Chet and Kiyva's Story: Chapter One
In the middle of a gunfight....
Their breathing sounded far too loud. It seemed like surely someone would hear them and then it would be all over. But they had to wait, crammed uncomfortably into the air vent, for the timing to be just right. So much was riding on the next few minutes, and they'd never get this sort of chance again. They could not fuck it up.
There was a guard at the end of the corridor that the vent tube followed, protecting the room beyond it-- from what, they didn't know; no one from inside had ever gotten as far as this before. He was just barely visible through one corner of the nearest vent's grating. Apparently his hearing wasn't as good as some of the guards' was touted to be, because he didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary hiding just above him and down the hall. He looked human. That might have been why.
Without any warning, a siren started up, a horrible, cycling, wailing sound that meant one thing: escape attempt.
And it was right on schedule.
"Go, go, go!" hissed one of the escape attempters as the guard sprinted below their hiding place, to the other end of the hall he was responsible for: the most likely point where two missing convicts would be approaching his point. He had no worry that anyone would slip past him unseen, after all, because there would be nowhere for them to go unless they'd somehow procured explosives. The heavy door to the docking bay was slowly grating shut behind him, and it would take more concussive power than anyone inside had, including the guards, to blow it open again.
The heavy door was slowly grating shut.
The second escape attempter hauled aside the heavy grate and set it aside; the single clang it made against the metal shaft was well-timed and drowned out by the highest pitch of the siren. The escapee swung down, landing into a crouch and holding up both hands to catch the first. They made no sound except for the muffled thump of the first's feet hitting the floor, and the guard didn't even turn around.
He wasn't entirely oblivious, however, and he recognized the sound of running feet, even over the sound of the claxon. But by the time he'd turned around, the feet he'd heard were disappearing though the dwindling crack between the docking bay door and the stone floor below it. The door clanged shut before he could even take a step towards them. He swore and flicked on his radio.
The docking bay beyond the now-shut door was a minor one: a service port, not a commercial one. Officials never saw this hanger, bounty hunters would never deign to use it, and regulated prisoner transport vessels-- a rare thing, anyway-- simply wouldn't fit. That's what the main bay was for. This bay, and many others like it, was for deliveries of food and other necessities by drone-ships, the ejection of bodies via those same pilot-less vessels when the morgue got too full, and for emergency escapes via the trio of tiny, one-person crafts currently plugged into the wall, with only just enough power to get to the nearest communications relay on a very low speed. Occasionally there would be a small craft docked for repairs or refueling-- at an outrageous price, probably, but some people were desperate when they were in the middle of nowhere-- but it had to be a small craft. There simply wasn't much room in the bay.
Today was one of those "occasional" days. Which was exactly why they would never get this chance again-- and exactly why they took it. Trying to escape without a vessel to make that escape in would be suicide.
Neither of them particularly wanted to die.
"Kiyva, do your stuff!"
"I'm doin', I'm doin'."
The taller escapee got busy at the door, pulling off the faceplate of the controls and swiftly rewiring things and switching chips around. The smaller crept around the small, versatile-looking deep-space ship-- it was neither a true fighter nor a true transport, being a little of both and, really, a little of many things: a piecemeal ship-- investigating whether it was damaged or just in for refueling, whether there was any kind of protective force field around it, and, most importantly, how to get in.
The first answer seemed to be: damaged, but the damage had already been repaired. There were sooty lines along one wing, as if something had scraped it or shot at it, and between them was new metal, the repairs themselves. The second answer was a resounding no: all systems seemed shut off, and a cautious hand pressed to the hull revealed no fields between skin and ship. The third and most important question answered itself a moment later as the back door of the little ship dropped open slowly and someone-- probably the pilot and owner, or maybe just the mechanic-- came clanking down it, rubbing his hands clean on an oil-streaked cloth and looking puzzled by the angry claxon. He was surprised, a split second later, when a wiry shape leapt onto his back, whipped the cloth from his hands, and snapped it tightly around his throat. Even fingernails dug in around the cloth.
It would be so easy. Pull tighter, tighter, cut off the air. Sharp nails into soft skin. Pull and tear and rip and fill that delicate windpipe with blood. So easy.
Hands scrabbled, uselessly, as the pressure increased. So easy, so quick, so wonderfully messy-- the choking sound would bubble beautifully as lungs filled with blood. There would be blood everywhere. There would be trashing and twitching and--
The former prisoner let go suddenly and leapt back, monkeylike, giving the lucky victim a shove with both feet to push off. He staggered, stumbled, wound up in a heap on the ground as the pair of escaped convicts pounded up the ramp and into his ship. He'd gotten away with just a bruised and slightly bleeding throat, and a door shut in his face, trapping him on the prison station while the reason for the annoying alarm that had brought him out switched on his ship's engines.
And thirty seconds to get to the safety of the control booth before the ship's guns fired up and blasted a hole in the docking bay doors big enough to flee through. He just barely made it and got the booth door sealed before both ship and artificial atmosphere flew out into space. Whoever that was, they'd just made history-- not as the first successful escape attempt from the Zone Eight maximum security prison known as Void Galactic Penitentiary, because that had been done before, though not more than a handful of times. It had even been done once without any outside help, like this time.
It was, however, the first time a pair of women had done it.
The former pilot stared after his ship, eyes flashing gold.
"Now what?" asked a hollow voice over his shoulder.
"Now?" The pilot licked his lips thoughtfully. "We make the best of the situation."