We stayed in the hotel room for the rest of the day and spoke about the facility. Eve admitted it had been many years since she picked up the information about the shipyard, so there was a chance that they were no longer building spacecraft there. However, when she read the minds of the executives who came to “oversee her progress” she had come to understand that many of the craft were experimental, or state of the art, and it would take them many more years to finish the projects.
“There will be something we can steal and use to get off of this planet. Speed is important. I want revenge on them for what they have done, but as I said before, this corporation is powerful, and controls most of the planet. You and I cannot hope to beat them alone. We need a ship, and we need friends,” she said as we finished packing up the last of our meager belongings.
“I like the plan,” I said as I finished putting on my armor. Even though I was broad of shoulder and muscular for a human, my changed form was much larger, so the armor hung about me as if I was a child in his father’s outfit.
“I’ve got your spare clothes.” The mysterious woman pointed to the backpack on her shoulder. “I paid the old man to move the pimp’s motorcycle into the back-parking area behind the building. If it’s not there, we can steal a car.”
“You know how to steal a car?” I asked.
“No.” She smiled at me. “But you do.”
“Ha. I should be mad at you for reading my thoughts,” I said as I put a raincoat on over my armor. Once it was in place I slung the shotgun and rifle across my shoulders. They might look a bit conspicuous on my back while we both rode the motorcycle, but I didn’t want to leave them in the hotel.
“You are not,” she answered as she opened the door to the love themed room.
I walked past her and took the point position walking down the flights of stairs. We were still nervous that Eve’s captors might have figured out we were here, but the television in our suite was set to the city’s news station, and there hadn’t even been a report about the spider drone killing all the people in the street. It seemed as if these people wanted to keep a lid on the news.
It probably meant that they had a lot of eyes in the street. They might have drones with facial recognition technology, or police with our descriptions. I wasn’t worried about them identifying me, since I didn’t look like a giant walking tiger anymore, but they’d be able to identify Eve’s face.
“Those methods can always be foiled. The motorcycle had a helmet on the back, I will just wear that. The digital display on the inside of the visor will keep out any drone’s spotting technology,” Eve explained as we reached the ground floor.
“What if you are wrong?” I asked as we walked toward the rear of the hotel. The conditions of these hallways reminded me that rooms were rented by the quarter hour, but we didn’t walk past any working girls or their clients.
Eve didn't answer me.
The motorcycle was still parked out in the back, and I had a chance to examine it better. It was a cruiser style, with a big hydroelectric engine that might only need a recharge every year or two. The beast was mostly chrome, but the parts where it wasn’t were painted black or covered with dark leather. It was probably expensive, but the pimp I had killed did carry a lot of cash on him, so I should have expected it.
“Let’s go,” I said as I swung my leg over the broad back of the two-wheeled machine.
Eve moved the hanging guns around on my back before she sat behind me. I turned my head a bit to watch her don the black helmet, and then she gave me a thumbs up.
I inserted the key fob into the control panel and started the motorcycle. It looked as if this machine was once outfitted with a DNA or thumbprint scanner, but the unit had been ripped off and replaced with this easier ignition system. Maybe the pimp had stolen this bike?
Didn’t matter. It was mine now, and I made a quick lean to get it out onto the back alleyway as I juiced the engine.
Then we were out in the neon streets.
This city was named Bandar Arang, and it was a melting pot of old American, Malaysian, and Chinese cultures. Eve seemed to have been familiar with this planet, and she explained that this was one of the first places inhabited after the planet was terraformed. The city might as well have been nameless to me. It looked like the thousands of other cities I had visited during my stint in the military, time with the Yakuza, or imprisonment as “Adam.” The cities were a yin-yang of bright neon signs and dark, dirty alleys. Life was cheaper than food in most of the non-Earth solar systems, and people lived with only the small shred of hope that they could beg, borrow, or steal something to give them pleasure for a few hours.
Make a right up ahead.
Eve’s words floated into my brain. Taking a right at the next street corner would lead us in the wrong direction, but I followed her instructions anyway, and slowed the motorcycle down to thirty-five kilometers per hour before I turned.
It was early evening, but there wasn’t much traffic out. I cut through a few rows of transport vans and waited for Eve to give me another order. She didn’t speak for a few more minutes and I almost wanted to ask her what was going on when I stopped at a red light.
Make this right.
I twisted the throttle of the large motorcycle and cut right across the lane to make my turn. We rode for another half a minute and the woman asked for me to make another right. I followed her instructions and knew she suspected that we were being followed.
Since the hotel. I do not believe it is the corporation that we are intending to escape. I think the motel owner might have told some people about us. These could be friends of the pimp you killed, or they could be other pimps looking for prey.
“Foolish of them,” I growled into the night air, but I doubted the woman hanging onto waist could hear me.
Maybe. You were covered with blood when we checked in, so they might have been waiting for me to leave alone so they could kidnap me. I do not have the sense that the hotel owner would betray us, but money is a motivator for those who have little. This also could have been orchestrated by someone who observed the security feeds from the hallway. In the end, it does not matter. We either need to lose them or kill them. They are criminals that prey on the weak and innocent, so I would prefer the latter, but that might leave too many bodies behind us and attract attention.
“Confirmed,” I said as I pulled the motorcycle through the traffic. We had done a bit of research on the city using the room’s television data connection, and I knew that we were heading east now. The direction would take us into the downtown area of the city. It was possible that I’d be able to lose our trackers in the more congested streets, but it would also mean there would be more of a chance for the megacorp we were fleeing to find us.
I made the next right turn, and then another so that we were heading in the same direction we had been in the beginning. I didn’t want to risk them following us, but I’d be able to deal with a bunch of thugs in a car without breaking a sweat. I wouldn’t even have to change my form.
I wasn’t going to be able to deal with one of those spider drones without some sort of missile launcher or rocket propelled grenade.
I thought our motel was in a bad part of the city, but the roads were paved and there had been running water and electricity. After another few minutes of driving, we reached the unlit slum outskirts of Bandar Arang.
I had to re-evaluate my personal definition of the term “shithole.” This part of the city was mostly made of stacked shipping crates. Some of the containers were made out of metal, but most were made of plastic, wood, or even cardboard. The road might have once been paved, but it had endured too many seasons of rain, and there were more potholes on the surface than flat parts. My motorcycle wasn’t an off-road model, but its heavy shocks allowed me to take the rough road at about forty kilometers an hour.
It was obvious we were being tailed now. Most of the traffic had turned off and gone another direction ten minutes ago, but two silver painted sedans still followed. They were a hundred and fifty meters behind us still, and I guessed they would try to make their move when we reached the end of the slums.
A few children ran out to try to get money from us. Their clothes were dirty, their limbs were mostly bones, and their stomachs were fat with parasitic infection. I turned my head a bit to check the distance of the cars behind us, and I saw Eve distribute some of our loose cash with a flourish of her fingers.
It probably will not help, but maybe it will buy them a meal. A small comfort to the universe's lost children.
Her words entered my mind with a gentle whisper, and I turned my eyes forward to study the dark road. My vision wasn't as good as when in my half tiger form, but they were still much better than a normal human’s, and I could see very well with just the single light from the front of my motorcycle. There were only two hundred meters of road left of the slum, and then I saw the asphalt twist across the starlit horizon before it crested a ridge into the abyss of the badlands. There wasn’t much I could use as cover in a gunfight, but the road seemed to be a bit smoother, and I wondered if I could turn off my lights and outrace the two sedans following us. It was worth a try, and I glanced over my shoulder again to gauge the distance of the cars.
Then we were out of the slums, and the tires of my big motorcycle were ripping across the road in a frantic effort to hold onto the engine’s acceleration.
The motorcycle was actually a bit faster than I would have thought, and the machine jumped up to sixty kilometers an hour in a half twist of the throttle. Eve’s hands wrapped around my stomach tighter, and I saw the tips of her black hair flap in the side mirrors. My sudden acceleration hadn’t been expected by whoever was driving the cars, and I saw their silver shapes fade into the distance. My thumb found the light switch on the left grip, and I turned off all the motorcycle’s lights. I could still see decently because of the changes to my body, so I increased our speed.
Then we were going a hundred kilometers an hour, and the wind was a constant scream in my ears. I didn’t have a helmet on, or sunglasses, but my eyes healed almost instantly from the wind damage, so I just accepted the pain as part of my escape strategy. I doubted the road conditions would let me ride any faster than my current speed, but that also meant the two cars following us wouldn’t be able to go much faster either.
Eve didn’t say anything in my mind while we rode, but I did feel her weight shift a bit in the saddle when she checked behind us. A little more than five minutes passed, and she spoke to me again.
We have not lost them. I have spotted a drone in the air.
“I can shoot it out of the sky if it is low enough,” I said to the wind. I doubted she could actually hear me, but the woman knew what was on my mind. I reminded myself again that I should have been a little more upset about the invasion of privacy. Or I should have at least been upset I was riding around with a vampire. That was something out of a fairy tale or television show. Vampires weren’t supposed to be real.
Then again, weretigers weren’t either.
This might work to our advantage. We will need to take the road north. We should ride past the west perimeter of the base. Their sensors will pick up a drone and might engage.
“Yeah, but they might see us also, and engage with us.” It was the one hole in our plan. Eve just wanted to see if the place was still active. If it was, the next part of the mission would be tracking down the people she could remember who worked on the project. We’d find a few, figure out their security credentials, and then piece together a plan to get inside. If the place was abandoned, we would have to come up with another plan to get money and charter a private ship off of the planet.
This was just the start of our—
Her words pierced my mind like an icicle, and I leaned hard to the right. A wave of bullets slammed into the road where we’d been a second before, and I twisted the throttle to try to escape the follow up salvo of bullets. I was lucky, and whoever was piloting the drone hadn’t expected me to increase my speed on the dark road. The next burst of bullets pierced the road behind us. I could see the tail end of blast fire emerging from the drone, but I would have to stop riding, grab my rifle from over my shoulder, turn around in the saddle, and then take a shot at it. There just wasn’t any time to do any of that, and I slammed on the brakes as a blast of the gun fire smashed into the road in front of us.
I brought my left leg down and grunted. My movement yanked the bike around to face the opposite direction while its rear wheel spun across the road. It would have been easier without Eve on my back, but then again, I was strong enough to pick up the five hundred kilogram motorcycle’s front end and twist it around without much issue. Her weight was probably moot in the grand scheme of things.
You are heading toward them.
“I know,” I said as took my left arm off of the grip of the bike. I had to shift my shoulder a bit to get the rifle to slide down from the spot where it hung at the bottom left of my side. Eve realized what I was trying to do, and the onyx-haired woman pushed on the butt of the rifle so it came into my hand easier.
The two pairs of headlights appeared over the ridge. They probably knew I was ahead of them because of their drone, and they probably knew that I had a rifle, but they probably didn’t realize half of my magazines were filled with military grade armor piercing rounds.
“Which car?” I asked as I raised the rifle. My thumb found the fire mode level on the side of the weapon and flipped it to Auto with a practiced ease.
I slammed the heel of my boot down on the rear brake of the motorcycle and the back wheel slid across the broken asphalt. The bike lurched forward, but I had no trouble keeping the holosight on target. The cars were still driving toward us, and I guessed they either had confidence that their armor would protect them, or the person flying the drone hadn’t told them I was pointing a rifle at them.
It didn’t matter either way. They were all about to die.
I squeezed the trigger and a stream of armor piercing rounds exited the front of the rifle as if the gun was a laser. The first few bullets didn’t shatter the front windshield, so my guess about the armor was probably correct. The special bullets did pierce the glass and ripped into the passengers. I put a dozen bullets where I thought the driver was and then traced a line through the center area of the windshield with my bullets to put another dozen where I thought the passenger would be sitting. The car started to drift to the side as soon as I started shooting, and I knew one of my bullets had hit the driver.
Then I poured the rest of my ammo into the next car. This sedan made a sharp brake when I first began to shoot through the front glass, and I guessed that the driver had died instantly.
Left car has someone still alive.
I flipped the kickstand down to hold up the bike and then motioned for Eve to get off of the back. She did so, and I got off of the machine. I had no more bullets left in my rifle magazine, so I switched it out for a fresh one, but with regular ammo, before I handed it to the woman. Then I adjusted my shotgun so I could fire it and moved toward the left car.
The door came open in my hand, and I twisted my face out of the way to avoid the pistol that suddenly appeared. The man got off a shot that missed me by a kilometer, and I managed to grab onto his wrist with my left hand. I yanked hard on the limb to pull him out of his seat and onto the dark battered road. He looked like the usual drone pilot; with a wire coming out of the side of his skull and connecting to the control device of the air drone. The man had a bullet through his stomach and he cried out as he struggled to free his gun arm from my grip.
“There might be a way you can get out of this alive,” I growled to the man, but it wasn’t clear he understood what I was saying, since he responded with a string of words I didn’t recognize.
“I will translate,” Eve said once she stood next to me. She’d taken her helmet off, and I guessed that it lay on the saddle of our motorcycle.
“Good. Tell him to--”
“Fly his drone where we want to go. I understand, and it is a great idea.”
The beautiful woman’s hair seemed to pour into the night air when she crouched next to the drone pilot. I didn’t understand her words, but the man relaxed after she had spoken.
“He is going to do as we want, but you should still take the pistol from him,” she said after they conversed for half a minute.
“Confirmed.” I had my shotgun trained on the man while I held his wrist, and I let go of my weapon so I could take the pistol from his grip. His gun fit into my belt, and I let go of his wrist after I checked him for knives.
“Our earlier guess was correct,” she said to me as she moved to stand behind the man. “They were planning on using me as a sex slave.”
“Scumbags,” I growled, and even though I wasn’t a giant weretiger at the moment, the drone pilot still gasped at me. The man’s clothes looked threadbare, and he had the usual skin marks of a junkie.
Eve said a few words to the man, and he set about controlling his drone. There were a few joystick controllers on the terminal the man held, but most of the better pilots used their brain links to control the devices. I was still worried that he would use the thing to attack us from the air, so I resumed my stance with my shotgun pointing at him.
Eve and the pilot spoke off and on for a few more minutes, and the beautiful vampire gestured for me to step closer so I could see the screen on the man’s control terminal.
“We might only get a few moments of view time,” she said. “It looks active. There are some lights, and I see a supply truck entering through the gate.”
I looked over the top of the small screen and confirmed Eve’s words. The structure was still about two kilometers away from the drone’s area position. The place was larger than I expected, with a main building that took up almost the entire length of the view. The truck Eve mentioned looked like an ant compared to it, and I saw the wall around the property rose much higher than the truck’s profile.
“I’m surprised a facility that large is this close to the city,” I said.
“Doesn’t matter. My captors own the city, and most of the planet. It is only a few kilometers out to keep people from getting too curious. They haven’t taken our drone yet, so I’m guessing they are used to getting fly overs. They might not care. I’ll tell him to do a few more passes and then see how low we can get.”
“Do you want to risk the drone? It looks as if there are manual controls. We could take it and use it again for surveillance.”
“That is a good idea. Especially because it has a gun on it. Thank you for recommending it, Adam.” The woman smiled at me and felt a tingle of pleasure cascade down my skin.
We watched the screen in silence for a handful of minutes. It was hard to tell the exact dimension of the complex, but I guessed the wall around it to be four kilometers wide at the longest side, and maybe two in width. Besides the main building, there were eight other structures I guessed housed workers or stored equipment. Each corner of the wall was joined with a defense tower that held gun turrets, and I saw the same kind of spider drones that attacked us on the street patrolling the outer perimeter. To call the place a fortress would be putting it mildly. I didn’t know how we’d be able to get inside without first breaking into their security systems.
“If this facility was owned by any other company, I would agree with you, but I’ve had insight into the organization of our enemy. There are eight corporate employees who I know have security clearance. My information might be a bit old still, but I believe we can go back to the city and try to locate one of them,” Eve said with a slight smile.
“Confirmed. I would say this mission was a success then. We know that the facility is still being used, and we didn’t have to risk being seen.”
“Agreed, but now the real work starts.” Eve stood with a sigh and stretch of her arms. “I am hungry, but this man is unclean. He also plans on killing us with his drone when it returns.” She pulled one of the pistols I had looted from the other experimented tiger prisoners out of the holster on her belt and pointed it at the back of the drone pilot’s head.
I stepped to the side and caught the man’s drone terminal the second she pulled the trigger. The man’s face turned into a red exit wound and he fell forward onto his chest. His head was still attached via cord to the screen, and I yanked it out so I could steer the drone toward us.
“I’m not an expert with this,” I said as I tried to adjust the roll, pitch, and yaw of the thing with the over sensitive joysticks.
“I can do it if you will search the cars. Maybe we can take one of them back and sell it? A few thousand extra credits will help,” Eve said as she took the control terminal from me.
“Confirmed. Let’s see how much money these assholes had on them,” I said as I looked at the corpse of the drone pilot. I doubted I would find anything but used needles on the man, so I decided to check their vehicles first.
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