Brett P. S.
Copyright © 2017 Brett P. S.
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Sojourn Station floated in starlight amidst an asteroid belt in a quiet star system far removed from the general Terrace traffic. Ordinary folks didn’t exactly hop on a starship and boot up the old FTL engines to get to a place like the one where Simone currently found himself. A person had to be invited and given discreet instructions to find this particular roaming station.
Simone panned his vision while he strode across a tight corridor. The causeway was so narrow that he could touch both handrails on his trek through the innards of Sojourn Station. The windows that comprised the curved ceiling of the causeway gave him a view of the spire stretching from the center of the station’s plaza. He could guess what Hecate Syndicate would be selling to their honored guests, and the truth would probably turn out worse in hindsight.
Simone wore a blue button-up jacket with a staunch white undershirt and black slacks. He walked with the confidence of a sickly mutt in his stride, and it showed, much to his regret. He tried to perk up his chest and puff out his features, but it kept boiling down. Simone was out of his element.
He buckled down and shoved his hands in his pockets as he made his way further down the myriad of corridors. He stopped in front of a mechanical door, a grim expression on his face. Pulsing music and the hint of lights leaked through the slits on the mechanized frame.
“Can I come in, please?” Simone asked.
A short pause followed his sentence as the computer calculated its functions.
“State name and nature of visit,” a mechanical voice replied.
Simone sighed. “Simone Tully, and you should know why I’m here.”
“Incomplete information,” the voice said. “Please state nature of visit.”
Simone pounded on the door. “Your people flew me halfway across the galaxy for this. I want to speak to a real human.”
A lengthy silence followed his scuffle with the AI. Simone leaned his forehead against the cold, steel door while he pondered alone. Information was difficult to come by. He didn’t want to be here, especially not in the heart of any Syndicate’s power, but he had little choice.
What he’d seen, he couldn’t unsee. He should feel grateful, but all he felt was the cold, vice grip against his throat. Simone lifted his head at the audible sound of pulsing music booming from inside the club. The audio waves echoed through the speaker.
“Sorry for the trouble,” spoke a woman through the noise. “I’ll unlock the door for you, Mr. Tully.”
Simone waded through pulsing music and stray lights of purple, blue and red as colors danced around a dim room filled with people dancing and mingling in the background. He worked his way around tables littered with drinks and ashes from previous clients, and he caught a woman a few tables down flagging him down. Simone nodded and hobbled over her, trying not to trip in the process.
“Please, have a seat, Mr. Tully,” she said.
Simone took a seat opposite from her at a circular shaped table. He pushed in his chair and sized her up. The woman wore a luxurious, violet suede jacket and kept her hair pulled back into a bun. She’d dyed her hair silver, and she wore contacts that colored her eyes a bright purple to compliment her attire. She dressed the part for a Syndicate fence. That much he understood. A good amount of credits went into the appearance.
“I’m not familiar with the pleasantries for these kinds of situations,” Simone said. “You’ll forgive me if I just want to get this over with.”
The woman smiled. “Not a problem, Mr. Tully.” She extended an open hand, which he shook. “You can call me Alibi. We can jump straight into this if that’s what you want.”
Simone let go and nodded. She didn’t say it was her name. He’d noticed a couple of those subtle language hints during his previous conversations with Syndicate folks. They enjoyed their fine print and anonymity. Simone fished a drive from his pocket and placed it on the table in front of her. The drive was no bigger than his thumb, but it carried incriminating evidence, the likes of which Aurora would fight to keep from rival Syndicates. Simone sulked back in his seat. He was already a dead man for being in the wrong place. The bright side was he could only go up.
Alibi picked up the drive, pinching it between two fingers. She held it up and inspected it with her eyes, as if searching for some intricate detail. Were those more than standard ocular contacts?
“This model’s a decade out of date,” she said. “I’m surprised these drives are still in circulation. Most people go with the A5’s for data storage.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the video feed,” Simone said. “I can assure you of that.”
Alibi smiled once more and placed the drive back on the table. Funny. He expected her to stuff it somewhere on her person. Did the Syndicate want something more?
“Something wrong?” he asked.
She wore her smile like a painting. “You don’t look well,” Alibi said. “You can back out of this at any time. In retrospect, Aurora Syndicate will continue their enterprise regardless, but the data contained on this drive will likely affect their bottom line.”
“I’m a dead man, lady,” Simone said. “Aurora saw me. You know that. The only reason I’m still breathing is because your people got to me before their hit men.”
Alibi eased back in her seat. “True,” she said with a pause. “At least in part, I think. Aurora wouldn’t waste resources on one man for very long. Whatever my people told you, offering over this drive will all but assure your last days.”
“Your people can protect me,” he said. “You can give me asylum until this blows over.”
Alibi picked up the drive and twirled it through her fingers. “It’s not going to blow over, Mr. Tully, not for decades at least. You’ll have to reside on one of our private stations, and we’ll restrict your contact with public Terrace systems.” She paused, looking away. “What I’m trying to tell you is that you can back out and have a slim chance at a normal life. It’s uncertain, but Hecate’s option guarantees a grim, solitary future, and even then, Aurora might still find you.”
Simone slunk back and folded his arms. He hadn’t much considered the implications. Hecate had assured him a number of certainties. He cracked a grin. This Alibi woman was a poor sales associate.
Alibi leaned in and met his gaze. “If this is what you want, I’ll take the drive, and it’ll be done. You’ll hear from a Syndicate contact in the next hour regarding your relocation.” She placed the drive on the table and underneath her index finger. “What’ll it be, Simone?”
Ten years … is a long time. Simon sat back in his seat, which had grown somewhat uncomfortable during his short stay in Hecate’s private lounge. He’d be blessed to leave Sojourn Station the first minute available, but then there’s the problem with Aurora. They won’t just let him hole up in his old place. He’d have to disappear, something he knew very little of. Alibi seemed to believe it was possible, but he could tell it was more out of pity for a life of confinement to a single space station in the middle of nowhere than anything else.
Simone grumbled and reached for the drive. She drew back her fingers, and he snatched it up. Simone glared angrily at the drive a full minute, sneering at it. Damned thing was a gift and a curse. It offered him a way out of all this, but at the same time, its very existence haunted him.
“I don’t much like my options, Miss Alibi,” he said.
“Neither do I,” she replied.
That smile of hers was wearing on her. A person could only keep up pleasantries for so long. The heaviness of her mindset bled through her voice. Fine, if that was the way it was going to be.
“Let me ask you something then,” Simone said. He placed his elbows on the table. “If you’d set your eyes on the face of death and you knew the devil was coming for you, hell or high water, what would you do? Would you make the best of the days you have left or use what little you got to spite him?”
“Aurora and Hecate are both devils, Mr. Tully,” Alibi replied, turning stern. “You’re trading one king of hell for another and not even that. Your efforts will make almost no impact, but the difference is worth what it would cost to remove at least one person from the world stage.”
Simone swallowed the lump in his throat and wiped the sweat beading on his forehead. Hecate spared no expense in oratory, but she was a fence. Her job demanded verbal tact.
“You’re taking an awful lot of risks trying to turn me away,” Simone said. “What do you have to gain from all of this?”
Alibi raised an eyebrow. “Believe it or not, some of us are good people.”
“I don’t believe it,” Simone said. “Not for a second. Syndicate folks always have an angle to everything they do.”
Alibi drew back. For once, Simone’s words seemed to have an effect on her. The woman took her hands off the table and withdrew her posture back against her chair while Simone rubbed his fingers against his drive. The grooves had ingrained themselves into his memories, burnt into his sight like the deeds he’d witnessed days ago.
“I can still browse the net,” she said. Simone gripped the drive in his fist and looked at her. “I work for Hecate in private confidence. They restrict my access to public worlds, of course. I assume you can guess why.” She paused. “It’s not actually an unpleasant existence, Mr. Tully. I’m taken care of rather well and the same will go for you, if that’s what you choose.”
“What are you …?” Simone said, his words trailing off while Alibi continued.
“But you don’t get to take anything or anyone with you. You have to leave it all behind. You have to watch as your husband remarries and your children grow up thinking their worthless mother killed herself.” She drew in a breath and met his eyes. “Is that what you want, Mr. Tully, for the galaxy to leave you behind?”
Simone sighed. Everyone did have an angle, same as her, but maybe those Syndicate folks weren’t all bad. With a weary grin, he tossed the drive to her. Alibi caught it with a confused expression while Simone stood up.
“I appreciate the words of warning,” he said. “And don’t think I don’t take them to heart, but I’m nobody. The Galaxy left me behind ages ago.”
Alibi jumped to her feet and extended her hand. Simone reached out and shook one last time.
“You’ll regret it,” she said.
Simone smiled. “I’m already at the bottom, lady. Only way I can go is up.”