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Airomem was tossed into the air, and came down to the the ground far harder than ever before in her life.  Her arms strained against the metal, pushing downwards as muscles bulged, barely able to lift her head upwards.  Even her hair seemed to drag her down, yanking against the roots as she turned back to down the corridor.

“Fools!”  She shouted, as she watched they slam the door of The Bridge shut, “Incompetent idiots!  Bringing upon your own deaths!”

The she turned back to the long corridor of the bridge before her, its gravity still magnified, and began to crawl.  And with each struggling motion, she thought back upon the previous few hours, and grit her teeth.

Twenty four.  Twenty four farmers she had stunned before they had managed to strip her of her weapon, and now that she was thinking about it, twenty four new reasons for them to hate the Lear.  

Until they’d figured out what to do with her, they had locked her away inside an abandoned apartment for three hours.  Three hours that she had searched for any means to escape but had found nothing outside of breaking the window into space beyond, something that even if she had wanted to do she would not have had the strength or tools.  And something she knew would be suicide.

But then a dozen of the farmers had come back for her, armed with knives and her own stun guns, and had ushered her back to The Bridge.  A few porters looked on as they threw her back in, but Tom was not among them, and they parted with little resistance before the mob.

And now she was crawling back to the Agrarians, her posture low and her pride lower.  With failure pushing down upon her shoulders as hard as gravity, and the knowledge that the Lear’s potential allies would not only be a burden if it came to war, but would also be unreliable to call upon for aid.  But even with that knowledge, there were those should could save among them, those like Ruth whose neighbors would sentence her to death out of ignorance.

People that she had an obligation to save, because they could not save themselves.  People who the Lear could adopt as their own and who held valuable information about the methods of farming which could prove crucial on the new planet.

So she forced herself forward, knowing that each second that passed was an enlargening portion of their time left on the ship.  That the marathon to the end of the corridor was already taking far too long, and that the information she held was of utmost importance.

When she made it to the end, she collapsed, her lungs heaving in the suddenly lighter environment.  She allowed herself thirty seconds of rest before climbing to her feet, her hand against the wall to steady herself, and peering down the deserted walkway.  This was Aquarian territory, but it was deserted- they had no reason to come this close to the edge, and were likely clustered near key points of defense for the water reclaimers.  So keeping her head down, and with quick but silent feet, she began to trot towards the end of the ship where the Lear resided.  But first, that meant crossing through Agrarian territory.

And unlike the Aquarians, the Agrarians were waiting.

The same four guards that had escorted her on the way to The Bridge were nestled behind a corner and she nearly ran into them, except she was never given the chance- instead, they enveloped her once more, this time with the hint of smiles upon their faces.  And they deposited her in front of Sitient as he reclined on his couch, his leg tapping against the bones dangling from the fabric, his eyes hard as they looked over her.

“I demand safe passage,”  She said, forcing her own eyes to match his, “As determined by the negotiations between you and the Lear.”

“Your father has promised me ten stun guns for your release,”  Replied Sitient, his voice hard, “But you have injured me, princess.  And for that reason I am raising the price to fifteen.  Until then, you will remain under our guard- for your father demanded your safe passage, but he did not specify what condition you would be in when you returned.”

“You can be sure,”  She barked, “That if you lay a finger upon me, there will be no end to the wrath of the Lear!”

“That’s the beauty of it, that I don’t have to,”  Responded Sitient, the corner of his mouth turning upwards, “But I only have so much control over my people, princess.  With the tribute that the Lear demands, they grow so hungry- hungry enough that they might want a Lear snack of their own.  So I suggest you only travel where my guards take you, or the only thing I will deliver back to your father are your bones.”

She paused, suddenly aware of the eyes that stared out from the shadows, of the distance she would have to travel to make it home, and the sheer number of the Agrarians she would have to pass though to get there.

“Then make your demands,”  She said, “But do not be so foolish to think that he shall bend beneath your thumb.”

“We shall see, princess,”  He said, “Until then, you shall wait until I fetch you.  Your guards are departing- for your own safety, I would suggest you hurry to depart with them.”

Pursing her lips, she followed, leaving Sitienti laughing behind her.  For five minutes they walked towards the center of Agrarian territory, crossing through fields still filled with hollow cheeked workers and yellowed plants.  Then they led her into a side hallway filled with several apartments, opened the door to one, and barricaded the door once she was inside.

During the first day, she heard nothing- no food or water was delivered, and  no guards checked upon her status.  The second day was the same, and she tried pounding against the door or searching for weaknesses in the barricade, but found none. She bit her lip, the dry skin cracking if she wondered if they would leave her there to rot, if she would die of thirst before Sitient was satisfied with the deal.

And as she waited, one word brought her comfort, a single name scratched into the wall long before by someone else who had once shared her torment.


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