I watched the Martian grab the girl. I’d been watching them for several minutes, and I had a gut feeling this wouldn’t end well. I looked around for something to bash him over the head with and found a large stone in the decorative fountain near the entrance of the Starbucks. As the girl struggled, I bashed him over the head and he fell like a sack of potatoes.
“You okay,” I asked. She looked stunned and her arms were covered in slime.
“I’m fine. I had this under control.”
She looked pissed off so I offered to buy her a coffee. She didn’t want to at first, but then she agreed. I could see she was rattled, but she kept pretending everything was cool. I picked up two coffees and brought them to the table.
“You didn’t have to do that,” she said. “I was handling it.”
“Yeah, you looked like you were handling it.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Mike Martin. And you?”
Ensign Katie Golden.”
“Ooo Ensign. So, what’s with the Martian? I saw you talking nice and then he grabbed you.”
“I was asking for his help.”
“Help with what?”
She hesitated for several seconds. “I wanted him to talk to Marla.”
“Marla! You don’t look like the type,” I said smiling from ear to ear.
“It wasn’t like that!” she said. I liked seeing her face turn red.
“Then what was it like?”
“Oh, come on, I saved your life, for Pete’s sake.”
She looked to her left and then her right. “What do you do, Mr. Martin?”
“I was released from the joint a week ago. Presently, I don’t do anything.”
“You were an inmate?” Now she really looked pissed.
“You say it like it’s a bad thing. Yeah, I was an inmate. So what’s the deal with Marla?”
Katie sat back in her chair. She was obviously frustrated and now that I had compromised her deal with the Martian, she must have been weighing her options. I pulled out a cigarette and lit it which sent another look of disapproval my way.
“I needed her to go underground to lure someone out,” she said. “I don’t suppose you’d know Marla.”
“Well, not to brag, but me and Marla go way back.”
“Really,” she said, her eyes lighting up.
“Yeah, sure, I know her pretty well.”
“Then you’d talk to her for me?”
“I’d have to know what you wanted her to do first, the whole story this time.”
“Fine, but you have to understand this is a matter of national security and if you tell anyone, I mean anyone, it could mean life or death for billions of people.”
So, that’s what it was about. The stolen chip. Oh, yeah, we hear things in the joint.
“What do you want her to do?”
“We need her to lure a trader out of the tunnels. A Rogarian trader – a nasty piece of work.”
“And just how would you guarantee her safety?”
“I’d follow her down and make sure she was protected.”
“You! You couldn’t protect yourself topside from a drunken Martian. Nah, I can tell you right now she’d never do it. Marla likes money, but she’s no fool. No, you need someone with some tunnel savvy.”
“And I bet you know someone like that.”
“Of course, I do. Me.”
“You. Really. And just how long were you in prison, Mr. Martin?”
“Six months. Listen, for your information, Sweetie, I happen to know a Rogarian trader who fits your description. He’d talk to me. I could get him to come out no sweat.”
I’d ruffled her feathers by calling her Sweetie. I loved playing this broad.
“And why would he follow you out?” she asked.
I grinned and sat back. “Because I owe him money.”