“Take her on board and lock her up,” the wounded man said sourly. He turned to the driver and repeated his earlier orders as Katherine was led to a ship docked nearby. Her companion punched in a code on the cargo bay doors and waited.
A mock sinister voice came over the intercom, “Who goes there?”
“Just open the door and can the crap, Babe,” Katherine’s keeper said in a tight voice. The door seal hissed as it was released and the large steel panel began to lower. Katherine and the man stepped back until the door had settled on the ground, then, he pulled her forward and into the belly of the ship. She looked back over her shoulder to see the door slowly rising again, closing off her escape.
“See ya got her,” a cheery voice said. The man attached to the voice stepped from beneath the metal stairs on the right. He reminded Katherine of a bear and she instinctively took a step back but was stopped by the hand holding her. As he drew close, Katherine saw that the man was easily the most intimidating person she had ever met. The top of her head only reached to his chest and he was a mass of muscle. A long braid of blonde hair snaked over his huge shoulder and his face was half hidden behind a full beard.
“Yeah, near perfect job,” the man beside her said as he pulled off his mask. His black hair had been cut in a fade and left to curl slightly on top. Close cut sideburns that reached his jaw line were the only facial hair he sported.
The blonde giant whistled, “Who gave you the shiner, buddy boy?” Katherine looked smugly at her captor, taking in the large bruise spreading around one of his glass green eyes. He caught her expression and tightened his hand around her arm. Her smile faltered into a wince as she felt a bruise of her own forming.
“The little princess here packs a punch,” he said and eased his grip slightly. Katherine narrowed her eyes, wanting to grind the heel of her white boot into his toes.
“Where’s the captain and Akio?” the blonde man, presumably called Babe, asked.
The dark haired man began to lead Katherine away as he said, “Captain’s just outside so wait here until he knocks. Akio went to return the car.”
“Hey, Caleb,” Babe called, “I think we got some meat in the kitchen, put something on that eye soon.” His laugher echoed through the cargo hold as the man and woman ascended the stairs and left. Caleb mumbled a curse but refused to answer Babe’s teasing.
He guided Katherine along a track-lit hall and then through the dining area. She tried to look around and memorize her way, but Caleb walked too quickly and she had to trot just to keep from tripping. “Can you slow down?” she finally asked.
“You can rest when you get to where we’re going,” he replied tersely.
Katherine scowled at him, but stayed silent. After leaving the dining area, they moved down another hall and then stopped at a narrow steel door. Strangely, this door was not electronic, but had an old fashioned handle. Caleb pulled down the handle and opened the door onto a tiny room. He tapped a panel just inside and light flooded the closetlike area. A wire frame cot had been set up but otherwise the room was completely bare.
He pushed her into the small compartment and the closed the door soundly again. Katherine heard a click and immediately tried to pull down the handle on her side, but her hand met with empty air. Where the inside handle should have been there was nothing but a smooth round panel. Numbly, Katherine sat on the squeaky cot. A glance around showed her nothing that could help her escape. The vent in the ceiling let in air, but it was much too small for her to climb through. “Think, Katherine, think,” she ordered herself. She had to try and get off the ship before they launched.
Katherine looked around the room more carefully, hoping to find something that she could use. But still, nothing appeared to her. The only chance she had would be to escape when they opened the door, but, by then, they would be in space and she would be trapped. At that moment, she heard a sound that made her stomach drop. The propulsion system hummed to life and the light in her room flickered slightly. Fighting a rush of icy panic, Katherine strained her ears to catch any movement outside her door. All she heard, though, was the pump of the engine as it fired up and hefted the ship into the air.
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