be trying to make it the other way around. That's not the way it played out."
"Of course not," Mark the now apparently a lawyer said. "Just like if I hadn't managed to get here in time, Mr. Holloway's neck would have been broken because he was resisting. Isn't that right? Isn't that how this was going to play out?"
"I don't like your tone, Sullivan," DeLise said.
"And I I don't like that you think it's jolly good fun to beat someone to death in a ZaraCorp holding cell, Mr. DeLise," Mark Sullivan the lawyer said. "I have a problem with it personally, but more to the point I have a problem with it as ZaraCorp's lawyer. I realize you're under the impression you don't have to answer to anyone here, but Zara Twenty-three is still technically Colonial Authority land, and murder is murder. And if a ZaraCorp employee murders someone on ZaraCorp property, well, that doesn't look very good for the company, now, does it? Are you stupid, Mr. DeLise?" don't like that you think it's jolly good fun to beat someone to death in a ZaraCorp holding cell, Mr. DeLise," Mark Sullivan the lawyer said. "I have a problem with it personally, but more to the point I have a problem with it as ZaraCorp's lawyer. I realize you're under the impression you don't have to answer to anyone here, but Zara Twenty-three is still technically Colonial Authority land, and murder is murder. And if a ZaraCorp employee murders someone on ZaraCorp property, well, that doesn't look very good for the company, now, does it? Are you stupid, Mr. DeLise?"
"What?" DeLise said.
"I said, 'Are you stupid?'" Sullivan said. "It's a simple question. But if you like I can make it simpler. Are you dumb? There."
"Watch it," DeLise said.
"Or what, DeLise?" Sullivan asked, dropping the honorific. He let go of Holloway and got right into DeLise's face. "You thinking of beating me to death, too? Because no one would miss the a.s.sociate general counsel for an entire G.o.dd.a.m.ned planet, would they? Threaten me ever again, DeLise, and I'll make sure the rest of your life is spent guarding bat s.h.i.+t in a ZaraCorp guano mine. If you don't think I can do it, p.i.s.s in my direction one more time one more time. Do it."
DeLise said nothing. Sullivan stepped back to Holloway.
"I really like you," Holloway said, to Sullivan.
"Shut up," Sullivan said back. Holloway smiled.
Sullivan returned his attention to DeLise. "Now, Mr. DeLise," he said. "I asked you a question: Are you stupid?"
"No," DeLise growled.
"Really," Sullivan said. "Because you could have fooled me. Because, as I'm sure you know, Mr. Holloway here has recently discovered the single largest sunstone find in the history of the known universe. Possibly worth more than a trillion credits, of which his cut is going to be several billion credits. You know this?"
"Yes," DeLise said.
"Good. Now tell me, Mr. DeLise, what do you think will happen when Mr. Holloway suddenly shows up dead in a ZaraCorp security holding cell in a ZaraCorp security holding cell? Is anyone anywhere in the known universe going to believe an idiot security guard's story that he was resisting resisting? Or is the Colonial Authority going to open up a full investigation, prying into all of ZaraCorp's businesses here, looking for other examples of corporate intimidation and a.s.sa.s.sination? Are the Colonials going to halt exploitation of the sunstone seam while it conducts its investigation, costing millions to the corporation?
"Are Mr. Holloway's heirs and a.s.signs going to blithely stand by during all of this, or are they going to sue for wrongful death, adding millions to the billions they already stand to inherit? And are you, you, Mr. DeLise, going to end up doing anything other than spending the rest of your life in a two-and-a-half-by-three-meter prison cell once ZaraCorp decides the easiest way to make this all go away is to pin it all on you? Tell me Mr. DeLise, going to end up doing anything other than spending the rest of your life in a two-and-a-half-by-three-meter prison cell once ZaraCorp decides the easiest way to make this all go away is to pin it all on you? Tell me again again you're not stupid, Mr. DeLise. I would really like to hear it." you're not stupid, Mr. DeLise. I would really like to hear it."
DeLise, entirely cowed now, turned his gaze away.
Sullivan glared at all three security officers. "I need to make this crystal clear. You need to understand this and you need to make sure every other security officer understands this as well. There is one person on Zara Twenty-three you cannot touch, you cannot touch, and it is Mr. Holloway. He is worth too G.o.dd.a.m.n much. If and it is Mr. Holloway. He is worth too G.o.dd.a.m.n much. If anything anything happens to him, the Colonial Authority will be here, and it will shove microscopes as far into our collective a.s.ses as they will go. happens to him, the Colonial Authority will be here, and it will shove microscopes as far into our collective a.s.ses as they will go. Your Your job from this moment on is to make sure he stays alive and happy. And, Mr. DeLise, if that means job from this moment on is to make sure he stays alive and happy. And, Mr. DeLise, if that means you you spend the rest of your time here being punched in the face by Mr. Holloway every time he sees you, then what you'll do is smile and ask if you can have another. Do you understand me?" spend the rest of your time here being punched in the face by Mr. Holloway every time he sees you, then what you'll do is smile and ask if you can have another. Do you understand me?"
"Yes, sir," DeLise said in a tone that Holloway suspected he hadn't used since he was eight years old. The other two officers nodded.
"Good," Sullivan said, and looked back to DeLise. "Now tell Mr. Holloway you're sorry."
"What?" DeLise said, genuinely shocked.
"You tried to stave in the back of his head with a pool cue, as I understand it," Sullivan said. "That needs an apology. Do it. Now."
Holloway watched DeLise's face and wondered if it really was possible to induce a stroke. As amusing as that was, Holloway suspected Sullivan might have taken things one step too far for DeLise's little cow brain. "It's all right," Holloway said. "In fact, I should be the one apologizing to Joe. Let's just say I went out celebrating at another bar and had a little too much fight in me and Joe had to bring me back down to earth. No harm, no foul. Let's forget it."
Sullivan looked at Holloway, figuring out what he was doing and why. "Fine with me," he said, after a minute. "Fine with you, Mr. DeLise?"
"Fine," DeLise said, looking squarely at Holloway with a look that suggested the two of them should never ever be alone in a room together. That was all right with Holloway.
"Fine," Sullivan said again. "Then I think we're done here. I'm taking Mr. Holloway with me. Unless there are any additional objections?"
There were none.
"You are d.a.m.n good," Holloway said, when they were outside the security offices. "I can see why Isabel likes you."
"Glad you think so," Sullivan said. "Because we're never doing that again. Our mutual friend just burned through a lot of her personal credit getting me to save your a.s.s back there. I was happy to do it, because I think you know how I feel about her."
"I do," Holloway said.
"If you have a problem with that, I need you to tell me now," Sullivan said. "I don't like surprises."
Holloway shrugged. "I screwed up with Isabel," he said. "She's not the sort who lets you screw up with her twice. You're good."
"Good," Sullivan said. "Like I said, happy to help her, and to help you. But that's a onetime event. You a.s.saulted a security officer. And not just any security officer. One that gets his kicks being an a.s.shole with a badge. That's just dumb. You screw up again like that, Holloway, and you're on your own. I hope I'm making myself clear."
"You are," Holloway said. "You're right. I was dumb. I won't do it again. Or at least I won't expect you or Isabel to bail me out if I do."
"Fair enough," Sullivan said. He looked Holloway up and down. "How do you feel?"
"Like I got my head bashed in," Holloway said.
"There's a reason for that," Sullivan said. "Right, then. First, hospital, to get that concussion checked. Then you can borrow my couch for the rest of the night. Where's your skimmer?"
"With Louis Ng," Holloway said, naming Aubreytown's mechanic. "He's banging out some dents and restringing my EREs. It'll be ready tomorrow around noon."
"You have an accident?" Sullivan asked.
"I'll tell you about it later," Holloway said. "Hey, did you really mean it that if anything happened to me that the Colonial Authority would look into it?"
"If you died in ZaraCorp security custody?" Sullivan said. "That's a given. If you wrapped your skimmer around a tree, probably not. But there's no reason for them them to know that." Sullivan motioned back toward the security office. "They certainly seem to have it in for you." to know that." Sullivan motioned back toward the security office. "They certainly seem to have it in for you."
"Not all of them," Holloway said.
"DeLise for sure," Sullivan said.
"Yeah," Holloway said. "Thanks for saving my a.s.s. I owe you. You're going to have to wait until they start mining those sunstones for me to repay you, though. I'm spending most of my money on fixing my skimmer."
"You can repay me by giving me a lift," Sullivan said. "When Isabel got me out looking for you, she said to have you bring me back with you. She says there's something she wants to talk to me about in my capacity as ZaraCorp's counsel. I have no idea what that's about. Do you?"
"I might," Holloway said. He rubbed his head and felt a new headache coming on.
"Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?" Sullivan asked Holloway.
Holloway glanced back at Sullivan, who was sitting on a side bench in the skimmer. It was not well designed for extra pa.s.sengers; the side bench sat two, and not terribly comfortably. Sullivan didn't complain.
"You kept me from being beaten to death," Holloway said, turning forward again to watch the endless jungle pa.s.s under the skimmer, on its way back to his treetop compound. "That rates a couple of honest answers."
"How did you get disbarred?" Sullivan asked.
Holloway snorted in surprise. "Okay, I wasn't expecting that," he said. "I thought you were going to ask me what happened with Isabel and me."
"I heard that story from her already," Sullivan said. "Her version of it, anyway. But she says you wouldn't talk about the disbarment."
"It's not hard to find the details," Holloway said. "It got written up in the newsfeeds. I don't talk about it because it was a case of me being stupid."
"When you sell it like that, I definitely want to hear about it," Sullivan said.
Holloway sighed and hit the autopilot, then swiveled around to face Sullivan. "Clearly, you know I was lawyer," he said.
"Clearly," Sullivan said.
"Actually I was a lawyer like you," Holloway said. "I worked for a corporation. Alestria."
Sullivan furrowed his brow, searching his brain for the company data. "Pharmaceutical company," he said, finally.
"Right. Founded by a bunch of crunchy types committed to saving the Amazonian rain forest by using botanicals to create medicines," Holloway said. "But that never panned out, so they went back to the old-fas.h.i.+oned way, synthesizing drugs in a lab. So, about twelve years ago, they get approval for their drug Thantose."
Sullivan's eyes widened. "I remember that," he said.
Holloway nodded; very few people wouldn't remember Thantose. It had been marketed as a safe sleeping and anxiety aid for children, specifically tailored to compensate for the neurochemical differences between children's brains and those of adults. It had sold well until an Alestria executive farmed out the production of the drug to a Tajik vendor, in the guise of slas.h.i.+ng costs and helping a developing economy but in point of fact because the executive received a quite sizable kickback from the vendor.
The Tajik vendor then cut costs of its own, cutting two of the three active chemicals in the drug with cheaper but pharmacologically inert isomers, which changed the relative strengths of the chemicals, and thus the effects of the drug. Two hundred children died; another six hundred went to sleep and their brains never woke up.
"Did you work on the cla.s.s action suit?" Sullivan asked.
Holloway shook his head. "I worked on the criminal cases against the executive. Jonas Stern. He was up for criminally negligent homicide and Alestria for corporate manslaughter. Stern had his own lawyer for the homicide counts, but I was attached for the corporate manslaughter charges. The cases were combined and being heard by the same jury."
"So what did you do on the case to get disbarred?" Sullivan asked. "Did you tamper with the jury? Bribe the judge?"
"I punched Stern," Holloway said.