art by Erin Cardwell
Gossamer shivered as he walked into the bloodhouse, sliding the glass of his helmet up over his head. Arich was so careful to preserve his cover, never communicating with him using any digital means, instead always sending a hound to go summon him. Receiving a call from Arich directly was disturbing.
He saw Arich sitting at a booth on the far side of the hazy room with someone he didn’t recognize. She had the look of a skinner, but had an exoskin on. Gossamer went and sat down at the next booth, back-to-back with Arich.
“We only have a few minutes,” Arich’s voice said from over his shoulder.
“What’s going on?”
“I found where the PFA servers are. Sirius doesn’t want to hack them; he wants to blow them up.”
Gossamer nearly turned around to look at Arich, but restrained himself from revealing his association with the canid to an entire roomful of civilians.
“I need you to stop him. Give the stripes a tip that some fanatic is going to try and destroy the communications hub of the city.”
“You’re betraying Sirius?”
“I don’t have any other choice.”
“And if I can’t stop him? What happens to us?”
“If you don’t stop him, the Colony will collapse. Thousands of people will die in the ensuing anarchy, quite possibly including both of us. But if you succeed, I can make you a Beta canid. Or you can be a hero among the stripes, if that’s what you want.”
“I… Okay. I’ll do it.”
“Good. Go now. Sirius is on his way already.”
“Where are the servers?”
“You can’t go after him yourself. He’ll recognize you and know I sent you.”
Gossamer cursed. Arich was right. And that wasn’t the only reason he couldn’t go himself. How would he explain his presence there if he did succeed?
Gossamer stood, sauntering toward the restroom. If anyone was watching, walking straight out of the bloodhouse would be suspicious. As far as him speaking at an otherwise empty table, they’d just assume he’d been speaking to his pax.
When he got to the hallway leading to the restrooms, he pushed through the door into the kitchen. He passed a waiter who gave him an odd look, but said nothing. He found the rear airlock where supplies were brought in.
A teenage delivery boy was passed out on the floor nearby. He had an ambrosia bottle in his limp hand.
Gossamer pushed the button for the airlock. After a few seconds, he got an idea.
Then he knelt down beside the youth. He plucked the ambrosia bottle from between his fingers, then slapped his uncovered face. The delivery boy howled. Gossamer dragged him to his feet and into the airlock.
The boy finally realized it was a stripe whose fingers were digging into his arm, and the blood drained from his otherwise ruddy face.
The doors to the airlock slid closed, sealing them off alone.
“I have a job for you,” Gossamer said.
“What do you mean?”
“You just overheard a canid planning to blow up something called the PFA.”
“The Pax Feed Aggregate? Why?”
“Shut up! Just send a message to the Hedron saying you overheard some canids planning on blowing up the PFA, and soon. An hour at most.”
Gossamer held up the ambrosia bottle. “I could arrest you now. I’m sure that would go over well with your parents.”
The boy gulped, then nodded.
“SN, tell the stripes – peacekeepers, I mean – that I just overheard some canids talking about blowing up the PFA…” he looked for confirmation at Gossamer, who nodded. “It sounded like they were going to do it soon.”
“The message is prepared,” the boy’s pax said.
“Can I go now?” the boy asked.
“I want to make sure the message got through.”
The boy moved to pull the glass of his helmet down.
Gossamer stopped him. “Leave it open. I need to hear what your pax says.”
“What if someone tries to open the airlock from the outside? I’ll suffocate.”
“GA, disable this airlock from both sides until I tell you.”
There was a moment’s pause.
“I don’t have access to this airlock’s system,” GA said.
Gossamer sighed. It was hard to know if things like this were sabotage or mere disrepair. “Read me the override code.” GA read him a series of digits which he punched into the touchscreen on the wall. In a moment, it verified that the airlock was disabled.
“The Alpha of the Peacekeeping Department is calling,” the delivery boy’s pax said.
He swallowed hard. “Answer.”
“Sinon,” came Lyden’s voice through his helmet.
“Yes, sir. I mean ma’am.”
“What exactly did you hear?”
Sinon recited again what Gossamer had told him to say.
“What did these people look like?”
Gossamer quickly motioned high.
“One of the guys was tall…”
Gossamer pointed to his face and dimmed the lights in the airlock.
“Pretty dark skin, I guess…”
“That could be Sirius. Who was other?”
Gossamer covered his eyes and turned his back toward Sinon.
“I… I couldn’t see…”
Gossamer pointed more emphatically at his back.
“Oh! His back was to me,” Sinon said.
“Who’s there with you?”
Gossamer shook his head at him.
“Lying to an officer is a criminal offense, you know,” Lyden said.
Gossamer pressed the screen to enable the airlock, and then let his finger hover over the button to depressurize.
Sinon stared back for a moment, clearly unsure of what to do. Then he reached up and quickly pulled the glass of his helmet down over his face. “It’s a stripe,” he said as he locked the glass in place.
Gossamer didn’t push the button. It wouldn’t do any good now. Sinon continued speaking, though his voice was muffled now.
“What the hell are you doing?” Lyden’s voice came directly into Gossamer’s own helmet.
“I needed to warn you, but I didn’t want you to know I’d been drinking on duty.”
“So you’re the one who overheard the conversation.”
“And you think it’s a credible threat?”
“But you’ve been drinking.”
“I hadn’t even finished my first drink! GA, tell her my BAC is less than 0.2.”
“Gossamer’s blood alcohol content is below detectable limits.”
“So you haven’t been drinking.”
“I – no. Look, I have a contact among the canids, and he told me this is going down right now.”
“You have a contact, or you are the contact.”
“Fine! I’m the contact. Just send someone to stop Sirius from blowing up the PFA!”
“LC, get Apollo on the line. Gossamer, report to Internal Affairs immediately.”
Read the final chapter: Sirius