True to the tactics he had developed over the course of his time here, and she deciding that anyone who had stayed alive for as long as he had must be doing something right, they waited until NK-525’s patrols moved on to another area before venturing into the halls again. By watching each other’s back, they could work together to accomplish more while they were out. Even so, Justin still didn’t expect to find anything so useful so quickly.
“Hey Justin!” Kato whispered loudly as she peered around the next corner. “Take a look at this!”
About halfway down the hall block, a door lay on the floor in two crudely cut sections, as if they had been cut down from within.
“What happened here?” Kato wondered aloud.
“I sure as hell didn’t do it,” Justin muttered. But this definitely looked like it was done with an energy blade. “And I’m pretty sure you didn’t do it, either.”
“And why’s that?” Kato asked.
“Well, you don’t have a laser sword, do you?”
“Well, no,” Kato confessed, “you’re right. I didn’t do that.”
“Then who…” Justin’s question answered itself as his heart leapt. He rushed into the room, Kato tagging along behind him. As she stood there, struck by her companion’s abrupt change in disposition, he searched through the room for something she didn’t know of.
A room, which to her, looked like a cross between a hospital room and any of several holding cells she had seen in her travels.
“What does this mean?...” Justin muttered as he examined the compartments on the wall, which had all been cut open in the same fashion as the door. It was the pile of clothes— very familiar-looking clothes— that confirmed his theory. “This is Max’s stuff!”
“You mean your friend?”
“Yeah, and he must’ve had his laser sword with him, too,” Justin told her. “That means… he might still be alive!”
Though it left the peculiar question of why he had left his clothes behind. At least until he saw that there was more clothing in some of the compartments. After all, he couldn’t really blame his friend for wanting to change after wearing the same rags for some five years. To say nothing of blending in, since most of these clothes looked like they might actually belong to this place.
“Shh! Keep it down!” Kato hissed. The fact that the doorway behind hung wide open left her feeling especially vulnerable in this place. And something else in this room had caught her attention. “Let’s see what this thing does…”
Seeing the computer terminal built into one wall, Kato walked over to it.
“I wish George was here,” she said flatly. “He’d know how to—”
Then, much to her surprise, the screen lit up without any further prompting, displaying the same sector map it had shown the last time the system was activated.
“A map…” Kato commented, noting their own location, then one particular place caught her eye. “6-D Library… That’s it! That must be where I came in!”
“How do we get there?” The only problem Justin could see was that they couldn’t take this computer with them.
“Let me try this…” Though not the virtuoso adept that George was, Kato did have a passing familiarity with computers. The difference in language was frustrating at first, but it didn’t take nearly as long as it had taken Max for her to get a printout of the map. “This oughta do the trick!”
“Then let’s get our asses in gear.” Justin had spent at least two weeks too long in here, and was more than happy to see an end in sight. Not only did it look possible that Max may already have escaped this nightmare place, it was looking more and more likely.
They were about to make their move, when the by-now familiar sound of marching metallic feet started clomping into earshot. In those first days, patrols had been frequent, and Justin had been especially afraid to leave the vents. As day after miserable day passed, though, they became more and more of a rarity. Even so, Justin’s ears were still tuned to the sound.
“Shit!” they both hissed in near unison.
While Justin, knowing that if the robo-guards caught them, the Enforcer wouldn’t be too far behind, was trying to figure out how to get out of the virtual trap this room constituted, Kato grabbed his arm, dragging him over to a closet near the edge of the room.
“Over here!” she whispered as she shut the door.
As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, for there was the same thin clear strip above this door as there was in the hall closets, he looked around frantically, noting with growing concern that there were no vents in this closet. He tried to make up his mind whether to bolt and try to make a run for a hall closet, or lay low here and hope for the best, since the troop levels were back up with the new alarms, and there was a terrible risk of getting bogged down fighting the robo-guards— or worse, the Junkyard Dogs— while the Enforcer closed in on them from an unknown direction. The thought of getting killed now, when he was so close to escape, was more than he could bear.
And so the two of them just stood there as silently as they could, guns drawn, as sets of metal feet trooped back and forth past the holding cell for some time before dying down again.