Author : S. Clough aka ‘Hrekka’
“Excuse me, umm…”
“Can I help?” Roisin responded pleasantly, turning to see who had addressed her.
“My name’s Gillian…I’m looking for someone who could courier something for me…do you know…?” Gillian’s question tailed off. She had never been able to approach strangers with any degree of confidence.
Roisin hadn’t met Gillian before, and her Captain had taught her to be immediately cautious around strangers. ‘It isn’t possible to be too suspicious.’ These words became a mantra after a time. Strangers, especially here, at the races, made her particularly uneasy. Roisin had drawn up a graph before, charting proximity of any gambling opportunity against ‘number of people who Kate owes money too’. It came out as you’d expect, really.
There was nothing about this woman that might mark her as a run-of-the-mill debt collector. She wore ornate clothes, oriental in style, in white and patterned with green. The collar was high enough to almost cover her mouth. Roisin judged her to be approaching thirty, if she hadn’t had any age mods. Her hair, though, gave Roisin pause. It was impossibly tall, bubblegum pink and there wasn’t the slightest chance that it was in any way natural. All these thoughts passed in a moment, and Roisin put on a warm smile, whilst nonchalantly letting one of her hands drift to the pocket of her overalls to wrap her long fingers around the spanner tucked there.
“Well, Gillian,” she said, her face genial, “that depends. I assume you know what kind of ship I work on?” She gestured to the dark shape of the River, behind her, dominating the bay. “We don’t usually run cargo. You’ll have to give us a few very good reasons as to why we should make an exception for you.”
“Spit it out.”
“It’s the cargo.” She hesitated, shuffling her feet nervously. “It’s…different.”
Gillian bit her lip, and nodded.
She led Roisin down one level, into the cargo storage areas. The young docker followed her through a maze of utility bays and lockers, until they finally drew to a halt in front of a door unremarkable from the next. Gillian palmed the door open.
Roisin took a step back.
The storage bay was almost filled by some species of giant lizard. Mucky green-and-purple scales caught the light from the corridor at odd angles, a blunt head turned slowly from side to side, nostrils flared, seeking scents, while a long tail twitched around, occasionally ringing off the metal walls. A brown leather harness and saddle had been stretched over its head. Gillian approached it. Roisin pressed herself against the door on the other side of the corridor. Gillian stroked the lizard’s head, and cooed to it. Roisin was scoping the exits.
“What the hell?”
“His name is Bellial. I need to get him away from here.”