In which our protagonists watch television and talk a lot. Do I know how to bring home the excitement or what?
The news the next morning gave Persephone a lot to think about. A bomb had gone off in the Albion Pits killing two drivers and a mechanic. The headlines screamed “Tech War!” At three cycles, the colony governor appeared along with Paul Albion and Aster Padilla (the exBioform president) to urge restraint. Albion stated that individuals in his company had overstepped their mandate and pursued illegal actions against exBioform holdings Likewise, Padilla maintained that rogue factions in her company were responsible for the terrorist actions. The two of them shook hands stiffly and promised to cooperate with government forces in order to assure colony safety. The broadcast ended with a picture of Arch and a news voice-over stating that a reward was being offered for information leading the recovery of the celebrity driver.
She could call the tip line, tell the government her suspicions and let them go after Arch, but money didn’t seem all that interesting to her anymore. She reached for her com. Japeth might know where she could get a boat and a lot of fuel, cheap. The com chimed in her hand indicating an incoming call. The number was listed as anonymous, but that was normal for the majority of people that she knew. She picked up the line.
“Did you get one?” It was a guy on the other end. Sounded a bit winded, but familiar.
“Arch?” She asked. “Where the hell are you?”
“Did you get one” He asked again.
“One of the eXime craft! Tell me you have one.”
“I thought you had one. I mean I saw someone dressed like you fly one out of the eXime compound last night. And your face is all over the news.”
“Yeah. I’m getting more coverage than I did when I won the damn New Regime cup,” Arch snapped. “Meet me at warehouse eight. Tonight. Eleventh cycle.” He hung up.
Persephone took an even more circuitous route this time and she kept looking over her shoulder for New Regime surveillance drones.
“Did you go out in public wearing that?” She demanded when Arch arrived. He was back in his film noir gear again “It’s not as inconspicuous as you think.”
“Sleeping out here doesn’t give you a ton of wardrobe options,” he growled. He must have been using the word sleep a bit loosely. His big brown eyes had big brown bags.
“I’m just trying to help.” Persephone said. “Have you been out here all week? Why didn’t you get back to me?”
“I was afraid the feds might be tracing calls.”
“That didn’t stop you this morning.”
“Borrowed one of the other driver’s phones.”
“You were at the track?”
“Checking out damages. You saw the news? More people I know got hurt.” The sadness looked more genuine this time. Arch’s reaction to Quentin’s death had seemed forced.
“How can I help?” Persephone asked again.
“Find these people.”
“I’m not an assassin. I don’t do hits.“
“Just find them. I’ll take it from there.”
“What about the H-craft?”
Arch shrugged. “It’ll need to wait.”
“But the government put that ad up because they think you took it, right? They think Albion escalated the trade war.”
“Probably. I didn’t phone them up to ask.”
“Why not tell them it wasn’t you?”
“Are they likely to believe that? Let me see. ‘Hi Officer. I did pay a professional thief to steal documents from eXime, but my interest was purely academic’.”
“They had you and Japeth, but they let you go.”
“They’re idiots.” Arch said.
“No. I think, they’re trying to flush out something or someone,” Persephone said. Agent Hixton had been vague at best, but the comment about people like Persephone being useful had stuck with her.
“Did they question you? When you were pulled in the first time?”
“No. I mean a little.” Arch looked confused. “I ran on a bit about the files. Mentioned restoring space flight. The man looked horrified.”
“Did he say anything?”
“He said, ‘It’s too early’.”
“I don’t think we need to worry about the feds.” Persephone was working partially on instinct here. “I think they’re more worried about someone else. Maybe the same people that have been blowing up buildings?”
“What about the wanted posters?” Arch asked.
“It’s a smoke screen. Ignore them. You can crash at my place. See what they do.”
They returned to Persephone’s apartment in East city. Mr. Einhorn raised his eyebrows when Perspehone walked past the concierge desk with Arch. Persephone asked him if he could please wait until morning before calling the feds as her guest could really use a shower and at least six hours of sleep.
Persephone handed Arch a towel and pointed him towards the bathroom. “When you’re done, I have something to show you.”
“That sounds promising.” He clearly wasn’t thinking about the feds anymore.
“Reasearch,” Persephone said. “And you should really think about giving Japeth a call one of these days.”
That remark seemed to work. When Arch came out of the bathroom he was fully clothed and he sat instead of lounged on the sofa. Persephone brought up the video of the h-craft escape and the mapping work she’d done on the trajectory.
“You see why I thought it was you. That trenchcoat and fedora combo.”
“The driver’s a woman.” Arch said.
The coat hung shapelessly on the tall figure. “She, if it is a she, is over six feet tall,” Persephone said doubtfully.
“Height doesn’t matter. Look at how she moves. Long legs, but the steps are short and there’s a lot of hip movement.”
“You can see hips under that coat?”
“Just have to know where to look.”
“Or have a vivid imagination,” Persephone muttered.
Arch shrugged. “So sue me. I like watching women move. Or stand still. Whatever.”
Persephone fast forwarded to the shot of the craft disappearing over the mud flats. “Is there anything in that direction?’
“For instance, watching you climb is pretty amazing.” Arch pointedly ignored the change of topic. He was lounging back again, his arms spread out over the top of the sofa.
“Fine. It was a woman,” Persephone snapped, then paused. The idea that the h-craft driver was female had just sparked off a memory. She pulled up the video file of her break-in attempt.
Arch looked pleased. “Excellent! I could stand seeing that elevator footage again.”
Persephone went to the point in the tape where she’d heard a noise in the manufacturing wing. On the video, she watched herself use a grapnel to climb the wall and look down into the factory. The woman was there, the one with the bright orange hair. The one Persephone had seen recently leaning over the Albion pit.
“Voila. The thief.” And probable murderer although Persephone didn’t voice that out loud. The explosion at the track had been centered on the Albion pits.
“So we go after her ?” Arch had leaned forward his attention shifting back to business again. The guy had the attention span of a gnat.
“We wait for her to reappear back in the city. There’s nowhere else for her to go.”