"A society can be judged by how it treats its prisoners." - Feodor Doestevsky


            David said nothing. He was clearly outgunned and wondering who set him up. Charlie was smart enough not to intervene; he kept on walking past, only giving Depaul a passing glance. There was nothing he could do for him. It was time to play it safe, the old vampire thought, so he went along with the InSec boys. They led him off to a side room in the terminal and had him sit down. It was a bland little office, probably belonging to baggage control or salted peanut delivery, with a calendar on the wall three years out of date. It had a desk along the wall, a table where he sat in the middle, and two men in black flanking one Lieutenant Francis Gresham.

            "I hope you will cooperate, M. Monk." The Internal Security officer began.

            "Of course." David replied, hoping to get this over with quick. As long as he got out of here, Deirdre was an acceptable pawn to lose. Sometimes you needed to lose the match to stay in the game. "I am an honest businessman. If you're telling me that one of my associates is dangerous, I would be _very_ interested to know that."

            "That's good to know." Grisham pulled out a cigarette and stuck it in his mouth. "Oh, I'm sorry. Cigarette?"

            "Please." Depual said, taking full advantage of the situation. If the scum of the galaxy wanted to be nice, he'd play along with it. Anything to get out of here quickly. David took the cigarette and then accepted the light greedily. He thought he noticed Frances' eyes shift when he lit his tobacco but the old vampire betrayed nothing.

            After blowing out a smoke ring, the lieutenant continued, "So, how do you know Emme Macoure?"

            "Certainly you know that. That's why you brought me in here."

            Grisham smiled. "Of course, but... for the record."

            "Sorry. Deirdre Macoure is a recent associate of mine. She promised to provide me with some materials for my work in exchange for a contract."

            "What kind of materials and..."

            "Sorry." David pulled out his identification, a carefully falsified electronic data card, showing his cover in volumuous detail. "I'm a manufacturer of pharmacutical products. Especially in designer cures for exotic diseases. In fact, my company was the _first_ to help the plague stricken victims of Tarsin's Moon."

            "Really?" the lieutenant said in a rather bored tone. He took the card and handed it to one of the stone blocks standing behind him. "So, getting back to the lady in question, where did you meet her?"

            "In a local drinking establishment."

            "In Maine City?"


            "Tell me, M. Monk, where is your business headquartered?"

            "On Avalon."

            "So how did you know where to meet Emme Macoure?"

            "She informed my secretary of her offer and asked to see me there."

            "Then why Maine City? If you were coming in off-system, wouldn't it have made more sense to meet near the terminal?"

            "I assumed that she wanted to go somewhere quiet and safe to meet."

            "Why would that be a concern?"

            David took a long drag on his cigarette. "In my business, M. Grisham, sometimes it is better to be discreet."

            "I was wondering about that." the lieutenant replied, "What specifically was she offering?"

            Depual looked at his opponent with a lazy eye. "Are you a neurochemist?"

            "I'm afraid I got a C in chemical geometry." Frances smiled.

            "Then it would be difficult to explain. In laymen's terms... well, there are no laymen's terms for this."

            "Please try."

            The old vampire sighed and proceeded to spew out a bunch of scientific nonsense which had nothing to do with making drugs. In fact, David was pretty sure he was reading the ingredients to a box of choco-chip flavored pork rinds. "To put it simply, she was offering me access to phenol hydrochlorinate dioxide at 1/3 normal price. You might understand why I was willing to sub-orb it to Maine City to hear her out."

            "Naturally." Grisham replied with a smile that told him he didn't understand a word of it.

            "So to get this phenol hydro... well, in the biz we call it Puhydor... at a reduced price would make my monosodium glutimate production infinitely cheaper. With that kind of profit, how can you pass it up?"

            The lieutenant didn't say anything for a few moments. Finally, the other block of flesh handed him an electronic datapad. "I understand the needs of your business, M. Monk, but what bothers me is this report."


            "Yes. A couple of Crusader troopers happen to be in Maine City on the night where you met Emme Macoure and they report seeing you too together. The difference in what YOU'RE saying and what they say is rather great."

            "You don't say." David took another drag, hoping to hide the tension behind his eyes. What the hell were Crusaders doing in Maine City?

            "They say they witnessed a firefight, in which you were fighting another man, then one Deirdre Macoure steps out and saves you. Now what do you say to that?"

            Depual lowered his head. "I was hoping you wouldn't ask."

            "Well, since we know, could you please explain _why_ you were on that hill instead of in that bar?"

            David thought fast. "Since I was going to Maine City, I decided to cram in another meeting. Unforunately, he turned around and demanded twice what we had agreed to. Naturally, I refused. Then he threatened to kill me! If it hadn't been for her help, I wouldn't be speaking to you... or to anyone, for that matter."

            "So it was at that time you realized that she was a vampire."

            "A vampire?" Depual gave his best confused look. "I'm sorry?"

            "The report says she moved very quickly, almost faster than the human eye. Could you not guess how she was able to do that?"

            The old vampire gave the lieutenant a sheepish grin. "I'm afraid I was a little too terrified to notice anything at that moment." David took another drag off the cancer stick. "My eyes were closed."

            "So you had no idea that she was a leech?"

            The cigarette almost fell from his lips in a well-timed look of shock. "N... no! Buddha, I'm glad you warned me. My God, she could have sucked my soul!"

            "I doubt that, M. Monk." The lieutenant dropped the notepad on the table and pulled a strange knobby device from underneath the table. "Do you know what this is?"

            This time David told the truth. "No."

            "This is an etheral scanner. Do you what _that_ is?"

            Depual knew _exactly_ what it was for, but he calmed his nerves with ease. "No, what is it for?"

            "It determines the spiritual aura of whomever you point it at. Unlike people, this device can never lie. So if I point it at you," which the lieutenant did, followed by a beep and the lights flashing on the device, "it will tell me what you are, whether human, or mage, or..." the device beeped again and Grisham smiled, "...vampire. I'm afraid you never had a chance, M. Monk, if that truly is your name. We have a special chamber to interrogate leeches like you. So now, you're going to tell us everything... whether you want to or not."

            It was time to leave. With a flick of his cigarette, David tossed it toward the three of them. Through his mind, the light of the little white stick grew brighter and brighter until finally, it exploded into a fireball.

            It wasn't particularly powerful, but it would distract them for a few seconds. As Grisham screamed, Depual bolted out of the chair, extended his nails to break the glass, and flew through the window of the door. David tried to roll with the fall, but he failed, rolling on his side, digging his extended claws into his side. The old vampire let out a shriek of pain but managed to get to his feet. The people moving around him in the terminal suddenly stopped in shock. He took the opportunity and ran off into the crowd.

            Behind him, David heard a door crash. The vampire knew that the three goons were now after his ass. Burning blood, he increased his speed, hoping to lose his captors in the flood of humanity gushing through. Depual bulldozed through the lazy crowds, running over men and women without the slightest notice. Once he turned another corner, that's when he saw the first blast.

            Holy shit, they were firing plasma at him! Another few seconds and the man beside him suddenly got evisorated by a bolt of cold lightning. Although he could outrun them, he couldn't outrun the speed of light. He found his way through the panicked passengers towards the loading bays. If he could get aboard a ship, _that_ would be fast enough to leave them and New Paris behind.

            Making his way toward the spacedocks, a plasma blast singed his coat and burned the hell out of the nearby wall. David was running out of time and options. There _had_ to be an escape route... somewhere, if he could only find it before they put holes in him.

            Suddenly in front of him, Charlie appeared, wielding two plasma revolvers in his hand. "Get down!" he screamed. Depual obeyed. In a dazzling display of light, the hired gun rapidly fired his pistols, mowing down everything in his path. Tourists and civilians dropped like flies, as well as one of the men in black. I guess they were human after all. David saw a glimpse of Lieutenant Grisham, throwing his hand in the air, and in the next second, the lighting fixtures of the hallway exploded. Charlie dropped as the sparks and pylons fell from the ceiling. As the chunks of metal hit the floor like thunder to InSec's lightning, his hired gun grabbed him and screamed, "Let's go!"

            David made no argument. In the gathering darkness, Charlie took him down one of the corridors. Depual heard the floor plates change, telling him they were heading through a gate, toward an orbital shuttle. Sure enough, he ripped open a door, light poured through and so did they. The mortal slammed the door behind him, let go of his employer, and bolted for the cockpit.

            The old vampire finally got to his feet again and walked through the empty shuttle. Once he reached the cockpit, he saw Charlie hooking his safety webbing around him, and thumbing the controls to life. "You know how to operate a shuttle?" David asked.

            "Actually, no," he replied, turning on the gravity turbines, "but it's our only way off this rock."

            "Great." Depual sighed, quickly finding his way to the co-pilot's chair, and securing himself in the webbing. This was either going to be a short trip or a long voyage in vacuum. Either way, Charlie was right; it was their only alternative.

            "Hang on!" the mortal screamed, dragging the verticle throttle to full. The shuttle rumbled with the power of the gravity turbines pulling them upward. The screech of metal ripped the gangway from the terminal. In the dim light outside, the blast of a plasma revolver split the night in front of the cockpit. Damn, Depual thought, those InSec boys were determined.

            Finally the last of the gangway came free and they started to sail above the surface of New Paris 4. Slamming the horizontal thrusters, both of them got pulled back into their seats as the shuttle sailed off into the stratosphere. As the atmosphere burned off beneath them, the comforting darkness of stars finally appeared. They were in space; safe, for now.

            "Thank you, Charlie. You saved my life." David said once the G-forces released him. "Now what?"

            Charlie smiled. "NOW we pray we can reach the orbital station before those InSec boys can reach a vidphone. Then we change, get aboard a ship going... anywhere quickly, and pray we get out system before anyone's the wiser. Sound good?"

            "Best deal I had all day." David smiled, leaning back in the crash chair, as the shuttle reached low planetary orbit.




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Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston.  All Rights Reserved.