Chapter 2.3

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The vagrant smelled food coming and his hand darted out of the opening, snatching the arm of the man on the other side and knocking the plate onto the floor. He pulled hard, yanking the man’s arm through and growled at him. “Where’s the girl?”

The man on the other side of the cell made a few frightened grunts and pulled something out of the floor with his free hand, wrapping it around his captured arm. The next moment was full of searing pain and the vagrant found himself writhing on the floor. He lost control of his hand and the man on the other side pulled away, hurrying out of the room. He lay there, panting, until the pain faded away, then reached out of the slot again and grabbed what he could of the food.

***

It took hours for the numbness to wear off from his arm. Calvin could only hope there would be no long term effects. The girl was still unconscious, but the vagrant would be a problem. He couldn’t afford using the grounding cable and shock floor every time, it was too dangerous. They still had a long trip ahead and his father wouldn’t be happy with half-starved goods either. He pulled out the little metal box with his good hand and opened it again. The data pendant inside was proving finicky but he thought he could repair it. The vagrant would be going to the fights, but if the girl was sold as a pet… maybe they would let her keep it. That would be something. It twinkled in the light and flashes of data displayed on the wall. There was nothing legible, but it was progress.

***

The smell of eggs confused Mark as he woke up to a noisy room full of chaos and boxes. It took him a minute to recognize the pascal from the night before and remember falling asleep in the hotel room. Sam noticed he was awake and gestured to the table in the middle of the room.

“Come on, eat up. We have to get going before the trail gets any colder.” Sam was grinning cheerfully, like when he’d first appeared at the docks.

“Get going? Trail?”

“He knows there isn’t an actual trail, just roll with it.” The pascal said, carrying a box half it’s size out the door.

“The papers are all finalized and Vortran managed to get me a new ship already. Your stuff’s been loaded already.”

“My stuff?” Mark was starting to get the alarming suspicion he’d missed something important.

“Well I figured you’d want your clothes and stuff since we don’t know how long this’ll take. I’m about your size but I get the feeling our styles would not mesh.”

“Styles?”

“Sam did you look at those schematics I sent you?” Vortran reappeared, grabbing another box from a stack in the corner.

“Yeah, it’s a clean little ship. Has space for two-man escape pods too.”

“Yeah I thought you’d like that. Much less risk of you losing the rugrat again.”

“Can I get some ANSWERS?” Mark shouted, finally getting the others to stop and look at him. Vortran shrugged and continued moving boxes but Sam stood still and frowned at him.

“Your transfer went through. You, me, and Vortran are gonna go rescue my little girl and your co worker and whoever else needs rescuing. I have your stuff on my new ship so we’re just finishing loading and then we’ll take off. Those eggs are for you, they are yours, eat them. Anything else?”

“How the fuck are you not hungover?”

“I have to get my little girl back, there’s no time for hangovers.” Sam hefted one of the larger boxes onto his shoulder and strolled out the door after Vortran.

Mark sat down at the table and ate the eggs bitterly. Despite being delicious they sat in his stomach like molten lead and the others were done loading by the time he finished. He followed behind them to the docks, slinking miserably past where his former ship was parked. The paperwork had said he’d be able to go back but it was hard to believe. Getting into a fistfight on the docks after losing a crew member and two passengers; he wasn’t sure they’d truly want him back.

Sam’s new ship was a sleek little cargo hauler, converted into three bedrooms and a modest cargo hold. Mark found his things in one of the bedrooms and sat staring at the boxes for a few minutes, until Vortran carrying a fourth blanket past caught his attention. He stepped back out into the hallway and saw the pascal disappear into the next bedroom. The lights weren’t on but a quick glance inside told him Vortran was building a burrow out of crates and blankets.

“I don’t know how you guys tolerate sleeping so exposed.” Vortran muttured, carefully packing the new blanket in with the others.

“To each his own I suppose.” Mark shrugged. He’d had little dealings with Vortran’s notorious race, preferring the less shady parts of the universe. Very few pascal bothered to make their way into human society proper, so he’d only heard rumors mostly.

“Can you fly, Mark?” Sam’s familiar tone rankled Mark slightly, but there was little to be done about it.

“No, never needed to.”

“Vortran and I will take turns piloting then. As soon as we figure out where we’re going that is.” Sam stared up at the ceiling for a moment, “It isn’t in her info, because I didn’t want it broadcasted, but my daughter is a shifter.” He looked down at Mark’s face for a reaction.

“Yeah… she freaked out when you got disconnected and shifted. Scratched up Calvin’s arm something fierce.” Mark shrugged a little.

“So other than you and this Calvin guy, did anyone else find out? Did the vagrant know?”

“He… that’s right, she ducked into his room. He seemed to know it was her even though he wasn’t there when she shifted.”

Sam turned around without another word and disappeared into the last bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

“I have no idea how to read that man.” Mark grumbled. Vortran came out of the newly formed burrow and patted him on the side.

“That’s the best part. Always a surprise.” The pascal laughed at the thought and trundled off towards the kitchen.

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