He pressed his back hard against the cold rock wall of a minor side corridor on LevSix, his heart pounding, scrabbling almost unconsciously for the blaster strapped to his thigh.
Damn that boy, he cursed silently. Can't he just meet me at Dhamu's for a sandwich without starting some kinda bov-shit?
A wall of Connies stretched across the wider corridor a few meters in front of him. They were suited out in riot-control gear: heavy coveralls, thick with blaster-resistant cordion lining; nightsticks with leaded ends; and on hip or thigh or both, a blaster, ranging from light to heavy.
"Stay calm, citizens," shouted a heavyset woman with a surly expression and the eyes of a straz-head.
What the hell is going on?
"We're not here to interfere with your business," continued the woman, a sergeant by her insignia. "We just want to ask a few questions."
Sure. Just questions…just questions always went with riot gear. Maybe it wasn't Tau who started this.
Malik began to edge quietly backwards, into a maintenance shaft that he could use to bypass the promenade and get to Dhamu's the back way. It was just a couple of corridors over. Shit, he could almost smell the beer from here…
Across from Malik's position, two spacers came pounding down a corridor—and slammed into the line of Connies.
A Connie swatted his blaster across the face of one spacer, knocking her to the littered floor. Her companion—Malik could smell the fumes of liquor coming off her clear across the corridor—gave a yell and jumped the cop who'd hit her companion.
As if that had been a signal, all hell broke loose. Screams and shouts echoed as a barrage of objects—pipes, bottles, unidentifiable crap scooped up from the floor—rained down on the heads of the Connies.
"We're under attack!" shouted the Connie sergeant.
Good, Malik thought. They'll retreat, go get reinforcements, and by the time they get—
Blaster fire laced out, catching a man standing a few meters from Malik full in the belly. The man's mouth opened in a blood-filled scream, and he fell to the floor, smoking bowels oozing out like lazy snakes to curl around his twitching torso. A woman, whose right leg had suddenly mutated into a charred stump below the knee, was dancing crazily on the other towards a side corridor.
Malik's blaster was in his hand, but he had no real target as smoke and fumes filled the promenade. No use. He had something else more important to do, anyway; warn Dhamu and the others, make sure Tau had made it there okay, then get them all the hell further into the Depths until this bov-shit died down. With any luck, the Connies would bypass the corridor leading to the bar…
Malik raced to the back of the maintenance passage, kicked in an access panel, and with a grunt, squeezed his body into a tunnel half a size too small for him.