They rushed out the back door of the restaurant into a shadowed alley with a half dozen aircars parked along a fence. Alicia looked back as the door snapped shut and locked.
"Don't worry." Theseus sounded assured and not at all like the man who had stuttered his way through every science decision at a meeting. "We don't have far to go."
"What the hell is going on?"
"Brown is getting in way over his head," Theseus mumbled. "We've been worried."
He glanced her way. "This is complicated. From the time Brown bought New Worlds for Humanity --"
She heard shouts inside the building. Theseus caught hold of her arm and moved faster. She didn't ask him to explain. Not yet.
From the time Brown bought. . . .
Alicia thought about those first few months after Brown had bought the company. Everyone had been naive. The Berkshire family had started the company a generation before and there had been passion in the work. The next generation were more interested in the business than the science -- and people -- side. When the company sold, she and others had hoped for a return to the old ways.
Brown had been trouble from the start. Within a year he'd started shutting down the offices on other worlds until all they had left was the headquarters on Earth. A few high level people had made the transition to Earth -- like Theseus -- but everything else had been sold off, from buildings to supplies. She'd assumed the funds went into the business's capital.
Theseus stopped by an older aircar and keyed the door open, hastily helping her into the backseat.
"Get low and stay there until I say so," he said. Then he gave her a bright, quick smile. "Sorry. This is a bit more clandestine than even I like, but please, just stay low."
"The aircar system won't let me sit on the floor if you intend to take off," she said, as though he wouldn't know.
"I have it handled." He got in and grabbed an odd hat with strands of gray hair attached and pulled it on before he settled at the controls.
He'd clearly planned for trouble, which made the shouts all the more ominous. Who knew what Theseus had done? Maybe he was using her as a way to throw attention away from himself. How could she have been so stupid --
The aircar started upwards and she yelped in spite of herself.
"Won't take us long. Pull the box over you when I put down. I'll be out of the aircar for a few minutes, making them think I'm Mrs. Stone. Once they check the aircar, we should be fine. They have limited people. They won't stick around for long."
"They'll know I'm here. Even a pocketcomp sensor --"
"Won't read you in here, under the box." He began pulling something up from his feet. She saw it was clothing of some sort and he expertly drew it up and over his shoulders until he appeared to be dressed in an old-fashioned skirt and sweater, with hair that hung well past his shoulders.
"You were ready for this," she said softly.
He didn't look at her but she sensed worry in the the way he paused for a moment. "Yes. I didn't think I would have anyone with me though. But. . . You were in danger and didn't even realize it. As soon as we get through this part, you can walk away if you like. But I suggest you be very, very careful if you do."
He sounded so serious that she felt a chill. He was setting the aircar down and all Alicia could see was the edges of some dilapidated walls; she had no idea where she might be. Lost and afraid --
"I won't be far. They just have to believe I am the old woman who does some cleaning for the restaurant. Just stay still and quiet. Trust me."
Her breath caught in fear and before she could say anything, he was gone, the door sliding shut.
She pulled the box over her and wondered how long --
Not long at all. An aircar sat down and not too far away. She found herself holding her breath, almost dizzy with fear --
". . . Yeah, this one," someone said close by. Did she know the voice? "Box . . . No reading."
She heard the jumbled sound of a few voices. What were they doing? Checking on Theseus? Did they find out the truth? Would they go off without searching the aircar --
Surely they should have been gone by now. The time crawled. Something was wrong.
The aircar took off.
Theseus didn't return. She felt her muscles start to tremble and an itch on her back took on the form of a major torment. She dared not move. It might be a trap --
The aircar door sprang open. She held her breath, so frightened she might pass out.
"It's me," Theseus said softly. "Can you move? The bastards stayed for too long and they tagged the aircar. We'll have to leave it, but I know where to get another not far away. Ready for a nice walk?"
She peaked her head out from under the box.
"I want answers."
"Yes, good idea." He glanced around quickly. "Let's go. I'll tell you on the way."
He helped her out. He also handed her a lovely long blue coat that helped against the chill of the coming night, along with a pretty scarf. He wore a hat and jacket. Apparently Theseus liked to play dress up.
He took her arm and led her through more dark places and out into a street packed with others who were strolling along. She heard music ahead and caught the scent of food which was heavenly, even under the circumstances.
"So, what is going on?" she finally said.
He met her look and sighed. "Well, first of all -- what I'm doing is illegal."
This wasn't going well.
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