The Pharaoh Contract [The Emancipator Book 1]
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by Ray Aldridge
Category: Science Fiction
Description: Ruiz Aw is an Art League enforcer sent to investigate the disappearance of several slaves from the planet Pharaoh prior to their being "harvested". They are the property of the Art League and their property has been stolen. Ruiz is an ex-slave now working for the League, doing its corporate slave trading dirty work. Pharoah is a planet of slave herds, castes and imagination. It is a planet without hope or freedom. It is a planet of slave poachers. Ruiz must go undercover to find these poachers for the league but he has a conflicting responsibility: he is also the Lone Emancipator, a man with an oath to bring down the slave trade and destroy the League. He alone is the galaxy's last chance. However, if Ruiz is caught or his plan uncovered, the Gencha death net anchored deep within his brain is programmed to kill him!
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 1991
eBookwise Release Date: February 2002
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [423 KB]
Reading time: 265-371 min.
In the dim red light of the Beaster Level, pleasure seekers pressed against Ruiz Aw, a sea of wild eyes, wet mouths, sweat-slick bodies. He moved cautiously through the clamor and stink. Confusion protected him. In this grinding jostle, who would notice Ruiz Aw, who would report him to his employers?
The thought of discovery sent a shudder through him, raised goose bumps on his skin. The Art League's inquisitors would ask, "Ruiz Aw, tell us. Just what were you doing on Dilvermoon? What mischief brought you to the hold of Nacker the Teach, notorious bootleg minddiver?" And, "Ruiz Aw, how did you happen to be there so soon after receiving your net? Tell us, Ruiz Aw." Ruiz could conceive of no explanation that would satisfy those grim personages.
He imagined he could feel the death net behind his eyes, tangled around his mind, squeezing.
They can't be everywhere, Ruiz told himself. And: It's too late to back out. The thought echoed: Too late, too late, too late.
But no one pointed, no one shouted his name. The tightness in his shoulders eased slightly as he approached the freekill sectors. Once in that concealing dimness, away from the robot monitors that crawled the ceilings of the tourist areas, he would feel safer. There, where blood might legally be spilled, he could cope.
He paused at the radiant point of a half-dozen corridors, where a large domed hall provided space for the herds to congregate.
In the half-light of the overhead glowstrips, the hall seethed. Beasters walked, staggered, crawled, swaggered, hopped. Every near-variant of humanity was represented. Everywhere pointed ears quivered, teeth glinted, fur grew luxuriantly in gardens of human flesh. Gleaming selenium scarabs--the personaskeins, the devices that filled each beaster's brain with the chosen beast--clung to the base of each skull. No other adornment was permitted on the Level, no garment that might conceal a weapon.
Ruiz watched the passing faces with sidelong glances, concealing his curiosity, fascinated by the animal lusts and fears and rages that twisted the human features. His own personaskein, set at legal minimum, showed him the shadow-shapes that lived within the beasters, ghostly colorless outlines that swirled about the human shapes. That tall, rawboned old man with the carefully coifed mane of white hair, for example: What had moved him to abandon his executive desk for the uncertainties of the Beaster Level, to play the noble stag? And what of that well-kept young woman? She was skillfully painted with fashionable body toners, she wore her thick orange hair in a love knot, and her sharp little fingernails were buffed into crimson perfection. She wore the persona of a great serpent; she stood waiting in the shadows and in her eyes was a slow careful hunger.
Nearing the far side of the open space, Ruiz observed a pack of wolfheads lounging against the bulkhead, a dozen men and women with wide yellow eyes, facial hair in grizzled tufts, and furry bodies as hard and narrow as slats.
As Ruiz approached, the pack leader stepped forward, eyes glowing with interest.
Ruiz suppressed annoyance. The wolfhead smiled, revealing long canines and a thick red tongue.
Ruiz masked his face with indifference, though his gait stiffened almost imperceptibly. He passed under the biolume sign that flashed pangalac law ends here into the darker corridor beyond. Ruiz felt movement behind him as the pack gathered.