by Walt Staples
While many women wore tiger stripes, Emily Shore was one of the few who wore their hair in that fashion so naturally as to not arouse notice. What did arouse notice and comment was the way she moved when in a hurry or on a mission. Many likened it to that a house cat, though only because few were aware of the genus of extinct large Felidae named Panthera. In the present case, she was both in a hurry and on a mission.
Myron DuPont took a drink from the bottle of soft drink he kept on his cleaning cart. He paced himself. 231 was finished. A break of a minute or two, then 233. The other side of the corridor was done. Four more and he’d be done for the day. That was the trick, pacing oneself. He capped the bottle and set it back on the cart. He glanced up and smiled as the lady from 233 hurried down the hall. While they had never really spoken to each other, the apartment’s resident always smiled if she happened to pass. This time was different as the tall, austere women with the tiger stripes stopped and held out a hand. “Give me your master pass.”
Myron blinked at her. “Pardon?”
There was impatience and an undertone of—Myron looked at her—fear?—in her voice as she repeated, “Give me your master pass.” She almost barked, “Now, boy.”
The cleaner fumbled with his pass as he unclipped it from his worksuit pocket. “But, ma’am, I’ve got the apartment set for cleaning.”
The woman snatched the pass from him. “I don’t care. This is important.” She turned to the door and held the pass to it. The entrance obediently dilated for her as she swept in. She stopped just for a moment, surprised to see all the lights on and the doors to the dining and kitchenette, the guest refresher, her office, and the bedroom standing open. She shrugged and stepped further into the apartment. The door closed behind her. Suddenly loose objects flew into the air and pain lanced her ears. She opened her mouth to scream and there came a sensation of a “pop” in her tortured ears as the pressure tried to equalize. There was a shattering sound as the large plastisheet window before her bowed out, fragmented, and disappeared in a loud whoosh of escaping atmosphere. She, along with all the other loose furnishings, went out the empty window into the vacuum and blackness that surrounded the habitat. A mercy was extended as she crashed into one of the support struts of Avenir’s solar array.