Monday, July 28, 2014
February 26, part 2
I sat on top of the Ofetuchan’s body, my fingers still clenched around his throat. The wildly drumming pulse I’d felt beneath my palms had disappeared. If his head twisted about 180 degrees hadn’t been enough to convince me, that would have.
Oses’ hands curled around my wrists and he tugged. “Let him go, Shalia. It’s over.”
My suddenly numb fingers lost all tension, and my grip slipped away. We’d killed Finiuld. Well, technically it had been Oses who finished the deed, but I’d been ready to murder.
At that moment, I didn’t feel much of anything except relief. It was over. Finiuld was dead. He couldn’t hurt my child. We’d done it.
Except we hadn’t quite taken care of everything. We were still stuck in our containment cell without a clue as to how the phase controller worked. A sense of horror stole over me. We were a long way from out of our predicament.
“Now what?” I asked Oses.
“Good, you’re still sane,” he said, relief obvious on his expression. “Take the phase control off him and hand it to me.”
I did so. As Oses turned the device over and over in his hands, I stood and stepped away from the body of our tormentor. I didn’t want to touch him anymore.
The Dantovonian Lurb buzzed urgently at us. I thought he was probably begging to be set free too, which made perfect sense to me. All the other prisoners were at the containment fields of their cages, watching us with wide and hopeful eyes. Even the Plasian had stopped crying at long last.
I raised an eyebrow at the glowering Tragoom. I was pretty sure Oses wouldn’t go out of his way to free that big nightmare. My thought was for us to dump him and all the rest of his kind left on the ship on the nearest moon or planet. They didn’t deserve to be prisoners, but I sure as hell didn’t want them running around loose either.
Oses spoke to the Dantovonian and the timbre of his voice let me know they weren’t exchanging cookie recipes. Something was up, and it wasn’t necessarily good.
I looked at the Nobek, and his forehead was creased. The frown on his face made him look nearly as savage as when he’d snapped Finiuld’s neck. Still, there was more an air of disgust than outright despair coming from Oses.
“What’s the latest headline?” I asked as soon as his conversation with Lurb ended.
Oses looked at me and drew a deep breath. “There is good news, and there is bad news. The good news is that Lurb knows how the phase device operates. He assures me that we can use this device to get ourselves and all the rest out.”
I was delighted to hear that but stayed cautious. “So what’s the bad news?”
“The only way it works is if it is on Finiuld’s body. It’s configured to his biology alone. It will respond to your wishes to phase, but only if he’s wearing it and you’re holding onto him.”
I gaped at Oses. “Me? Why me?”
The Nobek tapped a finger against his collar. “Because until we get this thing turned off, I can’t touch him without triggering the torture command. That remains in effect.”
I looked down at the still body at our feet. Sure, I could lug around the Little Creep so that we could move about the ship, but he was dead. Toting around a corpse like some macabre purse was the last damned thing I wanted to do.
“Son of a bitch,” I swore. “Lurb, you don’t know of any other way to make that damned thing work?”
Lurb didn’t speak English, but I suppose he could pretty well guess what I’d asked. He shook his segmented head at me. That was that.
“All right,” Oses said. “The easiest way for you to carry Finiuld is across the back of your shoulders.”
“We call it a fireman’s carry,” I supplied. I wasn’t happy about the situation, but I knew whining about it wasn’t going to get us out of there.
“We’ll go to Finiuld’s quarters and shut off the collars, except for those belonging to the Tragooms. In fact, you’ll give the command that will torment them if they touch us, the same as it worked for Finiuld.”
“Good idea,” I said, eyeing the Tragoom in our merry little group. He shuffled impatiently in his habitat, probably knowing full well Oses wasn’t about to let him loose.
“Then we’ll find the ship’s controls and see where the hell we are. If we can head back to the space station or make contact with a Kalquorian ship, we’ll do so. Once we’ve got that underway, we’ll get everyone out of their containments.”
“Except the Tragooms.”
“Except the Tragooms. Let me tell Lurb and he can pass along the information to those whose languages he speaks.”
I liked Oses’ plan. It was easy, the best kind. It seemed to me that our biggest worry was getting to the collar command controls without running into Finiuld’s Tragoom guards. That and having to carry the Little Creep’s carcass all over the place.
I guess I’d temporarily forgotten that successful easy plans and Shalia are seldom in the same vicinity. Sometimes I think I’m cursed.
It was up to me to pick up Finiuld’s body and sling it over my shoulders. Oses couldn’t help except to tell me how to execute a proper lift that wouldn’t throw out my back.
Finiuld only stood up to my mid-thigh, but that little bugger was heavier than he looked. I was huffing and puffing and sweating by the time I had him lying across the back of my neck and my shoulders.
Then there was the gross factor. The Little Creep was limp and lifeless. His belly was against the nape of my neck, and his arms and legs draped down my chest and ribcage. It didn’t help my state of mind that the occasional shift put my boob in his palm. Plus there was the matter of his wrong-facing head pointing up. My skin crawled to have his glassy eyes pointed in my direction. His tongue hung out of his open mouth too. It gave me a nasty case of the heeby-jeebies.
“All right?” Oses asked me when I had Finiuld arranged like a grotesque stole.
“Let’s get this the fuck over with,” I snarled. I couldn’t get our escape accomplished fast enough.
I stepped up to the containment wall with Oses right behind me. He put his hand on my back, avoiding contact with Finiuld. I took a deep breath and stepped forward. Oses and I passed through the barrier with no problem.
Our fellow prisoners erupted in cheers, with the exception of the Tragoom. I guess he wasn’t so happy seeing as how he wouldn’t be sharing in our ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card. Fuck him. I grinned up at Oses and he grinned back.
“We’ll be back for you once we have control over the ship,” Oses promised our fellow inmates. That got another cheer. The Isetacian swung from his vines with such abandon that I thought perhaps he’d break his neck before we returned.
We left the place of our imprisonment, heading down the route I’d memorized that led to Finiuld’s bedroom. Walking at Oses’ side, his hand on my back, I finally felt my spirits lift. Our escape was assured. It didn’t matter that I carried a dead body. It didn’t matter that Finiuld’s head bounced in freakish ways as I moved. It didn’t matter that my neck and shoulders were beginning to ache from the weight on them. We were free. We were going to make it.
We stepped through a wall, entering a room where trays moved down assembly-line belts. Machines with spouts poured the meals we and our fellow prisoners were served onto the trays. Seeing this room had given me a sense of relief. We were on the right track. My biggest fear right now was that I wouldn’t be able to find Finiuld’s quarters. So far, so good.
Walking through the next wall would take us into a long corridor that would lead to where we wanted to go. I told Oses this as we approached it.
“There’s a picture of a really old and ugly Ofetuchan to the left of the spot that will take us into Finiuld’s room,” I chattered. “And before you say anything, I realize all these little bastards are ugly. The man in the portrait is just more so than the others I’ve seen.”
Oses laughed and we passed through the wall. The corridor was right there, just as I’d remembered. So were two collared Tragooms and the female Ofetuchan who’d hated me in the Arena. The green-haired one Finiuld called Glidas.
We all froze. After a moment of shock, Glidas shrilled, “What are you doing loose on my ship?”
I didn’t have time to contemplate that she had called the vessel hers. The next second she noticed what I wore on my shoulders.