“I’m really sorry about the cuffs.” The cop they left with her fidgeted and looked at his shoes. “Planetary chief insisted you were restrained, Ma’am.”
“It’s not your fault.” Zora gave up on distracting him with her cleavage when he called her Ma’am. Besides, he wouldn’t even look at her. They recruited cops straight out of primary school on Cyrus 4 apparently. She shrugged. “Don’t sweat it.”
The paddy wagon hovered along, bobbing around the occasional pedestrian and angling through the streets. Her arresting officer promised to finish reading her list of offenses after they reached the station, and she hadn’t seen a soul aside from the kid since they’d closed the back doors and activated what sounded like one heavy duty locking mechanism. Probably for the best. She didn’t feel particularly social.
“Were you really a pirate?” This impressed him. Go figure.
“Once upon a time.” Zora shrugged. They pretty much knew her whole rap already. What could it hurt? The glint in his eyes made her nervous though. “It’s not what you think. Not all guts and glory.”
She watched him deflate and hid a grin behind her hair. One potential pirate off the lanes, then. He didn’t look like he had it in him anyway. The vehicle stopped, and they both lurched toward the front. Zora managed to leverage her heels against the floor grate and remain vertical, but the kid sprawled from his bench. He scrambled to his feet just as the locks at the rear hatch released.
The door pulled away, and a swatch of neon pink fell across the grates. Zora lifted her head and set her shoulders firmly in place. She might be in custody, but by god, she could look good at the same time. She stretched her lips wide and gave the kid a good bat or two of the lashes. He was off balance, focused on her for the moment. She could use that.
She exited the vehicle on his arm. He took her elbow and assisted her down. Both her hands might be tucked into electronic cuffs, but she held them gracefully in front of her and smiled for the crowd that the remainder of her arresting officers held at bay. Not so many as she warranted, mind you, but a fair few gathered to either side of the street. Zora smiled at them all, winked at a few, and waited to be led away to jail.
The kid released her. A lumpy building waited beyond the moving sidewalk, and the doors yawned open. The sign glowed above them, responsible for the pink light. Big, electric letters spelled out planetary security in various languages. The cops started toward the doors, surrounding her and taking her with them, and for a second, Zora felt a stutter of fear.
It didn’t make sense. She’d been arrested before, kidnapped, incarcerated and otherwise detained. It never really worried her. She always managed to wiggle her way free eventually. But this time, it wasn’t just her, was it? She found her feet dragging. Her pulse danced, and she scrambled for any angle to work. She needed to escape. Now.
The cops weren’t having it. They marched in a solid line around her, and not one of them looked likely to fall for a smile and a little cleavage. She was ushered through the doors into a narrow waiting area dominated by one long counter. No one manned it. Everyone, it seemed, had been deployed to bring in the dangerous pirate. She might have snorted, had she not been gripped in a growing sense of dread. Someone should have stood behind the counter. Surely, the station had staff that should wander through the room behind it. But every desk, every file cabinet stood unmanned. The phones didn’t even ring.
What the hell kind of police station was this? Zora had seen a fair few, and something fishy lurked inside this particular hell hole. Before she could risk bolting outright, the station doors slid closed. The leader of the officers motioned to a small door in the side wall.
“Bring her in here.” His badge looked real. She’d seen a few badges too--both phony and authentic. But something in the man’s voice seemed staged.
“Excuse me.” Her voice sounded too soft, meeker than she’d intended. “But I believe you’ve forgotten to read me my rights.”
He laughed. A few of the others chuckled and someone triggered the door. It was dark inside. Really dark, like nobody can hear you scream dark. Zora backed up a step and slammed into one of the guys behind her. She tried to breathe, but her lungs had shrunk all of a sudden. She shook her head and tried to calm down. Panic couldn’t be good for the baby, could it?
She was pretty sure that dark room wouldn’t be either. The wall of officer behind her stepped forward and she was forced a bit closer to the door.
“Wait. Just a second, you know. I think there’s been some kind of mistake.”
She’d never lost it before. Even in the tightest scrapes, she kept her cool, but another step toward the dark room had her shaking like a leaf. She heard something moving in there, maybe even more voices and her chest squeezed in terror.
“Hang on. You can’t do this. I--I’m innocent.” Okay, she couldn’t really pull that one off, but she had to do something. “I’ve been framed.”
She reached the threshold and planted her feet. Big hands settled on her shoulder and started to push.
“No.” She shook her head. “No NoNoNOOOOOOOOO!” It was probably the most times she’d used that word in her life. Still, they gave her a gentle shove and she stumbled forward into the dark. She closed her eyes and screamed, “I’m pregnant!”
Silence. Nothing awful happened. Nobody touched her. She felt the lights come on through eyelids pressed tight against imagined horrors. Someone nearby fidgeted.
Zora peeked. She stood in the center of a meeting room. All the tables had been shoved aside, and a porta-dance floor unfurled below her feet. The colored squares flashed, reflecting in the silver decorations, the streamers and sparklers hanging from the ceiling. She turned a slow circle and took in the shocked faces.
Harry was here. She hadn’t seen him since the glowbot incident. The Borelian twins sat on either side of the cake, looking pointedly at their feet. Old Hands leaned against the back of his chair, and behind him, three more of her past crew members gaped openly at her. The Captain stood off to the right beside a smoking punch bowl. He held a flare cap that sent a little shower of green sparks waterfalling to the floor. He blinked once, and then the old grin split his face and he threw his head back and laughed.
It broke the tension. They shared a collective exhale, and all the voices from her past shouted at once. “Surprise!”
“Son of a bitch.” Zora’s knees wobbled, but she held it together. She turned again, cataloging faces and planning at least one murder. The uniforms had vanished, and the exit was manned by one last ghost. Stanton. The triploid smiled and waved an arm around to indicate the room, the party he’d no doubt had a hand in organizing.
She smiled back. He’d done a fine job, all right. She shrugged, slid two steps closer, and punched the jackass right in his third eye.