,()()()!


down, did not seem to notice Vrath at all. Suspecting nothing, the man stepped in the oily suspension Vrath had left on the floor before him. Others stepped in it afterward, but that would not matter. In moments all traces of it were gone.

Vrath fell in behind the pilot and took the targeted nano-activator from his pack.



* * *



Zeerid should not have been smiling, and certainly should not have been at ease. He knew, as he always did, that he was one mistake, one unlucky break away from someone discovering Arra and using her against him. Or worse, harming her. The thought made him sick to his stomach.

He could not let himself get sloppy.

He hopped on the back of a droid-driven cargo cart and rode it until he neared one of the ports exits. The spaceport and all the vehicles in it rusted in the moisture-rich air of Yinta Lake; the brown smears on walls and in corners looked like bloodstains.

The exit doors slid open, and he hopped off the cargo cart. The collective voice of the streets hit him immediately. The shouts of air taxi drivers vying for faresYinta Lake had to have more taxis than any other city in the Mid Rimstreet vendors hawking all manner of foods, vehicle horns, the rush of engines.

Heading to the inner ring, sir? said one of the taxi drivers, a tiny slip of a man. Hop right in.

Lowest rates in Yinta, sir, said another, a gray-haired old-timer, cutting in front of the first.

Vinefish fresh off the grill, shouted a vendor. Right here. Right here, sir.

To his right, a Zeltron woman, perhaps lovely once, but now just haggard, leaned against a wall. When she smiled, she showed the stained teeth of a spice addict.

He winced. Shame warmed his cheeks.

Only the hundred thousand in his pocket and what it could do
  






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