“Where is he?”
“I—I don’t know.” Murray shut her mouth and waited for the bounty hunter to look away. He made her feel guilty, even though she knew there had to be a mistake. He knees rattled when he looked at her. “I don’t know what this is about.”
“He’s here.” The hairy head nodded and turned away at last. “And no one ever does.”
Murray tried to see around him. Her eyes covered the room right along with his. She shook her head at the spot where Rook had stood not three seconds before she opened the door. Where the hell was he? More importantly—she stole a nervous glance toward the door—why would he hide?
The bounty hunter stood like a furry wall just inside the room. He gave her the creeps, possibly because he’d managed to slip his substantial bulk through her doorway without any invitation from her. The shock of finding no one behind her hadn’t helped.
“Marble!” The long arms flexed and twitched near the guy’s belt, giving the impression that he wanted to shoot someone—possibly anyone. “I know you’re in here, Marble.”
“I don’t know who you’re looking for.” Murray swallowed when the gaze shifted back to her. “But I believe you’re in the wrong room.”
“Right.” The bounty hunter grinned. He let his eyes fall to her bare feet and then climb her frame slowly.
Murray shivered. She had a feeling he saw more than just her robe clutched tightly at the front, her loose hair, the flush warming her cheeks. She tried to stand taller. “You’re in the wrong room.”
“Okay.” He shrugged and turned toward the door. Just as she let out a relieved breath, however, he spun back around. This time the blaster left the belt. It flew into position, pointing directly at her face. “Marble!” he shouted. “I know you’re in here, hiding, using some Marble trick. Maybe the lady’s telling the truth. Maybe she don’t know nothing. And maybe you don’t care if I mess up her pretty face.”
Murray heard the weapon’s power supply humming. Rook hadn’t left the room. She reminded her knees that the only exit had been full of bounty hunter the entire time. He wouldn’t let this guy shoot her. He’d already come to her rescue more than once. Her legs continued to ripple. They didn’t believe a word of it.
Not that she doubted him. Not really. The idea that he might disappear at will, she quickly amended onto the list of Rook’s other miraculous abilities. But the way this bounty hunter spoke, the way he said the word “marble” and his absolute iron belief that his quarry hid in her room bothered her. What if some criminal had hidden under her bed? What if someone had watched them the whole time? Wasn’t it time for someone to rescue her?
The bounty hunter stepped closer, and Murray could feel the weapon vibrating millimeters from her forehead. “You gonna let me pop her, Marble? Huh? Maybe you don’t care.” He didn’t move, but his big eyes darted from side to side. “Then again, maybe you’re sneaking up on me. Maybe you think you’re fast enough to take me out before I flinch.”
Murray hoped he didn’t think that. She didn’t like the look on this guy’s face one bit. He leaned closer, and his fat, gray lips cracked into a smile. She glanced down to his belt. His free hand hovered there, clutching a small device. It looked simple enough to terrify her. She glanced over his shoulder where nothing snuck up on him. Nothing that wasn’t invisible, that is. Murray heard a familiar, if faint, metallic ping and pressed her eyes shut. She held her breath and waited for Rook to fix the situation.
Nothing happened. The blaster continued to buzz at her head. Over it, she heard the ping again, much closer, close enough to do something. When the body guard chuckled, however, she knew that something had gone terribly wrong.
“Well, well, Marble.” He growled the word this time.
Murray didn’t want to look, but when the blaster fell away from her, and she heard its owner take a heavy step back, she opened her eyes. The sight of Rook sent a wave of relief from her toes upward. It fizzled about knee high when she noticed the device. The bounty hunter stood by her bed. He held the mechanism he’d had at his belt pointed directly at Rook, and the android wasn’t moving.
“Rook?” Murray saw his eyes flicker in her direction, but the rest of him remained frozen. From the posture, she guessed their intruder had been correct. Rook had snuck up on him. “What did you do to him?”
“Motor function inhibitor.” The device bobbed in the air as the man gestured with it. “Calibrated to exactly match a specific Marble’s body. Very classified. Very restricted.” He circled around Rook as he spoke. “Your council was more than happy to bend the rules in your case, Marble. They’re very anxious to see you.”
“You’ve made a mistake.” Murray stepped to Rook’s side. He remained slightly bent forward, reaching for the bounty hunter’s previous position. “You have the wrong man.”
“Man?” The guy chuckled like gravel crushing. “You don’t get it, Lady.” He waved the inhibitor dramatically for her. “I can’t have the wrong guy.”
“I’m calling security.”
“You’ll save me some time, then.”
They stared at each other around the immobile android. Murray tried her best to match the bounty hunter, posture for posture. She stood as tall as she could and scowled back at him.
“Aren’t you going to call them?”
“Fine.” She took a step toward the room com, but the door buzzed before she reached it. She looked to Rook, prayed he might be able to give her some kind of guidance, but he eyes fixed on the device that held him prisoner. “Who is it?” She hollered toward the door. Maybe it was Zora. Murray figured Zora would know exactly how to handle this guy.
“Security. Open up.”
“Oh good. They’re here.” She tried to sound thrilled, to feel rescued.
“Aren’t you going to let them in?” The bounty hunter didn’t help her confidence at all.
“Shut up.” She punched the door control and watched the cavalry enter. The station’s security officers wore yellow. Four of them filed into her relatively small guest room. They circled her android and completely ignored the gorilla holding him hostage. “This man broke into my room,” Murray said as loud as she could muster. “He threatened me with a weapon and attacked my android.” She sniffed at the finish for emphasis. It seemed necessary. None of the security detail even glanced in her direction.
“Is this your guy?” One of them asked the bounty hunter.
“It’s him.” The gorilla waved his device again and aimed a smug expression in Murray’s direction.
Two of them took hold of Rook’s elbows. They grunted and tried to lift him.
“Wait!” Murray’s chest tightened. She scrambled between yellow uniforms and found herself clinging to one silver bicep. “You can’t do this. I won’t let you.”
“Step away from the fugitive.”
“He’s not—no.” She tightened her grip on Rook’s arm, shouldering into the nearest security officer and gritting her teeth.
“You said I could have this one.” The bounty hunter spoke up.
“You can deliver him. But the Marbles want this done officially. No errors.”
Murray couldn’t tell which one of them spoke. She didn’t know who was in charge. It didn’t matter. She wrapped her arms around Rook’s and held on for dear life.
“Ragham Olius Octavian Kitron,” the voice behind her said. “You are officially under arrest for violating the Damascan Treaty, article 654B section 3.”
“Stop,” Murray whispered. “He didn’t do anything.”
“You will be returned to Damascus immediately to stand trial for your crime.”
“Let him go.”
“I’ll have to ask you to step away, Ma’am.”
“No.” She felt them take her arms, and wove her fingers together. They tugged at her elbows without much force. “Please.”
“Ma’am, we don’t want to hurt you.”
They just wanted to take him away from her. She snarled, “Piss off.”
“Doctor Murray.” Rook’s mouth didn’t move, but his voice reached her clear enough.
“It’s imperative that you listen.”
She looked up, but didn’t loosen her grip.
“Doctor Murray.” His eyes flickered to hers for only a second before dancing away again. “I need you to let go.”
Her hands dropped away. She stared at a metal profile that refused to turn in her direction. The second she released him, the security duo moved back in. Their leader continued as if the interruption hadn’t happened.
“Do you understand the nature of these charges?”
“Yes,” Rook said.
“Would you like to enter a plea at this time?”
Murray held her breath. He didn’t turn, but his eyes darted her way just once before he answered.
“Gulity as charged.”