It had been half an hour since they had first entered the ally, and the sounds of the search had faded away. Abner walked to the main street and looked both ways. Finally he motioned for Killjoy and Santa to join him.
"No one in sight," he said.
"Except for all of the vendors," Killjoy said.
"It's a figure of speech," Abner said, shaking his head. "It means that the people looking for us aren't in sight."
"Want me to get Grady on the comm?" Santa asked. "They shouldn't be able to recognize our skiff even if they are still out looking."
"Yeah, get him over here to pick us up," Abner said as he gingerly touched the still-raw wound on his shoulder. "I've had enough of this mess for one day."
Santa stepped back into the ally while Killjoy and Abner kept watch. A few minutes later, Santa rejoined them.
"Grady's on his way," the mechanic said. "He should be here in five minutes give or take for traffic."
"The sooner the better," Abner said. "I never thought that I'd say this, but I can't wait to get back to the Safe Have. I've had enough of getting shot at for one day."
"Agree to disagree," Killjoy said, checking the charge on his weapons. "I could stand for a bit more excitement."
"Which is why you are security chief and I am not," Abner said. "I'd rather be safe on deck, hiding behind our shields and big guns than out on the street with a laser pistol in my hand."
"I can get you a plasma pistol if you would prefer that, Captain," Killjoy said with a grin.
"That's not what I mean," Abner shot back.
"Here's Grady with the skiff," Santa said, stopping the argument in its tracks. Though it would have been fun to see, they didn't have the time right now.
Abner and Killjoy stopped to watch the skiff approach. It was three blocks away, then two, then only one. It stopped at a traffic signal and suddenly six men detached themselves from the crowd and surrounded the motionless vehicle. There was an exchange of words, then suddenly the six men drew weapons.
"Are they Reginald's men or just some thieves?" Killjoy asked. "I thought they hadn't seen our skiff before."
"I can't tell," Santa answered. "Reginald had a lot of people working for him, particularly of the thuggish variety. I wouldn't be able to recognize them all."
"Frankly, I don't care what their reason for holding Grady up is," Abner said. There was the distinct sound of a blaster warming up. "One way or another, they are in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"There's only six of them and three of us," Killjoy said as he drew his weapons and flipped off the safeties. "That makes two apiece."
"Not sure I can take two," Santa said as he handled his pistol.
"Then I'll take care of it for you," Abner said. "I'm ready to be finished with this mess."
The three men started down the sidewalk, keeping their blasters low so that they were not obvious but still ready for use. The skiff's signal had turned green, and vehicles were starting to pile up behind it, but still the armed men kept it stationary. Clearly they carried some weight in this area because there was not even the horns of irate drivers.
"I've got the ones on the far right," Killjoy said in a low voice.
"I've got the ones on the left," Abner said. "Santa, take the middle ones and drop as many as you can."
"Will do, Captain," Santa said. His voice gave away the fact that he was nervous, but his hands were steady.
"Coming within effective range," Killjoy muttered. One of the hijackers discharged his weapon at the ground to make a point, and Killjoy twitched.
"Steady," Abner said. "Wait until we're right up on them. We can't afford to miss."
They continued forward until they had cut the distance to fifteen feet, then to ten. Finally, one of the hijackers noticed their unabated approach and turned to confront them. In unspoken agreement, the three crew mates brought their blasters up and fired as they continued to move forward. In less than a second, all six of the hijackers were laid dead on the street.
"Mount up," Abner said as he holstered his weapon and climbed into the skiff. "Grady, get us out of here."
Wide-eyed and still trying to comprehend what had just happened, Grady engaged the skiff's engines and navigated the streets of the market. As they broke out of the buildings there and onto the open road, he eased the throttle forward and picked up speed as they flew toward the Safe Haven.