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Authors: Timothy Zahn

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Blackcollar: The Judas Solution

BOOK: Blackcollar: The Judas Solution
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Blackcollar-The Judas

Solution

Table of Contents

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

EPILOGUE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BLACKCOLLAR:

THE JUDAS SOLUTION

TIMOTHY ZAHN

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2006 by Timothy Zahn

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises

P.O. Box 1403

Riverdale, NY 10471

www.baen.com

ISBN 10: 1-4165-2065-1

ISBN 13: 978-1-4165-2065-8

Cover art by David Mattingly

First printing, June 2006

Distributed by Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Zahn, Timothy.

Blackcollar. The Judas solution / Timothy Zahn.

p. cm.

"A Baen Books original"—T.p. verso.

ISBN 1-4165-2065-1 (hc)

I. Title: Judas solution. II. Title.

PS3576.A33B57 2006

813'.54—dc22

2006005329

Printed in the United States of America

Blackcollar Warriors:

The Only Hope for a Conquered Earth

Baen Books by Timothy Zahn

The Cobra Trilogy

Blackcollar

Blackcollar: The Judas Solution

PROLOGUE

A sprinkling of new snow had fallen overnight on the western slopes of the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland, and Security Prefect Jamus Galway found himself squinting against the reflected early-morning sunlight as he walked down the transport's entry ramp. It had taken five months of slow and painstaking investigation, but at last the search was about to come to an end. Maybe.

A young man was waiting for him at the bottom of the ramp, and even through slitted eyelids Galway could see the other's face go suddenly rigid as the prefect's escort appeared in the shuttle's hatchway behind him. It was the same reaction he'd encountered nearly everywhere he'd gone in the past five months, from the back streets of central Europe to the elite governmental centers of New Geneva. Even here on Earth, after thirty years of Ryqril rule over what had once been the proudly independent Terran Democratic Empire, the vast majority of TDE citizens had never seen a Ryq up close and personal. Even fewer of those citizens had seen a
khassq
-class warrior like the one now striding down the ramp a pace behind him. Certainly fewer
living
citizens. Most people who found themselves facing a
khassq
didn't survive the encounter.

The young man had his expression under control again by the time Galway reached the bottom of the ramp. "Prefect Galway," he said formally. "I'm Security Lieutenant Albert Weissmann. Welcome to Interlaken."

"Thank you," Galway said, gesturing to his escort. "This is Taakh,
khassq
-class warrior of the Ryqril."

"Honored, Your Eminence," Weissmann said, bowing low. His voice, Galway noted with approval and mild surprise, was calm and steady.

Approval, because that was how one was supposed to face humanity's conquerors. Surprise, because if there was anyone on Earth right now who could inspire fear and trembling in those around him, it was Taakh. His well-muscled bulk topped Galway's own height by a good thirty centimeters, and even in the cold of central Europe he wore nothing above the waist except the elaborately tooled belt and baldric combination that indicated his rank and authority. Fastened to the belt at his right hip was a large laser pistol, while a wide-bladed short sword with carved hilt rode its sheath on his left. "I trust the region's been locked down?" Galway asked, looking around at the rows of neat homes and businesses stretched out beneath the towering mountains in the distance.

"Yes, sir, since two o'clock this morning," Weissmann confirmed.

Less than half an hour after Galway had sent out the order. "Excellent," he said.

"Thank you, sir," Weissmann said. "We take orders from New Geneva very seriously."

"Of course," Galway said, trying not to sound cynical. Neither Weissmann nor any of his people had any real choice in the matter, of course, any more than Galway himself did. All TDE Security officers, government employees, scientists, and top business people were routinely loyalty-conditioned by the Ryqril to be incapable of revolt, sedition, or even serious misbehavior. There was nothing Weissmann's people
could
do except take their orders seriously.

Still, there
was
a certain degree of slack in the conditioning. Galway knew a few of his own officers back on his homeworld of Plinry who never put in more than the bare minimum of effort required. If Weissmann's contingent was as dedicated and efficient as he claimed, perhaps the young officer had reason for pride after all.

"That's his house over there," Weissmann went on, pointing toward a light brown structure at the end of a row of modest homes a block away. His eyes flicked furtively to Taakh, shifted quickly away. "Will you want our assistance in taking him?"

"
Yae
rill take he," the Ryq rumbled before Galway could answer. "Yae hunans."

"As you command," Galway said, bowing his head in acknowledgment. Either the Ryq didn't want to get his own hands dirty with this one, or he wanted to see how Interlaken's human contingent handled themselves. Either was fine with Galway. "Your people are in position, Lieutenant?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," Weissmann said. "My thought was to send four men in through the back. We can cut through the garden fence and move in under cover of some small bushes—"

"Whoa, whoa," Galway interrupted. "Any reason we can't just try the front door?" Weissmann seemed a little taken aback. "Uh ... no, sir, I guess not." Lifting his hand over his head, he gave a series of hand signals. "Whenever you're ready, sir."

Galway gestured, and together he and Weissmann headed down the street, their boots making odd squeaking noises in the fresh snow. "New Geneva didn't say anything about the
khassq
being involved in this," Weissmann murmured, glancing furtively over his shoulder at the big, rubbery-skinned alien.

"Should I have brought more men? I mean, so we would look more professional?"

"If we can take Herr Judas quietly, then by definition you brought enough men," Galway assured him. Ahead, armed figures were emerging from concealment, converging silently on the target house. Apart from the standard paral-dart pistols each wore at his hip, Galway saw, their weaponry was a mixture of various types of flechette and pellet scatterguns. Yet another reason for Weissmann to feel nervous about Taakh's presence, though the hodgepodge equipment was hardly the lieutenant's fault. "Unusual name this man has, don't you think?" he commented.

"Yes, it is," Weissmann agreed distantly, his mind clearly concerned with his command's preparedness.

"I don't think I've ever met anyone with such a surname."

"And for good reason," Galway agreed. "Note the pattern here. First they gave us Allen Caine, obviously named for history's first murderer, and now here we have Karl Judas. The Resistance leaders aren't without a sense of ironic humor."

Weissmann snorted. "If you can call plotting to betray and destroy their own people humorous," he said darkly.

That was the loyalty-conditioning speaking, of course. Galway felt the same way, though a small part of his mind wondered if under other circumstances he might see things differently. "Every era has its share of malcontents," he reminded Weissmann. "This one's no different."

"Except that the Resistance has gone far beyond simple malcontentment," Weissmann countered. "I heard a rumor the other day that some of them actually tried to get into the old Aegis Mountain stronghold in Western North America this past summer."

"There was a team working in the Denver region, yes," Galway confirmed, wincing at the memory. "But they never got into the base, and I doubt they ever will."

"I hope not," Weissmann said, turning his head slightly to look back at Taakh. "There could be all sorts of weapons still in there. We certainly don't want them in Resistance hands."

"Agreed," Galway said. "And as to the concern you
haven't
yet voiced, Taakh's presence isn't a sign that the Ryqril are planning to set up shop here in Interlaken. He's with me, and he'll leave when I do."

"I see," Weissmann said, his carefully neutral voice not quite able to hide his relief. "Thank you, sir. I have to admit that ... well, when they took most of our lasers away two months ago, I wondered if there was some sort of reorganization in the works."

"Not as far as I know," Galway said. "And it wasn't just you. I gather that most of the Security forces around the TDE have gone back to flechettes and slug weapons."

"I didn't know that," Weissmann said again, a frown in his voice. "Any idea why?" Galway shrugged, trying to make the gesture look casual. The dark fact of the matter was that the Ryqril had lost three of their colony worlds to the advancing Chryselli forces over the past six months, and suddenly their long-standing space war had taken on a serious land component as well. With close-combat weapons in short supply, the Ryqril high command had ordered that the lasers be collected from their conquered worlds' security forces and rushed to the ground troops now fighting to push back the Chryselli beachheads.

But that was hardly something to be discussed with a junior officer in a remote sector. "Not really," he said.

A pair of Weissmann's men were in position at the front of the house by the time they arrived, crouching in flanking positions by the walkway as they trained their paral-dart pistols watchfully on the door. Others, Galway knew, would be guarding all the windows. "Shall I call for a ram?" Weissmann murmured.

Galway didn't bother to answer, but simply stepped up onto the small porch and rang the bell. One of the flanking guards muttered something under his breath. Apparently, the polite approach hadn't occurred to any of them.

Or maybe they simply thought breaking down the door would look more professional in front of Taakh. He rang the bell again. This time there was the click of a lock, and the door opened a crack. "Yes?" a disheveled young man asked, blinking sleep-heavy eyes as he finished tying a sash around his robe. Galway smiled tightly. After five months, the search was indeed over. "Good morning, Herr Judas," he said, holding up his ID. "I'm Security Prefect Galway. May I come in?" Judas looked pointedly at the guns aimed at him, then silently pulled the door fully open and stepped back out of the way. "You and your men wait here," Galway ordered Weissmann, and followed Judas inside.

The door opened into a plain but neat conversation room. "Am I in some sort of trouble?" Judas asked as he backed up to the middle of the room beside what appeared to be a handcrafted center table.

"That depends on your point of view," Galway said. Even the man's voice was the same. "I've come here to offer you an opportunity. Please; sit down."

Judas hesitated, then crossed to an upholstered comfort chair and sat down. The chair frame, too, appeared to be handmade. "Nice furniture," Galway commented as he took a double seat a quarter of the way around the center table from him. "Your work?"

"Yes, it's my hobby," Judas said. "What sort of opportunity?"

"The sort that can guarantee safety and security for you and your family for the rest of your lives," Galway said.

Judas snorted gently. "Sounds way too good to be true," he said. "Why don't we start by hearing what exactly this wonderful deal will cost me."

Galway leaned back in his chair, studying the man closely. The face and voice were perfect, but what he could see of the man's physique through his robe would definitely require some work. At least four months of it, he estimated, plus the other training the man would need.

Still, they had at least five more months before the rest of the operation would be ready. Plenty of time.

"It'll cost six to eight months of your life," he said. "Under the circumstances, hardly worth mentioning."

"Oh, hardly," Judas agreed with the cynical smile of a man who's been offered a card from a magician's deck. "And what exactly would I be doing during those six to eight months?"

"A job only you can do," Galway said. "We want you to impersonate someone for us."

"What, I've got a twin brother walking around?"

"Actually, you have
two
twin brothers," Galway corrected, watching him closely. "Maybe more. You see, Herr Judas ... you're a clone."

BOOK: Blackcollar: The Judas Solution
5.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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