Julia entered her Yorkton flat. She had avoided taking the skybus and walked all the way home. Fortunately, it had not been far. About halfway there, she remembered the monitors and wondered if taking the bus might have been better after all, even with mass transit security measures. But so far, no alarms had sounded and her presence on the street had been ignored.

When she reached her building she took the stairs, and finally reached the door to her flat. She palmed it and the door swished open.

“Hey, babe.”

Biff looked up from the stove where he fussed over one frying pan with bacon and another with scrambled eggs. Both pans rested on an energy pad supplying heat.

She said, “Hi,” and kissed him.

“Oh, smelly. What’d you do, walk home?”

“Yes. And up the stairs. Maybe I’ll get in as good a shape as you.”

“Hey, long as the weather holds out, you can do that.”

Biff was buff, she thought, and not for the first time.

She almost spit out her drink the first time she met him. She had not been in Yorkton very long, perhaps two weeks, when someone in the Tetrarch’s office convinced her to go out with a group after work and hit the local pubs.

Biff had a bad boy vibe that appealed to her. And he was a body builder. When he walked up to her in the pub, he looked like a thick-necked slab of flowing muscles with ripped abs, outstanding pecs, and well-defined shoulders and arms. The tight fitting shirt he wore showed everything.

“Hi, I’m Biff Jones.”

After she stopped laughing, she said, “Of course you are.”

The name fit him perfectly.

Biffender Holloway Jones had some endearing qualities. He was not the most intellectual of men, but as a cop on the Capital City Police Force he had proven to be extremely useful for Julia. She made up her mind to get as close to him as possible. Their civil union ceremony occurred seven months ago. Being married to a cop afforded her access to all sorts of useful intelligence.

He said, “So, what’s going on at the Admin Building, Andi? News alerts said something about a bunch of Space Marines landing. Is that why you had to walk home?”

“Yeah, something like that. Evidently the Tetrarchy deposed Lopez today.”

He turned off the stove and whipped around in surprise.

“What? When did this happen?”

“Just a little while ago. Yeah, that’s why the Marines are here. Thrall is taking over this quadrant. Admiral Cooper is to be his puppet.”

Biff moved the bacon and eggs to a plate, grabbed a fork and headed for the sofa.

He said, “That’s bad. I know you don’t care for Thrall.”

“It’s terrible.”

She stopped herself from saying more. She wanted to say that Lopez was willing to nuke everybody in the city, including him, to hang onto power. She wanted to say that even though she was no fan of her father, she found herself actually helping him in order to save innocent lives. She wanted to say that no matter what she wanted, her father always seemed to get his way.

She felt incredibly frustrated, but there was no way she could ever share any of this with Biff. He didn’t even know who she really was.

He said, “Looks like it’s going to be a long night.”

Biff sighed, in between wolfing down the bacon and eggs. He watched brief snippets of the news on the holovision, as one Marine transport after another landed on rooftops across the city, spilling out troops and military robots.

When he finished eating, he walked over to a chair and retrieved his police jacket and blaster belt. He strapped them on.

“I’d better go in early. I’m sure we’ll be swamped tonight.”

Julia smiled and nodded. At first she was not happy when it came time for him to cycle over to a night shift. Cops rotated every so often, he explained. She got over it quickly, though. Having Biff gone at night proved to be very convenient. Tonight would be no exception.

He bent down and kissed her. When they broke apart she looked in his eyes and reached up to touch his cheek.

“I want you to know that whatever happens, I always loved you.”

He chuckled. “Now, what’s that supposed to mean? It’s just a change in government. Tetrarchs come and Tetrarchs go. It probably won’t affect us much. Other than you probably losing your job, of course. But I’m sure you’ll find something else. They always need good people in Administration. And you’re one of the best, babe.”

He stopped at the door and looked back one more time.

He said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

She nodded and watched as the door swished shut behind him.

Out loud she said, “That’s not what I meant.”

She walked into the flat’s bedroom and reached under the mattress frame. She pressed a hidden button and a floorboard slid back. Reaching inside the hidden compartment, she pulled out a duffel bag. She closed the compartment and crawled out from under the bed.

Julia changed clothes quickly, choosing casual tights, a loose blouse, and comfortable shoes. Very carefully, she pulled a necklace with a shiny amulet out of the duffel bag and placed it over her neck.

She pressed the button, and her face shimmered. When it stabilized, she looked completely different. Her nose and cheekbones were altered, along with the color of her eyes, which turned hazel. Her hair changed to auburn. Overall she had a completely different look.

Satisfied with everything, she palmed the door to the apartment and left.

Back in the living room, the holovision stayed on. A picture of her old face appeared, with the word, “Wanted,” underneath.


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