“Aaron Black! Stop!”
Aaron stopped in his tracks, startled. But it was only for a moment—then he burst into a run.
He had made it no more than several meters from where he’d been before he felt a heavy weight hit his shoulder and he toppled forward as the paws of the large cat landed square on his back and he went toppling forward. He landed face first on the ground, his arms thrown wide.
The weight of the cat crushed the air from his lungs as it leapt off of his back and stalked around in front of him before deciding to put it’s paw on his head to keep him where he was.
“Goddammit!” he groaned.
“If you’d stopped when I first called out to you that wouldn’t have happened,” said the woman coming up beside him.
He curled his fingers into fists, readying himself for a fight.
The large paw vanished and Aaron pushed off the ground, pulling one leg under him and lashing out with the other. The woman nimbly dodged back out of his reach and settled into a fighting stance.
The kick was meant as a distraction though, Aaron had no intentions of sticking around. He sprung from his crouch diving past the cat and trying to make a break for it.
But he wasn’t fast enough. The woman slammed her shoulder into his back, making him stumble. Before he could even think about falling forward again, she grabbed him by the back of his coat and swung him around, slamming him against the nearest wall.
“Aaron Black-Heart, why are you running,” she said icily as she gripped his coat with one hand and one of his arms with her other, twisting it behind his back to keep him pinned.
His face pressed up against the wall, he ground out though his teeth, “Don’t call me that!”
“That’s your name, isn’t it? Or is it Aaron Backer now?”
“Just. Shut. Up!” Aaron twisted against the wall in the pushed off of it with his body, knocking her back by sheer strength, wrenching his arm free of her grasp in the process. Pain ripped through his shoulder, but he was thankful that he hadn’t dislocated it.
He didn’t waste any time as she hit the ground and pushed back off it, jumping up. Launching himself forward as hard and as fast as he could, he took off into a flat-out sprint for the end of the street.
He turned the corner and found himself back on the docks. She wouldn’t be far behind, he knew, with her cat right there beside her.
Dodging crewmen working the docks he made it back to the dock where his ship was moored. There was no one around. Keern must have had just enough time to get the cargo unloaded but not to start on the FTL drive. That meant that it’s capacitors hadn’t been recharged. It would have to do though.
Grabbing the mooring ropes, he untied them and tossed them aboard, leaping on as well.
Turning, he caught sight of the at the far end of the dock.
“Aaron! Stop!” she shouted as she sprinted toward the ship.
Grabbing the railing, he stepped down and pushed against the dock with all his might. The ship started to float back from the dock, out into the open air.
She neared the end of the dock, her cat right beside her, neither of them stopping. The cat leapt over the widening gap first. Aaron barely had time to curse as the large animal hit him square in the chest, landing on him and knocking him backward onto the deck of the ship.
There was a loud thunk and a grunt as she barely made the jump and hit the side, grabbing on and pulling herself up over the side.
“You can’t run anymore,” she said smoothing out her form-fitting, dark-green jumpsuit and straightening her short black jacket.
“Get your cat off of me,” growled Aaron. The large cat had landed feet first on him and as soon as he’d hit the deck had lain down on him and placed a massive paw on his face, pinning him.
The woman walked over and leaned over the him and the cat. “Alright Katha, that’s enough playing around. Get off him.”
The cat got up and stepped off of him, knocking the wind from him as it stepped on his stomach. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and rubbed his head. “Get the hell off of my ship. What do you want with me anyways, Mai?”
“So you do remember my name, good. I’m here to return this.” She tossed a thick paper wrapped package at that landed in his lap.
He ran his hand over the wrapping and then peeled it back. “Where did you get this,” his voice came out dead, monotone, but there was an slight undertone of fear as well.
“I picked it up in Ksalvis and had an old friend repair it. I’ve been carrying it around ever since. You know, you do a really good impression of being dead.”
“That’s cause Aaron Black died in Ksalvis.”
“And Aaron Baker was born…?”
“Then why? Why did you leave?” Her voice was hard.
He pulled the paper wrapping back around the package with a crinkle and pushed himself into a standing position. “The ship is floating free, I need to tend to it before we cause any trouble.”
“No.” She gestured to the side of the ship and the single mooring rope hanging over the side at the bow of the ship. “You forgot to untie one of the ropes. It was the only way I was able to make the jump.”
Aaron cursed himself for not being vigilant in his haste. He gripped the package and looked down at it in his hand.
“Leave or stay,” said Mai steadily. “Your friend will be back soon either way and you need to charge the capacitors on this boat as well.”
She had done her research. He had no doubt now that she had known about and had been waiting for him for a while. Aaron didn’t make a move for the ropes.
“You still haven’t said why you’re here. Is it to kill me for real or take me prisoner?” he said in a cold voice.
He looked over at her, surprised.
“I’m here on different job. It has nothing to do with you.”