About The Laws of Space
The Laws of Space
Chapter 13: The Obligatory Cave Reunification Scene
Lerner Merchant and Travers Webb were on their knees, side by side. They knew nothing—the only information conveyed to them by their captors had been instructions—stand up, walk, stop, etc. Still covered by coarse bags from crown to neck, wrists bound behind, it was becoming torturous. Exiting the cart, Webb could tell that they had walked across some soft, untrammeled terrain. Then down. Down had a way of making him feel uneasy. Down was rarely good news.
“Trav, what the heck is going on?” It was the first time Lerner had spoken coherently since their abduction. Until then he’d been rigidly shivering in terror—
Webb could smell the urine.
“You know what? I should have known,” Travers said, spitting out burlap fibers from the bag. The lack of vision meant he was talking more to the wall than to Lerner.
“You’ve been conspicuously silent throughout this entire situation. I haven’t had much to do, so all the time we were being transported, barked at, walked, and pushed around, I had to find something with which to while away.”
“So—during all that time, however long it’s been, I happened upon something. Though not productive, it was at least mildly diverting.”
“Webb, please tell me what’s going on.” A little more pee came out as Lerner squeaked out his whiny appeal.
“So in my mind I pushed aside just enough fear to make room for a little game, call it a wager.” He spit some more. “Call me insane, but I’ve been sitting here for Space knows how long, betting on what you’d say first. I had a huge chunk of credits on What the heck is going on, but then I balked. My final guess was Webb, I’m hungry. Eh—should always go with your first instinct.”
“Well, we’re bound and shrouded in a miserable, humid repository somewhere underneath the ground, I think. Then there’s the fact I’m forced to endure the pangs of captivity with you and only you—I’ve got to say, it’s a nightmare.”
“It’s not a nightmare.”
“Who’s there?” cried Webb. The voice was foreign. The only words he could expect were Lerner’s, but they weren’t his. Webb adjusted his brain enough to realize that it wasn’t foreign—just unexpected. As he began to speak the hood was removed from his head and his wrists were unbound. Quickly acclimating his vision to the dank environment, he saw his friend standing before him, patented smile and all. The grin which precipitated so many verbal jabs was now a warm welcome to Webb, a sign that their ordeal was ending.
“Alder!” crowed Lerner. His hood too had been removed and his frazzled appearance went well with the unrestrained joy at seeing a friend.
“What are you smiling at, by the way?” asked Webb, dusting off his pants and shirt.
“I’m sorry,” said Tate. “I was only here for a moment, but seeing you give him the third degree through a burlap sack was pure—not sure I know the word for it.”
“Ah, screw you.”
“Hey. I got beat up,” Alder said, walking toward Merchant to make sure he was okay.
“Yeah. Beat up.” Tate wore a face of bruises and pride—for a moment it silenced his intractable friend.
“Beat up,” Webb repeated, shaking off stiffness. “These people. Who the Space they think they are?”
“I think you know the answer to that question. That is, if you’re the clever one.” The charge came from behind, and Travers turned to see a woman obscured in the shadows. Looking down at her hand he could see the bindings. She must have been the one to release them.
“The Ones Between.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that’s the name for it,” she said, walking briskly by. For a moment the three friends were united and alone.
“She’s pretty,” Lerner said.
“Quiet. Where are we, Alder? Why are we here? What do they want from us?”
“I think it’s their lair, or home, or one of them. As far as why, I have no idea. That lady, her name’s Adelyne—she said that we are to meet the Old Man and somebody called Walsh.”
“Oh yeah, the Old Man and Walsh. Why didn’t you say so? I somehow thought that being purloined from our home to some hinterland cave was weird, but as long as we see the Old Man and Walsh—”
“What do you want me to say?”
“Webb, what do you want him to say?” Lerner echoed.
Before he could respond, Alder put a hand on Webb’s shoulder. Travers flailed and parried, looking down at his palm to turn off the signal that would vaporize his friend. In the darkness he panted, staring and staring.
“Nothing,” he said.
“Yeah, apparently the signals don’t reach out this far.”
“So we’re like the ones from the time before,” Merchant said, dumbfounded.
“Or like the Ones Between,” Tate smiled. “I know, the whole thing’s crazy, but I figured if they wanted to do us harm, they would’ve done it already.”
“No problem,” Webb said, stepping with feigned gallantry out of the shadows. “This exact thing happened to me last week.”