Raxe drew his plasma pistol and let out a deep sigh. It was turning into one of those heists. Unlike in the holograms, he thought, a good heist is supposed to be simple. It isn’t meant to be some convoluted clockwork puzzle, filled with last-minute close calls and all guns blazing drama. The best heists are boring, dammit!
Beside him, an oil-spattered steel panel clanged quietly. Jurina looked up from a tangled mass of wires and stared at Raxe with bright green eyes: ‘We’ve got level-six drones incoming. I can’t throw them off for much longer. If they don’t patrol this corridor soon, they’ll send an alert.‘
‘Use the Burner.‘ He grunted.
‘No can do. The locking algorithms on the vault would get caught up too. Unless you’re willing to spend the next five weeks building a new pathway, we’ll get nothing. Fight them off.‘ Jurina hissed.
‘With this?‘ Raxe almost shouted, as he waved the plasma pistol around. Any hope of stealth had long since gone out of the window.
‘Well, yeah. Why did you bring the bloody thing if you weren’t going to use it?‘ Jurina retorted, every word punctated by quiet bleeps from a collection of glowing lights behind a nearby service hatch.
‘It’s for luck. It’s for show. It’s… It’s like a fire extinguisher. You keep it around in the hope that you won’t.. Oh, forget it.‘ Raxe levelled the pistol at a nearby archway. Of all the places to have a gunfight with level-six security drones, this was by far the worst. The only thing that this grotty maintanence alcove had going for it was that the drones could only attack from one possible angle. Unfortunately, that angle was also the only exit.
‘Position?‘ He barked, as he stared at the trembling sights on top of his pistol. In that instant, he regretted not spending those extra thirty credits on a targeting module. Despite all of the wild parties that the thousands from the Centauri Job had funded, those thirty credits had seemed like a useless extravagance. With a pang of regret, Raxe remembered how smug he’d been about not falling for any of the merchant’s clever sales patter.
In an oddly calm voice, Jurina said: ‘Four of them. In the corridor. Thirty metres and closing.‘
‘Four?‘ Raxe spat. ‘Our probe… your probe… only showed two. This is a storage facility, not the bloody Nebula Reserve!‘
Jurina was silent. Raxe took a deep breath. Mechanical clanking filled the air. His sweaty fingers tightened around the slick grip of the gun. The tip of his index finger brushed against the rough edge of the trigger. His heart pounded in time with the clanking. The first bulky, angular shadow appeared on the wall opposite. It seemed to linger there for what felt like five minutes.
As soon as he caught movement out of the corner of his eye, Raxe let rip. With a furious pop, a marble of white-hot plasma zipped across the alcove and hit home with a quiet hiss. He heard a deafening clang, followed quickly by a drawn-out crackling sound. A fraction of a second later, the air was filled with groaning and whirring. Raxe pressed himself against the wall. Jurina ducked behind the service hatch, the trailing mass of wires following her.
The groaning got louder and louder. Raxe held his breath. Then, everything was silent. Letting out a long breath and keeping his plasma pistol in front of him, he edged along the wall. When he reached the corner, he held his gun out and used the reflective edge as a mirror.
A second later, he doubled over. Jurina peeked out from behind the panel. Laughter filled the air. She raised an eyebrow.
By now, Raxe was standing in the middle of the corridor and looking down at a crumpled heap of twitching metal. With a smile, he said: ‘You aren’t going to believe this! They’re level-six drones all right, but they’re cast-offs from the Nebula Reserve. If they can’t hire someone to clean this corridor, what do you think happened to the drones’ routine maintenance schedule? It was a miracle that the poor things were still able to walk. They went down like skittles when I knocked over the first one.‘
Jurina raised an eyebrow. ‘If they can’t hire someone to maintain them, there probably isn’t much in the vault. Hold on…‘ Quiet bleeping filled the air for a second. Finally, with a thin smile, she said: ‘I hope you’ve been working out, Raxe. Some guy in Stuttgart will give us three hundred for the scrap metal.‘