Skinwalkers, XVII

Nathan stumbled slightly, as he found his own hand automatically lifting toward the scanner. He recovered quickly enough to avoid suspicion, refusing to meet Choms’ mistrustful glare or Shin’s questioning brow lift.

He and Shin shuffled out together, tightening their tool satchels and ensuring their comms were safely pocketed.

Once beyond the exit and out on the street, Nathan set a rapid pace. Just a moment before, he’d been ready to interrogate Shin regarding his friend’s oddly sad expression. Now, he sought to avoid just such an inquisition from Shin. Unfortunately, Shin kept his constitution in good health and shape. He had no trouble keeping up with Nathan, though he recognized Nathan’s obvious attempts to avoid conversation.

*Liners to love; liners that don’t leave you lacking* Bragged an auto-ad as they passed.

It was interrupted by *Sirius Sustenance Supply is serious about more than sustenance…*, which was cut off by,

*Need a skin on the cheap? Look no further than Fantastique!*

Nathan’s unusually fast speed made the ad sensors flash on and off more quickly than they were designed to activate. He and his work partner walked through oddly overlapping projections all down the main stretch of the city.

After nearly a tick of rushing, Nathan finally realized what a funny spectacle he and Shin made. He laughed aloud, startling Shin. “Two Grunts, speedwalking at aftermeal,” he explained, slowing a bit. Shin smiled a half-smile of supportive humor.

They stopped at a trafficsection, their slipshods activating the embedded pedestrian sensors. Shin turned to Nathan carefully. “Nathaniel?” he asked.

“Hmm?” Nathan answered, feigning aloofness.

“Why are we speedwalking?” The signal flashed and chirped, so they moved forward and crossed. “What’s itching you?”

Nathan pretended concentration on the citypath beneath their feet. He slowed their pace further, realizing Shin was too astute a companion to be fooled by his childish efforts of avoidance.

Still, he couldn’t let Shin know about his job interview. He looked skyward; shrugged. “I just heard something about Carapace during my Advancement Studies. I felt a little surprised that they’d hire us.”

Mollified, Shin nodded. “Yeah,” he agreed aloud. Now was his turn to laugh, albeit less jovially. “Maybe they can’t get their own workers to dirty their gloves.”

Lost in thought, Nathan heard Shin’s jibe a bit late. He covered with his own chuckle a jiff after. “Probably true,” he said. Still, he couldn’t shake a paranoid thought that kept surfacing.

What if they know? He wondered. Then what would he do?

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XVI.
Read to Skinwalkers, XVIII.

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