|Author||Steven Mohan Jr.|
|First published||25 January 2008|
|Era||Civil War era|
|Timeline||17 September 3064|
|“||Criminality has always been glamorous to those outside and harsh and unrelenting to those inside. Pirates are the worst of the lot, and when a pirate—when a man—sees a chance to do some good, he does it.||”|
Zoltan "Magician" Majoros is on New India in the Lyran Alliance on the 17th of September 3064, leading a small team from the pirate band Morrison's Extractors on a raid to steal JumpShip and DropShip parts from an immense storehouse within the New India Parts Depot in New Mumbai. Zoltan has earned a reputation as a career thief who's never been caught or served jail time, putting him in charge of the mission - and Morrison won't be merciful if they all return empty-handed.
Included in Zoltan's team are Derek "Head Job" Simpson, pilot of a Star League era Flashman that the Extractors recovered from a Star League Defense Force cache before deserting to become pirates, Billy Goat - or "Billy G", as he's more commonly called; Sparky, the communications tech; and Stalker, their DropShip pilot. Billy G was left on New India to observe the depot for month before the main team arrived, and the 17th is the night of their raid.
Having made the preparations for the raid, Zoltan isn't impressed to learn that Billy G's source for the information on the defending militia forces is a woman from the workforce he's seduced, but knowing the price for failure, the raid goes ahead. Beginning by having Stalker's Union attract the attention of the militia - and provide cover for the discrete insertion of a Leopard onto the planet, unnoticed - Zoltan waits for confirmation that the Militia is scrambling to respond to the Union before launching the raid. The main opposition comes in the form of the two patrolling BattleMechs, a Jenner and a Hatchetman; the Jenner is the first to encounter the pirates, rounding a corner to discover itself suddenly under fire from Head Job's Flashman, which has concealed itself in the woods near the perimeter fence.
The Jenner is swiftly overwhelmed, and after trampling through the fence, lasing the ground as he moves to set off buried anti-personnel mines, Head Job promptly turns his flamer on the militia infantry scrambling to respond; the Hatchetman comes running into the area, but after taking one look at the Flashman, retreats rapidly. With Head Job off indulging his favourite hobby - smashing enemy 'Mechs and murdering their pilots - Zoltan takes his jeep over the crushed remains of the fence and up to the main depot building, with a lorry following behind him, ready to load it up with plundered loot.
Gaining entry to the building, Zoltan is appalled to discover that it appears to be completely empty, despite Billy G's protests that he's been watching them move huge numbers of crates into the building over the last month. Zoltan has his team fan out and move through the building, leading to the discovery of a pair of huge doors buried in the deck - and realises that the parts are actually stored underground. With no time to disable the keypad that controls the door lock, the very real prospect of having to leave empty-handed - and King Morrison's inevitable bloody punishment for failure - looms large in front of Zoltan.
It's at this point that the pirates are approached by a pretty young woman riding a golf cart; attractive, well-built and young, the woman introduces herself as Naomi Carpenter, and declares that she's there to negotiate. Zoltan realises immediately that Naomi is Billy G's source - and what she wants is to exchange the lock code for passage with the pirates, envisioning a future in which she's a member of the pirate band. Zoltan agrees readily, admitting to himself that as soon as any of the pirates saw her, she was going to get taken with them... because the Extractors trade in anything that'll sell, and she'll fetch a hefty price in the sex trade or slave market.
With the doors open, Zoltan begins supervising the loading of spares, but finds himself having doubts about Naomi, and starts questioning her about what she's been told about life with the pirates. Billy G openly admits that he lied for short-term gain, filling her head with stories about how a pirate band is like a jolly family that looks out for each other, and while Naomi claims that she has her reasons for wanting to leave New India, Zoltan argues that nothing, no choice, can be as bad as being taken by a pirate band. To emphasise his point, he asks Billy G how long they've known each other - and when Billy confirms that it's been eight years, Zoltan calmly guns him down, leaving him to bleed out on the floor, and points out that he just killed him with no regrets whatsoever because he was no longer useful... and that this is what piracy is.
Zoltan gives Naomi an ultimatum, saying that if she's still there when he brings the cargo lift up, he'll take her with him, but that the Extractors will use her up without a second thought - something he knows personally, as he wasn't always a thief. Naomi leaves while the lift is below ground, and Zoltan admits to himself that over the course of his entire career with the Extractors, saving her was the only true magic trick he ever performed.