No-one defined this as stalking. What worthy prey could be found here? The place teemed with vermin, lives frail and momentary. Rammen could grind them to paste under his boot and not even flinch. Tracking through endless shopping centres, each blurring together like tacky Christmas baubles, wore thin. This particular human-infested temple of consumption was the biggest and brassiest of all -- the international base in a chain owned by Father’s organisation, Dominion Corp.
So, Rammen had indulged in a slim act of rebellion and ‘appropriated’ a $30 000 bottle of Cognac from Father’s private cellars. He took a long satisfying swig and sneered up at the cameras. The theft earned a world of trouble and the booze tasted worse than yak’s piss, but every burning swallow felt a meagre victory. He stretched and yawned, seated on a table in the packed food-court, back against a pillar, legs thrust its length, following yet another ludicrous command. Abruptly summoned from the isolated hunt, he’d arrived at their penthouse only yesterday. A tent on an Alaskan glacier felt more like home. The question repeated: why?
He picked a hole in his jeans, mood blackening by the second. Nearby, an infant screamed non-stop. How could such a tiny thing make that much forsaken racket? It was worse than a Howler Vex. Drowning his sorrows seemed better than facing the reality of an extended visit. And it kept him balanced, surrounded by those who would not fair well should he lose his temper.
“Hey, you! Kid!”
Curse it to the black void! Rammen psychically kicked himself for losing focus. The hall snapped back to clarity -- fast food odours, tinny muzak, swarming people.
“Kid! The underage one with a hearing problem consuming alcohol in a family facility.”
He hadn’t noticed the approaching security guards, hands resting on baton-grips, expressions hostile. And in further defiance, he stalked uncloaked without weapons or Nox, his ferociously protective night-hound. Head down, the incriminating bottle resting between knees, Rammen observed through lowered lids.
The blasted family with the squalling spawn had alerted the authorities. They grouped adjacent, eyeing his scuffed boots and wild appearance. No cause for concern just yet. Two paunchy specimens sauntered over, their uniforms crumpled from lounging in the surveillance booth, jaws slack from too much junk food.
“No alcohol allowed! And what are you, seventeen?”
Rammen wavered; kill them all? The annoying baton unsheathed to tap the sole of his boot. He lifted his head a notch, undecided. The spectacle would cause… Well, a spectacle. Father, the murderous bastard, would strangle him with his own intestine for revealing himself in broad daylight.
“He look familiar to you, Bert?”
The cub squirmed in its pram, red faced, fists balled. It took a shuddering breath and peeked through lashes to check its performance gained an audience. Rammen caught its eye. For the briefest moment, he peered into its unsophisticated mind and willed it to sleep. The mother blinked surprise at this sudden blessed silence. She glanced worriedly at the sauced-up hoodlum one table over. Now he could think.
“How ’bout you move it along. Take the bottle elsewhere.” Tap, tap, tap on his shoe. “We don’t have to call the Police…” The threat hung.
Okay, Rammen decided. A daylight massacre was not wise. He pulled a breath to contain his power and stared full-faced at the oaf brandishing the stick. Aged about forty, cheeks mapped by burst capillaries, a life lived beneath potential. The old boy goggled and scuttled backwards into his colleague. They stumbled and blabbered. Rammen awaited their composure.
“It’s obvious you’re not causing a ruckus.”