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Sennett was never sure later how they got back to the hotel. Godfrey led the way the whole time, talking casually with the people they interacted with and shepherding her towards the pods. They didn’t speak to each other the whole way back.
Once they reached the hotel, they both went to their individual rooms and started packing. They had decided, without discussing it, that the time had come to go.
April and Mason were laying on April’s bed, watching a movie on the wall screen. Liam was sitting on the other bed, looking down at his wrist pad. “Guess things didn’t go well,” he said.
“Could have gone a lot better,” Sennett said. “Start packing, we’re leaving right now.”
“Mommy, what happened?” April asked.
“I’ll tell you later, Baby,” Sennett said, throwing the last of her clothes in her suitcase. “Can you go around and make sure all of your stuff is packed, please? I don’t want to leave anything behind.”
Bailey seemed to have picked up on Sennett’s worry. He jumped down from the bed and sat next to the door, as though to show that he was indeed ready to leave.
Liam and Mason as well didn’t need to be told. They started packing right away. April whined for a few minutes that she wanted to finish her movie first. But she soon saw that was getting no traction.
Sennett was crawling under the bed, retrieving a building set that April had dropped when Godfrey came in. “I knew I should have left this to you in the first place. I was trying to move up our ship reservation, and I can’t do it.”
“Why, what’s it doing?” Sennett asked as Godfrey held up his pad for her inspection.
“It’s not letting me move the appointment up,” he replied.
Mason came to the doorway, sighing. “You can’t just say ‘it’s not letting me’, old man. Describe what it’s doing.” He grabbed Godfrey’s arm and wrenched it around to look at the screen.
“See, what it’s actually doing is freezing when you try to click on the reschedule button. Was that too advanced for you?”
“Can you knock it off, Tech Head?” Godfrey snapped, pulling his arm from Mason’s grasp. “Maybe something’s wrong with my wrist pad.”
“No way, I just looked it over before we left for this trip,” Mason replied.
“Maybe it’s because I made the original appointment,” Sennett said. She pulled up the site herself and tried to reschedule the reservations.
The site didn’t freeze, but instead gave her a message, complete with a sad looking space ship cartoon.
‘Our scheduling tool is currently unavailable. Please visit again soon,’ the crying spaceship said.
“Shit,” Sennett muttered. “I think we’ll have to go down there and change the reservation in person.”
“I’ll come with you,” Liam said.
“Can I come too?” April asked.
“Sure,” Sennett said. “Mason, Godfrey, can you look around and make sure we didn’t forget anything?”
“Should we let Gene know we’re leaving early?” Mason asked.
Liam snorted. “Hell no.”
Sennett, Liam, April, and Bailey climbed inside the pod. April sat between Liam and Sennett, with Baily on her lap. She leaned her head against Sennett. Liam put his arm over the little girl, resting his hand on Sennett’s shoulder. She glanced over at him, giving him a small smile.
“Mommy,” April said, “Did Howie die?”
“What? Why would you ask that?” Sennett snapped.
Liam sat up straight. “How did you hear that?” he asked.
April shrugged. “You and Uncle Mason were watching something. I was worried Mommy might have been hurt.”
“What happened?” Sennett asked.
Liam gave her an apologetic look. “There was a news story before you got back about an accident at Howie’s studio. They’re putting out that he killed himself.”
“He didn’t kill himself. Soldiers stormed the building and murdered him,” Sennett said. “That’s why we’re getting the hell out of here before they realize we were involved.”
April’s lower lip trembled. She held Bailey tight. “Are we in trouble?” she asked.
Sennett pulled the child close. “Honey, I think everyone’s in trouble. But do you know what? We’re just going to keep right on fighting. And if we’re all fighting together, we’ll win in the end.”
“Why?” April asked.
“Because that’s just how it has to be,” Sennett said.
“That’s not how it has to be,” Liam said. “We could lose.”
“Liam,” Sennett snapped, but he shook his head at her.
“Don’t lie to her, Sen. It don’t do no good. We might lose, and the universe won’t even notice. But, just because we might lose don’t mean we should stop fighting. It’s actually all the more reason why we should fight as hard as we can. Because if we think we can’t lose, there’s no reason to try.”
The pod came to a stop. They climbed out, and Sennett picked April up. She looked around the crowd, shaking her head. “We’re going to have a hell of a time getting through this.”
Liam looked down at Bailey. “Are we going to lose this damn dog in this crowd?” he asked.
“Maybe? Do you want to carry him?” she asked.
Liam looked down at Bailey, who looked up at him. “If it’ll let me pick it up,” he said and bent down to scoop him up. Bailey didn’t wriggle but reached its nose up to gently sniff at Liam’s chin.
They headed for the reservation desk for the shuttles. There was a small crowd of people there, all of them looking irritated. “Excuse me, what’s going on?” Sennett asked one woman at the back of the crowd.
“They’re closed,” the woman snapped, waving a hand at the desk. “They’ve got a sign up saying they’ll be back soon, but we’ve been waiting half an hour already.”
Sennett looked past the crowd. There was indeed a flashing sign on the desk, apologizing for the inconvenience and stating that someone would arrive shortly to assist the waiting patrons.
“We should get out of here,” Liam said. He was glancing around them. “I don’t think it’s an accident, Sen.”
“No, neither do I,” Sennett replied. There were officers dotting the crowd. They didn’t seem to be looking towards them, but that didn’t mean anything. Sennett knew that from experience.
“Let’s grab something to eat and head back to the hotel,” Liam said. “I’m starting to not feel right here.”
“Me too,” Sennett said. She adjusted how she was holding April on her hip, and they headed for a collection of food kiosks nearby.
“What do you want to eat, Baby?” Sennett asked.
“I dunno,” April said. She wriggled. “Can I get down now?”
The crowd around the food stalls wasn’t as bad as the rest of the level. Sennett sat April down but took hold of her hand.
“Maybe we could grab burgers?” Liam asked. “Just something quick.”
“That’s a good-,” Sennett began, but suddenly someone behind her whistled. She turned, to see Russell aiming a weapon at her. His other hand was casually tucked into his jacket pocket.
“Hey, Sis,” he said, grinning. “Been trying to get in touch with you for a while.”
“April, get behind me,” Sennett said, pulling the child behind her.
Russell laughed. “I’m not going to hurt her. I’m her Uncle. Besides, she’s a kid. She doesn’t know you’re making her a traitor. But her grandparents will teach her right.”
Russell stood straight, preparing to fire.
Bailey jumped, grabbing Russell’s wrist and dragging him to the ground. He shook, digging his metal teeth in deeper as Russell screamed and tried to pull away from the dog. He dropped his weapon and tried to pry Bailey off of him.
Sennett jumped forward and grabbed the weapon. Liam pulled a second one from Russel’s belt before he could reach it.
“Where the fuck do you get off, calling me your sister?” she growled.
“Get this fucking dog off me!” Russell screamed.
“No,” she replied. “Answer me.”
“I’m you’re brother, damn it! Our mother’s name is Meryl, she’s the leader of The Core. I came here to take April to her, so she could raise her right.”
“You egotistical liar,” Sennett snapped. But it was hard to argue with him. As he looked up at her in pain, she saw the same gold flecks in his eyes that she saw in her own.
A handful of police officers were running towards them through the crowd.
Liam sat his weapon on the ground and put his hands behind his head. Bailey didn’t let go of Russell’s wrist until an officer got her hands on him. Only then did he sit, blood dripping from his mouth.
“You okay, Sen, April?” Liam asked.
“We’re fine,” Sennett said. Liam started to lower his hands, but an officer pointed a weapon at him.
“Liam Walsh keep your hands up,” she said.
“Whoa,” Liam said, slowly putting his hands behind his head again.
“Officer, it’s fine,” Sennett said. “Liam is under my protection. I have special permission to travel with him, from Commissioner-.”
“Ma’am, I don’t give a damn what commissioner you have permission from,” the soldier said, pulling a set of cuffs from her belt. “Mr. Walsh, you’re under arrest. Lumez, grab the AI.”
Another soldier walked forward and dropped a metallic net around Bailey. “Hey, don’t do that to him!” April screamed, running for the woman. She grabbed the net and tried to pull it out of the soldier’s hand. Sennett reached for her, just as the soldier raised a hand to hit the girl.
“What is going on here!”
Akiko, dressed in a red cocktail dress with her hair flowing in an onyx waterfall along her back. She was storming towards the group, her heels clicking on the floor.
“You are not allowed on the station, and I am tired of telling you that,” Akiko said. “I’ll be reporting you to your supervisor.”
“Councilwoman, we’re here under orders,” the soldier said, putting handcuffs on Liam.
“Akiko, this has got to be some kind of mistake,” Sennett said. “Liam is not dangerous, and Bailey is-.”
“You don’t have to tell me, Sennett,” Akiko said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Young woman, put that dog down and call your supervisor right this minute.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” the soldier said.
“Sen, stop them!” Liam cried. “Call Schultz or something.”
But the next moment the officers vanished, taking Liam and Bailey with them.
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole C. Luttrell
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.