Syndicate Files: The Sister - Part 9

Sami's news wasn't good. Envelan had gone well and truly to ground, no surprise given what the Guristas must have thought of the outcome of the last job they'd sent her on. There were parts of the station where even the 'ristas trod warily, where Sami's electronic tendrils could catch only glimpses, and Envelan had lost herself in these. Sami reported what she did see, over the next few days. Envelan leaving the 'office' of a known dealer. Envelan at different clubs so far below-decks they were practically sitting on the planet. Envelan beating some poor mugger stupid or desperate enough to try his chances with her. Never more than five or ten minutes in one place, never the same place twice. She knew what she was doing, maybe by instinct since Sami said even in those few places she saw her, she was obviously high as the podder-decks. Maybe the Guristas were even more relaxed about their employees' habits than I'd heard.

Or maybe it was just that Envelan didn't even have a job as an enforcer to make it worthwhile to stay sober enough to get out of bed in the morning.

It took some doing to talk Sia out of heading straight after her, but a few pointed references to the outcome of her last bright idea eventually seemed to get through.

She worried that full lower lip between her teeth for a moment. "Well," she said at last, "If I can't go to her, she'll just have to come tome."

"She made it pretty clear that wasn't on the cards," I reminded her.

Sia waved that away. "She'll come," she said. "I know how to make her. Rory, we'll need somewhere that isn't here. Somewhere less secure."

I could have asked her how many bodyguards she was planning to get killed.

Maybe I should have.

Sami found the place. A storeroom near the edge of a Gurista territory we could rent. Envelan would know what that location might mean. We got there - me, Sia, and Auvy - and Sia made the call.

I dunno what she said over her internal neocom, but from the look on her face it wasn't Captain Ross would be obliged if you would join her for tea.

She opened her eyes and said quietly. "She didn't answer. I left a message. She'll come as soon as she hears it."

"I hope you're right," I said, and not just because sitting here so close to 'ristas territory gave me a strange naked feeling, and not in a good way.

Sia smiled bright, bright like neon and plastic flowers, "She'll come. Soon."

We'd been waiting in the storeroom for six hours, me getting even more nervous than I had been, Sia's confidence beginning to waver, Auvy doing her nails. Then I saw a flash of hard blue through the window. I recognized the eyes, even if the dark circles under them were so deep the shadows looked like bruises. I got to my feet. Auvy and Sia turned at the movement, and Sia spoke, "What-"

I interrupted her, "Think I saw something. Stay here, I'll check it out real quick."

It looked like she was about to say something else, but Auvy put a hand on her arm and said something quietly to her. That was my last look at them as I slipped out into the corridor and hurried in the direction I'd seen the eyes go. I caught up with Envelan just around the corner.

Then I realized I didn't know what to say. "Hey you!"

She spun. "Who the fuck are you, and what do you want?"

Her clothes looked like she'd slept in them, more than once; limp strands of hair had come loose from their ponytail and hung lankly in her bloodshot eyes. A muscle jumped irregularly in her cheek. She looked like she'd been at the bottom of an ore bin when it was tipped into the refinery; like if she'd tried to donate herself to one of the black market biomass dealers, they'd turn her down for quality control reasons.

Or like the fourth day of a three day bender.

I held my hands up, "Whoa. Just someone your sister hired. She just wants to help you."

Envelan took out a cigarette, fingers moving in quick, nervous twitches, "I already told her, I don't need any spirits-damned help. You know what's good for you, you'll make sure she understands that." She snapped her fingers and a flare of plasma incinerated the top half of the cigarette. "Shit. This little plan your idea?"

"Hers," I said. "She said you'd come if she was in trouble. Of course, that was six hours ago."

Envelan drew on the cigarette and looked away. "I overslept. So I guess she can't rely on me after all, can she? She's better off - "

A scream, quickly muffled, came from back in the direction of the storeroom. Envelan was past me at a sprint before the cigarette she dropped hit the ground.

I followed her almost as fast.

One of Sia's blue velvet shoes lay on its side in the middle of the floor.

Other than that, the room was empty.

The expression on Envelan's face looked like the chill in your guts when that outside airlock door opens. She spoke so low I almost didn't catch it, "Ancestors wept, I led them right to her."

My neocom buzzed. It was Sami. "The alley out the back," she said, without any of her usual preliminaries. "Six of them, heading left - "

I took off, Envelan following me this time. The alley was already empty when we got there and I headed left.

It was a blur: We ran past hard-eyed dealers and their muscle; past men, women, and more exotic genders wearing more makeup than clothes and cat-calling from just outside luridly painted hatches; past food-stalls selling grey-on-a-stick that'd probably seen the inside of a chemical drum, but never the inside of a hydro-bay or growing vat, much less a real sky.

We seemed to be gaining, but Sami's directions grew more and more hesitant.

I came to a stop at the junction of six corridors. "Which way, Sami?"

"I - " she paused, and then admitted. "I don't know. You're in a blind spot and -"

I swore.

"I'm sorry, Rory," Sami said, and she really did sound sorry.

Envelan caught up with me, panting. "Where - ?"

"We lost them," I said.

"Spirits fuck," she snarled, "Trust a low rent incompetent - " I expected her to go on to her opinion of my ancestry - that's how it usually goes, in my experience - but whatever else she had been going to say disappeared in a grunt of pain and she leaned forward, curling around like someone had just kicked her in the stomach and bracing herself against the wall.

I took a quick step backwards before she threw up, and asked cautiously. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fucking fine." Envelan straightened, wiping her mouth on her sleeve, and looked around. "You try that way, I'll go - " She turned around on the spot, picked a direction and staggered a few steps.

"Not sure that's a good idea, Envelan," I said, heading after her, grabbing her sleeve when she kept going.

She spun back, hand raised for a blow, then lost her balance with the movement and fell heavily against the wall. "Shit. Shit." Her artificial arms twitched spasmodically and she began to shiver, tried to get up and then vomited again.

"Look," I said, squatting down not too close to her. "We need to make a plan. Sami will keep trying to find them. Once they stop moving, she's got a better chance."

Envelan looked at me, or tried to, her gaze persistently tracking left every time she brought it back to my face. "I led them right to her. I've got to get her back."

"You've got to get yourself sorted out before you can help her," I pointed out.

The trip back to my office was no picnic, but we managed, and I got her a good strong cup of coffee. She cleaned up in the restroom while I was making it, and when she came back she looked a lot better.

I was careful not to ask. "We need to make a plan. Sami should know where they were taken pretty soon."

"We find out where they are." She looked at me, her voice deepened to a hoarse growl, "We go in and get her. Them."

"Well, that's certainly a very simple plan. Let's add we do that with as little noise and violence as we can manage." I sighed and explained, "We don't need heat coming down on us while we're there, and we don't need them being too excited about following us either."

"Fine. Fast, quiet, and as few casualties as possible."

I figured that was the best I was likely to get. I nodded, and Sami piped up, "Found them."

Sia and Auvy had been taken to the offices of a Guristas front company, HRW Transport. Envelan shook her head at the name, "Should have fucking knew it. When Inheras isn't busy being Haakinen's lap-dog, that's where he runs his parts of the operation from. Hell, I've been there before. Security's tight, especially at the front entrance, but there are a couple side entrances that might have potential. Less security cause Inheras doesn't want too many people seeing what goes ina nd out through them."

"Sami, can you open one of those side entrances?"

"By the time you two get over there? Yeah. Probably."

"That'll have to do." I studied Envelan for a moment, "Are you-"

"You worry about yourself, you unwired, feddie rent-a-cop."

Well, she was right, it didn't matter. I was going to get Auvy out, one way or another, with or without her help.

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