Tally had no idea how he’d found himself in lock up with several other quin, a few of whom had been involved in the ambush set to deal with the tigress. Many of those squeezed into the holding cells proclaimed their innocence to the guards outside, rattled the bars, stomped and fumed about security force brutality.
Tally suppressed a snicker. Fools, all of them. The guards didn’t care if they were innocent or not. They were paid to get results, and tossing everyone they found at the scene of a major disturbance like that at the starport was a result. Maybe not smart, but they’d figure things out later.
“You!” one of the guards pointed at Tally. “Your name Tally?”
Half-wanting to say nothing, Tally paused a beat before replying, “Yeah. Tally my name. What you want?”
The guard opened the cell door and waved him out while a second covered the opening with a short-barreled rifle of some sort. “Someone here to see you.” The guards were all faceless, visors down. This one sounded bored beyond belief.
Not about to lose a chance to get out from behind bars, Tally stood and sauntered out.
Several of the other prisoners moved toward the door as well, loudly proclaiming innocence and/or the desire to “get even with” the security forces. As they reached for the door, the second guard fired his weapon. Nothing happened, then suddenly all the prisoners in a burst pattern before that guard stopped walking, started falling. Some held their ears. Some shook their heads a couple times before collapsing. All just went limp as though they had forgotten how to walk.
Tally saw that and meekly followed the first guard into another room. He’d had a fleeting thought of overpowering the guy and running for it, but not any more.
He was led to another room where he was directed to sit down. He did so, and the guard opened a far door.
In walked Skagg, the leader of the local sanitation union, all two meters and one hundred thirty-six kilograms of him. He shuffled into the room, the expensive boots he wore clacking loudly on the tile, a jewel-encrusted walking stick in hand.
Skagg pulled up a chair and grinned. As big as he was, as wide as he was, when he smiled, most people started looking for the closest exit.
Tally did so now. “Hey, Skagg,” he said, hoping his voice didn’t break too much. “How’s things?”
The chair groaned beneath Skagg’s weight. “Lost a lot of my crew doin’ you a favor,” he replied. “Whole lot.”
“Sorry, Skagg.” Tally knew there was no way he could reach the door before Skagg. Also knew that the security guards outside would likely turn a blind eye if Skagg decided Tally needed to pay with his hide. “I didn’t know she had partners. Tally’s source didn’t say nothin’ about that.” Lots of people liked stripes. Tally preferred keeping his where they were.
“Huh. What do you think Tally ought to do about that?” Skagg steepled his hooves on his broad belly, twirled his thumbs as he did so.
Tally shrugged. His brain was whirling. He needed to get out of the holding cell and back on the street. What he still really wanted was to get off-world. “Uh, the tigress? I overheard her talking to her buddies. They said something about a big score.”
“A big score, huh? What big score?” Greed mingled with skepticism tinged Skagg’s reply.
Tally hemmed and hawed a bit, spread his hooves. “Off world. Bov space,” he said, hoping he sounded confident in the lie. Typically he had no problems doing so. He’d heard those who crossed Skagg were never seen again.
The big quin leaned back in the chair and stared at the ceiling a moment, then said, “Tally, you get out of jail. You follow the mark. You get what she has. And you come back, you hear?”
Tally nodded. He squashed the desire to jump up and down. “Yeah, Tally understands.”
“And, Tally,” Skagg amended, “Cutter’ll be along with you. so don’t screw up again.”