Three Card Monte
Book Two of the Martian Alliance Chronicles

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“Interesting news from Roulette,” Dr. Wufren shared with us, his watery blue eyes twinkling, as we all sat down to dinner.

“And from Polliworld,” Bullfrog added, as he grabbed his plate from one of Tresia’s pincers.

“Is this paying news or just gossip?” Roy asked.

Doven’s feathers ruffled. “Why does the news need to be paying? Don’t we still have plenty left over from our last job?”

Our last job had been a complicated con for the Andromeda Royal Family. As far as I knew, we still had plenty left over.

Everyone looked expectantly at Roy. He grimaced. “You know, we’re not just supporting ourselves. We’re helping to run an underground resistance.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “Here it comes, DeeDee,” he said to me in a stage whisper. “The ‘Martian Alliance Speech’ again.”

Roy gave his little brother a dirty look. “You, of all people, should care.”

I patted Roy’s knee. “It’s okay, oh captain, my captain. We’re all one with the cause.”

The others all nodded or murmured their assent, most with their mouths full. We were all focused on restoring the galaxy to what it had been before the Diamante Families had taken over, but empty stomachs were a more immediate need.

Bullfrog grinned, always unnerving because giant walking toads having lots of teeth made most of the other humanoid races nervous. Long tongues were one thing; teeth like any other carnivore in the galaxy were another. “I think the news might be both.”

“Both what?” Roy asked. He was really testy. I had no idea why. I ran through possibilities: he and I hadn’t had a fight; Kyle hadn’t done anything foolhardy; no one we liked had recently been listed as dead, maimed or injured; and there were no Diamante cruisers anywhere in sight.

Sure, we were in the middle of nowhere, space-wise. We’d learned a long time ago to take our time between big jobs. Maybe it was boredom.

“Both gossip and potentially paying,” Bullfrog replied.

Dr. Wufren nodded. “But we can wait until after dinner to share.”

“No, go ahead.” Roy sounded resigned.

I checked everyone else out. No one else appeared upset. Until I looked at Doven. Because he was a Quillian, and so half-man/half-bird, it was hard to tell when he was emotional unless his feathers were ruffled. And ruffled they were. Just a bit, and he flattened them when he caught me looking at him.

So Roy and Doven were fighting? This was unusual to say the least. However, Dr. Wufren’s next words moved the Roy and Doven issue down to second place for my attention.

“Monte the Leech has sold part interest in the Palace and is personally opening a new casino on Polliworld.”

It was hard to turn the crew of the Hummingbird speechless, but this news did the trick. We all stared, open-mouthed, at the good doctor—except Bullfrog and Dr. Wufren himself, both of whom looked smug about having been the ones to break this galaxy-shaking news.

Roy recovered fastest. “Why?”


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