Kiai Aneminal: Cold Abduction
I nearly froze my butt of on planet Tepbar, but I'd go to Hell and back if the job paid well enough. Besides, I felt a special importance for that particular job; I'd been hired to rescue a wealthy man's baby girl who was being ransomed. Even if I had been offered a few thousand less, I still would have accepted the contract. Then again, I had a reputation to keep up and most clients were willing to pay the high price for my services since I had a perfect bounty record. “Kiai Aneminal always gets her man,” they said.
Rather than making planet fall in my own ride, I was jettisoned in an escape pod from a passing cargo ship, that would later claim to Tepbar officials that a malfunction had occurred. Due to cramped conditions, I had to limit what I brought with me.
After crashing into a forest on the edge of Zergo City, I had only a few hours before the reclamation teams would come searching for the wreckage. Although there was no indication that the government was involved, I couldn't risk being found because certainly it would have leaked out to the media that a certain well-known bounty hunter had arrived. Such publicity would have blown the operation, and not only would my perfect record had been scratched but an innocent child would have likely died. I might have been tough as nails, but that still would have gotten on my conscience.
I resealed the pod behind me and started off through the treetops to prevent leaving an obvious trail in the snow; I couldn't have a concerned reclamation team turn into a search party for me. Using a grappling hook and launcher I swung from tree to tree. It was slow moving, but after five kilometers I decided that I could drop to the ground and continue by foot.
A while later I realized that I was in Zergo's National Forest Park. I nearly stumbled into a boy scout troop. Funny how some things from Earth caught on so well throughout the universe. I had to cut around the camp, but once I got on the main trails it was easy going.
I walked all night, and in the morning I started hitchhiking. I'd never been to Tepbar before, so I doubted that any of the ordinary townsfolk had even heard of me.
A family of four on their way home from camping gave me a lift into Zergo, since it was on their way. I thanked them and slipped the parents fifty credits. The kids had liked me and kept waving as they drove away, so I waved back.
I was wearing an arctic coat which was a bit over dressing for someone just strolling around town, so I gave it to a transient and put on an insulated parka. The coat had been much warmer, but I had to blend in. I bought a Zergo City Sports cap hoping that it would hide my profile from anyone who might recognize me.
I checked into the same hotel as the kidnappers—under an alias, of course. I got the room right above them!
I hadn't slept in two days. As much as I hated to waste time, I had to get some sleep or else I'd be too sluggish when the time came to make my move. Besides, it was too light out to begin observations, so after a quick, hot shower I set the bedside alarm clock for midnight and crashed face first into bed. As I began to doze off, I heard a voice say “Tell me about the rabbits, George.” Immediately wide eyed, I grabbed by handblaster out from under my pillow and sprung up onto my knees. I looked around but saw nothing in the dim light that the drawn curtains let into the room. I then rolled out of bed and onto the floor with a thud and looked under the bed. Finding nothing there, I sprang up and searched the closet, then the bathroom. After looking out on the balcony, I decided that there couldn't possibly have been anyone in my room. A search for hidden electronic devices turned up negative too.
I was beat. What would come after hearing voices, hallucinations?
* * *
That night, after dressing in black thermals, complete with a knit mask, I climbed down to the lower balcony. Positioning myself in a dark corner behind a lawn chair, I sat and watched the glass doors leading into the ransomers' suite. A television had been left on and dimly lit the apartment well enough that I could see that the layout of the room was identical to mine. At the foot of the bed, I could see the small child asleep in a playpen. I wasn't yet sure how many people were in the room, or even what kind of weapons they were packing, so I couldn't just bust in and start demasculating the bad guys.
After my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I could see three sleeping bags on the floor. Two were occupied and the third's owner was sitting up on the bed watching television. The bathroom door opened, and a fourth man interred the room. Apparently it was the fourth guy's turn to keep watch, and he was just now relieving the current post after a shower.
The relieved guard climbed into the empty sleeping bag and started catching Z's. The newly appointed guard turned toward the balcony and stared out the doors. My heart skipped a beat—I thought he'd seen me, but instead, he stepped out onto the balcony and gazed at the sky. When I looked up at his face my heart started pounding. He was the most handsome man I'd ever seen. I was now afraid he'd hear my beating heart and find me, but the guy that'd just gone to bed started complaining about the cold draft, so the handsome one went back in and closed the doors.
I shook my head as my pulse calmed down. Just another pretty face that's gonna be remodeled by my boot treads, I told myself. Now I was mad at myself for letting myself get distracted in such a way, and by one of the bad guys to boot.
I scanned the room for another ten minutes, taking mental notes, before I climbed back up to my own room. After shutting the balcony doors I turned around to find a large man standing a meter away from me. “Can we go pet the rabbits, George?” he asked. Instinctively, I lounged at him with my first swinging toward his chin. But I hit nothing to stop my momentum and I stumbled past him to the floor.
He looked down at me with puzzlement. He's quick, but can he avoid this? I thought as I swept my leg under him. When my foot passed through his legs I was too shocked to make another move.
“Y-you're not George,” he stammered.
“No shit, Sherlock!” I snapped as I scampered back a few feet on my rump. “Who the hell are you? What are you doing in my room?”
“I-I . . . m-my name is Lenny. I've been waitin' for George to come back.”
“Who's George?” I asked. Were George and Lenny hitmen, sent after me by the kidnappers?
“He's my f-friend. He said we were going to see the purty rabbits.”
Well, this guy obviously isn't bright enough to be a hitman, I thought.
“But I haven't seen him since that loud bug stung me in the back of the head . . .”
That's when I noticed that I could see through Lenny. “A loud bug . . . loud as a gunshot?” I asked palely.
“Yeah,” Lenny agreed, “an' it hurt worse ‘an that time George smacked me up the head really hard!”
“By Schmu, you're a ghost,” I squeaked. “I don't think George will be back anytime soon.”
* * *
I spent the night talking with Lenny. He told me how he and George had come to the city looking for work. The boss's daughter was a flirt with the workers, and she was always teasing Lenny about his mental disability.
One day when he got mad at her, being the big guy that he was, he picked her up by the head and shook her like a doll, breaking her neck.
George and Lenny ran back to their hotel room, this room. George told Lenny that he'd take him somewhere that he could pet all the rabbits he wanted. As they got up to leave a “loud bug” stung Lenny and he fell down. That was the last time he saw George.
I concluded that this had happened a very long time ago, and that George had shot Lenny in the back of the head. But I didn't have the heart to point out to Lenny that his friend had murdered him.
“Lenny, do you want to start making up for ki—for hurting that girl?” I asked. He nodded fervently. “Then you can start by helping me save a baby girl's life.”
* * *
It was mid-morning as I wheeled a serving cart up to the ransomers' door. Dressed in a stolen maid's uniform, I knocked on the door and put on my best smile. “Good morning, sir,” I chirped when the door opened. “Are you ready for your complimentary breakfast?”
“Complimentary breakfast?” he asked in a mixed tone of confusion and annoyance. “What're you talking about? We asked specifically not to be disturbed!”
“Oh, I know sir,” I chirped as I clasped my hands over my bosom. “But it's just that you've had such a long stay, why, we wanted to extend this hospitality to insure that you remain satisfied with our service.”
“Let ‘er in Cal,” one of the others called. “I'm starved and Turan won't be back for a while.”
One's gone, I thought with a mental grin. My chances just went up twenty-five percent. Hm, I don't see Mr. Pretty-face, I guess I won't get to bust his face up after all.
“Come on in,” Cal grumbled as he stepped aside.
“Oh, wise decision, sirs,” I chirped as I strolled in. “You know, the chef would have been very upset and felt insulted if I took back this wonderful breakfast untouched.”
“Well, we wouldn't want to upset him,” the third thug said eagerly.
Cal shut the door and stood there with his arms folded while I uncovered the food.
“I'm certain you'll find this to your liking.” To myself I thought, This ditsy sweet talk is starting to make me sick.
As Thug One and Thug Two started to dig in I pretended to notice the baby for the first time. “Oh my, what a lovely little thing! Do you mind if I hold her?”
“I'd rather you didn't,” Cal insisted.
“Okay, but I've just got to have a closer look,” I chirped as I bent over to coo at the baby.
I froze when I heard the hum of a blaster being powered up. I turned to find myself staring up the barrel of Cal's gun. “Nice boots. Those standard issue for service maids?” he asked.
Damn! They would be trying to look up my skirt! I thought.
The other two looked up from their trough to see what was going on. It was time for the emergency plan: Do whatever the shock comes to mind!
I gasped and pointed out the balcony windows. “By Schmu, what's that?!” I shrieked.
“What?!” Cal asked panickedly, his eyes searching the sky.
“Where is it?” another asked.
It actually worked! I shouted in my mind, just before I kicked Cal though the door.
The other two turned their attention back to me only to get the cart shoved into their guts.
I grabbed the baby and shouted “Alright, Lenny, I need ya now!” The two goons whipped their guns out and fired after me as I ran out the door and tripped over Cal's unconscious body. Lenny appeared in the doorway and they kept shooting.
“You'd better stop shooting before somebody gets hurt,” he said as the shots pass harmlessly through him.
“What the shock? Our guns didn't even phase him!” one of the goons shrieked.
Lenny slowly lumbered toward them. “You'd better run away before I hurt you,” he said.
Frightened, the two goons ran into the bathroom and locked the door. Lenny couldn't really touch them, but they didn't know that. “Thanks, Lenny,” I said as I got up. “Keep spooking them!” He nodded and I ran off down the hallway. When I got around the corner I stopped in my tracks. The handsome one, Turan, held a gun to my forehead.
“So that's why I heard gunshots coming from my room,” he said sardonically. “I feel insulted; they only sent a bounty hunter after me?” A grin replaced his look of mock insult. “Well, maybe I should feel honored. After all, I get be the man who ruins the famous Kiai Aneminal's perfect record, and brings her career to an end at the same time. I'd be doing a lot of people a big favor.” He extended his other hand. “Now, give me the child.”
Hesitantly, I slowly lifted the baby to him. Just short of his grasp, I fired my own gun which I concealed underneath the baby. Turan slumped to the floor, clutching his ribs. He was bleeding badly, but he'd live . . . if he got medical attention.
“I don't have the time for you right now, I've got a greater priority. But I'll be first in line to collect the bounty on your head,” I threatened. Although I really did mean it, for some reason, saying that hurt.
After a quick stop at a linen closet, I wrapped the baby in blankets before proceeding to the prearranged meeting place.
* * *
When the child was returned to her grateful parents I was given a bonus in addition to the contracted price. I'd actually wanted to turn it down, but I had to keep up my image or else my future customers would think I'd gone soft.
I checked the Zergo City police reports and confirmed my suspicions; Turan had escaped—but not his three stooges. Cal hadn't given the police any trouble; he slipped into a shallow coma when I used him as a door knocker. Lecher. As for the other two, they were found locked in the bathroom shaking like vibrating recliners.
I half hoped to meet Turan again someday, but I wasn't sure just what I might do if that day ever came. I tried not to think about it as I checked my messages and rummaged through the latest job offers . . .
- ⌃ “Kiai Aneminal” is pronounced [ˈkiː.aɪ] [əˈnɛm.ɪ.nəl].