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

By: Paul J. Fleming

2 Out of the Frying Pan

Quickly navigating around the serving counter and darting inside the doorway leading to the kitchen area, Maddox paused on the threshold to allow his new companion the time to catch up and make her way through the door. It gave him precious few moments to quickly review the situation involving the Martian troopers and the holographic man with the explosives, and how their sudden movement had alerted the former who were now torn as to how to deal with the threat before them quickly so they could engage in pursuit of the fleeing targets. Their answer came in the form of a glitch in the holoemitter Maddox had taken the foresight to affix above the booth by the door prior to Maia’s arrival, which cause the man to scramble for a moment in a burst of static before vanishing, re-appearing in his seat and going through the process of standing once more to brandish his now clearly harmless explosives. It was a handy little diversion tactic which he had used before, but Maddox was a little disappointed it had not held the militia for a little longer.

‘Well, at least they’ll leave the other poor sods in this dive alone if they’re concentrating on us,’ he muttered as he slammed the door shut and pulled a precarious stack of boxes over to block the doorway.

Turning and glancing about their new accommodation, his gaze was drawn along the long, narrow passageway set between metallic work surfaces running along either side of the rectangular kitchen area, which were filled with various dishes and pans, cooking implements and numerous scattered piles of food debris. In his mind, he could not help but be thankful that he’d not ordered from the food menu on arrival as the sight of the blackened pots bubbling away on the stove over to his far left surrounded by rather dubious looking pools of hard baked on remnants from previous culinary endeavours made him suspicious that the diner had any food rating at all. The smell emanating from the bubbling creation was almost as nauseating as the sights he was taking in. How it didn’t waft out into the main body of the diner was a mystery, but not one he had time to contemplate as the door behind him shook under the impact from a Martian shoulder. Thankfully the tumbled boxes had lent support to the rather flimsy catch to prevent their pursuers access for the time being.

‘Over there at the far end,’ he said to Maia. ‘Through the open doors into the storage area. Let’s move as I don’t know how long these boxes will prevent our Martian friends from gaining entry!’

Hurriedly the two of them passed through the kitchen and exited through the large double doors into the widened storage area which was lined with shelving on both sides and in front of them. As Maddox crossed the threshold he heard shouts from behind and glanced backwards to see the door he had blocked being shoved open and the first of their three pursuers trying to squeeze his torso through the resultant opening gap. To Maddox’s dismay the Martian had the forethought to shove his rifle through before himself and now held the normally two-handed weapon outstretched rather clumsily in the general direction of Maia and Maddox.

Ducking backwards slightly as energy bolts streamed wildly along the length of the kitchen area and splattered against the wall in which the double doors were set, Maddox hurriedly glanced about the door pillars for the control panel which would seal the entrance to the store room.

‘Hey! The door controls are over here on this side!’ Shouted Maia as she too ducked back to avoid falling prey to the wildly fired energy blasts. She had been watching Maddox keenly, her initial impression that he was the more experienced when it came to fleeing from the authorities under threat as there was a nagging suspicion growing in her mind that the majority of this impression he gave off was more from bravado than experience.

‘Well get these doors closed then and cycle the pressure. It will automatically seal the doors preventing those guys from simply opening them from the other side,’ he shouted back a little more earnestly than he intended to, however the distance between them both and the noise he was enduring from repeated fire from the laser rifle simply cajoled a more emphatic response from him almost automatically.

‘Okay! No need to shout,’ was her slightly embittered response as she faced the panel beside her and then keyed the control to seal the doors and cycle the pressure.

‘Now I’ve sealed us into the store room would you care to enlighten me as to how we intend to get out?’ She asked of him keenly, waiting to hear the carefully thought through next step of his escape plan.

Maddox could hear a mix of both fear and frustration present in her voice as she asked the question he was still quickly formulating the answer to. So far she seemed to be going along with him out of deference to his apparent calmness under the circumstances, so the last thing he wanted to actually go and do was to admit he didn’t have any set plan as such, rather he was just making the whole thing up as they went along. He knew that their ticket off this little rock was presently awaiting his call, after which it would be inbound to their position, but it was the bit in-between their current predicament and then sitting in his comfy captain’s chair on the flight deck of his much beloved ship that was confounding things.