Mr. Hyperion took a sip of tea. It was a difficult beverage to get a hold of, seeing as how so much plant life was now extinct. His secretary stood in the doorway, clipboard in hand.
“Mr. Hyperion, sir, we have a report that says Nyriki Rocco has been captured in Whitethorn. A security detachment is on the way to bring him in.”
“Good.” He didn’t look up from his viewscreen. He didn’t think John and Fox could’ve gotten there. In fact, it would’ve been impossible. “It wasn’t John and Fox?”
She looked down at the clipboard. “No, sir. It was the Whitethorn authorities.”
He took another sip of tea. “Let them know.”
“Yes, sir. Do you have any instructions for them?”
“No.” He continued staring at the viewscreen.
“Yes, sir,” she said hesitantly. She bowed, and left.
John’s wristband beeped. He read the message and swore, despite being out of breath from pedaling for so long. He hit the brake.
“You get one of these?” he said. Fox looked down at his wrist and shook his head. They both sat in silence for a moment, catching their breath.
“What’s it say?” Fox asked.
“Says Whitethorn captured him.”
“Who the hell else?”
“What do we do?”
“Doesn’t say.” Frustration crept through his voice.
“I didn’t think he had a bounty in Cal.”
“He doesn’t. Must’ve picked one up. Shot someone, I dunno.”
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know!” John swore. He considered his options. All they could really do was keep going. Since they hadn’t been ordered back to the mine, they weren’t required to return. And since getting paid required them to capture Rocco, there was really only one thing to do. He got up to stretch. “If we don’t bring him back, we don’t get paid. And I’ll be damned if we have to go back to that mine.”
“So we keep going after him? Take him from Whitethorn?”
“Yeah.” John hopped back on the draisine and leaned back. “We’ve been at this for hours. We’ll take a quick break.”
“You start sleeping, I’ll push you off.”
Searing pain and dim light ripped Rocco into consciousness. His vision was blurry. He tried to speak, but his tongue was thick in his mouth. He couldn’t move. He was naked, and on a splintery wooden chair, tied up with a rope. He could feel shards of wood digging into his buttocks and back. He tried to cough, but could hardly even breathe.
“Glad you’re awake,” said a voice that Rocco identified as the uncooperative councilman. “You’ve been out for a while.”
Rocco tried to ask how long, but couldn’t find his voice. A strained, raspy murmur was all that escaped his lips.
“You thirsty? You must be thirsty.”
A dull pain rocked Rocco’s jaw, and the rickety chair toppled to the concrete. He could barely make out the councilman’s form kneeling over him. A firm, rough hand grabbed his throat. His vision turned black as he suffocated slowly.
“I’ll quench your thirst with salt, you slug, and tear your insides out.”