AUTHOR: Holly Barbo
GENRE: Short story collection covering the following genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Sci-fi thriller, Sci-fantasy, Contemporary, Contemporary Thriller, Historical Fiction and Fantasy
Orion gave a quick scan of the room. He needed to make sure he had everything important. His backpack was stuffed and the computer case held so much that there were edges of paper sticking out of it in a haphazard manner. The slender young man slung the strap of the computer bag over his shoulder, grabbed the backpack and headed for the front door. His hand paused as he reached for the knob and he looked out the window.
It was dark and he could see the snow falling through the street lights. There didn’t seem to be anyone about, so he slipped from the house and walked casually to his trusty old Chevy, his breath coming out in rapid visible puffs. The nonchalance was an act. He wanted anyone watching to assume he was going to M.I.T. to get in some late night work. He scanned the shadows, hoping that no one was there. He threw his backpack on the passenger seat then wedged the computer case between it and the seat back. He wanted both within easy reach. Once buckled in, he allowed his nervousness to slip out and thoroughly checked the view from his mirrors.
He eased onto the street and when there was no sign of his tires slipping, increased his speed. Orion reached into the pocket of the backpack for the pre-paid phone that he’d picked up when he determined his cell had been tapped. At the stop sign, he punched in a number. The snow flurries were increasing and he switched on the wipers. Orion waited for his friend to pick up.
He smiled when he heard her voice and responded by saying, “I’m on my way and no one is following me. Just in case, I sent instructions to our safe place. Don’t worry about retrieving the envelope unless I don’t get there by morning. Okay. Gotta go. I’ll be at your door for breakfast with your favorite croissants. Have the coffee brewed.”
Orion laughed at the response. “Okay. I need to concentrate on driving in this stuff. See you soon, Chayse. Bye.”
Beyond the stop sign, the road sloped to a picturesque country bridge, one of many that dotted the New England states. He had to admit it was beautiful in the snowfall but with the driving conditions worsening, he focused on how the car responded to his small adjustments in steering. In the weak light, he didn’t notice the watcher standing in the shelter of some trees on the far side of the road. The muffled figure took a box out of his pocket, pointed it at the car and pushed a button. The loud sibilant schwuff of the slush hitting the car’s undercarriage drowned out the pop.
Without any warning, Orion’s power steering quit. Working to compensate on the slick road, he fought to correct the fish-tailing motion of the car. “Shit!” He tapped the brakes and was horrified as his foot went all the way to the floor.
Fighting the wheel and the momentum of the old Chevy on the slippery surface became his entire focus…and he was losing. He tried gearing down and applying the emergency brake, but the car went into a spin and he caught a glimpse of the bridge railing coming up too fast. “Shit!” The car broke through the wooden barrier and sailed into the darkness over the side.
Kes ran a shaky hand over his face and let out a shuddering breath. The steam car beeped its proximity to their destination. Kes took over the controls and parked in his space. The messages had rattled him enough that he braked the vehicle with a jolt instead of his normal smooth skill. He would rather be by his adopted father’s side, but the old man’s words kept playing in his mind. He needed to get to M’nacht’s place in the Heights as nonchalantly as possible and let himself in. It sounded like the home could be under surveillance. It didn’t matter who was watching: the law or thugs. He couldn’t be seen and he had to get in and out as fast as possible. This was the last twi-day. Perhaps the gloom would help. Pulling out a bulky sweater and a hat to disguise himself, he slipped the pack on his back and left the garage. His vacation could wait a few minutes.
When Kes got to the house, he furtively stepped off the sidewalk and behind some concealing bushes, then, crouching low, sprinted. He let himself into the empty house and, moving with as much rapid stealth as he could, went to M’nacht’s study. He glanced at the blood stains on the rug, the shards of a broken vase and the pile of books that Quin had organized as he’d tidied up. Wasting no time, Kes strode to the navorite and tapped a rhythm on the base. There was an almost inaudible whirring and a click as the gears engaged and the door opened. Kes listened to the silent house, then stepped inside the closet. He quickly removed the sweater and hat, stuffing them in the pack. The peepholes showed he was still alone in the room, so he turned to the work space. He glanced at the shelves and the armored wall safe but nothing appeared abnormal. On the narrow countertop was a small pile of items: a hand-sized leather-bound journal that looked very old and a small silk bag. On the top of both was a moon-pearl blossom. Kes knew that M’nacht loved those flowers. He picked it up. It had been cut that morning and still held traces of dew. Kes knew that the flower marked the small pile as if it had a sign with his name on it.
He stowed the journal in his pack and the small bag into his vest pocket. His hand paused as he pulled out his little fossil. Somehow everything tied back to the little navorite he’d found in the Cradle. He started to slip it back in his pocket when his attention was suddenly drawn to the peepholes. Two men and a woman were silhouetted in the study’s archway. They were using hand signals to each other and carrying cudgels. His heart began to pound and he moved to check if he had completely secured the door. It was still open a crack. With gentle pressure, he closed it, but there was a whisper of a click. One of the men whirled and leaned into the room. From beneath an overturned chair, the little robo-cleaner hummed into view. The man swore under his breath but stepped into the room anyway. The other two silently followed.
His heart was pounding as he peered through the hidden peepholes, watching the man get closer. Suddenly, Kes felt the air stir. There was a tang to the scent which reminded him of the sea. A heartbeat later, the hidden security closet was empty.
My motto: Weaving Alternative Worlds with Threads From Today.