The sound of the exploding metal echoed up and down the length of the corridor. Glen tightened his grip on his rifle. What in the world had that been? It was plain he didn’t want it hitting him.
"Don't shoot, we're human!" Skylar’s voice rang from the walls.
A female voice came from inside the room, full of wonderment.
"Yes," Jenna replied and stepped through the doorway, her weapon at the ready, the light stick held away from her body to the side. Skylar kept close behind her as he followed her in.
After a perfunctory look both directions down the corridor—his duty as rear guard, and a nearly useless gesture with the light stick gone—Glen followed the pair into the room. He cleared the door, then stepped back just to the right side where he could observe but still hear beyond the door and into the corridor.
While Skylar stood to the left, still near the door, weapon ready, Jenna was cautiously advancing into the room, her weapon still held carefully available. She finally located someone crouching behind a boxy-shaped shadow. Drawing closer, she gave a soft cry of recognition.
Shock and excitement registered on the girl’s face as she also recognized Jenna. She set down a heavy Klodfon rifle and scrambled to her feet.
"Jenna! We all thought you were dead!"
Glen was stunned. How on earth could this unknown woman be on friendly terms with his Jenna? And how did Jenna know her? He watched in shock as the two girls hugged, then Jenna quickly made introductions, calling Skylar by the more formal address of Captain.
Lissanne’s eyes widened with alarm as Jenna told her that Glen was a local resident. She said nothing, however, as Jenna continued, speaking more to Skylar than to Glen and explaining they had previously served on the Octavia together.
Glen felt as if his world were tilting under him, running amok. He tried to assimilate the facts rocketing towards him. These two girls had known each other before; had shared military service together—on a space ship. He was no longer certain of the boundaries of his world, as his universe expanded greatly to include the new details crashing in upon him, and, at the same time, he felt his own importance in that universe shrinking to a pinpoint.
How long had these people been protecting his small planet from annihilation, while the inhabitants struggled to kill one another in petty territorial wars?
He forcefully reminded himself that he was the untrained and poorly armed civilian deep in the heart of enemy territory. This thought abruptly brought his attention back to the present.
Lissanne was telling Skylar and Jenna that she'd crashed and been captured before a shuttle could pick her up.
"How long have you been here?" Skylar asked.
"I'm not sure. Maybe a day or so,” she said, lifting a shoulder in response.
"The Charys doesn't know where you are?"
Lissanne shook her head. “No, but they know I’m alive and missing, and where else is there to land? Captain Kiernan won’t give me up…at least not easily.”
“Neither will your Commander,” Skylar noted.
Lissanne’s only reply was a disgusted snort.
"If you were captured, why aren't you locked up?" Glen asked. She’d make good bait, he’d decided.
"I was, but I was able to grab an identicard. I waited until the Klodfons left, then used it to open the door. The actual corridor isn't guarded; they rely on their fancy locks. I was on my way out when I heard your footsteps and ducked in here."
"And they just left the key lying around?" Glen asked skeptically. These Clod-Fawns didn’t sound too bright.
"Could you take us back to the cell block?" Skylar asked, cutting across Glen's question before the girl had a chance to respond.
Lissanne nodded. "Yes, but why do you want to go there?"
Jenna answered, "We're looking for Rantek. Have you seen him?"
"Rantek? He's here, but he's not in the cell block right now. Just as they brought me in, he was summoned to the control room. He was making a fuss about not going with them. My guards left the identicard in the slot and went to help. That’s when I helped myself to the card."
"Control room!" Skylar and Jenna echoed simultaneously, concern coloring their voices before Skylar continued, "Why there?"
"Don't know," Lissanne shook her head. “I just thought I’d get away while I could and send help back for him."
"Lissanne, how were you brought into the base? Through the hangar?" Jenna asked.
Glen wondered exactly how they were going to steal a ship. Suddenly, he realized what a difficult wrinkle he’d put into their plans by insisting on joining them. If they stole one of the lizard’s ships and flew off into space, how would he get back home?
"I'm not sure," Lissanne said. "They stunned me when they picked me up." She shrugged her shoulders apologetically as she spoke. “What do you want us to do, Sir?”
Skylar stood for a moment in thought, looking at each of them in turn.
Glen found himself nearly breathless, waiting for his orders, now ready to acknowledge Skylar’s right to command the group.
"Lissanne will lead us to the cell block. We'll hide and wait there for Rantek to be brought back to his cell. Then we'll let him out. As we leave, Jenna will lead us to the hangar and we'll all get out of here. Glen, you stay right behind Jenna until we reach the detention area. I’ll probably need you to help me with Rantek. People usually aren’t very strong after an interrogation session.” His eyes spoke volumes to Glen as they looked at each other. After a lengthy moment, Glen nodded, and Skylar gripped his shoulder in thanks before turning back to the girls.
Jenna handed Lissanne the dimming light stick and offered to take up rear guard.
Lissanne tossed the light stick aside. “We won’t need this; we’re very close to the lighted part of the base.”
The small group set off, moving quietly and cautiously behind Lissanne’s slender figure.
They turned a corner and found themselves in an obviously used area. Instead of dusty, the floors were polished and slick. Their feet now made quiet tapping noises as they crept along the corridors.
Lissanne had been right; there was enough light to see, but the dull orange light that filled the corridors was unsettling to Glen. It made everything appear stark and sickly, and cast an unhealthy pallor over their faces. It seemed to be a bit brighter along the ceiling, but there was no fixture or panel that was an obvious source for the light.
As they walked, Glen became aware of a distant noise. It was more of a vibration in the floor under their feet than anything else, but it was definitely growing stronger.
When they approached yet another of the numerous cross-hallways, Lissanne stopped the group and cocked her head to one side, listening intently. The noise had ceased to be merely a vibration and became a hollow thudding, quietly at first, then louder, as if whatever was making the sound was moving in their direction. This was probably not a good thing.
Skylar moved up beside Lissanne and spoke softly. .
Glen strained his ears, but couldn’t hear what they were saying. He watched as Lissanne bit her lip nervously for a moment, then shoved her hand into her pocket, drawing out a small plastic card with a hole in one end. A thin chain was looped through the hole and dangled across Lissanne’s hand, the free end swinging slightly between herself and Skylar. She proffered the card. Skylar seemed reluctant, but finally accepted it. There was more discussion. Although nearly silent, it was fairly heated, judging by their faces and body language.
Suddenly Lissanne ducked under Skylar's reaching arm, ran down the corridor and disappeared around the corner.