“Hello?” Jessie called out. Her voice sounded timid in the dark, empty room. Waking up in a bright medical room was bad enough, but she was too afraid to step off the bed to find a light switch in the dark. Misa didn’t know she was still scared of the dark. She took a deep breath and put one foot down on the floor. It was cold, but nothing grabbed or attacked her. She sat on the edge of the bed, trying to muster up the courage to venture into the shadows, but her willpower failed and she pulled her legs back up, curling up in the blanket. “Is someone there?” She called out, a little louder this time. There was no response except for the ambient hum of the ship, a noise she’d grown up with practically.
There were no monsters under this bed, she knew this now. She stepped down onto the floor again and made her way warily forward, pulling the blanket along as she felt in the shadows. The far wall of the room wasn’t as distant as she expected. She found the door, but it was locked. The lights turned on when she hit a button she found, and revealed a boring, normal room. There was a bed, and a small table and a chair that didn’t look comfortable at all. There was a slot at the bottom of the door, but it was closed too.
“Misa?” She called out, hopefully. There was still no response and her heart sank. She crawled back onto the bed and buried herself in the blanket, feeling miserable. He hadn’t come for her yet.
Jerret heard the girl before Calvin did. At first it was just a faint noise in the vents. Then it grew louder and more persistent.
“Hello?” The voice finally got loud enough to understand just as Calvin was leaving the room. Both men froze and stared up at the tiny opening above Jerret’s cell.
“Hello?” Jerret called back, even as Calvin’s face fell and he started clutching his hair in a panic.
“Mr. Wolf?” The girl’s voice came back, clear as day.
“Hello, little one! I’m glad you’re okay!” Jerret called back. Calvin was fiddling with the nearest computer panel but seemed unable to do anything about this.
“Mr. Wolf?” Calvin whispered, giving up on the panel.
“It’s kinda how I introduced myself.” Jerret said, not loud enough to project.
“Are we at the station? I’m s’posed to meet Misa.” The girl’s voice returned.
“We…” Jerret trailed off, looking at Calvin, who had slumped to the floor and buried his head in his knees, “I think we got delayed, we’re not there yet.”
Calvin’s head lifted and Jerret could see a bizarre combination of relief and confusion cross his face. He reached up to the computer panel again and the faint sound of birds came through the vents. Jerret gave him a confused look as he stood up.
“Mr. Calvin?” The girl’s voice returned and he blanched.
“Gods-dammit.” Calvin muttured, “Gods-damned bird videos.”
“She’s got your number, Mr. Calvin.” Jerret almost felt like laughing. The bird noises got louder and the girl seemed to quiet down finally.
“Why didn’t you tell her?” Calvin said, sourly. Jerret looked up at the vent, silent for what felt like a lifetime.
“She’ll have to deal with it soon enough… I don’t want to take away her last carefree days.”
Calvin didn’t respond, getting to his feet and leaving the room.
Three days of listening to his captives hollering through the vents was wearing on Calvin’s sanity. It didn’t help that the computer was alternately suggesting letting the girl out to play, or venting them both into space. He was fairly sure the computer was only joking on the latter, out of frustration at him. The floor cleaning robot zipped into the room and slammed into his heel, startling him out of his thoughts. He frowned down at it.
“What is going on with you, little guy?” He picked it up and it beeped and whirred at him. “Chasing you? Just don’t let her catch you.” It whirred again. “No you can’t stop delivering food to her. People need food.” He set it down on the floor and nudged it with his foot. It beeped at him and scurried away to wherever it hid when not working. He couldn’t bring himself to feed the girl, so he’d been sending the little robot with a plate of food on top. It seemed that wouldn’t be a solution for long though; she was giving the poor thing fits by chasing and pouncing on it regularly.
The console beeped at him. It was time to let his father know about the delay. He sat up straight and started the call, his heart sinking as someone quickly picked up.
“I have buyers asking questions, boy. They want pictures of the vagrant, need to know if he’s gonna be a fighter or fodder.”
“I can’t have pictures like that going over my signal, it could get traced back to me.” Calvin could feel his father’s disapproving look even without a video link, “I’m pretty sure he’s been in the fights before though, enough healed over bite wounds and claw marks. And he’s not missing any pieces so he was probably good.”
“Well I suppose that’ll do until I get a look at him. The girl’s going for a better price anyways. Your idiot brother managed to rope in a couple of suckers looking for a cute pet.”
Calvin bit the inside of his cheek at the comment about his brother, and winced, “Maybe you should let him take over, he wants more to do with this whole racket than I do.”
“You’re useful, boy, he’s a fool. And watch your tone with me. I’ll take away that nice ship you’re so fond of and ground you in a heartbeat. You’ll be here on time, right?”
“I already told you I had to use half my supplies feeding the vagrant and the girl’s woken up so I have to stop for supplies, it’ll put me a day or two behind.”
“You better be putting some fire under your tail, boy. I find out you’ve been dawdling it’ll come out of your hide.”
“As if your fat ass could do anything.” Calvin muttered a little louder than he’d planned.
“What was that?” The rise in tone of his father’s voice suggested he’d heard just fine.
“I’ll be there as fast as I can.” Calvin disconnected before he could get himself in more trouble and threw a nearby pen at the wall. Soft music started playing and the lighting turned a calming lavender. “Not now, computer, just let me be angry.” He stood up as the music turned off and the lights brightened again. A second’s thought made him grab the repaired data crystal and he found himself in front of the girl’s door.
There were still bird noises coming from inside. The computer was running through it’s entire database for anything to keep her occupied. It was only distracting her half the time now. He took a deep breath and opened the door, only to have the breath knocked out of him as the girl tackled him. For being so tiny, she still managed to hit quite hard.
“Mr. Calvin! I knew you were here! Are we almost at the station? Is that my crystal?” She snatched it from the floor where he’d dropped it, “You fixed it! Where’s Mr. Wolf?”
Calvin wheezed a little and coughed as she slid off his chest, “Next room.” He sat up and felt for broken ribs as she skipped over to the next door and opened it, disappearing inside. “Hope I don’t regret this…” The ship beeped at him cheerfully from the nearest control panel.