Chapter 20:

EPISODE 5: 00010100:TWENTY



    Trisha lied flat on her stomach, her feet idly kicking the air around her as she rested her bored head on her crossed arms in front of her. She watched the mouse scurry back and forth in front of her. The mouse paced from one end of Trisha's pillow to the other, its tail would twitch, then it would turn around and with an equally brisk pace, it would move back to the other end of the pillow, where its tail would twitch again.
   Trisha watched Homer complete lap after lap of it making the same frantic pace from one side to the other side of the pillow. She got to a point where she had decided just to start counting each completed lap.
   It would walk, then a tail twitch, then it would walk back and a tail twitch. One. A brisk walk back to the other side, a tail twitch, then back to the other side followed by a tail twitch. Two. And yet another walk to the other side, a very excited tail twitch this time, then back to the other and this time a very unenthusiastic twitch. Three.
   The mouse-cat/cat-mouse (thing) stopped on the first quarter of its next lap. It turned to look at Trisha's bored eyes.
   "And what is it you want, Mister Mouse?" Trisha's voice came muffle from both the boredom and the arms she wrapped in front of her.
   Homer gave one assertive squeow towards Trisha.
   Trisha sighed as her eyes looked away. "Looks like we are both trapped in the same rat cage now. Sorry, Homer."
   Homer shook his head giving yet another assertive squeow directed even harsher towards Trisha.
   "I know, I know! I still want to punch him in the face too, but," she paused. Her feet ceased as they dropped to the bed. "I'm not sure where to start."
   There was a brief moment that the two stared at each other waiting for some sort of conclusion to be reached, but it never came. Homer went back to pacing and twitching while Trisha went back to kicking the air around.
   Homer walked to the left side of her pillow while she made two gentle pedals in the air. Homer walked to the right side of her pillow, this time Trisha was just barely able to squeeze in three gentle pedals of her feet. And so this patterned continued until finally Homer snapped with one ferocious squeow as it lunged towards Trisha, nibbling down on her hand.
   "Ow! Hey!" She tossed Homer off to the side. "What was that for?"
   Homer gave such a sharp, staccato squeow that made his entire body leap with the forte of his assertiveness.
   "There is absolutely no way the plan last time will work again this time, Mister Mouse."
   Homer shook his head and gave another assertive squeow.
   "Okay, fine, then what is your plan?"
   Homer twirled on the pillow before stopping to face his entire body (including his tail) towards the door.
   Trisha cocked an eyebrow as her eyes traced the point of Homer directly to the door. She shook her head, confused. "Okay," she gave a compromising sigh as she scooped Homer into her hands and began moving towards the door.
   She placed him at the step of the door where Homer stared at the large barricade (proportional to the cat-mouse/mouse-cat (thing)'s size) before him. He gave a slow pace back and forth, as he inspected the door before finally turning to face Trisha and giving a commanding squeow.
   Trisha tilted her head confused. "You want me to what-now?"
   Homer spun around in place before ending his twirl, just like before, with his whole body leaning towards his direction of command. This time, it was the bed. He ended his twirl with the same commanding squeow as before, this time louder to ensure proper clarity of his command.
   "Okay," Trisha's eyebrows parted as she stepped back to the bed. "If you say so."
   Homer remained at the step of the massive barricade. He stood poised just to the right of the door, ready to disembark at any moment's notice. Meanwhile, Trisha remained in bed. She had flopped down into the soft futon facing away from Homer - as instructed by the mouse-cat/cat-mouse (thing).
   Trisha twirled a corner of the sheet playfully around her finger as she stared blankly at the wall. Her mind, for a minute, was focused on Homer's plan as she faced away from him, giving him his privacy as he executed his extra stealthy mousey plan. But, eventually, she found herself drifting back to familiar topics. Familiar topics like punching Quil.
   Her finger's interest in the sheet ended as it slowly drooped back onto the comforting embrace of the futon's mattress. She stared at her fingernails for a moment. There wasn't particularly anything interesting about her fingernails. They were plain. They were short. Perfectly ripe for punching stupid dickhead friends. That's what she wanted to say. And yet, she didn't feel that anger. She wanted to say these short, boring fingernails were the perfect tool for making a powerful fist, but even though that thought was there in her head; it felt like it was little more than her own imagination and not an actual dream of hers. It wasn't her motivation. Quil certainly was her motivation, but a clenched fist wasn't.
   Several many more minutes ticked by. Homer remained poised. He hadn't budged at all. One would almost assume he was simply a plush doll of Trisha's, as it remained motionless by the door.
   The hand that was once playing with the sheet, Trisha now tucked under the pillow she rested her head on. Though, her hand was hidden underneath the thin and unsupportive pillow, her wrist was now just within her eyesight where a dim image of herself was reflected back towards her off the dormant screen of her watch.
   The image was a very close vignette of herself. She could not clearly define where her jawline began in the reflection, but she could clearly make out her eyes. She could clearly make out her nose. She could clearly make out her lips.
   Something crossed her mind as she reviewed the finer details of herself. It was something she had never realized until seeing this magnification of her eyes and lips. She couldn't help but wonder; when did she start looking so tired?
   Was she tired? Did she feel tired? Well, sure. She felt tired, but did she feel as tired as her reflection made her look?
   She rolled her wrist so that her watch faced away from her, hiding her tired eyes and pouting lips.
   Just one more adventure. That's what she told herself. Just one more. Certainly, it won't be the end of all adventures for the rest of her life, but it takes one more adventure to reach the end of this journey and begin the next part. She just needed to take on this last adventure so that she could bring Quil home and then they could go back to shooting off rockets and breaking into junkyards and pissing off their parents (except pissing them off to a lesser degree than actually running away with psychotic political leaders).
   And so the minutes rolled by yet again until finally the door slid open.
   This was the moment that Homer had been poised for! Trisha wanted to turn around and look; she wanted to know! She needed to know! What was Mister Mouse's secret? What type of mousey stealth could a mousey employ?
   It was when a guard (presumably the one that entered the room) shouted and dropped something (presumably Trisha's dinner) that Trisha let her curious compulsion get the better of her. She swiftly turned around to see the guard lying flat and unconscious with his body as a blockade for the sliding door, holding the breach open to let forth the draft of freedom.
   Homer didn't stand proud. He didn't stand victoriously. He simply stood, humble and neutral at the base of the unconscious man.
   Trisha cocked an eyebrow. "How in the world did you manage that one, Mister Mousey?"
   Homer squeowed in a modest tone.
   Trisha walked over to scoop Homer into her hands. "From now on, Mister Mousey, I'm going to stop doubting you."
   Trisha's eyes shimmered like glass as she swallowed a knot in her throat. "Thank you for being my ally, Homer." She gave a playful poke on the end of Homer's nose.
   Homer gave a sincere squeow back to Trisha before both of them faced the opened door.
   Homer crawled onto Trisha's shoulder, bracing himself tightly as Trisha began her dash out of the room.
   "Okay, step one of The Hostage's Escape Guide completed." Trisha spoke through her heavy breaths as she dashed through the previously familiar route. "What's step two, Mister Mouse?"
   Homer gave a rather unassuring squeow through each bump of Trisha's step.
   "This would be a lot easier if we weren't writing the guide as we went through the steps," She remarked to herself.
   Homer squeowed a command at Trisha.
   She shook her head. "If you say so, Homer, but I feel like the results would be more-or-less the same regardless of which elevator we take."
   Homer gave a protesting squeow.
   "No, no! I'm not doubting you! I'm just doubting step two of our guide book."
   Trisha slowed her pace as she rounded a corner of a hallway. She checked up and down the hall. Some people were in the distance, but it was hard to say if they were crewmembers or not. She took the gamble. She cleaned the sweat from her face to make herself resemble something less like an escaped hostage, then she did her best to catch her breath.
   As she did so she nonchalantly leaned her weight against the wall as she tried to appear aimless in her watch-checking, as if she was there just waiting to meet someone. As she did her best to appear natural, she also searched the files on her watch for the ship plans and metro map that she had pulled for Quil earlier.
   Her eyes narrowed as she scanned over the map on the tiny screen of her watch. "If I had to make a guess, we're somewhere near Central." Her eyes scanned more over the map, taking into account the different transfers. "We might not want to take the metro, but we could use the elevators inside the transfer stations to change decks."
   Homer squeowed as he jabbed his tail towards the map.
   "Right. If we go to the busiest transfer station, we might be able to find a crowd and blend in. Then once we change to the lower deck, we can make a dash to the C-quadrant hangar and get out of this place." She ended her sentence with a smile of excitement.
   Homer squeowed in agreement, both looking at each other and nodding.
   Trisha traced her planned route before closing her watch, dashing towards her freedom, though, that dash was very brief as she found herself colliding with a large shadow that towered over her - the shadow causing enough alarm in Homer to hide underneath Trisha's hair.
   "On another tour of my ship, I see." The silk wrapped around Trisha's ears.
   She pushed herself off the wall of muscle she had collided with. "Yeah, you know, it's such a wonderful piece of architecture I simply couldn't help but go out and admire it. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to go back to admiring it, if that's alright. Bye-bye!" Trisha gave a nervous laugh as she turned and darted away from Rommel, or so she had hoped.
   Rommel tightly gripped Trisha's back collar, tearing her from her stride and pulling her into his clutches. He took control of her as a massive hand grasped Trisha around her throat lifting her from her feet.
   "You're trying my patience." He punctuated his sentence by slamming Trisha into the wall.
   Trisha winced through the pain as she stared back at the frayed and damaged silk that Rommel had woven in his presence. She gave one protesting spit in his face.
   "I would hold your attitude." His faltering silk unraveled as he wiped his face. "You are worthless to the G.I.E.'s campaign now. Your presence aboard our Zveihand is nothing but a courtesy." He slammed her against the wall again, making her choke back the knot that was knocked into her throat. "You insult me with this shit." He tossed the vial of red liquid to the floor before slamming her against the wall again, causing her vision to go hazy for a moment as stares began to dance and buzz around the menace before her. "Your boyfriend's interference with our campaign has put me on a short leash with Roule." Another slam, yet again causing her vision to go hazy for moments longer than the last time. "I will not have him interfere again. The entirety of the G.I.E. dominion is moving into position around both INTAL campus and the Lotus to ensure our campaign will be completed." He reached into his coat pocket. "And I will not have you interfere either, nor will I have you waste Zveihand resources on ensuring you stay obedient any longer." He pulled a small pen out of his pocket. A familiar pen to Trisha, even through her fading vision.
   Rommel moved the needle tip of the pen closer towards Trisha's neck. She did her best to fight him, but she found it difficult from both his tight grip and the intense pain that had settled from the blows to her skull.
   Homer gave a ferocious squeow as he leapt out of Trisha's hair. Rommel didn't have enough time to react before the vicious mouse sank its teeth down onto Rommel's eyelid, immediately making him reel away from Trisha, dropping her and the pen to the floor.
   Trisha laid upon the floor where she had been dropped. Her eyes were unable to concentrate behind the throbbing of her skull, pounding away at her focus. She could only faintly make out the brief struggle between Rommel and Homer. Sounds of impacts against clothing, sounds of a harsh struggle, and the sound of a quick sweep as a hand lifted something up off the floor before a body took the place of the object that was on the floor. Then silence came.
   Trisha felt the swirls of exhaustion settle in after each pounding of her skull. Though, with each pounding, things seem to fade more and more, including the pain of that pounding. She would get to see Quil soon. She smiled.
   Homer squeowed loudly at Trisha just before biting down quite painfully on her finger, sending an alerting shockwave through her body, causing her to sit up.
   She took a moment to let her eyes uncross so that she could make sense of what it was that was lying before her. A tall and powerful man who lied unconscious. Protruding from the man's neck was a pen with a sunken plunger.
   Homer squeowed again at Trisha to make sure she stayed conscious as her eyes began to cross again.
   She lifted herself to her feet, clutching her head in pain. "Remind me not to piss off vague political speakers." She winced in heavy pain as the throbbing of her skull nearly dropped her back to her feet. Her eyes focused on the unconscious Rommel who rested before her, and just before him was the small rodent-cat. "Also, remind me not to piss you off, Mister Mousey."
   Trisha collapsed against the wall for support as she continued to try to regain her bearings. "I need to contact Quil. He's in danger."
   Homer squeowed in protest as he quickly paced an impatient circle where he stood.
   Trisha allowed herself to stand on her own as she pulled herself off the wall. She looked down at Rommel, his coat splayed, revealing his belt.
   "Fine." She muttered weakly. "We'll get to safety first before I contact him." She spoke softly as she kept her eyes on Rommel's belt. She looked at the cold, heavy, metallic handle that protruded from his belt. Her eyes sank as she thought of Quil, but began to fill with determination as she felt the pounding on the back of her skull.
   She reached down, pulling the cold object from his belt.
   Homer stared at Trisha with concerned eyes.
   "Trust me, I don't really want to use it either," she turned the heavy object around in her hand, "but I don't want to be defenseless again."