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Zipping Around the Cosmos
A few stunned moments later, Layla hovered into Adam’s field of view. She seized his shoulders and shook him, a distinct edge of panic revealing itself in the action. “Hey! Are you all right?”
Adam pushed himself into a sitting position. He looked down, and it became clear from his physical appearance, in addition to the rather pleasant fact he was still alive, that he hadn’t been shot. The book that had fallen by Adam now lay open on the floor, and several pages were torn. It didn’t take a genius to realize that, in his futile attempt to escape the blast of the phaser, he’d tripped over the book. The wall behind him had a new charred crater, and the smell of burnt paint wafted across the room. The fall, which should have been embarrassing, actually saved his life. “Yeah, I am.”
Layla wrapped her arms around him, squeezing so tight he couldn’t move. “You scared me. Don’t do that again!” She sounded as though she was on the verge of tears, but she held it together.
“I’ll try not to,” Adam promised. Then his synapses kicked into gear, the initial shock dissipating in light of a far larger concern. “Bibble! What happened to him?”
“Come see,” Layla said, offering Adam a hand.
She led him to the other side of Bibble’s desk, where the wild-eyed magistrate sat on the floor, drool running down his chin. His eyestalks had twirled into a braid from which they couldn’t seem to untangle. The syringe was still buried in his neck.
“You got him!” Adam’s tension was washed away by an overwhelming sense of relief.
“We got him,” Layla corrected.
“It worked so quickly.”
Layla grinned. “No. The nanos take time to do their magic, so the syringe was also loaded with sedatives.”
“Brilliant,” Adam acknowledged. “So, that was it? We’re done?”
Layla shook her head. “I need to call the rebels in here and have them come collect Bibble. Then we’re done.”
“I just . . . I thought it would take longer than this. All that planning leading up to this moment, and it was over in a couple of minutes.”
“That’s because we planned well,” Layla replied.
“I guess.” Perhaps Adam was spoiled by movies and total immersion games where the final conflict often took a minimum of ten minutes. Or books, where the climax spanned a number of pages, embarking on a number of twists, turns, dips, and dizzying highs.
This . . . was certainly not that. Yet it was a conclusion nonetheless.
When the rebels arrived, a few of them seemed genuinely disappointed that there hadn’t been a glorious battle, but most of them were simply happy for it to be done. They hauled Bibble to his feet, whose drugged smile and limp, tangled eyestalks made him seem so ridiculous no one could quite believe he’d ever posed a danger to anyone.
Adam and Layla decided to take a walk along the streets of Dyntaxi Prime before heading back to the ship. The sidewalks were paved with emerald green stones, which paired surprisingly well with the golden sky overhead. During his first visit here, he hadn’t had the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of this world. Yet now, as he took in the sights, it only fueled his uncertainty.
“I’m not sure what I want to do with my life now,” Adam said softly, shoving his hands deep in his pockets. “I could try to go back to my normal life once the details get sorted out here, but all my things have already been sold. I’m sure someone else already has my old job. One way or another, I have to start all over again.”
Layla slipped her hand into his. “You want something different, don’t you? This whole ordeal, as odd and dangerous as it was, made you want more, didn’t it?”
“It did,” he admitted.
“You could come with me instead.” Layla shrugged. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do now, but I have a spaceship. We could spend our time zipping around the cosmos, seeing where life leads us. It could be fun.”
The prospect filled Adam with the kind of excitement he only recalled feeling as a kid. “All right. I’ll stay as long as you can stand me.”
* * * * *
George, sickened by the idea of sharing close quarters with two lovebirds long term, departed to find his own way. “If you need me, you know where to find me. Just try not to need me,” he told Layla grumpily before she beamed him down to the surface of Warmickan 3.
A week passed. Adam and Layla had already visited two worlds on the fringe of the Federation in search of new sights. They were in transit to a third when they received a transmission from Dyntaxi Prime. Layla read it first. Her jaw dropped as she perused the text.
“What is it?” Adam asked as he walked into the cockpit.
“It’s a message from the new magistrate,” she replied. “It says that he’s grateful for our service to the Federation, and that Bibble is doing well in his new prison cell.” She paused. “He’d also like to remind you that you owe a fine for the nudity complaints lodged against you while you were in custody.”
Adam was dumbfounded. “They wouldn’t let me get dressed! How can they fine me for that?” He shook his head. “It looks like my bad luck is returning.”
Layla laughed. “Oh well. At least it’ll keep things interesting.”