Syreen can travel for free—but she will also be the youngest, prettiest thing aboard. Aboard merchant ships, this usually implies the role of ship’s cat, playgirl for the crew. As part of her covert mission, she must deal with this inconvenience.
She should also remain inconspicuous and invisible to the authorities, but without experience in covert missions, she’s bound to fail. Can she achieve her goals anyway? What will happen to her if her enemies spot her?
When the first drop hit Syreen’s face, she flinched and looked up for the leak.
However, she saw no broken tube, no air conditioner grid, no condenser—only a vast open space with a puffy lavender cover.
While she contemplated her next action, the ground around her filled with dark spots. She gazed about her. One-story buildings, side by side, with dark hollows where doors should be, with broken wires and empty mounts where once holo projectors had probably announced their venue’s attractions, here and there with narrow elevated platforms to both sides of the door. They were sad witnesses of better times, when this backwater planet had attracted prospectors, traders, thugs, and the usual mix of entertainers, either addicted to their profession or desperate enough to ignore its drawbacks, like abuse, humiliation, and the loss of decency.
The condensation—rain, it’s called, she corrected herself—intensified. The water mixed with the dust on the once even surface and formed a slippery grease that her worn-out boots struggled to cope with.
That’s why it’s called dirtside, she mused. No way to walk more than a few steps without staining your clothes. Add broken plumbing and poor air conditioning. Many good reasons to feel unwelcome.
Still, there was no point in speeding up. She’d be soaking wet at the end of her walk anyway, and slipping and falling in the mud wouldn’t improve her looks.
At least she could already sense the intense emotions of a small crowd of people—booze-induced drowsiness, lecherous happiness, greed, and fear. There were more people, radiating hunger, affection, or disgust, but those remained in the background.
A few tencycles ago, I wouldn’t have noticed. Not across such distance, at least. But now the beast is hungry, and it assists me in finding prey in every possible way.
The major advantage of this star system was its negligible space traffic control—at least, the local sensors were unable to detect a living ship pussyfooting into the system with its camouflage up, sneaking into the atmosphere and submerging in one of the many remote lakes.
There were no space stations nor any other orbital installations apart from a few sturdy long-life weather and communication satellites, so a stranger wouldn’t attract attention just by appearing on the surface. There was no immigration or customs control, no ID check, no questions asked.
There was a spaceport for ships capable of going dirtside or for their shuttles, there was a small local force maintaining the pretense of law and order, and there was a merchant guild’s office. That was what the database said, yet to be put to the test.