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Three Ways to Hide

She was slender, hollow-faced, middle-aged, and she walked with a slight limp as she walked out of the spaceport in Narpolin, a small city that was nevertheless the largest on Terentulus, fifth of the green-white sun Geddes. She wasn't actually any more lame than she was middle-aged; the limp affected her walk and stance and thus her personality, at least as others saw her. It also aged her, as did her mousy brown hair now shot with grey. Her battered bag and weary countenance gave her the appearance of a woman who had traveled long and hard, as indeed she had. She'd bought the bag new on the orbital station to replace the one she'd abandoned on Faraday, but had dirtied and scuffed it to give a battered appearance that was more in keeping with her present disguise.

Reaching the street, she paused to look at Narpolin's buildings, which were mostly painted in pale shades of green and yellow. They were mostly single-story constructions with simple, sturdy lines that indicated utility rather than architectural ambition. They were fairly typical of buildings often found on the smaller agricultural planets, she thought. The city was so small that she could see across it from the slight rise upon which the little spaceport was built, a cluster of brightly colored structures filling a saucerlike depression. Beyond the city, the farm hills appeared a pale green under the Geddes sun. The antiquated vehicles crawling along the street were surprisingly few in number, considering that the terminal lay adjacent to the town's business district. Sighing wearily, and not simply to maintain her act, she glanced around.

Her first task was to find a place to stay. Somewhere inconspicuous, but any visitor would attract a certain amount of attention, especially a female one on this sort of planet where there were more men than women and people tended to marry young. Why here? It would have been safer for her on a high-tech, high-population world like Rhysalan, where she could lose herself more easily in the masses. No automated security system could pose a threat to any machine worlder, much less a highly trained cyborg like herself.

Was she nearing the end of her preordained path? She didn't know. Her future was blotted out as completely as the past, coming to her only in brief bursts as she needed to know it. For the moment she existed in a narrow corridor of time in which past and future were both impenetrable voids. She was searching for something. Her mission was vital. There must be things she had to do. But what things? Nothing came to her, no sudden flashes of insight, no names, no instructions.

She struggled with the blankness within her, desperately trying to break through a barrier that she could not feel, but that she knew had to be there. If she could only… if she could only… only what? There was nothing. Finally she gave up. The effort wearied her and accomplished nothing.

Perhaps that was the problem, she told herself. Perhaps she was trying too hard, and the very act of attempting to summon the knowledge locked inside her mind was making it harder for the information to find its way out to her. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and relaxed. It calmed her a little, but still, nothing came to her. Well, when there was no knowledge, there was always instinct. And her instincts told her to keep moving before the hunters caught up with her. She would need a place to stay, somewhere away from the spaceport.

There were no aerovars to rent on Terentulus. She discovered that immediately; they were in excess of the legal tech level. That left nothing but the ancient ground vehicles that crept along the narrow streets at appallingly slow speeds. No point in renting one of them, not when there were public conveyances that wouldn't require identification. She found a display of colorful brochures advertising various hotels. Normally she tried to avoid the high end places, but here the mid-range effectively was the high end. From the hungry way the men who walked past her eyed her, even disguised as she was, it was readily apparent that she would attract attention no matter where she went.

Which meant there were only three ways to hide from sight. The best would be the most difficult. This was not the sort of world where religious convents were likely to be found. And while it would probably not be hard to find a man who would happily keep her stashed away at his home, the process might take days and would make it difficult to disguise herself.

She sighed. That left one option. Fortunately, on a planet like this, it would not be difficult to find precisely the kind of place she had in mind. Having reached the obvious conclusion, she walked out to the autobus terminal and handed the elderly, bearded driver the appropriate coins. It was ridiculously inexpensive.

Three Ways to Hide panel 3
A Mind Programmed series cover
Three Ways to Hide episode cover
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A Mind Programmed

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Vox Day
The Greater Terran Ascendancy finds itself facing a historic crisis when the Shiva-class cruiser ATSV Rigel goes missing during a routine patrol through the Kantillon sector. Fortunately, the Ascendancy Intelligence Directorate's top operative, Daniela York, is on the scene.
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