Pariahs and Peacemakers

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Eight

Sleep was an impossibility thanks to a number of factors: police sirens, vocal abuse both on the street and from the neighbours with a few gunshots mixed in for good measure. It was an unpleasant night indeed. The inside of the building was possibly less or of equal pleasantness to the atmosphere outside. Banging of apartment doors, the thud of distant club music, the shabby flea ridden blanket Vad had long since discarded and the identifiable smell of urine all contributed to the charm of the room at Prime Suite Horizon. Vad had managed to swipe a drunk patron’s credit pad as soon as he himself had sobered up but unfortunately Vad had gotten to it long after the previous owner had done some financial damage on it. With the pittance that remained he’d managed to check in to a hotel in a very rough district but he concluded a bed was a bed with a burdened sigh.

It came as a surprise his door received a knock despite no one knowing his whereabouts. Unless he’d been tailed by the police. Time froze. Either the foul-mouthed, spotty-faced receptionist was checking on him to see if he had settled in okay which he doubted beyond belief or a local gang had come to shake down the newcomer in their midst. If it was to be the police honestly at this point he’d have welcomed it. The door fell away from its hinges from a heavy boot, likely weakened by termites, as Vad was still having an internal debate about who he’d rather see from his three options. The ex-smuggler bolted out of the bed which screeched as the springs returned to a relaxed position. He was instantly knocked back to the far paint stripped wall as his chest received what felt like a hind leg kick from a wild Verikka back home on the farm. He thumbed the sticky mess from the impact with his mouth ajar as he looked up half expecting to see a hopped up junkie or special agent Larik grumpy arse. It wasn’t. A familiar well-groomed face he’d last seen when he’d been lumbered with the doomed cargo that had gotten his ship impounded. He wanted to tear Mr X’s throat out for the trouble and obvious bullshit he’d sold him but didn’t get the chance as another round impacted his face.

The angry mob could be heard several neighbourhoods over. She hoped it was moving in the opposite direction. What was bound to be a large group of people mad at the establishment against a lone police officer didn’t likely carry great survival odds. She had to move fast regardless as she was needed elsewhere. Even though she had grown up on this street, searching the surrounding area for the chemist had become laborious. It wasn’t like she couldn’t remember where it was as she was a very outdoorsy child and could tread her patch with her eyes closed. It was more that the drastic terraforming from recent Human supremacy attacks had made the entire city unrecognisable. She cursed the xenophobic activists, who were frustrated humanity had to play nice with aliens, as she passed the burnt out convenience shop on the street corner that had once been owned by a good family friend of hers. It had been on the news vids a few nights ago. Panic buying had set in and the queue to get in was out the door when a nutter decided a bomb strapped to his chest was a great way of getting his viewpoint across about aliens. It didn’t make sense on any level but it got people’s attention sure, mass murder tended to do that, but at what cost? Did these people have no empathy for others? Or morals? Rumour had it though that the xenophobes and anarchists were getting help from the Atlas Underground Liberation Movement who didn’t much like the governing body of Atlas or the way things had changed after joining the galactic community. That made the random acts of violence and civil unrest a very clever ploy indeed. Getting the underlings to do the dirty work and then striking when authority was at its weakest was inspired even if it did go against any grain of decency she had.

It was a very unsettling thought and Amy didn’t much want to live in a world where death accompanied buying groceries. She took very little heart in the fact many other races had sects of supremacist activists.

“Ah,” sighed the middle-aged woman as she came to the forefront of the building she’d almost hired a cartographer to find. The place was gutted. The lobby, a husk of mangled uncomfortable chairs once occupied by coughing-without-covering customers and misplaced low-level medication boxes displaced by overturned shelving units. She straddled the counter when the sound of hurried rummaging caught her attention from beyond the door that was held in place by a solitary hinge. “Someone there?” She chanced which caused the noise from within to cease. “I’m not here to hurt you, I’m just clearing unsafe buildings.” She lied. Whoever it was didn’t need to know her real intentions and wouldn’t have benefitted from knowing.

No response came regardless.

She eased the door open, her rifle raised, and was met by a mucky-faced youth with eyes larger than dinner plates. His hands were filled with medication and Amy guessed he was weighing up his chances of getting away but with her blocking what appeared to be the only exit he didn’t look too confident on his chances. He was a little skittish, she didn’t know whether he was hopped up on something or just scared being confronted with a firearm as she guessed he was only around thirteen. That didn’t change the fact he could still be armed so she didn’t lower her aim any great deal. “What are we doing here then?” Amy asked in what she wished wasn’t a patronising tone. She never did know how to speak to children as she’d never really been that hot on the idea of having any.

“Trying to find Sunlight,” he answered as he pushed out what chest he had developed by his age. Sunlight was a valuable commodity nowadays. It stopped the current pandemic level virus, known only as Shade, from progressing for a day or two depending on the person and was currently the only weapon to combat it. Those infected were fighting the clock, death was an eventuality despite the planet’s top scientists trying to research Shade and engineer a cure. Coincidently Sunlight was also what Amy was after. “For you?”

“For my mum, why?” He was very confrontational and who could blame him with all the crazies on the street of late.

“I’m only being friendly,” she reassured, only for him to tear up as if on cue. “Let me help you look then.” She smiled which seemed to satisfy his sadness but he was still wary despite the uniform. Amy knew it was a stretch, she’d almost written off coming altogether. With the amount of people infected she expected everywhere to have been cleared of stock. She looked anyway, she didn’t have much choice in the matter. After half an hour of sifting through everything from cough medicine to cancer repulsers the unlikely pair came out nil. Amy moved to the desk and cracked the lock with her retractable crowbar. Inside was a key and Amy could have given herself a real talking to for missing the signs the first time. For any average person they’d have missed it but not Amy, having spent many years with crime scene investigation that knowledge kind of had the habit of staying with you. The portrait that was above the desk was of a beautiful landscape she thought she recognised but that wasn’t the interesting bit, it was ever so slightly off kilter and upon removal revealed a safe. “Bingo! Cross your fingers, kid.” She smiled to the boy as she opened it up to find three loaded syringes of Sunlight, patient files and a diploma from a university she hadn’t heard of.

“I’m not a kid, I’m fourteen,” the child protested as Amy handed two over and pocketed the other. “Why do you need one? Are you sick?” he quizzed with a notable decrease of bravado.

“It’s for a friend.” She smiled as she lied again, making a habit out of it. He made his way to the door and slinked out as noisily as he’d entered. She hoped he had the sense to stay off the streets and away from trouble.

“Reality to Miss Mason, pick up, Miss Mason.” Buzzed the radio that was fastened on her waist. She’d forgotten all about her team in her search. She sunk the syringe into the top of her arm. It burned but no more than usual.

“I hear you Captain Bullseye. Had to go the scenic route to avoid the rioters after we got split up. I’m not too far from you now.” She told another lie this time not to a child but to her squad’s sniper, Tobias Harley. She hadn’t told anyone yet about her infection, quarantine was a death sentence and she wasn’t contagious yet so she didn’t see any harm in staying among the populace. She was also in denial. “We’re at the objective but it’s all quite here so no rush, yeah?”



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