1. Star date June 5, 2170: 3:23PM
Location: Earth’s Moon Colony
Hijacking a Space Officer’s motorcycle is usually inadvisable, but when you’re on the run from a lunar gang it’s about the best form of transportation. I buzzed through the cold, sterile streets of Earth’s moon colony, gripping the handles of the officer’s motorcycle and trying not to slide off the back as I took hairpin turns in an attempt to outrun the Mahina gang.
Head down, I whipped through lanes of traffic — almost as bad as my hometown of Houston — and nearly clipped a bike messenger. The acrid smell of exhaust, so different from the gas I’d grown up with on earth, stung my nose. I yanked the soggy bandana around my neck up and over my nose. Stray curls whipped out of my braids and around my goggles.
If I could just get to the other side of the city and onto one of the Terra-Ports, I might be able to lose them. Sirens blasted overhead, bouncing off the silver-plated buildings as hovercycles — should’ve jumped one of those! — followed my escape. Taser light shocked the air, both from the gang and police, but so far each missed.
In a moment of sheer stupidity, I glanced over one shoulder to gauge the nearness of my destruction. A shockingly scrawny man with one of those bull-style nose rings led the group. Eyes narrow, mouth disfigured by a grimace, he steered his green motorcycle with one hand while the other aimed a taser in my direction.
When another stream of blue missed my taillight, he shouted, “Get her, boys!”
Could he be more comic-booky? I waved my fingers at him.
With a smirk, I turned back around. Just in time to see the woman in the street. Without so much as a brow raise, she extended her arm in front of me. A black baton-like device shot from her hand before I could swerve. A hot, electric current rippled the air, wafted across my skin, beat against my goggles, stole my sight.
When I opened my eyes again, I half expected to see the gang members glaring down at me with old-school pipes and brass knuckles for a nice round of torture. Instead, I blinked at a narrow metal room until focus landed on the woman from the street. Calm as before, she stared at me with eyes the color of walnuts. She wore her black hair in a tight braid and a gray transport uniform, or at least the jacket. A golden captain’s symbol glittered on the collar.
I groaned and pressed the heels of both hands into my eyes. “Where am I?”
I should’ve been relieved. Though some transport workers might be involved with unsavory people — like lunar gangs — they didn’t often have government certified captain’s badges. If she worked with the authorities I could reasonably expect to avoid torture at the very least.
The woman tilted her head to one side. “Police station.” She spoke with an Earthen accent, one I couldn’t quite pin down but ventured to guess came from somewhere in the Middle East.
Arms now crossed over my face, I groaned again. This explained the frigid metal biting into my spine. Probably one of those hanging benches. Machinery hummed beneath me, a gentle quiver calling out longing in my chest, longing for the feeling of my own ship, for the freedom of the black of space.
I sighed through my nose. “That was a wicked piece of tech you used on me. Shocked I didn’t break my neck.”
“It is rather handy,” the woman said. “I don’t fully understand the science, but it stuns its victim for a short period of time while causing them to hover momentarily to avoid bodily injury. An old friend designed it for me.”
I grimaced. “Stellar. Sure the lunar police love that. Speaking of, why haven’t they joined the party?”
“I asked them to allow me to speak with you first before they questioned you.”
I swallowed and screwed up a grin. “Who’d you sleep with to get that kind of privilege?”
I peeked between my arms. “For real?”
The woman smirked. “Hardly. But I often provide cargo transport services for him so he owes me a favor...a few favors actually.”
“Lucky you.” I covered my face again.
“How’s your head?”
I considered the question. In spite of the fact that her baton probably sent me over the front end of that motorcycle, it really didn’t hurt too bad. That was some badass tech. “Swimmy, but okay.” I shoved myself upright and leaned against the cold, metal wall. “Please tell me you have a better line of questioning than this. If not you’re wasting a favor.”
Her expression held steady. “Why are the Mahina after you?”
I pulled my goggles off my neck and set them in my lap. The adjustable straps flopped back and forth as I twisted them between my fingers. Technically I didn’t have to incriminate myself, but with my record, one more crime didn’t much matter.
“I’ve been their getaway pilot a few times. Mostly just intergang stuff, getting them out of sticky situations with their own people. But this job sat wrong…” I shrugged and leaned my head against the wall. “They were going after Governor Christie’s kid. Granted he’s no bright spot in the galaxy, but kidnapping’s where I draw the line. Anyway. They paid me half, then I skipped out on the meeting time. Thought I could make it to the transports and out of town. Problem is I don’t have a ship of my own. Yet. All things considered, I made it pretty far before the high speed chase. Was I on the news? Hope they got my name right. Q-U-I-N-”
“C-Y. But you typically go by Q, don’t you?”
A grin stung my wind burned face. “You’ve done your research. What else do you know about me, mysterious baton lady?” I closed my eyes, mildly impressed, but losing interest.
“My name is Kali Sodhi. I am the captain of the Freya. We offer transportation services for officials and other organizations across the galaxy. I’d like to offer you a job.”
My eyes popped open. The dread in my chest tipped, nudged by the wonderful lightness we call hope. My old friend cynicism, however, held it in place and a chuckle snorted through my nose. “Nice joke. Who hires an eighteen-year-old crook?”
Captain Sodhi didn’t even blink. “Oh I’m quite serious.”
“You’ve seen my record, right?”
“I’ve studied it thoroughly,” Captain Sodhi said, crossing her arms. “And do you know what I found interesting?”
I lifted both hands. “You got me.”
“Exactly what you said a few moments ago. You’re an incredible pilot, one of the best, with a propensity for creative problem solving. While you are resistant to authority and often work for criminals, you still have a very strict moral code. More than that, since you came to the lunar colony three years ago, you rose above deplorable circumstances.”
I stood so fast the goggles went flying out of my lap. “What the hell do you know about that? It’s not even in my file. I had it wiped.”
Captain Sodhi still didn’t react. She didn’t even take a step back when I jumped up. To be fair, I’m not physically intimidating in the slightest. Barely over five feet and shaped like a prepubescent twelve-year-old, I am not even stronger than I look. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always had to be fast. Can’t fight, gotta learn to run.
“I knew your father.”
All the strength dribbled out of my legs and I dropped back onto the bench. Bile stung my throat. Any possible response crumbled like a poorly constructed moon-dust castle. Images from the past sparked to life but I stomped them down, not ready to deal with those solar flares.
Captain Sodhi sank to my level, brow wrinkled, elbows on her knees. “He was a good man. I’m sorry for what happened to him.”
“So you believe his story?” I asked. It sounded like someone else, someone galaxies away.
That one word docked me to the bench and I met Captain Sodhi’s gaze. A few years rubbing shoulders with criminals taught me how to read people, find the lies beneath well-crafted expressions. I didn’t catch any in Sodhi’s face. Not yet at least. Couldn’t hurt to check out her vessel. Might be even be worth hijacking with the right plan. Besides, if I stayed with the police I didn’t have much to look forward to other than the four walls of a lunar cell. That didn’t sit pleasant at all.
“Give me a gander of that ship and we can talk.”
Sodhi pressed her hand to the pad next to the door and it slid open. “Follow me.”