Home > One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(3)

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(3)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“Couldn’t sleep,” Sean said. “I went jogging.”

Asad sniffed the metal skid marks on the pavement with obvious suspicion.

“Jogging, huh.” Mr. Ramirez looked at him, then at me, taking in my cardigan and T-shirt, then at Sean again. “At two o’clock in the morning?”

I wished very hard to be invisible.

“Best time to jog,” Sean said. “Nobody bothers me.”

Asad pondered the marks and let out a single loud bark.

“Hey!” Mr. Ramirez turned to him. “What is it, boy?”

It smelled like something inhuman had landed on the pavement, that’s what.

The huge dog put himself between Mr. Ramirez and the marks and broke into a cacophony of barks.

“Hmm. He barely ever barks. I better get him inside. I’m going to file a police report in the morning.” Mr. Ramirez looked at Sean and me one last time and smiled. “Good luck with your jogging.”

No. He didn’t just wish Sean and I happy jogging.

“Come, Asad.”

I shut my eyes tight for a second.

“You okay?” Sean asked.

“Jogging?” I squeezed through clenched teeth. “That’s the best you could come up with?”

“What else was I supposed to tell him? He isn’t going to believe that I woke up out of a dead sleep, got dressed, and ran four hundred yards here in the time it took him to go downstairs and open the door.”

“He thinks we’re sleeping together.”

“So what if we are? We’re adults last time I checked.”

“Tomorrow he’ll talk to Margaret and by afternoon the whole subdivision will be talking about our 'jogging'. I’ll be fielding rumors and questions for a week. I don’t like attention, Sean. It’s bad for my business.”

Sean smiled.

Ugh. I turned around. “Come inside.”

“You sure?” He was grinning now. “People might get the wrong idea.”

“Just come inside,” I growled.

He followed me in.

Inside my front room, the long flexible roots of the inn pinned a creature to the wall. He was about the size of a ten-year-old human child, four-limbed, and wearing a pocketed leather harness from which hung a wide brown cape. A beautiful crest of emerald-green, yellow, and crimson feathers crowned his head. Earth’s evolutionary theory said that feathers evolved from scales and therefore were unlikely to ever appear on the same creature. Nobody mentioned it to the biker, because the rest of him was covered in beautiful green scales, darkening to hunter green on his back and lightening to cream on his throat and chest. A male Ku. I should’ve known.

The Ku were actually reptilian and had more in common with dinosaurs than birds. They lived in tribes and stumbled onto the greater galaxy by accident while they were still in the hunter-gatherer stage. They’d never moved past it. On Earth, climate change combined with the rising population created starvation, which became the catalyst for the development of horticulture, which in turn eventually led to agricultural society and feudalism. The Ku faced no such pressures. They didn’t try to understand the galaxy and the complicated technology of other species. They simply accepted it and learned to use it. Talking rules to a Ku was like reading a modern law brief to a toddler. This one, apparently, decided it would be a great idea to bring his boost bike to our planet and drive up and down Park Street.

“Have you lost your mind?”

The Ku looked at me with round golden eyes.

“This is Earth. You can’t make noise. You can’t ride boost bikes. Humans can’t know. You almost got all of us into big trouble.”

The Ku blinked. His eyes were clear like the summer sky: no thought clouded their depths. I sighed. I wanted to yell at him some more, but it would accomplish nothing.

“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?”

He opened his mouth, showing sharp teeth. “Message!”

“Do you have a message for me?”

“Yes!”

Who in all the worlds would send a message by a Ku? Might as well shove it into a bottle and toss it into the ocean. It had about the same chances of reaching its recipient. I held out my hand. The roots released the Ku just enough for his arms to move. He reached into a pocket on his harness, pulled something out, and dropped it into my palm.

A silver necklace with a dolphin pendant. I went cold.

“And this!” The Ku dropped a grimy clump of paper into my hand.

Gingerly I pulled it open. A string of coordinates written in hurried cursive and five words.

In trouble. Come get me.

“Dina?” Sean loomed next to me. “You’ve gone pale.”

“I need a ship.”

“Why?”

“I have to go to Karhari.”

His eyebrows furrowed. “That’s deep in Holy Anocracy territory. What’s on Karhari?”

Karhari was a closed planet. I had no way to access it from the inn, which meant I had to get there the conventional way. I’d have to buy passage from Baha-char. Applying for permits would take forever and they probably wouldn’t be granted, which meant a smuggler and I couldn’t even begin to guess how much time that would cost me…

Sean thrust himself into my view and gently touched my shoulder. I looked up at him.

“Talk to me. What’s on Karhari?”

“My sister.”

CHAPTER 2

I stood in my kitchen and tapped my foot. On the wall the communication screen remained dark with a faint blue ring pulsing every few seconds. Last night I had dug into the available information on Karhari. Things were worse than I thought. Karhari wasn’t just closed. It was under a Holy Anocracy restricted travel seal. The Holy Anocracy consisted of aristocratic clans called Houses, each with their separate domain, and only a handful of Houses were permitted to enter Karhari’s atmosphere. Anyone without an appropriate House crest would be shot down. There wouldn’t be time to explain, bribe, or offer apologies. A quick check of my contacts at Baha-char, the galactic bazaar, told me that the entirety of my savings couldn’t buy me entrance. I was reduced to begging.

   
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