She was surrounded.
That was bad. As an unlicensed trader Cherren’s liberty depended on always – always – having somewhere to run. Usually she had a partner to help her in that, but he was dead, and she had to live. The first day without him had been intoxicating, her senses on fire, but she knew she should have quit as soon as she had enough put by. Too late now. It was the fifth day and finally, fatally, she had slipped.
She was surrounded by large men.
That was less bad. Large men could be clumsy, and her stock was light. There was a chance she could slip between them and be lost in the crowd, but it was a chance she didn’t like to take. Large men could be deceptive. Harl had been a large man, and had moved like a dancer. That was a memory that didn’t help.
She was surrounded by large men, with large guns.
And that put the tin lid on any plans for flight. They were the Consul’s men, and wouldn’t be shy of shooting into the crowd; their guns only stunned, and any innocent bystander they caught would wake up to handsome compensation. What Cherren would wake up to was as unhelpful a thought as the memory of Harl at her side.
She was surrounded by large men, with large guns. None of them were smiling.
At last, a sliver of hope. There were squads who would have shown delight to have her at their mercy, and squads on a bounty promise who would have been quietly pleased. This squad was only bored, and for bored men a little entertainment paid large.
Cherren smiled a smile like the sun rising on Sal-Sattaran and said
“Hey boys. I have just the thing for you …”
A little something for this week’s Microcosms.