Previously: Ethel and Zander work together at the Spacemart on the moon orbiting a nature preserve. After a mysterious old friend of Zander’s showed up, covered in blood, the two of them aided in his escape.
“You are going to have to call security at some point.” Ethel activates one of the ice packs from the med kit and passes it to Zander, who places it gingerly on his cheek, wincing.
“Yeah, I know,” Zander sighs. “Look, kid, I’m not going to ask you to lie for me…”
“But you want me to,” she finishes.
With a sheepish smile, Zander says, “It would make things easier, is all.”
Folding her arms across her chest, Ethel leans against one of the shelving units and fixes him with a considering look. “Is he dangerous?”
Zander breaks eye contact. “He’s a good guy,” he says, evasive. At Ethel’s raised brow, he amends, “He’s not dangerous to you or me.”
Ethel rubs at one of her temples. “I guess that’s good enough,” she says, and Zander lets out a breath.
“Thanks. You just have to let me do the talking.” He makes for the door, then pauses, hesitating with his hand hovering in the air. After a moment’s deliberation, he settles on giving her hair a sort of awkward ruffle. “Thanks, kid. I owe you one,” he says, then walks stiffly out of the room.
Even though Zander radios them that night, security doesn’t make it out to them until the next morning. Ethel walks into the kitchen, still half asleep and in her pajamas, only to stumble upon a uniformed officer chatting with Zander over steaming cups of coffee at the kitchen table.
She freezes when she sees them. Zander smiles at her, encouraging. “Morning, kid. Still got some in the pot,” he says, lifting his mug.
The look the officer gives her is polite but appraising enough to set her on edge. Nodding, Ethel collects herself, preparing her own cup off coffee while attempting to smooth her sleep-mused hair.
Only after Ethel takes her seat at the table does the officer shift her attention back to Zander. “So, why don’t you tell me what happened?” she asks, pen poised over her tablet to take notes.
Ethel’s grateful Zander wanted to do all the talking, since it allows her to sit back and listen while she tries to get caffeinated enough to function. He starts with the two of them doing inventory, then describes how an unidentified man in a spacesuit hacked into the security system and caught them by surprise, holding them at gunpoint while demanding they give him supplies.
“What sort of supplies did this intruder want?” The officer asks.
“Fuel, for his spaceship,” Zander lies. “Some rations.” Ethel wonders if that’ll be true, when they check. Zander didn’t come upstairs until late last night, time enough to siphon away fuel. Such thoroughness seems out of character, given his work ethic for his actual job, but she doesn’t think he’d lie so brazenly if he hadn’t covered his bases.
The officer makes an affirming noise, scribbling something down. “And how’d you get that shiner?” she asks, gesturing to the bruise blooming on Zander’s cheek.
“I didn’t want to give up the fuel,” he explains, grimacing. “He whacked me across the face with his blaster. Didn’t seem prudent to refuse, after that.”
Frowning, the officer says, “Spacemart recommends complying with the demands of armed robbers, to prevent loss of employee life.” Zander flashes an apologetic smile, but thankfully only Ethel seems to notice that he shows a bit too much of his teeth. “During the altercation, we noticed that you came to the front of the store.”
It takes Ethel a moment to notice that the officer has turned to her. She swallows her sip of coffee. “Yeah,” she says.
When she doesn’t elaborate, the officer presses, “Why?” Ethel sees Zander sit up a little straighter, out of the corner of her eye.
“I needed the med kit, for Zander’s, uh…” She gestures vaguely at his face.
“And why did you not take the opportunity to contact security at that time?”
“Spacemart recommends complying with the demands of armed robbers, to prevent loss of employee life,” Ethel parrots back. Zander hides a smirk behind his mug. “The intruder requested we not contact anyone.”
The officer takes a moment to pinch the bridge of her nose but makes a note on her tablet anyway. “Right,” she says, then gathers her things, standing. “That concludes our questioning. My partner and I will review the security evidence and send and incident report within the week. I will allow you to prepare for your shift.”
She shakes their hands, then turns to go. They watch her leave the living quarters, both breathing a sigh of relief once the door clicks shut.
“Thank you,” Zander says, patting her on the shoulder as she buries her face in her hands. She’s never lied to anyone from Corporate before, let alone a security officer. She thinks maybe she should feel guiltier.
Join us next week for another installment of Spacemart! Missed a chapter? Catch up on lawrentian.com