Whoops! Nearly let this one get away from me. Same deal as usual, more rough material that picks up immediately from the last post.
“Ok kids,” Mariel’s voice finally cuts through my concentration, and we both look up from our huddle. Mariel is standing by the door in a standard model civvie space suit, with a personal stunner in her hand. “You can try to rescue your parents all you like, but you’ll have to do it from in here.” She must be able to read the shock on our faces, because her expression eases up a tiny bit.
Somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice that sounds an awful lot like Daemon says, You’ll need to be much better with people, manipulating them and hiding your own thoughts, if you want to be a good captain some day.
Mariel continues, “Your parents asked me to keep you two safe. And since it sounds like they just told you that things are in a bad way, that’s what I’m going to do. You’ll stay here with me and stay safe.”
“But—“ Cesi and I both try to argue.
“But nothing. This place may not look like much, but it’s safer than letting the two of you wander around the station on your own, trying to do who knows what.” She glares at us like Dad does when he’s trying to make sure we understand a very serious point. “You get that?”
Silence for a few moments.
“Yes, Mariel.” It comes out in a sullen chorus. Neither of us like the idea.
“Good.” She steps towards us a little, away from the door, and squats down just enough to be near eye-height with the two of us. “Now, if whatever it is that your parents were worried about happened on this station, chances are that it might try to happen here too. You two need to be ready to run if it comes to that, okay?”
Run? Like walk, but faster? We could barely walk. How are we going to run?
“There’re a couple of extra exits from this place that most people aren’t going to know about. I’m giving you my best map and MR setup for the station right now.” A file transfer offer from Mariel pops into my peripheral vision. What the heck, if she’s trying to corrupt our glasses and sell us out we’re pretty well screwed anyway. I accept it. “You two go hide back there,” she waves a hand, “in the back room while I watch the front door. Start planning your routes.” She frowns. “I wish you hadn’t said my name in that call, it might have given us another half hour or so, but they would probably figure out where you were eventually anyway.”
She shoos us into the back room, less lush and welcoming than the first one but still decadently real by our standards. “You get ready back here. I’ll be out front.”
Cesi and I look at each other in silence for a few moments. “Sorry,” I say. “I screwed up again.”
She nods in acknowledgement. “You talk to Daemon first, I’ll check maps first.”
I nod, focusing in on the now-modified Daemon chat window. <Daemon, I have some bad news.>
I didn’t realize our keystroke patterns were so distinctive. Maybe that will help with the pass codes to some extent.
There was a pause. Was Daemon waiting for me to give them instructions? Did they want to know how to help?
Oh. Right. They’re stuck in a box.
It feels so good to have someone else coming up with solutions to problems that we’re facing that I almost forget to tell Daemon that I agree.
“Barry,” Cesi’s harsh whisper cuts into my concentration. I can hear what sounds like banging coming from the outer door.
“I said,” Mariel yells from the outer room, “hold on!”
“Barry, I think they’re here. They’re coming for us, or they found Mariel, or something.” She tugs at my arm. “We have to go.”
Mariel pops her head into the back room, braids swinging and a look of desperation on her face. “Time for you two to get gone! I’ll play for confusion and time, but move move move—“ she pushes us towards a small panel in the corner of the room. It looks like it’s been modified. On our ship, it would have been something that Cesi and I did. Here, I’m guessing it has to be some illegal tinkering on Mariel’s part. You’re probably not supposed to fiddle with wall systems.
“Open that, I’ll push it shut once you’re inside. You’ve got the maps I gave you, make good use of them!” Mariel forces us into the tiny space on the other side of the loose panel, then mashes it back into position until it clicks. Cesi and I are trapped in the dark, inside the walls of a space station. I can faintly hear Mariel yelling as she moves back out of the room, everything muffled and confused. The banging on the door suddenly stops, and there’s some conversation that I can’t understand.
Cesi tugs my arm. “This way, Barry.” I squeeze after her through horribly tight spaces, around pipes and conduits and structural beams.