A slight brown figure slipped
soundlessly down the ladder from the cargo hold at the rear of the Emperor’s
Revenge, looked around warily and, seeing nobody watching, slipped into the
shadows. Kat, in her covert persona of ghost thief and spy extraordinaire, crept
cautiously out of the Revenge’s docking bay, and ran through the connecting
passage toward the sector barrier. The secret codes were tucked into a pocket
of her dingy brown coveralls. It was imperative to deliver the codes safely to
the Solarian Intelligence Service, or SIS as it was colloquially named, before
she switched out of her disguise.
Kat halted before the exit, hearing
excited voices from the space cruiser. She rotated swiftly on her toes. No one
was visible behind, so she strode boldly around the corner and out of the
Emperor’s sector. She ran lightly along the passageway to the adjacent sector,
and darted into the crowds milling through the central hub of Hassam port. She
sighed in hopeful relief. There were no sounds of hunters at her heels, and she
was eager to return to her official persona of the wealthy Mistress Trina Sligo,
daughter of the famous diplomat, Master Fingal Sligo, the Solarian ambassador.
Loud yells from the Emperor’s sector alerted
her to pursuit. The cruiser’s guards had found traces of her forced entry. The
crowds were moving toward the Neiman’s sector for the tradeshow and circus. She
weaved in and out of the lively groups of people, aiming for the Solarian
sector. Shouting from behind and the stamping of heavy footsteps from the
pursuing guards impelled her into a narrow side street. She raced to the end, flipped
round the corner, and ran past the sleazy inns and brothels of the old portside
town. Another turn took her into a broad thoroughfare lined with gaudy tourist
shops, and cafes with tables spilling out into the street.
She slowed her frantic pace to the
casual stride of a tourist visiting the old town. She strolled down the crowded
street, scanning the passersby for a potential ally. At length she spotted two
junior officers of the Solarian fleet. The grey uniformed men lounged at a
small table in a cafe, drinks in front of them. Kat sidled over to their table
and leaned nervously toward the younger of the two officers.
She proffered the codes, whispering in a
conspiratorial manner, “Take this to your intelligence office. It’s a gift from
the Grey Kat.” The man stared at her ragged clothes in disbelief. “Take it,”
she insisted. “I’m in great danger!” He stretched out his hand and clasped the
com, almost unwillingly, glanced at his companion and nodded. As she sped away,
they lifted their drinks and sipped casually as if nothing had happened. Good,
she mused, they would deliver the urgently needed codes to SIS. Now, she had to
escape and switch her identity.
She paused in dismay. A line of blue
uniformed troops advanced toward her from the far end of the street. Swinging
round, she saw the Emperor’s guards emerging from a side street. Where could
she hide? Quickly, Kat dashed inside a small art gallery and ran to the back,
forcing her way past the confused owner into his living quarters. She leapt
into the back street, and fled down a narrow alley. A six foot wall blocked the
end. She scrambled over the wall, clinging to the top briefly while she
examined the other side. The area between the walls was littered with ancient
rusty vehicles. She dodged around the miscellaneous clutter, vaulted the wall
on the other side and crouched beside a smelly dumpster at the rear door to a
Kat waited patiently. There was a
distant crashing from her pursuers, which faded gradually into an uneasy
silence. She had evaded the guards. She stood up quietly and brushed the dirt
from her coveralls. Then, she marched defiantly in the direction of the docks
as if she owned the place. Parts of the spaceport were indeed likely to be the
property of her alter ego, Mistress Sligo, she mused wryly. Finances were not
her forte. She would be safe if she could only reach the Solarian sector, where
her companions waited with their fast scout ship.
Her fastest route led through the
Independent sector. She paused suspiciously before entering the sector. Would
her enemies be waiting for her there? Surely, they would avoid the lawless
Independents. She peeped rapidly around the wall and saw nobody.
She slipped into the narrow passage,
with a nagging premonition of disaster. Leaning against the smooth wall, she
scanned with all her senses for irregular motions or sounds. Still nothing! She
must reach the Solarian sector, where her companions waited with their fast
scout ship. A few steps ahead was the walkway extending along the whole length
of the sector with individual docking bays branching off at regular intervals.
Kat stepped into the open and walked through the Independent sector towards her
sector. She let out her breath in a long sigh. She was nearly home free.
Suddenly, she heard soft voices
approaching and the tread of booted feet. She dived into the nearest bay,
hiding behind a large container ready for loading into the hold. Two men strode
past the container where she crouched silently. They spoke in low, cheerful
voices as if their business had prospered in the port. She did not recognize
their nondescript dark clothes, but they bore stunners in their belts. She
watched them walk down the bay toward the ship, which was blocked from her
sight by a stack of boxes. When they had vanished, she turned quietly,
intending to creep away. She squeaked involuntarily, as her arm was grabbed
A man said in a gruff voice, “It’s the
thief!” Kat wriggled vigorously, trying to escape his grip, to no avail.
Footsteps sounded, and a second man came up behind her. “The Captain wants to
question the thief,” he said. “Something of value was stolen from the Emperor’s