"Hi yourself," replied Nick.
"Thank you for answering. I've been trying, but... I understand. I'm so sorry, Nick. I just... I didn't know. It was just a job, but once we met... there was just something there. Wasn't there?"
"Yeah. There was. I'm sorry too Kay. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to. I was going to... that night. Obviously. But... I was so afraid you'd bolt, and of course I couldn't blame you. I just kept putting it off... it never seemed right."
"Yeah well those guys showing up might have got the point across."
"I'm sorry, Nick. I wasn't going to let that happen. I was scared... and yeah I waited too long. I fucked up. Can we...?"
So why are you calling me? And I imagine we can't talk long or they'll trace this."
"I know a guy- he knows how to conceal these. We're good for a few minutes. I just want to know... is there any chance we can... you know, start over? Or see each other?"
"And have your friends show up? That's a party I don't need."
"No!" Not like that. You and me... get together and talk. Figure this out, I... want to see you Nick.
"I'm putting myself in a noose for this.
"Nick. I won't lead anyone to you. I promise. Just meet me. Let's work it out."
"Kayla. I liked you too. You weren't just a piece of ass. Seriously... I was a little crazy about you. But this..."
"I know. Let's just meet. Where?"
"I know a place."
I must be crazy. Nick looked out the window as the ships came and went- a particularly large spaceliner was coming in for a landing and he marveled again at the size of those things. Maybe I should get on one of those and get out of here. But nah I'd never make it. They're watching. He sighed and signaled the bartender to refill his drink. He swirled the bourbon around and thought about his options. None of them good. He knew when he said the words that he'd regret it- you don't just let slip corporate secrets like that and not expect repercussions. Especially with the NDA's in place. But... he didn't think he could live with himself if he said nothing. Well now he was on the run and he was going to pay- one way or another- for his fine sensibilities. And Kayla... he wondered again why she'd want to meet. Yeah they had fun, and to be truthful he'd been falling for her- hard- had she been as well? He wanted to think so. But he also knew he was worth a lot of money right now. And she was a bounty hunter- was he really stupid enough to meet her? Well, he'd done dumb things before. This might be it though.
I hope I know what I'm doing. Kayla was aware she was taking a big risk- if she met Nick without telling the agency that was it. She'd have made her choice. She didn't know how that would go- they didn't have nearly enough money to pay things off. Speaking of money... a girl still has to work. She was on a lower level following a lead. This place made Mac's look like a luxury joint. There was a smoky haze and the floor was sticky, it smelled like vomit and spilled beer- and the music was so loud she could barely think. She was looking for Jimmy Tan. One of her contacts said he liked to hang out at this pisshole, so here she was. She wended her way through the crowd, aware she was drawing attention by being alone, but she was feeling pissed off and reckless. She almost hoped someone would mess with her. Save the agency having to put a hole in her if she got offed down here. She approached the bar and scanned the area with her eyes-only display but no one looked like Jimmy. Still, not a total loss.
She went to the back of the bar and squeezed in next to a guy who was smoking with a woman with spiky magenta hair. He didn't look at her even though she made sure to make physical contact.
"Buy me a drink?"
He looked then. "Piss off."
"Nice," she purred, putting a hand on his arm. "But I'd really like to have a drink with you... especially if Jimmy's not around."
She had his attention now, along with the two guys behind them.
"Relax, boys," she said as she flashed her ID. "Just here to talk." She turned back to the guy. "Can we lose the bim for a minute?"
"What the fuck do you want? I don't know where Jimmy is. "
She smiled and ordered a drink.
On the way out she kept her eyes open, expecting trouble, and she got it. Halfway to the door two guys blocked her way- one a big ox and the other a skankish looking thing. Of the two she judged the smaller guy the more dangerous- he looked like he'd stick a shiv in your back while you were preoccupied with Ox. She kept an eye on him as the big guy put his hand on her shoulder.
"Come on now, honey, just play nice and everyone is happy."
She grabbed his wrist and pivoted, spinning on the balls of her feet, and he went down to one knee with a cry. She applied a little pressure as bones crunched in his forearm.
She held on as she turned to Skank
Skank considered it, looked at the big guy, and turned away, disappearing into the crowd.
She let go and Ox sank down cradling his arm. She left without further delay, watching for Skank but he was gone. Enhancements have their uses, she thought as she stepped out into the cool air and left the din behind.
They stared at each other for a moment, and then Kayla came up and took his hands.
"Thank you. For trusting me. I know that must have been hard."
"This is awkward." He gave a nervous laugh. "So... now what?"
"I don't know," she sighed. "We're in the shit good, aren't we?"
"I am," he said. "I don't know about you. If you turn me in you're probably sitting pretty."
"I'm not turning you in, Nick. No way. You have to believe me. Even if they..."
"What? What happens if you don't?"
"Well... let's just say we're in the same boat then."
"You'd take that risk for me? Why?"
"I don't know, Nick. I like you. I can't just turn you in, we had something special. I thought. Or we might have. I don't know."
He put his arm around her and pulled her in, and for a moment they didn't say anything. He could smell her hair and man, how he'd missed that. They stayed that way for a bit until finally she looked up at him. Her eyes were a little red.
"You know what I did, right?" he asked.
"Yeah. They tell us enough so we're prepared."
"What do you think?"
"Well I don't know all the details, but... pretty gutsy. Or stupid, depending how you look at it. I think you did the right thing. But legally...I don't know. You must have known they'd come after you."
"Yeah, I did. I actually sat on it for a while, but I couldn't... " He sighed. "If no one does anything, says anything, it doesn't change. And those are people they're messing with. Are they doing it to kids too? It's wrong, Kayla."
"I know. I just wish... why does it have to be us?"
"If it wasn't, we wouldn't have met."
She looked at him then.