Godfrey froze, the barrel of the gun pressed against his temple. He could feel his heartbeat in every part of his body, and he couldn’t help but wonder how long he would have that luxury.
“Let him go,” Montgomery yelled, leveling her weapon at the assassin. What the hell did she think that was going to do?
The assassin didn’t respond. She squeezed Godfrey’s arm with a frightening grip. “You humans,” she hissed. She had the metallic voice of a Khloe. “How superior you all think you are.”
“I don’t know why you’re doing this,” Godfrey said, “but there has to be another way to make your message clear. You won’t have many allies among the Earthlings or the Khloe if you’re killing people.”
“What makes you think I have a message?” the woman laughed, “We just want to see as many of you dead as possible.”
“I said let him go!” Montgomery yelled.
“Can we maybe not antagonize her when she’s got a gun to my head?” Godfrey snapped.
“This isn’t a gun,” the assassin said, “But you might wish it was. It’s an acid injector. That’s why your fellow council member’s brain is currently leaking out of her ears. Do you know what? I think she’s still alive.”
“Please, I’ve never done anything to the Khloe people,” Godfrey said, “My wife’s Khloe.”
“And you think that makes you better than them?” she screamed.
Montgomery was doing something to the pad on her wrist. Suddenly the assassin’s weapon made a popping noise. She dropped it with a shout.
“Now get on the ground and put your hands behind your head, or I’ll find out what else you’ve got that’s electronic,” Montgomery said.
But the assassin had already pulled a coin like device from her pocket and clicked it. She vanished.
Montgomery ran to Godfrey, the other officer was still with Councilwoman McAvoy. “Are you injured?” she asked.
“She, she’s a Khloe,” Godfrey said. All of the adrenaline was leaving his body, and he nearly sank to the ground. “I think there might be more than one assassin.”
“Why?” Montgomery asked.
“Because when I asked her why she was doing this, she said we don’t have a reason, not I don’t have one,” Godfrey snapped, “And thanks so much for dragging me right into the line of fire, by the way. What the hell did you hit her with?”
Montgomery glanced up, as though making sure that her fellow officer couldn’t hear. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, “It’s a focused electric disrupter. They’re not strictly legal.”
“Great, a cop with connections who thinks she’s above the rules,” Godfrey muttered, “That never goes wrong.”
“Right, I’ll just let you get shot,” she snapped, offering him her hand. He took it because he wasn’t sure that he was going to be able to rise without help.
The transit station was growing thick with cops. Godfrey brushed the dust from his knees as Commissioner Stone walked up to them. He took a deep breath as she said, “Councilman Anders, are you alright?”
‘That’s right,’ Godfrey thought, ‘I’m a person of authority, not some farmer’s punk son. You’re going to be nice to me.’
“I’m fine,” he said, “I almost wasn’t, thanks to your officer, though. She drug me out of the transit window on that insane disc thing of hers.”
The commissioner’s eyebrow arched. “I am sorry if you were frightened, Councilman. I assure you, Montgomery is one of our finest uniforms. She wouldn’t have put you in danger.”
“I don’t agree,” Godfrey replied. Montgomery was standing at attention next to the commissioner, giving him a deadly glare.
Unfortunately, the officer who’d been on the scene when Godfrey and Montgomery had arrived chose that moment to approach. She set a hand on Montgomery’s shoulder, and said, “Thank God you showed up when you did. She’d have probably killed us both if you hadn’t, and all these other civilians.”
Damn their sorority mentality.
“I don’t like how this situation is escalating,” Commissioner Stone said, watching as an emergency medical team lifted Councilwoman McAvoy’s body into a transport pod. “Sennett, I’m sorry, I know you were on duty all day, but I need you to stay with Councilman Anders until I can free someone else up. It might not be until tomorrow.”
Montgomery nodded. “The killer’s pride might be hurt, failing to get both of them. There’s a good chance she’ll try again.”
“No,” Godfrey snapped, “I’m not having this woman in my house.”
Apparently, he wasn’t an important enough person to get away with that. “Councilman, I don’t think you understand the gravity of this situation,” she said, giving him a hard look. “You are the target of a dangerous killer. We’ve already lost two council members and I’ll be damned if we’ll lose another.”
“Fine, alright,” Godfrey muttered, “I’m sure that Officer Montgomery will make a very pleasant house guest.”
“Take the bullet shuttle, I’m upping your access,” Commissioner Stone said, fiddling with her wrist pad. Montgomery nodded and guided him to the circular tube that went straight down the center of the station. It was a bit of a walk from the transit to the shuttle. Montgomery didn’t seem to have anything to say to Godfrey, who felt as though he’d pushed his luck already. She didn’t seem the type to hit a man, but he didn’t want to find out.
Montgomery started to press things on her wrist pad again, and Godfrey heard Howard Stoat’s voice. “My fellow members of Station 86,” he said, “In light of the last few days events, I have a favor to ask you. Please, take care of your neighbors as we get through this together. Keep alert, keep safe and report suspicious activity to the brave police and IHP officers who protect us. For those of us who are faithful, pray for the families of the citizens we’ve lost. I will be attending a prayer service at the Grand Choral Star Synagogue this evening at seven.
“I know that we are struggling with our council for more of a voice in our community. We have a long way to go to achieve that right, a right that we should not have to ask for. But right now is not the time for political fighting. Now is the time to pull together, and look after each other.”
“Isn’t he smarmy,” Godfrey said as they reached the shuttle.
“Shut up,” Montgomery replied, waving her wrist pad over the security screen to open the door.
They remained silent in the shuttle and as they walked through the streets of the residential level toward Godfrey’s house. They were on his block when he heard a hissing sound behind them.
They turned, Montgomery setting a hand to her weapon. Saul Mai stood behind them. He raised his hands when he saw them, saying, “Don’t shoot, Officer.”
“What are you doing here?” Godfrey asked.
“I had to talk to you,” Saul said, “Godfrey, my wife kicked me out.”
“Wonder why,” Montgomery said.
“I didn’t touch Elizabeth,” Saul said, “The council is making this up to get me out of the way.”
“Why would they do that?” Montgomery asked.
“Are you kidding me? They’ve got ultimate power here, and I threaten that. Do you think I’m the first, Officer?”
“I don’t see anyone accusing Marshal Stoat of anything,” Montgomery replied.
Saul snorted, “That’s because no one likes him, Ma’am. Godfrey, please. You’re on the council, you might be the only one who can help me.”
Godfrey considered Saul. His hands were shaking, and his eyes were red. His normally handsome face was splotchy as though he’d been sobbing. Was it from fighting with his wife, or guilt?
“I don’t know, Saul,” he said finally.
Saul ran a hand through his hair. “Look, I’m not asking you to put me up. I’m not asking for money or anything like that.”
“Saul, I’ve seen the evidence,” Godfrey said.
“It’s not real! Come on, you can see that, can’t you? Look at the evidence, really look at it,” He glanced around, as though worried someone might spot him. “I’ll contact you soon. Keep safe, Godfrey. I don’t know how you got on the council, but I think having you there might be our only hope for freedom.”
As he turned, and faded away into the street, Montgomery said, “That was messed up. I can see why you’d want to distance yourself from him.”
“Shut up,” Godfrey said. They continued towards his house. “Can you get that video, maybe take a look at it?”
“No, but you can,” she replied, “You’re the one on the council, not me.”
They walked into the house. Ki was already home, stretched out on the couch, watching tv. She looked up and blinked a few times when she saw Montgomery. “So, you had an interesting first day, I take it?” she asked.
The next morning, Godfrey stumbled into the kitchen to find Montgomery sitting at his table, sipping klav and typing on a virtual keyboard. She glanced up when he came in, and nodded. “Did Ki leave for work already?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said, looking back at the screen hovering in front of her. “She’s nice. What’s she doing with you?”
Godfrey ignored her and started pulling eggs from the fridge. “Sending a report?” he asked.
“Sending an email to my kid,” she replied.
“Does her dad mind that you’ve been at work all night?” Godfrey asked.
“She doesn’t have a dad,” Montgomery said, “My brother’s in higher education. He lives with us, and looks after her while I’m at work.”
“Oh, you had her made, then?” He cracked eggs into a bowl.
“I suppose you’ll have one the old fashioned way on purpose, with no advancements or bacterial protections,” she snapped, sipping her drink. “I mean, in this day and age, why not risk a slew of physical and mental handicaps with an old fashioned birth.”
“Sorry, I wasn’t clear enough with my scorn,” he replied, “I was just thinking how selfish it was to become a single parent on purpose.”
“Tell me how I should raise my kid, with all that experience you have,” she snapped.
He sighed. “Any excitement last night?” he asked.
“One of your neighbor’s dogs got into your trash can,” she said. After taking another long sip of her drink, she added, “I let him.”
He finished cooking eggs and toast, then sat down at the table with her to eat. She made a face at his plate but didn’t say anything.
“I suppose I can’t go to my shop today,” Godfrey said.
“No, what with the killer and all,” she replied.
“Ah,” he said. He finished the rest of his meal in silence.
He was just putting his plate in the dishwasher when Ki burst through the front door. Her shirt was torn so badly that she had to hold it together to cover her front.
“What’s going on?” Godfrey asked.
“I was sent home, for my safety!” Ki cried, “Godfrey, why the hell didn’t you tell me that you almost died yesterday, or that this killer is Khloe? Why did I have to find out from a nurse, after being spit at on the way to work?”
“How did people find out?” Godfrey asked.
“The only people who are supposed to know are police,” Montgomery said, already tapping away at her wrist pad. “Let me see what I can find out.”
“And why didn’t you tell me?” Ki asked her.
Montgomery shrugged. “You’re not my wife,” she said.
Ki muttered, and went to their bedroom to change. Godfrey followed after her. “What happened to your shirt?” he asked.
“Some bitch grabbed me on the transit,” she snapped, pulling it off and throwing it in the trash bin.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” he said, “I didn’t want you to be afraid.”
“Sure, yeah, you just almost died,” Ki said.
Before he could respond, there was a knock on the bedroom door. “Sorry,” Montgomery called, “but I just heard from Commissioner Stone. We’re getting all of the council members to a safe house on Level 2.”
“Why?” Godfrey called, “If they were gonna to do that, why didn’t they do it last night?”
“Because last night there were only two dead council members,” she called. “Councilwoman Heart and her wife were found dead this morning in their house.”
Godfrey opened the door while Ki pulled on a new shirt. “What happened to her police protection?” he asked.
“I guess she didn’t want to let him in the house,” Montgomery replied, “The officer is stating that he didn’t see anyone around the house, no one knows how the killer got in.”
“Maybe he was asleep on the job,” Godfrey replied.
“It was Officer Derick Donovan, who happens to be a good friend of mine and graduated with the highest marks to come out of the academy in three years,” she replied, “Now would you two pack? One bag a piece, please.”
“Fantastic,” Godfrey said, “House arrest wasn’t bad enough?”
“Like this sounds like a vacation for me?” Montgomery said. She stormed towards the living room, muttering. “Haven’t slept in two nights, damned spoiled brat.”
Montgomery led Godfrey and Ki to the bullet shuttle, a hand on her weapon and her eyes scanning the scant crowd on Level 8. Godfrey considered for a moment telling her to stop scaring his neighbor’s, but then he noticed the dirty and frightened looks Ki was attracting.
Level 2 was as quiet as ever. Even so, Montgomery was alert. She led them through the rows of buildings.
“Where are we going?” Ki asked.
“There’s a collection of safe houses, for when we need to keep someone under police surveillance,” Montgomery said.
“Why here?” Godfrey asked, “Why not on Level 10 with the barracks and prison?”
Montgomery gave him a grin. “Mostly because that’s where people would assume it would be.”
The building was non-descriptive, square with circular tinted windows, with cream-colored walls and a light blue door.
Inside, the furnishing was simple. A pair of off-white couches and some matching chairs sat in a circle in the living room. The kitchen was separated from the living room by a white chrome counter.
Councilman Chan and his wife were there already, sitting on the couch and whispering quietly together. Councilwoman Mostevich was there alone, a screen in front of her while she typed away on a virtual keyboard. Her head snapped up when she saw Ki, though.
“She can’t be here,” she said.
“What are you talking about?” Godfrey asked, “Mrs. Chan is here.”
“Mrs. Chan is Earthian,” Mostevich replied.
“Excuse me, It’s not your place to say if she can be here or not,” Godfrey said.
Councilman Chan gave Ki a wary glance. “I would feel more comfortable if Mrs. Anderson was not here as well. It’s nothing personal, Ma’am.”
“No,” Ki said, “I imagine you wouldn’t want any Khloe woman here right now.”
She turned toward the door. “Wait,” Godfrey said. He’d set down his bag, but he scooped it up again. “I’m not staying without you.”
“You can’t leave, Anders,” Mostevich said.
“I don’t care,” Godfrey said, “If I’m in danger then so is Ki.”
“What is all the yelling for?” Councilwoman Voit asked, coming through the front door.
Montgomery stood at attention. “Councilwoman, some of the others are concerned about the presence of Mrs. Anders,” she said.
“Really?” Councilwoman Voit asked.
“Sonya, you can’t pretend your comfortable with this,” Councilwoman Mostevich said, “She’s a Khloe.”
“Emma, what are you thinking?” Councilwoman Voit said. She put an arm around Ki. “You know, when I came to live here on Station 86, I was so proud. This is the station of First Contact, the beacon of sisterhood with our fellow humanoid species. Haven’t we, as a race, evolved far enough to not judge people by the color of their skin? Or are we really still so stupid?”
None of the council members seemed to have a response to this. “Alright,” Councilwoman Voit said, “now that this is settled, we can move onto more important matters. What’s for lunch?”
While the council members and their spouses ate a meal of simulated roast beef and thick slices of Horchee, a glowing green root vegetable from Toth, several more officers arrived. Montgomery seemed to know them all, greeting each one. They ate sandwiches and sipped klav, coffee and tea in the living room while keeping their eyes on the doors and front windows.
After the meal had been cleared away, Councilwoman Voit said, “It’s time to get down to business now, I think. Ki, Melissa, would you two mind giving us the room?”
“I’ll go lay down, I think,” Ki said, giving Godfrey a kiss on the cheek. She and Mrs. Chan left.
“So,” Voit said, setting her elbows on the table. “I know this is a difficult time. Heather, Shannon and especially Thorn were close friends of mine.”
“It’s been a shock to the whole station,” Councilman Chan said, “I can’t remember the last time someone was killed here.”
One of the officers gave a derisive snort, but none of the others said anything.
“I think that may be a bit more optimistic that realistic,” Voit said, “But we certainly have never had something like this happen. So, thoughts on how we should proceed?”
“It seems to me,” Godfrey said, “that we have more questions than we should right now. We’ve only seen one assassin at a time, but something that she said to me leads me to think there may be a whole organization.”
Voit looked over at him quickly. “Really?” she asked, “What did she say?”
“When I told her that she wasn’t going to do her cause any good, killing people, she said, ‘We just want to kill as many of you as possible’.”
Voit nodded. “She might have meant ‘we’ as in the whole Khloe community. Perhaps she believes that her people are on her side.”
“I think it’s likely that we’re just looking at a lone gunwoman,” Councilwoman Mostevich said, “Only one has been seen so far, at least.”
“Isn’t it possible that there are more people in her organization, just not killers?” Councilman Chan asked.
“It doesn’t hurt to assume that there are more, even if we’re wrong,” Godfrey said.
“Unless it distracts us,” Voit said, “Let’s focus on the one we know is there until we have something substantial to prove that there are more.”
“I hate that we’re on the defensive,” Mostevich said, “Can’t the police find anything?”
“We have them out day and night searching,” Voit said.
“And yet no one saw anything last night when Heart and her wife were killed,” Chan said, earning some glares from the officers in the living room.
“We have to act,” Mostevich said, “We know the killer is Khloe. We need to consider monitoring our Khloe citizens. It might not hurt to have them stay somewhere secure for a time.”
Godfrey raised an eyebrow. “Are you kidding me? No, we can’t do that.”
“It’s not a punishment,” Councilman Chan said, “If anything, it’s for their safety. People are scared, and scared people can become violent people.”
“Your wife could stay with you if you prefer,” Mostevich said.
“That’s hardly the point,” Godfrey said.
The council members looked over. Montgomery was standing in the center of the living room, her arms crossed. The other officers stood around her.
“I know that I’m not a council member, and haven’t earned a voice among you,” she said, “I also know that while my birth parents and foster mother were from Earth, I’m not. But we still learn about internment camps up here on the stations. We still know the term Crystal Noct. And I can promise you that if you lock up Station 86 citizens because they’re from a different planet, I’ll drop my badge right here, right now.” The officers behind her nodded in agreement.
“We need more like you, Sennett,” Voit said, “She’s right. I won’t condone seizing our own people.”
“Me either,” Godfrey said.
“Well, I guess I’m a little more concerned with people’s safety than hurting someone’s feelings,” Mostevich said.
Chan looked back and forth for a moment. Everyone was looking at him, and he didn’t seem comfortable with that.
Finally, he said, “It’s something I don’t think we should rule out, but I’m not sure it’s the time for it.”
“Alright, any other arguments, for or against?” Voit asked. When no one volunteered anything, she said, “Great, let’s get on to other matters.”
The rest of the day was full of virtual meetings with Commissioner Stone and leaders from other stations. Eventually, evening came. Ki and Mrs. Chan joined them for dinner.
They were just finishing their meal when an alarm went off on Councilwoman Voit’s wrist pad. She pressed a button, and everyone could hear the voice of Su, the Khloe ambassador. “I am sorry to trouble you so late into the evening,” she said, “but I have just heard from President Ly.”
“No trouble at all,” Voit said, “I’m glad you called.”
“President Ly has received your message, and is coming to the station to handle the matter,” Su said. “She will arrive in two days.”
“Wonderful,” Voit said, “I always look forward to her visits.”
“I am sure that the president looks forward to seeing you as well,” Su said.
Voit finished the call and looked around the table.
“What did she mean, handle the matter?” Godfrey asked.
Voit shook her head. “President Ly is very strict with her people. I wouldn’t be surprised if she intends to come hunt the killer down herself. It’s not like we couldn’t use the help.”
Despite the unfamiliar room, Ki fell asleep almost as soon as they went to bed that night. He supposed she had been up hours before him. Godfrey lay next to her for awhile, on the bed that wasn’t theirs. Finally, unable to take the silence and worried he would wake her, he slipped out into the living room.
Most of the officers were asleep. Montgomery and one other were awake, sitting on the floor leaning against the back of the couch. “Everything alright, Councilman?” the officer asked.
“Fine,” Godfrey said, “Just, you know, can’t sleep.”
“I’m going to do a quick walk around,” the officer said, getting to her feet.
“Something on your mind?” Montgomery asked after her fellow was gone.
“Well, all of this going on,” Godfrey said, “It’s also just, you know.”
“Not your house,” she said, nodding. “I know the feeling. I miss my place.”
“How are you still awake?” he asked.
She held up her wrist and tapped a copper band. “Targeted electric hits,” she said, “Stimulates your body the same way as caffeine.”
“Isn’t that unhealthy, though?” he asked.
“If I use it long term,” she said, “Right now, I don’t have a choice. When I take it off, I’ll crash for awhile.”
Godfrey sighed. “It feels like every year we get farther and farther away from being humans.”
“Do you think this makes me less human?” she asked.
“It makes me think you want to be less human,” he said.
She shook her head. “You’re over thinking technology. This is a tool, and it doesn’t make me less human. It just makes me a more capable human.”
“I don’t know about that,” he said, “One of the trademarks of humanity, all of the humanoid races, is that we’re frail creatures with physical and mental limitations.”
Montgomery shrugged. “Do we have to be?”
He got to his feet. “I think I’m going to try to get some sleep.”
She nodded, looking back towards the windows.
Somehow it made Godfrey feel better, knowing that she was there to keep an eye on things. He went back into the bedroom, laid close to Ki, and fell asleep.
When Godfrey first became aware of the screaming, he thought it must surely be part of his dream. But then he saw that Ki was sitting up.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but that sounds like Mrs. Chan,” she said, getting out of bed.
They went out into the hallway. Mostevich and Voit were already there in their night clothes. Mrs. Chan was standing outside of the bedroom she’d shared with her husband the night before, crying. Montgomery came out of the bedroom. “I’m sorry, he’s dead,” she said.
“No!” Mrs. Chan wailed.
“What happened?” Godfrey asked.
Mrs. Chan looked up, right at Ki. “You!” she screamed, “You bitch, you killed him. Why, what did he ever do to you!”
Ki took a step back. “What are you talking about?” she asked.
“Councilman Chan has been killed,” Voit said, rubbing her eyes
“How did this happen? We were supposed to be safe here!” Mostevich said.
“We’ve been right outside of this door all night,” Montgomery said, “No one went in there.”
“Could they have gotten in from the outside?” Mostevich asked.
“They would have had to blast through a wall,” one of the officers said, “There would be some sort of evidence. There’s nothing.”
“She killed him, I know she did!” Mrs. Chan screamed, pointing at Ki.
“Now look,” Godfrey snapped, “There’s no way Ki would have killed him. She couldn’t have. She was in bed with me all night.”
One of the officers, the one who had left to patrol the night before, said, “But that’s not true, Councilman. You came out here for a time last night.”
“He wasn’t out here that long, Joyce,” Montgomery said, “and we were still just outside of this door. We would have seen her come past. The killer has a personal transporter. She could have come from anywhere in the station. The question isn’t how she got here, it’s how she found out we were here.”
Voit looked up. “A personal transporter.”
“Yes,” Godfrey said.
“Ki, you work at the hospital,” Voit said. “You were issued a transporter for that?”
“Yes,” Ki said. She pulled a chain from around her neck that held the silver circle that was her transporter and hospital credentials.
“There, you see!” Mrs. Chan screamed.
“Mrs. Anderson, will you come with me, please?” one of the other officers asked.
“What are you doing?” Montgomery asked, “Even if she did have a transporter, he still didn’t have time to go from her room to Councilman Chan’s and kill him. Not in the time Anders was in the living room.”
“It’s too much of a coincidence,” the officer replied. She stepped forward, pulling a silver slip of paper from her belt.
“You’re arresting her?” Godfrey cried, “This is crazy!”
Ki held her wrists out, looking frightened. “Don’t be scared,” she whispered to Godfrey. “I’m innocent, so there’s no reason to be afraid of questioning.”
Godfrey thought that she could think that all she wanted, not having grown up on Earth. “No, I’m not letting you take her!” he cried, reaching for the officer who held her.
Montgomery grabbed his arm. “Don’t,” she whispered, “Or we’ll have to bring you in.”
“Listen to her,” Ki said, as she left, the officer holding her wrists, “Listen to Sennett, Godfrey. I’ll see you soon.”
Godfrey felt as though he couldn’t breathe. He watched as Ki was led out of sight, trying desperately to take a breath.
“I can’t, I can’t stay here,” he said and stumbled for the door.
“Godfrey, you can’t leave,” Voit said, “We’re in a crisis.”
“I don’t care!” he cried.
He rushed outside before anyone could stop him. He didn’t even know where he intended to go, just that he couldn’t stay there.
He was a few blocks away before he realized he wasn’t alone. Montgomery, Sennett, had followed him. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” she asked, “Look, there’s a bench over there. Sit down a minute.”
She steered him over to the bench and gave him a push. “She’ll go to jail for this,” he said, “She could be killed there.”
Sennett stood in front of him and crossed her arms. “No, she won’t,” she said, “because we’re going to find the real killer first.”
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole C. Luttrell
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Station Central has been touted as the vacation destination in the stars. Its success and popularity as not only a great place to vacation, but a great place to live was the start of mankind moving off of Earth and into the stars.
Sennett, Godfrey and Liam head there in search of a much-needed vacation. Instead, they find a council at war with each other, a population starving and an accused murderer lurking in the shadows. Sennett and Godfrey fight to keep April safe as family secrets threaten to destroy them, even as the Hollow Suits come out of hiding and attack. Will they survive the fourth installment of Station 86?