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So we come to the present day. Increasing concerns over my day job’s long term viability have prompted me to reconsider writing as a career. I dusted off those old files and set to work on them. The result is what you are looking at now. A sci-fi novel that owes its existence to the likes of EE Doc Smith, Jack Vance, Larry Niven, Alan Dean Foster and a host of others too numerous to mention. Without their efforts, my imagination would never have taken flight as it did. This novel is most definitely homage to some of those works.

There are undoubtedly mistakes and grammatical gaffes in this work. For those I apologize in advance. Proof-reading your own work is a difficult task.

I hope you get some enjoyment out of this novel and please, please leave me some feedback about it. Positive or negative,. I can’t get better at this if I don’t know where I’m going wrong.

Enjoy.
Robert Taylor, July 2011



CHAPTER ONE

Hamilton ambled down the slideway in direct disregard of the signs all about which proclaimed it was for cargo only. Slideway was too good a name for it, he decided. It was nothing more than a conveyor belt, and a crappy one, at that. The rubber belt was cracked and frayed and the number of dips he experienced on it hinted at missing rollers underneath. If anyone saw him, and there were plenty about who could, mostly cargo handlers and the like, they did not say anything to him.

There was something about him that said, quite plainly, don't.

It was, perhaps, the suspiciously bulging khaki coverall that he wore. After all, as any good citizen knew, there were no end of drug-smugglers, corsairs and generally not-nice people about these days. This man could be a pirate captain. His unshaven, scurvy henchmen could be lurking about waiting to do his bidding at that very moment, ready to carry off law-abiding citizens to a life of slavery, or worse. Yes, a citizen could be kidnapped or, worse yet, gunned down for even daring to raise an objection to this disrespectful cut-throat.

Hamilton hopped off the cargo slide before it entered the terminal building and glanced back at the shuttle which had brought him down from orbit. It was a battered hulk, he reflected, with probably only a few more years’ service left in it. Certainly the landing had given testimony to its inadequate landing gear. Probably bought cheaply from some scrap dealer, he judged. Still, he'd endured worse and would again, in all probability.

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