Cat set out for Suite D136, the current abode of Phlu Laum, at a pace that was actually quite brisk, thought she appeared to be no more than lazily ambling her way about the ship.
The evening before, after hearing Roger's rambling, incoherent, yet intriguing story, cleaning him up, and pouring him into her bed, Cat had dove into the galactic net to find out all she could about Phlu Laum.
There had been surprisingly little to learn. On the surface Phlu Laum was very ordinary. She owned and ran a restoration studio in Mily on Nergof III, owned a modest, yet comfortable, home in that same city, time-shared a condo in Yric on Erton, cautiously invested in the market, called her mother every day, donated to the Pan-Galactic Humane Society, and paid her taxes early. She had three speeding tickets in her past and currently had one overdue meldtale from the library.
Diving deeper into the binary data stream, Cat found Laum had several different names, homes, bank accounts, and mothers on different planets. Each identity was perfectly conventional and non-descript, but all of them belonged to the same woman.
She had sent out invitations to several collectors, offering a unique and unusual item never before offered on the market. Backtracking and cross-checking the data, Cat found five of the six collectors, including Justy Tanaka, were on board the Wandering Star. The sixth had been unavoidably detained by a prison sentence.
The door to Suite D136 was in front of her. Cat could have easily used the ship's duct system to break into Laum's room, find the tape, and take it. For someone of her skills, that was child's play. Alternatively she could have hacked the ship's system, set off the emergency system, and sent Laum and companions fleeing from the room, leaving it easy to search. Or – well, there were several plans Cat could have used that would not have involved direct confrontation with Phlu Laum. But where would the fun be in that?
Cat rapped at the door. Perfectly aware that the room's occupants could see and hear her through the one-way viewer door, she smiled, waved, and called, "Hullo, dears. I've come to buy a tape."
A voice, it had to be one of the Kitsas, growled through the two-way speaker, "Go ‘way, human female. We not sell tapes. You have wrong room."
"Of course you don't sell tapes," purred Cat, "but you do have a tape. The Mamo tape and I want it. Now do let me in so I can talk to Phlu or Apre Greene or Gollak Nirach or Smeres Olid or Thib Mayne or whatever she wants to call herself." Cat slid a thin disk out from beneath the band of her skirt and held it up between two fingers. "I have diltium."
The door opened and Cat strolled in. Her eyebrows arched in surprise and interest as she took in the scene in front of her.
The mood setting holo-scenes were askew on the walls. Gel foam was oozing out of the lounger and another chair lay in pieces.
The Kitsa who'd opened the door leaned against the wall, a hank of its coarse, dark hair torn from its chest revealing the pink flesh beneath.