"Are you a good shot?"
Taylor looked, and sounded, almost offended as she answered, "...Yes, sir." She stroked the backs of her fingers across the butt of her sidearm - one of those century-old, eleven-shot Super LeMat rarities, Grinnell noted, a finicky beast if you didn't treat it right - as though it had been insulted by the question.
Grinnell half-smiled at that. "I want you to get a rifle and load it with tracers and when I tell you, I want you to put a burst across the bow of that newsie aircar."
Taylor's face lit with radiant joy. "Yes, sir!"
"Across, Taylor, not into. Is that understood?"
Her smile faded, but only slightly. "Aye aye, sir." She trotted over to her own aircar to retrieve her other weapon, auburn curls flying. How does she get her hair to bounce like that in this gravity? Grinnell wondered.
When she returned Grinnell called the newsies again. "Aircar seven four delta, this is your final warning. Lives are being endangered by your actions. Cease your transmissions or leave this area immediately."
"Lieutenant Grinnell, the people have a right to know what's happening here. Terrorists have taken hostages on Jeffersonian soil, that's never happened in nearly two hundred years-" Grinnell broke the connection and nodded at Taylor. Her weapon already at her shoulder, bipod extended and nestled in the crotch of a small tree, she fired a long burst, emptying the 40-round magazine at the high-speed setting, fifteen rounds per second. The 6.5mm tracers - that's an old M11, Grinnell noted; Taylor has a fondness for antiques - burned a vivid red even in South Continent's clear, bright sky, ripping through the space about a dozen meters in front of the MBC aircar's nose. Hastily, the pilot vectored thrust and banked away.
Taylor walked up to Grinnell, smiling beatifically . "Well done," he said. "Reload with ball, and if they come back, bounce a couple off their belly." There was no great risk in that; though the capability was almost never needed - perhaps a dozen times in a bad year, on all the Republic's worlds combined - vehicles that could not withstand small-arms fire did not sell well in the Jeffersonian market.
Then the comm beeped at the little command post Investigator Lieutenant Paul Grinnell had set up outside the Circle Y Ranch and Resort, where Terran terrorists had taken several Jeffersonian Citizens and Subjects hostage, demanding the release of Marsten faster-than-light technology to whatever political faction they had claimed to be from; Grinnell didn't particularly care.
For their part, the terrorists were in a bad mood. They had started with a dozen, and a pair of alert Citizens had killed four and wounded three before being cut down themselves. They'd lost two more to the bare hands of their own hostages, and then quickly another when another hostage laid hands on one of those fallen terrorists' weapons. Their demands and threats were not being taken seriously by Grinnell or anyone else, and they were beginning to wonder what they'd gotten themselves into. Grinnell activated the phone and spoke to the blank screen with an air of condescending impatience. "Yes? What do you want now?"
"What was that shooting? I warned you, if you send in an assault force, we will kill all the hostages!"
"We were chasing off a newsie aircar. We didn't want them to broadcast pictures of our preparations for you to watch," Grinnell answered cold-bloodedly.
"Bring them back! I demand media coverage of our actions! The universe will know of our demands for equality and freedom!"
"The universe will know that a bunch of stupid terrorists got themselves killed attempting to extort concessions from the only truly free nation in known space."
"Bring the cameras back now," the terrorist screamed, "or I will kill a hostage myself!"
Grinnell paused as though considering that, but then said, "Go ahead. Kill a hostage. And then nothing will stop us from killing every one of you. I've told you before, your only chance to get out of this alive is to release all the hostages unharmed and surrender. Now those Citizens you killed in the opening firefight, that was in fair combat; that was different. For that you'll only get to spend the rest of your lives in the penal mines on Crunch, and that's only if you release all your hostages. But if you kill anyone else, you're all dead, and if you don't let them all go right now, you're all dead, and that's my final offer." Pressing a key, he switched his console to display a tactical map, showing the positions of his team. All were ready. "What's your answer?"
The terrorist grabbed a young girl by the arm and dragged her to one of the ranch house's windows, pressing his pistol against her head. "Here is my answer!" he shouted.
Grinnell pressed another key on his phone and a gentle but clear tone sounded in the earphones of his team. A moment later the terrorist's head vanished in a grisly red mist as one of the local Citizens Grinnell had called up fired, decapitating the terrorist with her beautifully handcrafted competition rifle before he could fire. Brilliant light flashed and thunder thumped from within the house as stun grenades detonated, marking the entry team's progress. The South Continent Militia's Crisis Response Team's small arms barked and chattered briefly, then they were shouting, "Clear! Clear!" The hostages started coming out then, a few wounded, at least one seriously, but all alive, medics already tending to their injuries.
The CRT's commander, Lieutenant Caitrin Sinclair, a sculptor of some note in her normal life, walked up to Grinnell with a huge smile across her face. "We got two alive, if we get the medics to them fast enough."
Grinnell smiled back. "Yeah, I suppose the FB'll want to ask them some questions. Go ahead and keep them that way." The terrorists said they wanted the Republic's closely-guarded faster-than-light technology, and that was the business of the FTL Bureau, the only other true police force in the Republic next to Grinnell's own Investigators' Corps. Sinclair nodded and spoke briefly into her communicator. When she had finished, Grinnell spoke into his own, to everyone involved.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Citizens and Subjects, my fellow Jeffersonians, you have all done extremely well. I am proud to be one of you. Once you provide us with the necessary information, we will contact your employers and arrange for you to be reimbursed for any earnings you may have lost. If you will all please stay for another half-hour or so to make your final statements and answer any questions the Investigators' Corps may have, we'll soon be finished, and you can all go home, with the gratitude of the Republic."