Part three in the Brangxi Airship serial. Previous parts include: Part 1: Brangxi Airship, and Part 2: Returning Home.
The Brangxi guard shoved Terrance into the wood-paneled stairwell where Terrance tripped on a step to careen against the airship's walls. His hands chafed in cuffs behind his back as he slipped forward, his cheek sliding against the grain of the wooden stairs. Terrance lay prone on the landing listening to skin rustle as the Brangxi slid his hands along the handrails to land with a thump beside Terrance. Unceremoniously lifted to his feet, Terrance wobbled forward. A left turn and two more rights made Terrance marvel at the sheer size of the Brangxi's airship.
Rivets, spaced approximately a handspan apart, lined the edge of a steel door. The Brangxi guard unlocked the door with his ring of keys. Behind the door, Terrance entered a hallway, the roof nearly three times his height, and steel bars as thick as his forearms spanned between the wooden floorboards to the roof. The Brangxi unlocked a cell pushing Terrance inside to stumble as his momentum carried him into a cot where a man slept with his back to the room and only grease-scummed hair that hung in ringlets. The Brangxi grunted as the cell's bars locked shut and Terrance jostled the bed. The man bolted upright. Hands closed around Terrance's throat as he was shaken staring into the man's unkempt beard that was thick as two day old congealed coffee.
"Never wake me again," said the man as he released Terrance.
The steel door clanged shut.
"Sorry, he --"
Terrance's cellmate curled up on his bed with his back to the cell. Someone snored in one of the other cells. A second bed stretched on the other side of the cell and Terrance sat on it as the springs creaked. His cellmate wrapped an elbow over his head. Terrance shifted trying to get comfortable with his arms still locked behind him.
Terrance's cellmate stared down at the cot. "Can't sleep with all your wiggling." He set a leather boot on the thin-striped mattress. "Hold out your hands, I'll get those cuffs off." Metal scratched the handcuffs as Terrance's cellmate pulled on Terrance's arm. "Name is Chester, in case you're wondering."
Terrance rubbed his hands and then patted his pocket where he kept his pocket knife except the bulge was empty, a phantom. It was almost as bad as not having his notebook, but at least he had his mind. "Terrance. How long have you been here?"
"Long enough to know to sleep when you get a quiet moment."
A snore so deep it vibrated skin came from one of the other cells.
"Who else is imprisoned down here?" asked Terrance.
"I said go to sleep." Chester slid under his blanket, boots and all. "Who do you think you are? Some dog-tailed reporter?"
Terrance wondered why they had placed him in the cell with this loon. "So what if I am?"
Chester stopped his torso propped on his elbows as his eyes narrowed to close on Terrance. "There isn't enough air in these cells for a turncoat."
Terrance strutted towards Chester. He didn't need to put up with the man's needling. He'd escaped from the Brangxi's grasp once and had almost evaded them to get home. "I'd think that any man locked up would be a good sign we're on the same side."
Chester's hand reached up to grab Terrance's biceps pulling him down with hands blistered with papery calluses. "Be careful what you think." The man's breath smelled of cabbage gone bad.
Behind them, the room's door clanged. Chester pushed Terrance away to crash against his cot and turned away from the doorway.
"Who's that?" asked Terrance.
"You don't want to get her attention," whispered Chester.
"Don't want to get my attention?" The Brangxi woman towered at least eight feet tall in her boned corset and leather tight-fitted pants. "Would you trust him?"
Terrance glanced at Chester who had his back to the room and wondered whether she had heard their conversation before she entered the Brangxi brig. "Can you get me out of here?"
She flicked her hips to jangle finger-long keys draping from an iron ring that hung from a hook below the edge of the corset. "Of course, I can."
"Don't listen to Xebla." Chester mumbled from his bed.
"Depends if you make it worth my time," said Xebla. She unlocked the door and guided Terrance into the hallway with the crook of her elbow on his shoulder and her hand stretching down to his hip. "I've got some questions I need you to answer." Xebla pushed Terrance through the steel door which slammed behind them. "How come we found you on our planet with Graklii technology?"
Continued in part four: Breakout.