Safehacker Mel Broward was gleeful when alien scientist Neertreffa got him out of jail to work with him. He didn't expect to find himself running, naked and without tools or weapons, on a dead planet where a powerful alien wanted to kill him!
Mel Broward had job satisfaction. Breaking into computers for the mob wasn't a bad life, although the occasional stints in prison sucked. Jumping at a chance for early parole, he soon realizes he's got more than he bargained for.
Alien archaeologist Neertreffa offers excitement, the opportunity to ply his trade, and meaningless sex. Mel didn't expect his life to change. He didn't expect to step into a war. And he didn't expect to find something that just might be love.
A door opened on Broward's right, and in walked an alien - seven feet tall, thin, with gray-white flesh, and a face that looked as if it had been laid on in slabs of clay for a spurious Neanderthal air. The alien wore a light-colored business suit and an amused expression that looked out of place. Like a sculpture of the New Nightmare school determined to look non-threatening against the sculptor's wishes.
"Hello," he said, extending his hand to the Warden. His clear, pleasant voice sounded roughly like a medium-pitched clarinet. The Warden took the ET's hand gingerly.
The alien turned to Broward and shook his hand. "Mister Broward, I'm glad to meet you."
"Likewise," said Broward. "Believe me, it's a pleasure."
"Then I'm sure we shall get along well. Shall we be going?" The alien turned as if to leave.
"Just a minute," said the Warden. "There's a procedure we have to observe."
The alien turned back, his eyebrows raised. "The Galactic Club Embassy assured me that all the paperwork had been taken care of. I assumed all that remained was for me to take charge of the prisoner." He gave Broward a slight smile. "If you'll forgive my calling you that."
"Yeah, well," said the Warden. "There's just a few things I want to tell this, um, person."
"I'm sorry, I can't brook any delay at all."
The Warden's knuckles whitened on the light-pen. "You think you're getting off easy, don't you? No worries about the laws you broke or the people you ripped off. Well I, for one, don't think it's going to be so damned easy. I think you're gonna screw up, just like you've always done your whole life, and you're going to wind up right back here. And when you do, I'll be waiting for you, Mister Wise-Ass Safe Hacker. And just so you remember..." He jabbed the PUNISH button several times.
Broward winced but nothing happened.
The Warden looked up, surprised, and the alien produced a small, silvery tool from his pocket.
"I'm sorry. I deactivated your security robot. I did not want my new partner to associate his first sight of me with unpleasantness."
"You deactivated my security robot," repeated the Warden. "you deactivated it! Just who the hell do you think you are? That robot happens to be the property of the State of Pennsylvania. And it cost the taxpayers of Pennsylvania just about three hundred thousand dollars."
"Oh, it will still function once I leave."
"Well, isn't that nice of you? And suppose I arrange to have you charged with malicious mischief? Or obstruction of justice? Are you itching to experience this place from the inside, Mister? Because I can arrange that for you, believe me."
The alien shook his head. "No. I have diplomatic immunity. If you wish to complain, the Embassy has staff members who will listen sympathetically. Now, if you'll excuse me, we have a starship to catch."