Children of Darkness: Chapter 6
Do you need to get caught up? Read Chapter 1 here
Iaka hadn’t seen any agents for hours. After she escaped the assassin, she fled north and found a dark alley in a poor section of the dome in which to hide. She’d eluded them for now, but they’d have agents everywhere looking for her. How could she get back to the spaceport, find Marcus and Solomon, and get off the planet?
The stench of the alley overwhelmed her fear. She walked out to the end and looked left and right. The street looked deserted for the moment. Cheap housing filled this part of the dome and most of the people went to work first thing in the morning and didn’t return until late. Night would fall soon, the workers returning home for dinner. She needed a place to hole up, her body ached and she couldn’t think straight.
She had an idea, but it made her cringe. Ducking back into the alley, she stripped off her slacks. Her tunic came down to mid-thigh and made a passable dress. She unbuttoned the top three buttons and let her hair down. She took a deep breath and let it out. All right, here we go. She left the alley and started down the street.
Iaka did her best to strut and swing her hips. It felt unnatural. She tried to blend in most of the time, not stand out. It got darker and more people walked the streets on their way to or from work. A few were out looking for a good time.
Judging by the number of looks she got Iaka decided she must have done something right. Two factory workers propositioned her, but they both looked too strong for what she had planned. A soft-looking man in his forties caught her eye. A middle manager maybe, married, out looking for a fling. Perfect. No way he lived in this neighborhood.
She sashayed over and sweat dripped down his face. “Looking for a good time?”
“I, I, yes. How much?”
“A hundred for an hour, three for the night, hard credits of course.”
“That’s uh, that’s fine. An hour. Do you have someplace you do this sort of thing?”
Damn it. She’d hoped he had a hotel room. “Sure, baby.” She bent down and grabbed his arm. He trembled. She glanced around and spotted a cheap-looking motel, paint peeling away from the plaster. “Come on.”
She led the man toward the motel. Sweat soaked his shirt. The auto-doors opened halfway as they approached. Iaka went first and strutted up to the clerk bot, putting on a real show, the poor bastard might as well enjoy the view.
“We need a room,” she said as her date joined her.
“Five credits,” the bot said.
She looked at the man with one eyebrow raised. He blinked.
“Got to pay up, sweetie,” she said.
“Of, of course. How much was it?”
“Five credits,” the bot repeated.
He dug a coin out of his pocket and passed it to the machine. Iaka caught a glimpse, fifty credits. The bot made change and slid a pass card across the desk to them. “On the right,” it said.
Iaka snagged the key card. Room twelve. “Ready for some fun?”
The poor man trembled harder now. She needed to get him to the room before he passed out.
She grabbed his arm again and they hurried down the hall. Iaka found their room and slid the card through the lock. She guided her date ahead of her, glanced around, and shut the door. It auto-locked behind her.
She turned around and found her date standing beside the bed. “I’m sorry, I’ve never done anything like this.”
She moved closer to him. “Neither have I.”
He leaned forward to kiss her. As soon as his eyes closed she stepped behind him and wrapped her arm around his throat. He struggled, and Iaka tightened her grip, cutting the blood flow to his brain. He went limp and she lowered him to the floor. A quick search revealed five hundred credits in hard coin. She shook her head. What kind of idiot carried that much money in this part of the dome? She didn’t feel so bad about lying to him. She’d probably saved his life.
Iaka tore a pillowcase into strips, tied him up and gagged him. She checked to be sure he could breathe okay then went to take a shower. Clean again, Iaka came out of the bathroom and found her date glaring at her. She smiled. “I’m really sorry about this. I’m not actually a hooker. This has been a horrible day. I lost my job and I’m down to my last credit. I’m a little desperate. You lay there and keep quiet so I can sleep and in the morning the cleaning crew will come and cut you loose. Don’t worry, I’ll leave you enough credits to get back home.”
He struggled and groaned through the gag. She frowned at him. “I can choke you out again if you prefer.”
He stiffened and fell silent. “That’s better. Good night.”
She crawled into bed and closed her eyes. With a mental command she set her implant to wake her at five in the morning. A few seconds later exhaustion got the best of her and she fell asleep.
* * *
Iaka bolted up when the micro jolt from her implant hit her brain. Six hours went fast. She got out of bed and checked on her date. He’d fallen asleep. His chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm. She tucked fifty credits into his right sock and left him on the floor.
Now how to get back to the spaceport. Her stomach growled. Okay, breakfast first, then the spaceport. She looked at her bare legs. She’d have to get a pair of pants too.
Iaka left the seedy motel and headed toward a better part of the dome. She needed a disguise, something to change her looks enough to pass a quick inspection. Once she altered her looks she’d hop a hovertrain in a direction they didn’t expect. Her plan might work, emphasis on might. She couldn’t think of anything else, and a crappy plan beat no plan so she’d go with it.
Street lights brightened the predawn darkness. Iaka jogged north, away from Earth Force headquarters. When she got out of the worst part of the dome she flagged down an auto-cab and ordered it to take her to a shopping district.
As soon as she got out of the cab a sweet, yeasty smell grabbed her. She followed her nose past an arcade and a shoe store. She found the source of the smell coming from a little bakery with a fake brick facade. A display of baguettes, rolls, and cookies filled the window. Her mouth watered. Pants would have to wait. Her stomach growled in agreement.
She went in, ordered a cup of coffee and the gooiest cinnamon roll in the display case. She took a few minutes to enjoy the food and a moment of peace. How long since she took the time to sit in a cafe and sip coffee? More than the five years she spent frozen for sure.
Iaka dropped a coin on the table and started toward the door. Licking the last of the icing off her fingers and not watching where she was going, Iaka walked right into a man wearing a pinstripe suit coming through the door. She stumbled back and he reached out to steady her. “I’m terribly sorry. Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” she said.
He smiled. “Well, good day then.” He stepped around her and went to the counter to order.
Idiot. If she didn’t pay more attention she’d end up dead. No more screwing around, time to find Marcus and get off this rock.
Iaka found a clothing store a short walk from the bakery. She strolled up one aisle and down the next looking for inspiration. She grabbed leggings then spotted a young woman wearing a pair of wraparound glasses with several electronic devices attached. Those might work. A quick search turned up a dark pair of glasses like the girl wore. She added glittery earrings and on the way out grabbed a pack of gum. She paid, slipped the leggings on, and left the store. She had an idea for a persona.
* * *
Fifty people stood on the platform waiting for the hovertrain to arrive. Iaka stood in the midst of them. She wore her glasses and earrings, smacked her gum, and blew an occasional bubble. An older woman glared at her and Iaka stuck her tongue out. She spotted a pair of Earth Force undercover agents but so far they hadn’t given her a second look. The train zoomed up to the platform and the doors opened. People streamed out, then more piled in, Iaka among them.
She rode for two hours, putting distance between herself and those looking for her. She got off just after noon. A dozen people exited with her but none of them looked like agents. So far, so good, no agents monitored the trains this far from Spaceport Two.
The schedule posted at the platform said the train for the next leg of her roundabout trip wouldn’t arrive for half an hour. Not far from the platform she spotted a hotdog stand and bought one along with a bottle of water. She plopped down on a nearby bench and started eating.
* * *
The world looked blurry. Iaka hadn’t stopped moving for almost twelve hours. She’d jumped between trains half a dozen times before she dared board one headed to Spaceport Two. She spotted several agents during her travels but none of them gave her more than a cursory look. Now it would get tricky. They’d expect her to try and get back to Marcus. If she had the credits she’d have bought a ticket on a commercial cruiser and sent him a message with a warning once she’d gotten away, but she didn’t have the credits and she couldn’t abandon the people that saved her life.
The train came to a stop at the passenger terminal and she got off along with a group of thirty tourists. She glanced around, grateful for the glasses hiding her eyes. She spotted dome security easy enough, their black and red uniforms, heavy blasters, and intimidating presence marked them like a flashing hologram. A group of ten passengers she’d overheard discussing a space cruise walked toward the ticket counter and Iaka moved with them. She needed to get to the commercial section of the spaceport.
She drifted away while the last member of the group checked in. The front of the terminal overlooked the landing pads. She gazed out, hoping for inspiration to strike. Out on the concrete, crimson streaks of light flashed through the air. An alarm went off and the terminal went nuts. People ran around screaming. Iaka grabbed a middle-aged man as he passed.
“What’s going on?”
His eyes bugged out of his head and sweat slicked his skin. “Terrorists. They say a group of terrorists are fighting the security forces.”
Marcus, she felt certain, trying to blast his way free. Iaka spotted an agent hurrying toward the back of the terminal and followed him. She forced her way through the crowd keeping the agent within sight until he reached a door that exited behind the terminal. She waited a minute then opened the door. A short distance from the terminal she spotted three combat skiffs, long narrow platforms equipped with antigravity generators and powerful thrusters, armed with heavy cannons in the rear and piloted from an enclosed cockpit in the front. The agent she followed trotted toward them.
The skiffs each had a pilot and a gunner tending their respective sections of the skiff. Iaka walked toward the first in line. The gunner worked on the cannon in the rear of the skiff while the pilot had his head and shoulders stuck in the cockpit. Neither of them noticed her approaching.
She walked right up to the pilot, tapped him on the shoulder, and stepped back. When he spun around out of the cab she snapped a side kick that caught him square in the temple. His head bounced off the cockpit door and he fell to the ground unconscious. She hopped into the cockpit and examined the controls. They looked simple enough, a steering wheel, throttle, brake, and a few gauges. The weapons controls rested in the rear of the skiff.
Here goes. She jammed the throttle forward and the skiff leapt away, racing toward where she’d last seen the blaster fire. Seconds later her skiff rocked sideways. She looked in the rearview mirror. The two skiffs behind her had caught up, their heavy cannons struggling to get a lock on her.
She wove a random path through parked ships and their crew. No more shots came, they must have had orders to avoid civilian casualties. Iaka spotted the Rogue Star. A wide-open space separated her from the ship. She pushed the skiff to full power and went for it.
Her skiff cleared the ships and an explosion rocked her. She lost control. Flames shot out the back. They must have fired the moment she got clear. The thrusters quit and she lost steering. The skiff slowed, she opened the door and leapt before a second blast hit the skiff and it exploded. The concussion sent her flying. Then darkness.
I hope you enjoyed Chapter 6. Click here to read Chapter 7
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