More world building! I like doing stories about people who show up in novel 2, helps me finish getting inside their head. Hopefully you enjoy reading it.
The sound of black powder weapons firing echoed off the stone walls of Lateral Esplanade, the main route between what amounted to docks in Rand City and the city proper. Three particularly brutish men had been chasing me for about half an hour, shooting at me whenever the opportunity arose.
‘Trixie!’ one of them drawled, dragging out the last syllable. ‘Please stop running.’
It sounded like an exasperated appeal rather than the threat it should have been, but I’m not quite dim enough to fall for that old ruse. You don’t spend a year as a Hostess without knowing when someone is lying to you. Then again, if I hadn’t spent that year as a Hostess I might not have three idiots shooting at me with military grade weaponry.
‘I like running,’ I shouted back, doing my best to sound cocky and not terrified. ‘It’s good for the heart!’
Another peal of weapons fire, and three bullets smashed noisily into the stone wall near my head. I had taken cover behind a rusted cart, the metal orange-red but still more than good enough to save my bacon for the time being, but I was short on places to run to. I don’t get shot at very much, and running away had seemed like the right option at the time. The problem with this particularly attempted at fleeing, however, was my general lack of composure and dignity; it’s very easy to track a girl dressed like a schizoid schoolgirl who is rocking neon hair and screaming like a banshee.
Mum would be proud.
I heard the noisy clicking of spent black powder barrels dropping to the cobbles. A different man called out, ‘A lead injection ain’t quite so good for ya though, yeah?’
‘Tell me, how can you shoot that thing while carrying about the Big Book of Clichés?’ I nervously quipped. The intent was to keep the nervous part out of that description, but calm quipping was a little beyond me at this juncture.
There was another hail of shots, two thirds of which bounced off the cart with a noisy twang sound, the last taking another chunk out of the wall.
If only I could have rolled back the clock and slapped my uppity, youthful self across the face before she had time to offend the High Slut Princess of Rand. Oh the things I would have done to me to stop me having landed me in this mess. Or something.
That wasn’t her name of course, the High Slut Princess. She had a more normal and inconspicuous name in reality, though by the time I’d learned it I was mere minutes away from my eventually fatal mistake. And yes, I know, it says a lot about my work ethic that I only bothered to learn my boss’ name shortly before I resigned. I do tend to go about some things backwards.
I hadn’t made a good Hostess. I could manage certain aspects of the job very well, specifically the physical bits, but my attitude was somewhat lacking. Hostesses are supposed to be pliant and submissive, which is not something I find easy to do. As a result, I spent a great deal of time pissing off my own customers and generally being difficult. Naturally, this brought me to the Slut Princess’ attention.
The unwritten rules of Hostessery (or whatever the word is) state that a client is well within his rights to chop an offensive Hostess into tiny little pieces while also demanding a refund. Turns out that only works if the intended Hostess doesn’t run away. Running away confuses clients long enough for them to forget they hate you, I trick I pulled on more or less a weekly basis. This got me dragged before the Slut Princess, who I then called the Slut Princess, and ran away before she had time to rupture something in her brain from apoplectic rage.
That was a week ago. Apparently it had taken her that long to decide she hated me enough to have me killed. Quite petty for someone so rich.
Another volley of shots smashed into the wall, and I ran again. The two vocal thugs were shouting lewd insults at me, which would have been nice under less murderous circumstances, but I didn’t take the time to respond. I was too busy trying to weave a path through the discarded remains of Rand’s attempt at a fishing industry. Barbed wire nets with hand-cranked generators attached were idly sat on the cobbles. I soared over them like the athlete I could have been were I not a reprobate. At least one of the men behind me was not so lucky. I allowed myself a small grin.
This was a good sign that I was going to be alright. I mostly coast through life, falling into fortune and running away from danger. Working for stuff is not really my scene, I’m more a social manipulator. I decide roughly what I want and make other people do the hard work with the promise of sexual favours and the odd flash of cleavage. Having big, beautiful eyes also helps, with the sexually repressed.
Odds were, the other two thugs would cripple themselves so long as I kept running. Good thing I’m quite a svelte person, really. Not much weight to shift, not too much blood to pump, makes running peasy.
My mind buoyed with proof of my divine protection from the goddess of luck, I gambolled round a corner and smashed my face into a wall. As much as I love Rand City, its propensity for hiring the cheapest architects around makes me hate it at times. The wall wasn’t attached to a building or served any purpose other than to shut off a perfectly legitimate alleyway. I swore, panicked, and tried to climb over the wall.
In retrospect, that was a pretty moronic thing to do.
Lateral Esplanade is pretty much entirely condemned, every single building that flanks the road being abandoned and is a state of severe disrepair. In fact, some of them were never properly built in the first place, the builders all being foreign nationals from one of the many nations that hate us, from before we knew they hated us, and neglected to use mortar in any of their brick constructions. I should have known that it would have been easier to tear the wall down than climb over it, but my fear addled brain overruled rational thought, and was itself overruled by the darkness of falling masonry.
I awoke moments later with blood in my eyes, a splitting headache, and two tarnished metal shot-barrels pointed at me. At least the wall was gone.
‘Hello,’ one of the men said. I groaned at him and tried to get up. ‘I’d rather you just stayed there, missy,’ he said, pushing me flat with his foot. ‘Less messy all round, I think.’
I’ll admit to having been perilously close to begging for my life at this point. It might have worked too. Beauty is the only weapon I know how to use effectively, being as I’ve had a lot of time to practice with it, and I know that when used correctly it can get inside a man’s head and drag out all the little insecurities and private thoughts that he had hidden away. Coupled with begging, this can become a powerful tool of self preservation. Men are suckers for damsels in distress, even if they are the ones causing the distress.
Of course, this all hinges on not looking like you’d been dug out of a hole in the ground. I didn’t think that my masonry makeover had done much for my looks at that point in time.
I watched as the two barrels slowly rotated and dropped away, the loaded barrel taking its place. At any other time I would probably have tried a witty remark about the interesting design of a black powder weapon, but I didn’t want my last words to be mechanics related. There is literally nothing more boring than mechanics. Except, perhaps, mathematics. Anything with numbers really, boring.
The fresh barrels clicked into place and I closed my eyes. I don’t get shot at, let alone actually shot, so I didn’t know if I’d see the bullets before they hit me, and I wasn’t willing to find out. I screwed my eyes shut and screamed, hoping that would stop me from hearing the shots as well as seeing them.
Two shots rang out and the air smelled thickly of black powder. It took me longer than it should have done to realise I was still screaming, somewhat shameful I will admit. I shut up and risked opening an eye.
The barrels were gone and, slowly, I sat up to search for them. As I turned I spotted them, gripping in the hands of their owners still, although their owners were currently flat on their face, tiny rivers of blood tricking into little pools between the cobbles. There was a sound from the darkness where alleyway met esplanade and I looked up.
‘Sorry it took me so long, miss, but those nets are a little unpleasant.’
The third thug, the silent one, was stood at the end of the alleyway, two expended barrels smoking at his feet. The light was gleaming off something attached to his belt, reflecting upwards to his weathered face, sinking into the patch that covered one eye. He took a few steps forward and the reflective object on his belt coalesced into a badge. He was a watchman.
‘Lieutenant Egregious Barnes, at your service,’ he said, a little too calmly for a man that had just introduced the squishy parts of two men to the outside world.
Oh, I liked him.