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Interstellar Marines: Predators

Epilogue: Survival of the Fittest

If one had seen the private, heavily armoured car heading across the Harbour Bridge, they might have thought the passenger was a ghost. A pale complexion, not helped by the shaded windows, and the sense to not rely public transport that had yet to break into maglev technology indicated that she had more intelligence than the living. No-one knew what came after death. But if one was going to join some bearded madman in the sky or be reincarnated, presumably your IQ went up as well.

Provided you weren't reincarnated as a goldfish. That would just be sad.

But Sen Sheraston was indeed alive, and not an example of Carassius auratus either. Japanese, her paleness didn't stem from face paint, but rather from the sheer amount of time spent in space. As an ITO official, she went where the work took her. Important enough to be called back to planetside business, but not important enough to be given a car with artificial gravity that could make her more comfortable.

Well, at least the traffic isn't so bad...the official reflected as she gazed out her window to the scant remaining traffic on the city streets. Not like Darwin at least.

Yet at least Darwin's traffic was a different kettle of fish from its space elevator. A space elevator that Sheraston wouldn't have minded travelling down herself. But no. After receiving word from the Eastern New South Wales Police Department, ITO had given her a one-way shuttle ride all the way down to Sydney Airport, domestic traffic be damned. Xeno-13 had been in uproar after the theft of the specimens-no-one had expected a local to call it in.

But rogue marines? Corporate wars? The official smirked. Despite what official sources might claim, that wasn't as unexpected as some could wager. Not on this part of the continent at least. And while she was headed for a plane that would take her to ITO HQ in Europe, she knew that the differences between continents were mainly aesthetic. Mankind had reached the stars, but there'd always be the same crap to bring them back down to Earth. The same crap that Sheraston had to wade through less than an hour ago, flashing her credentials and retrieving the sample herself. The same crap that might actually benefit her.

Connection established.

The official's smirk was removed. A connection was a good thing, but in what was about to go down, she didn't think it that wise to show emotion. Not to people like York Powers and McGraw Hill.

"Gentlemen," Sheraston said, almost wishing she had a cat or similar animal to pet. "Good evening."

Both men opened their mouths to speak. Both men were cut off as Sheraston raised a hand.

"Let's cut through the red tape," the official said. "UniStrand and HelixRail have been sold out. Your assassin and security guard were both willing to talk, and we know that at the very least, you've been involved in the illegal dealings of genetic material."

"You actually believe-..."

"Miss, you've got it all-..."

Sheraston held up her hand again. "Now normally I'd leave that to whatever authority actually cares about what goes on behind the scenes. But your latest batch is Interplanetary Treaty Organization property. Which means I have to come down to Earth, develop muscle pains from the high gravity and have a fifteen hour flight to Europe. And which also means that someone just like me is going to be busting your chops for the next few weeks."

Neither of the two responded to that. They knew what they were in for...maybe. ITO wasn't blind to the types of illicit dealings genetic research could bring, and while it was a unifying power for most of the world's nations, it left most country's affairs to the countries themselves. On the other hand, this was a theft that stemmed back to space, the administration of which was left entirely to bodies like ITO. That it had been transported to Australia was irrelevant in this case.

"Still..." Sheraston continued. "There is an upside to all this."

"An upside? What do-..."

"I'm the only one on the ground," Sheraston continued. "The only one who's carrying three...space sharks. The only one in ITO who knows that the three sharks that were taken off the station are still in stasis."

Powers, who struck Sheraston as the more cutthroat of the pair, raised an eyebrow. "Ma'am...if you're suggesting..."

"Not suggesting...offering..." the official smiled, all thoughts of restraining emotional displays thrown to the wayside. "Offering...to make a report once I arrive at Sydney Airport. An offer to report that only two sharks were recovered, and that the third is unaccounted for."

McGraw snorted. "Unaccounted for? ITO will know that either UniStrand or HelixRail will have it."

"Not necessarily. Perhaps Mister Williams made a separate sale. And don't think of ratting on me or the loser either."

"Why?" Powers asked, defiant to the end.

"Because I'm the apex predator here," Sheraston answered. "Because all of this is being recorded. Because even if Hill gets the shark, you'll be jumping the shark as well. Because you've demonstrated a willingness to conduct business with me. And you wouldn't want that, would you?"

Powers opened his mouth...then closed it. Like the good dog he was, he knew when to heel.

"Very good," Sheraston said. "Now then...shall we start the bidding at two million? I believe that's what was offered to Mister Fellman at least."

It could have ended then and there. It could be that one or both of the CEOs would decide to cut their losses. Perhaps they could have reacted unpredictably.

"Two-point five," Hill sighed.

"Three," Powers countered.

But they wouldn't. It was the law of the corporate jungle. Expand or die.

And leaning back in her seat as the apex predator she was, Sen Sheraston waited to see how high up the jungle trees the monkeys before her were willing to climb.

The End


A/N

And that's another story complete.

I've mentioned this before (at least on my homepage) that I have mixed feelings about this story. Hate to reiterate myself, but...well, on the one hand, I'm surprised to get any responses bar those outside my writing group, and I certainly appreciate the feedback. And there's a certain quality to being able to write with minimal constraints on creativity and the like, such as worldbuilding. On the other, I'll again admit that this is a case of what I've call 'media hijacking,' and having complained about other authors doing it in tie-in fiction...well, a bit hypocritical of me I guess. Heck, there was even the question of whether I was aiming for a cyberpunk story, when the original media is nothing of the sort.

Oh well. Mixed bag. I can live with that. Either way, don't have any other Interstellar Marines stories on my 'to write' list right now, but I am staying in space with a Star Wars story titled Whispers of Infinitude. Hope I can make the transition from sci-fi to space fantasy.