I said I was going to keep posting, and there I go,
a week two weeks with no post. Not even a NaNo excerpt.
I am working on Part 3 of the Cage Match, but I am a perfectionist…so I’m not publishing it yet. Instead…here’s a NaNo excerpt.
The fact that she had a reinforced steel bedroom nestled in the bullet-proof glass and concrete of the rest of her house was something those close to her commented on frequently – perhaps if you slowed down a bit, Kami, or you shouldn’t be so brazen about giving out your address and challenging people to ‘do something about it.’
Kami had outgrown the days of puffing out her chest and pretending to be the meanest, baddest mercenary available. She wanted steady work and enough money to keep her and Mana well-supplied through retirement. She also wanted to have fun, to be fair.
Ensuring that she wasn’t being followed, she turned sharply to make an exit ramp and head back toward the mountains where she lived. She took the back roads, winding her way around steep drops and heavily wooded forests wreathed in mist, until she arrived on the back end of her own land. In total, she laid claim to about 20 acres.
When she discovered the path to drop zone O-55, a common one, on the back end of her own plot, she built a shed to hold onto her bike when she went on a drop and to hold supplies in case shit ever went down. She secured the Suzuki inside, grabbed a snack-sized bag of wasabi peas, and slung the duffel, package and all, over her shoulder.
It was a minor hike, really, maybe a kilometer to the ravine that marked she was close to the entrance. Hopping down into the small gully, she splashed through the thin stream of water with a grin, spying immediately the rocky outcropping that signaled the cave entrance. She stopped just outside the chilly dark of the cavern to double check her bag – M9? Check. SR9? Check. Gummi bears? Check. Wasabi peas? Check. Extra jacket? Check. Package? Double check.
She adjusted the duffel to sling across her chest and ducked into the inky blackness of the cave.
The path was always dark and silent. It was, at times, discomfiting. In general, however, Kami found it to be remarkably soothing, like a soft embrace, welcoming her. Her eyes adjusted, though they were largely unnecessary. Feeling out the edges of the path was more about sense and less about knowing or seeing. Not everyone could use it, though, and that was why she was paid the big bucks.
In the silence and the gloom, she imagined what might be in the box. It was heavy for its size; 30lbs for such a small box, it had to be something dense. Or perhaps dense somethings. She scanned her memory of the stall where she had picked up the order. A lot of plush toys, some tacky gifts, and manga. Books, she thought. It could definitely be books.
Books were easy, though. Why would they need her to make the delivery?
Must be some kind of books, she thought with a near chuckle.
Time disappeared, along with color. That was good, though. Color here meant something bad. And the lack of time made it seem less important, seemed to constrict it down to seconds. When she returned home, she would have a better sense of how long she was gone, but during her travels, it didn’t matter. Didn’t even register.
Her thoughts wandered again. It had been a few years since she had dropped the full time employment and went onto contracts exclusively. It was paying off. The free time, though she had struggled at first to fill it, was perhaps the best bonus now. It left her and Mana time to do whatever they wanted. They had traveled back to his home on the islands, gone to England a few times, the States. Life was good.
As for this job, Kami was familiar with the area known to her as “O-55.” She was certain that the locals had another name for it, but she had never cared to learn it. What did it matter? She knew where she could stay for a night if needed, where to get food, and where to drop her deliveries. Better if she knew it only as O-55; no one could ever find out where her meeting locations were, if they didn’t know someone who knew how to do business with her.
As if on cue and with almost no warning, she stepped out of darkness and onto soft ground, grass crunching beneath her boots. She studied her surroundings; no one was in the vicinity, and based on the color of the sky, she was a little early.
The small town that marked the center of drop zone of O-55 was about a hundred paces from where the path ended. She strolled toward it, unhurried and bored, keeping her profile low. Now free from the dark and cold, she fished in her pocket for a pack of smokes, took one out, and flipped her lighter.
Her normal meeting spot was an alcove between the local tavern and a kind of general store. She thought that’s what it was, but she really wasn’t sure. To be fair, she had never stepped foot within it. The tavern she knew well. Tavern and inn, really.
Seeing no one awaiting her in the alley, she leaned against the wall of the store to finish her smoke.
She didn’t have a long wait herself. The shadow of movement caught her eye, and she turned her gaze on the opening of the alley. She could sense their nervousness, like a breeze preceding them. The shadow fidgeted, got a little bigger. Finally, at the far end, she saw a head poke around. She pushed herself lazily off the wall.
The satyr made its – his, she noted – way down the muddy alcove, and she suppressed laughter. Even when nervous and sneaking, the damn thing looked like it was delicately prancing over the muck. And he was definitely insecure about this whole deal. She wondered how they had even heard of her – they clearly had no experience with slightly shady, not entirely legal trading.
“I’m here on behalf of Tomiko,” she offered, hoping to ease his mind a bit.
“Korpik,” he responded automatically, still fidgeting after coming to a stop and looking up at her. He held out his hand.
She gave a short sort of chuckle, grinned at him in some disbelief, “It’s not customary to share names.”
“Oh,” he slowly and awkwardly withdrew the offered hand.
“But,” she extended an olive branch to alleviate some of his embarrassment, “I’ll let you buy me a drink.”
That perked him up. Kami wasn’t exactly feminine, but she had done enough business with satyrs to know what got their little hooves tapping. And it always involved drink and merriment.
“Why yes!” he smiled, “I could do that. There is the matter, of, uh, however.”
Kami tapped the duffel bag sitting against her thighs, “Right here. It’s best if you take it just before you head to wherever you’re going. Rather than carry it around with you all day. I’m staying at the inn, at least for a few hours, before heading back.”
Seemingly satisfied with the plan, Korpik’s tail gave a short wag, and he bowed, gesturing grandly to the end of the alley, “Very well. This way, then.”
Kami arched an eyebrow, “Generally best to exit the back way,” she inclined back the way she had come with her head.
“Of course. Of course!”
He turned on his heel – hoof? – and started back the way she had come, Kami following after him. They looped around to the main road and approached the inn.