Atlas meowed and swatted at an oblong green mass amidst the orb shards. The material rebounded to Atlas’s last attack, and his back arched. Anthony watched, unsure of what to do. He’d always laughed when Atlas got scared, but it distracted his mind from the thoughts of his father. Does Dad care? Anthony tried to remember, but someone’s arms wrapped around Anthony, so he screamed.
“Easy, easy, it’s just me,” Kyle said.
“What? How? Where did you find Atlas?”
“Atlas, huh? Is that because he likes balls, or is he a world renowned traveler?”
Anthony didn’t recognize that voice. The man wore a long beard and hair that reached the middle of his back. But after the view of the gaunt face up close, Anthony recognized the man. Caked sweat and dust made Donnie’s black hair a clumpy brown. And Anthony realized Donnie was the first man he’d seen in the line. The wisps from the orb had contorted the stranger’s features beyond recognition. Kyle grabbed Donnie’s hand.
“We can worry about that when we get out of here,” Kyle said.
Donnie nodded, but Anthony found he wasn’t ready to leave yet.
“Did you see Elida?” Anthony asked. “She was near the end of the line.”
Anthony’s face hardened, and he shook his head.
“Once I found Donnie, Atlas came straight to you. He didn’t stop by anyone else.”
Atlas meowed and cocked his head to the side, tail swishing through the air. He’d lost interest in the glob of green as it pulsed slower and slower. Though the light dimmed by Anthony’s feet, plenty of other orbs lit the line. A glance ahead and a glance behind offered no evidence of Elida’s location.
“Atlas, can you find her?” Anthony asked.
Anthony felt at the back of his neck as he thought of Elida and remembered the pain inducing device. Bare, puckered skin formed a circle under Anthony’s hairline.
“Come on, we can’t waste time looking for some chick,” Donnie said. “Get Atlas to show us the way out of here.”
Anthony looked at Atlas, who rolled on his back and resumed playing with the green glob. The ground rumbled for a second before a pop preceded stillness.
“I may have found a control panel when I got away from the aliens. When a cat scares away rock-type aliens, I couldn’t help but take advantage.”
Thank whatever being is watching over me right now that I got stuck in here with someone outside my degree field. There was another shudder of the ship, or what Anthony now assumed to be the ship, and it lasted a few seconds longer that time. Atlas showed no sign of caring.
Anthony picked up Atlas, who offered his approval with a hiss as the green orb fell to the floor.
“He doesn’t seem to want to help right now,” Anthony said. “How did Atlas break my orb?”
As Kyle opened his mouth to respond, metal clangs echoed through the room. The orbs at the front of the line moved forward.
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