Children Of Earth (Tales from the 23rd Century Book 1)

By: Paul J. Fleming

Then she recalled his private conversations over the comm., always requesting she leave the flight deck when he had to call in to his contacts. She knew of his Martian heritage, but he had declared himself fiercely apart from Martian society on the whole.

Now, after Maddox voiced his suspicions she began to quickly realise how much in the dark he had kept her and keenly steered conversation away from his past and family. She had been so blind and naïve, an innocent face to lull their target into a false sense of security with her innocence.

Her eyes began to fill with tears as the realisation took hold. Now she was far from her home, from her old friends and facing a very difficult situation in the company of a complete stranger who had every reason to hate her for this entrapment.

‘Oh for crying out loud,’ Maddox exclaimed under his breath. ‘Okay, you come along with me, but if I think you’re trying to hold me back on purpose I’ll leave you behind with no reservations whatsoever. Understand?’

She glared up at him in complete surprise, his direct offer of helping her escape her seemingly inevitable fate hanging in the air between them.

‘Well?’ Maddox urged keenly. ‘You in or out?’

‘I’m in!’ She almost shouted, but caught herself in time, looking a little sheepish and repeating in a more hushed voice, ‘In!’.

‘Okay then, get hold of your helmet and be ready to make a quick dash for that open gap in the serving counter over there, once you get through we’re heading into the food prep area and out of this place.’

He paused slightly to check how the Martians were faring against the rather imposing and forceful owner of the diner and slowly he retrieved a small unit from his inside jacket pocket, his thumb poised over the centre of its waiting display, which presented the graphic of a large red button.

‘Get ready,’ he quietly said to her, waiting for just the correct moment to effect his planned means of diversion. He did not have to wait long before his moment came and his thumb descended onto the control’s screen and the graphic of the red button depressed on its display, the unit then being discarded to the table as Maddox prepared for his quick departure.

There was a single occupant of that booth beside the airlock closest to the Martian militia who now stood from his seat and turned to face the troopers, opening the front of his jacket to reveal explosives tightly packed around his waist and a control switch held in his outstretched hand. Their immediate response was shock, weapons being brought to bear on the man, but no shots fired as the senior officer tried to convince him to stay his action.

The man simply stood there, looking about and remaining silent in the face of his Martian opposition.

‘Come on,’ Maddox said to Maia earnestly as he kept a watchful eye on the militia facing the apparent threat. ‘Time we made our exit!’

‘Our exit? To where?’ She asked as she knew the main airlock was completely out of the question, then she followed his indication as Maddox nodded and glanced slightly to his left.

‘We head out the back way, through the cargo loading bay at the back of this dive. It’s how Dave gets his supplies in regularly. Chances are though that those Martians will be upon us in moments when they realise my little friend down there is just a hologram, only to discover we have made our move. So we need to move quickly and without falter, get through the door to the supply room and then secure the airlock door into the loading bay. Once we’re in there we cycle the system and hope it finishes before they can get their associates outside to come around the building to cut off our exit.’

Something in the plan was not filling her with the utmost hope and her face seemed to display this uncertainty.

‘Don’t worry. Once we’re outside and free to move my ship will pick us up. We just have to keep ahead of those militia until she arrives. Easy really.’

His statement was finished with a big reassuring grin, but still it failed to encourage her that his plan was indeed simple and foolproof.

‘Sounds like you’ve done this before?’

‘What? Escaped from the confines of a tacky diner on a backwater asteroid whilst being pursued by at least three Martian Militia inside and god knows how many outside waiting for us to emerge? Can’t say it’s a regular occurrence, but I’m willing to give it a go!’

She glared at him with a look of abject disbelief, only to be greeted by that roguish grin and a wink. That was the problem with rocket boys, they always tried to wind you up when you wanted a sincere answer on the level.

‘Come on!’ he said to her as he darted from his seat, trailing his helmet behind him as he moved quickly towards the open end of the serving counter.

Maia only took a moment to decide. Stay here and be herded up by the Martians, subject to whatever happened at their discretion in light of their failure here or follow the disturbingly enigmatic Captain John Maddox in some hair brained scheme to escape and fly to freedom with every chance they were going to be captured at some point along the way. Hell, they may even make it.

Diving from her seat she hurriedly followed in Maddox’s wake. Not the first time she had followed some nice guy on an apparent fool’s errand.