Part 3: Talon - Chapter 12

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A minute later they were out of the door at the back of the building and looking at the busy street from behind a metal fence.

'Where's your hotel?' asked Maddy, hailing a taxi as it cruised past.

Geranium gave the address to the taxi, but Maddy made the car take a longer route, looking around all the time to see if they were being followed. As they approached Geranium's hotel, Maddy made the taxi stop a hundred metres short while they looked at the building.

'It seems quiet enough,' said Geranium.

It did. They climbed out and started walking quickly towards the building. 'Now just grab the minimum stuff you need and get out,' instructed Maddy. 'No argument.' She had an impression, if this girl was anything like a typical Elite, that she would have a ton of luggage and possessions. A thought occurred to her for the first time as she looked at the girl's clothes.

'Where are your parents, by the way?'

A moment's pause. 'On Earth.'

'Why are you here by yourself?'

'I'm allowed to be.' Maddy caught the whine in the girl's voice and decided not to press the point.

They paused at the corner of the street. 'Is there a back way in?'

The girl nodded and pointed around the block. They headed that way and peered around the corner. A car was parked outside the hotel. 'Do you recognise that vehicle?' asked Maddy.

Geranium looked. 'No. But it's just a car.'

The car didn't appear to have anyone in it, which meant nothing. Its AI could have been told to watch out for two people with their descriptions. Maddy weighed their chances of the vehicle being innocent, of the whole set up being just a product of her paranoia.

'Send her,' she said, pointing at Sarti.

The slave started and looked at her mistress.

'Send her in to get what you want.' Maddy continued. 'Clothes. Essentials. Don't get everything, it's probably not possible to carry it. Tell her to be quick.'

Geranium just stared at Sarti. Maddy swore—was the girl totally thick? Sending the slave in was logical: if there were Helots in there waiting for them, they would be less likely to injure a fellow Helot, particularly a woman. As soon as Maddy justified it to herself, however, it didn't seem so convincing.

After a moment, Geranium nodded. 'Sarti, here's the access card. You know where everything is. Just find the essentials—yours and mine. Nothing extra. You saw what Linda here put in her pack. That's the sort of things you need to get. Just one suitcase between us.'

'Yes, miss.' The woman stepped into the street, paused and looked back. 'Miss, I'm scared.'

Maddy felt Geranium stir as if about to approach the slave, and put a hand out to stop her. Geranium nodded and the slave walked towards the rear entrance of the hotel. The car remained motionless. No hidden person leaped out. Sarti gained the back door and entered.

The other two waited for a moment in silence.

'Is she going to be all right?' Geranium asked, peering around the corner at the rear door while Maddy kept glancing all around, trying to stay as inconspicuous as possible.

'That's why we sent her in. You seem fond of her.' Maddy wondered how that was possible, an Elite fond of a slave. There were weirder things in the universe, but not many.

'Who are your parents?' Maddy remembered the girl had been going to give her surname, and had stopped. Cautious, and wise.

'My father is a Marquis. I seldom see him, though. I live with my mother. She's the Marchioness. Well, obviously, she would be.'

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