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Roberts Space Industries ®






August 4th 2021

The Payout
This short story originally appeared in Jump Point 5.11.

I’m dead, I’m dead.

The words repeated on a loop in Sully Cannata’s head as he raced through the winding tunnels of the abandoned factory. Focused columns of heat blasted from the vents staggered along the wall, pumping acrid smoke into the tight passageway.

A series of desperate shots boomed behind him. It sounded like the hand cannon Jens was known to carry. Sully guessed he was digging in.

Better him than me, Sully thought.

The rip of gunfire was suddenly silenced by a chorus of high-speed energy weapons, bringing back those words again:

I’m dead, I’m dead.

Sully cut around a corner. His feet skidded on a puddle of something and nearly came out from under him. He managed to catch one of the pipes on the wall, righted himself and raced forward. He’d scouted the factory before the drop, a habit he’d picked up in the past year or two, but now he was just trying to keep the terror at bay so he could remember the winding layout that led to . . .

The access door came into view ahead of him. He pushed even harder and shoved his full weight into the metal. It flung open. Sully quickly slammed it behind him and jammed a piece of metal shrapnel into the doorlock, hoping it’d slow down his pursuers.

Thin metal stairs wound up around the walls. He wasted no time, leaping two, three steps at once even though his legs burned. By the time he hit the top, somebody crashed into the door he came through. His improvised ‘lock’ held. Sully quickly pulled on his gloves and hood as heavy impacts rammed against the door below. By the time he’d gotten the goggles on, the door downstairs buckled. Heavy footsteps thudded up the stairs.

Sully wrenched the handle and pushed the heavy rusted door at the top of the stairs open.

A swirl of dirt and dust blew into the factory. He could already feel the dull burn of the dirt through the fabric. He slipped out the door and hustled away.

The drop had been on the outskirts of Lorville. Factories out here were either automated or had outlived their usefulness. They were also within walking distance of residential areas, so it made for a convenient place to meet.

Sully cut into a winding alleyway to keep out of sight. He weaved his way around piles of trash leaving oddly colored fluids as he made his way towards the more populated areas. Over the wind, he could start to hear the oddly placid music intended to keep the populace calm, meaning he was close.

Although he strained to hear the armored footsteps of his pursuers through the howling wind, he knew he wouldn’t hear any voices. It was one of the most unsettling things about Executive Security, they only turned on their external speakers if they were addressing you directly. The rest of the time, they were completely silent. Their sealed heavy armor obscured all the conversations they were undoubtedly having.

Up ahead, a trickle of people passed the mouth of the alley. Sully slowed as he approached and glanced around the street. He was in one of the commercial sectors, placed near a travel hub, so workers could pick up any last-minute items on their way to the factories. Sully hadn’t realized how pathetic these ‘stores’ were until he’d gotten offworld. The shelves in all of them were mostly bare, only displaying a handful of ‘sanctioned’ items that Hurston imported. The storefronts themselves, although they had colorful names, all bore the same “Owned and operated by Hurston Dynamics, Inc.” disclaimer on the sign. Almost everybody was dressed in similar clothes, wrapping up in multiple layers to protect against the corrosive dirt. Almost no one looked up, every gaze locked on the ground ahead. Kala had always said it was the mindset of the people here; keep your head down, focus on the path right in front of you. She’d always been more pragmatic than Sully. At least, that was how she’d described herself. He thought it was the mindset of the broken.

That was why Sully had to leave.

He kept his head down while passing a camera cluster perched above. A dozen or so lenses were aimed to spy on the entire street. Speakers embedded among them pumped out that obnoxious music. He passed underneath and slowly trudged (it took all his restraint not to run) his way up to the monorail station.

At the top, Sully glanced back towards the alley. There was no sign of his pursuers. The only security were in an enclosed observation post perched above the checkpoint. Sully queued up and waited. When his turn came, he stepped into the small antechamber. The laminate doors swung closed as he scanned his card. A moment later, the screen flashed green and the plexi doors in front opened. A monorail was just pulling into the station.

Sully filed into the train with the other workers. Focused pneumatic tubes fired bursts of air as each person stepped through the door of the monorail, blasting dust and dirt from their clothes. It was part of a Public Health Initiative that Hurston Dynamics had unveiled ten years ago, but like everything else from Hurston, nobody ever took it seriously. Sully slid into a seat. As the adrenaline wore off, his legs started to burn, but Sully couldn’t think about that now.

He had to figure out what went so wrong.


This was hardly the first time Sully had made a run to Lorville. Ever since he linked up with Peng’s gang five years ago, he’d done a handful of smuggling jobs here. As much as he despised coming back to this hellhole, the black market mostly sold stuff easily gotten off-world. You could buy a pair of DMC pants anywhere and sell it for four, sometimes five times the price here. Only tricky part, you had to get it past security.

And that’s what this job was. A breeze op running a bunch of clothes and food that nobody would look twice at anywhere else in the UEE. Once he landed, he contacted Shaw, his guy on the inside, who rerouted the ‘specialty cargo’ past the customs check and put them on a freight to the factories.

Once the customs check on the rest of Sully’s cargo had been cleared, he met up with Jens and made the deal. Everything had gone as it always had. Healthy amounts of paranoia, but otherwise, respect. Jens had two of his usual enforcers there to help carry the crates. He cracked open the third crate, but instead of hydroponic growth supplements, it was jars and jars of WiDoW.

Jens turned to Sully.

“What the hell is this?”

Sully was dumbfounded, he barely heard the question.

“I don’t . . .” he managed to stammer.

A dozen energy weapons hummed to life above them. Jens, his enforcers and Sully turned to see Hurston security lining the catwalk above, rifles already aimed.

“Afternoon, gentlemen,” an augmented voice cut through the silence. Sully turned to see a form step from the hallway. The armor had officer markings on it. “I’ll be honest. The thing that usually bothers me the most is that while people are spending their day being productive, contributing to the betterment of the world by putting in their twelve hours and going home, you types try to make more money for less work.”

The Security Officer calmly circled Jens and Sully. Jens’ enforcers kept glancing at the security up top, while Jens locked eyes with the officer as he stepped over to the crate of WiDoW.

“But this,” he said as he lifted a jar of the thick black liquid. “Poisoning our populace with this junk . . . well, that I just can’t stand for.”

“We—” Sully started to speak when the officer backhanded him. The armor augmented the hit, sending Sully sliding across the dirty floor.

Jens’ hand slowly drifted behind his back.

The officer unlatched his helmet and pulled it off. He was older, probably late sixties, tan, weathered skin and cold, gray eyes. He walked towards Sully and leaned down.

“I didn’t say you could speak,” the officer said.

“What’s this gonna cost?” Jens muttered. The security officer paused, eyes still locked on Sully, then smiled.


“I pay out to you boots every month, but it ain’t never enough. Seems there’s always someone else who wants a little slice of the action.” Jens glanced around, seemingly bored with this whole interaction. “So what’s it gonna be this time?”

“I want the name of everyone you pay out to,” the officer said as he turned back to Jens.

Sully glanced around, there was a side door maybe four, five meters away.

“Yeah, sure. Got a list right here.” Jens yanked a holdout pistol from his waistband and opened fire. His enforcers dove for their rifles.

The officer brought up his armored hand just in time to stop Jens’ shots.

“Let’s do this the hard way then,” the officer said with a grin and calmly drew his sidearm. Jens drew his heavy ballistic.

That’s when Sully ran.


The monorail lurched to a stop. The droll voice announced the services and alternate rail lines that were available at the station. Sully had one more to go before the pads where his ship was parked.

He went over every step of the job. The cargo was prepped on New Babbage like usual. Peng had made the delivery, but he wasn’t the type of guy to mess with drugs. Peng was an opportunist who liked getting paid. He liked to play things safe rather than chase the rush of pushing boundaries. Running that kind of weight into Lorville was a death wish kinda deal.

Sully leaned against the window as the monorail passed into shadow. He looked up to see the monolithic Hurston Dynamics building blocking out the sun. Unfortunately for him, to get the hell out of here, he’d have to go into the heart of corporate security.

The train began to slow as it approached the next stop. Sully got up and joined the other passengers clustered by the door.

Striding through the monorail station, he brought up his mobi and pushed a comm to Peng.

“Hey, what’s up?” Peng murmured as he appeared on the comm a moment later, clearly woken from a nap.

“One sec,” Sully said and headed for a crowd of people to hide his conversation from the cameras. “What the hell did you have me transport?”

“What you mean, man?”

“One of the crates . . .” Sully dropped his voice to hide it from the people around him. “One of them was loaded with damn WiDoW.”

“Quit playing, man.”

“Do I look like I’m playing?” The crowd around Sully started to move, so he kept pace. “Not only that. Security were all over the drop. Jens is dead, probably.”

That woke Peng up.

“Whoa, hold up, I don’t know anything about no goddamn WiDoW, man.”

“Then how’d it get in the crate?”

“Hell if I know,” Peng started getting really nervous. “You ever lose sight of the cargo?”

“No, man, it was . . .” Sully paused. There was a gap where it was out of his sight — Shaw. His contact on the pads who slipped it past customs.

“Hey, look, you, uh, you need to get the hell outta there.”

“Yeah, thanks, Peng. What do you think I’m doing?”

“Yeah, right. Anyway . . . don’t contact me ’til you’re clear.” Peng dropped the comm.

Sully muttered to himself and broke from the crowd to head towards the pad. He knew Peng was probably cleaning house; deleting any records of Sully from his comm, datapads, whatever. Playing it safe again.

Sully stepped inside Archimedes Flight and glanced around. Pilots were clustered around the various terminals, trying to order their ships to get the hell out of there. Cameras covered every square inch of the space.

He scanned the faces of the employees and found Michael Shaw staring vacantly into space as some customer in an ill-fitted flight suit yammered at him. Sully quickly made his way over and stepped behind the customer.

“. . . it’s important that my ship is kept covered,” the customer droned on. “I’ve read extensively about the atmospheric conditions here and I will not have my hull tarnished by whatever’s floating around in the air.”

It took a few moments before Shaw noticed him standing there. When he did, he turned to the customer.

“Go away.”

The customer stopped speaking, utterly shocked. Shaw’s expression hadn’t changed. He just stared at the customer until he moved away, then turned to Sully.

“Hi, welcome to Archimedes Flight,” Shaw said in an unconvincingly chipper tone. “How can I help you?”

“Yeah, I seemed to have some difficulty with my cargo.”

“Sorry to hear that. We do our best to make sure that our clients are satisfied, but sometimes accidents do happen.”

Sully leaned in close.

“We need to talk.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that at the moment,” Shaw replied with a placid smile. He then typed something on his datapad. “I’ve updated your hangar file with some relevant info. Thanks.”

Sully turned and walked away. Once outside, his mobi pinged. There was a message from an unregistered user that simply said, “Bay four. Ten minutes.”

A pair of ships, marked with Hurston Security livery, blasted overhead towards the factory district where Sully had come from.

This was not good.


Shaw was already ten minutes late. The bay was dark, empty. Sully passed the time scanning the Hurston spectrum for any kind of alert or notification. It was quiet. The announcer was cheerfully explaining how worker productivity was up over this past quarter, leading to a two percent profit growth.

Finally the door to the hall slid open, spilling light inside. Sully ducked behind a terminal. It was Shaw, strolling in like nothing was wrong.

“About time,” Sully muttered as he stepped out.

“Hey, when I’m on the clock, you get my time when I wanna give it.” Shaw popped a stim and held his arms out expectantly. “So?”

“Turns out my package had a little extra cargo in there. About ten jars of WiDoW extra.”

Shaw was silent.

“You know anything about that?”

“Why the hell would I?” he replied derisively.

“Only time that cargo was out of my sight was when you were moving it.”

“Well, I ain’t in the habit of swapping boxes.” Shaw took a drag off the stim. “Bring the stuff back and I can see if anyone’s light on some WiDoW.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because Hurston was all over the drop. They got it now.”

Shaw leaned back against the wall and sighed.

“Guess you’re screwed then.”

“It wasn’t my stuff.”

“It is now.” Shaw took a last puff on the stim and ejected the spent cartridge. “Sorry, Sully. Think it might be time to disappear again.”

“Can you bring up my ship?”

“Yeah, sure.” Shaw walked over to one of the terminals and booted it up. After several load screens, he accessed the hangar manager and punched some commands. His expression darkened. Sully noticed.

“Oh come on, what now?”

“There’s a landing lock on your ship.” Shaw started punching some other commands. Suddenly, he stopped, then ripped the power cable out of the wall. The terminal went dead. “Security flagged me asking for your location. You gotta go. Now.”

Sully started heading for the door. Shaw jogged after him. Once outside, they looked up and down the empty hall.

“One more thing,” Shaw turned to Sully, once he was satisfied the hall was empty. “You drop me to Hurston, you’re dead an hour later. Clear?”

Sully stared at him, shocked.

“Good.” Shaw took off and left Sully alone in the hall.

Sully backed up and headed into the main atrium of Archimedes Flight. A handful of security officers suddenly appeared in the entrance. They pushed past Sully and unslung rifles as they moved towards the hangars.

He quickly pulled on his protective gear and set out into the street.

With his ship impounded, his options were dwindling. He could try and find another ride off-world, but he’d have to go through customs to get out. With security locking down Archimedes Flight, it was unlikely he’d even make it to customs. That left fleeing the city. If he could get to some other town, maybe there’d be another way to get off the planet.


Roving beams of sunlight cut through the dark clouds to shine on the passing city below. The Hurston Dynamics building receded in the distance, its top disappearing into the rolling clouds. The train quietly sailed along the elevated rails, heading into one of the residential zones.

Leavsden Square had always been one of Lorville’s more depressing housing blocks. The sterile gray halls and stairwells looked more like a fortress than a home. Sully watched the dark buildings approach, pinpoints of light visible from the narrow windows. Growing up in this hellhole, he knew exactly how violent the towers could be. Clearly not much had changed in the past five years. In fact, Leavsden actually looked worse.

For that reason, leaving Lorville had never been in question. When he finally found a way out, talking his way into a trainee position on a scrap hauler, he didn’t hesitate. He’d left family, friends, Kala . . . but he had to. He couldn’t live on this godforsaken planet one more day. Now he was going back and it wasn’t a prospect he was necessarily looking forward to.

Sure, he’d thought about coming back, see if Kala could finally cut herself loose of this place, but he knew she wouldn’t. She had too many ties. She’d never have that urge to see what the universe had to offer.

Sully glanced at the other passengers in the train. Clustered dirt-covered workers fresh off twelve hour shifts in munitions plants or sledging rock or whatever. He knew he was looking at the broken. He didn’t even pity them anymore. They pissed him off. He wanted to smack them, tell them to wake up and realize that they’re slaves, but he knew how they’d respond. They’d mumble something about life being hard everywhere, or some similar nonsense.

The train pulled into the Leavsden station. His dread about coming back here was almost as bad as his gnawing fear of Hurston Security.


The doors opened and Sully filed out.

He walked through the common area between the four monolithic buildings. Concentric concrete circles descended into the ground into a rusted playground. A group of kids sat there, glaring at Sully as he approached, their arms and faces bare like some kind of brazen (but stupid) act of defiance. Their skin was already showing discoloration from the toxins in the air.

Sully knew if they stood up, it meant a fight, so he kept his pace even. The kids watched him as he passed. One of them leaned back and grinned, displaying a patch cheaply sewn into his shirt. Civilian Constable Service. Hurston’s eyes, ears and (if the situation called for it) enforcers recruited from the civ-pop. They were the security cannon fodder, rats who’d sell out fellow workers for a pat on the head.

Sully kept his head down and kept walking. The kids glanced at each other, clearly deciding what to do, but then went back to their hushed conversation.

Sully continued to the atrium of Tower B, gave a quick check on the kids to be safe, then brought up the directory on the wall terminal. He scrolled down until he found Kagan in the registry and punched the code.

“Yeah?” An older but still familiar voice murmured through the tinny speaker.

“Joe,” Sully said as he leaned close. “It’s Sully.”

Then nothing. For a full minute, Sully just stood there. Waiting. He knew this was a bad idea.

The door buzzed.


Joe Kagan looked old. It’d only been five years since Sully had last seen him, but he looked like it’d been ten. Still had that focused look in his eye. He looked wearier, sure, but there was still that intensity.

They’d first met in the halls of Tower B when they were eight years old. Joe’s family had just moved in after his dad got transferred to a new dig site, and a group of the older kids were welcoming him to the floor. Joe was about thirty kicks into the beatdown when Sully came charging in with a punch that knocked Micah Rodgers out cold. That was Sully’s one good shot. He quickly joined Joe on the bottom of the kicking pile.

Needless to say, they’d stuck together ever since. As they got older, they shared a defiant streak. Whatever trouble they got into, it was always worth it if it resulted in those sacred words: make Hurston pay. It took over ten years of being inseparable to finally figure out what divided them: Joe decided that pranks and sabotage were pointless if they didn’t coincide with real efforts to change. Sully just liked pissing people off.

The night before Sully took off from Lorville, they’d argued again. Sully called Joe delusional, Joe called him a coward.

Now, Sully was sitting across from his old friend in the same two-room apartment his parents had occupied. The walls were covered in historical revolutionaries. Some bizarro music played from his speakers. Joe was in an old chair, just staring at Sully.

“How are your parents?” Sully finally said.

“They died.”

“Oh,” Sully settled back. “Damn, sorry.”

Silence again. Except for that dreadful music.

“So, you still . . . fighting the good fight?” Sully said with a chuckle.

“We’re petitioning to try to get Hurston to authorize a worker’s council to oversee safety conditions.”

Sully couldn’t stifle a laugh. Joe shook his head.

“What do you want, Sully?”

“I, uh, I need a hand getting out of the city.”

“You got legs, walk.”

“I need to get out quietly.”

Joe stood up and walked to the kitchen where some water was boiling. He made tea and coughed slightly.

“Let me see if I got this. You vanish for five years then pop up. Clearly in trouble, and expect me to help?”

“Kinda, yeah.”

“What’d you do?”

“Does it matter?”

Joe slammed down the mug. The handle broke off. He looked at it for a second and tossed it in the sink.

“What did you do?” Joe reiterated, regaining his sullen composure.

“I was running some cargo into the city. There was a mix up with the packages and I got nabbed with some nasty stuff. But it wasn’t mine. I swear.”

“So you’re just a straight up criminal now?”

“I was bringing in clothes, some hydroponic supplies, simple stuff to make people’s lives better.”

“But you aren’t.” Joe rubbed his temples. “You still don’t get it, do you? Smuggling in contraband isn’t making anyones’ lives better, it’s putting them on a razor’s edge and giving Hurston the evidence to crack down even harder when they get caught.”

“Sure, because your petition’s really gonna change things,” Sully snapped back. “I’ll bet the execs are laughing their asses off.”

They fell silent again.

“Look, I need your help,” Sully said, his voice calm again. “Help me and I’ll never see you again.”

Joe thought for a few moments.

“I can’t,” he finally said. “I know you couldn’t care less, but we’re trying to change things here. I can’t get my people mixed up in smuggling. I’m sorry.”

Sully stood and walked to the window. Though he wasn’t surprised by Joe’s response, the walls of his situation felt like they were closing in. He couldn’t hide out in the city for long. Not now.

He looked out the window, down at the common area between the towers.

Hurston Security were talking to the CCS kids. They pointed to Tower B. All of the Security turned towards the tower.

“Shit,” Sully muttered.

“What,” Joe asked as he came rushing up to the window.

He followed Sully’s gaze. “Shit.”

Joe rushed to one of his closets and pulled out some new coats, goggles, and gloves.

“Here.” He tossed them to Sully.

“So you’ll help me?”

“I can’t get you out of the city, but I can buy you some time to get away.” Joe pulled the front door open. “You remember the old stairwell where TwoTone used to deal out of?”

“Yeah,” Sully replied, quickly pulling on the new clothes.

“Whole things been condemned, so they cut off the power to the cameras. That’ll take you all the way down. Slip out the back and make a run for it.”

“All right, thanks.” Sully paused at the door. He held his hand out. “It was good to see you.”

Joe hesitated, then shook it.

“Let me know if you ever start to care,” he said.

Sully took off down the hall. The building’s intercom crackled to life as he ran.

“Attention Leavsden Square Tower residents, this is Sergeant McMannus, Hurston Security. We have reason to believe that a dangerous criminal has entered your building. We will be enacting security protocols to secure all residents until a proper search can be conducted.”

All the apartment doors suddenly latched shut as automatic locks engaged.

“Any tenants caught outside will need to provide authorized identification.”

Sully hit the doorway to the back stairwell. As it swung open, he was slammed in the face with a wall of rank odor. Years of mold, dirt, grime were compounded with the remnants of whoever had been using the stairwell for a toilet.

He pulled his protective hood closer to his face and descended into the pitch black stairwell.

Floor after floor passed. The decrepit state of the stairs meant he had to take each step carefully and more than once almost slipped off something that he was grateful not to see.

He could hear the heavy footsteps moving through the halls outside. A few times a Hurston Security would venture a look into the stairwell, but they never lingered. One glance at the state of it was enough to convince them that no one in their right mind would be in there willingly.

Sully finally reached the bottom floor and moved to the exit that let out in the back of the tower. He pushed the door open and slipped out. There weren’t any Security in sight, so he started to hustle off towards another one of the tower blocks.

That’s when he almost ran into one of the CCS kids. This was the older one who’d proudly displayed his badge, but, thanks to Joe’s new clothes, he didn’t recognize Sully.

“Hey, the building’s on lockdown.”

“Oh yeah, I know. I already talked to security. They cleared me to go.”

The kid studied Sully. He started to raise his mobiGlas to make a call.

Sully hit him and ran. He didn’t glance back until he’d made it to the next resident tower. Security were absolutely swarming the building he’d just left, they’d even called in some hovers to watch it from the air.

He knew he was running out of time.


Sully rang the bell for Kala’s apartment. Of all the things he’s been through in the past few hours, this was the most terrifying yet. This waiting after he’d pressed the button. Knowing that she was on her way to the door. He would’ve rather never seen her again than face her like this.

Finally, the door opened. Kala, wearing her uniform, was dumbfounded by the man standing in her doorway. She still took his breath away, even after all this time.

“Hey K,” he said.

She punched him in the face with a solid cross that busted Joe’s goggles and snapped his head back. His legs wobbled while his head swam.

“What the hell?” Sully shouted as he threw his hands up and tried to steady himself.

“You son of a bitch,” she muttered. “What the hell do you want?”

“It’s a long story,” Sully replied, keeping his hands up defensively. “Can I come inside?”

Kala thought it over for a second then turned and walked inside, leaving the door open.

Sully walked in and closed the door. The apartment was almost exactly as he remembered it. The one difference was that the pictures had been replaced. Now they were quiet, intimate moments of Kala with some other guy. A quiet shot in the afternoon of her reading. The two of them in bar. Then, a real kicker:

Kala, the guy and a little boy.

Kala turned back to see him studying the picture.

“His name’s Max and he finally got to sleep, so keep it quiet.”

“You guys look happy.”

“Yeah, we try.”

Sully pointed to the guy in the picture.

“Is he here too?”

“He’s working.”

Sully nodded and looked back at the picture.

“How long . . .”

“What difference does it make?”

“I’d just like to know.”

“I don’t know, maybe a year after you vanished,” Kala responded. “Actually, here’s something I’d like to know; what the hell happened to you?”

“I had to leave.”

“Had to?”

“Needed to.” Sully stepped inside and pulled off the goggles. He couldn’t stop fidgeting with them, anything to not have to look at her. “I couldn’t do it anymore, K, I couldn’t take this place. I couldn’t take the fact that it was draining us all.”

“So you just left.”

“I knew you wouldn’t go.”

“Maybe you should have asked.” Kala rubbed the knuckles of her punching hand. “I might’ve surprised you.”

Sully moved across the room to her.

“How about now? I need to get out of here, like immediately. You could come with me.” He grabbed her hands, seized by the excitement of the idea. “You still work in freight, right? We could use your clearance, hop a train and be out of the city in a couple hours, on a ship a few hours after that.”

“What?” Kala pulled her hands from his and stepped away.

“You can’t imagine what it’s like out there.” He said, following her. “There’s so much life it’s overwhelming. People are happy. The future is full of possibilities. It’s not smog and work until you die. Kala, please. Let me get you out of here.”

Kala looked at him for a moment. She touched the wrinkles on his face that had appeared since she’d last seen him.

“You had your chance, Sully,” she said firmly.

The wallscreen suddenly flared to life with a piercing alert noise. Sully could hear the same alert emanating through the walls from the other apartments.

The screen showed the Hurston Dynamics logo with a Security Bulletin.

Sully suddenly knew what was about to happen.

“Attention, citizens of Hurston, Security forces are on the lookout for Sullivan Cannata for illegal drug trafficking and assault.”

Sully’s picture from one of his arrests in his youth appeared on the screen alongside a frame grabbed from a camera in Archimedes Flight. The voice on the wallscreen continued:

“A reward of thirty thousand credits will be given for any information that leads to the capture of this individual.”

Kala turned and looked at him. The hurt in her eyes was devastating.

“It wasn’t me,” he said weakly, but he knew how it sounded.

“Get out,” was all she said.

“Mom?” A young voice said from the doorway. Max stepped out, rubbing his eyes.

“It’s okay, honey.” Kala rushed over to pick him up. “Just an alarm. Don’t worry about it.”

Sully walked into the bathroom and shut the door. This was it. His face was plastered over the entire world.

His gaze drifted down to the edge of the sink. Kala must have left her ID and clearance badge there when she washed her face after work.

He could take it, maybe he could still make it to a freight train. There was a chance that the alert hadn’t gone global yet. And who knows how many people really pay attention to that . . .

Then he thought out what would happen to Kala if he took it. She’d probably get locked up for aiding a fugitive. With their past, no one would believe that she’d turned him away. She’d lose her job. Maybe even lose Max.

His freedom would come at the cost of hers.

He looked down at his mobiGlas.


Sully stepped back out into the small living room. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of one familiar picture. Taken six years ago, it was Sully, Kala and Joe tremendously drunk one night at Felix’s bar after they’d sloppily assembled for a picture.

He hadn’t thought about that night for years.

“I’m serious, Sully, you need to get out of here,” Kala said as she exited Max’s room and shut the door.

“I know.”

The sound of sirens approaching rose above the howling wind.

Kala rushed to the window and looked out. Hurston Security transports and hovers swarmed down the street and swept around the building.

“You gotta go, Sully.”

“Do me a favor,” Sully replied. He was calm, resigned. “You guys should do something fun, okay?”

“What are you talking about?”

Sully stepped close and took her hands.

“I’m really sorry, you know. As much as I wanted to leave this place, leaving you was the one thing I never got over.”

Kala studied him for a second, realizing how eerily resigned he was.

“What did you do?”

Sully smiled and backed away towards the door.


“Bye, K.” He pulled the door open and screamed at the top of his lungs: “You sold me out!”

Sully ran out, shouting the whole way as he thundered down the stairs.

Hurston Security stunned him in the lobby. He screamed about how Kala ratted him out until he drifted into unconsciousness.


Sully came to in the back of some transport. He could feel his hands bound behind his back. He couldn’t see, thanks to the black bag on his head, but figured he was heading to central booking.

He was surprised how okay he felt. Even with everything that was outside of his control and the stuff he brought on himself, he didn’t mind taking this hit. Besides, he’d done scattered time in Hurston jails before. It’d take him a couple months probably to get his bearings, but he’d have that place wired within a year. Then all he had to do was either bide his time or wait for an opportunity to escape.

Best of all, thanks to the tip he dropped to Hurston Security in Max’s name, Kala and her family should be getting a nice, fat reward. Like he and Joe used to say: make Hurston pay.

The transport lurched to a stop. Sully could hear the door get pulled open. Footsteps approached him. Two pairs of hands wrenched him up from the seat and half-dragged him out of the transport.

Suddenly the bag was ripped off his head. McMannus, the Hurston Security sergeant who killed Jens, was standing in front of him. Sully looked around.

They stood in the middle of nowhere. No prison. No central booking. No Lorville even.

“What’s . . .” Sully stammered, trying to figure this out. He looked back. The only other Hurston Security officer stood by the transport, engaging in a mute conversation. “Where’s the prison?”

“That’s the thing,” McMannus replied as he drew his sidearm. “Money’s real tight these days.”

He raised the pistol and fired.


Two weeks later, Kala was balancing their finances while Aman cooked dinner. Max was playing with some of his toys.

Her terminal pinged from an incoming message. She clicked over to it. The message was from Hurston Dynamics and addressed to Max.

It was a thirty-thousand credit reward for aiding Hurston Security in the apprehension of a dangerous criminal.

The End

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