Condor Rising 21

Natasha stepped out of the disembarkation zone carrying her only bag. She waited patiently for the Sanfords to come out, having decided to remain in character, or undercover, until after everyone had parted their separate ways.

Nonetheless, she scanned the open airy corridor with nervous expectation. The information kiosk was a good quarter kilometer walk from here, if the holosigns were correct.

Donald and Tina walked out and everyone smiled.

Natasha said, “Thank you both so much for letting me come along. I can’t begin to express how grateful I am.”

“Think nothing of it, dear!” Tina said.

Donald nodded in agreement. He said, “You’re welcome on our ships any time. Just ask the Captain and mention our name. He’ll check with corporate HQ and let you onboard.”

“Aww, that’s so sweet. Thanks again.”

That actually might be very useful someday, Natasha thought to herself.

Together, the three of them joined the stream of humanity moving down the corridor.

“So, are you going to stick around here on Juventas?” Tina said.

“No, I’m catching the first flight I can to Epsilon. Hopefully one is leaving within the hour. Or, a few hours at latest.”

Donald said, “Well, since Juventas is a capital planet, I don’t think you’ll—”

Thoop! Thoop!

“Was that blaster fire?”

In the distance they heard screaming. The lights changed from bright white to flashing red and an alarm sounded.

Wahhhh! Wahhhh! Wahhhh!

StarCen’s high-pitched voice came out of the air above them.

“There is a gunman at the spaceport entrance. Gunman at the spaceport entrance.”

-+-

Dillon bounded up the steps of the old subway and stopped to catch his breath. He found an old bag in one of the tunnels, and stored the other blasters there. The stolen armor he wore was relatively light, but nonetheless added a layer of bulkiness that hindered movement.

The visor was cracked, and any enhanced optics or augmented reality it might have offered the original owner was broken. Dillon hoped it would still block StarCen’s face and iris scanners.

He glanced over at the distant spaceport building, a sprawling complex with no skyscrapers nearby. The entrance was about five kilometers away.

Dillon sighed and said, “Well, gotta get going. I wonder if I could get on a bus in this outfit? Nah, that’s not safe.”

He began jogging, passing intersections and making his way down the street. Soon the neighborhood grew nicer. He saw a young man exit a flat and jump onto a skyboard, a flat platform with handlebars designed to float above sidewalks and streets.

The young man palmed the power panel and the machine fired up, its bottom side glowing. It immediately rose half a meter up in the air.

On impulse, Dillon diverted course. He kept running. When he came closer and just before the young man entered the stream of traffic, Dillon shoved him off the board.

“Hey!”

“Stand back, citizen! Official business!”

The young man looked up in alarm at the armored figure taking over his skyboard. Dillon jumped on and it sank in the air a few centimeters. He gunned the throttle and zipped out into traffic.

“I did not say ‘Police business.’ That’s a crime, impersonating an officer.”

A horn honked angrily as he cut off a terrestrial cabbie at the next intersection. Dillon waved at the driver as he sped by, ignoring the man’s rude gestures.

“Of course, killing police officers is an even bigger crime . . .”

He sped down the street as fast as the skyboard would go, zipping around cars and over pedestrians, flying ever nearer to the spaceport.

“But I’ve never actually killed a cop, you know. SSI agents, you bet. Coppers, nope.”

He ran through a light at the next intersection just as a giant truck trundled through. He pulled the handlebar up and pressed down with his feet, twisting to one side so the skyboard turned sideways. He slipped under the truck, righted the board, and kept going.

“Almost clipped my head on that one. No, wait . . . almost lost my head on that one. That’s better. Hey, I was headedthat way when . . . no, no. Aw, forget it.”

The entrance to the spaceport loomed ahead now. He could see the main gate, manned by guardbots. A line of people waited outside to go through security scanners before entering the largest building.

Dillon pushed down on the handlebar and brought the skyboard to its maximum height of three meters. He sailed over the heads of everybody in line. The guardbots below followed his progress, their necks craning up.

“Official business!” he yelled down. “Coming through!”

“Halt!”

He ignored them and arced the board back down to its usual half-meter height as he raced toward the huge double doors leading inside.

The guardbots drew their weapons and fired.

Thoop! Thoop!

The blasts hit him square in the back and he lost control of the skyboard just as the double doors opened. He tumbled to the ground while the board spun out of control, spinning through the doors and crashing in the spaceport. Somewhere inside, a woman screamed.

Dillon sat up, facing the way he came.

“I’m okay! I can’t believe it. Say, this armor is really good!”

Thoop! Thoop!

Two more bolts hit him in the chest, knocking him back down.

He pulled out a blaster, sat up again and fired back at the bots. They hit him three more times, but the armor deflected the blasts. He aimed carefully and shot at their heads, knocking them down. Now people everywhere, inside and outside the spaceport, screamed and dove for cover. Dillon got back on his feet, turned and ran inside.

He found a line at the information kiosk, Everyone turned around and stared at him wide-eyed, with his armor and cracked visor. He adjusted the bag carrying the other blasters on his back and pointed the gun in his hand up at the ceiling.

“Everybody move!”

Thoop!

He squeezed off a shot into the air. The crowd scattered in panic.

He walked up to the droid behind the booth and said, “Where is Natasha Krizinksi?”

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