As the airlock began to cycle open, Deidre turned to the red-headed bartender and said, "No, thank you, but why don't you let you feline friend over there buy me a drink?"

            The redhead looked like he'd been slapped, and while Macoure walked over to the floating k'nes, she passed by the two men in black. Sitting at the other end of the bar, she placed herself so she could overhear their conversation. The cat noticed her immediately. "Rrrow!"

            "I changed my mind," Deidre said to her feline companion, "are you still offering that drink?"       

            "Yyyeeessss," the alien floated jollily, "Whuh woullld you llayek?"

            In the corner of her eye, she saw the two menacing figures approach the bartender. "Long time, Eddy."

            "Hey," the bartender replied, "don't be throwing that name around. It's A.C."

            Deidre flipped her bangs up and said to the k'nes, "What would you recommend?"

            The second man leaned forward. "We need some download, A.C."

            "We hear your running shipments to the colonials." the first man added.

            "You shouldn't believe everything that you hear." the bartender replied.

            "I saieeee choooose the houwwwse wine." the cat purred, giving that cheshire smile as he sucked some more hydrogen through his tube.

            "Cut the crap, A.C." the first man growled, "Where's the smuggler?"

            "This is the frontier, _gentlemen_," A.C. spat back, "you don't have jurisdiction here."

            "Like we ever need it." number two snarled.

            Deidre turned to get the bartender's attention, but she could tell that A.C. was busy. "Oh, well. I can't seem to get his attention.

            "Yyyoooo gott miiinnne." the k'nes replied.

            "We can snap you back to Pluto so fast your head'll spin." number one answered.

            "Don't think we can't take you out of the territory, Eddy. You're not that important."
            "You know," Deidre cocked her head and smiled, "I'm really not all that thirsty." Then the wily vampire rubbed underneath the k'nes' chin. The cat purred with delight.

            "Where's the smuggler, A.C.?" the man in black asked.

            "Did you enjoy trench duty in absolute zero?" his partner added.

            "Wwwhatt did yyyouuu hhave in minddd?" the k'nes floated a little higher.

            "The smuggler left yesterday," A.C. sighed, "I already sent the merchandise to Charbydis."

            "So says you." number two scoffed.

            "And I should know shouldn't I?" the bartender shot back.

            Macoure figure it was time to leave. "I've always associated cats, the Terran variety at least, to be a very sensual species... Does that carry to the more developed,

intelligent, off-world variety?"

            "Wwweeee kkouldd go backkk to my rrrooommm and fffinnddd outttt."

            "Sure." she replied, and got up to leave. The k'nes moved quickly, as if he was afraid he'd lose the opportunity if he waited too long. Deidre walked after the floating beast, far away from the eyes of the men in black.

            "Really? Well, why don't we just wait around and see if your smuggler returns?"

            "It's a free table, gentlemen, but I wouldn't wait too long." A.C. walked away from them  to tend to his other customers.

            Macoure walked into the airlock, following the oversize floating cat, leaving the danger behind.


            In the hotel room, flop wallpaper peeling off the walls, Deidre awoke with the exhausted k'nes. Night had fallen again on Kalintos Three. After dominating the alien's brain, she tasted his blood to make him weaker, and the beast slept all day. Once the curtains were drawn, she was protected from the sun's deadly rays, and she couldn't have had a better companion.

            As Macoure got up, she smiled at the sleeping cat. He would wake up remembering the best sex of his life; as she licked her lips, Deidre thought he wasn't bad either. The only problem was a nasty headache ripping into her brain. Alien blood must have bad side effects.

            Approaching the door to leave, there suddenly was a knock. It surprised her so much she couldn't muffle her gasp. After an uncomfortable second of silence, she answered, "Yes?"

            "It's Chug. Let me in." came through the door, his sounds muffled by the heavy wood.

            Deidre cautiously opened the door and looked. It was A.C. standing before her. "How did you find me?" the vampire asked.

            "It's a small town," the bartender replied, "I just asked, 'Where's the cat?'"

            "He's sleeping. What do you want?"

            "We need to move your guns off planet quickly."

            "Wait a minute. You said you didn't know who Chug was."

            "If I revealed that to every pretty face, I'd be dead. Now let's get to your starship before it's too late." Deidre sighed, but didn't move. A.C. turned on the charm but didn't smile. "Chug was my nickname in the Liberation. I try not to use it a lot. Look, the Reverend Father gave you the package. We need it desperately."


            "The Colonial Marines. They pay me a little extra every month. Keeps my kids fed."

            Macoure relented and walked out with him. As they reached the stairs, she said, "You don't look like the daddytype."

            "Two at home, two I support from three bad marriages."

            "You don't look like the marrying type, either."

            "Hell, I was young, I was stupid, what do you expect?"

            They reached the lobby and walked out into the stench. A.C.'s eyes watered as they went to the spaceport. Deidre looked over at the redhead. "You were in the Lib?"

            "Yep, I fought back in the War."

            "Why weren't you caught?"

            "I was." the bartender lifted his arm, showing the bar code tattoo. "Ten years on Pluto, hard labor, you know the bullshit... 'Treason against the Federation.' Why do you think I never went back?"

            They easily found their way into the spaceport and walked toward her berth. Once she opened the pressure door, the bay was dark.

            Deidre stepped inside and hit the light switch. The bay began to glow with a dim light and beside her rusted old ship were the men in black. "Thank you, A.C., you led us right to her."

            The old vampire's eyes flashed as she looked around. A.C. looked as stunned as her, but he also blocked her exit through the door. She was sure her contact wouldn't betray her, unless... "Who are you?" she asked, moving her hand towards her monofillament blade.

            "Internal Security, emme," the first one said, his smile glistening for the kill, "and you're under arrest."




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