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EEpisode 13 Part 27

By:  Lenady and North

“Do you think the drawbridge is up?” said Tilly in a low mutter.

“No.  No, I don’t.” said Sanrook flatly, “I think that some horrible unforeseen act of nature has jammed the sucker shut. But that’s okay, we’ll probably be caught in an earthquake or a volcano eruption before we get there anyway.  Or maybe the town will just get ransacked by a wandering hoard of barbarians.”

            “Feeling optimistic?” muttered Tilly through a yawn.  She was fantasizing about crawling into bed.  She could already feel the sheets and the comfy orange mattress around her.   Or would she shower first?  Oh, a shower! Just the thought of warm water and clean pj’s was amazing.

            Tilly was falling asleep on her feet, but she forced herself to stay alert.  She couldn’t make a single mistake because dragging along on the other side of Sanrook was the Nathian. She glanced over at him, pulling her hood tighter and stuffed her hair back for the thousandth time. She had done nothing but mumble since he had shown up, for fear he would recognize her voice.  It was probably an unfounded fear seeing as the city had risen with the sun. The sidewalk was alive with people who desperately needed to be somewhere else and needed to make noise in the process.

            Despite the destruction just a few blocks over, time hadn’t stopped and life in the mostly unaffected streets went on.  Tilly caught bits of conversation spoken over phones and among desevites traveling to work.  People asked mostly about loved ones.  They shared information they had heard from news or word of mouth.  All conversation centered around the tornado.  She also saw people who said nothing at all, but their faces betrayed a concern that Tilly found almost tangible.  Miraculously, electricity didn’t seem to be an issue and the further they went the less damage there was.  Occasionally the three bedraggled walkers would come across an odd piece of debris that had been blown there, but those became fewer as they walked.

            They had not said much of anything.  There was too much to be said for there to be any point in talking about it.  So each left the others to devise their own ways for shaping the night into meaningful bits. 

            “Optometrist is two streets away and opens in ten minutes” said Sanrook.

***

            “-in ten minutes” said Zora.

            Bullet walked along beside the two girls with a lot on his mind.  He had tried to talk to Arika earlier, but she just mumbled something. Zora had explained it away as part of a head injury and a long standing personality disorder.  That had led to a short shin kicking contest between the two.

            Bullet couldn’t help but grin at the sight.  It reminded him of old friends.  Just like that he could feel the taste of bad coffee in his mouth and smell his old cramped office.  He could practically hear the voices halfheartedly arguing over whatever little thing they wanted to pick at that day.  Bullet’s smile faded and his mind traveled back to his search.

            He squinted into the fresh yellow sunlight, wondering what sort of glasses Desivites wore.  How did they wear them without ear cartilage?  What if they only had contacts?  Bullet began to worry.  He had never tried those before and this was not the place he wanted to start. 

            He looked over at Zora.  She had not spoken much either.  She took another one of her pills and sipped at a water bottle.  She was not staggering or limping, but she was definitely doing the next worst thing.  Bullet had finally decided to strike up a conversation with her.  He opened his mouth, but he did not get a word out before she pointed ahead.

            “There,” her finger indicated a quaint strip of buildings ahead.

            When Bullet squinted hard he could just make out the large eye shaped logo on the window.  It came into focus as they moved across the last street and stood in front of the door.  He was vaguely aware of people walking by trying not to stare at the strange grubby outsiders loitering at the entrance of the shops.

            After several awkward minutes a little bell jingled announcing the door opening.  A Desivite looked at the three in the friendly but openly confused way that all Desivites seemed to have mastered.  She had cute little tusks and dark green markings around her eyes, “Can I help you?”

            “Yes, mam” said Bullet pulling his glasses out of his pocket, they hung sadly in his hand, “I was wondering if I could purchase a new set of glasses.”

            The lady looked at his twisted frames, “Okay.  It’s rare we get off-worlders here, but I think we may have some pairs in the back room.  We’ll have to do an eye exam to match up your prescription and it may take several hours if we don’t have your lenses in stock.  We can fabricate, but it takes a while.”

            “That’s fine” said Bullet.  It wasn’t a choice for him.  He had to have them no matter wait time or cost.

            Bullet started to wipe his incredibly dirty shoes on the mat.  “Just one second,” said the lady letting the door fall shut.  She opened it a moment later and handed him a long strange looking brush, “My boss has a thing about the floors.”

            Bullet turned toward Arika and Zora, “Thank you again, ladies,” he said bowing, “It has been a pleasure making your acquaintance though the situation was a bad one.  I hope the rest of your trip is a safe one,” he sighed, “I’m sorry to be a bother it should be I escorting you back to your ship.”

            “Right back at ya” said Zora.

Arika mumbled something then they turned and walked away.

 

***

Tilly sighed with relief. So far there weren’t any footsteps approaching them, and the further they walked the further they were out of harms way. But the nervousness still felt like it was eating a hole in her gut and her headache was going strong. Even as they walked further and further away from him she couldn’t get the Nathian out of her head. Okay, so he wasn’t a complete jerk. Even without knowing who they were, he’d still been just as over-the-top polite and sincere and nice as he had when he and Tilly had been walking in the last town. He felt okay, which was one of the most frustrating things about the whole mess.

When they were over a block away Tilly glanced back.  People had filled the gap between them and the store front, but she could still see him outside the shop talking to the lady and scrubbing his shoes.

Sanrook looked back following Tilly’s gaze.  A broad smile slid across her mouth, “Hey Tilly, wanna have some fun?”

Tilly was about to say the word ‘no’ when she felt Sanrook’s hand grab her hood.  Tilly’s eyes widened.  She realized what was about to happen, but her own hands were in her pockets and she could only watch in horror.

“Hey Nathian!  You know those women you’re looking for?” at this she whisked Tilly’s hood back, “It’s us! HA HA HA HA HA!”

Tilly paled.

The Nathian stood there stunned.

Sanrook took Tilly by the elbow and said very clearly “Run.”

The two dashed away into the crowd and seemed to disappear.

 

***

 

Bullet didn’t notice the brush drop from his hand.  His mouth opened and shut slowly.  He had heard the shout and had seen the flash of blue hair in the sun, then they were gone, merged into the chaos of the working city.  He took a step forward as if to run them down, but his legs behaved like rubber bands.  Bullet stood there wondering if that had really happened or if he was delirious.

“Sir?” said the Desivite uncertainly.

“Yes. Um.  Yes.  I-" Too much went through his mind for him to even consider making his mouth do something coherent.  He knew he would never catch them now.

“Sir?” the lady tried again.

She had been beside him the whole time. All the pieces fell together.  Bullet finally managed to nod at the Desivite.  He picked up the shoe cleaning brush from the sidewalk and went into the office furious, betrayed, exhausted, and utterly confused.

 

***

Sanrook was still laughing when they finally stopped running and caught their breath.  Her laughter was punctuated by wheezing breaths. “I- huff- can’t- ughz- I can’t believe- huff- he- huff- the look on his- ulk- face.”  Her speech dissolved into laughter.  “Wait Tilly- huff- I gotta rest- wheeze- everything on me- huff- hurts so bad.”  More laughter cut her off.

“It’s your own stupid fault!” shouted Tilly.

“I- I think we can- huff- walk from here.”

“What were you thinking?  He could have come after us.”

“Naw- he could- huff- barely stand” said Sanrook, who was also barely able to stand.

Tilly shook her head.  It was throbbing terribly.  Every time each foot had hit the pavement it seemed to jar her worse.  She glared at Sanrook.  Never in Tilly’s life had she wanted to strangle someone so bad.

“Let’s- let’s walk to the ship.” Sanrook started to walk but Tilly stayed still.  The look on her face could have cut glass.

“Don’t you ever, EVER, do something like that again.”

Something in Tilly’s tone made Sanrook sober up. 

The two walked in silence for many paces.  Tilly felt a single moment of release from knowing Sanrook knew she was serious. Then she made the mistake of looking back over at Sanrook and noticed the (chagrined/pained/insert unpleasant if applicable Sanrook expression) and felt a pang of regret.

She shook her head though after a second, finding herself tensing once again. No. She would not feel bad for letting Sanrook know she was out of line. There was a difference between normal Sanrook stupidity and seriously risking themselves. Suddenly feeling very exposed, she jerked the hood back up over her head and stuck her hands in her pockets. But still… Tilly sighed. In a controlled more even tone she asked, “Why didn’t you tell me my hair made me stand out so much?”

“Didn’t think about it.”

There was a several minute pause where shoes crunched on sidewalk.

“Sorry,” said Sanrook.

A weight was lifted and Tilly suddenly started to giggle.  The last few minutes played back in her minds eye without the fog of panic.  “Ok, the face he made was priceless. Like a guppy.” She finally blurted.  The two looked at each other and burst out laughing.

They mimicked ‘the face’ several times as they made their way tottering and giddy back to the drawbridge.  The sight of its lowered planks was beautiful to their eyes.  As they walked through Tilly imagined again how great it would be to be back on the Toren. “I can’t wait to get home.”

A squeal came from Tilly’s pocket.  “You just called me home!” shouted Toren’s irritatingly cute voice, “You LOVE me!”

Tilly blinked, as surprised as Toren sounded. She wasn’t sure when the ship had shifted in her mind from, well, a ship, to ‘home’, but it had. She smiled, feeling lighter than she had for some time. She took a breath and let the morning’s soft light and breeze wash away the night.

 

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