He shook his head as he walked away from the depot, clearing out the cobwebs in his mind. Traveling by slug was the cheapest option, and he was on a budget, but the claustrophobic nature of what amounted to a coffin inside a ferrous projectile still bothered him. He checked the oxygen rig he wore, just in case he’d missed something after swapping it with his filtration mask. Safety regulations on Luna were strict, what with hard vaccuum outside, but he wasn’t the type to take chances.
Then why are you here, Dave?
He rubbed the bridge of his nose as he walked. His PDA hummed and he tapped his wrist to check its holo-display. Another message from the Futuron investors. Working for two clients at the same time was nothing new for him – times like this, you took all the work you could – but he couldn’t shake the feeling he was caught between two warring sides.
“You might want to start with Clive Jameson, the research head.” Catherine Hart’s suggestion echoed in Dyson’s ears. He pushed memories of her away. Her presence unnerved and intrigued him all at once. She was corporate, meaning she wasn’t to be trusted, but her perfect body and velvet voice refused to let go of him. She was by far the most dangerous woman he’d ever met, which probably explained at least part of the reason she turned him on.
Focus, Dave. Find the egghead.
Neon pulsed above and around the storefronts in the dingy corridors. Luna’s miners and researchers were in two separate compounds, and while most respectable scientists stuck with their own, Jameson hadn’t come here to compare notes on nanorobotics with someone. Dyson rounded a corner to find the lurid silhouettes and tantalizing signage he was seeking.
RED LIGHT ROOMS – OUT OF THIS WORLD – GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS
He took a deep breath and walked through the door. The lighting indeed was more subdued and crimson than the utilitarian fluorescence in the corridor. A few girls of various builds and wearing about one outfit between the lot of them were dancing on tables and around poles, enticing tips from the leering men and women around them. A tall woman with a buzzed haircut stood behind the bar, and she was the one Dyson approached.
“What’ll it be, dick?”
She smirked. She had a ring in her lower lip. “You walked in here with a purpose, rather than a hard-on. You’re dressed for Earth streets, you’ve got a high-end comm on your wrist and if I’m not mistaken you’re packing a 10mm select-fire Ruger Blackwater under that fashionable coat. So do you want a drink before you start busting up the place?”
Dyson smiled. “You an ex-cop?”
“Five years, Dallas downtown.”
“Seven, Philly homicide.”
She extended her hand. “Mira. Nice to meet you.”
“Dave. Likewise.” She had a firm grip. “And I’ll take a Walker Twenty on the rocks and a quick ID.”
“Information costs more than imported booze, handsome.”
He put a bill on the bar. She examined it and set about his drink.
“I’m looking for a Terran egghead.” He brought up the picture on his wrist display.
“Saw him disappear into the back with Chloe. Wasn’t too long ago so you probably won’t catch them at it if that’s what you’re after.”
He thanked Mira, downed his whiskey, and headed towards the back rooms. Only one door was locked.
Knock, knock. “Clive Jameson?”
“I’m here about Catherine Hart.”
A pause from within, followed by some scrambling. The door opened a crack.
“Can it wait? I’m in the middle of…”
“The late-night experiments. Tell me about them and I’ll leave.”
After a moment he stepped out of the door, closing it behind him. He wore a Red Light Rooms robe which he held closed with a tight fist.
“I should call my lawyer.”
“I’m private, Doc. No Miranda, just questions. Your boss is concerned about your extra-curriculars, and I don’t mean the Lunar trim you’ve been plowing.”
Jameson winced. “If my wife and kids knew…”
“I won’t say a word to them if you start talking.”
“Okay. We wanted to explore artificial intelligence. We have the means for a subject to walk around indistinguishable from-”
“Stop right there. You know how illegal that shit is.”
“Yes, yes, I know. Why do you think I’m here? If Futuron found out…”
There was a ruckus back in the main room. Women screaming. Dyson looked over his shoulder and saw three men in dark suits with weapons drawn scanning the room. One of them spotted Dyson and raised the rifle.
The coilgun slug made a whip-crack sound as it flew past Dyson. He ducked into an open room. Two more goons appeared flanking the shooter and started opening up. When the tiny sonic cracks of the weapons subsided, he moved back out, pistol in his hands, and old firing range instinct kicked in.
Center of mass. Take your time. Make them count.
He dropped two and winged the third. The wounded one tried to raise his weapon but there was the boom of a shotgun from the bar. Mira leaned out to look down the corridor, a sawn-off over-and-under in her hands.
Dyson looked to Jameson. The scientist lay dead on the floor, the robe splayed open, a hole each in his chest and head.
“Everybody but Chloe’s client.”
He stood and walked to the dead assassins. Mira was already searching the bodies and handed him a slate.
“You’ll want to see this.”
It was a list of five names with attached photos. Two were men he didn’t recognize. One was Jameson. One was him.
And one was Catherine Hart.
He fumbled in his wallet for more bills. “Call the Lunar PD. Sorry about the mess.” He handed her the money and ran out towards the depot.
He wasn’t a praying man, but if he were, he’d pray the damn slug back to Earth moved fast enough.