Tessa sat trembling, the lights had gone out over an hour ago, the temperature had begun to plummet, she knew it wouldn’t be long know, this was it, this was the end. She had held on for so long, she had survived for fuck sake. She shook now with anger at her predicament, this just was not fair, the others had left her one by one. Her worst fears faced and survived and yet in the end there had been no point, she would end up the same as them, as the old poem said ‘No streamin’ there’ she hit her leg in anger. ‘WHY!’ she screamed at the nothingness that surrounded her, the sound of her voice was dead, no echo no resonance came back to her, it was as if the room had a deadener in.

Tears stung her eyes, maybe if she moved about a bit it would keep her core temperature up enough to prevent hypothermia from setting in. She stood but banged her shin the first step she took, this was complete darkness not the semi dark most people think of where you can still see vague outlines of the furniture, this was complete, her eyes strained in the blackness but there was no light to pick up, what was worse was the absence of the little white stars that normally explode in your sight even with closed eyes. No photons here to fly throw the jelly of her eye. Nothing, and yet she could feel the floor beneath her, how long for she didn’t know. If the lights had gone and now the heating, the gravity was soon to follow then she really would panic, she had only been weightless once and that had been a hashed swimming lesson. Her phobias had had her except from most sports, phobias she had mostly faced. She jiggled on the spot, goose bumps where already rising on her arms, she whimpered, the sound died sucked into a vacuum or so it seemed. Blackness had engulfed her, the cold sweat it had wraught now felt like ice in the velvet air as the room lost all warmth. Strange she hadn’t noticed it there before, it had just been ambient background temperature but with out it she was dead. Panic began its familiar constriction on her throat, like a hand clutching at her, may be that was what was happening, ‘NO’ she said aloud, she mustn’t think like that or else she was completely lost. Wasn’t she lost anyway? Hadn’t they all been lost the moment that siren had sounded?

Betrayed that’s what they had been, her whole class, all of them, betrayed, all sold out by the people sworn to protect them, the tears threatened again, did her mother and father even know what had happened? Had they showed up to pick her up as normal? Or had they… been involved, that thought was too horrible to even contemplate. The others had all been hysterical, she had always been that way, every day was a mass of anxiety to her but this this she had handled, though she had known the anxiety would come later, after the event. As it had before. Those early memories, those treacherous memories plagued her again. She know and her parents know she knew but no one could bring the pain about that a confession would have caused. Orphan the treacherous voice that was her own whispered, sold, she had been sold again. She hadn’t been good enough, now she was in the middle of some sick game, the floor pitched away from her, the antigrav she thought, but no she was just feeling faint, not enough, food and water will do that to you, though how she knew she that she didn’t know. ‘Andrew,’ she whispered hoping somehow her brother would come, but he didn’t, had he been betrayed too? She hope not but part of her hoped he had so that he’d be there with her, be there to protect her, as he had since that first day. A day that had almost been lost to her, lost until this had happened. It was all the same that’s how she had survived, that’s how she had know things. But no one would follow her, the strange one, the freak of the class, no one was her friend, no that was a lie and she knew it. But easier to think that way now they where all gone. Lost like those in her distant memories.

She pulled her self back up – she had to hang on for as long as possible, something drove her to survive, it had worked before maybe just maybe it would work again. The metal tubing she grasped was ice cold, so very very cold, it burned, she let go, ‘impossible’ she whispered the heat couldn’t have leached from the room that quickly could it? Ice crystals from her breath tinkled on the floor, but the air didn’t seem that cold. A coolant pipe? Maybe but they should have protective covers on. Shouldn’t they?

She backed away, hitting her head on some unfathomable object, fear gripped her threatening to tip her into insanity, that she could not allow, not until she was safe anyway. Would she ever be safe? If she survived this then would they just wait another ten years and before coming to get her?

A low thrumming noise caught her attention, so dark it seemed, resonant with the evil she perceived to have caused all this, when had the sound started? Was it even a sound? It seemed far too solid, a movement, the engine she wondered briefly before the world pitched, she rolled, painfully into heap her leg burning on the pipe. She screamed, the pain was intense. It focused her.

She pushed herself away, the heating hadn’t been turned off it was just that the engine had been started and she was in the room with the coolant pipe! The ship had angled itself to a new trajectory but the grav hadn’t had time to readjust, dangerous flying, even she knew that!

Tessa could breath again, think again, someone else was on the ship, she wasn’t alone, but was this a good thing or a bad thing? Another lurked had her catwheeling over herself. The lights flickered, blinding her. What was going on? It was like who ever was driving the thing didn’t actually know which control do what. This gave her hope. A new courage surged with in her as she began to feel her way around the room, desperately trying to remember what had been where in the room, but she was in complete darkness and had been turned around too many times. She knew there was at least one door, she had been thrown in there after all. They had said she would get some food a reward for surviving but they hadn’t come back, she shivered, she was split with feelings, part of her had dreaded their return, as vague feelings of disgust at what else might be her reward flooded her but part of her feared this soulless loneliness. She had once read that humans define themselves by their relationships and interactions with other humans, who was she without other people? The lonely ness threatened to sink her. She pushed it all down deep inside her where it couldn’t affect her chances of survival.

Would the door still be locked? Probably, so why was she still inching her way around the room in the hope of finding it? That didn’t matter it gave her a goal and that’s what matters, something to hold onto, something for the mind to work on. On step at a time, she thought. Ah there a ridge, the door frame, she’d found it! The ‘handle’ would be to the right, ah yeah there, she touched the large circle in the middle of a pressure sensitive pad, she couldn’t see it but they where all the same everywhere so that didn’t matter. She had been opening this type of door her whole life.

A red circle flared, at eye height, in the complete dark it seemed to burn painfully bright, locked! The door was locked, well of course it was – what had she expected. Suddenly another circle lit up, green, the door was opening! Without thinking she careered into the man standing just outside, ‘SHIT!” he exclaimed as he tumbled over backwards. Suddenly Tessa found her self running, darting around corners, she didn’t even know if the gut was following her, she hoped not!

Breathing hard, acid rising in her throat she ran on, she had a vague notion of the ships layout from all those ‘exercises’ they had put the kids through. The control room or bridge or what ever it was called should be her target but right now she was just too busy running, she had to put some serious distance between her and her captor, especially now he’d be peed off. If she got some breathing space then she could look for an un obvious hiding space, air vents where no good as that would be the first place they looked probably by flooding them with knock out gas. Too little food and rest where taking there toll, stitches, that horrible sharp pain from lactic acid, in her chest in her side, arhg, now her calves where cramping. She ran on, breathing more ragging, a thick mucus seemed to be rising in her moth; all she could taste was salt. The ship lurched dangerously sideways slamming her into a thankfully clear wall. She was in a narrow corridor so there was nothing to fall on her either. The gravity seemed to take an age to come back on; at least here there was emergency lighting. She heard swearing off in the distance, with the gravity still not adjusted and likely to adjust any moment she didn’t want to risk running, she would break something sooner or later with all this tossing around. She began to crawl along the now floor-wall but right next to what had been the floor. Her hand brushed against three slightly raised circles, warning her that she was about to crawl over a door. The swearing voices where getting stressfully close. Cold sweat now make her hand slide on the smooth metal she crawled across, she needed somewhere to hide. Instinct took over she was on the door and hit the green circle. The door slide from beneath her, she plunged through the opening.

I’m dead she thought as she slide into darkness. The door swooshed shut above her, just as her feet touched the opposite wall. A gasp escaped her then an hysterical chuckle. A bunkroom! Tiny, she had slide no further and no more violently than if she was on a slide in the playground. The gravity restored itself finally, thumps and crashes out side told her that the owners of the voices where near by, she froze, terrified that her manic chuckle had been heard. But no one burst in the room, they had moved on in their search for her. Lighting seemed to be coming and going, dull red emergency alert lighting cast erry shadows around her. A year or more worth of nightmares if she ever survived. In the half light she searched the room for anything useful, to her disappointment there was no cache of weapons but then she hadn’t really expected there to be one. What there was, was a map of the ship. With this she could make plans.

Five hrs later and she had managed to get almost all the way to the control room, that was what it was called according to the map anyway. It had been an uneventful time with no close calls, she was relieved, although now she was fighting the fatigue of post adrenaline rush, a too keen hunger made here shiver and keel slightly. The Control Room would be just around the corner, there should be guards. It was time for her to do the obvious; she hoped that any gas they had flooded the pipes with would be dissipated enough by now not to affect her. Extract the only other thing she had picked up on route from her pocket she began to undo the bolts on an air vent in order to remove the grill, She knew this could still trap her though as the system could close itself off from the ship via shutters to stop the ‘flushing’ gas from getting to the ships crew. A technique mostly used for killing vermin. She shuddered at the thought.

Crawling into the shaft she fought the familiar panic her claustrophobia clawing at her insides, she had no choice though, over come it or be caught and probably be killed or worse. With a little bit of previously unknown gymnastics she managed to turn around in the shaft, hang out of the opening with her thighs pushing outwards against the wall to stop her tumbling straight back out. She grabbed the grill and gingerly balanced it back in place – of course she couldn’t bolt it back into place so it would come off the next time the ship jerked but it was worth it to cover her takes until then. She backed up the shaft so that she wouldn’t nock the grill off the wall again during the panicky hamster like turnaround. The shaft angled upwards making it more of a scrabble than a crawl but it soon levelled out, the little pieces of metal that had fastened the grill where in her thigh pocket and where causing her a few problems as she squeezed through the smaller junctions. She had to concentrate hard, relying on the keen sense of direction that only seemed to appear when she was under stress. She rounded a corner and had to bite down a scream, she had put her hand straight onto a little twitching bundle of fur. It was one of the ‘vermin’ so they had use the ‘flushing’ gas, the poor thing was still some how holding onto life, maybe they where developing a resistance to the poison? Curiosity got the better of her she rolled it over, a cute squashed gueni pig face with too large saw like teeth looked dazedly back at her. It pathetically waved its little sucker pad feet in the air, its ancestors had once been rats, they’d studied the concept in school but she had never seen one of these ‘vermin’ controversy meant they didn’t even have a name. Somehow she felt immensely sorry for it.

She was just about to push it two the side when a dark shadow at the next junction stopped her, she froze. A man with a gun squeezed past the opening or the tube she was in, somehow he had failed to notice her, he had been to intent on what ever his purpose was. Suddenly this didn’t seem like such a good idea. Her heart was thudding away apparently in her neck making her feel nauseous. She had to focus herself, regulate her breathing again before she could continue. The little fuzzy vermin had in the mean time had apparently expired. This she felt did not bode well but at least made her want to move away form it.

She got to her vantage point with out any furthur sightings, Tessa looked out across the low above ceiling vista of cable spaghetti, one look at the ceiling tiles told her that they where not going to hold her wait. The metal supports for them would but she would get inextricably tangled in the wiring.

Frustrated to have got this far only to be stopped by some stupid wires had her almost in tears. Maybe she should have gone for that side vent rather than the ceiling but it would have taken longer to get there and then she wouldn’t be able to scope the situation in the Control Room out properly. She looked at the spaghetti hatefully; maybe she could move the wires to the side for just one ceiling tile? She could defiantly fit through such a gap; she’d have to just hope there wasn’t a tall equipment rake right underneath it. Gentle she put the screw driver bit of the multi tool into the minute crevasse between the ceiling tile and the metal, a little gentle levering had it loose, she shifted it to the side carefully hoping that the slight scrapping noise hadn’t been detected. She realised she was involuntarily holding her breath and let it out slowly. Damn! The angle wasn’t good. She could tell there was someone in the room but not who, she’d have to risk it and stick her head through the ceiling, she swallowed down the laughter that threatened. Laughter at a time like this!

She inched forward until she could do sort of press ups above the opening, her arm mussels quivered painfully and threatened to crap, she readjusted her position dreading what she would find. The light in the room hurt after the gloom of the tunnels, it took awhile to adjust. Tessa drew in a sharp breath as she recognised Tony Bellegrave from her class. From his posture he looked more than stressed. The question was had he gone over to them? How was she going to find out?

A movement in her peripheral vision caught her attention; she pushed against the crick in her neck that was growing more painful by the minute. There was movement in a vent in the wall to her left, the one she probably should have gone too. With sickening realisation she thought of the gun wilding man who had passed her in the tunnels, no time to wonder who he was or what side Tony was on. She drew herself back up through the hole, a plan already formulating in her mind, she extracted the screws from her pocket and with a lot of really too loud wriggling she got her self into a very strange cramped squatting position just above the opening. She watched from her new angle as the grill was silently slide from its mountings and gently placed on the floor. She marvelled at the silent stealth of the gunman, regardless of her fear she had to admire him.

He extracted himself with an almost feline grace, not making a sound he was just bringing the gun up to his shoulder when Tessa sprang into action. Wondering to herself why he had bothered to climb out of the tube when he would have had a clear shot from within it and would therefore not have exposed himself. She threw the screws in the furthest corner, the sound of them tinkling and crashing distracted him. She moved her feet off of the metal struts allowing herself to basically drop through the opening. She landed a bit clumsily but recovered quickly, grabbing a map tub from a stake near her, she hit him as hard as she could, but he was quick and agile and most off all unlike her he was trained.

He deflected her blow with his fore arm; it wouldn’t have been powerful enough even if the blow had connected with his head. Movement out of the corner off her eye had her diving off to the side in some instinct before Tony had even shouted. Tony the most annoying kid she could think off was welding a gun, he was shaking, he had also fired it, sending the gunman off his feet. Tessa hadn’t even heard the gun but what she did notice was that the bullet had only knocked the guy over, ‘He’s wearing bullet proof clothing Tony!’ She yelled. The gun fired again, straight into the guys chest with no affect. He was beginning to rise, Tessa knew they where doomed. Tony fired a third shot just as closed her eyes in despair, there was a heavy thump as the gunman slumped to the floor, Tessa opened her eyes. ‘Nice shooting!’ she said. The gunman had a neat whole in the middle of his forehead, the wall behind him was a mess, Tessa would not think about that for now. ‘I did it’ whispered Tony; he was shaking badly, ‘Tony?’ Tessa asked. Had she done the right thing, was Tony friend or Foe, who was the gun man could he have been a rescuer?

‘Saved by Trumer Girl’ he giggled a tad hysterically. Tessa flushed in resentment of the playground torment. It was one of the kinder knick names though so she couldn’t be too angry. Suddenly Tony seemed to snap out of the strange hysterically bubble that was growing around him, he looked at her, she recognised the cold calculations in his eyes but too late, he was aiming the gun at her. ‘Tessa Tessa,’ he said a bit too snidely, ‘whose side our you on?’ She raised her eyebrows in surprise.

‘I’m on our side Tony,’ she said quietly soothingly, ‘ on the side of us kids and us surviving, what about you Tony?’ He glared at her.

‘No who you with Tessa? The Spariates or the Pigs?’ She looked at him trembling slightly now, had she survived all this only to bed shot by a classmate.

‘Why do you think I would side with Space Pirates she asked him suddenly angry.

‘Cos you where their pet before weren’t you that’s why your Trumer Girl. It was all explained on your first day to us before you came into the room, all about your great trumer and how brave you where. Well I think you’ve got that syndrome you are sympathetic to your captor!’ She looked at him dumfounded.

‘Tony, she said carefully, ‘I wouldn’t side with them anyway, but this is a different set of Pirates to the lot that took me before,’ she hadn’t remembered properly, now she felt the shadows of it hit her like a tidal wave, screams and shouts, fire. The cold dark of a hull, the motion of the ship sickening, her mother hugging her so tight, until they finally dragged Tessa away, away from everyone she knew. She had been about 3 her memories where strange distorted as she hadn’t understood what was happening at the time. She was rescued that time, just over two years she was a slave, then she had been plunged back into reality, refusing to believe that her mother was her Adopted parent and not the one who had struggled to keep hold of her on the ship. The state had a programme for helping Traumatised children integrate back into normal life, hence her nickname. She hated it, suddenly she hated everything.

‘Tony,’ she said bitterly her voice full of venom, ‘if you are with the pirates you’d better just kill me now, I do not want to be a slave again, believe me, they wont let you go free either no matter what you do for them.’ Tony seemed to sag with trembling he sat down in the pilot’s chair.

He looked up at her gave a watery smile then slide the gun across the floor to her, ‘Enemies on the playground become allies in battle!’ he squeaked. ‘You’d best be look out in case anyone else tries to sneak in here, at some point they’ll get the welding equipment and start on the door but until then we have a chance.’

She nodded in relief, and picked the gun up, ‘What’s the plan?’ she asked whilst giving the room a cursory once over biting her lip.

‘Well I’ve been transmitting a message saying that Spirates have us but I don’t know how to work out coordinates, a ship has responded but they are going to take a while to track us down. So basically we just need to hold the fort until they get here. Assuming they aren’t rival Spirates.’ The contraction of space pirates always jarred on Tessa’s nerves as it was what they used themselves, she bit back the comment though.

‘Ok,’ she was slightly relived, ‘but how much ammo for this do you have?’ She waved the gun vaguely in the air. Tony looked suddenly crest fallen.

‘Erm… what ever left in it?’ not good she thought, she looked around sometimes places like this would have cashes of weapons in case of intersection but they might be in a safe or something, Ah the gunman, he was covered in ammo and weapons, she knelt beside him. ‘What are you doing?’ Tony asked horrified.

‘Well we need it and he’s not going to use it, I don’t suppose I can convince you to wear any of his bullet proof stuff can I?’ She smiled they had a chance of survival she was going to keep them alive as long as she could, and why was it that dead bodies where so hard to undress?

A staticked message began to come through on the radio, their would be rescuers where almost there, she just hoped they where rescuers. Just in case she concealed a slim sheathed knife under her trousers, the gunman was proving to be very useful. Just in case she though. Then smiled reassuringly at Tony, he nodded and responded, she could see in his eyes he was worried too, well there was nothing to do now but wait.

Posted: Thursday, March 14th, 2013 @ 9:09 am
Categories: Short Stories.
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