Space Princess – Chapter 3

Chapter 1 – Love’s Luther’s Lost
Chapter 2 – Chins up

Why I Stabbed that Guy

“Everybody’s a critic” I told Raffi once I’d cleared the floor.

“Don’t thank me or anything.” He affected a sulk as he followed me in the general direction of the medical ward.

“Raff,” I said “I was the one who told you to report me missing.”

“And I agreed to do it, and you should at least thank me for being complicit in your deceit.”

“That wasn’t deceit” I said “It was absolutely the truth. SP General has a wide-on for the Formizos. Everybody knows it.”

His fans whirred and his servos clicked angrily as he processed my full intent behind having him follow the rules for once and report my extended lunch. “Well, it’s wrong!”

“I agree” I said with mock sincerity. “A woman her age should be more discriminating. But I’m not one to judge.”

He turned on his axle and headed to the infirmary at top speed without responding.

I followed at a slower pace. This was the kind of questioning I’d get more mileage out of while the painkillers were wearing off. I also needed to think this thing through. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get off with just a talking to if I stabbed him again.

When I showed up to the space-port to find the Hot Dog on Your Stick closed for “lunch,” the busiest time of the day for sex work, I knew she’d been tipped off. I couldn’t wait for back-up, not while the trail was still hot. And who knew what would be repeated to the information black market before we could get a lid on everything.

The door was locked, so I took stock of my surroundings. The security system was nothing, I disengaged it with a common subroutine, but the damn bell over the lintel would give me away as soon as I tried to come in. I reached in my hair and withdrew my panomnitool. I whispered “entry” and it punched a Princess-sized hole in the display window, complete with plenty of room for my impressive puff of curls. I noted this last development with pleased surprise. So Luther had remembered to modify my tool after all.

Through the hole I could hear frantic scrabbling in the office at the back of the shop. With the system off and the glass vaporized instantly, my quarry had no idea I was on his tail. Not that he was keeping an ear out, or anything. The man in question was practically yelling a steady stream of curse words in a minimum of twelve languages, some of which my translator could only interpret literally. At least one dialect had very strong feelings about fish penis.

Folders were scattered all over the office. One wall had been stocked all the way across with file cabinets. The contents of the room alone could send my quarry to a maximum security penal colony for at least fifty years. Paper stink clung to every surface. This rat’d been in business a long time.

Criminals like old fashioned pen and paper docs because they’re the only sure way to keep records off the Uninet. But tree pulp paper had been banned in the Conservation Wars, and an ounce of the stuff could get you six months easy. Poundage like this would mean extra penalties for attempt to distribute. This guy was in trouble. He knew it, and I knew it.

It didn’t take long for me to press the barrel of the panomnitool to the back of his head. He froze, mid-fish penis.

“Back away from the pulp, pimp.” My tone was cold, and my hand was steady. This wasn’t my first paper party.

As soon as I got his hands together, I restrained them in front of his chest, checking quickly for extra limbs or prehensile implants. As a Princess alone, it was a dangerous balance between not letting him go for a second, and being thorough enough to prevent anything that might get the jump on me. I’d taken a thrashing from a guy with an aftermarket piranha-tail my first month on the job. That was definitely not going to happen again.

All he said was “how’d you find me, spink?”

The derogatory term for our order rolled off me. I’m not easily rattled by a little foul language. He should have already known that, the fish penis eater. “Lucky guess.” I answered, while signaling for backup on my panom-tool.

That’s when I’d told him not to move. I distinctly remember saying “I’ll stab you.” Alone with him and hundreds of pounds of pulp, I knew no Internal Affairs agent would dare touch my case. The man clearly had no regard for the very planet he stood on. He was dangerous, mad, hopped up on tree corpse.

So, when he leaned forward with a leer and asked me if I kept the knife in my tits, I unsheathed the knife I keep in my tits and I stabbed him with it. He crumpled to the floor and cried.

“Don’t be such a bitch.” I said “I didn’t even collapse your lung.”

Unfortunately, I had collapsed his lung. One of the problematic side effects of working on a well-trafficked planet in such a technologically advanced age is that sometimes it’s unclear who keeps what organs where. How could I have known he’d had his scales bonded in order to pass for human? Consider it an internalized species-ism tax.

Which is why is was in the medical ward.

I still walked slowly, trying to formulate my case against him. He had been posing as the manager of the Hot Dog on Your Stick, selling the information the hookers got out of their high level clients on the black market. When I broke into his shop, he’d been frantically searching for one file, rather than destroying both the evidence of his paper use, and the secrets he’d clearly already sold or was at least about to sell. He’d had more than a gig of sensitive information in those things. All he’d have had to do was to set a strategically placed fire, and all traces of his involvement would have gone up in smoke. Judging by the contents of the supply closet, that was definitely the intended next move.

But what was so important about the file that cost him his freedom, and could still cost him his life if any of what he was selling got back to it’s various agencies? And, where was the Manticarn I’d been tasked with tracking down? Had she bailed, had he killed her? Who was the bigger fish, pimp or prostitute?

All these things I resolved to figure out as I closed in on his hospital bed.