No scuff marks. No dirt. No disturbance in the little patch of dust in the corner. No sound, when he turned the doorknob. Antiquated, this place; or at least the appearance of being so. Regardless, the lock was exactly as when he came in. Greased, quiet, unbroken. He examined the flap again. He’d be able to fit his guns through it, but no more. Certainly not the large, metal case at his feet.

It’s been two weeks in this sawdust hotel. Had he overstayed his welcome? Should he go back to the ship? The case probably did not contain a bomb. The signatures didn’t match. But suppose it did? Would it not be better to confine the explosion to a less public area? Perhaps he should go to the outskirts of town. Find a long pole, get it open somehow, and wait for the dimmers in his visor to react to the explosion. Yeah, he should do that soon. His hand trembles with the loathsome aftereffects of alcohol. He presses it to his brow. Feels the sweat. Rubs off a little more of his pale markings. Dammit, Kryik. Think straight.

Failing that, get out of here.

I know. I know, he mouths to himself. But they shouldn’t know I’m here. Maybe stakeout fucked with his mind too much–maybe it was the alcohol again, driving him to reveal things when he really shouldn’t. Hiding things from him when he really needed it. He needed action.

‘I need you.’

He’d sent a message to someone, says the memory in his fingertips. Oh yes, yes he had. The log should’ve been in his omni-tool. But it wasn’t. Someone had deleted it. The same someone? No, that was silly. He himself must’ve done it. Why? Protocol. The only explanation. He’d checked the buoys, or he hoped he had. Spirits damn it, the solution was staring at his face, wasn’t it? Glaring at him with gunmetal eyes. How did the case even fit? A good metre long, and half as wide again. Fancy electronic lock. The doorflap was much too small, the portions of food it was used to dispense were even smaller but that wasn’t important, Kryik, so concentrate for the sake of– Stop thinking with your stomach, kid–

The door lock was exactly as when he came in. He’d added his own security out of habit. It hadn’t always been his habit, but looking back, it would’ve saved him so much grief, so much trouble, so much horrible, scorching pain. Even if it was two steps away from normal. Even if someone knew how to get past it. But it was an obvious solution. Always the last thing–

“You don’t do ‘normal’, do you, Saren?” He spoke to the tiny blinking electronic light.

A voice, dry as the yellow dirt outside. “Indeed.”

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