Vin Selmar was the head of the Rylean Cultural Police Commission, an organization which existed to oversee security for the National Palace museum, the asteroid city’s opera hall, and its zoological garden. The latter institutions were only lumped together with the museum for reasons of efficiency… as the opera house contained nothing more valuable than its own admittedly impressive architecture and the zoo had nothing that couldn’t be cloned, the museum received the bulk of the RCPC’s attention.
Selmar was also fortunate enough to be the last remaining high government official who was still afforded the use of one of the lavishly appointed offices within the Palace itself.
His office was a thing of beauty. It had a fountain, with little naked winged babies spitting an endless stream of water. It had a big desk made of nanite-enhanced self-cleaning, self-polishing, self-renewing mahogany.
It was also seven floors above the suite of newer, more functional offices in the basement, from which the museum was actually run, which was where Selmar headed after reading the file sent to him by Abrams.
“Please tell me some good news,” he said sourly as he entered the security hub. “And by ‘good news’, I mean ‘that it’s a hoax.’”
“UTAH confirms the details in the citfile,” the security chief said. “Including the financial bonds. If that bomb did go off inside a government building, the Hibernian economy would be ruined.”
“I’m sure that would be a great comfort for my successor to this post,” Selmar said. “What are the details on the device?”
“It’s a shaped charge… powerful, but with a very limited blast,” the chief reported. “It would be incredibly difficult to kill anybody with it… not counting the carrier, obviously.”
“What’s the triggering mechanism?” Selmar asked.
“It’s set to go off if removed,” the chief said.
“That’s to be expected,” Selmar said. “But how would our guest set it off?”
“That’s the only way,” the chief said. “It’s set to go off if tampered with. There’s no manual switches, no timer, no signal receivers of any kind. It can’t even be disabled.”
“Bloody hell,” one of the security ops said. “It’s a chastity belt.”
“Or a targeted assassination device disguised as one,” Selmar said. “Do we have any VIPs… any other VIPs, I should say… on the floor?”
“You’d know if we did,” the chief said.
“Yes, quite,” Selmar said, frowning. “I want eyes on our, ah, distinguished guest at all times.”
“Right,” the chief said. He pressed a button on his console. “Palace security, let’s have a level three watch on…”
“Level two,” Selmar said. “She is, after all, only one man.”
“Level two watch on museum guest Designate Regan Bard, human physical profile #3A45F2.”
There was a brief pause and then a voice came on the line saying, “Say again, central… we have no museum guest matching that description.”
“Excuse me, but I believe the patch is over her right eye,” one of the security personnel pointed out.
“Oh, right,” the security chief said. He opened the commline again. “Amend that: physical profile #3A45F3.”
There was another pause, and then, “We have her.”
“Right,” Selmar said. “And cancel privacy protocols for the… well, any restroom which Designate Bard goes into. With that skinsuit get-up on, there’s no way she could dislodge the bomb in public without giving us plenty of warning.”
“I once had a girlfriend who could shoot ping pong balls from her cooch,” the security chief said. “Sir.”
Selmar stared at him.
“It… seemed relevant,” the chief said.
“Right,” Selmar said. “I’m going back up to my office. Remember, I want eyes on Designate Bard at all times… and let’s have increased vigilance throughout the facility. I want eyes and ears open for anything out of the ordinary, people… if this heavily armed and diplomatically well-connected peacock isn’t just here to browse the galleries, she might just be a distraction.”
A red light came on in the corner of the chief’s communications console.
“Hold on, sir,” the chief said. “I’m getting a priority alert from one of the floor guards.” He pressed a button. “Go ahead.”
“Chief, we have a guest, uh… touching… some of the exhibits in the modern sculpture area.”
Selmar leaned over the communications console before the security chief could respond.
“You should be able to handle that,” he said. “The docents should be able to handle that. Have somebody ask her nicely to stop, and if she won’t, escalate.”
“I… uh… the thing is, I would rather not, sir.”
“Excuse me?” Selmar asked. “I don’t think I could possibly have heard that correctly.”
“Nobody wants to stop her,” the remote guard said.
“And just why is that?”
“She’s… uh… touching them with her… cervix… sir.”
“Monitors on!” Selmar ordered.
While a crowded gallery watched Galatea Adams expanding her horizons with the nosecone of an impressively sized statue of a semi-anthropomorphic rocket entitled “Man Or Astroman?”, Leo leaned in the opened doorway of an unused elevator and watched the uniformed guard with the finger to his ear.
When the conversation ended with no action, he took half a step back, shouldered off his heavy pack, and hit a random floor button before stepping back out into the hall.
The doors closed and the elevator rose up two floors. When its doors opened again, the car was empty.
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