And that was Just the First Few Hours

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“I’m getting a message from security,” Kim sent over her internal comlink. “I’m linking you in.”

“This is Reginald Chechik. I’m in charge of security in Argyre Planitia.”

“Any relation to …?”

“He’s my son. Thanks for sending us a live feed. We’re nearby, but we’re concerned about what those guys might do if they see any uniforms approaching.”

“Yeah, I’d keep a safe distance if I were you, at least for the time being.”

“Do you have any idea why they’re after Willy? He seemed to recognize them.” Cora sent as she and Kim continued stalking Mallory and Hurley, blending in with crowds wherever they could and taking cover behind anything large enough to hide them when they couldn’t.

“He saw them trying to start something with me yesterday over … well, I’d prefer to talk about it in person. I think they’re using him to get to me. We need to get Willy out of there.” Chechik paused while another voice muttered in the background. “All the cameras in the area have blanked out.”

Kim smirked. “Sorry, that’s my fault. I accessed the network when those two started in on Willy and discovered someone else in there -- someone who isn’t your team or myself. I traced the signal and then killed the cameras so whoever it is won’t see us coming.”

“You’ll still see everything we see.” Cora ducked into the entrance to a bar and peeked out to keep her optics on the two goons and Willy. “Kim, you have the location of whoever was creeping on us?”

“Yeah. They’re in the underground access tunnels.”

“Those are hardly ever used anymore.” Chechik’s voice quavered and he took a slow breath to calm himself. “The first settlers dug tunnels between cluster locations to make it easier to travel between them without going outside the domes. Nowadays, we have carts that can take us from one dome to another faster than the tunnels, so hardly anyone ever goes there.” He took a more ragged breath. “I think they’re planning to either dump him on the crater floor or hold him hostage, maybe for ransom.”

“We won’t let that happen. Stand by.” Cora glanced at Kim. “Now?”


Cora engaged her stealth mode, linked up with Kim, and both of them moved as one, charging Hurley and Mallory with barely a sound. Neither man noticed them until the flapping of their dusters caught Hurley’s attention. He glanced over his shoulder, his eyes almost popped out of his skull, and he sucked in a deep breath.

"Hhhhhhhh!" He shoved his hand under his coat and yanked the gun out of his holster. Kim clamped her fingers around his hand, forced the gun down until it pointed straight at the ground, and twisted it out of his grip. At the same moment, Cora plucked the gun from Mallory’s holster, snapped her head forward into the end of his nose, and ejected the magazine before he toppled over and slapped onto the ground. She pocketed the magazine, popped the chambered round, and caught it in her left hand while Mallory’s impact sent a puff of dust into the air.

Kim had put the same moves on Hurley and emptied his gun at the same time as Cora. Both of them slipped the single bullet and the gun into their coat pockets and hauled the men to their feet. Kim sent another message over her internal comlink while she and Cora relieved them of their knives and the knuckle duster.

“It’s over, guys. You can come on in and take them into custody.”

“Nicely done. As soon as they’re secure, I’d like you to escort Willy to my office so I can bring you up to speed. I want to keep him in a safe place until this is over and I’m sure he’ll want to know what the hell’s going on.”

He’s not the only one. Cora turned to Willy and gave him a reassuring smile. He stood there and trembled for a moment, sucking in several deep breaths, and brushed his hair out of his face.

“Will do,” Kim said before signing off and waiting for Chechik’s team to arrive, keeping one arm around Hurley’s throat and the other pinning his right hand behind his back. Cora held Mallory in the same position.

“Are you okay?”

“Give me a minute.” He leaned forward, braced his hands on his knees, and for a few seconds looked as if he was about to lose his lunch. “I thought they were gonna kill me!”

“If it helps, we recorded the whole thing. It’ll be enough to send them to prison.”

“Good.” Willy finally stood up straight and let out one more long sigh. “Thank you, both of you! You probably saved my life.”

“I’m glad we were here at the right time.”

“We’ll get this sorted out as quickly as possible.” Kim grinned at him. “After all, we still have a date to go on.”

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