Allison locked up the Nebula. “Who’s going to try to steal a fighter with no seat anyway?” she muttered. “Then again, we are on Arkasis.”
“Exactly,” Leon said. “Why do you think the beacon stopped transmitting?”
“Point taken,” Allison said. “I always wondered why the peace keepers out here were so damn ineffectual.”
“Cause the effective ones don’t live long,” Leon stated. “Back when I was still working there was talk of how to reform the world and bring it back under control. Don’t know what happened to that.”
“I went to a seminar about it once,” Allison said. “Lot of talk, no action.”
“Whatever,” Leon shrugged. “Not our business any more. The readings showed the beacon above the desert to the north of here. We can head right to the scene, but it would probably be wiser to try and gather some information around the city first.”
“Didn’t expect you to be so level-headed about it,” Allison stated. “I thought you’d dash right to the scene screaming ‘Paul, Paul!'”
Leon glared at her. “”The beacon stopped working. Paul, Grace and Yuri may very well be in this city. If they are, we have to find and rescue them.”
“I can’t imagine a bunch of thugs and sleazy business people posing a threat to Yuri,” Allison said.
“She might have been damaged when they landed,” Leon said. “In any case, we’d better make sure.”
The two headed into the city. They went directly to a thriving bazaar and examined some of the stalls. Allison nudged Leon and gestured towards one in particular. It had some very familiar electronic components on display.
“Shuttle?” Leon whispered.
“Probably,” Allison answered.
“Give me a couple minutes,” Leon said. “I’ll find out…”
“No!” Allison interrupted. “This requires a subtle touch. You stay back and watch the mistress at work.”
Allison bent to grab some sand before walking briskly over. She lifted a nearly intact console from the shuttle. She turned it over in her hands, feigning great interest.
“Looks custom-made,” she observed.
“You have a very good eye, Miss,” the shop keep stated. “It is indeed. We found a fine little bit of salvage. Almost all custom, very expensive.”
“Is that so?” Allison asked. “How much better does this work than the standard?”
“My experts assure me that it is almost forty percent more efficient,” the merchant said. “More if you were to buy the rest. They’ve been optimised to work together.”
“Oh, do you have the whole thing?” Allison asked.
“We have everything that still works out for sale,” he assured her. “My experts are trying to repair the more heavily damaged components right now.”
Allison picked some sand out of it. “I see you found it in the desert.”
“Oh yes a mere twenty kilometres to the north,” he said. “I see my assistant was less than thorough when cleaning it up. For that I apologise. I will have her fix it immediately.”
Allison handed the console to him. “Don’t worry too much,” she reassured him. “Most of it looks very nice.” She leaned over and nodded towards Leon. “I’m thinking about getting a new model. What would you have in stock?”
The merchant looked at Leon and then over to Allison. “I think we can work something out,” he said. He passed her a brochure. Inside were pictures of people standing in front of vehicles. “I know that the same ride can get tiresome after a while. We have many models for you.”
Allison looked through the brochure. Men both older and younger. Even some young boys. All posed in front of the vehicles with forced smiles on their faces and sad eyes. “You know,” Allison said. “I’ve been thinking about trying something different. Something more… elegant.” She winked. “If you catch my drift.”
“Oh yes,” he said. “I understand perfectly.” He handed her a different brochure. Same vehicles, but this one was full of women and girls.
“These photos all look pretty new,” she observed, flipping through the pages.
“Oh yes,” he said. “We’re very busy so we update our product information twice a day.”
“Very professional of you,” she said. She closed the brochure and sighed. “I’ll have to think about it. I really liked number 16 and number 23. I’ll bring some people with me to collect those marvelous computer parts and decide then.” She shrugged. “Maybe I’ll take both.”
“I’ll hold those two just for you,” he said, smiling. “Just come to claim the one you want before the end of the day.”
“Thank you,” Allison said. “Leon, come along.”
Leon followed her and they quickly left the bazaar.
“Well?” Leon demanded.
“I found out where they crashed,” Allison answered. “I also learned that they weren’t taken prisoner.”
“Then let’s go find them,” Leon said.
Allison grabbed his shoulder. “Before we go, tell me why I can’t blast that slime-ball’s skull open.”
“Because we’d cause an uproar and get ourselves killed,” Leon answered. “All without actually helping any of those people.”
Allison nodded. “Yeah, I know. I just needed to hear it.” She sighed. “Acting chummy with someone like that, even out of necessity, it just makes me feel dirty and not in a fun way.”
“Don’t blame you,” Leon said. “Ready to go rescue our loves and Grace?”
“Yeah,” Allison said. “At least that’ll feel good.”