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?"
companion shuffled around, much to Nik's consternation, before shoving
the device in his face.
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.
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."
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."
for the reminder."
can say 'no' to him, you know. You don't always have to rush off
to do his bidding."
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."
cutting through their window won't?"
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.
the window," he rasped as he closed down the torch with two fingers.
floated over to the ledge. Only a nudge was required to get the
window open. She slinked inside.
tucked the torch into the front of his pants and pulled himself
in after her.
sure it's here?" Nik asked.
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
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?"
and out," Nik clarified.
led the way out of the room and down a hallway.
door on the right," she whispered.
nodded. When they reached the door, he tried the old-fashioned handle.
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.
Nik said. "I knew you'd come in handy."
hurry so we can get out of here. I'll stand watch."
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.
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.
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.
ran his fingers over the textured wallpaper. Underneath, he could
feel the imperfections in the surface where the vault was countersunk
against the wall.
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.
far, so good.
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.
he pulled the torch back out and ignited it.
he sliced the beam over the combination panel, slagging the electronics.
be too careful.
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."
closed down the torch and again tucked it into his pants.
his graying whiskers, he scrutinized the vault one more time. It
did not seem as if his exploits had set off any alarms.
Play it straight, Nik. No more wasted time.
flung the door open and flashed a hand lamp inside.
up in the vault, was a thick notebook.
hands closed around it and pulled it out. He flipped through it,
giddy with excitement.
all here," he breathed. "All of it!"
that's how it shall remain... Here," a deep voice interrupted.
lights snapped on.
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.
rich sonuvabitch who's done nothing but profit from the war,
it back, my good man, and I won't splatter her brains against the
would be a waste of a pretty face," Nik quipped.
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."
tugged at the man's grip but to no avail.
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,"
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
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
kicked the man behind his knee, forcing him down.
the torch!" she cried. "It's our only weapon!"
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.
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.
rolled her eyes. "I can't take you anywhere."
are you talking about?" he asked as he stood back up. "You're the
one who was supposed to be standing watch!"
fled the room, leaving the man there with tears pouring from his
eyes as he rocked back and forth.
only three floors down from the roof," Faith said.
Follow the script." Nik clutched the notebook to his chest.
reached the end of the hallway, which opened up into a foyer. A
door that presumably led out of the penthouse suite stood before
as Faith reached for the handle, all of the lights came on, accompanied
by a screeching alarm.
ought to wake everyone up," Nik commented.
tried the handle. "And shut down all the doors. No time for finesse."
leveled the pistol at the door. The shot took a bite out of the
wall in addition to vaporizing the door latch.
kicked it open. "Let's go."
emerged into a corridor.
should be to the right," she said.
nodded and they charged ahead.
reached the lift with no pursuers.
think they gave up?" Faith asked as she stabbed the button on the
control panel with her finger.
likely. Not considering what we've just pilfered."
lift's not moving," Faith observed.
must have shut them down when they set off the alarms. Staircase?"
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.
much for a clean escape," Nik muttered.
course, the door to the staircase was also locked.
obliterated the obstacle with the laser pistol.
took the stairs two at a time. Below, they could hear their pursuers
likely private security. Probably just as deadly though."
reached the end of the staircase and, with another quick blast from
Faith's weapon, burst through the door onto the roof.
wind assaulted their faces. Nik sniffled at the cold air.
starting to snow," Faith said.
make things slippery," Nik agreed.
the distance, their hover car sat just where they had left it.
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.
wasn't about to let it go now.
the book and get the car," he said. "Leave these blokes to me."
cocked her head but didn't question him. Then she tossed him her
need this more than I."
spun to face the staircase, tucking the pistol into the back of
his belt. In the distance, he could hear Faith charging toward the
be damned! I've always been better at improvisation.
rubbed his whiskers and scrutinized the door for just a few seconds
before the night lit up with laser bolts from inside.
hit the ground.
don't they know I'm trying to work?
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.
was actually fine with him.
a huff, he flung the door shut. He stood and engaged the latch.
won't hold them for long. What to do?
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.
door heaved as the men inside blasted away at the latch. Nik set
the laser pistol to its highest setting.
boys. You want it open? You got it.
disengaged what was left of the latch, stood back and emptied the
pistol into the door.
the latch and the hinges holding it up, the door flew back into
Nik's pursuers, knocking them all back down the stairs.
hover car swung up beside him.
plunged through the open viewport.
my dear," he smirked as he hugged the notebook back up to his chest.
played, my friend," Faith remarked. "You've been uncharacteristically
ruthless tonight. That thing sure must be important."
It is," he assured her. "Trust me. It is."
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
burst into the tent of his good friend Chance, the leader of the
creatives' resistance against the Government. Faith trailed in behind
all," Nik cheered.
you been?" Chance asked. "We were starting to get worried."
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.
that you've got there?" Mancy asked.
beamed. "It's for Remy, actually."
he likes it," Faith breathed.
stepped forward and placed the notebook in front of the boy.
opened the book and stared into it, a sigh escaping his lips. "You
got it!" he exclaimed.
tousled the boy's blonde hair. "I sure did, Maestro. The collected
works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Merry Christmas!"
came to her feet. "Nik, you shouldn't have. It must have cost a
nothing of it," Nik replied.
cost was actually less than you might think," Faith remarked. "At
least to us."
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."
rolled her eyes and collapsed into a chair.
regarded her before glancing at the music in the boy's hands.