Solar Storm 21

Fenner stopped running once she came to a residential street rolling through the neighborhood. She stayed on the sidewalk and looked around while trying to appear casual, alert for the sign of pursuing Marines.

This was an upscale neighborhood. Most areas with single family homes were. The collective mentality of the League encouraged urban communal living arrangements, otherwise known as apartment buildings. Apartments were seen as efficient and an excellent means of sharing space and resources. Single family homes were typically viewed as wasteful. They had the taint of capitalism about them.

However, over time those who had accumulated wealth in the League, usually through currying favor with the Tetrarchs or other highly placed government officials, as well as those working in the upper echelons of government, yearned for more luxurious homes. Places where they could stretch out and enjoy the freedom of elbow room. They were rewarded with things more typical people did not deserve, including nice three bedroom suburban houses on big lots with lush backyards and trees.

The inequitable distribution of wealth and assets was a hallmark of capitalism and the Republic. But wealth and assets were granted to the ruling class in socialist societies like the League. It was given to those born into privilege or who had curried the favor of appropriate people in the ruling class.

It was not a perfect system, Fenner thought, but it made more sense to keep the masses at an equal level, granting favor and fortune to a privileged few rather than letting anyone work their way up. That the masses were kept at an equally low level did not bother her. Such mundane considerations were typically beneath the notice of those in the ruling class, such as herself.

Speaking of fortune, it seemed to smile on Fenner as she watched a woman heading for a car. It was a terrestrial vehicle, indicating a lower position in the League hierarchy, but Fenner was not picky at the moment. She cut across the street and walked straight toward the driveway.

The woman looked up as Fenner approached, her hand on the car’s palm panel.

She said, “Can I help—”

She broke off, unable to continue with Fenner’s slender knife in her ear.

The woman crumpled to the ground, bleeding from the wound. Fenner withdrew the dagger and wiped it clean, then dragged the body into the backseat, laying it down and bending the legs so she could shut the door.

The car activated with biometrics, but fortunately it was ready to go. Fenner climbed into the front seat and took the wheel, backing out of the driveway.

She ignored the automated driving feature and took control herself.

Overhead a Marine transport floated by, its cameras no doubt searching the streets.

An hour later, Fenner was back in the city. So far, she had avoided capture. With StarCen out and with PLAIR limited she had a window in which she could move around unobserved.

She had a decent disguise that should do the trick for now. She had weapons and could kill or disrupt Republican operations, if she knew where to find them. The only thing she needed was someplace to stay, a proper hideout.

With the Marines showing up at the suburban safe house, she no longer felt secure on any SSI property. She did not dare go home to her own apartment, even if it was still standing. She had been given a penthouse in downtown Yorkton, next to the Administration Building. If scenes from the holo were any indication, her building had been destroyed along with others nearby.

She had no family, and certainly no friends. At least, none one she could call upon at this dark hour.

She parked the car on the side of the street, ignoring the cooling body in the back. She sat and thought about the problem for a moment.

“Wait a minute!”

She reached into her backpack and rummaged around, finally finding the pocket computer from the last interrogation in which she participated.

She thought, The man known as Dolphin had to have lived somewhere, right?

A small holo appeared above the pocket computer and she whirred through snippets of his memory until she came to a door with an address on it. She spent several more minutes until finding where he set up the emergency access codes.

She looked at her inner map and realized she was only eight or nine blocks away. She got out and left the car with the body inside.

At the first intersection, she noticed four Republican Marines keeping an eye on things. She ignored them, standing in line and waiting to cross the street. The pedestrian holo flashed and she stayed with the crowd while moving on to the next block.

Soon she came to Dolphin’s apartment building, a modest 12 story structure designed to house the proletariat.

She made her way up the stairs, past the now defunct monitor installed to keep tabs on residents coming and going, and went up to the fifth floor. From there, she found his apartment.

Ordinarily, when SSI took someone in for interrogation their home and belongings were forfeited and a holo would be placed on the door indicating the fact. However, the agency had not yet gotten around to doing that for Dolphin before the Republic invaded.

She bent to the palm panel and activated the access holo, swiping a finger through the appropriate numbers. The door swished open, and she walked in.

A grey tabby ran to her, mewling.

“Well, hello. What’s your name?”

She bent to stroke its back, and the cat purred in appreciation.

“Starved for attention, are we? Probably hungry, too. Let’s see where he kept your food.”

She made a mental note to search Dolphin’s memories for the cat’s name. She opened the pantry and found a box of cat food. She poured some in a bowl left on the floor, and the tabby gobbled it up.

Fenner went into the living room and plopped down on a recliner. She made a hand motion and the wall-holo lit up, tuned to the local news. Everything focused on the Marines and the Republic. She watched it for a while then turned back to her pocket computer with Dolphin’s memories.

He had not struck her as a cat person, in the brief moments they had tortured him. She discovered the cat had belonged to a neighbor, an old lady who passed away recently. Dolphin adopted it when nobody in the lady’s family claimed the cat or seemed to want it.

Its food finished, the cat made its way into the living room and jumped up into Fenner’s lap.

She stroked its back and said, “Hello. My name is Vicki. And I see here that your name is Sheba.”

In response, Sheba purred and turned in circles a few times before settling down in Fenner’s lap.

“Looks like I’m going to be here for a while, Sheba. This little place is my new base of operations.”

Sheba yawned and promptly went to sleep.

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