Winter Kill – Chapter Nine

THE SILVER SIRIUS, CRYSTALDELL, IOTA PARADA

Rue craned her neck as she tried to take it all in. The Silver Sirius was several stories high and was one of the oldest buildings in Cyrstaldell, the capital city of the planet Iota Parada. On the walls of the Silver Sirius were carvings of Crystaldell when the city was first constructed. A simple glance around showed that much had changed.

“Has the person made contact yet?” Racquel’s voice crackled in her ear, shattering Rue’s thoughts.

The person Racquel was referring to was the agent Tarlyle’s Prime Minister Mooney had promised them.

“No, no contact. How will we know this person?” Rue replied.

“Judging from the lack of information we’ve been provided, I would say we won’t. The contact will know us,” Racquel replied, who was just in the dark this time as Rue and Bond were.

Bond, Racquel, and Rue had agreed to check into the hotel at separate times, just in case. After arriving earlier, the three of them had separated at the space port, just in case. They each had a minuscule communicator planted in their ears which allowed them to communicate. Racquel and Bond had checked into separate rooms earlier after donning disguises while Rue was sorting out hers.

Rue pushed through the revolving doors of the Silver Sirius and looked around. Marble floors, three chandeliers hung from the ceiling, which was adorned with a mural of the sky, with clouds, birds and the sun that covered the entire ceiling in the lobby.

Rue was surprised to see the birds in the mural moving and the clouds slowly drifting. Oh! It’s a holo-mural. She focused back on where she was going and almost collided with a couple with their children. “Watch it!” one of the parents snapped at her – probably partially due to the fact that their children were crying and begging to go to see their grandparents instead of going shopping.

Apologising and feeling sorry for the parents, Rue spotted the front desks and saw there was one for Paradian – Iota Parada’s native language – and one for each of the following languages: English; French; Italian; and several other dialects spoken on Iota Parada. Translator bots roamed about the lobby. These were programmed to be fluent in all the languages spoken throughout all the inhabited star systems as Iota Parada was a hot spot for tourists and business travelers.

Locating the front desk for English speakers, Rue went over to it. A red-headed woman with brown eyes who worked at the desk looked up at her as Rue came over and gave her a warm smile in greeting. “How may I help you?” she asked.

Rue returned the smile. “I would like a room, please.”

“Do you have a reservation?”

“No. Is there any available?”

“One moment.” The receptionist typed something in on the computer. “Yes. There is only one left, though.”

“Oh? Busy?”

“Yes. You see it’s coming up to the anniversary of when Cyrstaldell was built and that always attracts a crowd,” the receptionist explained.

“Ah. What’s the room like?” Rue enquired.

“It’s actually one of our luxury suites. TV, queen-sized bed, free service, bathroom adjoining the bedroom.”

That sounds nice. “I’ll take it.”

“ID please.”

Rue fished around in her wallet and produced one of her many fake ID’s. She caught a glimpse of the name as she handed it to the receptionist. So I’m Avery Thompson this time, she mentally noted. I hate that mugshot. The receptionist accepted her ID and typed some information from it onto the computer register. Afterwards, she handed the ID back and asked for her credit card.

Handing the credit card over, Rue leaned her elbows on the desk and glanced around. People milled about; chatter filled the lobby, and people went around pushing trolleys filled with suitcases and bags. She saw a circular mirror on the wall right behind the receptionist and checked her appearance. She was wearing light blue shorts, white running shoes, and a white t-shirt. She had dyed her hair and put on eye contacts. She barely recognized herself. Good. That means that Winter and Stone probably won’t, either.

Absentmindedly, she fiddled with a bracelet on her left wrist.

Her mother’s.

“Here’s your credit card,” the receptionist said, shattering her thoughts. “And your key. Do you have any bags?”

Rue cleared her throat, pulling herself together. She blinked her eyes and focused. “Huh?”

“Do you have any bags?” the receptionist repeated, emphasising the words slightly.

Rue shook her head, putting her credit card back in her wallet. “Where’s my room located?”

“5th floor, room B5.” Thanking the receptionist, Rue pocketed her new key and headed over to the nearest elevator. The doors slid shut and she pressed the button marked ‘5’. As she ascended, Rue touched the communicator in her ear. “Checked in and on my way to my room. Here, my name’s Avery Thompson,” she subvocalised.

“Ok,” they replied in unison.

She felt the elevator slid to a stop and there was a ping! The doors slid open and she stepped out and headed down the aisle, looking carefully at each door to find hers. She heard a door open up ahead and then heard a giggle. She looked ahead…

…and quickly pretended to be studying a painting that hung on part of a wall between two doors.

A couple had exited one of the rooms, heading towards the elevator that she had just exited.

Winter and Stone.

She then remembered that she was in disguise and they probably wouldn’t recognise her, so turned and walked in their direction, seemingly casually slipping her hand into her short pockets.

Just before they passed each other, Rue pulled out her key and suddenly cut infront of them, pretending to be about to reenter a room.

“OOF!”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Rue said, making her voice rise slightly higher. She rested both of her hands on one of each of their shoulders as if she was steadying herself. “I’m such a clutz! I’m always bumping into things and people. My grandma always said-”

“Alright!” he exclaimed, shoving her off. “Just…stay away from me. Seriously, you’re weird.” And with a final glare, Stone and Winter hurried off to the elevator. Rue shrugged and, taking mental note of the room that they came out of, continued searching for her room. She pulled her phone out and looked at the screen. Two red blimps showed Winter and Stone going down in the elevator. The red blimps suddenly stopped and then exited the elevator, and headed towards the hotels cafe.

Trackers work like a charm, she thought as she located her room and unlocked the door. Entering the room, she took the key out and shut the door. Throwing herself onto her bed, she smiled. Taking a moment to appreciate her room, she then touched her communicator.

“Racquel and Bond?” Rue said.

“Yes,” they said in unison.

“I’m on the 5th floor, room B5.” She listened as they told her that they were just a floor below her. “Great! And, I think that Winter and Sean are on the same floor as me.”

“You’re kidding! How do you know?” Bond enquired.

Rue related the entire incident. “While pretending to steady myself, I placed two imperceptible trackers on them. I’ve got eyes on them now. They’re in the hotel’s cafe,” she finished, then added: “Bond, did you want to go down and listen in on their conversation?”

“Ok. Going now.”

“What about me?” Racquel asked.

Rue grinned. “You and me get to check out their room while their in the cafe. It’s room B8. I’ll be waiting for you outside of my room,” she explained.

“I’ll be up there in ten.”


Bond and Racquel entered the elevator and Racquel pressed ‘5’. The elevator ascended and then Racquel stepped out. The doors slid shut and Bond went down to the lobby.

Exiting the elevator, he looked around. It was loud and crowded. He surreptitiously touched his communicator. “Which way to the cafeteria?” he subvocalised.

“Turn right. It’s straight ahead.”

“Thanks.” Following Rue’s directions, he soon found the cafe and was momentarily surprised at the sudden change from noisy to calm. Soft music from an orchestra in a nearby corner wafted through the room. Waiters and waitresses were everywhere and the tinkle of glass filled his ears. His roaming eyes then spotted Winter and Stone, both silent as they were engrossed in their meal.

“Excuse me, sir?”

Startled, Bond turned and saw a young, clean-shaven and eager face looking at him expectantly. “Where’s an available table?” he asked.

“Follow me, please,” and the waiter – whom Bond figured was new – turned on his heel and left, with Bond following. “Here we are, sir.” And the young man pulled back a chair for Bond to sit on. Bond realised his table was right across from Winter’s and Stone’s table. He sat down, making sure he kept his back to them.

He ordered beer and two doner kebabs and began listening.


“Hi,” Racquel said as she went over to Rue. “What about their key? Where are they now?”

Rue went over to their room and Racquel followed. “Don’t worry,” Rue said quietly. “They didn’t lock it. And they’re still in the cafe.”

“Didn’t lock it? That probably means that they are planning on returning soon,” Racquel whispered back. Rue silently pushed open the door and they ducked inside and Rue shut the door.

“Probably,” she admitted.

“And what if we get caught?”

“I’ll keep an eye on them with my tracker app on my phone.”

“I meant by hotel staff. Like the ones who do housekeeping and such,” Racquel elaborated urgently.

Rue paused. Oh no. “We’ll…say that we are relatives that are visiting and they quickly ducked out for something and we’re waiting for them to return,” she replied. Racquel did not feel assured by the uncertain tone in Rue’s voice.

“We’re breaking in and entering,” Racquel insisted.

“The door was open. And I haven’t broken anything. Start looking.”

“For what?” Racquel asked as she watched Rue opening drawers and carefully searching through them.

“Their itinerary,” Rue grunted as she finished one dresser and went around the bed and began on the other. “We need to know exactly what they’ll be doing while here.”

Racquel saw the sense in that and went over to their closet. Opening the doors, she began searching one of the shelves. “Found it!”


“What do you want to do after we’ve finished?” and Winter motioned at their food.

Stone glanced up at her, then back down at his meal as he continued eating. His foot gently grazed her legs. “Nothing much,” he said with a mouthful.

She shook her head. He really lacks manners, Winter noted. She knew exactly what he had in mind. And it wasn’t the time. “We really need to get going soon. Our class starts soon.”

***

Class? He frowned as he sipped his beer. Why did she emphasis the word ‘class’? They’re not going to a class, in all probability. Is it code for something? Bond then became aware of Stone speaking.

“We can go there later. No rush – we’re here for a few days, anyway,” Stone replied. As Bond watched them through their reflection on a glass of water on his table, he could see that Winter was starting to relent.

“I don’t know…our boss expects results soon,” Winter insisted, though Bond could hear her wavering in her voice. “But, he did give us a few days…okay.”


Racquel opened the book and she and Rue began reading. “Where are they?” Racquel asked.

Rue checked her phone. “Still there. Anything?”

Racquel shook her head. “No. How ’bout I read and you keep an eye on them?” and she pointed at Rue’s phone. Rue sighed, relenting, and Racquel continued reading.

Brring! Brring!

Jumping slightly, startled, Racquel pulled her phone out of her trouser pocket and checked the ID.

Mooney.

She accepted the call and put the phone to her ear. “Yes?”

“Contact is on the corner of Comets and Debris and will be posing as a hawker. The contacts will pretend to try to sell you a Black Opal ring that is supposedly given to contact by contact’s late grandmother. You must offer to buy it in exchange for knowing more about the grandmother. Contact will then lead you all away, pretending to be taking you three to her house to talk about contact’s grandmother.”

Before Racquel could say anymore, Mooney hung up. “Who was that?” Rue queried.

“Prime Minister Mooney,” she answered.

“Oh. What did he say?”

Racquel opened her mouth, but there was a burst of static in her ear from her communicator. She touched her ear, noting out of the corner of her eye that Rue was doing the same. “Bond?”

“Uh, Racquel?” Rue suddenly said, sounding suddenly scared and urgent. She was staring at her phone. “They’re-”

Racquel shushed her. “Not just yet. What is it, Bond?”

“Winter and Stone have just left the cafe. They’re coming back!”

Oh, great. Racquel pulled out her phone and, pressing a button, a red light engulfed the entire itinerary as it scanned each and every page of the book and downloaded the entire itinerary on her phone. Suddenly, there was a beep and the red light disappeared. The scan was complete.

Now we can read it in peace.


Stone followed Winter into the elevator. The doors slid shut and she pressed the button marked ‘5’.


Putting the itinerary away and shutting the closet, Rue and Racquel hurried over to the door. As Rue opened the door, a sliver of paper underneath the lamp on the desk caught Racquel’s eye. I didn’t notice that before. “Come on!” Rue urged. Racquel lifted the lamp and picked up the paper. She frowned when she scanned the words scribbled on it.

Anpao

Delling’s door

“Racquel!” Rue hissed.

She nodded and hastily put it back and hurried out of the room. Shutting the door, they quickly ducked into Rue’s room just as they heard the ping! of the elevator as it arrived on their floor. Shutting the door, they pressed their ears to the door and listened.

They heard muffled voices. They couldn’t hear what was said, but they both recognised the voices as belonging to Stone and Winter. They heard a door being opened and then shut and locked. They slumped against the wall in relief.

“Please,” Racquel exhaled, “don’t ever make me do that again!”

Rue cracked a smile. “You enjoyed it.”

Racquel chuckled. “Yeah. I guess I did.”


Bond knocked on room B5. The door opened and Rue motioned him inside. He entered and she shut the door. “We don’t have to worry about those two going anywhere,” he remarked. “They’re going to be in their room for a while.”

“Good,” Racquel said and he saw that she was sitting on Rue’s bed and was pouring over a map. She straightened and folded the map, sliding it into her back trouser pocket. She stood up. ” ‘Cause we’re going to meet our contact.”


Would have made this longer, except that I think that this is enough for this chapter. Hope you’re enjoying this so far.

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