I knew I had really screwed up and that this time dad wasn’t going to be able to save my ass. This was really bad, and I’d used up all the “get out of jail free” perks that came with dad’s position on the council. I continued making my way through the utility runs, shafts, and passages towards the family’s apartment. Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, what was I thinking? I finally reached the primary ventilation line that serviced our wing of the fifth level. Then I opened the maintenance access door and crawled inside the three-quarter meter tube. After using the inner safety handle to latch the door closed, I started crawling through the long duct. Mom and Dad will be so mad. I was really feeling bad. I quickly got to and turned into the secondary vent line that exited into a seldom used corridor near home. When I got to its end, I ensured the corridor was empty and then popped open the vent cover, I had long ago modified, and climbed out.

Our apartment was just off the next corridor, a little down the main concourse, so I hurried to our door and went inside. My sister Jana was lounging in front of the video wall. She pointed at the news story and said, “You did that, didn’t you? That’s so bad.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“I saw you on the vids and the authorities will figure out who you are soon enough. You are in big trouble and they’re going to be coming for you.”

“Oh fuck, shut up, I’m thinking.”

“Daddy’s going to kill you. He’s going to kill you.” she said.

I wasn’t listening, though. I was thinking about something else – something crazy.

“You know what I’d like to be?” I said. “You know what I’d like to be?”

“You’d probably like to be dead when dad gets home, if the patrol doesn’t get to you first.”

“I’d like to be the hell out of here. I’m almost eighteen and it’s time for me to make the jump. I’ll join a ship’s crew.”

I hurried into my room, grabbed a backpack, and started stuffing clothes and other stuff inside. Then I hurried back to the common room where sis was straightening up – likely thinking the room would soon be on the news vids. “Jana, I’m out of here. Don’t say anything about the crew thing. And I’ll be in touch when I can.” I thought about giving her a hug but nah, we weren’t all that close. “Tell mom and dad I love them and that I’m sorry.”

I hurried out the door and back to the empty corridor and climbed into the vent duct. It sounded like some turmoil was starting somewhere out on the concourse. Just fucking in time. I was shaky but managed to get the cover closed and then hurried through the line and into the utility run. I eventually made it to one of the shafts that led to the station’s hub and started down it. Soon I noticed gravity melting away. But it’s a long descent and although I’d been to the hub many times, it always felt strange floating.

I realized that if the patrol was already after me, the authorities would have my face all over the news vids, so I transitioned to the non-spinning part of the station’s hub by going through the utility core. I continued toward the docks knowing that the “Queen’s Gambit” was on station and scheduled to depart later in the day. Since the ship tapped into the station’s ventilation system while docked, I hurriedly crawled through it. Then I was onboard and home free – of which the second part like a pun.


Did you notice the passages from Catcher in the Rye (a prompt requirement)?