heather lin book

Lady of Mars: Chapter 28

Capri glanced at the clock. She was meeting the crew at 11:00pm. One more minute. She couldn’t put it off anymore. She picked up the gun from where it had fallen, tried to hold it the way Brody had shown her. She tried to make her movements look and feel natural.

But as far as she knew, gun-wielding wasn’t in her repertoire. There wasn’t much there, really. Looks, sex, and the skills it took to be a lady. But it looked like she was about to learn a new set, whether she liked it or not.

A knock sounded on the door, and she opened it to find Jax waiting for her.

“The captain wanted to make sure you didn’t change your mind.”

“Did he?” she asked skeptically, believing it was more likely he’d taken the task upon himself.

He glanced at the gun in her hand with look of doubt that mirrored her own.

“He appreciates you helping the job run more smoothly.”

Capri raised an eyebrow. “Can’t the captain speak for himself?”

Jax’s honey-brown eyes flashed with annoyance. Capri regretted her tone. She’d gotten herself into this, and why shouldn’t he question her ability to keep the man he loved safe? She’d agreed to break into a legitimate business and wield a gun in the pitch black just to tell Brody to fuck off.

Jax held out a tight, sleeveless shirt made out of some kind of rubbery material.

“Put this on,” he told her.

Capri began unbuttoning her shirt. He averted his gaze while she slipped on the bulletproof gear and replaced her clothing.

He turned to walk down the corridor. “A couple more days and you can pretend none of this ever happened,” he said.

She had a feeling he was trying to remind himself, too. Something like disappointment made her heart twinge.

They were the last to arrive at the loading bay. The captain began speaking.

“Jax, fire up the ship as soon as I link you. Leroy, you’ll drive us and stay outside the gate in case we need to get out quick. Capri, you’re watching at the storage shed door while Shots and I get what we need into one of the trucks.” He turned to Brody. “If things get messy, you know what to do.”

“But they won’t,” Capri interjected. “Right?”

Colin glanced at her. “There’s nothing saying they will. You have your piece?”

She nodded and put a hand on the gun in her belt. It scared her a bit. She’d never used one. But she found it strangely reassuring. If she’d had one when Sullivan attacked her, or in the alley, would things have gone differently?

“Everyone know where they need to be?” Colin asked, making eye contact with each of them.

There was a murmured “aye” from the crew. Capri nodded. Jax went back into the corridor, and everyone else piled into the car. Capri was in the back with Brody, who focused on checking his guns one last time. She still felt out of her element, still almost regretted coming along—but only almost.

She felt Brody’s eyes on her, and her cheeks flushed. She couldn’t look at him. Her confidence was already low.

After about twenty minutes on the road, Leroy flipped off the headlights, blanketing them in darkness. She wasn’t sure where in U.S. Territory they were, but the cool night air smelled fresher the farther they got from the docks. The windows were cracked, and she could hear crickets. There weren’t many open spaces left for the sake of open spaces; they must be near farmland or orchards.

They pulled up in front of a ten-foot high electrical fence. Barbed wire had been wrapped around the top, and there were cameras and security lights on poles. Brody climbed halfway out the window before they reached the illuminated area and shot the security cameras down with a silenced rifle. On the other side of the fence was a large building with metal siding.

“That’s the cold building,” Colin said.

Brody tossed Capri a mask, and she put it on, following their lead. She was in too deep to back out now. Leroy used some kind of tool to check the voltage. Then he went back to the car, opened the trunk, and came back with rubber hose. Capri watched him. He was more quiet and focused than she’d ever seen him as he carefully wrapped each strand of wire with the material and then used two forked poles to push them up and out of the way.

Once he was happy with his work, he turned to them. “If the wires touch, an alarm will trigger. Go slow. Be careful.”

Colin went first, then Capri and Brody. She tried to step where they stepped and held her gun at the ready like they did. They stayed out of sight when they could, in case there were cameras or guards they didn’t know about.

Fresh fruit was a precious commodity on the rebel planets. The people of Tycho and Ptolemy didn’t reap the benefits of being under the U.N.’s care and jurisdiction, which meant they were on their own for everything: food, medicine, infrastructure, education. Most people of New Earth and the kingdoms didn’t grasp what it was like outside of their happy little societies. Capri knew she didn’t. This fruit distributor had taken some respectable precautions, but they weren’t enough for someone with Colin’s determination.

She had a feeling it wasn’t just about the money, either. Colin was from Ptolemy, after all. He probably knew what it was like to go without. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood was one classic Capri had read at the palace, and she drew the parallel. Rob from the privileged and give to the underprivileged—for a modest fee, in their case.

They made it to the side door of the warehouse without much trouble, but Colin paused at the keypad.

“We shoulda brought Leroy,” he muttered to Brody. “We need a fingerprint.”

Capri had been examining a statue that stood between the cold building and another big shed. It seemed out of place—a big metal dog on a squat pedestal. Maybe it was raised in memory of a dead pet. People honored loved ones in different ways, even by raising statues of them at a fruit distribution center, apparently.

She turned now to look at the keypad, not expecting to be of any help. But something was familiar about it. There was a similar lock on one of Leroy’s toolboxes. She stepped closer to examine it. Brody reached out to stop her, worried she’d set off an alarm, but Colin shook his head.

“It’s fake,” Capri said.

She slid her fingers down the side and found a notch. The panel opened with a satisfying click to reveal a plain old keyhole.

“Would you look at that?” The captain actually smiled beneath his mask.

Capri surprised herself by smiling in return. She was suddenly too thrilled to feel anxious. Brody grunted, a grudging acknowledgment of her usefulness. He raised a gun to shoot the lock, but Colin stopped him again.

“Looks easy enough to pick,” he said. “Best not to risk drawing attention.”

Capri produced a hairpin. She didn’t know how to pick a lock with it, but she had it. The captain nodded his gratitude again. Brody, on the other hand, was growing increasingly sullen. She suspected he would have liked her to suffer, for her to learn a lesson. But this was going quite well.

She gave him a smug look before turning to take her place as lookout. He huffed under his breath and followed Colin into the building to finish off the heist.

Capri leaned against the side of the building. They were in. That was the hardest part done, wasn’t it? Soon they’d have the goods, a truck, and they could just bust their way out if they had to. She hoped. She had to believe that it would be that simple.

As time wore on, she began to grow restless. She scratched where the crude mask chafed the skin of her jaw and adjusted the linker. It sat in her ear, and she knew now that there was a button that allowed her to talk and a dial for changing frequency.

It was deathly quiet except for the movement of crates inside the building. After about half an hour, an engine roared, making her jump.

“Hotwire successful,” she heard over the linker, and she put a hand over her hammering heart.

They had the truck. It was almost over.

But she wasn’t the only one who had heard the sound. There was movement, a scraping noise, coming from the direction of the statue. The dog lumbered towards her, though its heavy, titanium body made it slow. It might have been a small bear moving lazily in the night, but there were glowing red dots where the eyes belonged. It had a terrifying, otherworldly appearance that had Capri’s adrenaline back full throttle.

She pressed the button on her linker. “Um, guys.”

“Yeah?” Brody.

“There’s a dog.”

Brody didn’t bother to mute the device while he laughed. “You got a gun, girl; I think even you can handle a dog.”

Capri pursed her lips and kept her eyes on the robot. She lifted her gun when it was twenty paces away.

“What kind of dog?” Leroy this time, voice urgent.

But Capri wasn’t about to lose her concentration. She clicked the safety off and waited.

“You’re trespassing,” it said in a hollow, mechanical tone. “Please disarm yourself.”

Capri hesitated and aimed between the dog’s eyes. She held her breath, but she wasn’t quite scared. Not yet.

“I have a gun and you don’t,” she pointed out. “Why don’t you just go back up on your pedestal like a good boy while we finish up here.”

The robot’s back opened then, and the barrel of a gun protruded from its back. “This is your final warning,” it said. “Drop your—”

Capri shot the robot dog before it could finish speaking. The bullet ricocheted uselessly off the metal shell. The dog shot, too, but Capri was already running. She heard fresh gunfire and then a voice in her ear. Brody’s.

“You can come back now.”

“Is everyone okay?” Leroy again. “Was it a Guard Dog? It might have surveillance footage. You have to bring it with you.”

Capri walked back to the building, cheeks hot with embarrassment, heart still pumping with adrenaline. Her earlier confidence was nowhere to be found.

“You had one fucking job,” Brody said, but he only looked amused behind the mask as he kicked the heap of metal at his feet.

Capri eyed it warily before glaring at the gunman. “I did my job. I told you there was a dog.”

“This ain’t no dog,” Brody muttered. “You shoulda aimed for the eyes if you were gonna shoot.”

“I did.”

He laughed at her—again—but as he did, he scanned her body, giving her a once over, making sure she wasn’t hurt.

“See something you like?” she asked, throwing his own words back at him.

He glared at her. “You can turn the linker off.”

Capri’s cheeks flamed anew, and she knew he knew even if he couldn’t see them. She pressed the button at her ear. Brody circled the robot and nudged it again. Once he was satisfied it wouldn’t be causing any more trouble, he turned back to Capri.

“Keep an eye on the thing while we roll out the truck.”

Being alone with the killing machine was the last thing Capri wanted, but she’d agreed to the job, and she’d see it through. She’d seen through plenty of other unseemly jobs before.

That world seemed so very far away now, even though she’d only been away from Mars for three days.

Brody headed back into the building to finish up whatever else they had to do.

Capri turned her gun’s safety back on, looked at the dog, and then turned it off again. A few minutes later, the truck pulled up next to her. They’d disabled the headlights. Brody jumped down from the cab, and Capri put the gun back in her belt before hauling herself into his seat. He tossed the dented dog in the back and hunkered down next to it, just in case it sprang back to life.

Colin drove them to the front of the complex, punched a button to open the gate, and Leroy lit the way back to the docks.

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