– by Colin Ferguson
The alley stretched ahead of me like an endless corridor from drowsy evening to silent night. No longer alive with children’s cries and mothers chatter, in the gloom, fear stalked its dusty way and it slumbered alone.
It was this fear that had drawn me here. Fear that the assailant would strike again. Fear that another mangled body would be found. Fear that another family would pay the far too high a price to scatter the ashes of yet another loved one out an airlock. The corporations never paid enough to allow for a planetside funeral.
My soft footsteps slid along the smooth walls ahead of me. I tried to make my moves silent like the predator that wide-eyed stalks as the universe sleeps.
Determination welled up inside me. The animal that sought out defenseless victims would soon become its own prey.
Our plans had been made. ConSec and Repbulic station security could care less about what happened to the lower levels. Their concern was for the rich and privileged, the capsuleers. A group of us decided we’d dispense justice ourselves. We would show that not everyone with the means to get ahead was an elite and uncaring douchebag. We were just a bunch of drinking buddies from the Black Hole Pub, but we would make a difference. I was part of the first shift for a week of evenings and then a break before my turn came again.
A sound from ahead made me freeze, my scalp tingling. Another shadow was in the shadows, waiting – aware of my presence. I moved tentatively, the wall scraping knife-like across my shoulder blades. The baton held in tensed knuckles suddenly felt a poor defence against an imagined lethal vibroblade or pistol.
The shadow moved again – cautious, uncertain. It stopped, peered forward, edged on.
Heart pounding, I slid into position behind a large waste bin. It stank of leftovers from countless restaurants. The refuse from the higher levels often was dumped here, into the lower bowels of the station.
I couldn’t see whether the shadow was near without looking round the bin – and the shadow was now too close.
Then the insubstantial shadow became the heaviness of a man knocking me to the ground. The back of my neck felt warm where it had scraped against the metal wall and blood oozed through shattered skin.
The shadow was on top of me and pain knifed through my kidneys, liver and spleen. The only sound to penetrate my agony now were the grunts of his exertion. Dimly I felt good as my flailing arm sank into his face then my arm was shattered by my own weapon. Steely muscles clamped around my neck and tightened viciously. Consciousness faded. So this is what it was like.
The light that shone in my face seemed cool. The frightened voice echoing above me, distant.
“Oh shit, Jonas, I thought you were the attacker. Hang on in there, I’ll summon a med droid.”
Then running feet as he made towards the comm unit standing sentinel at the end of the alley – a sudden cough and a short cry.
As my mind gave way to total darkness, I dimly tried to understand.