This year, I will be posting a chapter of my new online exclusive novel every week. Galactic Division Heroes: Kat follows a new character, Katarine Rafalsdottir, through the timeline of the first three Galactic Division novels.
“Kat, are you sure about this?” I rolled my eyes. Seb’s constant badgering was beginning to wear me down. If he didn’t want to come, why didn’t he just stay at home?
“For the 50th time, Seb, yes. I’m sure about this. It’s not much further. Can you just calm down a little bit? You look suspicious.”
“It’s three in the morning, and we’re wearing black clothing. With hoods. There’s no way for us to look anything other than suspicious.” He had a point. That, though, just made him more irritating.
“She wants to do it, let’s just do it.” Ant didn’t have much patience for contemplation. Sometimes, that could be a real pain. On this occasion, though, it was most welcome.
We walked for a while in silence. I shivered, and not purely from the nighttime chill. I was nervous, my stomach churning harder with each step. If the boys were experiencing any nerves, they were keeping them well hidden. This was nothing to them, really. It wasn’t as personal as it was for me. I looked around the familiar streets as we pounded block after block. Familiar sights, even in the blackness of night. Buildings and monuments I’d been around my whole life. It would be weird to never see them again.
“So, you worried?” Seb asked me. I didn’t know if he was talking about what we were about to do, or what the next day would bring. The answer was no. To both. Worried wasn’t really the right word. Anxious, maybe.
“You sure?” He shot me a doubtful look.
“She’s fine,” Ant said dismissively. “Conscription ain’t nothing.”
“He says that now,” Seb said, shooting me a conspiratorial grin. “It was a different story then.”
“What are you talking about?” Ant eyed him suspiciously.
“You were nervous as hell! Damn near pissed your pants…”
Ant shook his head in agitation, thrusting his hands in his pockets. Seb grinned at me again.
“So, you all packed?” Seb, worrying about me.
“There’s nothing to pack. It’s not an excursion. I can’t take luggage.”
“Uh huh,” he said.
“Don’t you remember?”
“Nah. Long time ago, wasn’t it.”
“It was only three years ago, Seb,” I said.
“Exactly. A lifetime.”
“Stop mothering her,” Ant demanded. He skipped across to me and roughly rubbed my fuzzy hair. I gritted my teeth, biting back any protest. He knew I hated when he did it. That was why he delighted in it so. I ran my own hand through my hair. It had gotten past the rough stage, and was almost fluffy. It was a couple of centimeters long, the months since I last shaved it having flown by. There was a time, not too many years ago, when I’d had long, flowing hair. I’d cultivated it over years, and friends were jealous of it. When the boys had first suggested I shave it all off with them, Id refused point blank. It had been my pride and joy. I’d dropped the dresses. I’d dropped music. I’d as good as dropped school. Still, though, I’d clung on to that hair. Only for a few more months, though. Then, I gave in. Resigned myself to becoming one of the boys. The first time I’d looked in the mirror, it had been a shock. However, though it had almost sent me into a fit of despair, within days, I’d gotten used to it. Ant had been right, it really did make me feel like one of the gang. This, back before half the gang left…
We carried on in silence for a while. A couple of vehicles zoomed past us, heightening my anxiety. They showed no interest in us, though, and we didn’t happen across any pedestrians. Town was pretty quiet at that time of night. We were in the older part of town now. The buildings were stone rather than carbon fibre. The lighting genuine piping rather than glowstrip. I liked it far more than the more modern areas. Every building looked a little different.
“Come on, how much further is it?” Ant bellowed impatiently, breaking the silence. Before I could stop myself, I shushed him. He smirked at me. “It’s all right,” he shouted, even more loudly, “there’s no-one around to hear us!”
Seb slammed his fist hard into Ant’s shoulder, drawing a howl of pain, which quickly descended into laughter.
“All right,” Ant said, still chuckling. “I’ll keep it down!” he whispered. He was the older of the two, who weren’t brothers, but might as well have been. The extra few months he had on Seb didn’t equal advanced maturity, though. It was quite the opposite.
“It is just up here, isn’t it?” Seb whispered to me a few moments later. I nodded with a smile. “And you’re sure you’re up for this?” If I hadn’t been so worried about waking people up, drawing attention to us, I might have screamed. Instead, I shot him a death glare, and he got the message.
As we drew close to our destination, my chest began to tighten. Seb’s breathing quickened, and even Ant bore a serious expression. They’d done plenty of jobs like this one, so quite why they were so nervous, I wasn’t sure. Perhaps they just always were, and I’d never noticed before. They didn’t care much for authority, but they did have a healthy fear of it. None of us wanted to get arrested.
Once we came in sight of the window, our entry point, I stopped walking. The boys followed my cue.
“Everyone know what they’re doing? Seb asked.
“It’s not exactly a master plan,” Ant pointed out. “We get in, and we get out.”
“And you’re sure the cabinet won’t be locked?”
“He never locks it,” I replied. “He loves that thing with all his heart, but he doesn’t keep it secure.”
“Moron,” Ant snorted.
“It’s never occurred to him that someone might take it,” I said defensively.
Rolling my eyes at him, I led them over to the window, my legs feeling heavier with each step. Despite my protests, the truth was, I WASN’T sure about what we were doing. I knew I had to do it, but that didn’t make me feel any better about portraying the old man’s trust. I’d worked for him for five years, over a quarter of my life.
Ant produced a tool from the inside of his coat, and started working on the window.
“You know there’s a good chance you’re not going anywhere, right?” I nodded. “There’s a 75% chance you’ll have to go back to work the day after tomorrow.”
“Yes, Seb. I know how numbers work.”
“Well… what’s that gonna be like? Having to work with the old man after doing this?” He searched my face with an expression of genuine concern.
“It’s not really like I have a choice,” I sighed. “There’s that 25%. Without me, I’m not sure she can survive.”
“I’m sure she’d be fine,” he replied quietly.
“And there we go,” Ant called out a little too loudly. He swung one leg over through the open window. “Well?” he said, looking at us expectantly. “Coming in?”
Taking a deep breath, I stepped towards the window. Seb held his arm in front of me.
“Keep watch,” he said.
“Someone should keep watch. Besides, if there’s any recording equipment in there, you’re the only one of us the old man can identify, right?” I couldn’t argue with him. I was a little relieved that I didn’t have to go in, to so actively take part in the heinous act, but I felt bad. The boys were doing this for me, and they were the ones taking the biggest risk.
“Fine,” I said finally. I watched Ant disappear into the even darker darkness inside the building. After a few seconds, Seb’s face reappeared at the window.
“There’s about a hundred cabinets in here. Which one is it?”
“At the end of the counter,” I told him. “On the wall next to the door to the back office.” Once again, he disappeared from view, and I glanced around nervously, scanning down the street in both directions, in case someone should happen along. I felt a pang of regret. Mr Beaton had been so good to me over the years. He gave me an after-school job when I was just fourteen, when no-one else was willing to take a risk on a girl my age. Then, even more amazingly, he continued to put up with me as my personality grew. He let me continue working on the shop floor even after I dropped the nice clothes, and dressed more and more like a street punk.
Suddenly, I heard an odd noise from behind me. I turned just in time to see a set of bars slide down over the open window.
“What?” I stepped towards the bars, and tried to force them back up. They wouldn’t budge. “Hey!” I shouted through them. “What did you guys do?” There was no response for several seconds, and I began to think they’d run off somewhere. Then Seb appeared, looking at the bars with concern.
“What happened?” he said.
“I was gonna ask you the same thing,” I replied.
“Well you must have set them off,” he said accusingly.
“ME? I was nowhere near them. You must have set off some sort of security.”
“There’s no sign of anything like that.”
“Actually, yeah, there is,” Ant called from deeper inside. “I can see a little flashing light under one of the cabinets. Must be a silent alarm.” He sounded ridiculously calm.
“Oh no!” I said. “You’re trapped in there!” I frantically tried to force the bars back up above the window, but there was nu budging them. “Help me,” I said to an unmoving Seb. After a few moments, I realised he was staring at me. “What are you doing?”
“Just looking,” he said. “Maybe for the last time.”
“We need to get you out.”
“We’ll find another way out,” he said. “Don’t worry about us. You can’t afford to hang around here, though. Probably won’t be too long before security agents show up.”
“I can’t just leave you in there!”
“We’ll be fine. Promise. Kat…”
“I’ll miss you. You know, if…”
“Yeah,” I said nodding. “I know.” I gazed up at him, my panic turning to sadness. He had tried to convince me several times that I wouldn’t be going anywhere. That my name wouldn’t be pulled out during the Conscription. I’d never bought into it, though. And in that moment, with his sad eyes looking down at me, I knew he didn’t really buy it either. We both had to be prepared to say farewell. “Bye.” Seb nodded. “You’ll make sure she gets my share, won’t you?” Again, he nodded. And I knew he meant it. Then I turned, and started to run.
I only made it a few yards before I realised I was being stupid. If I was spotted running away from the scene of a crime, it would be obvious that I was guilty. And really, I hadn’t actually done anything wrong. Well, sure, I’d been an accessory. In fact, I’d planned the whole thing. Conceived the idea over a matter of months. Checked out the best way to sneak in. Made sure the cabinet holding Mr Beaton’s prize model was never locked. Checked out its real value, and what sort of collectors would be interested in buying it. But, thanks to Seb, I’d never stepped foot in the shop. He may have quit school several years early, but Seb wasn’t stupid.
I slowed my pace to a brisk walk, heading for the first walkway that would take me off that street. I felt terrible, leaving them behind so readily. They were resourceful, and I felt pretty confident that they’d find a way out before security got there. There was no way to be sure, though. And if they did get caught, there was a strong possibility I’d never even find out. I reached the walkway that I knew so well, and stepped into the unlit alley. Trying to calm my breathing, I went from a trot to a saunter. I was off the street. That meant I was probably safe. Just as my confidence as growing, though, I heard a noise behind me. I looked back, but couldn’t make out anything in the darkness. Not wanting to take the chance of someone suddenly appearing through the gloom, I turned and started running again, towards the dim light at the other end of the alleyway.
After what seemed like an age, I reached the opening, the cold air causing my breath to catch in my lungs. Without slowing, I burst out onto the next street, and turned ninety degrees, moving North-Eastwards in the general direction of home. I chanced a look back over my shoulder. Focusing on the opening of the alleyway disappearing behind me, I squinted, trying to see if there was any movement. Satisfied there was no-one there, I looked back towards the road ahead of me, preparing to slow back to a brisk walk again. Instead, I stopped dead. There was a distinctive silver vehicle just a few meters in front of me, pulling to a stop. The sign across the top read ‘KM Security’.
You can read Chapter Two here.