Ryard watched Tatter scan the walls of the slum-bound warehouse, her bicolor eyes wide with wonderment, her thin, smooth hands searchingly roving the surfaces of the installation, as if expectant of revelation. She paused before a torn poster and cast her gaze to the ground where lay the upper portion of the sign. She reached down and lifted the advertisment fragment off the ground and froze. As she tilted the flier, Ryard spied the words KRYOS INDUSTRIES printed in solid black across the flexile white resin.
“Looks like the previous inhabitants weren’t very found of your father’s company.”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps they simply detested the graphic design.”
Ryard screwed up his face in puzzlement.
“That was a joke.”
She looked despondently at the flier fragment. After a moment of intense observation, she began scouring the surrounding area. Swiftly, she discovered an adhesive canister and reglued the fragment to the poster remnant on the wall. She turned to the man upon the couch, beaming.
Ryard appraised the restored poster and smiled slightly.
“Much. You miss it?” He asked, pointing towards the poster. “Home.”
“Its strange. Ever since I first learned of the world beyond the Progenitor – I wanted to visit it. Yet, after I arrived, I find that there is nothing I desire more than to return.”
Ryard fell silent. Lost in earnest contemplation. Then he raised his head and straightened with resolve.
“Then I’ll help you get there.”
“You’ve done plenty for me already.”
Ryard shrugged. “I’m not used to leaving a job half-finished. If a man starts something, it behooves him to finish it.”
She cocked her head and starred at him with reptilian curiosity.
“I’m the strange one?”
“Yes. I’ve never met anyone like you.”
“The feeling is mutual.”
Ryard rose off the couch with a jolt, as if in the grip of an epiphany, and began rummaging amongst the old bins and cartridges scattered about the cavernous storeroom.
“What are you looking for?”
“An affin module. Know um?”
“Lanning had a bead on you as soon as you crossed the CAV-way and Vangr and his people were right behind. They were tracing him. Tapping his module. I don’t know who they’re working for, but its possible they have contacts at Vilar Corp. If they do, then they’ll have my file, my home address, my module number, everything,” he raised the screened bracer about his arm and shook it, “That’s why I switched off my affin. If I can find one that’s still working, or repairable, I can tether into the network and get you in touch with your father’s company without being immediately traced.”
“That’s clever. My father will offer commendation for your efforts.”
“With all the trouble I’ve gone through in the last 24 hours, he had better.”
Suddenly there came a clanging. The warehouse personnel entry doors swung open. Two men, clad in sleek armor, stormed into the room, SG cutters held at eye-level.
Officers of the Consortium.
“Hands where we can see them.” The taller of the two men commanded firmly as he steadied his cutter, moving it between the two escapees.
Ryard slowly raised his hands, rose, and gestured for Tatter to do the same. She swiveled her head from the officers to the courier, befuddled.
“Take it easy, officers.”
“This is private property. What are you two doing in here?”
“Well, you can rest up plenty in D-ward.”
The tall officer gestured to his compatriot who removed an affin shackle and tossed it to Ryard. Ryard took the device and with a grimace, secured it to his neck as the man kept his cutter level; poised to strike upon the slightest aberration.
The tall officer moved to the woman, hesitating as he beheld her dichromatic eyes. Then he handed her his own affin shackle. She emulated Ryard and secured the thin metallic collar about her throat without emotion. The officer lowered his weapon, checked his forearm-strapped scanner and froze.
“That… shouldn’t be possible…”
“What is it?” the other officer inquired languidly.
“The signature we saw earlier. The cold one… It was her.”
“20 A-CT. She should be dead. Or good as.”
Tatter observed the man’s weapon and helmet placidly. “Its a consequence of my regenerative process. To keep me from overheating.”
Ryard closed his eyes, mouth forming a taunt line. He wished she’d have just kept her mouth shut.
“She must be on something,” The shorter officer declared.
“Do we look like junkies to you?” Ryard inquired with sudden indignation.
“Doesn’t matter what you look like. Now cut the chit-chat and move.”