And we are back to Lian. I promise that I'll get back to the artist/Butcher/Sho in two chapters. Next chapter is going to be [SPOILERS]Iris' story[/SPOILERS]
Lian checked that her pistol was loaded before stepping out from the alcove and proceeding into the slum. She had been around this wretched Arc three times in the past year and had still found nothing.
Three times. One year. And no sign of the artist. No sign of Sho. The only good side of it was that there had been no more killings in her particular style, and Lian knew that Sho would never start killing in another style.
She kept her pistol drawn as she walked through the slums of Poletown. This place was disgusting. A mess. A disgrace to the Arc and everything that it had once stood for.
She shook her head as she turned into an alleyway. What the Arc stood for. What a joke. Once it had been a gleaming bastion of hope, a project started by the free miners of the Solar System, a haven for anyone who needed a haven. She remembered the first joining of ships that had been the beginning of the Arc.
But that was all in the past. It had been too long since the Star’s End had migrated over to the outer ring of Saturn and set up shop. Even longer since Lian and Sho had won them the rights to mine there from Maker’s Rock.
Too long. When it grew large enough to need a government the Arc had been ruined. In a little under a decade it had been transformed into the place to be in the Solar System. Lian had seen it all happen, had grown up on this place, had been a part of the crew, a miner, a systems tech, one of us until the government had arrived and she had become one of them.
She shook her head and move further into the alley. As she walked she heard a woman’s scream and broke into a run.
She came around the corner and saw a young teenager cornered by a gang of three men, almost boys. The lead one had a knife, and the other two were beginning to unbuckle their pants.
“Stop! Leave that girl alone” Lian shouted as she came to a halt.
The two unbuckling their pants turned to face Lian.
“Oh, you want to join in the fun? Come on over here girly, we’ll fun you up for sure”
Lian shot the first one in the face. As the second one’s eyes widened in fear the one with the knife lunged for the girl, so she put a bullet in him too.
As he jerked from the impact she shot him again, and swung the pistol to aim at the only one still living.
“You had best run, now, or I shoot you too”
The boy ran.
Lian made sure that he was gone before holstering her pistol and running to the girl.
“Are you ok? Come on, lets get out of here before he comes back with friends” she grabbed the girls arm and began to tug her along.
“Whats a girl like you doing out here anyways?”
The girl pulled her arm from Lian’s grasp and scowled at her.
“Do you know what you’ve done!” She did not sound happy.
“I thought that I had saved you from a very unhappy fate”
“No! You ruined weeks of work! Do you know how long it took me to figure out their patterns! They would have had their way with me and I would have begged to be taken along. And once I got back to their hideout I’d activate the transponder and the cops would burst in and kill them all”
Lian stepped back and stared at the girl.
“You’d use yourself as bait? You’d put yourself through that?”
“To bring down one of the cartels? Yes. Yes, I would”
“You are insane”
The girl looked at Lian oddly for a moment, and then her hand drifted behind her.
“Why do you have a gun?”
“Because I do”
“Why did you shoot to kill them though? Thats illegal unless you are police. And I don’t think you are or else you would have been told to clear out. So who are you?”
“You’re pretty brave to accuse me of illegal activity without a weapon”
“Oh, I can activate the transponder faster than you can blink. And then you won’t escape even if you do kill me. So its in your best interests not to kill me”
“Really? Is that so? What if I shoot you through the transponder?”
“Like I said, I can activate it faster than you can blink”
“Right. Well, how about I leave, and you go back to your undercover operations, and I never come back here again”
“Not going to work. Explain who you are”
Lian shook her head slowly.
“Are you really going to do this? Fine. I’m an Arcernment special agent on a mission from Director Callion himself. I’m hunting for any evidence that the Butcher of Calton may have remained on the Arc instead of leaving it. Satisfied?”
The girl bristled at her speech, but Lian ignored her and fished around in her pocket for the card she had had a computer make for her, and waved it under the girl’s nose.
“Now I am going to leave”
Lian had made it all of three steps when the girl’s voice rang out again.
Grinding her teeth Lian turned back.
“What? The longer we delay here the more time those morons have to make it back here”
“I have information” Her voice was full of joy and excitement.
“About the Butcher”
“Ah. Well, tell me then”
“I heard that she frequented a chop shop around here”
“Where do you think I am headed?”
“Oh” The girl’s elation at helping to catch a criminal deflated a bit.
“Why are you so happy to be helping me?”
“Because I’m helping to catch a criminal”
“Yes, but you were undercover to…You weren’t really undercover were you?”
“What do you mean? Of course I was!”
“No, I don’t think you were. Let me see your transponder”
“I can’t. Its embedded”
“And that’s your mistake. The security force never issues implanted transponders. Too easy to be scanned. You’re not with security are you?”
“No. You are a spoiled rich girl who thought that she would have an adventure and make the world a better place. Come with me”
Lian grabbed the girl by the wrist and began to tug her along again.
“You’ll be safe enough with me until I can finish my business. And then I am taking you back to the railcar station and sticking you on a car to wherever you belong. Security can pick you up there and escort you home”
“No! I can’t go back!”
“Yes you can. Whatever is so bad about your home it can’t be worse than being raped by a bunch of thugs again and again in Poletown”
“You don’t know my father”
“Well I am sure that he is not worse than being raped”
“Callion is worse than that”
“Yes, but Callion is not…Are you saying that Callion is your father? The man doesn’t have any children!”
“Not any legitimate children. But I’m his favourite whores girl, so he said that I’m his. He shot my mother when she refused to let me go. I hate him. You can’t take me back”
“Oh, I have no intention of that anymore. How much do you hate him?” gears meshed and whirled in Lian’s head. This was a golden opportunity.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean how much do you hate him? Is this just some ‘daughter being rebellious’ phase, or is it true bone-deep hatred? The kind where you want him dead?”
“Why haven’t you killed him then?”
“He is too well protected. Even in his sleep, even in his own home”
“Then you are coming with me”
“Why? So that you can turn me over for plotting to kill my father? He already knows that. He’ll just beat me more”
“No. Because I lied to you. I’m not an agent. I am, I guess, a rebel and seditionist. I’m a friend to the Butcher, and have tried to subvert the Arc’s best agent”
“Yes, him. He hates your father as much as you do you know that? I could see it in the way he moved”
“Wait. You said that you were the Butcher’s friend! Monster!”
“Oh, shut up. I knew her before she was a monster. I knew her when she was just a frightened little girl. And now I try and help her become a person again. Why do you think I am looking for her?”
“You mean that was the truth?”
“Yes, that was the truth. Now, if you want your father dead, come with me. I’ll bring you to Jor and then from there we can figure out what to do with you”
“I thought you were going to find the Butcher?”
“Her name is Sho, and this is more important. She hasn’t killed anyone for over a year, so I’d say that its safe to leave her for a bit longer. Now come on. And shush. We don’t want them to hear us”
Lian dragged the girl along before she could say anything else. Back through the streets and alleys the way that she had come until they reached the dumpy motel that she had booked a room at.
Not until she had locked the door to the room, dragged the girl into the bathroom and turned on the taps to maximum did she open her mouth again.
“So who are you? Start from the beginning”
The girl looked at Lian, and for the first time Lian got a good look at the girl.
Not more than fifteen she was curvaceous, slim and average height. She had big eyes and short shoulder length blonde hair. But she was trembling, and her eyes were filled with fear.
“Oh, I’m so sorry” Lian leaned forwards and put her arm around the girl as she began to cry “I didn’t, I shouldn’t have, I thought. I thought that you were ok with all this. I didn’t think that you might be scared. You don’t have to get involved. I’ll give you credits and get you passage to a small colony somewhere where callion will never find you”
“No” the girl managed between sniffles “Its ok. I want to do this. I want to bring him down for what he did to my mother”
She pushed Lian away and wiped her tears on her sleeve.“My name is Iris. My mother’s name is Cassy. And I guess I should start with how this all began…”