What are Axel and Vortel up to today? Read on to find out.
And find anything you’ve missed on the Short Fiction page.
“What happened?” Vortel asked as they rode the elevator back to the main floor.
Axel took a moment to speak. “Tebin was being his usual friendly self. They were waiting for me at the elevator. Computers and systems I can handle, but taking on a handful of bricks with fists isn’t my forte.” Lines of pain wrinkled his face.
“Glad I was able to help,” Vortel said gruffly.
“Yes, much appreciated, though I don’t think this will improve Tebin’s opinion of us. He already thinks we’re scheming together.” Axel snorted. “That’s why he cornered me in the first place. Wanted to ‘interrogate’ me.”
They reached the main level and headed toward the infirmary, Vortel supporting Axel. “Tebin doesn’t usually look for excuses,” Vortel said. “He must suspect something.”
Axel was silent.
“Which is ridiculous,” Vortel continued. He shot Axel a sideways glance. “You’re a blasted nuisance.”
“I’ll accept that compliment with open arms. I’ve been called much worse.” Axel nodded toward a security door the end of the hall marked Restricted. “What’s in there?”
“Trouble you don’t need to ask for,” Vortel said.
“That’s like telling a computer not to process data. Impossible.” A gleam lit Axel’s eyes.
Vortel let go, and Axel stumbled before catching himself against the wall. “Fine,” Vortel said sharply. “Try to find out, but don’t come to me whining for help. The guards won’t appreciate you snooping around.”
Axel glanced around the hall then leaned forward. “As if they’ve noticed yet.” His wink shifted to a squint of pain. “Onward to the medicine. I don’t suppose they keep a supply of booze on hand? Helps dull the pain.”
“In a prison?” Vortel huffed.
“You’re right—as usual. Coffee it will be.”
Outside the bland double doors, a human guard stopped them. “Hold up. State your injury.” He eyed the drying blood on Vortel’s head and clothes.
“Half toasted like a turkey on Thanksgiving who escaped the oven just in time,” Axel said. “Among other things.”
The guard and Vortel stared at him.
“Bad joke? Sorry, not everyone can keep up with me. It’s not my fault.” He shrugged.
Vortel glared at him then briefly explained the incident.
The guard tapped out the information on his tablet, then scanned the lock on the door with his security card. “Very well. You may enter.” He spoke to the screen. “Security, check out Level Sixteen.”
As Axel limped through the door, he glanced over his shoulder and said, “Don’t have too much fun without me, my man.”
Vortel kept his face stony. “Unlikely.”
Once Axel was gone, he asked, “How long till he’s released?”
“I’m not the doctor,” the guard snapped. “You’re uninjured and have no business here. Move along before I call back-up.”
Vortel headed back to the elevator, turning Axel’s words over in his mind. The troublemaker was just crazy enough to sound halfway serious when he slipped in stupid remarks—like the one about snooping. Vortel clenched his fingers. He was being soft. Why should he pay attention to a man he barely knew?
He was better off forgetting any insinuations Axel had made and moving on. Toward what, though? Another thirty years of exile and regret?
Curse him for a blind Annataran. Everything about Axel was lodged in his mind and refused to budge. If Axel was as good as he—and his criminal record—claimed, was it possible for him to find a chink in P-19’s system?
Vortel glared at a pair of passing robots and waited for the elevator to arrive. He loathed admitting it, but the thought of never again seeing the stern walls and hopelessness of P-19 appealed to him. It was natural, after all. Why shouldn’t he want to escape?
In the elevator, he leaned against the stainless steel wall. “Stop, dammit!” Axel had filled his head with dreams of glory. Last time he’d fallen for that enticement he’d ended up at the wrong end of an assassination gone bad.
As he headed for his room, over the same stretch of floor so familiar he would know if they replaced a single tile, he touched Renya’s locket. Maybe a second chance at life would be worth the risk.
I’d love to know what you think.