Friday, December 14, 2012

Chapter 11 The Long Walk Home

I didn't give Geklov a second look as I turned and ran. He could have shot me in the back and I didn't care. I bounded around the haphazardly placed furniture, trying to get to the door. My heart was pounding and the world inched by around me.

I looked up to see the door already open, Herrier standing well in the room gun in hand. It occurred to me for a second that maybe Geklov had hit the panic button when I stood.  I kept running, now at full speed toward the door.  Herrier stood to the side clearing my way.

Please let her be okay.

The hall was empty in the area where the office was, but as I got close to the main corridor it was packed. Distracted by my thoughts, I ran into one of the men standing at the back of the long line waiting for the lift. We both fell hard and I bounced off the floor into the metal wall of the station. Pain shot from somewhere around my ear all the way down my neck. The world got dark, but I managed to shake it off enough to put my hand against the wall and work my way up while the darkness cleared.

Once I stood the world slowly came back into focus. The man was still on the ground grabbing for some paperwork and letting out a stream of obscenities.  I tried to understand the scene around me but my brain was having a hard time processing the information.   All I could feel was my pounding heart and a cold panic that was radiating from my core.

People were grabbing at me. Some were making sure I was okay and the others seemed to be pissed at how I was behaving.  I shook the hands off and let out a scream. The ones closest to me backed away and I felt like I could get some air.  I started to move forward again. Unable to run quite yet, I wormed my way a considerable distance to the front of the line.

I pushed the button and looked at the status monitor. The closest lift was eleven floors away. I managed to gather myself enough to ask, “When is the lift due back?” I didn't ask anyone in particular, there were people all around. None of them had witnessed me crashing into the man half a corridor back. All they could see was a flushed, out of breath Caldari woman with a blaster.

“It isn't due for ten minutes. It is on the up cycle. Not that I am sure which way you are going,” a young man in a business suit said cautiously. I did some quick math and decided it would be at least thirty minutes before I could make it back down to Tasha's level.

I turned and headed for the access corridor where the stairs were. I pushed my way through a crowed that seemed to be getting stirred up. Strange events will do that.  People do the same thing every day for years than one crazy Caldari woman acts strange and everyone starts to get worried. Next thing you know there is a riot or someone is beat to death for no good reason.

I didn't stay in the crowed long enough for it to get too bad. Before the crowed was too stirred up I was clear of the majority of the people and running down the access corridor. Several people shouted for me to stop, one might have been a security officer.  I didn't have time to stop and figure it out.

The door to the stairs was right in front of me. I slammed into it thinking it would open and I would be free to run down to Tasha's level.  It was locked, so instead of bounding through an open door I bounced off of it and fell about five feet back on my ass. It was the second time I found myself on the floor, almost knocked out, since I left Geklov's office.

I lay there, looking up at the ceiling. If I didn't get in control of the panic I was going to be knocked unconscious before I got close to her floor.  I would be of no use to her in this state.  I would run head first into Antov and his carbine. That would be the end of us for sure.  

I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. The station alarms were now silent.  I could hear the rapid thump of feet coming up behind me. I set up and tried to calm my pounding heart with a couple of long slow breaths. It seemed to help, but the feeling that I needed to vomit did not go away.

“Ma'am, are you okay,” a voice said from behind me. I turned my head to see a young security guard standing a few feet away.

“I need to get to my friend. She may be hurt and she is five levels below. I need to get into this stairway.” He nodded and walked toward the door. He didn't even question my sensibility. Maybe it was the way I looked or maybe he was afraid of what might happen if he didn't let me in the stairs.  He entered a code in the keypad by the door. The door clicked and then he held it open for me. I took one last breath and stood. I walked slowly over to the door and put my hand on his shoulder.

“I put in the code so the alarm doesn't go off. Good luck ma'am.”

I gave his shoulder a squeeze, “Thank you”.

Then I was off down the stairs. Five levels of space station are not the same as a five story building. It was going to take me every bit of ten minutes to get to the right floor. I tried to calm myself and was careful negotiating the stairs. Time slowed again, and each step seemed to take minutes instead of seconds.

Please let her be okay.

After what seemed like an hour I made it to the exit. Something inside of me changed as I walked out the door. A moment of calm washed over me. It was the pirate trying to tell me something.

Antov could still be around. I had to be careful and not draw attention to myself. I picked up my pace maintaining a quick walk as I headed for the main corridor. I worked my way into the crowed, which was as busy on this level as it was on the office level. I carefully scanned for threats as I worked my way through to the other side of the lifts.  No sight of anyone I knew in the crowed.

As I got closer to Tasha's room the feeling of dread started to seep back in. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I started a fast jog down the last quarter of a mile to her room. The hall was empty, except for the occasional man or woman leaving their rooms and heading the opposite direction.

I slowed before I got to her room and pulled out my blaster. I made myself concentrate and walked slowly to the door.  It was already open.   I put my back against the wall and made a quick look into the room.  There was nothing to see, it was completely black other than the flickering blue light of the neon sign.

I couldn't make myself wait.

Please God, let her be okay.

I took a deep breath and walked into the darkness.

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