T. C. Weber has pursued writing and music since childhood, and learned filmmaking and screenwriting in college, along with a little bit of physics. Trapped at home during the “Snowmageddon” of 2010, he transformed those interests into novel writing. His first published book, Sleep State Interrupt, was a Compton Crook Finalist for best debut speculative fiction novel. By day, Mr. Weber works as an ecologist and has had a number of scientific papers and book chapters published. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife Karen. He enjoys traveling and has visited all seven continents.
As soon as they exited the hotel, Kiyoko pulled out her comlink and tried to reach Pel and Charles via Crypt-O-Chat. They weren’t online. She left a message: Beware Inspector De Barros – Working with kidnappers!
She wished her sister was here. Waylee always knew what to do, and wasn’t afraid all the time.
Gabriel hailed a taxi and they returned to Liberdade. Hungry, they stopped for lunch at the Ichiban Bakery. It was a small place, mostly for takeout, crowded with glass-encased shelves and refrigerators full of cakes, pastries, and sandwiches. The smell of fresh-baked buns made her mouth water. A young Japanese-looking couple sat at one of the four tables, eating matcha cookies and speaking in Portuguese.
Kiyoko and Gabriel ordered thick slices of torta de frango and glasses of juice. He paid—Kiyoko was broke. “I should sell some things,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to pay for me, especially now that you’re on vacation and not getting reimbursed.”
He held up a hand. “I am happy to buy anything you need.”
They sat at the furthest of the two empty tables to the right of the door. Gabriel slid his chair so his back wasn’t to the entrance. “I like to see my surroundings,” he said.
“Do you think we’ll have more trouble?” At least they had that adaptive fiber armor beneath their shirts.
“I’m never getting caught unprepared again.” He ate a forkful of torta.
“I’m getting a cupcake afterward,” Kiyoko said.
Gabriel blinked. “I don’t know how you eat so much and stay so thin.”
“Super energy. Waylee’s the same way.” She had a bite of torta. The chicken and vegetables were flavored with garlic and tomato. She lowered her voice. “How can we find out more about this John Hill guy?”
Gabriel put his fork down and leaned forward, speaking quietly. “I thought you were going to run an image search on the Comnet.”
“That was if we got a photo. Without it, we’d get millions of matches. We don’t even know for sure he’s American.”
He nodded. “I am not trained as a detective.”
The bell on the bakery door jingled. A man in jeans and a leather coat entered. He wore a rigid plastic mask of some man she didn’t recognize. Kiyoko almost peed herself. “Gabriel!”
Another masked man followed the first, then two masked women.
If I cower, we’ll die, she thought. An invisibility spell would be ideal. Kiyoko reached into her carry bag and pulled out her smoke grenade.
The masked people whipped out pistols and submachine guns. Gabriel reached inside his outer shirt for his guns. He didn’t have his data glasses on.
Kiyoko pulled the pin of the smoke grenade and pointed it at the attackers. White smoke billowed out. She waved it, forming a dense cloud that stank of sulfur, burning metal, and chlorine.
The attackers fired, an onslaught of loud bangs. Something hard hit her in the collarbone, followed by another. A bullet whizzed past her head. People screamed. Gabriel grunted and shot back, loud rapid bangs.
The smoke grenade, still belching white, got too hot to hold. Kiyoko chucked it at the attackers and dove beneath the table.
The attackers’ masks had eye and nostril holes. Kiyoko pulled out her pepper spray gun and fired at the four shapes in the smoke, spraying from right to left at face height. The attackers screamed.
Gabriel kicked his chair at them, ran, dodged, fired on the move. Noise battered Kiyoko’s ears—rapid bangs from the attackers’ guns, thuds against the table, crashing glass all around.
Kiyoko kept spraying. She couldn’t see the attackers now through the foul smoke and tears in her eyes. Something hit her right arm just above the elbow. It burned like a blowtorch.
One of the attackers dropped, then another, although it was hard to be sure. Kiyoko ran out of pepper spray and pulled out her stun gun. It was impossible to see through the white smoke, though. She didn’t want to hit Gabriel.
The shooting stopped. Kiyoko glanced at her arm. Blood streamed from a hole in the blouse sleeve. Just below the armor, bad luck.