First Page: Cat in the Dark, futuristic/paranormal (and multicultural)
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A trunk full of contraband, a deadline, and the damn car won’t start. Vrzala grits his teeth and focuses on the heavily-accented-english bitching in his right ear, thinks of kicking the tires in frustration, and instead digs out the pack of smokes he’d stopped to get. If they’re going to cost him a good start on this job, he might as well enjoy them. Lot harder to enjoy the lecture he’s getting, though.
“You want some sixty-year-old piece-of-shit, you got it, don’t call me when it don’t start,” Hsao’s saying, and variations on that theme. Vrzala rolls his eyes, not even paying much attention, sorting through what he can catch from passerby, the shopkeeper in the doorway, the convenience store clerk. Can’t anyone think of a good mechanic at a time like this? Why did it sometimes seem like people perversely thought of anything but the useful stuff, when it really mattered to him? It’s enough to make him even crazier.
“It’s a classic,” he finally spits, and that’s the most he gets in edgewise. Hsao’s off again, and Vrzala turns to glare at the car, only to end up glaring at a kid in the way. He looks down, and the kid looks up.
Vrzala guesses the kid at maybe seventeen, eighteen, and not entirely a local. Not with those huge gray eyes, so pale they’re almost the same silvery shade as the sleek antique sportscar behind him. The kid’s brows come down in a hard line, and Vrzala can’t even think to frown in response, too taken aback at the kid’s silence. He just stares, Hsao’s droning almost forgotten.
The kid puts out a hand. “Keys,” he demands.
Vrzala blinks at the voice and adjusts his assumption. Not a boy, a girl, not a kid, a young woman. The cut-off jeans and black workman’s boots don’t help, or the shapeless black shirt, but there’s a hint of breasts under there. The hand held out is filthy, grease crossing the palm. Vrzala shakes his head, then tells Hsao, “Arrange another car for me. Now.” He snaps the phone shut, doesn’t put it away, just looks at the kid. The girl.
Her fingers flick, impatiently.
“No, sweetheart, I’m not that stupid,” he drawls, letting his foreigner’s accent color the words more than usual. “Now, get.” He waves her away, considering ringing Slavik for a suggested mechanic. He can’t be sure Hsao will come through, and if he’s there much longer, he just might end up in a sling along with the goods. Not how he wants to blow a damn good record: brought low by dead car. “Go on,” he tells the girl, uneasy. He can’t put his finger on it.
“Gimme the keys,” the girl repeats, then her lower lip juts, making her look even younger. She shrugs, hands going up as if surrendering, but sarcastic about it. “If you’re stunted enough to let a car this gorgeous get this bad, you don’t deserve to be driving. Mister,” she adds, lip curled, the honorific a double insult. “Someone ought string you up for criminal negligence.” Her mutter’s half-drowned by the stomp of her boots.
Vrzala has a split second of dissonance, snaps out of it. Sounds like the girl has some kind of a clue, and it’s not his car anyway. Just a loaner for as long as he’s on this godforsaken chunk of concrete and rock. “Hold up, kid. What do you know about cars?”
“I know this one could run great if you spent more than a yuan a year on it.”