Out of Water – Chapter Fourteen

Randal found them huddled under blankets near an emergency cache just outside the hull access corridor. Lauren was shivering slightly in spite of the warm air, her eyes focused somewhere in the middle distance and her clothes, those that he could see around the edges of her blanket, still wet and clinging. Herrigan had a blanket over his own shoulders and was hunched by another bedgraggled man. Both looked considerably dryer than Lauren, but then they were dressed for the local weather and she wasn’t.

Almost as soon as the three were in sight Sudbury and Hathoway pushed past him and hustled over to Lauren, both men radiating concern. Randal and Sam drifted over to Herrigan, giving the Aussies a few moments of privacy. Sam knelt down by his cousin and flipped the semi-conscious man he had in custody over. The three trenchman stared at him for a moment then Sam asked, “Anyone know who this is?”

“Never seen him before,” Herrigan said, straightening up and stretching. “I caught him, that means someone else gets to look into him. I vote for Ramon.”

Randal shook his head and leaned against the wall. “That’s something you can work out later. Do you want to leave him here until Walker gets the power back on or try and drag him into a holding cell now?”

“Just leave him,” Sam said. “I’d like to call in a proper team to move him. You never know what these unhinged types are going to try. We’ll get him somewhere we can help him get his head on straight but until then he’s pretty much the scariest thing we’ve had in the ward since it was built.”

Herrigan’s eyes slid over to the knot of Australians a few steps away. “And those guys?”

“I dunno,” Randal mused. “I think once they’re over your nearly getting a member of their delegation killed they’ll be ready to sit down and talk. I’m just not convinced talking is what they’re interested in yet. It’s been really hard to read their intentions when they’re worried because one of their delegation got dragged into a life and death situation!

“Lauren’s job here is to be a sounding board for our culture and provide the ambassador with the perspective of a normal person,” Herrigan said. “Was there a better time for her to see the rougher side of life down here?”

“What, she just told you what her job was?” Randal demanded.

“It was guesswork,” he admitted. “But it has a certain ring of truth about it.”

“And you thought the best way to let her sample the sights was to get her drunk and go chasing an unstable man through the guts of the colony.” Sam wasn’t asking a question.

“Best part of who we are, if you ask me,” Herrigan replied with a grin.

“Right.” Randal knew better than to jump between the cousins when they got like this. “And leaving the Newcastle girl in the middle of our technical hubs?”

“Her job is to communicate anything they find with the surface. From what she said when things here went south, I’m guessing communications is her specialty and what we’ve got here is ages behind Australia’s tech.” Herrigan shrugged. “I’m not a coding expert but I doubt she could parse our computer security set-ups in a couple of days, much less a couple of hours. I looked at some source code for the computers they run on the surface and if what we’ve got is Greek to me, they’re stuff is Hindi. If they’re going to talk to the surface they’re going to do it with something they’ve already got on hand. Thus, letting her look at our computers for a little while isn’t costing us much.”

“Other than showing them how far behind we are,” Sam said.

“Other than that,” his cousin admitted. “But if there’s someone here who’s going to try something underhanded my bet is it’ll be the ambassador.”

“Sudbury?” Randal raised an eyebrow.

“Well, he’d have diplomatic immunity on the surface, right?”

That was something he hadn’t considered before. “Yes, he would.”

“‘Course, no reason we’d have to extend it to him here,” Sam mused. “We aren’t exactly covered by those conventions…”

Randal laughed. Then realized Sam had definitely not meant it as a joke. “For now, let’s consider that he does. Shooting messengers isn’t just bad form, it’s stupid. And I don’t want my name living in infamy because we went off half cocked and started a war with Australia. Let’s just get them a place to stay and sleep on it.” Randal glanced at his watch and realized with a jolt that it had been less than twelve hours since he’d gone to meet Erin’s Dream with Sam. “I don’t know about you folks but I’m tired and it hasn’t even been a long day. Let’s just head home and see what the situation looks like in the morning.”

“All right, Randal,” Sam said, getting to his feet. “You’re the boss.”

——–

Of course it wasn’t as simple as that. But in ten minutes or so the power was back, comm lines were open again and Ramon showed up with a couple of other deputies and took the as-of-yet nameless fish out of water off to find him some tranquilizers and trained psychiatric care. Once he was out of sight he offered Lauren a hand and pulled her to her feet. She was still shivering slightly, although Hathoway had given her something that seemed to have helped.

“Tomorrow morning, first thing, we’re getting all of you some clothes that will hold up a little better down here,” Herrigan said. “Otherwise you’ll catch cold and the fabrics will begin to rot. Assuming they’re not synthetic.”

“I have no idea what my clothes are made out of,” Lauren replied. “Is he going to be alright?”

“I’d like to say sure, but it’s mostly up to him now,” Herrigan said. “All of us down here are where we are because we were judged a menace to society, it’d be kind of sad to have to lock him up in the middle of the biggest lock up on Earth. But we might have to.”

“Isn’t that a little hypocritical of you?” She asked.

“Maybe. But we won’t stop trying to help him. Hopefully that will be enough of a difference.” He gave her a tired smile. “Hopefully you folks won’t give up on us, either.”

Lauren smiled back. “We’re doing the best we can. So far, I think it’s working.”

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