THE MINISTRY OF DIRTY TRICKSAll these years ago when it started, Duke was just one of these overpaid, do anything, off-home-world operatives.The planet administrators were little impressed when he asked for a Council Meeting to propose a new section for what he called dirty-tricks. What happened at that meeting is now well written into the lore."So, why do we need dirty-tricks?" said one of the usual admin-guys."Look," said Duke pointing to the clock on the wall.Of course, their eyes went to the clock so they didn't see Duke throw his water-bottle into they corner of the room. It made a noise loud enough to make them all jump and for the security-guys to reach towards the well concealed tools of their trade."So what?" said the admin-guy. "Now we all know the time.""Yes, and I know where their weapons are," said Duke.They gave Duke his section. Of course, it was small at first but it became useful and grew strong as the young planetary colony fought to survive its early years of political intrigue, pirate incursions, unequal trade deals, attempted coups and so on, the usual.At first, Duke operated under gentle sounding cover names. For a while he ran The Office for Planetary Welfare then it grew into the Department for the Protection of Planetary Welfare. However, any young colony is pretty much a closed society and soon everyone was just calling it the "Ministry of Dirty Tricks." Then at one particular Council Meeting that had followed on from a long and generous lunch, they made it official. It was formally proposed, seconded and agreed and on that day Duke became the Minister of Dirty Tricks, for real.In the years that followed, anything published by Duke's ministry became a popular collectors' piece on account of the banner heading. Any well authenticated item bearing the heading "Ministry of Dirty Tricks" could command a high price at auction. Many thought this went a long way to explain how Duke was becoming ever wealthier. Others thought it might go only some little way to explaining his success but knew it would really be best to keep such thoughts to themselves.So it was that concern grew back on the home world, for Duke's power and influence were spreading unchecked across the known occupied reaches of the galaxy. An assassin was sent.* * *Jake knew well that would be assassins should take extra care. But the ladies who worked as hostesses on the deep-space transports were well known for their discretion and it was a very long journey."It's OK," said the lady with the sky blue eyes and the expensive perfume. Her smile was deep and meaningful and conveyed an affectionate appreciation for the over generous tip. "You can only imagine how very discreet we can be here. She poured another drink for Jake and then for herself and then another for Jake."It was not long before the drink was taking effect but Jake was careful to say nothing of his mission."Time to go now," she said. Her sky blue eyes had a beckoning look and her hand felt reassuringly firm on Jake's arm."Wow!" said Jake as he stumbled to his feet. "That is powerful stuff." He gestured broadly towards his last glass, knocking it over."Don't worry, I know where you're going," she said as they set off. Her words had a faraway quality as they echoed down the now mostly empty passageways of the deep-space transport.And then they were there."So, this the way into your quarters? said Jake, Turning, he saw a heavy door close behind him with his companion still outside."Actually, it's an airlock," said the lady with the sky blue eyes, the lady from the Ministry of Dirty Tricks.endThe Ministry of Dirty Tricks was published online in 365 tomorrows, 30 April 2012.