A Solicitation For Borrowing Trouble

Characters: Peter Carlacci

Peter Carlacci flung himself backwards, and the knife slashed through empty air and the edge of his tunic. He’d moved too fast to keep his balance, but he hit the ground rolling and came up on his knees, denn’bok still firmly grasped in his right hand.

His attacker was already diving forward, bringing his blade toward Carlacci’s throat. Carlacci swung the denn’bok wide and up, aiming through the chin. A crack of smooth metal against his face sent the knifeman reeling.

Carlacci came to his feet with a leap and followed up with a solid blow to the side of the head, and his attacker folded and dropped to the pavement like a half-empty sandbag.

Folding and stowing the denn’bok, Carlacci dragged his now-unconscious attacker into the ticket machine’s servicing niche, out of sight of anyone on the street. He quickly riffled through the man’s clothing, hoping for some clue to identity. There was none. He couldn’t even be sure if he was human, or possibly Centauri.

Slipping the knife — the only clue he had — into a deep pocket, Carlacci headed toward the industrial section of the spaceport. He had been trying to buy a ticket to the outer Abbai system colonies when the knifeman had appeared. Time for an even less conspicuous mode of travel.


 

Carlacci flexed his legs, finding just the right spot for comfort in the niche he’d made for himself in the cargo hold of the Abbai freighter. He couldn’t see the brightness of the planet’s sky give way to the darkness of space, but he’d traveled aboard spacecraft for so long he could almost anticipate the last gentle tug on his body as gravity gave up.

He adjusted his upper body slightly so he wouldn’t float away, and tried to let his mind drift. As far as he could tell, he’d escaped unseen, and so he’d better make good use of the opportunity to get some sleep in the seven hours or so it would take for the frieghter to make its trip.

Despite his fatigue, his mind kept him awake, going over everything he’d found since coming to the system. He’d known that the Abbai homeworld had been devastated in the Shadow War. Abbai from all across space — even the diplomats on Babylon 5 — had gone back to help rebuild.

But Carlacci had learned that most of the scum of the galaxy had gone with them. Raiders, thieves, con men and hustlers of at least a dozen races had descended on the system like a pack of hungry coyotes. They had the Abbai so terrified they were almost ready to resort to violence after sixty centuries of pacifism, and wanted nothing to do with outsiders — not even the Rangers. In the end, word of the new Interstellar Alliance and its promise that the Rangers would protect members from aggression of any kind, had swayed them just enough.

“We will give you the chance to prove the truth of your words,” Minister Balinkai had said as Carlacci was preparing to depart. “That much we will trust you. But beware you do not betray us as so many others have done.” It was a damned thin thread of trust, but he wasn’t worried about keeping it, once the Anla’shok could come back in force.

He could use the help right now, he thought. He’d gotten wind of several bits of nasty business, but he couldn’t be sure which of them was getting him the unwanted attention. He just hoped he could get the information on them all back to Babylon 5 quickly. Entil’zha Delenn would have to choose carefully who to send.

We live for the One, we die for the One, but that doesn’t mean you have to think for her, Carlacci. The thought jumped unbidden out of the weariest part of his mind, and he grinned wryly. It was true. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, using his meditation training to clear his mind and allow him to sleep.


 

As planned, the soft hooting of the ship’s docking klaxon brought Carlacci out of sleep. A couple of quick blinks and he was fully awake, pulling himself out of his niche and stealing softly toward the loading hatch. He waited, pressed up against a bulkhead, for the moment when the stevedores’ backs were all turned at once, then made a quick dash out.

He slowed to join the group of miners who were getting off the freighter as well. Each was intent only on finding his quarters as soon as possible, so Carlacci was able to float on their tide into the station proper without causing any fuss.

Once well inside the station, he slipped away from the miners and down into the maintenance corridors. His eyes narrowed as he called up the map of the station to his mind’s eye, recalling the instructions Tanisval had given him for the meeting.

Carlacci couldn’t afford to call attention to himself, but he had to get his information out of the system fast, so he had called on an ally. Tanisval was a warrior caste Minbari who made regular patrols of the outer Abbai system. He’d been on this duty for several months, so his presence here would evoke no suspicion.

Bay 31, between shafts six and eight. Shouldn’t be far now. Suddenly, he heard the echoes of footsteps from an adjacent corridor, running hard. Carlacci froze until the sound and vibration had faded, then continued on, slowly. This did not feel right. The Abbai never ran anywhere, and that had been someone far heavier than the average Abbai in any case. He took some comfort in the cold weight of the denn’bok in his hand, and kept going.

He paused at the intersection he was looking for, then pivoted to enter the bay, holding his denn’bok at the ready. A few steps forward, then he stopped, swearing under his breath.

The bay was empty. Except for the body.


(c) 1999 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.