There's not 'enough' time. People rush past me, through the opening and down the deck to safety. And the voice in my head, the one that uses my mom's tone, says: 'Don't get involved. Look after yourself. Let her escape—or not—on her own. She wouldn't help you'.
I ball my fists. You put your own life jacket on first—everyone knows it. I leave her behind.
I've never been this pumped. I'm not kidding—my heart is going like you wouldn't believe. News will spread fast. Now everyone's going to know what went down on the 'Oceania'.
Pulling a drop like that is all kinds of illegal, but it's my duty to shake things up. Clearance is coming. Got to be ready.
We've been zigzagging down the ship, making sure we're not being followed, and now we're walking beside the cabins on Residential Deck Seven. Beyond the three-bar railing, there's a view of the sea, churning and gray. I'm trying to play it cool. My smile's a dead giveaway, but I can't help it—it keeps breaking through. May's beaming too. Her eyes are all glisteny. I want to grab her hand and run.
"See you later for debrief." She jogs away, then hops back and grabs my arm. "We did it!"
I turn in the opposite direction. Time for us to split up. We'll take different routes home to our cabins and—crap. Coalies. Twin uniforms striding along the narrow deck. Far enough away that they haven't spotted us yet, but there's no way past. On one side, there's a row of cabins, a pattern of porthole-door-porthole-door that's repeated on every residential deck on the ship. On the other side, the railing hems us in. Those Coalies aren't going to let us pass if we act nice. And walking back the way we've come won't do any good either. By now, Hadley will have put out an all-ship alert. They'll be rounding up everything that moves. At this point, even just walking away will have them after us faster than a drone chasing a pickpocket.
May spins back to face me. Her grin's gone, and the color has washed from her face. She lays her hands on the top rail, one foot resting on the bottom. I take up position next to her. Pretending we're only here for a chat. The sea and the sky blur into the same twilight gray, and even though it's dropped cold, I'm sweating under my hoodie. My palms are clammy against the crusty white paint.
"Don't freak," I say from the corner of my mouth. "I'm not going to freak."
"All right. I'm just saying, don't freak."
"Look, I'm trained for this. You're far more likely to freak than me."
I sigh. May always needs to be top dog, even when we've got Coalies stalking toward us. But I like that about her. "Your military training. Sure. So, what's the plan, General?" I say.
May turns her back to the sea and rests her elbows on the railing. She glances at the Coalies.
"We can't let them scan us, not this close to the Lookout. Not together."
"That's affirmative, sir."
"Stop fooling around. This could be life or death."
"OK, give me the plan."
"The plan is we run."
"That's it? Five years of cadet training, and all you can come up with is 'we run'?"
"We run, really fast, away from the Coalies," she says.
They must have seen us by now, but they're not moving any quicker. "Where to?"
"That's your department. You've got the shady underworld contacts."
I take a sideways look at the Coalies. "We split up," I say, and I can predict her response before she opens her mouth.
"If they stop you, high-flying cadet, you can talk your way out of it. Flash your comglove ID. Tell them you're on your way home from class. If we're together, they're going to start asking questions."
"And by yourself, you're just another kid stopped without cause. They'll arrest you and haul you off for interrogation."
"You can use your privilege to get me back, can't you?"
"I have less sway than you think," she says, and she picks at a bubble of rusty paint with her fingernail.