Friday Snippet #18

Last week I posted a short snippet of a story and said I was going to continue it. Here’s a new, slightly longer, part of it.

Read the previous part here. (And yes, I could’ve posted the whole thing as one in a week or two, but where’s the fun in that?)

WriteInJournal_by_Walt_Stoneburner
Picture by Walt Stoneburner

Hatcher’s throat was too dry to speak. His hand shook around the sphere, the trembling extending to his legs. Red-blue blinking lit up half the merchant square and he knew a police drone hovered directly above him.

The stranger sighed dramatically. “I was going to buy that datasphere for my idiot cousin,” he gestured towards Hatcher, “but he just couldn’t keep his fingers to himself for two minutes. I have the money right here on my card.”

The merchant’s frown remained but Hatcher could see most of his suspicion wear off. Hatcher’s didn’t. He didn’t have cousins. Was he being helped or had he landed in a world more of trouble than before?

The drone stayed still but the lights went off as a police officer walked through the crowd. The station was nothing if not well monitored.

The officer repeated the merchant’s question and the stranger gave his explanation once more.

“Seems like an innocent mistake, officer,” the merchant hurried to say. He was eyeing the stranger’s electrocard, fingers twitching as if he could already feel the profit coming his way.

The officer turned to Hatcher. “Citizen, the market rules are clear: no unauthorized handling of merchandise.”

“S-sorry, sir,” Hatcher replied, only seeing his flustered expression on the officer’s visor helmet.

“It won’t happen again,” the stranger promised. “I’ll remind him of the rules.”

“Good. Is everything settled, then?”

The merchant nodded.

“Have a good day,” the officer said, bowing his head to all three of them. He headed back to where he came from, the drone whirring off into the distance with him.

Hatcher swallowed and nearly choked, breaking into a coughing fit that brought all nearby eyes to him again. He couldn’t catch a break. Then it hit him. Corday. What am I going to tell Corday?

“Come on, Dave.” The stranger grabbed Hatcher by the arm and started dragging him along. “We should leave.”

“But-”

“Let’s argue later, cousin.”

Hatcher shut his mouth. He grew anxious when they left the market behind. Was he heading into a trap? Was it Corday? Had the whole thing been a test? He still hadn’t decided on an answer when the stranger pushed him out of the main street and into a dim alley.

“Tell me. Are you an idiot, suicidal, or has your brain been removed altogether?” the stranger asked, leaning casually against the wall.

For a moment Hatcher just stared, holding the datasphere to his chest as if it could protect him. “Who are you?”

“Ferris. And you are? Or do I just call you moron?”

Hatcher blushed. “I’m not a moron.” His words lacked all conviction. What else could he be for getting himself into this situation?

“Alright. Nice to meet you, Idiot.”

“I’m not-”

“Oh, please!” Ferris huffed. His steely gaze was unnerving. “I paid a fortune for a sphere you were trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to steal. I saved you. And gifted you a pretty expensive toy. Don’t I deserve to know your name at least?”

Hatcher hesitated, gripping the sphere tighter. This was it. Trust or not? The image of Corday flashed before his eyes but he fought against it. Whoever this man, this Ferris, was, he had a lot of money to be able to buy a datasphere on a whim. Was it smart to antagonize a man like that either?

“I’m Hatcher.”

Ferris smirked. “Progress, amazing. So, Hatcher. What in the galaxies made you try to steal a datasphere when you’re clearly an amateur? Actually, that was offensive to amateurs.”

Hatcher tightened his lips. He was an amateur but he had to try. Leaving this place behind would never happen without money.

Ferris kept scrutinizing Hatcher. “Look, I’m here just to visit, but I’ve heard how things run in the station. You’re too young and gullible to be an actual cog in anyone’s wheels, so I’m guessing you’re desperate.”

“You know and guess a lot,” Hatcher said pointedly. “Why did you help me? I’ve never met you.”

“If I hadn’t, you’d be sitting in a cold cell right about now. You’re welcome by the way!”

“You evaded the question.”

Ferris laughed. “What can I say? I like to be the hero. Look, kid, you were all over the place. Sweating like a pig, face redder than the emergency lights, shaking like you were having a seizure. You were in way too deep and I think you knew that. So I helped. Sue me.”

Hatcher huffed. He couldn’t decide whether to be annoyed or amused by this man.

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