20060711

1.2

Saeera stepped through the doors of the Red Prince, and out into the market square. She stood for a moment, and took a deep breath, wondering if she could really trust him, even with the implied consequences if he screwed her over again. The air out here was much fresher than the reek of smoke and the unbathed low-lifes that spent their days in the Red Prince. She could smell the oxygen being pumped into the dome from the generators above. She wasn't sure which was the bigger risk, putting her faith in Van, or trying to back out of the deal with her employers. She didn't like either one, but she didn't really have a choice in the situation. It's what you get when a Sindika, a crime boss and acquaintance of a friend, bails you out and saves your ass. Your stuck owing a debt. She pulled the electronic device, the Portable Data Core, from her jacket. and flipped open the screen. The counter she'd set told her she had a little less than thirty-four hours left. Thirty four hours until they'd change the code, and the money she'd given Van would have been wasted. She closed the screen, put the PDC back in her pocket and headed for the north port, to her ship.

It was about a twenty-minute walk to the actual port, one of four that sat on the borders of Prom. As she left the market and walked further from the bars and whorehouses, the crowds thinned and became slightly less agressive. Most of the folks in the outer parts of town only stayed because they had no place else to go. Either they'd been stranded and had made this place their home, or they grew up here, and most likely had never seen any sort of better life. She passed a small group of children, kicking a ball around in the dirt. Most likely homeless, their onlly posessions the ball, the clothes they wore, and the knifes strapped to their legs. Even the children in this town were armed. She walked along the edge of the old reservoir, emptied long ago after the water became too polluted to be of any use. Prom was once a nice place to stop on a long journey, set up by the Intergalactic Terraforming Council almost three-hundred years ago as a classy rest stop and casino town. As with any town centered around gambling, control eventually fell into the wrong hands, and began the inevitable decay.Anybody with any sense or without better judgement avoided Prom. Visiting was still a gamble, the stakes were just higher.

The north port was a four-tiered docking station, capable of holding a hundred or so small craft, and twelve larger freight ships. It sat a quarter of a mile or so wide and towered above any other structure on this side of town. Hotels stood scattered around the port for those travelers unlucky enough to have to stay the night. The Puccai House stood across from dock A16, which housed Saeera's craft. A elderly preacher in a dirty cloak stood on an old shipping crate in front of the hotel and tried to convince passers-by not to venture into town. He said it was "an unholy place that would blacken a man's soul." Nobody even stopped to listen.

Saeera took the PDC from her pocket and pulled a retractable cable out of the side. She lifted the flap on the console next to the door to A16 and connected the cable. After a series of beeps, the door hissed and unlocked. She was off this rock.

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