Black Ice – Chapter 6

It’s what you’ve all been waiting for, isn’t it?

Just answer yes.

Black Ice

A Novel By William Louison

Chapter 6

Sin awoke to the smell of smoke. His back was shooting with pain and his legs felt like they were on fire. Given what had just happened, he had every reason to believe that he was, in fact, on fire. With a sudden jolt of fear that pounded in his chest, Sin tried to jump up and run away. His body wouldn’t respond, and all that he managed to do was open his eyes.

The world was spinning around him and smoke swirled everywhere. Barely visible buildings flickered, twisted and turned, some of them even disappearing. Sin blinked, which only seemed to make things worse. His eyes were stinging and started to fill with water just waiting to spill out as tears.

“Sin!” The voice was familiar, yet Sin could not place it. His eyes darted back and forth, his only way of looking around because his neck felt too stiff. “Sin!” the voice called again. He thought he started to hear other words, but they were overpowered by an intense screeching that attacked his ears.

There was a bright flash of light and then the ringing went away and Sin heard his heart beating once again. He blinked, long and hard, and when he opened his eyes, everything was still. Brill was staring down at him, calling out his name. Her face looked exceptionally stunning right now, her pale skin standing out against the dark sky. Her hair had fallen out of its usual ponytail and was hanging down all around her face. For a moment, as Sin stared in her eyes, all of his pain disappeared. He felt a warmth inside his chest, but only for a moment.

“Sin,” Brill said again, snapping Sin out of his trance. If the pain had not started shooting back into Sin’s body, he might have felt a little embarrassed by what had just happened to him as he looked at Brill. “Are you all right?” she asked.

Sin nodded, his neck feeling very stiff as he moved it slowly. He opened his mouth to speak, but he started to cough. It was a terrible, dry, hacking that felt like a knife in his chest every time it happened. When he felt like he had coughed forever, he coughed a little more and then threw up the contents of his stomach on the road beside them.

“Feel better?” Brill asked him.

Sin was on his knees, staring at his greenish pool of vomit. Brill was rubbing his back, which had a way of soothing him. “What happened?” Sin asked, finally awakening from his daze. His vision seemed back to normal – although the smoke still bit at his stinging eyes – but his body was in a greater pain than Sin had ever known. He saw smoke everywhere and realized that he had an answer to his question.

Brill pointed to Sin’s bar, her face distressed and covered in sadness. “I’m sorry, Sin,” she said while managing to hold back her tears.

Sin forced himself to stand, ignoring the agony he was in. He saw the pain on Brill’s face and braced himself for what he was going to see. He took a deep breath and turned around, to see the source of all the smoke.

And there it was, the pride of Sin’s life – the first thing he had ever owned that he was truly proud of – flashing with flames and spewing smoke. The sound of Black Ice burning was perhaps one of the worst that Sin had ever heard, and the horror and aguish that plagued him in this moment would stay with him the rest of his life.

The two windows on the front of the building had shattered, most likely because of the blast from the bomb. The inside of the bar was a fiery mess, and what could be seen beneath the flames was either destroyed or nearly so. Sin cringed as he watched the only symbol of his perseverance and determination get reduced to little more than fractured stone, collapsing metal, dust and ash. The sign that once bore the large, neon “Black Ice” had short circuited and was now sparking. Sin felt a pain deep in his heart. All he had worked for in the last few years was gone. He was finally beginning to break free of poverty, but whatever hopes he had held were no more than ashes now.

A small crowd had gathered, keeping their distance from the bar. Most were just curious as to the cause of the commotion and many had probably suspected the violence and destruction to be gang related, which is why they didn’t get too close. There would be talk of this explosion and the destruction of Black Ice for some time to follow – that much one could be sure of.

After what seemed like a long time, Sin finally turned away from what was once the Black Ice. “Let’s go,” he said, his voice barely a whisper, and still scratchy from the smok. And with that, he started walking away. Brill and Kora followed, passing quickly the crowd in the street, not caring about the accusing glances the onlookers had for the trio.

“Sin,” Brill said, grabbing his arm. He didn’t say anything, nor did he look back at her. “Let’s head back to my place and we’ll figure this out.” She was trying so hard to ease his pain. “I’m so sorry, Sin. I’m so terribly sorry.”

Kora just walked behind the two, remaining silent. She was trying to take it all in, and came to a chilling realization. The people in the streets seemed far more interested and curious about what happened than they were concerned with the health and safety of anyone involved – and they were definitely not afraid. This was normal for them; they had seen stuff like this all the time. Kora sighed, feeling as if she was just skimming the surface on how harsh life was for them, and other people across the galaxy that were cursed with poverty as well. Her heart dropped, and she felt a terrible sadness, not only for Sin and Brill, but for all the people that she passed in the dark, early morning streets.

The rest of the walk to Brill’s apartment was made in silence. It took about fifteen or twenty minutes because they were walking slow, and by the time they reached their destination, the sun was just beginning to show itself.

Kora couldn’t help but notice the disgusting state of Brill’s apartment building. It was old, out of date technology wise, stank and needed major renovations. Kora’s room below Black Ice was nicer than this place, but then she assumed that this was a pretty average place to live for this area of the city. She was still just beginning to realize how poor this end of Jallin really was.

No one ever spoke of the poverty and the ghettos when Jallin was the topic of conversation. All that was mentioned was that Jallin was the grand, impressive, rich, clean, joyful and contemporary capital of the planet Warden, one of the more significant worlds that swore loyalty to the Supreme Court.

Brill opened the door to her apartment, and Kora was pleased to see that it was like stepping into a paradise compared to the rest of the building. It was small, yes, but it was clean, well-looked after and there was a musky, intoxicating smell about the place – a scent that didn’t match the stink of the rest of the building, yet Kora could not place what it was from.

The three of them quickly tended to any injuries they had suffered, trying to fill the menacing silence with any bits of speech, but no one was really in the mood for talking. Sin was wrapping a bandage around a cut on his hand that was caused by a shard of glass, when Brill reached into her pocket and pulled out a small bag.

Sin looked up and recognized it right away. He couldn’t help but smile, even if it was just a small one. “You grabbed my money bag, did you?” He chuckled, and he wasn’t sure why.

Kora looked at the bag with a strange look. “I’m wondering why you grabbed it,” she said pensively. “You couldn’t have known the bar was going to be destroyed.”

Brill shrugged her shoulders. “I just imagined the worst case scenario, and thought I better grab Sin’s money in case something happened like what actually happened.”

“And that’s why I’ve kept you on my staff all these years,” Sin said, his smile growing. “You’re always thinking ahead.”

Brill smiled back, pleased that she had sparked some conversation, and a smile on her best friend’s face. She figured the best thing for them all is to just talk about anything so they don’t have to let their minds run free, thinking about the bar and the encounter they had just faced. “Well it was a better story than saying I was gonna steal it in case there was trouble and I decided to run.”

Sin started laughing right away, but it took Kora a few minutes to realize Brill was joking. “Oh, I get it,” the Tavian said through a smile.

Sin suddenly stopped laughing, as if he just remembered something. “Thanks for getting the bag, Brill,” he said, with a sigh.

“Sin, don’t worry about the bar right now, we’ve got more pressing concerns.” Brill sighed too, and then stood up from her spot on the bed. “We’ve got to decide what we’re doing.”

Sin nodded. He set the money bag down, it jingled slightly, and he snapped to attention. “You’re right, Brill, yet again. We can’t stay here.”

Kora gave them both a confused look. “Why not?” she asked.

“You don’t know the Syndicate, do you?” he asked her. She shook her head, which was the answer that Sin was expecting, so he continued. “They’re a crime organization,” he explained. “They’re massive and spread out across the galaxy, and one of the biggest enemies of the Supreme Court.”

“They hired the bounty hunters to come here,” Brill explained, turning on the sink and filling up three glasses. “Here, everyone have some water.” She walked back and handed out the cups, much like she does when she’s serving. Whether she will ever find herself professionally handling a tray of drinks again was another matter all together. “The water’s about the only thing in this building that hasn’t gone to hell.”

Kora accepted the glass with a smile. “I still don’t understand. Will the Syndicate send more bounty hunters? And why were they sending them in the first place?”

Sin took a drink of water, which felt like a fresh, mountain stream running down his dry throat. He quickly summarized the message he had received from his brother, which was the reason for the bounty hunters attack. “And yes, the Syndicate will send more,” Sin confirmed. “A lot more – once they find out we killed their first three.”

“Now I understand why we have decisions to make,” Kora said, feeling a little more enlightened on the situation. She was wondering why they were attacked – what Sin’s brother had stolen from the Syndicate to provoke them – but there was really never any time to ask that question. It was far less important to know why they were being attacked than it was to survive.

“We can’t stay here,” Brill said firmly. “We just can’t.”

“Do you mean leave Jallin?” Kora asked.

“No,” Sin answered. “She means leave Warden. We have to get off the planet, and the sooner the better.” His shoulders slouched down. “It’s not like we have anything left here anyways.”

“But we don’t have a ship,” Brill said, staring at Sin’s money. “And I don’t think that you’ve got enough there to book passage off-world.”

Sin nodded. “I guess I should count this,” he said, opening up the bag. His face lit up when he looked. It could have been the happiest that Kora had seen him, which was odd to her because he should have had a rough estimate of what was in the bag. “Brill, I can’t believe…” Sin’s voice trailed off as he reached in the bag and then pulled out his former desk ornament, the little glass space ship that he was so fond about.

“I thought you might want that, too,” Brill said with a big smile. She was glad to see it safe, too. It was one of the few presents she had been able to afford to give to Sin. It represented so much more than just a present, though, especially because Sin had loved it right from when he first saw it.

“Thanks Brill,” Sin said, not finding any other words to express how he felt. After a few moments of sentimental glee, a single tear escaped Sin’s eye, but he promptly wiped it away.

Kora watched and was happy for him. He needed good stuff like this to keep his mind off the tragedy that had happened. She was also amazed at Brill. How did she know that they would not be going back to Black Ice? In a dangerous situation like that, the last thing on Kora’s mind would be to collect the stuff that Brill had grabbed, especially the spaceship. Now, though, that money could be very useful, but the value of the ornament was priceless.

Sin dumped the rest of the contents onto the bed, a pile of different shaped and coloured coins poured out. “We’ll have to stop somewhere and open a bank account. Most places deal electronically with funds.”

“How come you never opened an account in all your years here?” Kora asked ignorantly. She was still learning about Sin, Brill and their lifestyle, and she always had many questions.

Sin half smiled as he was separating his money, sorting it out. “There are no banks in this part of the city,” he explained. “And if there were, I wouldn’t trust them.”

“I’ll be right back,” Brill said, walking into the washroom and closing the door behind her.

Sin continued his sorting and counting. All the coins were made from some sort of metal, and they all shimmered in the light – some more so than others. Sin moved them into piles of the same type of coin. Kora had gotten much better with the currency – Tavia used different money, whereas majority of the Supreme Court planets used the Sol – and she was able to recognize and identify each and every piece. The yellow circles were worth five sol, the green squares twenty-five, the orange rectangles were fifty, blue triangles had a value of one hundred, the pink pentagon was worth five hundred, the purple oval one thousand, and the red hexagon was the largest coin that Sin had, worth ten thousand sol.

Most of Sin’s coins were on the lower end of the money scale, and Kora had actually never seen anything higher than the ten thousand coin. She watched Sin carefully count the small coins, coming up with a total. He counted a second time, just to be certain. “Fifty-eight thousand, one hundred and forty-five,” he said.

“Hold on,” Brill said as she walked out of the washroom, carrying a smaller bag. “Count this, too!” She tossed the bag across the room to Sin, who opened it up. There was significantly less in Brill’s savings than Sin’s, but that really didn’t matter. He was just glad she was contributing any money at all.

He dumped the coins into his palm and started to count. “You’ve got seventeen-thousand, three hundred and fifteen,” he said when he had finished. “That gives us seventy-five thousand, four hundred and sixty.”

“That’s not even enough to buy passage off this damned planet,” Brill said, agitation creeping into her voice, “let alone a ship of our own. What now?”

Kora started digging in her pockets. “There was a reason why I wanted you to drag the Netillion out of Black Ice. Those bounty hunters had to have come here on something.” She pulled out two access key cards, which were small enough to fit in one’s pocket, but large enough to not get lost. “I’ve got the keys to their ship.”

Sin looked up, a sly grin on his face. “How did you manage to think about that?” he exclaimed, obviously impressed. A thousand possibilities invaded his thoughts.

Brill felt the same way, brimming with delight. “Kora, you’re a genius! This could be our ticket out of here.”
Kora shrugged humbly. “It just made sense to look for keys,” Kora said. “But honestly, my line of thinking was to sell the ship, seeing as you just lost a whole lot of money on the bar.”

Both Sin and Brill started to laugh, and Kora eventually joined in. “I’m not sure of your reasoning,” Sin said, between laughing, “but I’m glad you decided to do what you did.” Sin had almost forgotten that everything he built his life around was destroyed, but when he remembered it was like getting shot through the stomach and chest at the same time, and he couldn’t find the ability to laugh anymore. “I guess we should try to hammer out some sort of plan,” he said, sadness creeping back into his voice.

Brill nodded, noticing the joy was, once again, gone from his eyes. “I don’t have any bags or packs or anything,” Brill said, “maybe you could take the money and go buy some.” She looked around the small apartment. “I can start to get stuff together here. Maybe me and Kora can try and find anything useful in all my crap here.”

Sin nodded, standing up. “I could use a walk, too.”

Brill half smiled. “I haven’t cleaned this place in a while, either. I’m sure I’ll find a few things I forgot I had.”

“All right,” Sin said, already opening the door. “Do you think we’ll need anything else?”

“I’m not sure,” Brill replied, thinking for a moment. “I think for now we’ll be fine. As long as that bounty hunters’ ship has a full water supply.”

“You should probably buy some food,” Kora told him. “Even if it’s only a day trip, I’m going to be hungry. I don’t want to rely on the possibility of food already being on that ship.”

“Good point,” Sin agreed. “I’ll grab some stuff. I guess I’ll see you in a few hours.”

They watched Sin leave, and then Brill turned to Kora. “Okay. Let’s just start going through everything here, which isn’t much I have to say.”

“What will we do with it?” Kora asked her. “There’s not a lot of room here for sorting.”

Brill nodded, looking around her apartment. She definitely did not live like a Queen – rather quite the opposite. “We’ll pile everything we can use on the bed and the table,” Brill decided, “and the rest of the junk that I don’t want, we’ll just throw in a pile in a corner.”

Kora looked a little surprised. “But Brill, if you do that, the owners might not let you live here.”

Brill smiled at Kora, a sarcastic look in her eyes. “It’s funny that you think I’m ever going to come back here.”

“I guess if you’re in the trouble you say that you are,” Kora said, wondering what to expect from the future. “I’m surprised you’re taking me with you.”

“You want to know something, Kora?” Brill asked rhetorically, and rather sentimentally. “Do you remember when we first met?”

Hoe could she forget. “Yes.” Kora nodded, remembering waking up and hearing Brill’s voice yelling at her. At that point, she had had no idea what was going on and thought for sure that Brill was going to kill her.

“Back then,” Brill told her, “those few weeks ago, I didn’t want to like you. I thought you were stupid, irrational and that you deserved to die.” Kora flinched at the insults, but said nothing in reply. “But now, I feel like I’ve known you half my life. And I realize that I was wrong.” Brill felt like she was awkwardly stumbling over her words. “What I mean to say is, Kora, you’re my friend, and you’re Sin’s friend too. Of course you can come with us. We might even find better lives for ourselves out there.”

“How so?” Kora asked.

“People always say the galaxy is full of opportunities,” Brill explained. “I guess we just have to go out and find them.” She held up a finger, almost as if protesting what she had just said. “But before that, we’ve got to deal with this mess that Sin’s brother has seemingly got us dragged into.”

“Thank you, Brill,” Kora said, feeling a warmth inside of her. “I’ve always thought of you and Sin as my friends. About the only ones I have.”

“Don’t worry,” Brill told her. “You are not alone with that.” She clasped her hands together and moved to the dresser. “Let’s get started on sorting my junk.”

Kora nodded, quickly jumping up from the chair she was sitting in. “What would you like me to do?”

Brill opened the top drawer of her dresser. “I’ll get started on this,” she declared. “Would you want to fold up the blankets on the bed for me?”

It took a few hours for them to go through everything, but it was the first time Brill was thankful she did not have a lot of stuff. It could’ve taken a lot longer if she had more. Because she had less stuff, she had to say goodbye to less things. First they cleaned out her clothes, which were easy to sort through. A few of the larger things she told Kora she could have – if her friend wanted them, of course. With the rest, Brill took the most practical items first, and then picked out the most expensive looking clothes she owned. She didn’t have very many, maybe ten outfits or so, but she got rid of about half.

Brill had no jewelry, except one ring which she always wore on her finger. It belonged to her mother and was the only memory Brill had left of her family and home life. After her clothes, they went through what was left in the dresser. Brill had one pair of ‘dress shoes’, which she had actually received as a present. It came from Jinn Drayke, the son of a wealthy crimelord, who wanted to marry Brill. She knew the shoes were expensive, and she really liked them, despite the fact they reminded her of that disgusting pig. She never wanted to marry him, and tried to avoid him all she could. However, that was time long past. She had received the shoes long before she came to Warden.

Brill went through the rest of her personal things, which wasn’t much. She decided on keeping a small book that Sin had given her. It was a book of poetry that Brill had never actually finished reading – she just liked it because it came from Sin. Also, she kept a prayer necklace that would have been considered sacred in her culture. She had never done anything with it before, but something inside told her not to throw it away.

And, of course she kept her laser pistol and hunting knife, which she had found useful more than a few times. She decided to get rid of the rest, dumping onto the floor a few other books, a little statuette, a framed picture of her homeworld Borania, a cloth wall hanging and a few other valueless trinkets. She did keep her crystals and incinerator, carefully tucking them into her pockets when Kora was occupied with folding the blankets – which they had decided upon keeping.

After the dresser, the rest of the house went quicker. They took only a few things from the bathroom – what soap she had, hairbrushes and the small amount of first aid related things there. The kitchen was also quick – Brill didn’t have a lot of food – and they only took a few cups, plates and cutlery.

After just a few hours, Brill’s small bed was filled with just a small amount of stuff. The pile of junk – as Brill called it – was nearly three times as big, and the rest of the apartment was a mess, looking like it had been ransacked. Stuff was everywhere, but Brill didn’t care. She just wanted to leave.

About half an hour after they had finished, and Brill and Kora were just talking, Sin came into the apartment, carrying three large, but very empty, bags, almost like packs. “I hope these do,” he said, setting them on the table. “There’s some food in one.”

“Thanks,” Brill said, going over to inspect the bags. “How much did it set us back?”

“About twelve thousand,” Sin said, quickly doing the math in his head. He pointed to the bed. “Is this everything you want to take?”

Brill nodded. “Everything I want, and then the rest is stuff I think we’ll need.”

Sin grabbed a bag and brought it over to the bed. “I thought you’d have more stuff, actually,” he told her with a smile. “Come on, let’s pack this up.” With the three of them working, it only took a few minutes to get everything in the packs. It wasn’t much long after that they were leaving Brill’s apartment, forever.

“It’s kinda funny,” Brill said, looking back as they walked down the unwelcoming hallway.

“What is?” Kora asked, turning to look back to see if Brill had spotted something in the hallway.

“Even though that place was a garbage hole,” Brill explained, “I may actually miss it. I’m leaving it for good. I’ll never be back there.” She turned back around, continuing to walk down the hall. “It’s like a part of my life closing forever.” She just sighed and walked through the door to the stairwell without looking back anymore.

Not The End

Don’t forget that I’m collecting all of the chapters on their own page of this blog. You can find that here.

Thanks for reading!

Till Next,

-Will

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