“Come on, Ellie! They’ll let us go this time.” Jeremy dashed out of the tiny place where he and Ellie lived. His waist-length dreadlocks flopped behind him and his bare feet slapped the smooth surface of the hallway.
The door’s membrane tried to catch Eliana, but she slipped through. His wife was as agile and beautiful as the day they’d met.
He carried two bags of survival gear that he’d created from intergalactic junk. The goldies had swept the heavens to get him raw materials for construction projects. Before they’d given him something to do, Jeremy’s boredom-induced screaming fits had traumatized the planet.
He and Ellie ran through a translucent passage in the planet’s depths, bells booming all around them. Chimes always sounded on the planet, carrying messages. These bells were alarms. Horrified faces wailed in the walls, pointing at them with luminous fingers. They were the souls of the departed elders and formed the elastic, semi-transparent substance of the golden planet. The whole world was some shade of amber—ranging from glowing yellow to almost black. Lights shone from the planet’s depths, raking arcs like searchlights and then fading.
Jeremy galloped past Belarian’s grand, bejeweled palace. “Bitch,” he shouted and kept running. Belarian, the “mother” Eliana had missed so much when she was on Earth, was really her owner. She had tormented Jeremy.
He made a quick turn, going up another corridor. Jeremy thought living in their adopted home was like being inside someone’s guts. Undulating, ribbed tubes ran everywhere. The tunnels moved and shifted. But Jeremy knew where he was. They were on a major thoroughfare that didn’t change.
“Come on, guys! It’s on!” Jeremy shouted as they ran past James and Mel’s “place.” That’s all they had: places. No street names, no addresses, nothing but places. The natives didn’t need anything more than knowledge of a place’s existence to find it, but finding anything
was hard for the humans.
“Come on, we’ve got to go!” Jeremy yelled to the guys.
A glass-like amber sheet locked Mel and James into their space. Mel kicked at it with the bottom of his foot. The wall retracted before he touched it. He and his partner, James, slipped through. They took off after Jeremy.
“Trouble?” Jeremy called.
“Nah. It’s chicken. They’re all chicken.”
They jogged up the corridor. No real need to hurry at this point; the bells had tipped the golden world to their escape attempt. They couldn’t get away anyway; they were on an unidentified planet without the technology to get off it. The goldies would capture them no matter what they did. Their objective was to get their message out.
“Henry! Lena! We’re on!” Jeremy slapped the door of their tiny nook. She and Henry emerged and joined the others.
The hallway emptied into a huge lobby, the antechamber to the hall of the elders. Ribbed and folded like living tissue, the foyer’s walls seemed permeable. They weren’t, unless they wanted to be.
“Let us in,” he shouted at the portal. “We have to talk to the elders.”
A face appeared in the wall. It scanned them carefully. The door did not open.
Jeremy didn’t have the right mumbo jumbo to make it work. He’d seen Ellie’s “mother,” Belarian, unlock it. She had stood where he was and intoned in the goldies’ wordless way, Open, portal, we are here at the will of the elders. She had held up her hand with authority and the barrier admitted them. Of course, Belarian was a big cheese in the
He held his hand up to the door and made various gestures, ending by flipping it off. “We know you’re in there. What you’re doing is illegal. You brought us here under false pretenses.”
Jeremy had to leave, couldn’t stay a moment longer. The golden planet had been unbearable since he discovered the real reason the goldies had granted them sanctuary. Ellie’s first pregnancy had been long and hard. After a difficult delivery, the golden people took their baby without letting them so much as hold it. He and Ellie had never seen any of the thousands of children she had borne since. Ellie was a pet; he was her mate. They
had the same rights as dogs in a puppy mill. Once he realized that, every second on the planet was misery to him. Every instant.
He choked out his message to the elders. “We thought you had a free society. We thought we would be equal citizens. We didn’t know you brought us here to experiment on!
“Let us in! You know what I’m saying is true!” He didn’t feel afraid. The elders had confined or tranquilized him after his previous outbursts, but they’d never hurt him.
“We can’t stay here any more!” Jeremy slammed the door with the flats of both hands. “We’re United States citizens! This is unconstitutional!”
With that, he shot away from the portal, finding himself stuck to the wall on the far side of the foyer. The others were lined up next to him. They seemed unable to move.