Rege’s Rescue (Dena Garson)
Rege Rovnitov’s instincts went on high alert as soon as his boot crossed the shop’s threshold.
Even over the heavy scent of leather, he detected burned ozone. A weapon had been fired. Debris scattered on the floor and countertop said there had been a struggle.
He pulled his own weapon from its holster at his back and edged farther into Tauxir’s store. There were no patrons inside and he hadn’t seen anyone leaving. This part of the city drew rough clientele, but Tauxir had a solid reputation for being an honest businessman as well as being a man you didn’t want to fuck with.
Whoever decided to take something of Tauxir’s must have a death wish.
Rege grinned. Maybe this day wouldn’t be a waste after all.
Using all of his senses to piece together what had happened he moved deeper into the store.
A roar followed by a crash came from the backroom. He leapt over an overturned stool and cleared the last steps to the doorway in one bound. Yanking the curtain aside, he leveled his gun’s laser sight on the first thing that moved.
His entrance was met by one pissed off and bloodied leatherworker. Tauxir held a similar gun and Rege suspected Tauxir’s laser was aimed right at his heart.
“You okay?” Rege asked without relaxing his stance.
Tauxir’s jaw flexed as if still debating whether or not to fire. “No,” he finally ground out between clenched teeth.
Rege glanced around the room to make sure there were no threats. “What happened?”
Tauxir lowered his gun and spit. “Slavers.”
Rege also lowered his weapon but didn’t holster it. “What did they want with you?”
Pain flashed in Tauxir’s eyes. “Amethe.”
Son of a bitch. Tauxir’s daughter. “They took her?”
He nodded once then pulled a wicked knife from underneath his worktable and pushed it into a sheath.
“How long has she been back?”
“Two nights.” Tauxir strapped the knife to his thigh then grabbed two more and slipped those in their respective places.
Rege pushed the button on the communicator wrapped around his ear. “Call Bolan.”
Tauxir half limped, half dragged himself toward the stairs. Thinking he might need help getting upstairs, Rege closed in.
Tauxir leaned against the wall and slid a concealed panel aside. He entered a code which activated a small door at their feet below the stairs. Even from where he stood, Rege could see the impressive collection of weapons.
“Yeah,” Bolan’s terse answer finally came through Rege’s earpiece.
“Grab Vordol and Malir and get to Tauxir’s. We’ve got a situation.”
“Be there in ten.” No complaints, no unnecessary questions. That was the beauty of the brotherhood. Always there for each other no matter what.
“Not your problem,” Tauxir said gruffly without looking up from his stash of weapons.
“You’re a brother. If you’ve got a problem, we all have a problem. You know that.”
He finally looked up. “I retired from the Brotherhood more than a decade ago. I’m not about to bring my problems to any of your doors. The Brotherhood has enough to deal with.”
Rege crossed the room and put one hand on Tauxir’s shoulder. “You may not run missions any more but you contribute to the cause as much as any of us.”
Tauxir snorted. “What? By passing info?” He pulled a high powered gun from the stash that Rege would have given his right nut to possess.
“Your intel has saved hundreds of lives. And more than one Brother owes you his life or limb because of your armor.”
“Doesn’t make this your problem.” He pulled several clips from a drawer inside the secret space then stood. “I’ll bring my daughter home.” Even as he said it, he swayed and crumpled to one knee.
Rege reached to help him but Tauxir brushed him off. Knowing how obstinate Tauxir could be he grabbed a handful of Tauxir’s shirt and dragged him to a nearby chair.
“We don’t have time for stubbornness. Tell me what you know and I’ll track them.”
Tauxir shook off his grip and tried to stand. “I’m going.”
Rege pushed him back into the chair. “I’m the best tracker around and you’re in no shape to chase after anyone. Based on the angle of your leg, I’m betting it’s broke. Now tell me what you know.”
“She’s my daughter.” Tauxir tried to shove him away and stand but he only succeeded in proving Rege’s point.
“Enough! You’re being hard headed and wasting precious time. Tell me what you saw.”
Tauxir hung his head. “There were three. They took what coins I had in the lockbox and a few pieces of merchandise. They tried to make it look random, but they were looking for her.” Anger and frustration burned in his eyes. “They knew Amethe was here.” He shook his head. “She fought them. So did I but as soon as they put a laser blade against her throat I was done.”
“You did what you had to do.” Rege tried to reassure him but knew his words would mean little. “What did they look like?”
“All three of them were big. One thinner than the other two but still packed a solid punch.” Tauxir absently rubbed a place on his chin. “One had the mark of the slavers on his neck. The other had one on the top of his hand. Based on the leader’s accent I’d say he came from the Omega Tori system.” He tried to get up again but Rege pushed him down again.
“Vordol and Malir will be here soon. They’ll make sure you’re patched up.” He gripped Tauxir’s shoulder until Tauxir looked him in the eye. “I will find her.”
Tauxir nodded once. He didn’t say a word but his eyes spoke volumes about the fear and gratitude he must have felt. “Here. Take this.” He pushed the weapon he’d pulled from the vault into Rege’s hand. “Your new jacket is ready.” He pointed to the corner where several garments hung from a peg that jutted out from the wall. “Take it and anything else you need. On the house. Just bring her home to me.”
“You have my word.”
Rege gathered the few things he needed and made his way out into the nearly deserted street. Word of the slavers being in the area didn’t take long to get around. Odds were even if anyone saw Amethe being dragged out of the shop they wouldn’t report it. No one wanted to attract the slavers’ attention.
First order of business was to find tracks. If he got really lucky he might find them before they skipped off the planet.
He found several sets of heavier boot prints that led in and out of the shop. Unfortunately, they became jumbled in the street and quickly ran out. At the corner the prints disappeared altogether. Odds were good they had gotten into some kind of transport unit there.
Using his communicator, he buzzed Solir. “You guys stop for lunch or what?”
“We’re coming in from the rear. What’s going down?” Solir asked.
“Tauxir was attacked. His daughter was taken. He thinks Slavers were behind the attack.”
Solir gave a low whistle. “Damn. I’m not sure who to feel sorry for, his daughter or the Slavers after Tauxir gets his hands on them.”
“He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Looked like they broke his leg and knocked him for a loop. He’s going to need medic.”
Solir relayed the message to Bolan and the others with him. “I assume the shop is clear?”
“It was when I left. You might want to announce yourself when you go in. Tauxir is pissed enough that he’s likely to shoot first and ask questions later.”
“Got it. You tracking them?”
“Yes, but not having much luck yet. See if you can pull any footage from the corner outside of Tauxir’s shop as well as the one farther east. I think they had a transport there.”
“I’ll pull it as soon as I link in at Tauxir’s place.”
“Find out if he has a recent picture or vid of Amethe. Meanwhile I’m going to look for Queeler.”
Solir snorted. “Good luck with that one. He’s hard to understand on a good day.”
“No shit but no one knows more about what goes on in this town than him.”
“Like I said, good luck. We’re going in to get Tauxir. Buzz if you find anything.”
“Watch your back, man.”
Amethe waited until the door clicked shut before she got up from where she had been huddled in the corner.
She’d put on quite the show. Apparently living and working with stage actors and actresses had been worthwhile after all. Seemed to have fooled her captors into thinking she was just a weepy, fragile ball of fluff. Of course, that had been easy to pull off after waking up in a box the size of a coffin.
Being in such a confined space had sent her into a very real panic. At least she’d managed to get it under control before they’d drugged her again. Since then she turned on the waterworks anytime they came near her. Apparently it was universal that most grown men don’t know what to do when a woman cries.
She tiptoed to the door and checked the lock. Unfortunately, they had remembered to engage it.
No matter. She could pick any lock, manual or electronic. She just needed a hair pin and a little time.
Time was the issue. She pulled a pin from her hair, ignored the wayward tendrils that fell onto her neck, and went to work on the door. In less than a minute she heard the satisfying click as the lock mechanism turned over.
She replaced the pin in her hair, dusted off her pants from where she’d been kneeling on the grimy floor and pressed her ear to the cool metal surface. When she didn’t hear anything, she slowly turned the handle and pulled the door open enough to peer out.
She couldn’t estimate the age of the building since she wasn’t certain which space port they’d stopped at. Everything smelled stale but she wasn’t sure if it were due to age or the warm, humid air that clung to her skin. Then again, it could be due to the questionable film that coated everything.
Oddly, she found no guards outside her door. She pulled the door open further and poked her head out. All she could see in both directions was a carpeted hallway and a few flickering lights. Unwilling to chance anyone coming back, she slipped through the doorway and quietly pulled the door closed behind her. Since they had come in from the right, she opted to see where the left might take her.
Moving as silent as possible, she listened at a couple of doors but heard nothing but snores and the occasional sound of squeaking bedsprings. At the end of the passage she found a staircase. The door to it had been secured by an electronic lock making it more difficult to access without the proper tools. As she debated whether or not she had time to hack the lock, she heard an unusual swish of air behind her and the clang of metal.
She turned and found a pull down door built into the wall. Curious what it could be, yet seeing no locks, she tugged on the handle and peeked inside. A small bundle of linens went rushing past the opening, startling her. Closer inspection revealed the opening to be part of a metal tube running from one of the floors above to some place below. Must be one of those chutes used to send laundry or trash to the lowest floor.
That meant there was likely a basement or underground floor. Good to know.
Voices from the other end of the hallway interrupted her thoughts. She pressed herself against the wall and listened.
“I thought you said the girl was off limits. Why are you taking her those clothes?” one of the men asked.
“Herizan wants her in tonight’s lineup. Some moneybag is supposed to be there and he thinks he might be able to get more for her than what we were getting paid.”
“Won’t His Majesty be mad if we don’t deliver her?” The man sneered the words.
“That’s Herizan’s problem.”
One of them rapped on a door. “Hey. Are you awake in there?” He paused. “You hear me? We’re coming in.”
Amethe waited until the door knob rattled and she felt certain the men were inside the room then pulled the chute door open and dove inside. As she slid downward she prayed fervently she wouldn’t land in a pile of rubbish at the bottom.
When she plowed into a mountain of dirty linens her breath left in a rush. Instinctively she rolled to one side and checked her surroundings. It was a large room with a row of windows along the top. There were six large machines against one wall, three of which were running. Based on the amount of steam that rose from two of them, she guessed they processed the dirty laundry.
Despite the noise, heat and smell she was relieved to be away from her captors. Now she just needed to find a way out of the building. She peeked around the pile and found a startlingly beautiful girl with blue skin and large grey eyes staring at her.
Amethe froze, unsure what to do.
The sound of heavy footsteps running down the stairs at the far end of the room drew both of their attention.
Blood drained from her face. If they found her, they’d drug her for sure. If they did, she’d be at their mercy. She needed to get out of there. Now.
The blue skinned girl motioned for her to get between two piles of fabrics.
With no other viable options at the moment, she complied. When the girl tossed a blanket over her then a basket of warm things, she knew she’d made the right choice to trust her.
A man with a deep voice asked, “Has anyone been down here that you don’t know?”
There was no reply, but the same man asked, “Are you sure? A Novo female with light colored hair?”
Still no reply.
“Dammit,” the man grumbled. “She had to be somewhere around here. You two look down here then meet me in the front parlor.”
Amethe felt someone come and stand next to her. She held her breath, unsure of who it might be. The remaining men shouted to each other from varying places around the room, reporting they found nothing until finally they gave in and stomped up the stairs.
Whoever stood next to her put their hand on her head but otherwise didn’t move. After a couple minutes of listening for any sounds other than the machines, the hand tapped her twice then pulled the blanket back.
The blast of cooler air on Amethe’s face was a relief. She looked up at her savior. “Thank you,” she whispered.
The blue girl tipped her head in acknowledgement and reached down to help her up. She pulled her over to the wall and pointed at the dirt coated window above them. With a glance in the direction of the stairs, the girl made shooing motions and pointed again at the window.
“That’s a way out?”
The girl nodded vigorously and repeated the shooing motion.
“Can you come with me?” Amethe asked.
The girl shook her head and pointed to the collar around her neck. A yellow light blinked steadily in the center of the collar indicating her savior was bound to a certain location would not be able to go outside of a certain range.
Amethe scowled at the collar. She’d heard of them being used to control animals and minor criminals but never a free citizen. And she strongly suspected this girl was not being kept here because of a petty crime. “That’s not right,” she murmured.
If possible, the girl’s eyes got bigger. Her shooing motions became more insistent, but still she didn’t say anything.
“You understand me but you cannot speak?”
The girl shook her head and she pushed her toward the window.
“I can’t leave you here like this,” Amethe whispered.
The girl glanced toward the stairs then back at her. Her expression even more panicked. She pointed at the window.
Amethe’s gut screamed for her to go, but her conscious hated to leave the girl behind. “I won’t forget you and your help.” She squeezed the girl’s hand. “I’ll send someone for you. I promise.”
The girl nodded, but her sad eyes said she had no hope of that promise coming true.
Amethe climbed onto the table below the window, released the latch to open the window then pulled herself up and through the opening. Her escape hatch led to an alleyway. On either side of her were large metal canisters. From the smell, she guessed they were for garbage. She looked down at the girl, gave her a thumbs-up signal then pulled the window closed.
She swallowed her guilt over leaving the girl then peeked around the canisters. At each end of the alley a stream of citizens flowed past. By the amount of light she guessed it was midday. With that many citizens out and about it was very likely a market nearby. If she could make it to the market she stood a chance of blending in with the crowd until she could find a place where she could send a message home.
Being without a communicator as well as any coin or credits put her at a severe disadvantage but it didn’t mean she had no options. Once more she debated which way to go then opted for the end that looked the busiest.
Before she even made it halfway, a door opened ahead of her and three men stepped out. She immediately recognized one of them, so she turned and started to run in the opposite direction.
“There she is,” one of them yelled.
The other end of the alley became blocked by two more beefy looking men.
As she backed away she realized she had nowhere to go. Back into the basement was no option. They’d find her before she could get up the stairs and she wasn’t about to endanger the blue girl who’d helped her. There were no ladders leading up the side of either building. Not that the roof would provide much help in her escape. And the odds of her being able to run past either group of captors was small.
Time to go down swinging, as her dad would say.
As they closed in on her, she assessed each group looking for some kind of weakness. But each one was armed or larger than most bodyguards or both.
“You didn’t really think you’d get away, now did you, angel?” one of the men sneered. “I’m afraid we have plans for you.”
Her heart hammered in her chest as she looked from one group to the other. “I have plans too but none of them involve you or your friends so why don’t you guys just pretend you didn’t see me and no one has to get hurt.”
The men chuckled.
“And I suppose you’re going to be the one handing out the ouchies?” the same man asked as he drew closer.
A deep gravelly voice from the end of the alley drew all everyone’s attention. “That would be my job.”