Caught by Menace(4)

By: Lolita Lopez


epidemic had gutted their new world.

Their civilization had fractured. Most of the wealthy

citizens and nearly al of the scientists and physicians and

engineers had fled Calyx for the smaler but habitable

planets nearby to form the more progressive colonies like

Safe Harbor and Jesco. Al of the religious extremists

had chosen to leave The City and form their insulated

communities like Harper’s Wel and Grogan’s Mil where

women were property—under the guise of protection, of

course—and penalties for breaking moral codes were

swift and harsh. Places like Connor’s Run, where people

swift and harsh. Places like Connor’s Run, where people

paid lip service to the laws of The City but not much

more, had popped up in strategic locations to serve as

marketplaces and trading posts between the backward

vilages and moraly corrupt City.

This? Hiding in a warehouse to bribe an official while

planning to make a daring escape off the planet to save

her friend from a forced marriage to some juiced-up sky

warrior? No, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

A low whistle puled her from the hiding place. She

rose slowly, quietly, and waited until she could see

Dankirk and the gray-haired alderman clearly. Certain it

was safe, she let her hand fal from her weapon and went

to meet them.

Dankirk made the necessary introductions. “Naya, this

is Alderman Crane. Alderman, this is Naya.”

“We’ve never met but I know you.” Alderman Crane

extended his hand. “You did a favor for my niece a few

years ago.”

Naya frowned and shook his hand. “I did?”

“She came to your pawnshop asking for a weapon

because she was afraid her husband was going to kil her.

You told her a gun wasn’t the answer and gave her

You told her a gun wasn’t the answer and gave her

something even better—a way out.”

Naya’s eyes widened as the memory resurfaced.

“Lilac, right? Blonde? Late twenties?” She nodded. “I

remember her.” And the bruises on her face…

“She’s doing wel now. You helped save her life. I’l

do whatever I can to return the favor.”

“I want my name on the Grab list.”

The alderman blinked. “You want me to put your

name on the list?”

She nodded. “I know how crazy it sounds, but I have

my reasons. I need my name on that list. It’s of the

utmost importance.” She took a step closer to the man.

“I happen to know your daughter’s name is on the list.”

His expression grew solemn. “She is.”

“Give me her number. It’s an easy fix. It’s been done

plenty of times. You give me her number and put me on

the list. She takes my number and stays off the list. That

gives her at least another year of freedom before the

Grab comes back to Connor’s Run.”

The alderman looked shocked. “Why?”

“Because I made a promise to a friend,” Naya replied.

“I never break a promise.”

“I never break a promise.”

“She’s big on that whole honor thing,” Dankirk

murmured.

“It’s an admirable quality,” Alderman Crane

remarked. “I’l do it, Naya. I’l switch the numbers.” He

hesitated. “How much do you expect me to pay for this

transaction?”

“Nothing. I want a favor,” she said simply. She

gestured toward Dankirk. “You’l owe us a favor.”

“Us? The Red Feather?”

“Yes,” she clarified. “Someday, someone wil come to

you and ask for help. You’l do whatever you can to

make it happen. You’l remember how I helped your

niece and your daughter and you’l pay it forward.”

“Of course,” Alderman Crane promised. “I’l do

whatever it takes.”

Naya shook his hand and slipped the piece of paper

with her identification number against his palm. “Thank

you.”

He squeezed her hand before pocketing the paper.

“Good luck with whatever it is you have planned. May

you find happiness in wherever this takes you.”

Dankirk walked the alderman outside. When he

Dankirk walked the alderman outside. When he

returned, he sighed loudly. “Wel that’s that. You’re

going to be on the list. You’re going to have to run.”

“That’s the plan.” Naya tried to ignore the wobbling

anxiety burning in the pit of her stomach.

“It won’t be easy to get from the surface of Calyx to

the colonies,” Dankirk warned.

“We’ve got our papers.” She touched her pocket.

“Jennie’s boyfriend wil land his surface-to-sky cruiser in

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