Happy Collateral

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Chapter 3

I walked for a while, putting a bit of distance between me and the Peetee. Deciding that sleep was desirable but risky, I popped into a pharm with a flickering sign, the ‘h’ burnt out, and with plenty of dirt on its windows; the type of place that doesn’t ask questions, and deals in cash. I bought some snacks and a few peppers, shot myself up with one, and then kept moving.

By morning the pepper was wearing off and fatigue was starting to set in. I had come as far as I could and wasn’t prepared to risk another pepper so soon, so I found a cheap and nasty to doss in.

“Big night?” grunted the hirsute clerk.

I gave him a cool look he probably knew too well, and slid across my chits. This was the sort of place you paid before you got your access key.

The room was perfect, it had a bed which wasn’t infested. I scoffed the snacks and then crashed.

When I woke it was conveniently dark outside. I waved my palm over the room's console and a portion of the wall lit up with a stiff looking Keelian anchorman spouting monotonal current events. I forced myself to watch, wondering if there was anything about the prison or my escape. After half an hour nothing had come up, which most likely meant they were just hushing things up so as not to appear incompetent, and avoid public panic.

My stomach rumbled. That was as good a reason as any to get moving again. I found I wasn’t too far from a hawker’s market, perfect to get some grub.

People massed beneath flickering lanterns which hung from cables strung between buildings; the cries of vendors adding to the cacophony of shoppers. I bought a couple of delicious cavath skewers dripping with fat from an umbrellaed cart and washed them down with a brew from a mobile bar which hovered nearby.

Next was to get out of my stolen clothing. I didn’t waste too much time to enjoy the shop, that would come all in good time, but some decent underwear, better fitting leggings and shirt, a sturdy thigh length jacket and I felt like not only a new woman, but more like myself.

Feeling sated and somewhat more comfortable I felt it was time to find me some undesirable types.

Every city is the same, or at least every one I’ve been to; there's always a certain class of citizen who lurks in the back alleys or dodgy bars or gambling dens, and Yarish L’nor was no different. I found a likely place. There was no signage, just an intimidating steel door. So how did I know it was what I was looking for? I had watched the place for about twenty minutes and several groups had emerged from behind the door. Happy, drunk people. It’s really that simple.

I approached a couple, happier and drunker than most, “Hey there.” I nodded to the woman in greeting.

“Hey sher yourshelf baby.” slurred the man with a smile.

“Sharm!” swore his companion as she punched him in the arm “Stop ogling!”

I ignored him, “You guys look like you’ve had a good time, where’ve you been?” I said to her.

She giggled, “Oh yeah, the best time. Larrow’s. That’s the place.” and nodded her head towards the steel door. “Just tell ‘em Rafteil blows.” she added with a chuckle.

She then punched her partner again, “I said stop ogling! You want something to ogle then let’s go to your place.” and together they stumbled off.

I walked up to the door, noting there was no keypad, palm reader or any other obvious opening mechanism, but there was a very small hole in the centre of it which I assumed was a mic.

“Rafteil blows” I spoke clearly into the hole.

A thunk sounded, and the door slid open revealing a dark, silent corridor with a solitary globe which flickered intermittently. I stepped inside and strode down the the corridor. The door thunked shut behind me.

The short corridor ended in another door which promptly slid open. The room beyond was full of people drinking, laughing and gaming. A large scaly Fasnal stood, thug-like next to the door. He used a handheld scanner to check me for weapons, and finding none waved me through with a grunt and went back to being a hulking lump.

I took a moment to take in the room. Gaming tables were in the centre, low tables and couches surrounding them and curtained booths lining the walls. Some barely dressed staff flitted between patrons taking orders and several other large thugs stood around surveying the scene.

I wandered over to a chip dispenser and converted most of my remaining chits and then, seeing a balair table with a vacant place, took a seat. Immediately a young, barechested man came up to me.

“Ma’am would you like anything, anything at all.” He smiled, and flexed his pectorals as he asked.

I smiled coyly at him, just playing the game, “Just a trinskle barth thanks.”

An hour or so later, my trinskle barth only half drunk, I had trebled my money. I had played well, better than I had expected, but had also been very lucky in a few hands. Of course the key about luck, is knowing when you’ve had your share, so I thanked the dealer and the other gamers, and left the table.

During my time at the balair table I had heard a few things of note, and one in particular; the name Alvar Ramez. Apparently Alvar was a man who could organise things, things that might not be construed as law abiding. Alvar was just the type of undesirable I needed to talk to.

Finding him wasn’t too difficult, a goon in a fitted suit standing on one side of a curtained booth was the first clue. The second made it obvious; a man exited the aforementioned booth saying, “Thank you Alvar, a pleasure as always.”

Not wanting a confrontation, I politely asked the goon, “Excuse me, I would like to speak to Alvar Ramez. He may be able to help me.”

This goon was no different to any other, burly, barrel chested, thick necked, and dull witted.

He looked me over, opened the curtain a crack, “Mr Ramez, customer.”

“Yes, yes, send her in.” snapped a reply.

The goon drew open the curtain and ushered me in.

The booth was designed to be spacious and comfortable. Alvar was large and powerfully built, even for a Hrangian. He sat erect and proud, but leaning ever so slightly allowing his elbows to rest on the table and tent his fingers. But his most striking feature was his perfectly groomed purple mane which added to his majesty.

He smiled, “Please my dear, take a seat.”

I smiled in return as I took the offered seat, sliding behind the table, “Thank you Mr Ramez.”

“Alvar is fine my dear. No need for formalities. May I ask your name? It’s always nice to know with whom I’m dealing.”

“Seevlon Darchay” I lied; Bolio was sure to have his people on the outside.

“Hmm” he raised an eyebrow, “Seevlon, what is it that I can do for you?”

“Alvar, the word is that you can organise pretty much anything.”

“Well yes, I do have a great many strings which can be pulled. What did you have in mind?”

“Nothing too extravagant. I need to get offworld, and quickly. I would like passage to Basq, and can’t really afford to be noticed by the authorities.”

“I’m sure something could be arranged. It will not be cheap though.” he beamed showing his sharp pointed teeth, “these things never are.”

Hours later I stood under an awning, watching people who were hunched over trying to protect themselves from the sudden downpour as much as they could. Specifically I was watching for one of Alvar’s men.

It was a credit to him that I didn’t even notice him sidle up to me. “Seevlon.” he hissed, causing me to start. “Here’s your package.” He handed me a small box, and with that disappeared into the gloom, just another stooped figure trying desperately to avoid the rain.

I punched the code into the box’s keypad and the lid popped open. After quickly scanning the false id, and the boarding card for the merchantman Siren, I picked up a small cube, its impending delivery formed part of my payment to Alvar. It was a dull grey non-descript metal cube. There were no markings, its faces smooth. There was no hinge, or obvious way of opening it, if it was indeed a container of some nature.

Shrugging, I put it in the inside pocket of my jacket, grabbed my id and card and then dumped the box in a nearby bin. Pulling the collar of my jacket up, I joined the others in a hunched run to the ground shuttle station.

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