Alexandria scaled the ladder to the cruiser and banged on the hatch.
“Bowles!” She hissed. “Bowles, open up! It's Alexandria! I know you piloted this, you've been seen.”
“Alexandria!” Netty hauled open the hatch with the strength of a man, and almost dragged Alexandria's head off, hoisting her into the cruiser. “Oh Precious! Are you OK? Oh my god, you're all skin and bone!”
“Netty!” Alexandria hugged her friend and housekeeper. “What in blue buggery are you doing here?! Where's Bowles?” She looked at Elizabeth.
“Elizabeth Fox.” Elizabeth introduced herself. “Bowles is out looking for you.”
“I knew it.” Alexandria nodded. “Netty I can't go back. I'm not going back to be hauled through the legal system. I knew the cruiser was here and I knew Bowles was in it. I ... well I just wanted a message passed on, Netty, that's all.”
“I'm fine Netty.” Alexandria swallowed hard. “Tell Darius I'm just fine. I'm teaching other people to read and write down here. Tell him I have a job and ... and a flat to live in. Um ... what else. Oh tell him that I haven't been lifted since I got back and that I've met some new friends. Nice friends, not scummy ones.”
“Please Netty.” Alexandria begged, tears streaming down her face. “Tell him I'm doing OK and that I looked happy.”
“Open the bloody door!” Barney hammered on the hatch. “OK ladies! Move this crate and do it quickly! Bowles said ... Rayne! You tatty little tart! This is all your fault.”
“How dare you!” Netty slogged Barney one with her knitting bag. “You nasty little man! Don't you dare speak to her like that!”
“Barney!” Alexandria grabbed him by the tunic. “What's my fault?”
“Bowles said to take the cruiser and hide up by the second zone limits. He said if they weren't back in forty hours, to head back to the Major Sector because you'll miss the rota change. That make sense?” Barney tried to wriggle free from Alexandria.
“No.” Alexandria said.
“Yes.” Elizabeth said.
“Take off?” Netty sobbed.
“Don't you dare.” Alexandria said to Elizabeth. “Barney, where's Sergeant Bowles?”
“In deep shit, thanks to you! All over the bloody Sector looking for you! Bessie Cowall said you'd left her two hours ago. I said to lay low at this time of night! I tried, Rayne, I honestly did. Me and Val set off back here but we couldn't just wander off eh? We got back to Bogg's Corner just in time to see Bowles' fat arse squeezing down Dollit Backs.” Barney heaved a sigh.
“To Macca's yard?” Alexandria sobbed. “He's gone to Macca's yard?”
“How else can anyone get to that bloody shed you sleep in? They've just had a big drugs drop off and Macca will certainly not appreciate intruders. I tried to explain that, Rayne. Ask Val, I really did.”
“Damn blast and bugger it!” Alexandria cursed. “Damn it to bloody hell! So Bowles thinks the cruiser may be in danger?”
“Just a precaution I think. Macca might want to know where the strangers come from. Bowles will tell him you all left to keep a deadline.”
“I could get the cruiser just over the zone barriers.” Elizabeth suggested. “Will there be room to land it?”
“Who cares?” Netty shrieked. “It's a space ship! Make room!”
“She's right.” Barney nodded. “If there's anything in the way, land on the bugger. Don't worry, I'll blame anarchists.” Alexandria headed for the hatch as Elizabeth started the engines. “Oi! You get back in here where I can see you Rayne!”
“How does 'NO' grab you? He's a very good friend of mine and he wouldn't be out there if it wasn't for me. Go do one, Barney.”
“I hate you, Rayne. You're a pissing pest.” Barney heaved.
“I warned you.” Netty got active with the bag again. “Get off our spaceship, you horrid little person.”
“Not a chance.” Barney wedged himself between two seats. “Macca's mob know I was with them earlier, they saw me.”
“If he starts, knock him out with your bag, Netty.” Alexandria nodded. “Elizabeth? I know I don't know you, but thanks. Right. I'll ...” She turned round slowly to look at Barney, who flinched.
“Whatever it was, no I didn't.”
“Macca's lot know you were with them earlier?” Alexandria felt her colour draining.
“I was helping! Me and Val both were!” Barney said defensively.
“Barney, who's 'them'?” Alexandria glanced at Netty who was scared stiff. “Shit. Netty is Darius out there?” Netty nodded. Alexandria sprang at the hatch and disappeared in a flash of red hair.
“I've already told you.” Darius spoke to the big, muscular man infront of him. “Alexandria Rayne, that's all. Anything else is of no interest to me at all.”
“Bad timing.” Macca sniffed.
“Coincidental timing.” Darius said. “We're on a deadline. Our cruiser is returning for us.”
“What do you want her for?” Macca leant against the wall.
“She isn't your responsibility is she, Mr Macca?” Darius asked heavily. “I mean, she rents you shed, but that's it. Why I want her can't possibly effect you. OK? She belongs with me. She used to live with me and now I want her back. That's all. I honestly don't care about anything you're involved here, Mr. Macca. I couldn't give a rat's arse. I don't live here.”
“I like you.” Macca grinned at Darius. “You, however, have 'soldier' stamped all over you.” He looked at Bowles. “I don't like soldiers.”
“Well I'm not here officially, obviously.” Bowles said irritably. “We want Alexandria to continue her education and life with Darius here. Nothing ... what's that?” He wrinkled his nose. “Ugh I feel awful.”
“Me too.” Darius rubbed his watering eyes and leant against the wall.
“Huh?” Macca looked suspiciously at the two men. “Shit! Morton!” He screamed. “Morton the stash is on fire!” The whole warehouse burst into activity as a thick, choking smoke filtered through the room. Dozens of men were choking, then reeling, then came the giggles.
“Wha'?” Darius blinked at Bowles.
“Oof.” Bowles replied. “Um ... I want to go home.”
“Yah! Guh I can't see properly.” Darius grinned stupidly at Bowles, who began to chuckle. “This way, I think.” Darius pointed then headed off in a completely random direction. “Excuse me please.” He wafted his hands around to disperse the floating drug dealers.
“Wide Load!” Bowled boomed, then giggled as he flapped his arms like a bird. “Um ... I think we're lost, Darius.”
“Nah! I don't get lost. I have a very high IQ you know.” Darius nodded. “Oh will you stop shouting!” He got right up in Macca's face, who was howling and sobbing uncontrollably.
“My stash.” He wailed.
“Oh it really isn't so bad.” Darius tutted. “Don't be such a baby. You need to chill a bit. This way is it?” Darius and Bowles drifted out into the yard and Bowles got wedged in the narrow alleyway.
“Ooof! Well knickers.” He huffed, wriggling around. “Oo! Hey look!” He flexed his muscles then lifted his feet off the ground.
“Ha-ha!” Darius hooted and tried to do it too, resulting in him falling in a heap on the ground. “Oh. OK. Down here.” He crawled out of the alley on all fours. The entire area was lurching about and grinning inanely and Darius thought it looked beautiful!The lights reflecting in the dirty puddles were beautiful! The artistically constructed piles of rubbish were beautiful!
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