The warm seas of Ambia encircled the planet, covering her in a warm and salty embrace that was near-total except for a single continental landmass.
From high orbit the planet’s surface could look like it was nothing but water, depending on where she was caught in her revolution. There were countless tiny islands, archipelagos, and coral reefs that had risen from the sea floor, and many of those locations served as either private residences for the Solarun upper crust, or hideouts and bases of operation for the less savory members of society.
The mainland was covered by tropical jungle that even the most ambitious of terraforming agencies refused to level. Many attempts had been made, but the nature was unyielding. It was possible to clear land for agricultural or manufactory purposes, but the jungle retook it almost overnight, making the cost of maintenance beyond the reach of all but the richest industrial groups. Settlements and small cities had managed to gain footholds at the rocky bases of inland mountains, but for the most part Ambia was a lush wildlife preserve.
The center of the mainland was known as Terrace, named for the architecture that the rough terrain necessitated. Three craggy mountain ranges met there, risen seams of where once-separate ancient continents had drifted together and pushed their edges up into the Ambian sky. The tallest summit extended above the breathable atmosphere, and occasionally vented molten rock directly into space where it formed asteroids. A thin ring of those rocks orbited the planet, and was mined by various corporations for precious minerals and ores.
The foot of Terrace was home to Ambia’s capital metropolis, a mishmash carpet of urban sprawl that crawled up the sides of the mountain like an encroaching moss. It was the center for bureaucratic activity on the planet, but held only symbolic power. The city also had the largest official civilian spaceport, though there were an unknown number of privately held launch points scattered over and below the planet’s surface.
For traders, Terrace was the only place on Ambia with a proper white market, and that meant the only place to network into the grey and black ones. It was the information hub of the planet, and if Storz was to find any leads on his attackers, it would be the best place to start.
Once inland, he guided his vehicle onto a major skyway and let the computer plot a course. As soon as the automatic systems engaged, he searched the interior of the car for anything useful. He could not remember ever having been inside Chalia’s car, and he offered a posthumous complement on her choice. The back seat was littered with packets of easy-meals, and he swallowed several of them with gusto, washing the meager feast down with a bottle of warm water. The front compartment held a small ballistic pistol with a harness and a few clips, which he slung over his shoulder.
“No loose money?” he sighed. “That’s very disciplined of you, Chalia. Too bad for me.” He accessed the car’s data terminal and loaded his credit information. He was not surprised to find that his local accounts had all been frozen. It added credence to his belief that Kingston was still alive and wanted his contract fulfilled. No power in the Solarun system could freeze an Ambian credit union’s accounts, but to an extrastellar trade house it would be child’s play. They were as gods amongst the people of the lesser universe, appearing as wizards and sorcerers with their hyper-advanced technology and knowledge. A little bank hacking was well within their means.
Storz considered his options. He assumed that his cover on the planet was blown, and that he was being monitored. The people after him would be tracking everything that he owned, and anyone he knew, though that number had been drastically reduced. As secrecy was no longer possible, he dismissed the stealth approach.
“Guns blazing? Just like the old days,” he chuckled and reclined his seat, gazing up into the late afternoon sky. The lavender-colored clouds that striped the ceiling of the world reminded him of the way that the night light would filter into his old quarters on Evanthus, and he felt the pinch of homesickness in his heart.
He closed his eyes and drifted away.