Because I’m a sucker for punishment, I’m posting another rough draft of a chapter from the upcoming Girls From Alcyone IV: Embers of Alcyone. Did I mention this is from the rough, working draft?
Like all my draft scenes and chapters, things may change or be eliminated all together. Names may change…or may have even been intentionally altered to disguise certain revelations. But even saying that, I’m saying too much.
I hope you enjoy it.
Embers of Alcyone (working title)
Chapter X: Stosie Prime
(working draft scene)
copyright 2017 by Cary Caffrey
June 9, 2355
Kolchis City, Stosie Prime. Unclaimed Space.
He was being followed.
It took all of Riku’s wits to keep his pace even and steady. He didn’t dare run or bolt—which was precisely what his wits were telling him to do now. More than two years had passed since he’d felt that familiar tingling at the base of his spine. Two years since he’d dared to think himself safe, or that his enemies had given him up for dead.
He should have known better. He was a fool and he knew it. But fool or not, that tingling—the unmistakable tightening of the muscles—was back.
Cursing, he did his best to navigate the crowded street. His eyes darted back and forth between each of the passersby, the narrow alleyways, people lurking under neon-lit awnings. They were a miserable lot. Perhaps even more miserable than he was. Soaked and sullen, their worn shoes sloshed through the deep puddles. Shoulder to shoulder, they slogged along, jostling each other as they did their best to make their ways, all of them wanting to be left alone, just as he wanted. Though in Riku’s case that was no longer possible.
They’d found him.
Pushing through the crowd, Riku kept waiting for one of them to reach out and grab him and haul him down. Or worse, kill him outright. But of course, none of them did. They didn’t even bother to look up., didn’t seem to notice him at all. To a woman and man, they kept their hands thrust deep into their frayed pockets, their heads down, their collars turned up, as if that might help protect them from the heavy rains that pummeled each and every one of them.
The narrow alleys of the barrio acted as a cattle chute, pushing the mob of pedestrians even closer together, and closer to the walls of the stacks of shanties. Water streamed down, pouring over the ledges of the sheetmetal rooftops soaking Riku as he sidestepped a heavyset man. This did, however, grant him the opportunity to flash a glance behind him.
Riku spotted what he needed: the man in the grey canvas coat. It was the same man he’d seen in the Tubeway as he’d left the train. But this time he wasn’t alone. There was a woman at his side. She was definitely with him. No question. And they were both looking his way.
Not just looking, Riku realized. They were coming for him.
There wasn’t any point in pretending any longer. They’d seen him, just has he’d seen them. Turning, Riku ran, shoving his way through the crowd. Angered pedestrians pushed back at him as he tried to shove them aside. He heard a woman shout, and then a man as he reached for him. Riku shrugged off his grip, then ducked the blow as a fist came toward him. As much as the tussle slowed him, at least it was slowing his pursuers, as well.
The pedestrianway was no good, too crowded. Riku made for the street, darting and weaving between the crawling ground traffic. Cars, hovering on their repulsors skidded, breaking, honking their anger. A young woman risked the soaking rains to stick her head out her window long enough to favor Riku with a few choice epithets. She waved a middle finger before moving on.
Crossing the thoroughfare, Riku ducked low, doing his best to disappear into the crowd of pedestrians on the other side. Practically on all fours now, he scurried behind the stall of a vegetable vendor, darting for the dark opening of the alley to his right. The alley was filled with refuse and waste—human, judging by the smell—but at least he was clear of the rabble behind him.
Riku ran. Not for freedom—he’d given up any notions of freedom long, long ago—but to the one place he knew he had to go. Home.
He didn’t doubt that his pursuers would follow. If they’d found him here in the markets then it was just as likely that they knew where he lived. But that didn’t matter. He had to make certain she was all right. It was his fault she was here in the first place. If not for him, she’d still be on Earth in that factory. A slave, perhaps, but a safe slave, fed and clothed.
If anything happened to her…
Four blocks. Around the corner. Up the rusted fire escape. Through the open window. No lights. That was good. Reya was smart. She knew better than turn the lights on at night. With luck, she was inside and waiting for him. She might even be asleep. Yes, of course she was. She would be there waiting for him. He’d wake her. They’d pack what they could carry. And then they would run. They were used to running. They were good at it.
Riku practically rolled over the open windowsill to collapse in a dripping heap on the cracked plastic floor of their meager rooming apartment. Lying on his back, breathing in lungfuls of air, he called out.
Three lights flicked on—handheld torches. The beams were blindingly bright and focused. They shone down on him.
Rolling onto his knees, Riku reached for the small hideout pistol in his pocket—only to feel the sharp crack of a steel-toed boot smack against his chin. The blow was enough to lift him from his feet and send him tumbling backwards. Hands were on him, pummeling him, driving him down. He wasn’t even aware of the small pistol being yanked from his grasp.
“Enough!” A low voice from the dark.
Panting, Riku lifted his hand, doing his best to shield his eyes against the glare of the lights. Bloodied and bruised, he was only vaguely aware of the footfalls; a man walking toward him.
Wiping the blood from his mouth, Riku looked up. The man stepped in front of the others, blotting out the lights they held. Riku saw him in a dark silhouette. It took all his strength to focus. He expected to see the man who’d tailed him from the train, but this was someone else, though who it was, he had no idea.
Whoever he was, he was young. Younger than Riku. And tall. Riku saw he was easily nearing seven feet. As impressive as his towering height was, that wasn’t what struck Riku. It was his eyes. The irises were milky white. And his skin… Riku gave a gasp. His flesh was pale, ghostly white, like porcelain or fine paper. Staring at him, Riku knew this man, this creature, was anything but delicate. As white as those eyes were, there was a fierceness to them. Those eyes had seen things, and what they had glimpsed was the stuff of nightmares.
“Who—who are you?”
Ignoring the question, the creature reached behind him. He grabbed Riku by his collar and hauled him up until his feet left the floor.
“Where is she?” The voice was a low, rasping purr, like someone not used to speaking aloud. “Tells us.”
Riku blinked his confusion. Where…? Then the realization set in. If they had to ask, then they didn’t have her yet. Reya was still free, and he would tell them nothing.
“I won’t ask you again,” the creature said. “Where?”
“She has nothing to do with this. Leave her be.”
The creature tilted his head. Like a dog sniffing its prey, he bent his head closer. “Reya?”
“That must be the girl’s name,” another voice said—it was a woman’s voice. Riku craned his neck and glimpsed her. Nearly as tall as the thing that held him—her skin just as pale, her eyes just as milky white. She swung the light she held, illuminating the corner of the room.
Huddled in shadows, bound and gagged, was a young woman. Terrified eyes glanced up at him.
“Let her go. She hasn’t done anything—ughh—”
The blow caught him hard, slamming into his shoulder and driving him to his knees. Riku heard the brack as his clavicle shattered. The blow felt like it had been delivered with all the mechanical might of a jackhammer. And the pain…it was like nothing he’d felt before.
The creature reached down and took hold of his chin, tilting his head upright. He pointed to the girl in the corner. “Whether she dies or walks out of here is entirely up to you.”
Cursing his frightened whimpering, Riku did his best to hold himself together, not to panic. He was alive. Reya was alive. Where there was life there was still a chance. His eyes darted from figure to figure. There were three of them in. The man holding him and two women. They were all dressed in the same black fatigues.
“I know who you are,” Riku croaked through choking coughs, spitting out blood. “I know you. You’re Andraste. You’re from Alcyone.”
The fist smashed down again, beating him all the way to the floor. Riku was only vaguely aware of Reya’s terrified screams from the corner.
“No,” the creature said. “We are not from Alcyone.”
“Then…then who are you?” With one of his eyes swollen shut, Riku did his best to glance up. Staring at the creature holding him, another more pressing question occurred to him. “What are you?”
“Your salvation,” the creature answered.
“What do you want?”
“With you? Nothing. It is your sister we are interested in.”
For the first time in what felt like years, Riku Tansho permitted himself a smile. It was small, only the corners of his mouth turning up. He even chuckled, though that merely caused him to wince in pain from his broken bones.
“Suko? If you’re looking for Suko,” Riku said defiantly, his bloody teeth gleaming crimson in the light of the held torches, “then I hope you find her. I really do. She eats little vermin like you for breakfast. And what she doesn’t finish, she’ll feed to her bitch. They’ll pick their teeth with your bones.”
The fist cuffed him hard across the jaw. The only thing that kept him upright was the hand that grasped his throat.
“Not Suko,” the creature purred. “Hanako. We want your sister Hanako. Hanako Tansho.”