Somethin big had happened. It seemed to be the only thing anyone could talk about, but at the same time no one knew anything. It was all speculation.
Maren was aboard a no-frills public transport, the Velodona, headed for Buckminster on the ringstation around Argelander Aleph out in the halo—she was keeping a low profile—when the captain made an announcement: Argelander Aleph was gone, and the entire ringstation with it. There was little left with which to make a determination as to the cause. It was just gone. The Velodona formed a caravan with a few other transports in the vicinity and set course for Rivera, a sparsely populated moon around the gas giant Vogt in the Haghighipour system. It wasn’t exactly close by, but it was close enough. Just inside the halo, for what that was worth.
Rivera was gone, too. Their caravan merged with another and made for Zubrin, where their luck remained the same and they repeated the process again. Every colony world was gone without a trace, except for one: Gilster.
Of course it was fucking Gilster.
As it happened, Maren was trying to get as far from Gilster as she could. It was a major financial hub. Rich in rare metals. Population in the billions. A comfortable, stable place for organized crime. For people like, say, Dmitry Korzhykha, who owned controlling stakes in Pyramine, Rife & Slag, and Realm Financial, and wielded his considerable power to launder untold trillions for the most vile criminals humanity had ever produced. He bought politicians like most people bought consumables: cheaper in bulk.
Maren knew all this because she’d been on the take as a detective and foolishly tried to get out. She’d sent evidence and confessional statements to 38 assistant DAs across Gilster, and then fled the system during the resulting bloodbath.
And now, while the whole galactic empire was inexplicably falling, Gilster was the last remaining colony. The last refuge. The last place she wanted to be.
She bought a foreign outfit from another passenger and harshly stenciled her face in the fashion of the inner-worlders these days. She pulled up her hood and kept her head down. But it was no use. Korzhykha’s men were waiting on the docking platform, and they were no amateurs. They picked her out immediately.
Apparently the boss wanted a word. Well he would get that—and a little something extra. The hour was never too late for a little vigilante justice.