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Saint Nik

A Fairlight Tale by Paul M. Carhart


"Get me that laser torch, will you?" Nik Tavarone pleaded. "Before my fingers freeze and bond to the ledge?"

"Right. Laser torch."

His companion shuffled around, much to Nik's consternation, before shoving the device in his face.

He narrowed his eyes at her. She was, of course, dangling from a fiber cord that was attached to the top of the penthouse building so her fumbling could be forgiven. She flashed him a winning smile, her blue eyes sparkling.

Nik sighed and, holding onto the building with only one hand, he took the torch from her. "You don't have to be so bloody smug over there," he muttered. "It's not like we've been given a dress rehearsal."

"Hey, I'm not exactly comfy-cozy over here. Besides, this isn't exactly my idea of the ideal Christmas Eve. You're the one who wanted to get it so badly for him."

"Thanks for the reminder."

"You can say 'no' to him, you know. You don't always have to rush off to do his bidding."

"Faith, I don't need a lecture," he droned. "What I do need is for you to shut up so you don't alert the residents to our presence."

"And cutting through their window won't?"

The torch illuminated the night, the beam reflecting off of the window. Nik's fingers ached where he maintained his grip, but he knew it would only be a matter of seconds to cut through the latch.

Snap.

"Get the window," he rasped as he closed down the torch with two fingers.

Faith floated over to the ledge. Only a nudge was required to get the window open. She slinked inside.

Nik tucked the torch into the front of his pants and pulled himself in after her.

"You sure it's here?" Nik asked.

"My intel's always good. Are you sure you want to do this? I mean, we're not even armed. These days, these kinds of things are dangerous business."

"We're not armed because we're likely to have our hands full once we get what we came for. Besides, I made a promise, Faith. How do I tell him I couldn't get it?"

Faith didn't answer.

"In and out," Nik clarified.

Faith led the way out of the room and down a hallway.

"Third door on the right," she whispered.

Nik nodded. When they reached the door, he tried the old-fashioned handle.

"Locked."

Faith got down on one knee and pushed something into the keyhole. A second later, she covered her eyes and faced the other direction. A spark flared out of the keyhole and the door snapped open.

"Capital!" Nik said. "I knew you'd come in handy."

"Just hurry so we can get out of here. I'll stand watch."

Nik stepped into the room. The smell of the small explosive Faith had used still drifted in the air and spots flashed before his eyes as they adjusted to the darkness.

If Faith's intel was indeed correct; the vault he was looking for was in the far wall. He didn't expect the item to be difficult to retrieve. After all, no one knew he was coming for it.

In the old days, before the Government had banned all creative endeavors, Nik would have expected the vault to be hidden behind a painting. However, these were different times.

He ran his fingers over the textured wallpaper. Underneath, he could feel the imperfections in the surface where the vault was countersunk against the wall.

A knife appeared in his hand and he ran the blade down the wallpaper along the edges of the vault. The paper flapped down, revealing a reflective surface and a blinking green light on the combination panel.

So far, so good.

The lock on the safe was far more sophisticated than he was used to. Perhaps Faith could have opened it, but he didn't have time to put her on the job.

So he pulled the torch back out and ignited it.

First he sliced the beam over the combination panel, slagging the electronics.

Can't be too careful.

Then he nudged up the energy beam on the torch and ran it along the side of the safe door where the latching mechanism was. He was rewarded with a satisfying "clank."

He closed down the torch and again tucked it into his pants.

Rubbing his graying whiskers, he scrutinized the vault one more time. It did not seem as if his exploits had set off any alarms.

Okay. Play it straight, Nik. No more wasted time.

He flung the door open and flashed a hand lamp inside.

Propped up in the vault, was a thick notebook.

Nik's hands closed around it and pulled it out. He flipped through it, giddy with excitement.

"It's all here," he breathed. "All of it!"

"And that's how it shall remain... Here," a deep voice interrupted.

The lights snapped on.

Nik spun to face the newcomer. The man stood rigidly straight and was aristocratic in bearing, all but for the fact that he had Faith's arms pinned behind her head and held a particularly ugly looking laser pistol up to her temple.

A rich sonuvabitch who's done nothing but profit from the war, Nik thought.

"Put it back, my good man, and I won't splatter her brains against the wall."

"That would be a waste of a pretty face," Nik quipped.

"I would be more concerned with my fine wall," the man said as he gestured toward the vault. "But I see that it has already been damaged."

Faith tugged at the man's grip but to no avail.

Nik pulled the laser torch from his belt and held it up to the notebook. "Surely you don't want to lose an item of such value." He grinned lopsidedly. The man's eyes fluttered. "It appears we are at an impasse," Nik added.

The man pushed Faith into the wall and tracked his pistol to over to Nik. "There is no such thing as an impasse," he droned as he squeezed the trigger.

Nik fell back, feeling the heat of the laser blast as it passed his cheek. He dropped the torch but managed to maintain a hold on the notebook.

Faith kicked the man behind his knee, forcing him down.

"Grab the torch!" she cried. "It's our only weapon!"

Nik fumbled across the floor to the torch, but the notebook was too heavy for him to carry it with only one hand. "I can't carry them both!" he called.

The man was picking himself back up. Faith kicked him again, this time in the groin. Cross-eyed, he reached for his nether region. Faith scooped up his pistol and crossed the room to Nik, swiping the torch from in front of him.

She rolled her eyes. "I can't take you anywhere."

"What are you talking about?" he asked as he stood back up. "You're the one who was supposed to be standing watch!"

They fled the room, leaving the man there with tears pouring from his eyes as he rocked back and forth.

"We're only three floors down from the roof," Faith said.

"Right. Follow the script." Nik clutched the notebook to his chest.

They reached the end of the hallway, which opened up into a foyer. A door that presumably led out of the penthouse suite stood before them.

Just as Faith reached for the handle, all of the lights came on, accompanied by a screeching alarm.

"That ought to wake everyone up," Nik commented.

Faith tried the handle. "And shut down all the doors. No time for finesse."

She leveled the pistol at the door. The shot took a bite out of the wall in addition to vaporizing the door latch.

She kicked it open. "Let's go."

They emerged into a corridor.

"Lift should be to the right," she said.

Nik nodded and they charged ahead.

They reached the lift with no pursuers.

"You think they gave up?" Faith asked as she stabbed the button on the control panel with her finger.

"Not likely. Not considering what we've just pilfered."

"The lift's not moving," Faith observed.

"They must have shut them down when they set off the alarms. Staircase?"

They both glanced around. "That's got to be it," Nik announced. They darted for the door they'd just discovered. In the distance, they could hear the boot falls of their assailants.

"So much for a clean escape," Nik muttered.

Of course, the door to the staircase was also locked.

Faith obliterated the obstacle with the laser pistol.

They took the stairs two at a time. Below, they could hear their pursuers gaining.

"Enforcers?" Faith asked.

"More likely private security. Probably just as deadly though."

They reached the end of the staircase and, with another quick blast from Faith's weapon, burst through the door onto the roof.

The wind assaulted their faces. Nik sniffled at the cold air.

"It's starting to snow," Faith said.

"Might make things slippery," Nik agreed.

In the distance, their hover car sat just where they had left it.

Sanctuary...

But the distance was such that they would never be able to get to the car before the enemy arrived. All their assailants would have to do was target the hover coils. They'd either be captured or they'd fall to their death. Either way, Nik would have failed to bring back his prize.

He wasn't about to let it go now.

"Take the book and get the car," he said. "Leave these blokes to me."

Faith cocked her head but didn't question him. Then she tossed him her pistol.

"You'll need this more than I."

He spun to face the staircase, tucking the pistol into the back of his belt. In the distance, he could hear Faith charging toward the hover car.

Script be damned! I've always been better at improvisation.

He rubbed his whiskers and scrutinized the door for just a few seconds before the night lit up with laser bolts from inside.

Nik hit the ground.

Sheesh, don't they know I'm trying to work?

He jerked the gun back out and fired a few random shots into the staircase while scrambling for the door. No one screamed out, so he imagined he hadn't hit anyone.

That was actually fine with him.

With a huff, he flung the door shut. He stood and engaged the latch.

That won't hold them for long. What to do?

He whipped the laser torch out and took the beam quickly across the hinges of the door. In his periphery, he caught a glimpse of the hover car as it came about.

The door heaved as the men inside blasted away at the latch. Nik set the laser pistol to its highest setting.

Okay, boys. You want it open? You got it.

Nik disengaged what was left of the latch, stood back and emptied the pistol into the door.

Without the latch and the hinges holding it up, the door flew back into Nik's pursuers, knocking them all back down the stairs.

The hover car swung up beside him.

Exit, stage left!

Nik plunged through the open viewport.

"Onward, my dear," he smirked as he hugged the notebook back up to his chest.

"Well played, my friend," Faith remarked. "You've been uncharacteristically ruthless tonight. That thing sure must be important."

"Oh. It is," he assured her. "Trust me. It is."

An hour later, after they took the hover car through some increasingly powerful snow flurries, they were cleared to pass through the checkpoint into the resistance camp. It was Christmas Eve and it was late, but Nik was certain the people he was going to meet would still be up.

He burst into the tent of his good friend Chance, the leader of the creatives' resistance against the Government. Faith trailed in behind him.

"Greetings all," Nik cheered.

"Where've you been?" Chance asked. "We were starting to get worried."

Nik smirked. Chance's new girlfriend, Mancy, and her seven-year-old son, Remy were also in the tent. The boy was working out some sort of a melody at a small pipe organ, but now gave Nik his full attention.

"What's that you've got there?" Mancy asked.

Nik beamed. "It's for Remy, actually."

"Hope he likes it," Faith breathed.

He stepped forward and placed the notebook in front of the boy.

Remy opened the book and stared into it, a sigh escaping his lips. "You got it!" he exclaimed.

Nik tousled the boy's blonde hair. "I sure did, Maestro. The collected works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Merry Christmas!"

Mancy came to her feet. "Nik, you shouldn't have. It must have cost a fortune!"

"Think nothing of it," Nik replied.

"The cost was actually less than you might think," Faith remarked. "At least to us."

Chance clapped his friend on his back, almost knocking the older man over. "What a Christmas present! Sometimes I think you must be some kind of a saint."

Faith rolled her eyes and collapsed into a chair.

Nik regarded her before glancing at the music in the boy's hands.

"Not hardly, Chance."

   
 


Chronology Note:

This story takes place shortly after the third Fairlight novel, Faith in the Past.

 


   
 
  © 2002 Paul M. Carhart, all rights reserved, all media.