This continues my pattern of giving you enough to wish you had more. If you were expecting that to change, well… I’m sorry. The previous entry can be found here, this continues immediately from the last segment.
We struggle onwards in the dark, my hope dying around me, breaking up like Daemon’s ship must have.
I run into Cesi, and we both awkwardly rebound and squeeze up against each other between the walls. “What now?” I whisper, terrified that even that much noise is too loud.
“Now we go up.”
The climb feels like a special kind of hell. My arms and legs are shaking with the effort by the time we’re halfway through. I start to like the parts that are too narrow for me, because more of my body supports my weight when the entirety of my suit is pressed up against the surface of the passage around me, even if it does mean that I have to deal with having hard metal things digging into my shoulders, my ribs, my spine, my hips. I can barely move my arms and legs well enough. It feels like I’m making progress my fingers and toes more than anything else. Finally, Cesi whispers that it’s time for us to rest.
We’re sitting on a small shelf of structural material, nestled in between a series of several different pipes, pressed up against the walls and each other.
“Do you think they’ll be able to get Mariel’s maps from her?” Cesi’s question leaves me twitching.
If they do get Mariel’s maps… “I hope not. But probably.”
Whoever they are, they have to be pretty powerful and well informed. They’re either connected to the research group that made Daemon in the first place, which would mean that they’re happy to do something as dangerously illegal as design and make an unbraked AI, or they’re from the group that tried to destroy Daemon. Which would mean that they were happy to blow up a ship with lots of people on it, just for the sake of destroying Daemon.
Neither option suggests that they’d be likely to be very nice to us when they found us. And neither option suggests that they’d have much trouble with the idea of hacking someone else’s glasses to get a little more information out of them. I think they probably started hacking Mariel’s glasses even before they tried finding ours. Or soon after.
“So they could figure out where we went. Even before we got there.” Cesi is sounding less and less confident. More and more unhappy.
Which is exactly how I’m feeling.
“Weren’t there more paths than the one we’re taking?” I feel like I’m grasping at straws.
There’s a moment of silence.
“No?” Cesi still doesn’t reply. “Just this one?”
“Not really.” It’s a dreadfully quiet sound. “I mean, we could have gone two or three ways, but this is the closest and fastest, I think. And not even we could have fit through most of the other passages.”
Now it’s my turn to be silent.
“All they have to do is figure out which ways we could go, and put people in front of the exits. They just need people for three different exits.” She sighs. “Not that much, really.”
We sit in the dark and think. I don’t know about Cesi, but most of my thoughts are still running around in circles. More dangerous than alone with strangers. But now that danger has come looking for us. If it weren’t the same danger, they wouldn’t have known where to find us or have used pocket rockets in that little fight with Mariel. Or maybe it’s worse than we’d thought and there are multiple bad groups out to get us and our parents and Daemon, and none of them are nice people. That could also be true. We could just be totally and completely screwed.
How are we ever going to get ourselves out of this?
“How far is it between our exit and the closest exterior airlock?”
Pressed up against each other as we are, I can feel Cesi shrug. “I don’t know. I didn’t check.”
“But if we turn on our glasses when we get out,” I push the idea a little further in my head, picking up momentum, “we can find out. Follow emergency evacuation directions or something.”
“I guess?” Cesi’s voice rises in doubt. “You want to get in a life boat?”
“No.” This idea has some heft. It’s too big to get out of my head in one go. “I mean, kind of. An emergency evacuation area should have some EVA equipment, right?”
“I dunno. Ours do.” Cesi is starting to sound curious. “They probably should have some too, I guess.”
“So we get to the evac airlock, and we get the EVA equipment, and we go out the airlock. They won’t expect us to leave the station, right?”
“…Riiiight.” I think it’s starting to click into place for Cesi. “This assumes that we can get past whoever is guarding the exit from the walls.”
I must admit, this is a glaring hole in my plan. “Well, yeah. Duh.”
We finish catching our breath and let our limbs stop shaking quite so much before we set out again. This secret passage might be very secret and hidden from others, but it certainly doesn’t earn any points for speed. We struggle along at our best pace.
When we finally reach the exit point, both of us are tired and nearly ready to collapse. But waiting any longer isn’t going to help us either, and if we want to reach Daemon before someone else does, we might already be too late. Our only hope is to keep going.
We find the panel that Mariel prepped long before, and open it with judicious application of force. I mean, we kick it, hard. The panel flies out of the wall and clatters across the floor with rattles and bangs that sound like they could be heard from kilometers away, and we stumble out of the wall at our best attempt at a run. Just to top it off, the panel hits someone who was standing by the far wall from us, and now they’re clutching at themselves and cursing loudly.
There are other people in the corridor. People who are just walking along, minding their own business and totally surprised by the two of us exploding out of the wall, and people who were standing around and are now jumping about trying to react as quickly as they can. I think it’s the second group of people that we have to be worried about.