Alicia wasn't surprised by the new delay as she again waited. She'd been part of a bureaucracy. Even at its best, New Worlds for Humanity had the same stop-and-go movement of any big company -- or government agency.
She knew how one person could defer to another and how decisions got caught up in a fine web of waiting for someone else to make a choice.
Wait. She couldn't sleep any more. She cleaned up and even washed out her hair as best she could and spent a lot of time working snarls out. It passed the time.
The door opened. She hadn't expected Theseus to step inside.
"What the hell have you done now? Did you come to get me out?" she demanded and stood.
Then a couple others followed him into the room. He grinned with delight at her reaction.
"Things are sorting out," he explained without preamble. "The Inner Worlds Council would like to speak to both of us."
"Us. On Mars," she said. She shook her head. "I don't think --"
"You don't have to go. I can still find you that nice, quiet beach for awhile until things calm down on Earth. People still believe we're terrorists, though the government is countering those rumors. We've been helped by the fact that Brown tried to kill a number of people when he was cornered."
"They caught him?"
"Unfortunately not, but they did get a lot of the information he had with him. We're mostly in the clear, Alicia. Well, you are -- I'm still under suspicion, being an IWCS agent and working here illegally. I'm going back to Mars. Brown went off-world with Ross House help. Grey Station 9 is still in trouble. This isn't really over."
"What does the IWC want from me?" she asked.
"Help. Any information we can get on Brown and New Worlds for Humanity since he took over." He ran a hand over the top of his head and through his hair, looking as harassed as she'd ever seen him. Was that an act? She didn't think so. "We're trying to round up others from the company, both on Earth and off, who had worked during Brown's reign. If he could get hold of materials he shouldn't have had even here on earth --"
Theseus stopped and shook his head, and for a moment she saw true dismay.
She thought about Brown and how she'd never truly liked or trusted him. Step away now? She was probably one of the few top members of the company alive. How many had died at the building? How many had he killed elsewhere?
"I'll go with you," she decided. He looked pleased. "I want to see this finished right, Theseus. And I don't trust Brown, either."
"Then let's go. There's a shuttle waiting and the IWC sent a ship to pick me up."
Well. Was he that important or was it the information he had that they wanted so badly? She gave one quick nod and walked out with him, wondering if she should mention that she had no ID or anything -- how was she going to get back home again? Earth was very strict about who got on world, and she might have trouble returning.
Oddly, though, she trusted Theseus to make certain things worked out right. At least she wasn't going to be sitting in that cell any longer. Clean clothes might have been nice, but she'd washed up as best she could in that little room. She felt odd still being in Port Guard uniform, though he still wore one too.
Camouflage. They walked straight through the building without drawing any extra attention. A covert glance around showed many nervous people. Daylight streamed through the windows on the lower floor. Alicia saw smoke and could hear the wail of sirens not far away and the comm announced a problem in the southwest section of town. She'd been sealed off from the problems and for some reason had expected everything to be settled by now.
Alicia asked nothing, especially as others moved around them. No reason to draw attention. She didn't slow as they headed straight out a gate and down the tube into a small shuttle. They were the only ones aboard and as soon as the door sealed, the shuttle began powering up. Anxious to be rid of them, she thought. Or at least Theseus.
He finally looked relaxed. "Well, that was a total mess and I'm glad we survived it," he admitted.
"And we're safe now?"
"Safer." He sat up straighter and she regretted having bothered him, but maybe she needed to know things before they took off. "Brown is not happy with us. We weren't good sheep and didn't march straight to the slaughter for him. We're also finding more ties to Ross House, which makes him more dangerous than I thought. Everything he's done is coming unraveled, but he still has power."
"Ah." The shuttle began to move, heading out. She should stop it. She should get off.
He handed over her pocketcomp and smiled. "We have a few hours between here and Mars. I thought we might go over a few things."
"Yes, good idea." She keyed the pocketcomp on, glad to have something left that belonged to her. She'd never been attached to things, but having this returned at least felt as though she was not completely cut off from her true life.
They worked while on the shuttle and again on the ship, and a few hours later they were coming into Mars and finally shut down the computers.
"You are one of the most steady people I've ever worked with," Theseus said suddenly. "And it occurs to me that you are without a job. How would you like to work for Inner Worlds Council Security?"
"Become a spy?"
Well, there was a promise of an interesting new future. At least she wouldn't have to go job hunting.
http://fridayflash.org for more fantastic quick reads
During November I wrote the novel Tales from Grey Station 9, which covered problems at the other end of this story-universe. I decided to do this little side-story serial to explore the trouble back with New Worlds for Humanity. The stories are going on at about the same time. It was an interesting little experiment.