He was a Con Artist – a real artist capable of painting the most beautiful confidence trick ever. This was a long con that, if he’d been working for legitimate forces might have been called deep cover – he wasn’t, so it was called stealing. Pebble had trained many con artists – he had started an avalanche, he liked to say, but he was still the only real thing that he considered to be of any note.
This investment of time in this place was being sucked into the centre-piece of the show, known as Coran’s Eye, and when he looked at how much he planned to get, when the spectacle appeared to work for just long enough for his investors to drop irreversible transactions into his account, he couldn’t wait to be done with the whole thing.
‘Farley,’ said Pebble’s Personal Assistant, Peregrine (it took him a second to recall that was him), ‘The investors have made their way to the observation deck, and I took the liberty of starting the countdown.’
‘Good – don’t worry, by the way, Peregrine – the automatic payments will domino a femtosecond later into your account.’
‘Why would I worry? This is going to be amazing.’
‘Yes,’ he said, mustering a smile, as he always could. He felt a little bad that Peregrine was going to be left behind – he worried whether or not he would be able to get himself out of harm’s way before it became obvious.
The cobbled together machinery sparked, and the black hole responded, discharging so much energy he was surprised the structure held. Time buckled around the structure though, and it went dark. What was that coming through? One vessel – the only one that would ever come through it.
They tapped their buttons and the money moved – all those different currencies. It was like music – music to accompany the light show going on outside. And though they couldn’t see it, but there was a ship getting ready to leave (the only one that was ever going to leave via the makeshift gate) and going through the singularity compression sequence while hooking him and getting ready to leave.
The ship arrived wasn’t the first ship in a fleet or wormhole traversal ships, it was a single function and single action AI – a limited pilot program. It didn’t take them long to spot they had been conned, and only slightly longer to see that they needed to exit a vessel that was going to crumple up into nothing. Peregrine managed to get away. Pebble managed to get away.
‘Or did you young man?’
‘Did I what? And how did you get on this ship?’
‘Oh, my name’s Pieter, and I am a Reality Engineer. Well done, by the way, I don’t think you actually realise that you built something that functioned in a way nothing had before – it was a first step. Now, you aren’t getting away, and I need your help to go do something.’
‘Yes, we’re going to con someone.’