I usually listened to Halon. On a ship, you listened to the captain no matter what. Unless you were Cotto, of course, who did as she pleased regardless of what Halon said. I was going to take a page out of her book and disobey. It was pretty new for me, so it felt sort of exciting.
“You wanted to go to the pool, right Piper?”
She nodded excitedly. “Yes!”
“Well I’ll make you a deal. I need to know something, so we’re going to sneak out. If you don’t tell Halon anything about what we do today, I’ll take you to the pool when we get back.”
Her eyes lit up. “Promise?”
I decided that annoying as she was, Piper was pretty cute. She prattled on incessantly about everything.
We walked stealthily through the hotel lobby and into the sunny Baltienna streets. As per usual, the city was flooded with people. I took hold of Piper’s hand and began to weave through the crowd.
“Where are we going?” She shouted over the din.
“Somewhere I probably shouldn’t be taking you.”
“It’s not setting much of a good example, but I can’t leave you here alone.”
She asked a seemingly endless string of questions until we’d finally made it to the warehouse.
Only about a block from Motor’s mechanics shop sat the warehouse. Its walls were bleached by the sun, and to any uninformed passerby, it looked like nothing more than an abandoned wreck. Of course, I knew better.
I found my way around back. Piper had become unexpectedly quiet as I knocked at the rusty metal door. “I had a knock, undo the lock.” It was the code that let those inside know I wasn’t some government spy or someone who had stumbled across the warehouse.
A moment later, the door swung open with a loud groan. Holding it open was a noticeably more matured, but still familiar figure.
His dark eyes glossed over me before it finally registered. “Whoa, Marina!”
“It’s been forever since you came around! I had to hire one of Motor’s other losers to do our mechanic work. Are you going to stay?” His eyes dropped, and he noticed Piper. “Got yourself a kid?”
“No, she’s not mine. I’m watching her for someone else. I’m not staying for long either. I just need one thing—that’s all.”
Liam sighed, visibly disappointed. “Alright then. Well, we could always use you around here again if that spaceship crew thing doesn’t work out.”
I slipped inside and Liam bolted the door shut behind me. The interior was the same as I remembered it—filled with illegal cargo for sale.
“The place is a bit messier than usual.” Liam sounded slightly ashamed. “We just got in a big shipment of engines.”
“As always,” Liam smirked. He cupped his hands around his lips and shouted, “Hey guys! Marina’s here!”
A few new faces glanced over, but most of them I remembered. “Hey, you came back!”
“Here to fix some stuff up?”
I always used to come around the warehouse to help out. Motor was cheapskate who barely paid me, so I was always in need of some extra cash. At some point or another, I’d heard rumors about the warehouse, and had eventually gone to check it out. As it turned out, they needed a mechanic to fix a lot of their stolen ships. Criminals turn out to be nice guys—but mostly, they’re rich. I got paid more working at the warehouse in one day than I made working a month for Motor.
Sadly, for appearance’s sake, I could never simply quit my job at Motor’s. My Mom would have had a heart attack if she knew I was in with the ‘bad guys’. Although all things considered, they’d treated me a lot better than my mother ever had.
I smiled, greeting a few of my old friends for a few minutes before they all returned to their work. “So what did you stop in for, Marina? Some spare parts for cheap?”
“Actually I was looking for information.”
“What kind of information?”
“Do you have any of the police interrogation records from yesterday?”
Liam shook his head disappointedly. “I’ve got as early as three months ago, but that isn’t of much help, is it?”
“Can I pay you anything to get them for me?”
“Sorry, but no can do. We’ve got to wait until files are put on low security and we can sneak in to grab some copies. That doesn’t happen until about two or three months after the day of record. I can’t risk getting caught.”
I hesitated. “I’ll give you my entire lay.”
He raised an eyebrow. “How much you making?”
“I don’t know yet. We haven’t been told the total cost of the operation we were on. I don’t make too bad of a lay—I promise. I can pay you the entire thing if you’ll get me the file.”
Liam shook his head. “I’d consider it for a few million, but they’d execute me on the spot if I got caught. You’d have to be crazy to do it.”
“Can you what?”
“Can I do it? Where do they keep the files?”
Liam seemed caught off guard. “You’re kidding, right? Just wait another few months and I’ll get them for you.”
“I can’t wait another few months! I might be dead by then.”
Liam’s eyes searched mine for a long moment. “What kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into?”
“None yet, but that’s about to change.”
He shook his head deliberately. “No, Marina. They’d shoot you the first chance they got. You wouldn’t escape with the files—trust me. You’ve never even broken in before. Hell, have you done anything illegal in your whole life besides fixing up a few ships for us?”
“Liam, please. Just tell me where they are and what I need to do.”
“I can’t let you do that. It’s suicide. Trust me, just wait it out a few months. You won’t be dead. You’ve got the best security crew in the world—a group of varyingly poor and rich societal rejects who hate the government.”
“Tell me how to do it or I’ll have to figure it out and take the even bigger risk of being killed.”
He sighed dejectedly. “I wish you weren’t so impulsive.” He paused, as if expecting me to interrupt and take it back. When I didn’t, he reluctantly began the explanation. “In the very back of the federal records storage building, there’s a vault for new cases. Whatever it is you’re looking for is most likely in there. There’s going to be guards at every entrance and exit, and maybe in front of the vault, too.”
“I got it.”
Liam pursed his lips. “You’re being stupid Marina.”
“I’m really, really good at being stupid.”
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