Theseus watched the aircar for a few seconds, then shook his head. "Back to the party. We need company."
Alicia didn't argue. The aircar was landing and they were lucky the street was so narrow that it couldn't find a clear spot very close.
Or was that luck? Theseus had been careful so far. She thought he might have kept them to the narrow road just for this reason.
They hadn't gone far from the crowd, but even so she could hear people running behind them. Theseus cursed and pushed her sightly ahead of him, clearly trying to protect her.
"Run," he said. He reached under his left arm, pulling a laser pistol. She looked at the weapon, startled. "Go!"
"I don't know where!" she replied, truly panicked. The weapon made this real. "Where --"
"Damn. You're right." He kept the laser in hand but stayed with her. "Come on."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she said, almost stumbling, though she was glad that he wasn't staying behind. She didn't want to lose him.
See him killed?
Both of them killed?
This had been like an adventure until now. The threat of those weapons behind them wasn't made any better when the flash of a laser cut into a tree just to her right.
"Oh yeah, they're serious," Theseus said, slightly breathless. "Cut to the right and then back to the left past those trees. Don't run . . . Straight line."
She grunted agreement and darted to the side and back, her head pounding with her heart. When Theseus tripped, she grabbed his arm out of instinct and kept going; it was a few steps before she realized she smelled burnt cloth and that he wasn't fully recovering.
He'd been shot.
"Al -- Almost there," he said, the words a slight gasp. "As soon as we -- we reach people, slow down. Head back to the cafe."
She gave a frightened grunt of agreement, trying to keep her body moving and not look back, even when she thought she could hear people coming closer. The lights were closer ahead, though, and the music louder. She could hear laugher, and then they came around a corner and back into the midst of others.
Alicia didn't feel any safer for it. They were a long ways from the cafe, and what would happen when they got there? They'd be trapped. They couldn't --
Theseus leaned slightly against her but moved at a steady step. He said nothing and he didn't slow. They were among people now, but she feared for their lives if those people began firing again.
"We won't be safe there," she said softly. Panic was starting to overcome everything else and she started to tremble. "They'll know --"
"Safe," he said, repeating the word through clinched teeth. "Friends."
She had to keep control and she had to believe that Theseus knew what he was doing because she had no better ideas. The Cafe was only a couple more blocks away and if they were being followed, at least the growing crowd would slow the others up.
But she was tagged. It wouldn't be safe --
Get him to the cafe, at least. Worry about the rest afterwards. At least she had a destination. When she saw the building's welcome windows she almost cried, but this was not the time to break down. Later. When she really understood what was happening.
They reached the door and she pulled it open. There were a lot of customers inside and every table had been taken, but she saw the way the people who worked there all turned their way.
"Ah, my friend, my friend!" The larger man came out of the back and embraced Theseus. "You come back to teach me a new recipe like you said! Welcome!"
And they were bundled back into the kitchen amidst much laughing --
"What the hell, Theseus? Where are you hurt? You look like hell!"
"Shot -- left thigh. Not bad. But she's tagged, Gregor. Need a safe room."
"Ah. Should have thought. This way."
Gregor had hold of Theseus, but he caught her arm, too and pulled her along. She didn't argue.
They went down some stairs and through a door that wasn't obvious in the wall and into a very nicely appointed room. She stood, there, stunned for a moment.
"Sit down," Theseus said softly. "Just sit. I'll get this cleaned up and something to kill the pain and we'll try something else."
Gregor took him to another room. She stood there for a moment and then collapsed onto the nearest chair. Comfortable. Nice. But she couldn't stop shivering.
Theseus came back out of the room. She had no idea how long he'd been, but he was limping slightly and wore a new pair of pants. He carefully sat on the sofa and leaned back.
"Well, that didn't go as well as I had hoped."
"Tagged," she said. She couldn't quite get that out of her mind. "How?"
"Could have been done any time in the last year or so," he said with a frown. "Though I'm betting it was recent and they simply hadn't gotten to me yet. In fact -- did Arisla ask you to come in for a quick check up because they were worried about the flu?"
"Yes," she said. "She did one hypo to check my blood."
"That's it. I was supposed to, but I got called out to a meeting and it wasn't set up again. Gregor? What can we do?"
"Not going to try and get it out of her," he said and she felt a little wave of relief. "I'll make up a nice necklace with something to counter the tracker. Also, we'll send a dog off with something on the same frequency." He pulled a pocketcomp, waved in in front of her, and nodded. "I'll get right on that one."
He left and the door sealed shut. For all she knew, they were trapped here. Alicia didn't feel any safer.
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