The gravity of the situa.., p.1
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       The Gravity of the Situation, p.1

           Tina Shelton
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The Gravity of the Situation
The Gravity of the Situation

  by Tina Shelton

  To Cecily, Jim, and Kaimi, who turned a hot mess into a fun ride.

  The Gravity of the Situation

  Anacrusis Press

  Copyright by Anacrusis Press 2013

  All Rights Reserved

  Cover Art by Heather Gross

  All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is coincidental.

  Anacrusis Press

  PO Box 701191

  Louisville, KY 40202

  Anacrusis Press in cooperation with the author Tina Shelton, is pleased to offer the short story, “The Gravity of the Situation,” free of charge. Feel free to distribute this story to anyone who might enjoy it, but please do not modify any of its contents.

  For editions in other formats, press related information, or other inquiries please contact [email protected]

  Syrah hugged the hallway wall, feeling unsteady and looking over her shoulder with every perceived sound. Her silver-white hair was matted with blood. A lab coat draped over her like a captured swan, covering the little she wore beneath it. Syrah decided to be grateful for what she had, and work on acquiring a gun.

  The alarms hadn’t gone off yet, but she was certain when the doctor woke to find her missing, that he'd sound it immediately. She found an unmarked corridor and slipped into it, looking for security cameras. Each one had been motionless, with no blinking lights to indicate they were working. She wasn't sure how long that would last either, so she kept moving. The service corridor floor sloped down, making her feel more unsteady. Her bare feet made little noise against the ceramcrete tiles. She looked over her shoulder, expecting guards at any moment to try to stop her.

  The corridor ended in a heavy door with a small reinforced glass window. Cautiously she looked out to see what was beyond. Guards lounged on the other side of the door, engaged in conversation. She leaned back before anyone saw her through the window. Concentrating, she imagined herself far away from this place. Nothing happened. She sighed, and concentrated again, this time on a spot just behind the guards. Nothing.

  She hissed between her teeth. “Not even across a room?”

  From what she'd noticed, the room beyond the door was a big, gray ceramcrete station. She chanced a look out of the window, and saw one guard walking away from the other one's post. She wondered if she’d happened upon a shift change. The room they were in appeared to be some kind of bay or workspace. It was largely open except for stout pillars to hold up the roof. There weren’t any windows. The air temperature was cool, suggesting to Syrah that some part of it was underground. The floor sloped back up as they walked to the double doors. Syrah kept her eyes open for any other signs of guards.

  Not long after the guard left, a slave entered the station. Judging from how gangly she was, Syrah pegged her as a young teenager. The girl carried a stack of sheets. Syrah watched as the guard flagged the slave down. She froze, becoming as still as a deer that had scented a wolf. He motioned for her to drop the sheets. They slid from her fingers. Syrah didn't need to see her face to see how defeated the girl looked.

  Before she'd even realized that she'd pushed the door open, Syrah was halfway towards the pair. The girl turned to stare at her, but the guard didn’t turn until he noticed the direction of the girl's gaze. He turned into Syrah's strike, the heavy plastic of his helmet shattering as Syrah’s fist landed. His neck snapped back and his eyes rolled up in his head from the force of the blow. He dissolved to the ground in a boneless heap, atop the skewed sheets.

  The girl looked up at Syrah, her expression a blend of terror and wonder.

  “Do you know the way out of here?” Syrah crouched over the guard’s body and began to disarm him as quickly as possible. She took his vest and quickly stripped off her coat to put it on. The pockets were heavy with gear, which made her happy. She slipped the long coat back on, and noticed the girl hadn't responded. “Well, do you?”

  The girl nodded, but her eyes never left the guard, who was still breathing.

  “Do you want to leave this place?” Syrah stood, flicking the bolt gun on to charge the capacitors.

  She kept watching the guard, obviously thinking him still a threat. "Yes."

  “He's hurt you before.” She didn't ask. She'd seen this before. Syrah looked over her shoulder, aware that precious moments burned as she spoke.

  The girl nodded, her thin lips pressed together.

  In a smooth motion, Syrah aimed the gun and shot the guard. The girl winced when she heard the gun’s soft zap. The guard twitched once and then moved no more. Syrah held out her hand to the girl. “He won't ever hurt you again. My name's Syrah, and we have to go."

  “Pura.” The girl took her hand, didn't resist when Syrah pulled her along.

  “I don’t know where I am, Pura. I need to get out of here.” Syrah looked at the girl. She was small for her age, but her eyes were much older than her face. Her hair reminded Syrah of wheat straw. Her eyes were dark and furtive. Syrah hoped that she hadn’t saddled herself with someone useless; but Pura's ability to continue after seeing death so close and personal was a mark in her favor.

  “That way.” Pura pointed toward a set of double doors.

  The double doors had glass insets, and Syrah looked to see what was on the other side. A grin curled the edges of her lips as her eyes feasted on a double row of vehicles. Land bikes, hover bikes, transports, sleek hovercraft, and sturdy JPS four-wheel drive.

  The lights flickered, dimmed, and emergency lights switched on. The alarm sounded, a teeth-grating noise that ripped through the bay, and Pura put her hands over her ears. Syrah strode forward, not looking to see if the girl followed. She ran up to the sleek and shiny hovercraft, and hopped in over the side. She flipped switches and looked at the fuel indicator. The power cells were at half charge. It would have to be good enough. As soon as she had that thought, the lights dimmed and alarms began to sound.

  Pura looked at Syrah, alarmed.

  "You didn't think we were just going to walk out of here now, did you?" Syrah strapped herself into the driving harness.

  Pura clambered into the hovercraft, looking behind her. As if summoned, the doors flew open, and guards poured in towards them. Several of them drew weapons and opened fire.

  “Get down low. Can you shoot?” Syrah hit the ignition switch.

  "I've been shown a gun once." Pura's voice wavered uncertainly.

  “It’s easy. Point the small triangle where you want the bolt to go, preferably the center of mass. Then, squeeze the trigger.” Syrah demonstrated, felling a guard. “Like that.”

  She handed the gun at Pura and set herself to coaxing the heavy outer doors to open and reveal their escape. The security here was violent, aggressive, and prone to deadly measures. The dull blue of the console flashed a disapproving red each time she failed entering the password. She felt a tremor begin in her hand. She clenched her fist as the wave rolled across her, shaking her down to her bare feet. She looked back to see if Pura noticed. The girl watched out the back window as guards closed the gap.

  Stabbing at the console, Syrah willed the override to work. The blue console lights flashed their approval, and the heavy doors that barricaded them from freedom parted reluctantly. Syrah hit the console and gunned the throttle, sending a blast of pressurized air against the ground. Rear thrusters kicked on, propelling them forward. The heavy outer doors moved ponderously, and Pura gasped and threw on her safety harness as Syrah drove towards them at speed. There was a grinding noise as hovercraft sides scraped the slowly moving doors.

  "We made it!" Pura sounded relieved.
br />   "We've got a ways to go before we can say that." Syrah saw the console light up as they became the target of several heavy weapons.

  The brilliant light of the double suns outside blinded Syrah when she looked away from the console. She banked hard, and Pura yelped. Syrah reached forward and grabbed a pair of goggles with tinted lenses hanging from a visor. She pulled them over her eyes and blinked back tears. Her problems kept mounting as ground craft mobilized below. Little yellow bolts of light flew at them, hit the side of the hovercraft and sizzled. Syrah looked up and saw nothing sharing the sky with them. She gave it three minutes for that to change.

  “Which way to the starport?” She asked Pura.

  Pura looked out the window. "I heard it has two towers."

  Scanning the horizon, Syrah saw two towers glittering off in the distance. She had no way to judge the distance, but at least she had a direction.

  Below, JPS rumbled over the ground in formation. The hovercraft’s detection screen indicated multiple targeting systems being brought to bear on them.

  “I hate flying atmo.” Syrah opened the thrusters as far as they would go. And in less than three minutes, two guards flew up to them in tiny craft called skiffs. They swooped in to flank her. Their black-and-silver rigs shone in the sun, the triangle profile of their wings pointed straight at them. Syrah
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