“I still don’t like him,” Ajay complained. “Why’d he have to go and blow the shuttle?”
“It was a piece of crap anyhow,” Jocelyn said. “We weren’t going anywhere in that.”
“So you say. You’re acting kind of friendly though,” he added, glaring at Jocelyn and Row. “You sure you ain’t met before? Planned this whole thing out?”
“You’re one suspicious bastard,” Row said. “Sure, this was a great plan!”
“Shut the fuck up,” Sten groaned. He was rubbing at his ears.
“The blast knocked something loose?” Palmer grinned at him.
“So, what do we do now?” Ajay said, still mad. “Find us another ship and total it? Hell, we’re never getting off here!”
“Lighten up,” Row said, maybe unwisely. Ajay roared and ran at him. Sten’s fist shot out and Ajay went down, spitting dirt and blood.
“Ow, my tooth!”
“Stop being such an asshole,” Sten told him. “That shuttle was for shit. As for what we do next, I reckon we oughta leave. I think we outstayed our welcome.” He nodded his head at the ruined settlement.
Dazed individuals were getting to their feet, pointing and scowling at the five of them. A man with blood running down his face from a cut in his forehead picked up a length of broken pipe and shook it. The rest also seemed to be hunting around for ammunition. They didn’t look like they were about to listen to reason. Most seemed as if they were angry enough to run at them, guns or no guns; and that was an awful lot of insanely furious settlers.
“Start shooting?” Palmer suggested. He’d picked up Gray’s machine gun and touched the strap on his shoulder.
“What, all of them?” Jocelyn said. A metal bowl landed at her feet and bounced over the rocks. A length of wood landed near Palmer and more random objects plummeted down, hurled by the angry settlers. Shouts and curses followed and a couple started to edge forwards, brandishing whatever they’d managed to lay their hands on in the wrecked camp.
“Run?” Row said.
“Run,” Sten agreed.
“Fuck that!” Ajay said, wiping his mouth but Palmer grabbed him as the rest of them started running. Ajay stumbled a few steps but gave it up and shook off Palmer’s hand, keeping up. The shouts and missiles got left behind. The settlers had apparently decided they had enough to do without chasing them for miles across the plains. They ran until Sten bent over suddenly and puked and Ajay sat down puffing and panting and clutching dramatically at his chest. Palmer was red in the face and very little better off then Sten. Row and Jocelyn exchanged a glance.
“Give us a break,” Palmer panted. “We’re not…all…work-out…freaks.”
“I’m dyin,” Ajay said. “Think I’d rather have gotten shot.”
“That would suit you,” Jocelyn said. “Then we’d have to carry you I guess.”
“I bloody wouldn’t,” Sten said. He wiped his mouth and spat. “Well, they ain’t following. We can slow down a bit.”
“Yeah, slow down,” Palmer agreed. “I’m not running a marathon.”
“So that was your plan? To steal their shuttle? Nothing else?” Row said.
“That was it,” Jocelyn said. “We’re sophisticates. One step at a time, ok?” She stared at Row and rolled her eyes. “You’d have done better, I suppose?”
“We’ve been wandering around in this godforsaken hole for too long,” Sten said. “That’s our main objective right there – getting out of here. You’re here on sufferance. I’d watch what I was sayin, if I was you. ”
“Yeah, who the hell are you anyhow?” Ajay said. He stood up, dusting himself down, all trace of tiredness gone.
“Row,” Row said. “Tom Rowlands. And I know all of you. I’ve been here almost exactly as long as you have. I’ve watched you eat and sleep. Shit, I’ve even watched you takin a crap. And not one of you had the smallest idea I was even there. And if we’re talking plans. If we’re talking about the future here. I reckon I got something that you’d all of you give your eyes to be a part of.”
“I told you! I fucking told you!” Ajay cried, slapping his leg. “It’s a set up!”
“You watched me takin a crap?” Palmer said, glowering. “You some kinda pervert?”
“I didn’t watch you,” Row said to Jocelyn.
“Liar!” she grinned.
“Shut up, the lot of you,” Sten boomed. “Right, let’s look at this here. What have we got? A couple of guns, all of em low and some of em empty. Food for what? Two days? Water for three. And the five of us. That ain’t much.” He nodded at Row. “Ok, we’ll hear you. But this better be good, because I’m definitely running short of patience.”
“I still don’t like it Boss,” Ajay said.
“You don’t have to fucking like it. You just have to fucking listen,” Sten said.
“Well, the suspense is just about killing me,” Jocelyn said with deep sarcasm. “What have you got?”
“You got the first part already,” Row said.
“And what’s that?” Palmer asked.
“Wait,” Ajay said. “Don’t tell me. I can feel this flash, of like psychic power. We’re gonna steal a ship, right? Am I right?”
“We-ell, there was a little more to it than that…” Row said.
“So genius, you going to tell us where we can find one?” Jocelyn swung her arms out at the vast, featureless rocky plain.
“I like this plan already,” Palmer said in a dry tone.
“There’s more,” Sten looked at Row, sizing him up. “Tell me there’s more.”
“There’s a whole lot more,” Row grinned. “And as for finding us a ship, I know just the place. You don’t have to trust me. You can see for yourselves. What am I goin to do? One against four?”
“Could be a trap,” Palmer said.
“Could be,” Sten said. “Could be a lot a things. Could be our ticket out. What do you say?” He glanced around the group, eyebrows raised.
“Ok Boss,” Jocelyn said, shrugging.
“We don’t have much of an option,” Palmer said.
“We’re all gonna get dead,” Ajay said. “But shit, I’m not stayin here on my own. If you guys are in then so am I. Just so long as you all know I’ve got reservations.”
“I think we all know,” Jocelyn said.
“Right then, we’re doing this,” Sten said. “Debate time is over. Lead the way,” he said to Row.
“Ok then,” Row rubbed his hands together. “Let’s go and find a ship.”