I don’t consider myself a vain person, but there is a pride, a certain calculation, you take in your reputation. So the notion that some dreg is out there using your name is bad enough, but snatching kids to sell into slavery? That makes me want to draw blood.
All my system clocks recalibrated as I hit the Terra System, the ping of which pulled me out of my homicidal funk. At this speed I should hit Terra by midnight local. Prime club time.
On approach, about six landing parks locked onto my trajectory and started competing for my attention, each offering cheaper and cheaper fares, faster customs authorizations, etc. One even flat-out offered me a look at his stolen merch.
I sent one of my dirtier ID tags. These guys couldn’t care less. On a planet of 23 billion, they’ll take creds where they can.
“Alright Mr. Dulli. You’re all set. Thanks for choosing Fisk Landing-“ I shut it off and dove.
Ten minutes later, I was street-side. Rain pounded the city but it definitely wasn’t keeping the people inside. Some kind of festival or rally further downtown had them out in droves but I weaved through the flow of slick raincoats towards one of the clubs the almost-slave kid told me about. I passed the bouncer and into a wall of noise.
I needed earplugs. I don’t know how these kids can do it. They say youth is a powerful antidote to life. All I know is that when you’re sold to sledge rock on an unformed world when you’re twelve years old, there’s no such thing as youth.
The first two clubs looked and sounded almost identical. The lights were different colors I guess. Otherwise, it was the same haze of desperation and escape. Booze made them forget the life that was waiting for them in daylight. They danced, consumed, and fumbled like it was all going to go away. For those unlucky to catch the attention of the thieves and slavers scoping the crowd, I suppose they had a point.
I put out some feelers to try and see who was carrying. The kid had said his dealer was slinging Neon but when you hit a club, everyone’s either on it or looking for it, and unfortunately he didn’t give me anything but the most basic of descriptions on this dealer Kendrick. So it was taking a while. After a couple hours, I realized something stank about me. Maybe they thought I was cop or the scowl on my face told them I wasn’t out to have a good time. Regardless, I had to change my approach so I started following people, potential targets. There are couple things your basement-traffickers will look for; jailhouse or youth-house tats, ratty clothes with flashes of expensive (stolen) accessories, anything that would send up a signal that society would probably get along just fine without you.
I was followed a couple outside who were definitely on the hunt. They met up with a guy who fit the kid’s very rough description. The girl was visibly nervous. It took about fifteen seconds before life got jolly again.
“C’mon Kendrick, spot me now and I’ll hit you back tomorrow..” The guy said.
“You think I’m here to make your night? That it?” Kendrick said, dismissing the couple with a wave. But when he got a better look at the girl, he grinned. “Yeah, you know, maybe we can work something out.”
Hell with this. I strode up to the group. They were all so lit, they didn’t even see me until I was right on them.
“Bounce, kids, let the grown-ups talk.” I muttered, eyes locked on Kendrick. The guy turned and took a step toward me.
“Who the hell are you, yoke?” The guy said, tapping into that confidence that a lady and a couple bottles will give you.
“Unless you want the rest of this night to play out in a MedStation, I would drift. Now.” The girl was there to drag some sense into him and pulled him away. Kendrick eyeballed me.
“You lookin’ to buy?”
“No. I hear you know Kid Crimson.” Kendrick stiffened.
“I moved with the man from time to time. What of it?”
“I got work for him.”
“Well you know, I got a standard ten percent introduction fee…” The words slid out of his drunken maw with another grin.
“Tell you what. You put us face to face. I’ll give you twenty.”
Two hours later, we were at a landing park near a bridge. This was starting to seem somewhat familiar. Probably the same spot where the kid got snatched. Kendrick was nodding off on a stack of old crates. I heard footsteps.
He must have been eighteen, nineteen maybe. Walked like he was trying to prove something against gravity. Even in the faint light, I could see traces of black lining his veins. So he was a WiDoW user too. He lit a Stim and took a drag.
“I heard you lookin’ for Kid Crimson.” He blew a stream of smoke up into the sky.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
“Yeah.” I heard two sets of footsteps come up behind me. A pistol started charging. I glanced back. Two slabs of idiot were muscling up. The fake in front of me smirked, like I was just some sucker in over my head.
“Well, this ain’t your day ‘cause Kid Crimson don’t deal with losers.”
“Funny, I was going to say the exact same thing.” I threw an elbow back, caught the gun-thug in the throat. I snatched his wrist, twisted ‘til it cracked as I quick-drew my pistol and put a round through the other’s chest.
I kicked the gun-thug’s knee out. Shot him. Took his gun. Shot Kendrick. Then trained both guns on the fake-me.
He was frozen. His Stim had fallen out.
“Who are you?” He managed to stutter.
“Take one guess.”
. . . to be continued
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