Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2200.

The Cypress Club, Broken Glass And Panic

“No, it’s simple, kid,” he said. “We pick up the package, then hop over to the District to pick up the passenger. After that, it’s to orbit and back on a joy ride and we’re done.”

“OahOOOoohhhh! I geddit now! Fine! When we leavin’?” I could have killed him, but I had a job on so instead I finished my coffee. It tasted like dark roasted heaven, which for some reason really pissed me off.

“OK; let’s get moving,” I said. “I’ve still got to change, and — what’s that?” The face on Eddie’s fancy watch had started flashing. He glanced at it and looked up at me, his face suddenly gone gray. It made for an interesting light effect, but I didn’t get time to enjoy it.

“That’s Gino’s signal, from out front,” he said. “It’s a raid!”

Gino had bought us a little time, which just goes to show: You can get good help if you’re willing to pay for it. By the time the doors blew in, we were halfway across the lounge and accelerating. I made for the back room and the tunnel back to the District; Eddie was dragging Sonny out behind the bar, where presumably he had another way out. Gotta give Eddie credit; he’d agreed to do the job, and he didn’t pause for a second to protect his bar. Or maybe he just wanted to escape the raid like everyone else.

I got to the tunnel all right, but someone was there before me — one of the bar girls was at the entrance as I came busting in. She looked at me, terrified and frozen. I barked at her: “Move, already! You’re in the way!” She scuttled down inside. …Hmmm. I recognized that scuttle.

Eddie’s escape routes are rarely simple; there’s usually a trick to foil pursuit. This one was a hatch in the floor covering what at first looks like a sump pump in a pool of oily water. Turns out it’s a hologram; the real floor is about four feet lower. The waitress apparently didn’t know that; she was sitting on her rump, swearing, rubbing a turned ankle. Stiletto heels aren’t designed for fast getaways. Nice ankle, though.

She noticed me appreciating and scowled. “Enjoying the view?” she demanded.

There’s no right answer to a question like that, so I tried changing the subject. “Time for that later, kid. Right now, we gotta go.” She responded with a string of unladylike profanity. So much for sweet reason.

I couldn’t leave her there to give me away, and I hated like hell to shoot her. So I grabbed her by the arm and half-dragged, half carried her through the hidden door, ignoring her struggles until we were in the tunnel proper and the hidden door was closed behind us. I blocked her next slap and the next and tried to quiet her, but no luck; apparently, she objected to being dragged around. I’m always torn in a situation like this. On the one hand, I could see her point and even sympathized. On the other, even from the tunnel she was gonna bring pursuit down on us unless she shut the hell up.

I shoved her down to gain a couple of seconds, then reached into my satchel. She was back up in seconds, cursing and clawing, but seconds was all I’d needed. I tapped her lightly on the point of her skull with my pocket cosh and that was that.

She’d caught me a good one on the left cheek, and I dabbed at it while changing back into street clothes. Fortunately, she’d missed my eye by a good half inch. It wasn’t bleeding much; besides, my face was already pretty battered and one more scrape would hardly stand out against the rest. Still stung like fire, though.

The tunnel runs about a quarter mile, and she was a solid weight. Eventually, I figured a way; I tucked her into the duffel, letting her legs dangle, and strapped her across my back. The uniform and blaster I shoved down into my satchel. It was almost manageable; she kept rolling in the too-small bag. Waitresses tend to have a low center of gravity, which for the most part I find delightful, but it does make them a bitch to carry.

I was pretty winded by the time she came to, murmured, squawked angrily, and dumped herself out of the bag. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

I leaned against the tunnel wall to catch my breath. “Saving you… from the cops,” I wheezed. “Raid, remember?”

Going from lying flat on the floor to standing while wearing stiletto heels isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but she managed it with a modicum of grace, scowling all the while. It was a cute scowl, as scowls go. I bet she had a pretty smile, but if so she was saving it for someone special and I didn’t qualify.

“The way I see it, you can hide in the tunnel and hope the cops don’t stumble over it, or you can stay in the District until tomorrow and sneak back into the Zone. I might know some people–“

“I just bet you do,” she snapped. “I’ll find my own way, thanks!” And then she started walking the wrong way, back toward the club. I almost let her go.

No good deed, et cetera. Now why again was it I hadn’t just shot her?

Why indeed? Without her, we’d be out in the District by now, and I for one am getting impatient. Guess I’d better tune in next time and find out!

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