If you ask a thief, any thief, they’ll tell you a whole bunch of ways to get onto a cargo ship. In fact, the nicer ones will even draw you up a map of the interior based on the model and build of the ship. And in their defense, that is all well and good, but here’s the real catch. Not many of those thieves really find it important to inform you on an essential part to robbing a cargo ship; and that is… to get off the ship once you have stolen the goods. This may seem like common sense, you just retrace the steps you took to get on the ship, right? Well, it’s not always that easy.

 

~`’~

 

          The yellow alarm lights flashing on the walls nearly blinded Reil, causing him to drop his bag and instinctively bring his arms up to shield his eyes. His back hit the metal wall hard and the air forced itself out of his lungs. The sirens pounded in his head and it felt like his brain was trying to escape his head through his eye sockets. He reached an arm down to pick up his bag and rolled on the wall into a small crevice to get out of the view of anyone who might be coming down the hallway. He fumbled through his coat pockets searching for the map that friendly thief he met at the tavern had drawn up for him. His right hand found parchment and he ripped it out of the pocket and angrily unfolded it.

          “Let’s see here. If I came in through this way…” Reil’s voice trailed off as he murmured to himself about the convoluted layout of the Siphon-Class cargo ship aptly named Labyrinth. His finger traced around the paper, mapping out a poorly constructed escape route. Sudden footsteps racing down the hall snapped Reil back to the very real danger at hand. He crouched down low in the small space, so low he was nearly laying on the ground. Being a thief had taught him more than a few handy skills, some of which would hopefully save his life on this Yvesu-forsaken day.

          As the footsteps came closer and closer, Reil’s legs tensed and primed themselves for a leap. A footfall finally landed close enough to set off the thief’s instinctual alarm bells and he pounced forward with his shoulder tucked and head down.

          His shoulder collided with the nearest guard and sent them both tumbling to the ground. The guard’s surprised grunt and then silence confirmed he had been knocked unconscious. The other guard recovered quickly from his initial surprise and fired a round of taze-darts into Reil’s leg. Luckily one of the two darts missed, leaving Reil free from the incapacitating shock usually associated with a round of taze-darts. He let out a cry as the dart ripped his skin with its serrated barbs, but he had to keep moving if he wanted to escape with both his life and his loot, which, to a thief, carried about the same weight when it came down to importance.

          He quickly pulled the barbed dart from his leg, worsening the wound and sending pain shooting through his body. Taze-darts needed both barbs to pierce the skin in order for their incapacitating shock wave to be activated, and removing them as quickly as possible was as necessary as it was painful. Pulling the dart out of his skin and swinging his good leg out to sweep the guard’s feet out from underneath him happened all in one swift movement; Reil was up and shouldering the guard into the wall and cracking the back of his head with his elbow. Before the guard finished slumping to the ground, the thief was grabbing his bag of loot and darting off down the hallway with his prizes slung over his shoulder.

          The heavy canvas bag beat against his back as Reil’s footfalls became faster and faster. One hand grasped the bag with a vice grip, and the other hand held the map just as tightly while re-adjusting constantly in hopes the map would stay open while the thief ran.

          “Alright, down this hallway and my third left, all I gotta do is get to…” Reil’s mutterings became ragged with his breath, his escape route changing by the minute every time he heard more footsteps or saw a flash of the red uniforms of the guards and ship workers. The running combined with the on setting claustrophobia from being in the cramped halls of a budget-level cargo ship was beginning to take a toll on Reil. “Just keep running, keep it together Reil,” he berated himself, trying to keep his pace.

          Before he could continue his self-directed pep talk, he heard the sound of a trigger being pulled followed by the tearing of canvas as two taze-darts planted themselves in the bag slung over his back. He looked to the upcoming corner planning on diving to the left to escape the inevitable second shot from the guard.

          His right leg tensed, ready to push himself to the left as hard as he could when a cargo ship worker with a wide, bare chest stepped out from Reil’s supposed escape route and swung an iron crowbar right into the side of the thief’s head. As instincts kicked in, time slowed in Reil’s eyes and he shot his hands out to grasp the metal bar. A shock wave echoed through his bones, but the adrenaline dulled the pain, at least for now.

          With the crowbar in his hands, Reil forced the end held by the worker back and into the other man’s face. The burly man was far larger, and stronger, than Reil’s medium frame. The worker held the bar tight and swung it, along with Reil, into the wall to his left. A nauseating crack resounded as the thief’s shoulder and side collided with the hard metal. He lost his grip on the crowbar, but quickly dug into his boot pocket to remove his knife. It was a well made knife, and it had gotten Reil out of, as well as into, a fair share of sticky situations.

          Let this be a time where it gets me out of the sticky situation, Reil thought with a feeling of dread. Three men, two trained fighters, against his lean and protein-starved body wasn’t a very fair fight. Without giving himself more time to think of his odds at victory he jammed the knife into the worker’s thigh and ripped upwards as fast as possible, blocking out the cries of the cargoman. The worker hadn’t deserve this fight, he was just trying to keep from getting fired for not aided the guards.

          In an instant, Reil spun around and threw the knife. It planted itself clean into the rightmost guard’s shoulder and with another spin, the thief grabbed the crowbar now laying on the floor and sprinted toward the guard with a taze-gun aimed straight at him. A forward slide on his knees put Reil just inches underneath the oncoming duo of taze-darts, and he brought the iron bar up for a skyward strike as fast and powerful as he could manage. The cold metal found purchase in the red uniformed guard’s crotch and Reil pushed his full body weight forward and upward, sending the stunned guard onto his back and down the hall. A kick to the side of the head incapacitated the guard who was now getting up and holding his shoulder where Reil’s knife had dug into.

          The young man picked up his knife, shoved it into its sheath, and picked up his bag of stolen goods. “That couldn’t have gone cleaner,” Reil said in near disbelief. He had definitely been at the disadvantage. The only thing that could’ve gone better would have been if he had avoided hurting the worker, but he held out hope that the man would heal well and be heavily compensated for his bravery.

          “On to the exit we go,” and Reil turned to keep on his way before more red uniforms stormed the hallway. He had been far too lucky that he had only run across two of them this time, he assumed the low class and value of cargo of the ship didn’t warrant any more guards from being sent. As he turned to go he saw the injured worker crawling toward the emergency door-lock switch on the wall opposite from Reil. “Please sir, do not make me do this,” the thief pleaded while hefting the heavy canvas bag slung over his shoulder, ready to use it as a blunt object to knock out the burly cargoman.

          “But if I don’t try an’ pull the…” The worker stopped mid sentence and nodded solemnly at the thief standing over him. He pushed himself back up against the wall and began applying pressure with a cloth from his pocket onto his leg wound to stop the bleeding.

          “You just say you did everything you can. I’m sorry for hurting you and I pray you will be rewarded for helping the guards, but I can’t let you catch me. Hit the switch as soon as I’m out that door. They won’t know you didn’t pull it as soon as you could.” Reil reached into his thieves coat and pulled out a small purple capsule. He weighed it in his hand before reaching back in and grabbing a second one, this one glowing a faint green. He handed them to the worker with a sad smile, “here, crush the purple one in your hand and press the powder into the wound. Take the green one and swallow it. It’ll prevent infections and speed up recovery. Once again, I’m sorry; how I wish times were different. Good luck.” With that Reil took off down the hallway, the canvas bag once again hitting his back with every step.

          “Good luck to you too kid,” the guard called out after him. He looked at the capsules and nodded before following Reil’s instructions. “How I wish times were different as well,” he muttered under his breath as he crawled forward to flip the heavy, red and yellow striped switch to close the doors. He strained to hear the thief’s footsteps and hearing none, flipped the switch and sank back to the wall with a sigh. Soon after he heard footsteps rushing down the hallway and saw red uniformed guards and workers in overalls making their way toward him and the downed officers. He waved his free hand at them and called for a first aid kit. He saw a cargowoman holding one and smiled with relief, leaning his head back against the cool metal wall and closing his eyes. The compensation better be sweet, he thought as he the woman with the first aid kit knelt down beside him.

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