Syndicate Files: The Sister - Part 7

It was a long walk back to the docks and the hangars. Sia had insisted we walk, and she didn't seem interested in making it any quicker, either.

We'd gotten out of the HQ alright, but that wasn't reassuring. No, if 'Knuckles' was planning to teach Sia a lesson in life to match the way she'd schooled him at poker, it wouldn't happen in the Colonel's HQ.

It would happen in a little twisty corridor with no witnesses.

Kinda like the one we were in at the moment.

I tried to hurry Sia along, but she slowed further. "These shoes are a nightmare, Rory." She paused to look down at her feet and then looked up at me with a girlish giggle. "Spiky and vertical."

It was the same look and the same giggle she'd used on the Colonel and I guessed it was meant to have the same effect - to get me to forget any inconvenient questions I might have.

It might have worked, too, under other circumstances, but the possibility of thugs with heavy hands and twitchy trigger fingers concentrates the mind. My mind, anyway.

I ignored the giggle and kept Sia moving.

"You really don't want to be out here longer than you have to be." I glanced over my shoulder. "Where's the rest of your security, anyway?"

"I sent them back to the hangar," Siarente said.

"You should call them back. You took a lot of money from someone who likes his money a lot tonight."

She linked her arm through mine, wobbling in her high heels. "Don't worry so much, Rory. I wasn't born yesterday, you know. Not even this clone was."

I steadied her and picked up the pace again, ignoring her protests. "I can tell. You had that crowd eating out of your hand."

She gave a tired little sigh, and all the playfulness leaked out of her face like air from a punctured EVA suit. For a minute she didn't look at all young anymore. Not that she looked old, either, exactly, but for the space of that soft breath 'young' and 'old' were just words for her, words that didn't have any meaning when it came to herself. Nor did 'life' and 'death', maybe.

I got cold, and a little scared. Scared of her, or scared for her, I don't know.

Podders can look enough like normal people to fool you. For a while.

"Well," Sia said, "Mama always said - "

Next thing I knew I was hanging onto the wall, which was determined to come loose and start waltzing around the corridor. I held it steady until it calmed down. By then the sounds of a scuffle behind me had gone silent, but it wasn't an empty silence. It was a full silence, like the silence between the first shot of a war and the second, or the silence of a falling kinetic round. An ugly silence.

My head was spinning plenty on its own, but I managed to get it turned around so I could see what was happening. Everyone ignored me: the two guys in Gurista's colors on the ground because they were dead, Siarente because she was crammed into a doorway behind her bodyguard, the bodyguard because she was too busy deciding who to shoot next, and the rest of the Guristas because the gun in Helmi's hand was a lot more of a threat than I was.

I recognized the woman in charge from the casino. Well, I recognized the dull, patterned metal of her hands, mostly. She was the only one of the Guristas that hadn't drawn a weapon. She swung at Neve, hard and fast, and the gun went flying. Neve grabbed Siarente by the arm and shoved her along the alley. The pilot stumbled and fell to her hands and knees as the woman with metal arms swung at Neve again.

Her fist connected with the kind of sound you usually only hear in a particularly bad nightmare and Neve went down, limbs sprawling, eyes open and fixed, blood spreading out under her head. The Gurista took one long stride after Siarente and grabbed her by the hair, hauling her to her feet. "My boss," she said, "says you have something that belongs - "

She swung Siarente around to face her and stopped, face blank with shock.

"Ani?" Siarente said.


For a second they stared at each other, and then one of the other Guristas cleared his throat.

'Ani' let Siarente go and turned. She addressed her colleagues, "S'fine. I've got this, so stop pointing the fucking pieces near me." Her voice was slurred, with shock or something else. The four 'ristas that were still standing lowered their weapons, expressions of confusion on their faces.

The four shots came so fast the sound was like one long roar in the closed space of the corridor. I hadn't even seen the grey-armed woman's gun clear her holster. Two of the Guristas died looking confused.

She winged one and missed the last.

Ani cursed and tried to fire again as the uninjured gangster lifted his weapon. Her gun jammed.

She snarled and lunged close. He didn't get a shot off.

There was a blur of movement and a spray of blood.

The injured 'rista took off down the corridor while she was busy.

The running footsteps faded into the distance and left silence broken only by 'Ani's' harsh gasps.

"Ani?" Siarente said hesitantly again.

"Shit, Sia," Ani said. "Just - shit." She grabbed Siarente by the arm and began to drag her along the alley. "You have to get out of here, back-up'll be here any minute - shit, Sia, what the fuck are you doing here?"

Siarente tried to pull away, but the metal hand on her arm was unyielding. "Neve," she said. "Ani, Neve - "

"She's dead," I told her.

"Oh," Siarente said sadly. "Oh, poor Neve. That's the third time."

Ami peered out the head of the alley and then hauled Siarente with her into the corridor leading to the hangars. "It'll be poor you if you don't get a move on. What the fuck are you doing here and what the fuck did you think you were doing, taking Mavare for all that money?"

"Looking for you," Siarente panted as she struggled to keep up. "Rory said they'd send someone after anyone who won too big and when I saw you, I - "

We reached the pilot's hangar and I saw the rest of her security waiting there with a sense of relief. Ani pushed Siarente into the middle of them and let her go, the marks of her fingers standing out livid and red on the pilot's creamy skin. "You set yourself up to get a beating on the off-chance they'd send me? Sia, that is the stupidest fucking plan you've ever come up with, and that's saying something."

Siarente took a deep breath, eyes filling with tears. "I know," she admitted.

"You got Neve killed, for fuck's sake," Ani snarled, for all the world as if it hadn't been her fist that had shattered the bodyguard's skull.

"I couldn't think of anything else!"

"Spirits fuck," Ani said. "Looking for me. Fine, you found me. Now get on your ship and wait for a gap in local and make a fucking run for it, Sia."

"No, I - " Siarente reached for Ani's arm and the other woman shook her off. "Ani. Come back with me. It'll be all right, it - "

"It is alright. It fucking was alright before you got here. I'm fine, but you need to fucking go. Go back to high-sec before you get both of us killed."

"No, Ani, I'm not going - I won't leave you here. You're my sister - "

Envelan paused. "Sister," she said, and blinked, then went on in an even, deliberate tone. "Sia, that was just something I said to keep you from going off the rails back when we thought you'd make a good recruit for the Nation. I'm not your sister. We're not family. I don't want to see you again. Keep the fuck away."

She turned without waiting for a response and stalked off down the corridor, leaving Siarente staring after her, blue eyes brimming with tears and hurt.

My head was still swimming a little, but I managed to clear my throat, "We need to get inside, Captain."

She let me steer her into the hangar, staring over her shoulder at Ani's back until the closing doors sealed her from sight.

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