Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #161

“Are we… crashing?” I asked.

“We’re missing a whole side of the ship,” said Fox. “So… Yeah.”

“On a scale of one to five—“

“Eleven!” shouted Fox. “You guys don’t feel it, but we’re going down. You will feel that.”

“Do you have crash… cushions or something?”

“Used to. Not anymore.”

Then I heard a thumping sound behind me. I turned to see Henricks tossing boxes of magazines on the floor.

“It will be better than nothing. The individual magazines will not compress enough to provide cushioning, but issues within a stack may slide against one another with friction sufficient to give us some limited protection.”

As I watched Henricks tumble another stack of boxes, Fox crowed from the intercom. “I knew those things would come in handy someday! Just… try to remember which boxes they were in.”

I leaped into action, and began to help Henricks to empty boxes of magazines onto the floor, kicking them into rough piles. Then, we both lay down on top of the piles, and pulled more magazines over ourselves.

“I’ve had nightmares like this,” I said pleasantly.

Once settled in, there wasn’t much we could do but wait. It was awkward.

Henricks and I stared at each other for a while. I coughed and shifted my feet into a more comfortable position. Henricks picked up a magazine with monochrome CRT monitor on the cover and began to page through it.

“So, Fox,” I called. “It’s not that I want you to hurry it up exactly…”

“Hey, Phyllis,” he said, “Since I’ve got you. What slice did you bring us to?”

I frowned. “Why?”

“I want to know how much you care about the city we’re about to plow through. Any favorite restaurants you want me to avoid?”

“It’s the slice I live in!” I said. “Or at least, I did before my office became nanobot-chow. There’s a harbor, can you make it to that?”

“Not looking good!” Fox grunted. Then for a moment, Henricks and I were in freefall, magazines floating into the air all around us. When the moment passed, they rained down around us, with a trailing flurry of loose subscription cards.

Then, everything flew sideways. I lifted off the ground and slammed into the wall, the blow cushioned only by discarded cardboard boxes. Then everything vibrated around us like the inside of a rock tumbler and the lights went out.

A few seconds later, we stopped moving. I could tell because the ubiquitous hum of the engines had gone silent. This, of course, in addition to the total blackness all around me.

“Phyllis,” asked Henricks. “Are you injured?”

I took a moment to self-assess. “No,” I said. “Bumps and bruises, but that’s it, I think. Too dark in here to get a good look.”

“I have an infra-red filter,” they said. “I will guide you to the hatch.”

I felt Henricks’s robot hands take my arm. I dug myself out of the scattered magazines and stood. The floor was on a slant now, but I followed Henricks. “We have to find Fox’s medical pod and make sure he’s okay.”

“Yes,” said Henricks. “First we will gauge our surroundings.”

They let go of my arm and then the sound of rending metal was followed by blinding sunlight.

I held up my arm to shield my eyes and staggered out onto a city street. The pavement was crushed and melted beneath the ship.

A whole crowd of people stood in the street, watching us with identical facial expressions and postures.

“Well look who dropped by,” they said, in Alurian’s voice. “You won’t believe what I’ve done with the place.”

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