Phantasma sighed with pleasure as the steaming water ran over her skin and rinsed the last traces of the passenger ship from her hair. No more sonic showers for a few months; her last job had seen to that. Who could have known the Zha of Opal placed such value on a bunch of dead ancestors in their decorative urns? The balance in her account would cover the cost of the hotel for a year, but all this luxury might make her soft. No, a few weeks would have to do. She reached for the shampoo bottle and brushed wet hair out of her eyes. Even the shampoo was fancy, with little flecks of gold suspended in the coppery liquid. It smelled expensive, like credit chits and champagne.
She heard the door slide open. The ruffian she had picked up at Supernova, no doubt. Looked like she hadn’t tired him out after all.
“Hey, handsome. Got enough beauty sleep? Come on, join me,” Phantasma said without turning around, sliding a nail under the shampoo bottle’s cap. She wouldn’t mind another go if he was up for it. He had reasonable technique and he had stuck the landing; besides, she had always been a sucker for body art and a certain roguish swagger.
Then she heard the familiar swoosh of a plasma gun heating up.
She turned around, slowly, the shampoo bottle still in her hand. There he was, in his scuffed leather pants, shirt still off, holding the plasma gun. Her plasma gun, to be exact.
“Get out,” he said, backing away. She could see from his expression that he meant business. No flirting her way out of this one, then.
“Take it easy. I’m coming.” She stepped out of the stall, dripping all over the nice therm-active tile that warmed as her bare feet touched it. “Just out of curiosity, which of the bounties are you going for? Because I can double it and then we can get back to more pleasant matters.” Well, a little flirting couldn’t hurt.
He wanted to do it the hard way? Fine. In one fluid motion she sent a squirt of shampoo flying at the man’s eyes and kicked the gun out of his hand. Soon after, the bottle hit him in the face and broke, splattering its contents everywhere. Phantasma spun around and swiped the man’s legs out from under him, an easy move as he was standing in a pool of shampoo. He landed with a wet slap, knocking the back of his head on the floor, hard. He lay there with a stunned expression on his face, wiping shampoo from his eyes, giving Phantasma plenty of time to retrieve the weapon. She pointed it at him.
“Now, be a good little bounty hunter and get up. Hands on your head. There we go. And sit.”
He complied, a defeated look in his eyes. She felt around on the nightstand for her forcecuffs and tossed them to him. “Cuff yourself to the chair. That’s it. Now stay.”
Keeping one eye on him, Phantasma grabbed a towel and wrapped it around herself, then sat on the bed opposite him. The gun she pointed right at his face. “Start talking, and I might be persuaded to give you an easy death. Who are you working for?”
“I can’t.” What the hell? Was he actually crying?
She lowered the gun. “What do you mean you can’t?”
“They have my parents. They’ll kill them.”
“So you tried your hand at bounty hunting. Gotta tell you, not impressed so far.” She gave an exaggerated sigh. “All right. If you’re not going to tell me, fine. I’ll just be going.” She started gathering her belongings.
“No, wait! You have to help me! You can get them out!” He reeked of sweat and despair even through the flowery scent of the shampoo.
“Sorry, hon. I don’t do charity.” She zipped the bag shut. “But I might just go see your employer, teach him a lesson. Maybe I’ll run into you parents on the way.”
She had him, and he knew it.
He lowered his head, and she could see the ink running on his fake tattoos. Now that was adding insult to injury. What was he really? A file pusher? Mechanic? Way too clean cut for her taste, anyway.
Finally he spoke. “Zabe Algernon, head of the Ravagers gang. He controls the whole operation. All the Coalition officers are in his bottomless pockets. His mansion is in its own support dome, half a kilometer to the west.”
“Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? Thank you . . . What’s your real name, anyway?” Phantasma asked.
“Cam. Cam Davis.”
“Okay, Cam. I’ll see what I can do. Say goodnight!”
He never saw the dermspray coming. From past experience Phantasma knew he’d be out for six to eight hours, minimum; more than enough time to pay Mr. Algernon a visit. Better to take care of him now: he might send someone halfway competent next time.
But first she would finish her shower.
Too bad someone had spilled all that nice shampoo.