And then he was in his room.
“Oh for god’s sake!” Clay exclaimed.
“Is everything okay?”
“The launch was canceled!”
“Oh my god really?”
“Do you wanna talk about it?”
“Nah. You need to get to work right?”
Apollo checked his phone. “Aw crap I do. Talk to you later okay?”
Director Cosmos was called. Now he had to make a plan to survive.
Fulbright keeps putting me in the hospital. I’m guessing I died of lead poisoning because of course I did. Either I need to learn how to remove a bullet, or stay out of the hospital.
He figured that the path he went down when he called Ema seemed to get him pretty far. It just needed a little tweaking.
“You want to do what? Ema asked.
“Well I’m friends with my neighbor. I’ll hang out with him and when Fulbright visits, you ask him what he’s doin’ there.”
“Alright. I don’t get why you’re so paranoid.”
“When a cop is visiting your house and askin’ around about you and not coming directly to you, I imagine you’d be nervous too.”
“Point taken.” Ema said. “Well I’ll be there tomorrow so don’t worry.”
“Thanks Ms. Skye.”
. . .
“Hi, Ness right?”
Ness nodded slowly. “Yeah?”
“My name’s Clay. I live across the way?”
“Oh yeah. You live with your…?”
“Yeah, so what brings you here Clay?”
“Well, we’ve never gotten to know each other even though we live not that far away from each other. I figured it’d be a good idea to talk.”
“Oh… a-alright. Come on in.”
“You can sit here. Do you want anything to drink?”
“No thanks.” Both men sat down.
“So what do you do for a living?” Clay asked.
“Oh uh, I’m currently in med school.”
“How many years do you have left?”
Clay laughed awkwardly. “So you’ve been at it a while.”
Ness nodded. “What do you do?”
“I’m an astronaut,” the other man’s eyes widened.
“No, I was one of the astronauts in the HAT 2 launch.”
A small smile formed on Ness’ face. “Then what are you doing living in this dump?”
“I’m still new to GYAXA. I have to work my way up to earn the big bucks, but I’m comfortable where I am, so it’s fine.”
Ness sat back. “God, you must be a genius then.” Clay shrugged.
“I own a clever shirt or two.”
After chatting for a few more minutes, there was a commotion outside. Two muffled voices were heard one male, on female.
“Must be another feuding couple.” Clay said.
“You think? They sound really angry.” Ness stood up. “I’m gonna see what’s going on.” Before Clay could protest, the other man was looking through the peephole.
“Who is it?” Clay asked, despite knowing the answer.
“They look like detectives.”
“I don’t think so… Man I didn’t think detectives hung out around here.” Clay pretended to be equally confused.
“You’re right. I wonder if something happened.”
“They’re right outside your door. Do you think they wanted to talk to you?”
Clay shook his head. “Nah, I haven’t done anything.”
“You better not have. I don’t want to be arrested for harboring a crim-” a shot rang out and both men looked at each other. Ness peered out the peephole once again, and clapped a hand over his mouth. “Oh god…”
“What happened?” He stepped aside to allow Clay to look outside.
Fulbright was slumped on the ground, and Ema was grasping her arm. Clay threw the door open.
“Are you okay?!” Clay exclaimed.
Ema looked up. “Yeah… I’m fine.”
Ness ran out. “I’ll call the police!” He pulled out his cellphone.
“Well hurry up!” Ema shouted.
“Here, let me help you inside.” Clay guided Ema to a chair. Once she was comfortable, he closed and locked the door, not wanting Fulbright to know where they were.
“What happened?” Clay asked.
“Well, I confronted Fulbright and asked him why he was trying to visit you and he started spouting some bull about how he was just patrolling the area. I told him that I knew that wasn’t what he was doing we argued a bit about how I knew that, then he pulled out this lighter that turned into a gun. He shot me first as you could probably see, but I managed to shoot him before he could finish me off. I think I knocked him out.”
“Is he still alive?”
“I dunno. You were outside before I could check.”
Ness came back into the living room. “I called 911. They should be here soon.”
“They better hurry up. My arm’s killing me.”
“I hope you don’t mean that literally.” Ness murmured.
. . .
Clay sighed as he tried to get comfortable in the hospital chairs.
I got Ema shot just so I could stay out of the hospital. How am I supposed to feel about that?
He was grappling between regretful or blasé when he saw Apollo enter the hospital.
“Oh hey!” Clay waved frantically, trying to grab Apollo’s attention. Apollo sat down next to his friend.
“So, what happened?” Apollo asked as he surveyed the waiting room.
“I was hanging out with our neighbor across from us.”
“You know ‘im?”
Apollo shrugged. “We’ve exchange the occasional ‘hello’.”
“Cool, so anyway I was hanging out with him when we heard Ema and Fulbright arguing. Then there were gunshots. Ness called the police while I went outside.”
“Why would you do that? Isn’t there the chance you’d meet a gun-toting psychopath?”
“I looked out the peephole and Fulbright was on the ground. It seemed like the immediate danger had passed.”
“So Ness called the police and then I imagine you ended up here?”
“Yep,” Clay folded his arms behind his head. “I’m waiting for the doctor to allow visitors.”
“Guess I’ll wait with you.”
It was getting late when they decided to go home and check back in the morning.
“So Fulbright shot Ema?” Apollo asked. Clay nodded. “But… why? What were they doing at our complex?” Clay swallowed.
“I dunno. Really makes you think about what’s goin’ on under our noses.”
Apollo stared at Clay for a moment. “You’re sure?”
“Without a doubt?”
“Without a doubt.”
Now what did he say my tick was?
“You have no idea what Ema was doing here?”
“You’re nose twitches.”
Clay looked to the side, trying to discreetly hide his nose. “I do not.”
Apollo stared for a few moments, but finally sighed. “Alright then.” He gave Clay a smile that said, ‘I’m on to you asshole,’ then said, “we’d better get to bed right?”
“Definitely,” Clay walked to his room then shut the door.
He collapsed on his bed, not even bothering to get under the covers.
After a few minutes, there was a knock on the door.
“What?” Clay groaned as Apollo stepped into the room.
“What really happened earlier today.”
“I don’t know. Haven’t I already said this?”
Apollo crossed his arms. “Yeah, and I don’t believe you.”
“Well that sounds like a personal problem.” Clay rolled over.
“I’m not leaving until you explain.”
He’ll just leave after a while…
Twenty minutes passed,
“Good god you’re persistent.” Clay said.
“And I’m gonna stay here.”
I don’t have to give him the whole truth as long as I don’t lie…
And so Clay explained the events of the past few days.
“So why did you visit Ness? You said you called Ema as a sort of safety measure, but then you took the extra measure of of going to Ness’ apartment. That seems like overkill.”
“If shit hit the fan, I didn’t want to be in the cross-hairs.”
“So you let Ema take the bullet.”
“Look, I’m not proud of it. I just had a feeling something bad was going to happen, and I was right.”
“Why would you think that though? Fulbright hasn’t ever had a history of being violent.”
“I honestly don’t know. I just go with my gut instinct. If I had a better explanation, I’d give it to you.”
Apollo narrowed his eyes.
Please, please, please-
“Fine.” Apollo stood up and left the room.
“Turn off the light!” The room went dark. “Domo.” Apollo gave him a thumbs up.
The light was back on.
“I was kidding!”
. . .
The next morning Clay’s phone rang.
“Oh, hi Director Cosmos. Is something wrong?”
“I need you to come in this morning.”
“O-okay… I’ll see you in a bit.” Clay hung up and pulled on a clean set of clothes.
What could Director Cosmos possibly want?
He drove to the space station and tentatively knocked on the door to his superior’s office.
“You wanted to see me, sir?” Cosmos nodded.
“Sit down son,”
“I need you to tell me something.”
“Yesterday I got an interesting call from your father. He asked to speak to you.”
“I told him that you weren’t here because your grandmother had died. Your father told me that no one in your family had died recently. Care to tell me how that is?”
“Director Cosmos, I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”
“I don’t want to hear your apology. I want you to tell me why you told me that.”
“The… that bomb threat was really getting to me and I-I wasn’t thinking straight and it was the first thing that came to mind, and I’m sorry.”
“You should have told me your concerns Terran.”
Clay sighed. “I thought about that. I really did, but I wasn’t sure how the government would react. They weren’t willing to cancel the launch when you told them your concerns so I was unsure how they’d react if I tried anything. So I came up with something that would cancel the launch.” Cosmos rested his chin on his hands and looked down.
“Now you understand that lying about this has serious consequences.”
“Please don’t fire me! I’ve wanted this all my life. Please.”
“I’m not going to fire you, son. But you are to have to be suspended.”
Clay looked up. “For how long?”
“That will be determined later. Now if you would excuse me, I have a meeting I have to attend.”
“H-have a nice day Director Cosmos.”
“You too, Terran.”
Clay exited the office and leaned against the wall and sunk to the ground.
Why can’t anything go my way?
“Hey Space Boy,” Aura said. “You seem upset.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, really.”
“Just contemplating life?”
“Yeah, that and this wall looked like it needed a friend.”
“Hmph, don’t we all?”
“So what brings you here?” Clay asked.
Aura shrugged. “Just saw you here and decided to talk to you.”
“Aren’t I special?”
“You’re friend’s a lawyer right?”
“Yeah… did you get into some kinda trouble?”
“I wasn’t trying-”
“It’s my brother. He was convicted of murder a long time ago and he was given the death sentence.”
“And his execution date is soon. I couldn’t get any other lawyers to appeal the case, but I remembered your little friend is a defense attorney. He can help me out right?”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Clay said.
. . .
“Oh hey, you’re back.” Clay said as he opened the door to their apartment.
“Yes I am. Where were you?”
“Just talkin’ to Director Cosmos.”
Apollo raised an eyebrow. “About…”
“He said I didn’t need to come in for a while since not much is happening at the station.”
Apollo raised an eyebrow. “He couldn’t tell you that over the phone?”
“Well I was in the area and I decided to check in so y’know. Anyway I talked to Aura.”
“Yeah, you know how Prosecutor Blackquill’s on death row right?”
Apollo nodded slowly.
“Well Aura asked if you could possibly be his defense attorney or a re-trial.”
“There’s a lot that goes into requesting a retrial. I mean before we do anything, Blackquill has to agree to me being his defense attorney.”
“Why wouldn’t he agree to that? If he didn’t commit the crime then there shouldn’t be a problem.”
“I’m just saying, Blackquill and I aren’t on the best of terms and if I’m the only lawyer calling for a retrial and he doesn’t want me as his attorney, there’s nothing I can do.”
“But you’ll still try right?”
“I’ll see what I can do. I’ll need to see if the case can be retried first.”
“Then let’s go!”
“Yeah, Aura said Prosecutor Blackquill’s execution date is coming up so we can’t dawdle.”
“Alright fine. Let’s go.”
The two headed to Clay’s car and began driving towards the detention center.
“Now you have evidence that a retrial is required correct?”
“Noooo… I don’t.”
“Then there’s nothing I can do!” Apollo exclaimed.
“The verdict wasn’t appealed and you have nothing to show that there’s reasonable doubt of Blackquill’s guilt.”
“Well… we can still-”
“No we can’t. If we go to the judge, he’ll say what I just said.”
“Then we’ll investigate.”
“Why are you so interested in this case all of a sudden?”
“I told you! Aura said she believes Blackquill is innocent.”
“Does she have any-”
“No she doesn’t.” Clay sighed. “I’m gonna have to turn around now, aren’t I?”
He groaned and pulled a quick U-turn.
“I need to at least call her.” Clay pulled out his phone.
“You keep your eyes on the road. I’ll call her.” Apollo grabbed Clay’s cell phone.
“Do you know the passcode?”
“Mm hm.” Apollo opened the contacts page, found Aura’s name and handed the phone to Clay.
“Oh, hey Aura! It’s me.”
“Ah, Space Boy. Any news about Simon’s defense?”
“A-about that… Apollo says he can’t request a retrial if there isn’t any evidence that casts doubt on Prosecutor Blackquill’s guilt.” There was silence. “Aura?”
“I see. Thanks Clay,” she hung up.
“How’d it go?” Apollo asked.
“She took it surprisingly well I think.” Clay drove back to their apartment. Once inside, Apollo received a phone call.
“No, I just got home.”
“Okay, I’m switching the TV on now.” Apollo turned to the local news channel.
“A demand has not yet been made by the person who took the hostages.”
“Wait… ‘hostages’?” Clay turned his attention to the TV broadcast.
The headline said, “HOSTAGES TAKEN AT GYAXA SPACE CENTER”
“No way…” Apollo said. He turned his attention back to the phone call. “Do they have any idea who the captor is?”
“Of course you wouldn’t know anymore than I do. I’ll call you back later, Clay and I are gonna head down there and see if we can do anything.” He hung up.
“What can we do?”
“There has to be something.” Apollo said.
“Apollo, we’re just regular people! How can we do anything?”
“Well, you work there number one, and we can’t just watch from the sidelines. It doesn’t seem right.”
“Clay sighed. “Okay, fine. Let’s see what we can do.”
The two drove to the Space Center. There were a half-dozen news vans, and three times as many reporters. Police officers were roping off the area and trying to shoo away the microphones shoved into their faces.
Apollo and Clay tried to enter, but one officer stopped them. “You two! This is a restricted area.”
“He works here,” Apollo pointed at Clay.
The officer eyed Clay.
“What’s your name?”
Just then a robot rolled out of the Space Center.
“Clonco?” Clay stepped forward, but was held back by the officer.
Clonco looked around, then started rolling towards Apollo and Clay.
“You two. Come here.” The robot spoke with Aura’s voice. Both men stepped forward. “I’m ready to make my demands.” The officer narrowed his eyes. “All I want is a retrial of the murder of Metis Cykes.”
Really? She did all this for that?
Oh who am I kidding? This is Aura we’re talkin’ about.
“You have an hour before I kill he first hostage.”
The reporters started yelling questions over each other until Aura said.
“Ask me any more questions, and I take half an hour off the time limit.” Everything was dead silent.
The officer looked over at Apollo and Clay. “You two better get over to the courthouse. Fast.”
The younger men nodded and climbed into Clay’s car.
“That was Aura…” Apollo said.
“Seems like it.” Clay cranked the engine and sped down the road.
“Hey, slow down!” Apollo yelled. “I’d prefer it if we got to the courtroom in one piece.”
“Relax we-” There was a crash as a car slammed into the driver side door. The airbags activated just as Clay’s car tumbled off the road.