An old light strip along a back alley in Port Ryan’s Mendicant District sputtered and fizzled. The alley was dirty, with piles of trash stacked up along the walls. A gentle breeze blew through, sending scraps of paper flying.
A stream of silver pixels sprayed out of the light strip, like a digital water fountain. The pixels misted and coalesced into an attractive blonde indent, wearing the standard silver unitard and metal biocollar.
Raquel glanced up and down the alley, the first time in three days she had been able to fully coalesce. She found this area to become visible because it looked deserted.
She looked down at her right hand at the pistol the other Intangible woman had dropped. She was surprised at the white-haired girl’s capabilities. Somehow, the jab to her jaw connected, despite Raquel’s pixilation. That might be a problem were they to meet again, Raquel thought. Apparently there were more survivors of the Gemini Project than she realized, and at least one was here on this planet somewhere.
She pulled out the top of her unitard and stuffed the pistol down her front. It made an imprint and looked very obvious. She pulled the gun back out again. If only she had a purse or a bag or something. She looked down on the pavement at the trash piled up and spied some old rags. Next to it was a cloth satchel of some sort, and it did not appear too dirty.
She walked over and bent down to retrieve it.
“Hey! What’re you doin?”
A tramp’s face popped out from the garbage. She realized, pulling on the satchel, it was wrapped around his shoulder.
He looked unshaven and desperately needed a bath. She could not tell how much of the smell came from him, and how much from garbage.
A large medi-bracelet around his wrist appeared when he dragged his hands up out of the garbage piled on him. Unlike the attractive (and expensive) bracelets the wealthy sometimes wore, this one looked purely functional. It had probably been stolen from a hospital, she reckoned.
Raquel straightened and frowned. She said, “Freaking addict.”
A smoldering chunk of neck was all that remained of the tramp’s face.
Raquel reached down and pulled the satchel off the now headless shoulders. Looking inside she found a couple of packages of soy wafers. Thankfully, they were still sealed, and she didn’t have to worry about food safety. She ripped them open and wolfed them down.
She emptied the remainder of the satchel’s contents over the corpse, put the blaster inside, then put the strap over her own shoulder. She made her way to the closest end of the alley.
Walking down the street she looked for police monitors. Surprisingly, this city seemed to have very few of them. It was quite different than a typical StarCen planet, she thought, where the police monitored everything. Out here, it seemed, one could almost walk around without fear of surveillance, which seemed odd to someone growing up in the Star League.
She finally found a lone monitor, suspended above a light pole. She loitered in the area, making sure she would be seen. She was curious what would happen. After several minutes of standing around, looking in windows, and walking up and down the sidewalk, she gave up. If the police were monitoring, they were evidently not in a hurry to try and apprehend her. It seemed the AI system on this planet might not be paying attention, either.
She walked a few blocks and made her way into a nicer part of the city. At last she found a restaurant, a small place serving sandwiches and coffee. She went in and headed straight for the restroom. There she pixilated and floated up to the lights in the ceiling. She quickly made her way through the wiring to back of the place, and dropped down to the floor in the kitchen where a robot chef prepared food.
It turned to her and its electronic irises widened in surprise. When it spoke, the sound came through the speakers on its face, a horizontal slit below the round red eyes.
“You are not authorized for this area. Please leave immediately.”
She reached up to its head, her hand pixelating, and she shorted it out. The robot clattered to the floor. She walked over to its prep table and snatched up the sandwich it had been making for a customer.
She had no money, and no means to acquire any in this digital economy. Hiding out with the other indents proved to be an easy way to make it, since they were fed on a regular basis. But out here on her own would necessitate additional thefts like this if she were to survive.
Raquel finished the sandwich and grabbed a second one the chef had prepared. Suddenly craving flesh and blood company (preferably the kind that did not smell like trash or urine), she walked out to the seating area where a handful of people were gathered.
She sat down at an empty table and ignored the robot waitress, who had not yet noticed her.
In a corner, a holovision showed the news, with an earnest (but probably artificial) anchorwoman who seemed to stare Raquel in the eyes while she talked.
“. . . and the victims of what is now known as the ‘Fomalhaut Massacre’ are in good hands at Port Ryan’s Red Cross shelter.”
An image of Raleigh floated in the air over her shoulder.
“In other news, Captain Christopher Raleigh of the Ultima Mule indicates that the other guests from their recent acquisition, the Aquamarine, a Mammoth-class luxury liner, are in good spirits at Mule Tower where they will remain confined until negotiations for their release are concluded . . .”
Raquel said to herself, “Mule Tower?”
She thought, those pirates own a building in this city?
She took a last bite of the sandwich, picked up her satchel and walked back into the kitchen. The serving bot was back there now, bent over the robot chef.
It looked up when Raquel entered and said, “You are not authorized— GZZZT!”
Raquel reached over and shorted it out. The robot clattered down on top of the chef. Then Raquel dissolved, her silver pixels rising up like vapor into the lights on the ceiling.