Despite my bad mood, I was impressed when they found me.
The person they knew as Ebony Strike had retired from the circuits years ago and was now making a nice living as a freelance instructor, specialising in personal, corporate and government-sponsored security. Basically, all the kinds of security there were. If there was money involved, I could do it.
I shed names as easily as a reptile sheds skin, and now I was respected businesswoman, Xin Dell, newly moved to Ulwohem for a (hopefully) long government contract. But they still found me. I thought I had done everything necessary. I hadn’t skimped on the money to buy a new identity four years ago—new name, new homeworld, new past—but Chaltow III had still managed to track me down.
I was lounging by the swim-bubble at the recreation club when the robot told me there was someone wanting to see me. That was smart, confronting me in a public place. Meant I couldn’t succumb to any temptations, such as breaking bones or shoving my thumbs through eyes. I sipped at my drink and told the robot to send the person along.
I had assumed my visitor was a government representative. Xin Dell had just been hired to take an advanced strike-negotiation team through various scenarios and I was gathering my strength before the course began. It was logical that an Ulwohem official would be along to try and persuade me to shave some money off the deal. They’d been trying to do that several times over the past month. It hadn’t worked, but I suppose being a persistent arse is part of their job description. Normally, we’d share a drink (at my expense), the official would sob about tight budgets and an upcoming audit, I’d cluck sympathetically and then, when they figured out that their tale of misery hadn’t worked, they’d slink off and notify the next on the duty roster that it was their turn.
I could have hired a contract facilitator to handle all the refusals. They’re a useful profession, especially when dealing with the bigger outfits, but I’d been around too many secrets that had sprung leaks, and I wasn’t happy entrusting my personal financial details to a third party. So, there I was, ready to have my leisure day wrecked, holding yet another bureaucrat’s hand until he had said what he’d been ordered to say and it was time to kick him out of the club.
I was sipping at my Event Horizon when he strode into view. I couldn’t help it, my muscles must have twitched, because the drink sloshed in my hand, splashing out of my glass and wetting my fingers. If the man currently walking towards me was from the government of Ulwohem, then I was a Perlim grandmother.
I hooded my eyes and watched him approach, noting the dull brown skin, lean build and ascetic features. His hair was black shot through with grey, short, shorn into the five furrows that was the traditional haircut for the men of my world. The world of my birth, Chaltow III.
He must have seen something in my eyes because a small smile curved his lips as he slipped into the opposite chair. I mentally ratcheted his age down by a few decades. Close up, I saw he was a young man, but he looked old.
A servile robot bobbed beside him, ready and willing to take an order. I lifted my free hand to wave it away, but he ordered a hot cham in a confident tone before I could complete the gesture. I let my hand drop and eyed him warily. To my right, a group was cavorting in the swim-bubble, playing obstacle games with the expelled gas bubbles from their gill-masks. Even through the water, I could hear their muffled shrieks of delight.
“Ebony Strike,” he said. It wasn’t a question.
I put my drink on the tray that floated beside me. “I’m sorry, it seems you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish