“I REALLY liked that coat.”
“Priorities, Mari. I’ll find you a new one, later.”
She grumbled to herself as she sat down on the stunned man beneath her. When she leaned over and reached for his blue cylinder lamp, a painful wheezing was forced from his lips; however, when he didn’t stir further, Mari ignored him and held lamp up. The metallic walls of locker doors reflected the cold light enough to illuminate the entire room.
“So, where is she?”
Sieffre crouched by the corner and appeared to open the bottom door as he popped the lock. One of Ilya’s legs slid out.
“Is she alive?”
“I think so,” he made a show of peering into the locker.
“Well, um… open up the rest of these lockers, would you? Maybe we’ll find something helpful, like shoes.”
Sieffre glanced back and the entire wall of lockers next to Mari shuddered as their locks clicked simultaneously and the doors swung open. From her perch on the unconscious man, she began rummaging through the nearest locker. Anything she didn’t need she let slide to the floor; files and paperwork, stiff dress shirts and jackets, towels and wallets. Too bad a Manana post runs on credits, not cash.
“Keep an eye out for something sharp. Cael and his friend are still restrained down the hall.”
Mari took in a deep breath to relax the tightness in her chest.
“It has been awhile since you last ran into each other.” Sieffre’s tone was too casual.
“Just because you can see my heart rate, doesn’t mean you know what how I’m feeling.”
“I’m just saying, circumstances could have changed. You’ve definitely changed.”
“I wasn’t the problem.”
“He’s probably changed, too. I mean, look! He has a wife!”
Mari moved over to her third locker and started tossing everything to the floor.
“I don’t want to talk about this right now.”
Sieffre’s mocked her with a deep, breathy voice, “I don’t want to talk about it… Fine! That’s two conversations I’m rescheduling for later. Don’t think I’ll forget.”
“Ah HA!” Ilya dropped two oversized cloth slippers to the floor and scooted her feet in.
“Those look a little too soft to protect you from the glass.”
“It’s better than nothing. Besides, now I have all of this lovely rubbish all over the floor.”
“Ohh… is that what you were doing? I thought you were just being disrespectful of other people’s things.”
“Ah! And look!” She held up a thin rectangle of metal.
“Is that a razor blade?”
“Yeah! There’s a whole shaving kit in here.”
“I love how quaint the Novafolk can be.”
“Some habits die hard, right?”
“Well, that should work for the restraints.”
Mari wrapped the blade in a strip of cloth and tucked it into the belly pocket of her jumpsuit. She lightly stepped over the clothing and files she’d dumped on the floor and eyed the other unconscious man collapsed against that wall as she squatted next to Ilya’s locker. Sieffre’s figure remained squatting next to the door as well, and her eyes were tricked into fitting him into the impossible few inches between herself and the wall.
He looked into Ilya’s locker. “Is she okay?”
“You said she was fine!”
“I said I thought she may be alive, still.”
“Move.” Mari leaned in and heard shallow breathing come from the tiny woman. She set the blue lamp to the side.
“She’s alive. Now what? Do I try to wake her up?”
She cleared her throat and gently shook Ilya’s knee, “Um… waake… uup?”
Ilya’s giant eyes fluttered and then popped wide open in fear, causing Mari to scream and jump back. The petite woman took a long, ragged gasp as her limbs flailed within the small space of the locker, and then let out her own whimpering scream.
“Ilya, it’s me!” Then silently, “Sieffre translate! It’s me! Your friend!” Glowing text scrolled across Mari’s vision, the unfamiliar language spelled phonetically. She tried to say it as calmly as she could as the woman in front of her continued to panic. “You are safe!” She stayed seated from her fall but reached forward to stop the kicking legs.
“Jhou arghe safe! I am jhour friend! Jhou arghe safe! Jhour friend!”
Ilya thrashed for another few seconds before her eyes focused on Mari’s face, side-lit in blue light. She stopped struggling and took a few more gasps.
“Ma… Marri?” Sieffre scrolled another row of text as he translated Ilya. “Mari… is that you? GET ME OUT! Get me out of here!”
Ilya pushed forward out of the locker and crawled into Mari’s lap, where she continued to whimper in fear.
Mari held her arms awkwardly out to the sides. “Now what?”
Sieffre shrugged. “Well, unless you want to find some tiny slippers for her, I’d say your easiest course of action would be to carrier her out of here, no?”
Mari sighed. “Translate…”
“Ilhya… I need to ghette up. Jhere… stand on jhere.” Ilya was propped against the wall on top of a coarse Manana Corp. jacket. She stood obediently, shivering in her thin, blue jacket as Mari straightened up and checked herself over. She patted her butt, no glass, her belly, razor and darts gun, she reached down for the lamp and decided to grab the other man’s darts gun as well.
“Okay,” she turned her back to Ilya, “climbe up. I will walk us out.” She realized she had to crouch down pretty low before tiny woman could grasp her shoulders. Walking around the corner, they saw the smaller, dreadlocked man was slowly pulling himself to his feet. Before he could react, Mari shot two darts into his back and kept moving.
“Where are they?”
Sieffre walked by silently and lead her out of the hall and to the closed door. Certain the glass had not been tracked that far, Mari let Ilya slide down to the floor. She watched Sieffre act as if he were opening the door to reveal a very large, sweaty stinking man.
“Jhou know jhim?”
“Yes, that’s Alberich. Oh! We need something to….”
Mari produced the razor blade from her belly pouch and stepped forward.
“Es jhe dead?”
“No,” came a familiar voice, “He’s sulking.”
Mari pressed her lips together and said nothing. Instead she reached under the table and felt for the restraints along the large, soft arms. It was difficult to get a good angle on the chord without nicking the rolls of skin on either side but after a few moments he was free. The ankle restraints were easier.
“Who are you?”
Cael couldn’t get a clear view from around Alberich’s massive calf and his own arms. Not yet, she thought. She stepped back as Alberich’s legs sprang free and he moaned in relief.
“Ohhh! That feels good!”
“My turn! My turn!”
Mari stepped back and whispered to Ilya.
“Big man es in the whay. You ghet Cael?”
Ilya accepted the razor and scurried under the table.
Mari shivered against the chill of the hallway as she listened to Cael and Ilya whisper to each other. Was she telling him about her? He yipped as she obviously nicked the skin and she cooed a nervous apology.
Alberich sighed and propped his elbows on the metal table. He squinted into the blue lamp and yellow emergency light.
“So, I assume you are a friend?” His round face was young and his accent was weird but something seemed anachronistic about it as well; something old timey.
Mari leaned against the doorway, propping the lamp on her hip.
“I could be.”
They were interrupted by Ilya’s sobbing from under the table.
“Ilya, hold on, let me get out first.” Cael’s voice came muffled as he could be heard struggling. Soon, a disheveled blond head could be seen, followed by shoulders in a dirty, brown jacket. Cael only just managed to pull himself up to the squeaky metal chair when Ilya crawled up to his lap and continued to release her pent up hysteria.
“Ah, Ilya! It’s, it’s okay.” He looked up, squinting into the light of the doorway and switched to commons speech. “Um… sorry about that, I um, uh….” His mouth hung open, dumbstruck, and Mari waited. His expression dropped from surprise to suspicion. “What are you doing here?”
Mari pressed a small grin and nodded. “It’s good to see you, too.”