SEASON ONE: ENTRY THREE
It’d been an hour. Least it felt like an hour. Stassi bounced her knee. Her gaze slid over the room yet again. The agents had emptied it of decor, leaving behind a stark room almost stripped to the metal beams underneath the lacquered green paint. An uncomfortable chair had been brought in from somewhere and they handcuffed her to its arms so she couldn’t stand.
Stassi tilted her head back, staring at the broad square light on the ceiling. Without her helmet, she was exposed to whatever contaminants lingered in the manor’s atmosphere. “Hellooo? Is anyone out there? Did you forget about me? I’d like to have my phone call.”
She pulled against her handcuffs. Her antennas curled, then stretched out a couple of times. Stassi’s patience wore thin. She called out again, “If someone doesn’t tell me what’s going on soon, I’m just going to have to leave.”
The door opened. A pair of agents walked in, carrying a long metal table. Faces hidden behind their tinted helmets, she couldn’t tell if they were human or simply humanoid. After setting the table down in front of her, they headed back to the door.
“Hey, wait! Don’t go. What is this? Why haven’t I gotten my call yet?” She kicked at the floor, her shoe’s heel resounding loudly. “Don’t leave witho-”
The door shut. They were gone. She pulled against the handcuffs again. “Fine, if that’s how you want to play it.”
Her muscles tensed, her bones cracked, and her skin gave way to crustacean-like scales. The rounded triangular layers burst upward along her arms before lying flat. She focused on her wrists, where the tan-brown scales pressed against the metal in their momentum. The left handcuff ratchet broke. It swung about, then hung limply from the chair’s arm.
With a hand free, she tugged at the right handcuff. The ratchet wasn’t budging. She reached for her belt, only to feel the air. The agents had also confiscated it before sticking her in the room. Grabbing a pin from her hair, she picked at the handcuff lock instead of brute forcing it open.
Stassi laughed, bouncing in her seat when the handcuff finally gave way. Free, she stood up. She kicked the chair over with a light, forgettable backward swish of her foot, then headed to the door.
She peeked outside, into the hall. It seemed to be clear. Stassi quietly walked away from the room, heading in a randomly chosen direction. She wasn’t sure where the agents were or where her gear was being held. Her scales felt heavy, having finished solidifying over her arms and other areas. In some spots, her clothing had gotten ripped from the ambitious evocation of her exoskeleton.
Past the next door in the hall, the room had also been emptied of any interior decor. None of her gear was there though. She went to the room’s window and looked out at the hangar. The IBIA’s spacecraft were parked next to it; the sleek and reflective onyx saucers sat low to the planet’s surface. It wouldn’t be long until her rocket was locked down… if it hadn’t been already.
A small red dot, reflected in the windowpane, caught her attention. She turned around to see a gun pointed at her and a lone agent standing at the door.
Stassi raised her hands, laughing nervously. “Hello, I didn’t think anyone was still around.”
The agent gestured for her to come closer, then at gunpoint, guided her back out the hall and to the room where she started from.
She gave a last glance at the corridor and fantasized about running for it. Regardless of her daydream, she complied and returned to the table. She crossed her arms, frowning. “You can’t just keep me here. I have rights, you know. Any longer and I’ll be able to file a complaint with the IBIA’s administrators. Maybe I will anyway.”
“Sit down,” said the agent. He took off his helmet, tossing it onto the table surface. In the color of ultramarine blue, his cropped hair and thick eyebrows stood out against his clean-shaven skin.
Stassi picked up the chair and sat down, forcing a smile on her lips. “Do I get my call now?”
The agent ran a hand over his jaw. He didn’t look at her, his gaze set on the floor as he walked to the opposite side of the table. “My name is Agent Griffin. Your DNA returned you as Anastasia Juul Sliejan, is that correct?”
She leaned back in the chair. “Yes. That’s me.”
“You have more than a few reports under your identification, Miss Sliejan. With this one, you’re only a couple away from hitting triple digits. How is it that you are still able to have a pilot’s license with that kind of record?” He unzipped his vest, then retrieved a leather-bound portfolio and set it on the table.
“Reports aren’t arrests,” she answered. She glanced at the folder between them. “I’d like to have my call now.”
“How long have you known Nuaqo?”
Stassi rolled her eyes. She picked at a scale on her forearm, detaching it from her skin and flicking it onto the folder.
“Okay,” said Griffin. He brushed away the scale and opened the folder. “I’ll cut to the chase and then, you’re free to go. No call necessary. I just need you to give me a little bit of information to make sure we’ve got things right.”
She plucked another scale off, not looking at the agent. Keeping silent, she didn’t even glance at whatever the folder held on its cream-white papers.
“Nuaqo hired you to pick him up an endangered beast of some sort. He paid you for it. That’s what this is, isn’t it?” He set down a red cube on the table.
“Hey!” Stassi looked up. “Be careful with that.”
“What is it?” Griffin picked the cube up again, shaking it. “We scanned it and it has credits inside. Is it some kind of piggy bank?”
“None of your business. That’s my property, set it down immediately.” Stassi stood and tried to rescue Rob from the brute’s shaking. Her hand swished in the air, too slow to succeed.
The agent stepped back and placed a hand on the gun at his belt. “You’re in no position to order me around, Miss Sliejan. That rocket out there is yours, isn’t it? I could get a search warrant approved in less than an hour and I’m sure there’s something just as interesting on board as what I’ve already found on your belt.”
Stassi glared at him. She ground her teeth, wanting nothing more than to lunge over the table and steal his gun… just to prove she could.
“Sit. down,” he enunciated his words in a deep voice. “Don’t force me to handcuff you again.”
“I’m not saying anything until I get my call and if I walk right now, are you willing to risk the time writing reports for the administrator court to prove you weren’t acting in obvious misconduct?” She remained on her feet.
“All I need is a statement. I don’t want to take you in,” he said, pushing the folder closer to her. “You don’t have to talk. I have all the information I need. You just need to sign this, confirming what I already know and can already prove. Then you can be on your way.”
Stassi looked down at the statement. She stared as if reading for several seconds, then laughed.
“What’s so funny?” He asked, darkly frowning.
“How new are you?” She pushed the folder back over to him. “If I’d gotten my call in proper time, then I’d already be gone by now. You’ve already admitted the raid wasn’t for me; the warrants don’t include my name because you had to run a DNA report to find it. I’m not arrested, and I’m not even supposed to be in holding, am I? But you still need someone to give witness to what you don’t have any evidence for.”
“That’s not…” He glowered and crossed his arms. “You… Just sign the damn thing.”
Stassi shook her head. She picked up the cube. “No, I’m not going to do that. And I’m going to leave now. You’ve already wasted more than enough of my time. I should bill the IBIA for the inconvenience, but we can call it even when I get all my gear back.”
“You’re making a mistake,” said Griffin.
“Yeah, yeah. The first one I ever made too. Now, where’s my stuff? I’ve got somewhere better to be.”
Griffin grabbed his helmet. After putting it back on, he sharply gestured to the door for them to leave.
Author’s Note: Thank you for reading the third entry in this development serial, the story I write as I go, proving that I am actually human (honest!), and maybe even listen to reader feedback while doing so! Comment below (or use the contact form) to share reactions, what you’d like to see more of, questions, etc.
I don’t know if I’ll be keeping Griffin’s name as is, but it is the first and only name that came with him. It feels wrong to change it (trust me, I tried). Same with Stassi and her name. Both characters are the “autonomous barging in” types, as much as I loathe to admit that type of meta-character framework. Or perhaps they are just people from an alternate parallel universe with a story to tell. Who am I to say?