After putting the last unisuit into the case, Tessa sealed it in, taming the overflow. She took a sad look around the unit. Her gaze stopped on a holo from a few years before. She and Tony looked so happy. She closed her eyes and blew out a breath. It was a long time since happy. She trudged through the hatch and spun the lock. It was over.
Tony still left gifts outside the hatch to Petra’s unit two months later. No surprise he figured out where she went when she left him. Ear drops, tongue fizzles, even a real flower one day. So lovely – if she didn’t know him so well. Creepers since she did.
Alry and Petra’s relief when she left Tony surprised Tessa. She hadn’t hid the bruises and jumpiness as well as she thought. Her friends were encouraging, helping her through the fearsome fits and backflashers. Tony’s little presents didn’t help. They weren’t meant to help.
The gifts stopped, replaced by notes. Sweet words, cajoling tones. She could hear Tony’s voice, all soft and kind like in the beginning, when she read them. Petra tossed the first one into the cycler. Tessa saw the wisdom and cycled them each upon arrival. She went cold and still when the first angry one arrived. Petra didn’t throw that one in the cycler. She kept it for the law takers. Kept it and all the ones following. Alry insisted on giving her a lasertaze to carry in her handsack. “Better to have it and be safe,” he told her. Tessa put the taze in her sack, hand shaking.
Ever since, she was freakered, imagining she saw Tony in the sea of workers commuting each day. Ridiculous. His work assignment was too precious to him. He’d never risk it by coming all the way to this side of the dome during worktime. She shook it off again today, forcing herself not to reach into her sack and clutch the lasertaze.
Working late was super sour, but she took a wage slice when she moved across dome. The overwage helped. Tessa scurried to join a group of people waiting to cross a pedi zone. She caught a single glimpse of Tony off to the side, his eyes glittering in the genny light. The crowd surged forward and Tessa was carried along, her belly shivering. No freakering this time. It wasn’t her imagination. The taze was cool against her palm.
She took a crosswise pedi zone on the other side, ending up across the motor zone on another blocking. A mob of people was in front of the flimsiplex. She mixed into the crowd. A small group broke free, walking a blocking before taking the next pedi zone. She walked beside a tall woman. Tessa figured seeming like an anonymous couple in the dim lighting might hide her. Tossing a glance over her shoulder swiftly, she thought perhaps she lost him.
Her walking partner shot her a look when Tessa kept up to the next blocking. Survival instinct told her to shift her path. She joined people taking the left pedi at the next turnout. She felt more than actually tweaked a look at the imminent danger behind. More freakering? No, she didn’t lose him after all. She gave in and tapped her temple, muttering Petra’s name to buzz up her vidscreen. “Tony’s following me,” she squeaked to her friend’s image.
Alry yelled from the background, “Where are you?” She darted a look at the glowbox on the building she was passing and read it quietly. “Law takers are on the way,” he called out. “They have your PhysIdent. They’ll find you.”
“Bono, Alry. Breaking comm, need to think.” Without waiting, Tessa tapped her temple twice and reached into her sack to grip the lasertaze again.
Hurrying through the next pedi, leaving complaints in her wake, she heard her name called out. Breath caught in her throat, she again darted a look over her shoulder. Tony pushed his way toward her. His thunderous face made her go cold, her feet heavy and slow. A roaring filled her ears as she tried to drag in air. Her numb fingers gripped the taze.
Tony grabbed her shoulder roughly and yanked her back against him. At the same moment, something cold and sharp bit her throat. An actual old-timey knife? He didn’t want just to scare her this time. “Come with me, Tessa,” he hissed, pulling her back even harder.
“Yes, Tony. I’ll go with you. Please don’t hurt me,” she whimpered, caught in backflasher and trying to placate the monster he became.
Vicious laughter sent warm breath against her ear. “You’ll get what you deserve. No more, no less,” he warned. As she trembled, the knife cut more deeply. She felt hot blood dribble from the cut. It sliced through the backflasher. Anger boiled in her belly as she thought of what he put her through, before and after she left. What he was putting her through right now. A flick of her wrist in the sack.
The smoking hole in the sack told the story as much as the shock paralyzed on Tony’s face. He dropped like a plasteel chunk. Tessa held her hand to her bloody throat, relief flooding her as she took in the sight of him, still and gurgling. The shiny blade clattered, falling with him. Law takers surrounded him and someone gently tugged her away.
Dazed, shaking within her warm mylar cocoon, she held up her chin so the medic could seal the slash. “Lucky he didn’t have good aim, lady,” the medic murmured.
Petra’s voice was distant. Tessa opened her eyes and startled. Petra was right next to her. “Tessa, you’re safe. It’s bono, you tazed him.” Her friend’s hand was warm as it cupped her cheek.
Tessa replayed the scene over and over as the medic finished. Her thoughts alternated between Tony falling and that hateful look on his face beforehand. “Where is he?” Her whisper was hoarse.
Alry leaned in to where she sat in the medimotor. “All smooth, Tessa. The taze wore off and the takers got him talking to a lawbot now. He’ll be underground longtime. You stopped him.”
“All bono, yeah?” Petra’s smile sparked a faint one from Tessa.
“Bono, yeah.” Super smooth.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3724807427/ By Kevin Dooley