They’d gone beyond the perimeter of the art district and the walls were changing back to the concrete foundations of heavier buildings. Whoever they were following, they were moving fast. Once or twice they’d rounded the corner and seen a light up ahead, but then it turned a corner leaving them trailing again. Titan was about to turn the latest corner when he heard a low voice indistinct in the darkness.
Another voice answered, higher in pitch but still low enough to suggest a man.
Selena leaned forward, peering around the edge of the wall. :Kaffton and someone else. Their lights are pointed down.:
He felt her frustration as well as his own. :Do you see anything that looks like a list? Papers? Data chip?:
:Nothing yet. Charging in does us no good unless we get the data.:
:Let’s get Kaffton and then get the data from him,: Titan argued. :This is not the time and place for Caryll kindness.:
:We can’t kidnap grounders.:
He frowned. :Even if we give them to the Jhandarmi? I could tie a bow or something…:
A sound he’d never heard before cracked through the hull. Titan froze, watching the ceiling.
:Gun!: Selena ran away from him towards the sound.
There was no choice but to follow. Heavy shields up he ran after her towards the fallen man.
Kaffton didn’t see them perhaps, but the dust was enough to warn him. He fired twice, and then ran.
Selena lit up, glowing like the moon as she knelt beside the man. “Dead. He’s not in the database. Crack my hull, Tyrling isn’t going to like this.”
“What’s he got on him?” Titan asked, keeping the shields up and watching the path Kaffton had taken.
Selena patted the man down. “Nothing. Nothing.” Something crunched audibly when she patted his hip pocket. “Something?” She reached in and pulled out a thin strip of paper. “An address in one of the newer areas. Nouveau Riche, style makers, and heirs… it’s a good place to mingle at a party and do some business on the side. Lost Fleet take Kaffton why did he shoot?”
“Didn’t like the terms maybe?” Titan guessed.
“Or didn’t want to wait to get paid.”
She shook her head. “This is the man we followed from the dead drop. Kaffton wouldn’t have handed over the list if he hadn’t been paid. And he’d have no reason to shoot a potential client.” She looked at the man’s face. “We need to get above ground and have the Jhandarmi ID him. Where’s the last place we saw an exit?”
Titan closed his eyes and visualized the map he’d recorded as they’d followed. “We’re near the center of town. Heavy shields above, and the last open entrance we saw was over two klicks back.”
With a swipe of her hand Selena projected the map of the city over the map of the tunnels and the map of the blind spots for Tarrin security. Here, over by the old hospital and the city’s original morgue. They had six sublevels at one point. I bet there’s an exit there.”
Why dig so far down?”
She looked up in surprise. “Officially? If you ask the Tarrins it was to keep the bodies cool. Caryll database says that some anti-imperialists were housed there in the early days of colonization. Icedell was meant to be a penal colony. Descent was going to be a vacation spot for Imperial workers, the workforce would come from the penal colony stock.”
“I never heard that.”
“The Carylls were sent to set it up, originally. But the captain who led our armada didn’t think it was feasible. After the wormhole collapsed they saw no reason to pursue it.” The soft glow that surrounded her changed to a cold, deep sea green and fell over the dead body. “That’ll keep him until we can get someone down here. I have facial scans and fingerprints.”
“I’d been about to suggest that.” Titan crossed his arms. Fingerprinting a victim was a rather esoteric practice these days. It had gone out of use when implants became common.
Selena stood and brushed a loose strand of hair back from her eyes. “Let’s go. I need a signal.”
The connection between them filled with schematics of implants as Selena quietly picked apart the design trying to find a way to send a signal past the layers of rock and shielding.
“We could just break the shield,” he muttered. It was a very, very good shield. Anomalously good, in fact. There wouldn’t be any slipping through without triggering an alarm. But that’s why begging for forgiveness had been invented. “Who put this shield up?” he asked as the corridor narrowed.
Complete lockdown. The flow of shared information was cut dead. Selena’s eyes went wide with projected innocence. “I don’t know.” She shook her head.
“I can’t say?”
The gun sound cracked again. They’d caught up with Kaffton.
Habit made Titan reach out mentally to pin the man down, but Kaffton had no telekyen on him.
Selena ran forward, enhancing her shield as she moved and presenting only a blurred shadow for Kaffton to see.
Kaffton fired again. The bullets ricocheted away, sparking off the walls as they bounced. Perhaps panicking, Kaffton ran. He turned a corner, moving out of sight and there was a heavy groan of a metal door closing.
Turning the corner in pursuit they saw the sliver of daylight vanish with a thud.
“No!” Selena ran up to the door and banged her fist on it. She wedged her shoulder against it and pushed.
Focusing on a brute shield Titan followed, pushing with all the weight he could concentrate on the door.
It squeaked, caved in at the center, but didn’t budge.
“We need to go back the other way,” Titan said. “There’s not another exit near here.”
“I do not have time for that.”
Selena’s face was suffused with rage, her eyes glowing a bright stellar blue. She reached her hand out and ran it along the door looking for a weak point.
“We have to-”
She clenched her hand into a fist and the door crumpled in on itself like a wadded linen.
Titan stared in disbelief at the tiny ball of metal hanging suspended in the air. “That’s…”
“An opening,” her voice was a dangerously low growl of fury and command.
Scared by Selena Caryll… even if he replayed the memory for his crew no one would believe him. “I am so glad you learned that trick after the Landing.”
The crumbled door spun on its axis over her palm and then shot ahead, flying across the empty parking garage on an arching trajectory. It cut a deep groove in the stone floor as it landed.
An attack like that… “Can you do that with all metal?”
“I can do it with anything,” Selena said as she stalked toward the entrance.
“Please don’t crumple the suspect. We need to question him.”
Her shield spiked, flipping from defense to full offensive attack. And then she took a deep breath and seemed to return to normal. “I’ve lost him anyway.” She pulled out her phone. “I’m calling the Jhandarmi in. We need to get this area locked down and searched.”
Angrily glaring at her phone she continued walking toward the exit.
:You’re inviting another attack, pacing out there.:
:Let him try.: There was a quick flash-thought of Kaffton attacking and the metal of his bullets stretching and looping to become binders for his legs.
:There’s not enough metal.:
Selena shot him an annoyed look. :A girl can dream.:
“Tyrling, yes, it’s Caryll. I need a team at my location ASAP. We have an unidentified male victim and Kaffton is at large and armed.” As she listened to the Jhandarmi’s response she glared out at the quiet buildings outside. “Understood, sir. I’ll expect you shortly.”
:They’re on their way. Do you see any movement?:
:None. He could have gone up, or kept running. There aren’t many security blindspots here. We’ll find him.:
There was something in the way that she continued pacing that made it clear that it wasn’t just Kaffton’s escape bothering her. There was something else, a private goal she wasn’t sharing.
Titan crossed his arms and waited. He wasn’t quite as good as Rowena at getting secrets out of people, but he would get them eventually. But he wasn’t feeling patient.
Reaching out with a thought he tugged at Selena’s arm.
Her shoes scuffed the ground as she paused and turned. She tilted her head to the side and he felt rather than saw her confusion.
Words seemed inadequate for what he wanted. It was safety, but something more. If she’d been crew, he would have opened her arms to hold her, check her for physical injuries. If physical touch wasn’t allowed, he wanted at least physical proximity,
With an understanding half-smile, she walked over to him. “You’re being a little overprotective.”
“You’re being a little reckless. I’m trying to balance out this little partnership we have.”
Her shoulder bumped his arm. “If you think this was reckless it’s a good thing you slept through the war.”
“War is different.”
She shook her head. “No. It’s all the same.”