Jenna's AddendaBy Marian Mendez
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Jenna opened her eyes. Good. Blake had gone. She got up as quickly as she
could, holding one hand against her side. From the feel of it, several ribs
had gone, either from the force of Blake's shot or from smashing into the
floor. She slid a fingernail under the edge of her under-tunic, loosening it.
She was sure it had left the pattern of its micro-circuitry embossed on her
skin. The man who'd sold it to her had sworn it was impervious to projectiles
and beam weapons alike. He hadn't mentioned how sore it made you afterward.
She was glad that Blake hadn't aimed for the head, or she'd be too dead to
She stooped again to pick up her own weapon and to make sure that none of the Federation guards were alive. She grimaced at the corpse Blake had knifed. She hadn't thought him capable of it-- not that sort of killing. It wasn't like the clean, impersonal death of a space battle. You didn't smell the dead in vacuum, or see their glazing, uncomprehending eyes, or have to step over a puddle of gore to keep from leaving tracks.
She glanced around once more, making certain she wasn't leaving any evidence behind. Then she slipped out into the false twilight of Jevron's day. Of course, the Federation didn't need evidence against her. She'd be the first one they'd look for in the wake of Blake's escape. But she hadn't been a free-trader all her adult life for nothing. There were always places to hide, and ways to escape. Particularly if you weren't choosy.
She hadn't been choosy in a long, long time. Not since the Federation murdered her mother. She still didn't know why they'd done it. Or why they'd given her to an Alpha couple to raise as their own instead of killing her too. She shook her head. That was over-- over so long ago that it may as well have happened to a different Jenna. Pointless to think about it now.
The alarm finally sounded behind her, but as she had reached a crowded public way, it didn't seem wise to jump up and start running. Instead she looked toward the sound, as others did, and walked quickly in the opposite direction, as all the sensible people did.
Breddan wouldn't shelter her. Not with the amount of pressure the Federation would bring to bear on this miserable outpost planet. He'd turn her in so fast it would make her head spin, especially if they offered a few credits. There was a rumor that Breddan had sold his grandmother, along with her pet pussycats, to an experimental lab when he was a youngster. Jenna believed it.
Her hideaway wasn't a grimy, rat-infested tenement. She might have been able to disguise her Outworld origins, but impersonating one of the second-class, meek and mild, women of Jevron was out out of the question. Not that her way was any more pleasant, but it was more practical.
She had hoped to rescue Blake and get off Jevron with him, but she'd made provisions against the chance they'd be separated. After what she'd done to him, she wasn't sure he'd even want to stay with her. Playing dead seemed easier than explaining, and the shock had gotten through to him, made him react for once as a man, without totting up all the advantages and disadvantages to the rebellion. She frowned, remembering the bandage over his eye. She'd tried to impress the local troops with Blake's value, alive and undamaged. But it had taken longer than she anticipated to get the ship ready, and Blake's stubbornness must have annoyed someone. At least he was alive, and the last she'd heard, free. The ship was a good one, and the route she'd fed into its computers should have brought him safely to Avalon.
She sighed. Maybe someday she could find him and explain. That is, if he didn't really kill her for her betrayal before she could talk. He wouldn't understand how it had hurt her to see him begging scraps of attention from the Jevron underground. He had been a leader, a fighter, a man who never surrendered. She couldn't let him fade away, becoming a shadow of himself. Better that he should mourn her and seek revenge. Or find the truth and hate her. Either way he would feel something. And live until he died.
As she would.
She raked long, sharp, silvery-taloned fingernails through her tiger-striped mane of hair that matched the tawny gold of her naked shoulders. Neither skin nor hair dye was permanent, but what she'd done to Blake had left indelible marks on her soul. She smoothed the black leather corset in place, inspecting herself in the mirror one last time before beginning her shift. She was the leader, the one everyone watched, so her appearance was important. Her green-slitted contact lenses glittered behind her black velvet half-mask, adding to the feline illusion. She grinned and ran a finger over the extended points of her false canine teeth. What a silly outfit. It made her laugh to see it here, but on the job she was deadly serious, demanding the full attention of those who paid for her services. Since some of them were Federation officers, she made sure they only saw the Tiger Woman.
And felt her claws.
One thing, there were so few Jevron women suited to this job that it paid handsomely. One day soon she could afford passage off this world. In the meantime, she had a living to make.
She picked up the cat-o-nine-tails, pushed aside the gilt-edged curtain separating her from the customers, and got back to work.
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