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The pedestrian tunnel was dark, the light at the far end muted by overhanging foliage and a noxious miasma that cast a gray pall over everything in the old city. Nina shifted the grocery bags she carried and exhaled toward her forehead, trying to move the fluffy blonde bangs from in front of her eyes. No use; they were well moussed in place. Beneath her breath, she cursed herself for adopting this new, frivolous hairstyle, vowing to have it cut into something more practical at the first opportunity. She took another half-dozen steps into the tunnel before she hesitated, sensing something, maybe someone unseen.
Her brother Ted had warned her about this tunnel. People had disappeared from it, never to be heard from again. But there was little choice; it was either use the tunnel or walk blocks out of her way. And “Nitro” Nina wasn’t going to let a little thing like Ted’s warning’s keep her from doing what she perceived as the practical choice. Every little thing that could go wrong today had gone wrong, and she was damned if she was going to be late for the one thing that might redeem her day—a date! Her date would arrive at her flat before she did, if she didn’t hurry. She moved onward.
A dirty overhead lamp shone weak gray light at the center of the tunnel, doing little to illuminate the creepy place. She thought she heard steps, but could not determine their location. Her heart began to beat faster, and again, she shifted the grocery bags, quickening her steps and thinking about how she might defend herself with old Army training and three grocery bags. Yes, there were steps, perhaps three sets other than her own. Her heart beat a furious tattoo, and she began to run, the bags slowing her usual graceful lope considerably.
Sweat trickled down Nina’s spine and between her breasts as she hurried toward the open end of the tunnel. The footsteps weren’t furtive, but were easily keeping pace with her. She gritted her teeth, primal fear mixing with self-preservation instinct. In front of her, a shadow moved, and she knew, even as she gasped and came to a clumsy halt, that she was in deep trouble.
“Hey, lady,” the man snarled. He was only two-and-a-half meters in front of her, but she couldn’t quite make out his features yet.
“What do you want?” she demanded, trying to keep her voice modulated and not quite accomplishing it. “Let me pass. If you want my groceries or credits, I’ll give them to you. Just let me go.”
He laughed, and the sound forced a frisson of fear from Nina’s tailbone to her scalp. The other footsteps had stopped just as the man came into view. His face was broad, his hair light brown, his eyes light, too, but she couldn’t tell what color. He wore a thick moustache, and one side lifted as he grinned. “What do you think, boys?” he asked.
Nina looked over her shoulders to find three other men stood nearby, all wearing the same tight-fitting jeans and pseudo-leather jacket as their leader. They smirked and shook their heads.
“Sorry, lady, but we’re not interested in groceries,” the headman said. “And you couldn’t possibly have enough credits.” He nodded, and the three thugs behind her grabbed for Nina.
Her scream echoed in the tunnel, making the headman cringe, but he didn’t move. She swung her grocery bags, hoping forlornly they’d do some damage to any of the three who reached for her arms. Milk splattered all over the nearest tunnel wall and ran down into a puddle, and rice spilled onto the concrete, making Nina’s feet slip around, but the thugs weren’t slowed at all. She struggled against their hands, kicked at their shins, and tried to stomp on their feet. There were just too many of them, and their preparation far outweighed her old military training. One stuffed a cloth into her mouth, and her scream was abruptly cut off. Another pulled her arms behind her, roughly, as the third managed to catch hold of her kicking legs, lifting her off the pavement.
Plastic cuffs tightened around her wrists and ankles, and a scarf was tied around her face to keep the gag in her mouth. The leader smiled, his white teeth a cruel juxtaposition of how he looked and what he’d done. He approached and looked at her more closely. He found the zipper of her tunic and pulled it down then whistled as her brassiere-covered breasts were exposed. “I’d say we have a winner here, boys.” His hand slid in to cup a breast, the nipple hard with fear and cold, and Nina flailed uselessly against the men who held her. He worked his hand down into her elastic-waist pants next, right into her thong panties and over her downy pubic mound. She felt that invasive hand move over her lower lips. The man smiled a feral smile at her discomfort, his eyes on hers as he felt around.
“Soft,” he said.
Fuck you! Nina’s eyes replied.
“Let’s keep this one for a day or two, Rock,” one of the men holding Nina suggested. “Looks like she’s got nice, big, bouncy tits. I wouldn’t mind burying my face right between them for an hour or two, while I—”
“No,” the leader said, interrupting his man’s reverie. His hand was slowly withdrawn from Nina’s pants and skimmed over her breasts again before he zipped her tunic closed.
“But, Rock,” another voice whined.
The leader’s eyes left Nina’s to glare at his gang. “You guys are so stupid you don’t know a sack of credits when it’s handed to you.”
Nina could feel the men stiffen behind her.
“This little jewel is gonna get us that flyer we’ve wanted, so we can get off this shitty planet.”
“You think so, Rock?”
“Yeah, I think so. Greg, you carry first.” He turned and led the group, with Nina flung over a thug’s shoulder, out of the tunnel.
“This was a piece of cake,” one man enthused.
“Cheesecake!” another offered. Laughing, they carted Nina away.