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Jetamors ([personal profile] jetamors) wrote2010-11-25 08:58 pm
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Nanowrimo Day 25

Happy Turkey Day, to those who celebrate it!

"You're leaving?" Tatiana said. "How are you leaving? Do you need a ship to take you off-planet?"

"A ship?" The man looked up at Tatiana, eyes bleary. "Yeah, gotta do that. Gotta find a ship."

"Excellent! We'll take you, then. First thing tomorrow morning?"

"Whatever," the man said.

"Oh yeah, what's your name, and where are you staying here?"

"Th' name is Benjamin, Benjamin Jones," the man said. "And m'fighter's name is Jolee. She's my niece, too. We're at the Upstairs, room number... number... well, y'know."

"We'll be back early tomorrow to pick you two up," Tatiana said.

"Yeah," the man said.

"Is he even going to remember any of this tomorrow?" Kid asked, as they stepped back outside.

"We'll work it out later," Tatiana said blithely. "The point is, now we've got a good prospect." She whirled around. "Hey, Patel! Find a place to stay in town, and stop following us!"

Patel frowned at her. "Come on, now. I'm not gonna sell you out, how many times do I have to tell you?" She coughed a few times; they'd been out in the atmosphere quite a bit.

"You're a shapeshifter," Tatiana said. "I'm pretty sure you can find something to do without us. Kid, Qaf, come on." She grabbed them by their shoulders, and together the three stalked away. Qaf turned back to wave, but that was all.

Patel watched them go, her mouth twisting. She spit on the ground.

The next morning, Tatiana, Kid, and Qaf came back to town, to the Upstairs hotel. Their client wasn't waiting for them in the lobby, which wasn't surprising--but Patel was.

"Seriously?" Tatiana said.

Patel shushed her, and beckoned the three over to her table.

"No, you don't understand," she said. "It's really serious, this time. I will literally give you every cent I own if you can get me off this planet."

"Why?" Tatiana asked her. "What happened?"

Patel gave a long sigh. "Remember how I said shapeshifters are pretty rare? Well, technically speaking, we're not supposed to be wandering around the galaxy working for the underground, neither. Anyway, I just saw two of the others like me--shapeshifters. I don't think they saw me, but if they get even a hint that I'm here, they'll slap me in chains and send me back home." She shuddered theatrically. "And the absolute last thing I want to do is go home."

"Wait, where's home?" Qaf asked. "And why don't you want to go there?"

"It's--well, it's a long story, y'know? But basically, none of us were naturally born with this ability. We were created to be able to do it, by our home world's government. We're supposed to only be working for them."

"But you're not?"

Patel grinned. "I'm not. And I'd like it to stay that way. So what do you say? Take me along, please? I don't have a lot of money left, and finding another ship to go out on would raise my profile."

"We still can't trust you," Kid said.

"Kid is right," Tatiana said. "But on the other hand... if you're with us, we can watch you. If you're not with us, we won't know what's going on with them." She grinned. "Also, this is Hold Steady, and we never turn down a paying fare."

Kid looked at her sharply. "Tatiana, that's crazy. Even if we're watching her, we can't control what she does on her pad."

"Yes we can!" Qaf said, suddenly. "We can put a trace on it that'll track everything she does. If she contacted them, or even went someplace suspicious, we'd know about it."

"No way," Tatiana said. "That's way too invasive!"

"Well, we'd have to have her permission to run it," Qaf said. "And of course she could stop it whenever she wanted, even though that would be suspicious in itself."

"I'll take it," Patel said. "I'll take anything as long as it gets me off this planet."

Tatiana frowned. "Fine, then," she said after a long moment. "Patel, give your pad to Qaf."

Patel handed it over; Qaf uncapped one of her fingers and hooked into it.

"Okay, I need your thumbprint here and here," she said after a few seconds. Patel complied. "Okay, that's it then! Like I said, you can cancel it whenever you want."

"Good," Tatiana said. "And now that we're finished with this, can we finally go find this Benjamin guy and get off-planet?"

There were several Benjamin Jones' on-planet at the moment, and since they were mostly tourists, it was impossible to figure out which was the Benjamin Jones staying at the Upstairs. In the end, they had to ask the desk to contact him.

"Tell him his ride is here," Tatiana told them. "He should come to the lobby for that."

He didn't come to them, but he did call for them to go to him. The four went one by one into the zip tube that would take them down to the floor that Benjamin was staying on.

When they knocked on the door, he opened it right away, as if he had been waiting for them. "Almost finished packing," he grunted at them. "Come on, girlie, get a move on!"

The person laying equipment into the bag looked up, startled, and then Tatiana saw the strangest human being she had ever encountered in the flesh.

Jolee's skin was not simply brown, like most people's skin; instead, it had patches of green interspersed, to create a camouflage effect. Her head was shaved, and her eyes were flecked with strange, shiny pieces of metal. Her hands were more artificial than biological, and she had a pad touchscreen inset into one forearm. Anyone who saw her would know that she was a professional laser dome fighter. What she saw were only the outer signs; Tatiana knew that this woman would probably have enhanced hearing, an augmented peripheral nervous system, and all sorts of other alterations that worked together to give her every advantage possible in laser dome.

"Just give us half a sec," Benjamin said. He stood aside and let the four of them step into the room.

Inside, there was one suitcase lying against a wall, three half-empty cases, and a truly extraordinary amount of gear scattered around the room. Some of it was recognizable: parts of guns, motion-capture cameras, and so on. But much of it didn't seem to have any clear purpose.

Jolee darted around the room, picking up pieces of equipment and placing them into the various bags. Her heightened reflexes could apparently also be put to use in this more mundane situation; within about five minutes, everything was packed up and ready to go. Jolee picked up all three cases and the suitcase herself; when the others tried to share some of the burden, she simply shook her head.

"Don't worry about it," Benjamin said. "She's strong, y'know, because of all the augments. Let's go."

They were walking out on the street, the four Hold Steady crew members leading and Benjamin and Jolee following, when Patel froze for a moment, then quickly moved to hide behind Qaf.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Qaf asked.

"It's them again," Patel hissed. "Smith and Nguyen. They're still here." She gasped. "And I think they saw me."

Her eyes were darting toward two people, a man and a woman, dressed entirely unremarkably and traveling in the opposite direction. They were both dark-skinned, with long, braided hair. They didn't seem like anyone special; but they had altered their course when they saw Patel, trying to find an opening to go across the street.

"How can you tell?" Qaf asked.

"How can you tell when you recognize someone?" Patel asked. "We grew up together, we'll always know each other."

"Okay, calm down," Tatiana said. "There's the hover that'll take us back to the dock. We'll be off-planet in half an hour."

"Hey, is something going on?" Benjamin had noticed their distress.

Tatiana smiled. "Oh no, it's nothing," she said. "The hover we'll be taking is right here in front of us. If Jolee would put the bags in the back, and then we can head out."

Jolee tossed them in. She still hadn't said a word.

Further down the road, one of the people Patel had pointed out had finally managed to cross the road. She was running now, trying to catch up with the hover.

Tatiana swung herself into the hover; everyone else was aboard. "We're ready, so let's go," she told the driver.

Obediently, he swung them around, and they melted into the traffic of the road. Patel was sitting in the back; she looked behind her, with her hand against the window, until long after Smith and Nguyen must have been out of view.

"So," Qaf said, with false cheerfulness. "Your name is Jolee, right?"

Jolee was sitting with her head hanging down. "Yes," she whispered, not looking up.

"And you're a laser dome fighter, right? How do you like it?"

Jolee twisted her hands together. "It's good, I guess," she said.

"Come on, Jolee, be a little more cheerful about it!" her uncle interjected. "She loves the dome, absolutely loves it! I tell you, this was what she was made to do!"

Made, indeed. Tatiana's gaze traveled over Jolee's augmentations.

"You got into the regional preliminaries, right?" Qaf said, still trying to draw Jolee out. "You must be really good, huh?"

Jolee made a slight strangled sound, that Tatiana realized was a sob. Tears welled up from her eyes and dripped onto her knees.

Benjamin glowered. "Jolee is the best, but she tends to choke when she gets into high stakes competitions. That's why we have to work on your nerves, right, Jolee?"

"Yes," Jolee whispered. She was still crying. "I'll do better next time."

After that, they were silent all the way to the dock.

It wasn't until they reached Hold Steady that Tatiana spoke again. "So, where were you two planning to go next? We can take you almost anywhere!"

"We'll be restarting the regional circuit, I think," Benjamin said. "First game will be on Shakur in a month; we'll spend that time training." He glared at Jolee. "She needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up."

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