Smoke Sample

“Damn!” Smoke muttered into his beer, as the most interesting man in the tavern stood up and pulled on an ankle length leather coat before striding out into the dark. Smoke pouted into his glass for a moment. He had been making plans that included that tall, slender body; and now his prey had left before Smoke could put any of his plans into effect. One cool glance from an emerald eye was hardly an agreement to a night of fun, but it had been a step in the right direction. Finding out if there was another matching eye hidden under the shock of shiny brown hair that had concealed half of the handsome face had been one of the plans.

Smoke glanced casually around the busy tavern and confirmed his earlier assessment. There was nobody else here who looked interesting enough to be bothered with. He drained his glass and dropped a few coins on the table. There was only one thing to do: follow his prey and try and get the evening back on track!

Smoke stepped out of the tavern and strolled across the road, drawing in lungfuls of the cool night air. His nose automatically filtered out the myriad scents of the portside city, searching for leather and Emerald-eye’s unique aroma. He sauntered in the direction he was sure the man had taken, hands tucked loosely into his wide belt. His eyes scanned the street, and he caught a glimpse of his prey in the distance. He smiled to himself and followed. A chase would add to the pleasure.

***

The spot between Tyrak’s shoulder blades was itching. This was all just too convenient. It was either a trap for him; or a frame for the Ambassador; or maybe, just maybe, a fairly clever attempt to make it look like a frame. It couldn’t be as simple as it looked. Could it? Tyrak shook his head and watched the dim red light on the data stick. As soon as it changed to green he could leave. It wasn’t part of his job to speculate about the guilt or innocence of a suspect. He just had to collect the information for others to decide.

He found himself listening intently, trying to make out any sounds in the suite or the corridor over the soft whir of the computer. He couldn’t hear anything, but that didn’t mean that there was nothing to hear. He caught himself drumming his fingers on the desktop as he glared at the red light. He closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe deeply. Just because everything had gone smoothly so far didn’t mean he could relax or forget his training. He had to remain alert until he got off this benighted planet. Once he was safely away, he could give in to the frustration he had been suppressing. Now he had to remain cool and calm. There was no place for impatience and hasty actions in this mission.

He opened his eyes and scanned the dark room before he let himself look at the light again. It flickered to green as he looked, and he couldn’t help the silent sigh of relief. He pocketed the data stick and waited for the computer to shut down, before moving through the welcome silence to the door. He eased the lock slowly, to avoid any sudden click as it disengaged, and cracked the door open enough to be able to glance either way along the corridor. It was still deserted. He slipped through the door and locked it again. He switched off the jammer and headed for the stairs. He would leave the same way he came in.

“Gamma reporting. West corridor quiet. Proceeding to South.”

The sudden voice, and the replying burst of static, sped Tyrak’s heartbeat. A security guard was doing rounds; he identified the communication without a second thought. The voice came from ahead of him, and he was only half-way to the stairs. He measured the distance to the stairwell with his eyes as his ears tracked the guard’s muffled footsteps. No time. He would be caught if he tried to run for the stairs. He slipped into one of the bedrooms just as he caught a glimpse of movement from the end of the corridor.

He leaned back against the door, and closed his eyes. It was pitch black in the room after the bright, but tasteful, illumination of the hallway. He listened carefully. Was the guard just walking the corridor? Or was he checking each room? Damn! The sound of a door closing followed by a few footsteps and another door closing gave him the answer he didn’t want. He needed to hide, and quickly. He opened his eyes and searched the room with his dark adapted vision. The far side of the bed should do as a hiding place; the guard was only giving each room a cursory examination. He crossed the room in three silent strides and threw himself down in the shelter of the bed just as he heard the door handle rattle.

He landed face down on something that shouldn’t have been there. Or, rather, someone who shouldn’t have been there. Before he could do more than stiffen in surprise, arms and legs wrapped around him, and a mouth covered his. The reflected light of the security guard’s torch beam showed him wide, dark eyes that seemed to be laughing at him. The light vanished, and the door closed, but the kiss didn’t end.

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