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If heading up a criminal syndicate in the ‘City was one of the things most people expected to involve some degree of glamour and excitement, the reality, as Durban Chola soon discovered, was a lot less dramatic.
The operational framework had been fixed in place the first day he took over. Durban had been recuperating from an injury, sustained during the change of administration. Reclining on a chair in the master suite of the luxurious mansion that under ‘City convention he had just inherited from the previous incumbent, Sarnai Altan, he had been in discussion with Jazatar Baldrik, his head of security — ironically also inherited from Sarnai Altan.
It had been less of a discussion and more of an instructive lecture from Jaz on how Durban needed to comport himself. Both in regard to his own security and as a syndicate crime lord — known as a Name — in the ‘City. Durban had listened and nodded in the right places. When he finished, Jaz stood by the window gazing out at the sunset over the panorama of the mansion’s grounds and the ‘City beyond.
“So how do we play this, in your view?” Durban asked. “I mean the whole running-the-syndicate thing.”
Jaz turned as Durban spoke and looked as though he was giving the question serious consideration.
“You do your job. I do mine,” he said after a few moments.
“We’ve got the same basic aim, Blondie, shouldn’t be a problem.”
“We need a bit more than a broad direction of travel in common if we are going to make things work in the ‘City. You know that.”
Jaz gave an offhand shrug.
“I don’t mind what you want to do with the business side of things, Blondie. I’ll keep the ‘City scared enough of us for it not to matter, long as you can keep the money coming in to pay for it. You need me to lean on anyone, you let me know. It should be pretty straight forward.”
“And what about Avilon?”
“He can carry on with me as he has been. I can’t see as how he would be much use to your side of things.”
“I meant what about the memories?”
Jaz’s expression darkened.
“Well now, that’s an interesting question. I’d not noticed them featuring in too much of your decision making so far.”
The memories were Avilon’s, of his past life — his life before he and Jaz had served as convict military conscripts. Memories Durban knew could be restored, to make Avilon the person he had once been, instead of an individual with no more than six years of conscious life lived. It was through the intention of restoring those memories that he and Jaz had first been drawn together.
“There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity,” Durban said. “So much happening that there’s been no real opening for us to even discuss the matter, let alone take any action on it and you’ve not been exactly approachable the last few cycles.”
“Yeah. It’s all my fault. I can see that.”
Durban smiled in a conciliatory way.
“Don’t be so sensitive, Jaz. I’m not worried about the past — it’s where we are going now that matters.”
Jaz moved away and looked back out over the gardens for a few moments before replying. His tone was flat.
“I don’t know, Blondie.”
“You’re still committed?”
“To Avilon? Of course.”
“Then what don’t you know?”
Jaz let out a breath and shook his head. “You’ve not even told me what it involves — where we need to go, what we’ve got to do, things like that. So how can I know? Right now I can’t see we can go anywhere or do much about it anyway — I’m tied here. The CSF have me pinned here. They’ve made it very clear if I try to leave, I make the top ten bounty chart and we’d get locked out of the ‘City for life. Until we can get that under control, it’s a bit —” he broke off, searching for a suitable word. “It’s just a bit unrealistic to talk about it right now.”
Trust A Few by E.M. Swift-Hook is free to download today 5 December 2022.
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