by Travis Perry
In the early morning hours, the holding cell’s lights dim, Ernsto awoke from his thinly padded steel bed to the sound of the cell door opening. He sat up, clutching his single blanket for warmth.
Officer Salzar stood on the other side of the open door, an unknown peacekeeper beside him. “Come on,” said the young officer. “We’re getting you out of here.”
“I believe Hobson means to kill you. And the angel as well. I don’t think we can keep you safe here, or anywhere else I know of. He’s too well connected and too…powerful.”
As Ernsto stood up and dropped the blanket, he felt the crude bandages on his back sticking to the bright yellow jumpsuit he’d been forced to wear. “I don’t suppose you brought a change of clothes for me?”
“Yes, but not here. We need to move, no talking.”
The two men escorted him out of the Avenir upper brig. For some unknown reason, no other officers were in sight. Through a back corridor they escorted him to a loading dock. A familiar black pressure tank on a robotic wheeled cart waited there. Ah, angel babe, so glad to see you, said his mind. A familiar rush of warmth answered him back.
“On the other side of the airlock is a shuttle, with clothing and some equipment inside,” Salazar said. “You do mean to return the angel to the sea, right?”
“More than anything.”
“Then take her and go.”
“Er…as much as it’s not like me to question good news, won’ this get you in trouble?”
“Possibly. But who knows that the infamous smuggler Ernsto Mons didn’t force his way out? Not that I would ever lie about that. Or anything else. But I hope people draw their own conclusions. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to come back here for trial, after you set the angel free, risk to your life or not?”
“I don’ suppose you’d believe me if I said I would?”
“I don’t believe so,” replied the enforcer with a grin. “Well, don’t think this means I won’t put your face on every enforcer bulletin I can. You’ll be more famous than ever after this—which will make it very tough to sneak anything past anyone ever again. I’d give up smuggling if I were you.”
Before he could answer, the unnamed peacekeeper inserted himself into the conversation. “If it wasn’t for the angel, I wouldn’t do anything for you. If I see you on Avenir again, I’ll shoot you on sight. Understand?” The tall, gray-haired man scrunched his eyebrows together as he spoke, making his menace clear.
“Understood,” he said mildly, some part of his mind surprised that he’d let anyone threaten him without any desire to threaten in return.
Officer Salzar shook his hand before he departed, but the peacekeeper kept glaring at him and warned, “Hobson is still after you. If you don’t keep a low profile, he’ll have you dead within the week.”
“Understood,” he replied again, this time in a whisper.
Within minutes he had changed, astonished to find his coin bag inside his pants pocket. He then powered up the small shuttle, getting ready for the quick flight to Eclectia, the angel in her portable tank behind him.