“Keep your head down,” Apollo murmured at Artemis. She dropped her head, so the hood fell forward casting a shadow over her face. He nodded at people as they walked past, not that they really cared anyway. The son of the Greek obsessed historians was someone that most people steered clear of. They paid him little attention and even less to the faceless figure walking beside him. She pulled the hood further, just to be sure.
“Here.” He pushed Artemis in through a small door. Once it shut behind them, she threw off her hood.
“I can’t believe it.”
“Well believe it, you are now free.”
“Until they catch us.” She sighed, ditching the hooded robe, it was too hot in the ship to be wearing it.
“They won’t catch us.” He gestured to the door with a small glass port hole. He bunkered down at a small computer typing in lines of code.
Artemis walked over to the door and gasped. “You can’t be serious. Stealing an escape pod.”
He glanced at her. “You stole a rover and destroyed the main hall.”
“That was a political statement.”
“Still landed you locked up,” he said typing the last line and the door beside her hissed and slid open.
She jumped in surprise. “Really though, I don’t understand what you want to achieve by this. We'll struggle to even fly this thing out of here before we are caught and brought back to the Quinten. Then even if we do manage to get away, what then? We float in space until we die?”
Apollo bounded closer and pulled out a small tablet. It omitted a low beep and a dull light flashed slowly on it. “I’ve been in touch with the breakaway colony.”
“What?” she gasped, “No one knows where they ended up, how did you even find them?”
“I have my ways,” he said and she shoved him. “They’ve offered us sanctuary. Once we are safely away from the Quinten, we use this,” he shoved the tablet forward, “to find them.”
“I don’t know, what about Mum and Dad?”
He stepped into the escape pod running his hands over the controls. “They stopped caring what we did as soon as we decided not to be Greek scholars on a space station that has long left that behind.”
She still hesitated.
“Come one Art, this is it. Our chance to get out of here, you always talked about if there was somewhere else and here it is. Somewhere else.”
Behind her alarms rang out through the station, loud and intrusive. They’d discovered her empty cell. With a resigned sigh she followed Apollo into the escape pod. “I trust you,” she said, strapping herself into the co pilot’s seat as he sat in the pilots. The lights of the control panel flickered on and he turned on the pod. It rumbled to life loudly.
“Its louder then I expected,” he yelled to her.
“You know how to fly this?” She gripped her belt.
He shrugged flipping switches. “I read about it.” With that he shot the pod out of its hanger and away from the giant Quinten station.
Almost as soon as they were clear of the ship, tiny unmanned Quinten fighters dispatched themselves and followed them.
“What are we going to do about them?” she asked, “We can’t out fly them or out gun them considering our lack of guns.”
He grimaced, “We just have to.”
Artemis tightened her belt, “Love the confidence.”
The Quinten fighters spread out behind them. A few appeared on their left side, guns aimed. Apollo banked to the right. They turned until more appeared on the right side, then he gunned the thrusters. Yet the fighters kept easy pace with them, guns aimed but not firing.
“They’re herding us,” he said turning to try and blast through the wall of fighters. As soon as their direction changed a barrage of fire from that side, he pulled them back on course. “Definitely herding us.”
Artemis glanced above and below them, fighters there as well. The only clear way was forward. “Maybe if we flipped around and-” she stopped in surprise as the fighters beneath them disappeared. She turned to look behind them, “They stopped. Why did they let us go?”
“Umm we may have a problem.” He was grappling with the controls fruitlessly. “You may want to hold onto something.”
“What is that?” She gulped.
He let go of the controls and gripped the arm rests of his seat. “Black hole.”
Artemis held her breath and closed her eyes as they were sucked in by a strong gravity as the Quinten fighters watched to make sure that they were dead.
There was a thud, then a clunk, then nothing. She opened her eyes in time to see ground rushing up to meet them.
The crash rattled her bones and jolted her. Her body tried to fly through the front window, but the belt held her hard, she could already feel the bruising. Artemis gasped trying to get air back into her lungs as she unclipped the belt and crawled over to Apollo. His head had hit the control panel as they landed, and the cut was gushing blood. It had been a while since she’d practiced as a nurse. She ripped off the bottom of her shirt and pressed the cloth against it. He groaned.
“Yeah,” he grumbled, “what happened?” His eyes blinked rapidly as his eyes rolled around in their sockets.
“We made it through the black hole to who knows where.” She pulled the blood-soaked material away. Artemis relaxed, the cut was shallow. It was bleeding heavily because it was on his head, but it would heal well after the flow was stemmed. She rummaged through the first aid kit that was overturned on the opposite wall. There she found a bandage and gauze that should do the trick.
“What do we do now?” he asked as she finished tending and wrapping the wound. “We don’t even know where we are. We need to get off this planet. The ship may be salvageable, if we can-”
She interrupted, “First we need to move, in case the ship is dangerous from the crash.” Artemis could have sworn she smelt leaking gas, but her brain felt so scattered it was hard to tell. She unclicked his seat belt and helped him stand.
“But we don’t even know where the space suits are.”
“It’s a little late for that,” she nodded at the gash on the side of the ship exposing them to the unknown atmosphere. They walked towards it, through the gap there was flashes of blues, greens and purples. As they moved the tablet fell from Apollo’s pocket. The dull slow flash of light had become fast and bright. It was also beeping shrilly now that it had escaped its fabric prison. They stared at it for a moment. “What does that mean?” she asked quietly.
“It means,” he breathed in wonder, “That we found the breakaway colony.”
First published by Australian Speculative Fiction Group in Stories of Hope