RED PLANET STOWAWAY CH.7 - CONTINUE TO THE HILTON
By Tomara Armstrong
You stare blankly at the map. Choices, choices.
I’m really not hero material, you think. You remember the time you were sitting in counting class and little Sally Baker smashed a spider on your desk – you passed out and three kids from your class had to carry you to the school nurse.
After debating it, you bite your lip and decide to go for it. You don’t technically have to be the hero to follow the three musketeers and Bob in the car in front of you, right? You could just absorb some of their information and seek out a “real” hero later.
“I guess I’m going to the Hilton, then.” You glance around the compartment for something—anything— you can use, but the only thing you find is a travel blanket and a pillow. You strip off your NOSSA regulation hat and shirt and stuff them under your seat. You slide the Team Earth hat onto your head, tie the blanket around your neck forming a makeshift cape, and shove the pillow case into your pants— just in case you need it later.
You sit and wait, watching as Cydonia looms closer. The city is massive. You have to give the Martians some credit; their architecture is amazing. Skyscrapers tower over you on both sides. They appear to be of smooth stone–-no seams or imperfections, just solid polished rock. Now that you think about it, you’re pretty sure you read somewhere that the city was created from the top down. Cydonia was carved out of the Martian soil, like an archaeological dig site on Earth; years of gradually peeling away each layer, creating the city using grids and complex math.
You consider using the sensory device in your car to further research this impressive city, but there is no time. The shuttle car pulls into the Hilton, and you prepare to exit the automated vehicle.
You watch as Malloy and company leave their car. You try to follow, but trip over your cape and stumble out of your car. Luckily, no one was paying attention. You follow them through the giant glass doors into the grand lobby of the Hilton.
A small grey-haired woman bumps into you and sneers; you are apparently in her way. The blue dog in her arms starts to bark and growl at you. You rush quickly into the bar off the lobby in hopes of not drawing any more attention.
At the bar you watch Malloy’s crew in your peripheral. They are standing in the lobby discussing something.
“Can I get you a drink, buddy?” The bartender appears in front of you.
“Uh, sure…” you say glancing at Saleen, who is clutching the front of Bob’s shirt, her face mere inches from his. “Whatever you’ve got.”
The bartender pulls a green bottle etched with Martian deities off the shelf, grabs a tall shot glass from under the counter, and pours. “You a super hero?” he asks as he slides you the drink.
“Nah… I’m training to be one though.”
“Really?” The bartender asks without a fraction of interest.
“No…” you say staring into your shot glass. “Not really.”
The bartender walks away, and your attention focuses on the large hologram above the bar. While stats are scrolling across the bottom of the image, sportscasters Chuck Hern and Gus Johnston are exchanging harsh words over who is going to win the game tomorrow: Team Earth or the Martians. They are at each other’s throats, and a mediator steps in. While the mediator is trying to break up the brawl, he is taking blows to the nose and mouth. He’s bleeding all over the place.
More than half of the people in the Hilton lobby are pressing into the bar to get a view of the sportscasting madness. They are pushing up behind you a little too closely. You turn your head and stiffen. Peter Tan is standing right next to you.
The hologram begins to flash “technical difficulties” and the crowd begins to disperse, but Peter Tan is still standing beside you. You keep your head down and avoid looking at him. He takes a seat at the bar beside you and catches the bartender’s eye as he taps the counter. “Nice cape,” he says.
“Thanks,” you say as you rise from your seat and head toward the lobby. You don’t see Malloy, Saleen, or Bob anywhere.
You head toward the reception counter, when someone taps you on the shoulder. “Hey, you dropped this,” says an all-too-familiar voice.
You whirl around and Peter Tan is holding the pillowcase you conveniently hid in your pants. You see the recognition on his face, and take off at a sprint.
You breeze past the reception area and through the kitchen with Tan on your heels. Weaving through the dining area, you notice a garbage chute. Surely Peter Tan wouldn’t go down there, right?
You gain speed and dive in through the swinging door.
Down, down, down you fall into a steamy room full of decay and rot. You’re pretty sure Peter Tan isn’t following you down here. You aren’t sure how you are going to get out, either.
You wade around in the shin-deep sludge looking for an out. There is an intercom device on the wall with several unlabeled buttons. A loud and extremely annoying voice booms through the device, “I got you at last, dirtbag!” Malloy laughs maniacally as the room begins to whir and buzz. “Let’s see you get yourself out of this one!”
The room starts to shift and grind against its edges, closing in on you quickly. You’re going out with today’s trash.
You begin pushing the buttons on the intercom; the walls are still moving closer. You scream into the device. “Shut down all the garbage mashers on the detention level!”
But it’s no use. You are seconds away from being a pancake, and all you think is: Sooo not the hero.
Oops...RETURN TO CHAPTER 7