(DS Roleplay /Orbital Trade Station Above the Second Moon of Finley 4 , Finley System)
Part Forty Eight of Teir -
November 23th, 2287 (11.23.2287.8)
As the sun came up over the horizon of the world, just touching the edge of the moon below, sliding in long bright shafts of light through the glass expanses of the windowed walls of the Trade station it was easier not to be afraid. Just when she had thought she was so grown up, here she was afraid of walking down onto a planet populated with humans.
Maybe she wasn't as grown up as she hoped.
With the sunlight, the guards came back into the waiting area and the barred gate closures slid back up into the ceiling, a soft hiss sounding on the air as they disappeared and the slits in the ceiling sealed closed. People gathered themselves and their belongings up and moved in small and scattered groups to the gated windows where the guards stood, guns in their holsters and stun batons in hand, their eyes scanning over the crowd as the passengers crowded toward the gates.
Id's were scanned, faces compared to the id's, to the listings on the manifests of the ships, the baggage was searched, and the people stood arms outstretched and turned in circles while the guards smoothed scan rods over them. It was slow work and the tired people waited their turns. Then finally after they were screened they passed through the gates in small trickles into the lobby area beyond the doors in the far wall toward the ships that would take them down to the surface.
Slowly the crowd began to make its way through.
The com at the shoulder of one of the guards at the gate squawked and a low voice came over the small speaker, the guard nodded, pressing the switch and speaking back, then he looked up, his eyes roaming over the milling people as they crowded forward.
Pris watched him and as his gaze circled toward her, she turned her face away.
She bent then suddenly as he started forward through the milling groups of people, running her hands over the steel floor as if she was looking for something she had dropped, glancing left and right as people moved around her.
What was he looking for?
They had taken Kindra and Teal, had either said anything? Were they now looking for her?
The strength she had felt with the sunlight had evaporated, leaving only a small panic that was getting larger as she scrambled to hide herself.
What was she going to do?
She kept her head down and in a half crouch, she ran for the wall to her left, ten feet from her a little girl with her hand in her mother's hand walked slowly, turning her head as Pris went by and then looked up and asked her mother in a loud voice, “Mommy what is that girl doing?”
The woman began to turn towards her child, when the guard who had started the other way swiveled back, his eyes snapping to the child, the small girl's other hand pointing off toward the wall. He looked back toward the gate saying something to two of the four other guards at the gate, who nodded and stepped away to follow him.
Pris came up against the wall and gave a quick look back, beyond the wall of cloaks and shoulders of the people moving forward she could see the orange uniforms and black helmets of the guards. Ahead of her a an old woman moved slow through the crowd at the edge of the wall, Pris stood up then, looking back where the first guard pushed through the crowd. He looked straight into her eyes and she ducked and sprinted along the wall, the hood of her cloak falling back.
The guard pushed through hard, knocking a man down as he pushed against the wall and then ran along the edge of the wall.
“Everyone STOP!” he yelled out then, slipping the baton into the corded loop at his belt and pulled his gun with his other black gloved hand.
He had been security long enough to know when someone ran it meant something. Dispatch had simply wanted them to patrol the crowd and keep everyone going where they were meant to go. But the girl had run when she had seen him.
Couldn't be a good thing that, it usually meant they were up to something.
He couldn't count the number of times people had simply run when they saw him. And everyone he had caught had been doing something they weren't supposed to.
You get a hard criminal, they could look you in the face and smile and lie and not twitch at all. It was the one's that weren't normally criminals at all that did something and then spooked.
The edge of the crowd around him ground slowly to a halt as people began to turn and looked to see what was happening. A woman and a smaller girl in hooded cloak kept moving along the wall.
The guard sprinted forward his finger moving to the safety of the gun in his hand as he moved up to the two, putting out his other hand, he grasped the shoulder of the younger girl and turned her around. As she turned the hood fell back and a bright white eyed blond girl looked up at him. The mother was half turning toward her child, her hand half reaching for the guard, eyes half closing to reach out with her mind and seize the guard's mind, when his hand dropped away from the girl's shoulder.
The mother stopped.
“I thought...” he said as the other guards pushed through the people around them, up beside him.
As he turned away, scanning against the edge of the wall for the girl in the hooded cloak, the mother opened her eyes and let her hand fall back at her side. She did not speak the smattering of English-spanish-german dialect that the humans on the outer worlds used, and she was not about to think directly at him to ask. He moved away, and the danger to her daughter was over. He had mistook them for someone else.
She pulled back the mental dart she had formed in her mind and let it dissipate in the soft recesses at the back of her consciousness.
She pushed a comforting thought to her daughter and turned away from the man as he moved away, tugging at her child gently to get out of the way of the other guards as they pushed toward the first. Stepping slowly again as the edge of the crowd began to move again toward the gates.
Pris crept to the edge of the enclosure, to a roped off area that held pallets of baggage and crouched down behind a trash container that stood against the wall. It offered some small measure of concealment. She held her breath and pulled in on herself as the guard suddenly appeared at the wall and moved past the rope into the baggage area, his head slowly turning. The others came up alongside him as he stepped up against the edge of one of the pallets, the trash container no more then 6 steps from where he stood.
He motioned for the others to move forward when the speaker at his shoulder squawked again. He listened and then pressed the button and said one word back.
The speaker squawked with the low drone of the distant voice, the guard listened, then nodded.
He turned towards the others, holstering his gun and motioning them back with a black gloved hand.
“Let's move out.”
The others, spread out in the back roped off area stopped and turned then and began to move back toward the gate. The first guard waited a bit more, his gloved hands tapping at the holstered gun, his gaze impatiently glancing back and forth over the palleted baggage area and then finally he turned away and followed his men.
Pris, behind the trash container finally breathed and stayed where she was, feeling the mans consciousness begin to dim as he walked away. It was not until he had finally gotten to the gate itself that she moved in a slow crouch out from behind the container and the wall toward one of the pallets and slid under several of the bags that rested on the bottom covered with other bags and cases and boxes that had been tied and taped and bore the swirl of Advent script on their sides declaring owner and destination.
It was not a long wait, perhaps only an hour. But before even all the milling flux of people had moved through the gates the back wall slid back and a storage walker moved through, pinchers and metal braced legs clanking slowly over the steel floor and began lifting the pallets into it's huge arms and then turning back and moving through the dark space behind the wall to the storage areas beyond.
When the pallet that Pris had hidden herself on suddenly lifted, the bags slipping with the sudden movement, she pressed herself flat against the hard surface of the plastic pallet as the bags shifted above her and dug into her back and arms, as it rose into the air and then shifted as the machine turned on it's thick legs and then moved forward, each thud of it's powerful legs reverberating along the floor and through it's metal frame and across the pallet as she lay quiet, not daring to move or make any sound at all.
With her face pressed into the dusty pallet she reached out with her mind.
'Where are you Sere...'
The machine disappeared through the opening in the wall into the half dark beyond the waiting area, continuing its plodding way across the storage bay.
When the machine came to a jerking stop, she felt the pallet tip, the bags shifted again, sliding back away from her as the machine lowered the pallet to the floor withdrawing it's pinchers and stepping back before it turned on those massive metal legs in one smooth turn then started back toward the open wall perhaps 300 meters distant.
Slowly Pris extricated herself from the cover of baggage and rubbed at her back and stood up. The room was barely lit, only half shadows from dim orange lights that lined the edge of the ceiling against the walls in broken lines.
She reached out with her mind and slowly turned in a small circle, reaching...
Somewhere in here...
'There you are.'
She strode forward across the dark steel floor in her slippered feet, moving toward the back wall until she came to a door inset into a sealed frame.
Sere was somewhere beyond.
There were no other stray thoughts near her, no one in whatever lay beyond, room or hallway. She pulled at the wheel handle that worked the lock of the door and tugged at it, clenching her teeth and pulling with all her weight, all the strength she had in her thin arms...
The handle began to turn slowly, and then half way through its arc, more easily, finally stopping as a green light came on above the door. She pulled open the door and then slid out pulling it closed behind her, turning the outside handle until it stopped and the light above blinked back into the red.
She was in a hallway. It was empty.
Across the hall was another door.
She glided on slippered feet across the smooth floor to it and tugged at the handle, it began to turn slowly when she caught a thought, down a hallway she couldn't see a door clanged open and then back.
A guard was coming!
She frantically pulled at the handle and finally got it open then ducked inside pulling it closed and began to turn the handle hard back.
The steps of the man came around the corner then as the handle stopped in her hands and the light blinked back red.
She held her breath waiting. What if the guard had seen the light change?
The steps came closer.
Then moved past. She began to breathe again then, slumped against the door she peered out into the darkness of the second storage area. It was a copy of the first, pallets upon pallets stacked on the floor receding into the half dark as far as the room lay.
She moved into the dim light, reaching out with her mind.
'Where are you...?'
As she moved away from the door her foot moved through a sensor beam breaking it, in an office six stories above her an indicator light began to blink on a panel below a vid screen. The guard on duty looked up from a cup of coffee he held and stared at the screen as her image moved across the half dim room. He reached down and pressed a key, then swiveled in his chair toward the com panel set opposite and reached for the mic.
“We have an unauthorized person in the storage area on level 4, fourth floor security to bay 4-12, it looks like whoever it is, is unarmed, but proceed with caution.”
When he swiveled the chair back to the screen a green gas was jetting into the bay and alarm sirens were silently spinning immersing the room in a red and black slide show off and on. Off and on.
With the gas jetting above her Pris ran, lowering her head and pulling her scarf up over her mouth and nose, sprinting across the dark between the pallets as the doors at the four centers of the walls snapped open and orange uniformed guards spilled in with masks over their faces connected to small breathing tanks across their backs. Shutters on the outside windows cycled down and locked.
She skidded to a stop as one of the guards raised a rifle and ducked as a spray of bullets ratcheted off in a burst of red flaring light and sound. The floor pinged with the impact of the slugs and a bag to her right jerked with sudden holes tearing into its black surface.
'There he is'
'Where did he go?'
'Move slowly, form a circle, he can't get out now.'
She ducked again, creeping as quickly as she could without making too much noise, but the swirling red lights above her, the gas pushing in from the nozzles against the ceiling meant she couldn't play a mewling outsmarting the long teeth for too long.
She moved between the bags piled atop the pallets, left then right, then left again.
The guards were closing in.
It was only a matter of minutes before they would have her.
Pris stopped at one of the pallets, pulling one of the bags at the edge out and moving her fingers over the seal that closed it, the bag sagged open as she smoothed her fingers across the seal, clothes and shoes spilled out at her feet.
She looked up then, they were closer now and there was nothing she could use to get out.
She slipped over to another bag, opening it quickly, nothing.
'Don't worry, he can't get out, just close in slow.'
She dashed across the floor between the stacks, half crouched at another pallet, at the edge, under several bags was a metal tool box, she ran her fingers across the edge of the seal and the top popped up. Inside lay a host of hand tools used to repair household fixtures.
She smiled as she reached down and took several of the wrenches in her hands, then rose and turned left and ran for the far wall.
As her shadowed form came up over the tops of the bags stacked on the pallets two of the guards on that side raised their guns and fired.
She slid to a quick stop and turned, pulling her arm back in a long arc she threw one of the wrenches at one of the guards.
The wrench spun through the semi darkness and then slammed into the shoulder of one of the men. He yelled out and dropped his gun as he fell forward to his knees and felt at his shoulder with his other hand.
'Get that bastard!'
Pris ran, ducking under the tops of the bags on the pallets and then skidded to a stop again, raising up, she turned as the man's focused thoughts gave her a target and threw another wrench. It missed, sailing out into the half dark to clang on the steel floor.
'Haha, missed me...' came a thought.
She ran again, turning a corner at one of the pallets she almost slipped, her feet skidding out from under her, she jerked out a hand and grabbed at one of the bags across the top of the pallet and half fell, falling down to one knee. She stumbled to her feet and kept running.
Again at one of the pallets she slid to a quick stop, the metal floor underneath her slippered feet traitorously giving little purchase and focused her mind. The guards on this side close to her were no more than ten yards distant, she tired to clear her mind, emptying it, and felt a spike of thoughts suddenly blossom in her mind.
'When I find him, I'm going to...'
She pulled her arm back, the wrench resting in her hand and stood up and threw it. It sailed across the dark space and struck the man in the face, he yelled out, clutching his gloved hand to his broken mask as he fell back.
As he fell, she turned and ran, but suddenly quick arms caught at her, pulling her up off her feet. She kicked and growled as she was hoisted up enveloped in the larger man's arms.
“I thought it might be one of your kind...” he hissed as he turned her and then his eyes widened under his mask as her face turned toward him and her hood fell back.
“...You... your just a ...” he got out, as she wriggled in his grasp and turned her face down against his arm and bit.
The man yelled out and threw her away from him.
“Little brat, what did you-” he hissed and stumbled back.
Pris fell hard on a pile of baggage atop a pallet and slid off its side onto the floor, scrambling up and running for the far wall.
Her hands slammed into the steel frame of a window seal and she slid sideways to her left and found herself against a junction box, long strands of cables dangling in loops that fed into the side of the black box.
She grabbed at the cables and pulled, hacking at them with her remaining wrench, the cables sparked below her hand where she held it, pulling, slamming the wrench into the arc where the cables turned and went into the smooth rounded slot into the metal box.
The guard she had bit stood up slowly, the others moved behind him closing the distance.
She slammed the wrench again into the cables and felt them tear loose from the box in her hand, then she ran for one of the pallets, dragging the cables behind her, as her feet gained the purchase of the plastic pallet she leaned down and pressed the ragged, exposed wire tips of the cables to the metal floor.
The red lights in the ceiling popped and went out. The guards themselves were yelling, and started firing their guns, as she could hear them fall and thump against the flooring. One of the soldiers guns burst in an arc of red lit flaring fire across the room and then climbed higher as the man fell back, red light of the ratcheting gunfire arcing across the open space and then striking a group of sealed canisters along the top right of the room.
The metal drums pinged as the bullets struck and pierced them, and then exploded in a sudden flare of white-yellow light and fire.
Liquid spilled to the floor and fire dripped with it.
In a moment the fire was raging against the far wall, lighting the bay in an undulating weave of light and shadow.
The machinery at the junction box sparked and then stilled.
The nearest gunman who had come within six feet of her that had fallen onto his back jerking stilled, his head falling over to his left, his face underneath his mask pulled back in a hard grimace, though his eyes reflected back only reflected light, and did not move at all.
Pris tentatively reached out a hand then, feeling at the floor with her outstretched fingertips. But felt only the cold metal of the floor. The current was drained, the machinery dead. She dropped the cables then and ran reaching out with her mind, but the soldiers minds were dark. Where was Sere?
She skidded to a stop and turned to her left then, crossing between two pallets and three guards that had come this way, two now lay on their backs with their arms wide, one still clutching at the rifle in his hand. The other had lost his and had been attempting to claw his mask off when his consciousness had dwindled down to a pinpoint and winked out. The third lay over a pallet of bags on his stomach, his face pressed down into the mass of it.
The gas jets had stopped, the alarm sirens silent. The room now bathed only in that white-yellow light of the fire against the far wall.
Pris stepped past the one laying over the bags on the pallet and the two on the floor on their backs, through a space between the two pallets and saw Sere's casket sitting on a pallet of its own.
She moved quickly to it and knelt down, sliding her fingertips at the edges where the top sealed against the side. The seal opened at her touch and the top slid back in a tipping movement that moved it over the edge of the casket down along the opposite side, where it stopped.
Pris rose up onto her feet and looked down at the still form of Sere, silent with eyes closed, her skin pale and half her head shaved in the proscribed way of the Twelve, the twelve silver bells on slender leather cords in her hair that draped down alongside her cheek and rested against her neck.
Pris sighed inside herself, though she spared a quick glance across the bay toward the fire that was swelling even larger now.
She didn't have much time.
She closed her eyes and fought for a few difficult minutes to calm herself, to find that necessary silence and peace, emptying her mind and then feeling the copy of Sere's consciousness nestled in the back of her own mind swell.
She leaned over the casket then and pressed her fingertips against Sere's temples and felt as the copy of the consciousness in her own mind reached out and touched the mind of Sere resting in the casket beneath her.
There was a spark of light in her mind that turned white, flaring into a brilliance that dwarfed even the reality of the fire and the soldiers and the station around her.
She had been born in the Hive, the white painted dome that lay beyond the convent proper. The Attendings had delved her immediately, even before they washed the blood from her... even before they had cut the cord that still joined her to her mother.
The child screamed and cried out in the thin white walled circular room as their minds clove into her nascent mind.
Her mother was screaming!
The Attendings turned, cold eyed and moved out from the edge of the tube and lowered the baby girl from hands to hands down to others that waited in white below. Faces like unmovable masks with white eyes inset into cold ice.
The child could see, moved and cried out.
But the child's mind was blind.
She could not 'see'.
She was 'Unseen'.
The Attendings took her to another cell tube, down the long central corridor of the dome where thousands of others were being born at that same time, where she was connected to an adult worker by intravenous tubing and sealed in.
Her first year was spent in the hive with her surrogate mother, then she was moved again, separated from the adult who returned to Attending, cycling through the roles of birther and provider, to the open village beyond the dome where children were raised by the thousands with their 'Teachers'.
Sleeping in a bay with a thousand other girls in beds around her, playing and eating and learning, as they grew into young women.
It was only the boys who had 'Families', small single domes that held only three or four people at a time. The drones were different, their function different, their training different.
When she was five, she attended school and was processed for a 'function'.
The females were different. Their functions were determined later, in stages that moved them toward what the overseers had determined.
The drones all had a single function, and no such determination was necessary.
Only the privileged among the 'Seen' had functions determined by their families.
The others were raised according to tradition, as had been handed down since the great exile.
Sere learned and grew.
And in time became a young woman, blind and obedient and subservient to the will of the 'Seen'.
As it had been for centuries of those who had come before her.
Pris blinked her eyes and opened them, The fire covered now the whole of the far wall and was spreading, pallet by pallet across the space between.
As Pris moved her hands away, Sere's eyes snapped open and she sat straight up gasping, her hands going to the edges of the casket for support as she tilted her head back and screamed, her lips pulling back in a rictus pull of skin against her teeth.
The woman pulled at the air, getting slow aching strands of air into her lungs before she leaned forward and threw up, spittle spilling over her lips and down her chin to her white dress. Pris leaned in again and placed her hands on the woman's cheek and back, and at her touch felt the sudden flaming ache and scream of the flesh underneath. Pris gritted her teeth hard, biting into her lip as she fought to find the empty silence inside herself.
The woman in the casket trembled, shaking and shivering as the muscles spasmed under the skin.
Slowly, by degrees, the trembling faded, as Pris found the silence and poured her calm into the woman.
Finally she focused her eyes and turned her head, looking at the young girl beside the casket and tried to smile.
“Pris...” she said in a slow and aching voice that strained at newly used vocal cords.
“Sere...” Pris smiled back, wiping at the blood that ran down her lip and then looked up again as the fire moved across the pallets, half the room was now consumed and the smoke was heavy and swirling around them.
“We have to get out of here Sere.” Pris pulled at the woman's arm, pulling her slowly to her feet, she gave her scarf to Sere and removed her cloak and wiped at the vomit that covered the lower part of the woman's dress.
“It... isn't... important.” Sere said stepping unsteadily over the edge of the casket to the smooth surface of the pallet, catching her balance by holding onto the casket wall and Pris holding her hand guided her down off the pallet across the floor toward one of the doors.
The lock was sealed and now beyond opening with the power in the bay gone. Pris tugged at the woman gently though urgently trying to find something else, somewhere else, where they might be able to find an exit.
She stumbled with her cloak over her nose and mouth, half crouching to avoid the smoke that swirled above them, pulling at Sere as gently as she could, but still almost running.
“We have to-” Pris said and then she saw the shutter against the window that had come down, but a corner had bent on the frame there, one of the blinds was bent back and showed the glass beyond.
She turned making for the window, dragging Sere after her as carefully as she could so that the woman did not lose her tremulous newly gained balance.
She moved to the wall and to the shutter, releasing Sere's hand. The woman sagged and then put out a hand to steady herself against the wall. The shutter was broken, and pulled up almost 12 inches from the panel below it exposing the glass. Beyond the glass lay black and stars.
Pris turned, “Stay here.” and then ran back along the wall to one of the doors. She slid to a stop and looked at it, pulled at the handle inset into its center, but nothing happened.
“Damn, damn!” She hissed.
Then sprinted further along that wall toward the next door.
It was the same.
The other two doors were too close to the flames to consider checking, but she felt in her bones it would be the same. Without the power, there was nothing she could do to open the doors.
She stood for a moment, firelight flickering off her face as she stared not at the door, but through it. Open and cold space beyond.
But the guards...
She swiveled then sprinting across the floor between the pallets until she found one of the guards laying on the floor. The mask was intact and the tubing to the air tank as well. She pulled off the mask, then struggled with the air tank in the harness slipped over the man's shoulders. She had to strain to push him over on his side and pull off one of the straps, before she had to reverse it and pull him over onto his other side to get at the other strap and finally get the tank off his back.
She stared for a moment into the man's blank eyes as the mask came off and she rolled him onto his back.
“I'm sorry...” she said, “I didn't want it to be like this...”
She tugged at the sealed front of the man's orange slip over suit then, pulling back the seal and opening the flaps of it and pulling until she had it down around his hips, where she had to work to raise him, first on one side and then the other to get the uniform off him. She bundled up his mask and uniform then underneath one arm and grabbed the man's gun laying next to him and then ran back down the wall to Sere.
Smoke swirled and was getting thicker.
Sere, half sat on her knees, her legs pulled up under her leaning on the wall, with Pris's scarf pressed over her nose and mouth.
“Sere.” Pris said as she came up on her and knelt down, the woman didn't respond.
Pris yelled at the woman, “SERE!”
The woman stirred and turned her head toward the girl.
“Can you get into these? I have to get another, hurry, the fire is getting closer and the smoke will be down to the floor level in just a bit, we have to hurry!”
The woman nodded weakly and pushed herself upright and took the uniform and mask, pulling the scarf off and dropping it to the floor and pulling the mask over her face. Pris slipped the edges of the harness straps over the woman's shoulders and turned at the valve on the front of the mask that fed into it.
A rush of oxygen pushed into the mask and Sere's eyes blinked with the swell of it.
“Good, get into the uniform, I will be back!” Pris half rose then and ran straight out into the pallets then, the other soldiers were closer than going back up along the wall.
It took time to find another in the smoke and longer to get his mask and uniform off. She was panting coming through the smoke to the wall, only able to find her way by following Sere's flickering thoughts. The woman was still seated, though she had managed to get into the uniform. The boots were ill fitting, though they were sealed against the pant legs and the gloves were over sized for her, but they were functional at least.
Pris dropped the mask and uniform and began to strip off her blouse and skirt, dropping them to the floor and grabbing at the mask and pulling it over her face. Then the uniform, which fitted her even more ill fitting than with Sere. Though with the mask in place and the suit sealed it didn't matter if it fit or not.
Pris knelt next to Sere and looked through the face plate into the woman's eyes, flickering and drained, exhausted. But the woman was pulling air in at a regular pace and was able to stand with no help. Pris smiled,
“Good.” She said and patted her hand against the woman's shoulder and then eyed the window and half closed shutter.
“I need something to tie us down. If I can blow that window its going to get real hectic in here real quick and we had better be tied down or all of this will have been for nothing.”
Sere turned her head and nodded to the girl.
Pris rose and ran along the wall again, her form melting into the smoke, disappearing from view almost instantly. Flame and light brightened and dimmed in the smoke. It was impossible to tell how close it was now. Except to assume it was almost upon them.
After what seemed too long, the heat of the fire swelling through the smoke that now surrounded them and obscured even the shuttered window and wall from them Pris came back down the wall, pulling a length of cable with her, she had managed to hack a length of it from the panel and brought it with her, she used it to tie first Sere and then herself to the braces embedded in the wall frame and then stood and pressed the gun barrel to the window itself between the broken shutter panels.
“Here goes nothing, huh?”
She wanted to smile, but she didn't.
Instead she pulled her mouth down into a grimace and pulled the trigger of the gun.
The window exploded outward with the staccato burst of gunfire and the shutter ripped and then tore as it was pulled out through the rent. Baggage from the pallets lifted as if on invisible fingers and drove for the rent where the escaping air was jetting into the void. A pallet lifted and careened, turning as it sailed across the open space with traces of smoke and flame around it to smash into the window frame and wedge there. Then another and another rose, turning, twisting in the current of escaping air. One of the bodies of the guards lifted then out of the thinning smoke and flew across the space and through the rent and was gone.
Pallets rose and twisted behind but then fell to the floor as the last of the air fled and the fire clawed at the last of it and then finally went out.
Pris stood slowly, releasing her hold on the brace and glanced back to make sure Sere was still ok, the woman shook her head, but then raised her hand with a thumb up.
The girl moved around the wedged pallet to the window and went over the edge in slow motion, holding onto the window frame and then out, the cable trailing behind her. As she went through the window Sere stood shakily and lifted herself on the edge of the window frame and followed.
They were outside the station here, moving vertically down the long wall, tied to the black cable in a string from one to the other and to the brace inside the bay. They moved down, toward another window in the distance below.
The two women pulled at the air through the masks against the sealed hoods of their suits and moved slowly down, hands moving over the edges of the outside paneling they were using as hand holds.
As they moved, Pris could see shadows of running soldiers in the hallway below them through the window below.
'What now?' She thought, but then reluctantly remembered that Sere could not hear her sending.
She turned, flipping completely around in the weightless void and pushed back toward the woman now above her, pressing her mask against the woman's and yelling.
Sere nodded slowly, but continued, moving around Pris toward the window below, taking the gun from Pris's fingers gently and moving down toward the sliver of glass window and the reflected shadows of the running soldiers streaming through the hallway. No doubt on their way to the level above them where the burnt and ruined bay awaited them.
How long before they opened the seals on the locked doors and found the two women on the outside like little orange ducklings waiting at the edge of a lake?
How long did they have?
Perhaps only minutes then until they were found.
“Damn!” Pris hissed to herself and pulled faster down the wall following Sere.
Sere was one of the 'Twelve', but what could even one of the 'Twelve' do trapped on the outside of a station in orbit with soldiers running the hallways below?
As Sere moved lower, the stream of soldiers thinned, the shadows spacing themselves in longer spaces of white light between them. She edged down, lower, with Pris pressing almost against her heels along the side of the window frame where she could still see the shadows and then the boots running along the white corridor, without being seen herself.
She turned her head and by accident or fateful grace caught a glimpse of a wink of light. Moving then further from the windows top edge she turned her body sideways in the space above the window toward the glint and saw the circular wheel of a lock handle in the light from the window.
Below in the dark, beside the window a lock sat, embedded in the thick wall.
There was a space of perhaps ten feet from the edge of the window to the lock handle, the metal of the outside wall was smooth here, not the paneled ridged edges that had allowed them easy purchase in their descent.
They would have to jump for it, hoping to catch the latch, or to float out and away from the station itself. If Sere missed it was likely she would pull Pris with her, and then either the cable would break against the upper edge of the window above against the broken glass and the edge of the windowed sill, or the soldiers would find them.
Sere drew in a deep breath and bent her leg, pressing her foot to the outside wall and lifted her head and tried to gauge the angle of the half hidden handle in the dark.
She remembered the window sill then of the building when she had run from the red banded youths in Petrograd. How thin had that sill been? She hadn't thought, she had simply moved. Though even there she had the grace of gravity.
She half smiled and pressed her foot hard into the wall and looked up again at the glint of light off the handle and then pushed as hard as she could.
She moved out, away from the windowed edge, deeper into the darkness, reaching out with her awkwardly gloved hands as she seemed to float in agonizingly slow inch by inch degrees. The cable grew taut behind her and pulled her out, away from the wall, she glanced back and saw Pris push her foot down hard on the wall and push out, the cable slackened as Pris floated out behind her. A glint caught Sere's eye and she snapped her head back front as the handle came into shadowed relief. She reached out, her fingers stretching, but she was not close enough.
Her momentum continued to push her out from the wall and the lock and she screamed in her mask, reaching...
Suddenly she twisted as Pris moved by her out further from the wall and shoved her leg forward and caught the handle on the top of her boot, but then the cable grew taut again and her foot slipped and she started to drift out away from the door.
“Damn!” she screamed in her mask again and then turned herself, releasing the gun and letting it drift away from her, pulling at the cable that connected her to Pris, pulling at it and hauling the girl towards her.
They floated in an agonizingly slow turn, drifting further out, when Sere drew the last of the cable between them to her and Pris fell against her. She grabbed the girl then and twisted, drifting slowly around til she could see the wall again and then she shoved Pris toward the door as hard as she could.
Pris drifted in a straight line closer.
But then the cable grew taut between them, and Pris screamed!
Reaching out with her hand...
and felt it close over the handle of the lock.
The girl clutched at the handle and pulled herself closer.
Sere on the end of the taut cable stopped and floated as Pris worked at the handle, trying to use her weight where is was impossible to use.
But finally the handle did turn, slowly. The mechanism inside the door turned, sliding back, and the door opened, moving in a slow arc out. As the door swung out, Pris lost her hold, and drifted back, she clawed back to catch it as she moved back away from the door, her fingers closing over the edge of the door's seal lip.
If she pulled on the cable between them she would only dislodge Pris. She floated in the dark at the end of the thin wire and hoped.
Pris moved her hands forward slowly, from edge to edge inside the door to the inside handle and then into the lock itself, where she twined the length of cable between her and Sere around the inside handle and began pulling Sere in slowly.
Pris's feet floated off the floor of the inside lock, but she still pulled at the cable as she floated up and against the door frame and then again out beyond it.
When Sere reached her the woman pushed hard off the door's edge and into the lock grasping Pris's arm and pulling her back in.
Sere's boots touched the floor inside the lock and she pressed her boots hard against the floor and pulled Pris to her.
The two of them leaned back against the cable twined about the lock handle and slowly pulled the door closed.
When they had secured the door they fell back in weightless free fall toward the floor, where they rolled over onto their backs as the chamber cycled and air pushed into the lock and the spin of the station itself brought back a semblance of weight.
When the red light above the outside lock door blinked back on, the two pulled the masks from their faces and groaned as they moved to stand up, stripping the uniforms off. Sere moved to the inside lock that connected to the inside of the station and waited as Pris finished removing the orange coverall and stood in her underclothes.
“Damn I don't want to EVER do that again!” Pris hissed as she started for the inner door and Sere. The woman smiled and nodded but said nothing.
The body always fought not to die, but she had died so many times by now, that the thought or experience of it didn't touch her mind at all any more.
Outside in the corridor or room beyond there was silence. Pris confirmed it when she came to the door and closed her eyes, reaching out with her mind.
It was indeed empty.
The soldiers had moved on. Perhaps already moving into the storage bay above them.
The two women pushed the handle of the door open and clambered through into the hallway beyond, sliding the door closed behind them.
“Dispatch, Alpha Seven here, we have secured the storage bay on 4-12, the fire up here was contained and did not spread to the other bays. There are some guards down here that look like they didn't get out when the fire hit. I don't know what security was doing in here, you might want to check on that. Most of the passengers baggage is going to be a write off, though the bay itself is only moderately damaged. There is no power down here, and we have a seal plate over an outside window that was blown out. It looks like something smashed into it before the shutter finished closing. There is cable and debris strewn everywhere down here, but it looks like its going to be ok. Get some medical and maintenance crews down here when you can. Alpha Seven out.”
Sere moved forward down the white corridor, Pris following close behind. They hadn't seen anyone in the last half hour that they had navigated the hallways, moving up level by level at the junctures, moving as fast as they could along the lengths of them, and slowly at the outside shafts where the stairs ascended to the next level up.
Pris had moved ahead at those points, closing her eyes and reaching out trying to see if anyone was beyond.
They came along the last corridor below the lobby area and the storage bays she had originally entered when Pris suddenly stopped and turned back to Sere.
“There's Guards close, a lot of them.”
“And there is no other way, unless we go back down and try to go around the other side.”
Pris made a face and looked like she wanted to spit.
“Yes. And if we go forward we walk right into them.”
“Do we have a choice?” Sere looked at the young girl, astounded that she had managed so well on her own. Without her Sere would still be unconscious, or dead.
“I say we go back.” She looked the older woman in the eyes and drew her lips into a thin line. The fear of humans had resurfaced, clawing at her emotions now that the struggle just to get into and then out of the bay was over. Still, they were not out of the woods entirely. They were still on the station and now faced questions from Security if they were caught which might easily connect them with the fire and the damage above in the storage bay. She hadn't wanted to kill the guards that had come into the bay, but by that time she hadn't been thinking of anything except staying alive long enough to get Sere out. Now that she could take the time to think she was shaking and near to breaking down and wanted nothing more than to find a corner against a wall and curl up in a ball and cry her eyes out.
“If that is what you think best, but is there a chance we can we get past these others? If we can get to the level above perhaps we can make it to the lobby unseen?”
Pris hesitated, biting at her lip and opening the cut where she had bit herself before.
She didn't want to go up, but they were so very close.
Going back would mean going back down into the lower levels and it would take hours more. She shook as she tried to think, wrapping her arms around her shoulders and shaking. Sere moved to the girl and took her in her arms.
Pris didn't want to go back down.
She couldn't face that again.
It was too much like going through it all again.
“I... I can't go back... I know what I said... but I can't go back...”
Sere smoothed her hands over the girls hair, staring into the girls dirty face and tried to smile to reassure her.
“Its ok, we'll figure something out, ok?”
Pris leaned her face in against Sere's chest and nodded slow.
The two women moved forward slowly, Sere holding Pris close as they rounded the corner of the corridor and to the door lock that led to the stairwell and the level above.
They were so very close.
Sere pushed open the door and stepped through holding Pris close to her. A guard came down the stairs and stopped above them, staring at them.
“What the hell are you doing down here?” He asked, then slid his rifle on the strap back over his back and came down the last set of stairs.
“Don't you know it's classified down here? We got offices and storage down here, why can't you simply wait topside for us to get it all unloaded like everyone else?”
If the guard thought them merely passengers who has lost their way... Sere thought, and stared at the man but said nothing, Pris pressed her face into Sere's side not even able to look at the man, she was still shaking, she was close to completely breaking down.
“Ahhh.... don't speak Spanglish then? It's OK, foreigners save me from them, I'll get you out, just don't come back down here ok? You got that? No Coming Down Here, yaknow?” The guard mouthed the last words slow, as if he was speaking to babies and came forward and glanced into Sere's eyes, she turned her face and then he looked hard at Pris, taking in her dirty face and red rimmed crying eyes, she was still shaking.
“Refugees, huh? Gotta be a hard life out there, can't even afford clothes. Look here, take my jacket,” The guard stripped off his over jacket and draped it slowly around Pris, who turned and peeked at him and rubbed at her nose.
The thought of all those other's that had died because of her suddenly made her cry again. She pressed her face back against Sere's side.
“Look, its going to be ok, you know, I mean you're not supposed to be down here, but look its not like a crime or anything, just you know, not cool. How are we supposed to do what we do with civilians running all over the place huh? Look, I'll walk you up, just don't you know, come back down here, ok?”
The guard turned then and motioned them up along the staircase to the top of the next landing, and pointed them toward the door beyond that led to the lobby area.
“Look, if you need some money, to get you know, like a ship down to the surface, I can like make a donation, you know. Here's ten credits, I know its not much, but its enough for two tickets down. You need something to eat or someplace to stay when you get surface side, just ask at the information desk at the terminal, they can set you up with those and it won't cost you. I've got a daughter myself, good girl, though she isn't quite as old as the little one here. Still I know what it means to worry over her. You take this money and get yourselves down and get someplace to stay and something to eat. Things will look a lot better after that.”
He smiled and pressed the folded bills into Sere's hand as he motioned them toward the lobby doorway.
Pris cried all the way to the doorway and beyond, out into the lobby to the ticket booth, where Sere bought tickets and then beyond, to the waiting ships where they boarded and Sere moved to a seat against the wall and sat with Pris next to her, with her arms still around the crying girl.
“It will be alright Pris,” she whispered, “it will be alright...”
As the engines of the ship rumbled underneath them, and the small ship jerked into its run down the long tubeway and then out, into the space above the green and blue world that lay below.
The ship turned sharp, dipping its wings vertically as it slid into atmosphere and fell down toward the planet.
Sere held Pris and smoothed the girls hair, whispered quietly and held her close.
It was only just beginning...
Only just beginning.
As the ship fell, the moon sliding behind and the planet below rising up to meet them.