3. The Sixth Excape
Abby woke up as all the air painfully rushed out of her lungs. The panic didn’t start until she tried to breathe back in and nothing happened. She was pulled up to a sitting position by her hair and Charlie’s hand clamped over her mouth. Her bangs fell past her wide eyes and tickled at her nose as her stomach clenched and she was able to draw in small puffs of sweet air. He had kicked her awake. One of his old favorites.
“Let’s go, babe,” he whispered harshly into her face, his breath stinking, and then pulled her to her feet.
Abby knew better than to whimper or cringe even though it hurt her insides fiercely to stand up so fast. Another escape. This would make it an even six over the past year if you included the first attempt as an escape. The Charlie Gang looked excited, like zealots that were going on the bus to meet their television idol. Abby steeled herself for whatever was going to come next in their latest plot and simply clung to the hope that she would find a way to get away from them.
The Gang popped the cell door and scurried down the winding halls, Charlie dragging Abby along by her arm. He was angry tonight. And scared. His hand wrapped above her elbow so tightly that his fingers felt like they were crushing the muscles. She tripped and he hit her across the mouth. He didn’t even snarl at her when he did it. Abby tried harder to keep up as her heart pounded in her throat and her ribs burned around the spot where he’d kicked her.
The soft clicking sound of heel spurs against armored boots alerted the man in the lead and he popped another door. They all darted into the room without looking first, and the door slid smoothly closed before the approaching Other saw them, softly thumping locked under Charlie’s skilled hand. Time paused for a minute as Abby realized that Charlie wasn’t going to let go of her this time, not even to lock a door.
Abby watched the sealed door longingly for a moment before time started up and she noticed she wasn’t getting pulled along. She turned cautiously to look at what was holding the gang in stunned silence. The window was massive. They could see the darkened planet above them back-lit from the sun on the other side, a ribbon of stars trailed across the bottom of the window.
“We’re in space?”
“Told you so.”
“Must be a picture.”
“I don’t believe it.”
The Charlie Gang milled about and glanced frightfully at the window. Abby barely heard them over her terrified heartbeat. The room itself was full of low tables, starlit shapes resting on most of them. It was eerily quiet.
“Cots?” the woman asked Charlie, her voice barely at a whisper.
One of the men stepped up to the nearest shape and prodded at it with the ends of his fingers. After a moment he chuckled quietly.
“Door,” Charlie commanded.
The Gang started searching the perimeter of the room. Abby tried to shrink away from Charlie and he hit her in the mouth again, drawing blood this time. He barely glanced at her and his painful grip on her arm never changed. He was focused and he was angry and she was scared.
“Found one,” one of the men announced quietly from the shadows somewhere off to the right.
Nobody else found anything, so Charlie pulled Abby between the tables and started toward the new door. He struck out at the dead Others with his free hand as they passed. He shouldn’t do that, she thought.
“Don’t,” she said quietly after he struck each one, and he ignored her. The fourth one he hit hard enough to rattle it, the fifth he knocked partly off the table – seemingly no simple feat as the Others were on average about a foot taller than Humans. The way it moved on the table, though, she wondered if they were about the same weight, or maybe lighter if they didn’t have all that armor. Abby heard something solid hit the floor and roll for a moment.
Her quiet ‘don’t’ turned into a blank ‘no’. Charlie grinned at her and then snarled as he hit the sixth one like he had hit the fifth. Abby watched the corpse’s hands bounce apart and a small shiny object fell out of them and dropped to the floor, making a solid thump and rolling in a crescent around the end of the table before stopping just in front of Charlie. It looked like a rounded, lava-glass stone in the starlight. Charlie stepped out, not seeing it. His normal stride would have easily taken him past it without even knowing it was ever there.
“No,” Abby said with finality and shoved him hard enough knock him off balance so that his foot landed right on the smooth little stone.
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