Liishi wandered the streets of Willoughbriar trying to find the Goldsby Skimmer MarkIIItransport she and her partner had hired upon arrival. W. B. was supposed to have left it parked outside a grocer’s two blocks down from Tangles while he ran a few errands of his own.
It wasn’t there when she reached the shop.
She spun a slow circle in the middle of the hard-packed dirt streets, eyes sweeping the few passersby and any likely places to hide a hovercraft large enough to fit a Balus and all their gear. When a bull pedaled by on a bicycle and gave her a “what are you doing in the middle of the street?” look, she realized she looked ludicrous, eyes bugged and mouth slack, and decided it was time to head indoors.
A few questions of the grocer and the owners of the shops to either side and she discovered her partner had taken himself and their vehicle to a dealer in used goods. An itch between her shoulder blades told this would turn out to be no good, but she shrugged it off and followed the directions given by the kindly grey-and-black striped Hu running the confectioners she last visited.
She finished the tart she’d purchased and licked the sugar from her whiskers as she trotted down one street then another until she came near the edge of town where a large number of vehicle businesses (both new and used) were established. Farther down the street were the rentals.
Murder had crossed her mind several times when she finally found him outside a boot repair shop standing beside a stack of military grade footlockers (which doubled as weapons lockers) with his ever present club bag over one shoulder.
He gave her a jaunty wave (which always seemed odd coming from his dark-skinned, muscle-bound two meter height).
“Where’s the hover?” She asked as she drew near already dreading the answer.
He smiled apologetically and rubbed one wider-than-shoulder-width horn (and his shoulders were very wide). “I sold it,” he replied in a rather offhanded tone.
Liishi took a step back and looked at the stack of lockers, which she now realized were all his and her possessions for the duration of this mission. “That hover was a rental, W.B.,” she sputtered. “Why did you sell it?”
“Extra cash in case we need it. Never know when you’ll need extra cash.” He hoisted two of the lockers with one arm, then leveraged another with the arm over which was shoulder the bag of clubs. “Didn’t get as much as I’d figured,” he explained. “Seems the Goldsby MarkIII.V out here has driven the price down somewhat. Odd, if you ask me. Despite the bells and whistles of the latter, they’re basically the same vehicle.”
Liishi plopped down on her own footlocker and glared up at W.B. who towered over her while standing. This angle gave her a serious crick in the neck. “You know, for as intelligent as I know you are, sometimes you really make dumb choices,” she muttered, rolling her head around her shoulders.
W.B. simply beamed at her and gazed upward into the purplish tinted sky. “Now, Liishi, dumb would mean I couldn’t speak, and you know how much I like to talk.”
Nostrils flaring, she leaned back against an upright locker behind her, the one holding her weapons. She didn’t bother too much with subterfuge where her equipment was concerned. Her handler typically covered necessary licensing and fees for the mission. And she always double-checked to make sure such paperwork was filed and proper palms greased. “I know, B. I know. But was your plan to have us carry our gear to the ship? Or hire a carrier? I’m certainly not lugging all this around.”
“Oh, lug it. The starport is right over there,” he said, and pointed down the strip of road before them.
A city in itself, the Willoughs-Goldsby Starport had once sat in the middle of an expansive field between the half dozen towns surrounding it, and like any city, had grown outward while each of the towns had grown toward their larger neighbor. The open field had all but disappeared and was close to that as well.
Liishi pointed down the street to their left. “And the rental agency is that way,” she spat. She gave a passing Quin the evil eye and he scampered off down the sidewalk. “Come on,” she grumbled, standing and raising one of her lockers. “We’re drawing a crowd.” She tossed the locker at W.B. who fumbled a bit with the bunch he was carrying before adding hers to the stack. “You know you burned that identity, the one I booked the rental with?”
“Your point is?” W.B. grunted around the boxes.
She smiled sweetly at him as she picked up her remaining box and hoisted it over her shoulder. “I liked being Thea Grudgebearer,” she said as she headed down the road toward the port.
“Well, it certainly fits you,” W.B. admitted as he staggered along behind her.