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Chapter 6:- Escape
Murray watched the planet Crag shrink to a sickly green marble against the velvet black of space. She sighed and would have let her shoulders settle had there been enough room in the compartment to move at all.

“Nicely done,” Zora commented from directly behind her. “The robot can fly after all.”

“Could you possibly lean back a little,” Murray asked. “Your hair is in my face.” She blew sideways at the tickle against her cheek.

“There’s not enough room,” Zora said. “At least you have a chair.”

“I believe we are away safely,” Rook said. He sat to Murray’s left, both silver hands
working at the control panel. “Life support systems are working at maximum capacity, but they
seem to be sufficient for our needs.”

“Neep.” The pink mass of gelatinous space slug filled the remainder of the compartment.
The creature’s eyestalks bent forward, pressed by the low ceiling, until they drooped like long
puppy dog ears—ears that terminated in huge globular cat’s eyes.

“My back hurts,” Zora complained. She shifted position and jabbed an elbow into the
back of Murray’s head.

“Stop moving.” Murray tried to rub the injury, but her arm was pinned between her chair
and Rook’s cool side. “You had to bring that thing along.”

“Neep.”

“Neela probably saved our lives.”

“Zora, it’s too big.”

“She’s mine, Mur. Let it go.”

“She’s sticky.”

Zora opened her mouth to protest, but closed it rapidly when a trail of slime drizzled from
the eyestalk above her head. There was no denying the goo factor of her new pet. The walls
inside the passenger compartment shimmered with sluggy evidence.

“Doctor Murray?” Rook leaned to one side and dodged a droplet from the other eyestalk.
“Would you like me to program a trajectory?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Have you selected a destination?”

“Just find the closest jump gate and get us back to reality.”

“There’s a nexus in this sector.” Rook touched the controls again and the panorama on the
view screen vanished. A sector map replaced it, the jump lines and nexus gates weaving across
the panel like a neon spider’s web.

“Um,” Zora said.

“Not now, Zor.”

“I believe we can reach this one in a less than six hours,” Rook said. “We have
sufficient…”

“Um,” Zora said. “Mur?”

“What is it?”

“Why don’t we try that other one?” Zora’s arm snaked past Murray’s ear to pinpoint
another nexus.

“It’s twice as far,” Murray said.

“I believe the closer nexus would be the wisest choice considering…”

“Listen stud,” Zora said. “I think we should try the other one.”

“I thought your back hurt?” Murray asked. Suspicion pushed her forehead into a crinkle.
“Are you going to sleep standing up?”

“If I have to.”

Murray twisted her neck and tried to get a glimpse of her sister’s face. She sounded
serious, and a serious Zora was never a good thing. “What have you done now?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“Spill it.”

Zora’s sigh blew another strand of hair into Murray’s proximity. “Crantok’s brother runs
things in this sector, see?” she said. “Enough of the scaly patrol back there saw us vaporize Cran
that I’m not really into a visit with the inlaws, you know?”

“I’m not sure it’s wise to deviate…”

“She’s right,” Murray said. How she hated to admit it. “We’re flying a stolen ship with ‘property of Crantok the four-armed fiancé’ written all over it.”

“We’ll be stretching our fuel supply,” Rook said.

“Can we make it?” Murray asked.

“I believe we can, but…”

“Do it, then.” She sighed and watched the sector map vanish again. The curve of her chair
pressed painfully against the back of her knees, and her neck pinched sharply when she looked to either side. “We’ll just have to make the best of it.”



“Neep.”

“Zora, can’t you keep that thing quiet?” Murray yawned and shifted to the side that wasn’t numb yet.

“Neep, neep neep.”

“I think she’s hungry.”

“What the hell does it eat?”

“Mmmm. Doctor Murray?” She could hear Rook shift in his pilot’s chair, and the running
lights brightened, illuminating his silhouette at the controls.

“Was he sleeping?” Zora asked.

“Androids don’t sleep, Zor. What is it?”

“We’re approaching the nexus system.”

“Neep.”

“Thank god.” Murray sat forward and eased the kinks out of her neck. “My spine is
permanently twisted.”

“Hah, we shouldn’t be more than twenty minutes from the spaceport.”

“Did he just laugh?”

“Zora, lean back. You’re dripping slime on my jacket.” Murray twisted to the right, her
spine complaining against the dodge. Androids definitely didn’t laugh. She snuck a sidelong
glance at their pilot. He was a custom job, could have been programmed to simulate humor.
“Dammit, Zora, your hair!” She swatted at the tickle near her shoulder, but her hand smacked
something solid.

“Ouch! What the hell?”

“Ooops.”

“You hit me.”

“I didn’t…ow!” Zora’s elbow dug into the top of her shoulder. Murray reached wildly
and grabbed a hank of either hair or veil. She gave it a good sharp yank.

Zora howled and twisted the elbow deeper into Murray’s muscle. “My hair, Mur? You
fight like a girl.”

“That’s it!” Murray tightened her grip and pulled Zora’s head down and forward. Zora
slapped repeatedly at the back of Murray’s head, but most of the blows grazed away to either
side. “You got me into this Zora,” Murray growled.

“Wasn’t my fault,” Zora whimpered. Her voice trembled. “You’re really hurting me.”

Murray had pulled her forward so that she bent over. Her head pressed between the two
seats, a handful of red tresses entangled in Murray’s fist. Her rear end hovered in the air behind
them, supported, Murray supposed, by the sea of space slug. Murray’s temper faded. There
wasn’t enough room to breathe in the cabin, and it had been a long journey. She flexed her
fingers and released the hank of hair.

“Ha!” Zora shouted. She sprang upward and rammed a fist into Murray’s left arm.
Murray stood up, forgetting the space, and tried to punch backwards. Zora ducked and
pushed her shoulder into Murray’s spine.

“Agh!” She shouted and fell forward. Her arms flailed to either side, but failed to stop
her from crashing face first into the controls. Her head spun, and little circles of pain pressed
against her cheeks. Far away, an alarm screamed.

“Doctor Murray?” Rook’s voice sounded a little closer. “Doctor Murray, it is
imperative…”

“What? Rook?” She pushed away from the hard surface. “What’s imperative?”

“Get off the controls!” Zora screamed. The alarm squealed through the passenger
compartment. It continued to howl after Zora closed her mouth. Red lights above the viewscreen flashed in a very demanding manner.

Murray sat up. She tried to steady herself, but the room seemed to be lurching this way
and that. She needed to sit before she threw up, but the chair kept dodging. She focused on it,
but the alarm and the lights kept distracting her. I have a head injury, she thought. And nobody
is lifting a finger to help… She looked around the cabin.

Rook and Zora stared at the viewscreen. Neither flicked so much as a peek in her
direction. Even the bloody slug was ignoring her. She considered this, and a whisper of fear
stirred behind her indignation. She focused on the alarm…alarm, red flashing lights, everyone
staring at the view…

Murray looked back to the screen. The swirly orange surface of a planet filled two thirds
of it. That’s pretty close, she thought. She sat down in the chair. The room still tilted sharply to
the right.

“What’s happening?” she asked.

“What’s happening?” The hysteria in Zora’s voice seemed genuine. “We’re crashing!”

Murray looked at Rook. His hands snatched at the buttons, lifted panels, and seemed to
pull levers at random. “Rook?” she asked. The chiseled head only nodded confirmation. They
were crashing.

“Well, Zora,” Murray sat back in the chair and watched the swirls morph into continents,
seas, mountains. “You’ve killed us for sure this time.”

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