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Tricked by Their Flitting Light

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“You a cop or a cowboy?”

The man standing in front of Jinwoo, hands raised, was wearing an impeccably-cut suit. His shirt was so white it glowed, and beneath the loosened tie it was unbuttoned a bit too much for propriety, but then Jinwoo knew that this guy - one Cha Eunwoo, wanted by the police on two planets and four different satellites - used his stunning good looks as one of his primary weapons.

And he was stunning.

He was also dangerous. Even though he hadn’t killed anyone, he’d talked his way into some of the scariest syndicate dens and billionaire homes, and he’d walked out with everything from the cash box to the family jewels to seeds for a plant that were the basis of a very rare, very expensive drug. He didn’t hesitate to pick locks, steal weapons, drop bombs, and lace things with minor poisons to get his jobs done.

And he was worth a whopping eight million woolongs.

“Just a humble bounty hunter,” Jinwoo said, his aim with his pistol unwavering.

Where the hell was the rest of the crew?

Moon Bin was damn hot-headed, and he’d gotten wind of his old flame, Minhyuk or Minjae or Mingyu or something, and gone off running, because Bin and his lover had both been tangled up in the syndicate, and it had left Bin nearly dead and - worse - broken-hearted. Chances of Bin coming to Jinwoo’s aid weren’t great.

But what about Myungjun, the wild child-like hacker, and his annoying super-genius cat Kkiyoong, or maybe even Sanha, the cute little grifter who’d stab a man before he’d kiss him?

Sanha was supposed to be on standby in his starship.

But Jinwoo couldn’t reach for his radio to find out where the rest of the crew of the Future Pop was.

Cha Eunwoo tilted his head, showing off the long, pale line of his neck. “So you’re a cowboy. But you talk like a cop.”

Jinwoo had done a long stint with the ISSP before he’d been cut from the force - and had his arm cut off.

“Just being polite. If you’ll come with me, Cha Eunwoo-ssi, I’ll make sure you’re delivered to the Ganymede Police unharmed.” Jinwoo still had a couple friends on the force who’d make sure the deductions from the bounty weren’t too exorbitant.

“He used to be a cop,” Sanha said, appearing behind Cha Eunwoo, pistol at the ready.

Cha Eunwoo arched an eyebrow. “Now, there’s an interesting story. Tell you what, cowboy cop, if you save me from the Ganymede Police, I’ll cut you in on a much bigger bounty.”

“You’re not a bounty hunter,” Jinwoo said.

Sanha said, “I can shoot him in the leg. That way he’ll still be able to answer questions at the police station.”

Jinwoo sighed. “For the last time, leg shots are about on par with center mass shots on fatality rates. Have you never heard of the femoral artery?”

Cha Eunwoo said, “I know where the Book of All Stars is.”

Jinwoo raised his eyebrows. Sanha nearly dropped his gun. The Book of All Stars was worth an easy fifty million woolongs if it was returned to its rightful owner, who was allegedly one Dr. Lee Dongyoung, the creator of the space gates.

It was Myungjun who said, over the radio, “There are no physical copies of the Book of All Stars. He’s lying.”

Cha Eunwoo reached up and tugged the collar of his shirt aside further, revealing a fine tracery of ink on his skin. His tattoos weren’t ordinary patterns, though. They were words.

The words were in his skin.

As Jinwoo watched, the ink moved.

Cha Eunwoo said, “I was holding the book when the space gate exploded.”

Jinwoo remembered another space gate explosion victim he’d encountered, a boy who hadn’t aged for three decades, a boy who’d played beautiful harmonica blues.

Jinwoo nodded at Sanha. “All right. It’s a deal.”

Sanha pounced on Cha Eunwoo and flipped him to the ground.

Cha Eunwoo tried to struggle, but then Kkiyoong was in the fray, claws out, yowling and scratching till Cha Eunwoo subsided.