Stepan resisted bellowing in surprise as he and Quinn leaped from the platform.
Behind them, he heard Fagin scream for an instant. The sound was cut off as it felt like a wall smashed into him. But instead of crashing, he slowed then slid to the floor of a cargo transport. “I thought you were going to kill me,” he said to Quinn, who sat on the floor of the transport beside him grinning like an idiot.
“It was a bit of a risk and I haven’t practiced that since I was seven, but I didn’t lose my touch! I got us in safe and sound.”
Step stood, brushing his hands. Then he realized that the floor was covered with dried...something dark that smelled vaguely of sewage. He figured it wouldn’t matter if it were on his pants or on the floor. “So where to now?”
“Under the Home Owner’s District, of course. Didn’t you say you wanted to go there?”
“No, you said you knew where we could get an antigrav plate somewhere in the HOD.”
“Well, it’s the only place someone like us can get a thing like that, so we have to go.”
“Like I said, ‘I wanted to go there’.”
Quinn, the Blue Boy shot him a look then grinned. “You got a rotten sense of humor.”
“Not something I was known for.”
“I’ll bet. Let’s go,” he grabbed Stepan’s hand and started off into the darkness. He dropped the hand and kept on, weaving around obstacles, down connecting corridors and finally to a ladder that appeared to lead into the ceiling. He jumped up and hung for a moment and with a deafening squeal, it rolled down from the ceiling. He started up.
“You want me up there, too?”
“Duh. Who do you think is gonna ask OM Gillard to use his magic toy?”
“Me, I’ll bet.” Stepan follow him up into the narrow tube.
“Duh. I gotta stop.”
“You aren’t going to take a leak on me?” Stepan said, alarmed. He had four older brothers in the Earth-Orbit habitat he grew up in. The youngest of eight, he was either babied or battered – depending on what he was doing and was feeling good or bad. His next oldest brother had one time...He buried that memory back where it had come from.
A low-pitched grinding, much smoother than the ladder, came down from above. A moment later, bright light flooded down. Tinged with red, it obviously came from the real surface and Dome cleared of ubiquitous red Martian sand. Which meant only one thing.
Quinn made a noise from above, then his feet suddenly disappeared. Scowling, Stepan followed more slowly. As he poked his head up into the sunlight, a pair of hands darted down and yanked him free and slammed him on to his back, knocking the wind from him, banging his head against the fused-glass floor.
When he finally caught his breath and his vision cleared, he was looking up into the faces of six people. A grizzled old man said, “Who are you? And if you don’t give me the right answer, you’re a dead man.”