The word "No" was flashing on the back of Dak's brain like neon... No way, Josè. No deal. No dice. No sale. No soap. No business like show business. No doubt. No great shakes. No way to treat a lady. No go. No good. No more. No, no, a thousand times no!
No matter. "I've been in tighter spots." he whispered to soothe the others.
"Yeah, like when?" Arial whispered back.
Dak glared at her despite the fact that it was almost pitch black in the darkness of the cell. They sat silently, waiting to hear footsteps. "No news is good news," Dak reported.
Dak had figured that the safest place to hide would be in the closest cell, and he was right. Who would think of looking there?
"Chlorine, what a scent!" Cora breathed in slowly as if she was smelling a rose. Then she wrinkled her nose and
sniffed, "Mildew. P.U."
The professor slumped against a damp steel wall which in his mind was a freezer door covered with moisture on a hot day. He sat on the floor, right on top of a rectangular a piece of something heavy. Metal? The professor held it up as if it was an award, then put it in his pocket.
The others ignored this as another drug-induced delusion.
"Smart Drinks..." he mumbled, remembering an underground bar that he and Paula had recently visited. It
served drinks that contained Choline, a chemical which supposedly increased brain activity and made you smarter.
Paula quieted him, "Yes, Freddie, dear, we'll go back to Mermiin. but first we need to escape from the Nutzis, OK, Hun?"
"They're going to find us, Dak," Arial said. Dak knew she was right, at least, unless they found a way out.
"And what's your bright idea?" He said, annoyed at the fact
that she was almost always right. As if to make up for this, he growled, "I guess we should have waited wait for Interpol, huh?"
Paula interrupted cheerfully, "OK, you two, make nice. You're just hungry and probably suffering from low potassium levels. That always makes the Professor cranky." She always called him The Professor, and he called her "Scandi" after Scandium, a rare-earth metal found in greater abundance on the sun and stars than on earth.
The Professor heard Potassium and immediately envisioned bananas. Banana fritters. Banana soufflé. Banana ice cream. His stomach rumbled and they all froze. For a second the rumbling sounded like footsteps echoing down the hall.
"You're right, Paula. We've got to work together." Dak said. "Arial, do you have any ideas?"
This was, of course, an unnecessary question. Arial always had ideas. While most people occasionally have a light bulb
go off in their head, Arial had a flood light. She had so many ideas, in fact, that it made it difficult for her to make a decision. Of course, this wasn't her fault, she was a Libra.
"Well, we could... No, better not. There's always... yeah, that might work. Or how about... naw. I know, we can... of course, we could do that, but we could also..."
Dak put his hand gently on her cheek, "Pick one," he said, kindly.
"Let me see what I've got in my purse..." she said, dumping the contents out on the floor, which wasn't much use because of the darkness. They could hear something rolling away and bumping into a steel wall with a dull "tunk" which didn't sound at all like the light ting sound of the other steel walls.
The professor crawled in the direction of the noise and felt something else on the floor, another piece of a metal in a strange shape, an anchor?
"Ahh," Arial said, pleased, "I found my tampon case..."
"Not now, Arial..." Dak sighed
"No, airhead," she said, "airhead" being her pet name for Dak. He'd have preferred being called "pookie," but she'd always just called him airhead (in the nicest possible way, of course) and he stopped taking offense after a couple of years.
Suddenly there was a bright green glow in the room, and
Dak saw Arial holding a glowing stick. Cyalume, a chemical stick that glows chemically, like a firefly.
"I always keep anything important inside the tampon case because Custom Agents, Nutzis and most men are too embarrassed to look there," Arial explained to Paula.
"I know," Paula said, "I do the same thing. That's where I keep my mini-ascetaline torch. The Professor has taught me that you never know when you're going to need to weld.
Or anneal!" she added cheerfully.
Dak and Arial looked each other, surprised, but pleased.
Another sound. They froze. The sound continued, a steady, mechanical beating sound. Boom. Boom. Boom. Distant, yet close. Boom. Boom. Boom.
"Swimming pool!" the professor mumbled louder, scraping white powder off the wall with his anchor and showing it, proudly, to Paula.
"Yes, Dear" Paula said with a combination of annoyance and fear.
"What's he talking about?" Dak asked, finally taking notice. He an Arial approached with the light stick and saw the white powder on the wall. They followed the line to the corner of the room, where the wall was actually wet, and discovered something that looked like a vault door with a black circle on it.
Dak grabbed Cora and pointed her towards the black circle. Within seconds she had worn down a 40 year layer of grime.
Light came through, but not normal light, a blue light as if it was coming from a neon aquarium. She kept working at the grime, pulling out a tooth brush to clean around the edges.
"Cora, Cora, that's enough," Dak said, trying to pull her away from the window. "thank you Cora, please, let me..." he continued, gently pulling her away. There seemed to be some kind of movement through the porthole.
"There are streaks!" Cora insisted, but Paula whispered
something in Cora's ear, and Cora went off to clean the professor's glasses.
All Dak and Arial could see was light. The window itself was fogged. Arial used a Kleenex to wipe a small circle in the center of the porthole and she and Dak pressed their noses to the glass.
It was unbelievable.
They quickly looked away. They looked at each other. They looked into the darkness, leaned against the damp door and slid down until they were sitting on the floor. Waiting to come to their senses.