Jade Archer 
   ~ A Shot For The Heart ~
Excerpt ~ Why Jay Ran Away

Chapter Four




Jaycen huddled into the shadows, avoiding the bright overhead lights of the space dock. He was cold and frightened, and he hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day. Since it was now after midnight, he felt like his stomach was trying to gnaw its way out through his back bone and go off foraging on its own. He cringed when another loud rumble from his unruly belly echoed loudly in his ears. It would be so embarrassing if he was caught because his stomach gave him away.

Then again, he thought sardonically, he probably wouldn’t have to worry about being embarrassed for too long. The people who were after him were merciless killers. They were hardly likely to keep him around long enough for him to be mortified by his rowdy gastro-intestinal tract. Not with what he knew.

He wished he could risk stopping for some food, but he didn’t dare. Not after the near disaster at the hypernet cafe earlier this evening. So much for thinking it would be as simple as getting a message out of the system to alert the intergalactic authorities and just disappearing into the ether to await their arrival. It had been worth a try, he guessed, but it was obvious they were on to him already. And they weren’t mucking around.

He shivered as he remembered how close they had come to catching him. How close they might be right now for all he knew.

Spooked, he spun around and peered into the dark alley formed by the two containers he was using as a hiding spot. He could have kicked himself for acting like a frightened kitten, but the truth was he really had no idea who was after him, or where they might be right now. So it wasn’t such an irrational move. They could quite conceivably walk right up behind him and knock him on the head before he even knew they were there.

The tracing worm that had attached itself to his outgoing netmail had certainly been there, and it had been a nasty little bastard too. Vicious enough to block both the mail and close down the protection system he had put in place before attempting to get his message out. Since he was no slouch when it came to encryption and protection coding, he knew that whoever they were using to track him down was definitely good. And ruthless.

He hadn’t hung around long enough to find out how close the tracer had gotten to pin-pointing him. And he hadn’t actually spotted anyone, but he could feel them. He was almost certain someone was out there right now, slowly closing the net around him with every second he dawdled. Edging their way in steadily in order to take him down. The trouble was he wasn’t sure which direction to take to avoid them. He was too afraid to move forward in case he ran right into them, and yet he knew he couldn’t go back.

What a mess!

“Come on,” he finally scolded himself under his breath, “get it together and get your ass in gear.” Standing around cogitating was just making it easier for them to catch up with him.

Peering around fearfully, the only people he saw were the dock workers milling around and a security team leaning back against the wall under one of the huge amber flood lights that allowed the busy space dock to continue working day and night. Suddenly, he heard the shrill whistle that signalled break time and knew that it was now or never.

He waited pensively as the workers and the guards trudged off towards their break rooms. Then, still crouching down low, he made a mad dash along the rows of containers waiting to be loaded, towards the huge cargo ship Orion waiting patiently at the far end of the landing pad. He knew from hacking into the shipping manifest earlier that it was due to leave for Centre in the next few hours, and he prayed he could sneak on board and find a nice, safe place to hide until they were off-world. Or, preferably, out of the Mebian system altogether.

Silently, he thanked his father for all the stories and titbits of information he had given him from his time on the docks as a contract slave. He needed every advantage he could get right now. Knowing the best way to sneak onto a freighter and the safest places to hide on board could make the all difference. This could be his one and only chance to get out and alert someone to what was going on here.

He knew the regular passenger ships were out of the question. Mr Drake was sure to have covered those. The hypernet obviously wasn’t an option anymore. And Drake had enough power and influence to make going to the authorities in the Mebian system almost laughable if it hadn’t been such a deadly serious situation. So dear old dad’s long winded and often tedious tales of life on the docks might be the one thing that saved them all.

Funny how life worked out sometimes, he thought absently.

Suddenly, long arms reached out of the shadows between two containers as he rushed past and wrapped around him. They caught him completely off guard, and he didn’t even have enough time to scream before a hand clamped firmly over his mouth.

Belatedly, he began to struggle. He kicked and wiggled and thrashed, but it was a futile gesture. He was helpless against the big, strong body he was dragged up against. Before he knew what was happening, he was being manhandled back into the alleyway by his attacker. Panic began to overwhelm him, clouding his senses with terror and the desperate need to get free.

“Ssshhh. Calm down, Jay. It’s me,” the man whispered urgently behind him.

His brain finally registered the familiar scent of the man wrapped around him. But it only made him struggle all the harder. He cried out in a muffled shout of fear into the hand still clamped firmly around his mouth. Mounting dread threatened to swamp him as he realized he was in Nic’s arms. The one place he had always felt safe and secure could quite possibly be the place he took his last breath, he realized with a sob of fear and sorrow.

What would Nic do with him? he wondered in terror. He had no doubt the man could squash him like a bug if he wanted to. The huge, strong hands currently struggling to hold him still and silent could easily wrap around his neck and choke the life out of him.

How could this be happening? Another broken sob built in his chest and threatened to break free.

“Please Jay. Listen to me. Let me explain.”

Shaking his head furiously, he tried to bite at the hand over his mouth and clawed at the arm still around his waist. He was in full panic mode now and wasn’t giving it up any time soon. Right now, panic was his friend.

He refused to listen to a word the man said as he kicked and fought against Nic’s hold. Instead he focused on doing his best to get away. And if he couldn’t get away, then he was going to inflict as much damage as possible before he went down.

“Ow!” Nic cried out softly behind him as he tried to stay quiet, even while he was attacked and had to grapple to keep hold of him. “Jay! Damn it! Stop it! Just listen to me for a second. I don’t want to hurt you!”

Yeah right, he thought cynically.

`Why Jay Ran Away' available from Total-E-Bound 18th of October, 2010!

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