The problem, Babe was finding, was that she was hiding too well. Her plan for this round of their macabre game of tag involved enticing Allenie onto her chosen ground. Which was going to be difficult if she couldn’t be found.
Their release had been staggered. After Babe’s coffin unsealed she checked Allenie’s. The observation port was opaqued. The other woman could still be in the cryodoc, sleeping or listening to the machine’s briefing. Babe barely hesitated as she entered the commands to euthanise and recycle. The display flashed an error. There was no body inside.
“Oh, hey. I didn’t try that on you.” Babe’s shoulders tensed, fists at her sides. Allenie stood across the room, leaning causally against the wall.
Clearing commands, Babe shook her head. “I always played for different reasons than you.” The two women regarded each other for a while in silence.
Allenie spoke first. “I’m glad you picked these forms. It takes me back. You as a woman is a sight for sore eyes, but I can’t remember if this is what we looked like, originally.”
“The ship might know.”
“I’d rather go on believing it’s true. That’s why I didn’t handicap your reincarnation this time and why I’m going to give you a hundred count head start, even though you just tried to kill me.” Babe didn’t move. Allenie pushed herself off the wall, her eyes sparkling. “I’m not armed.” She twirled, showing herself as ship-standard nude as Babe. “I suggest you start running, honey-babe. As much as I like looking at you, I can do it all I want once I catch you. And right now? You don’t want me catching you.”
Babe waited a moment longer, looking at the other woman. She turned and ran. Allenie hadn’t come after her.
For that, Babe was grateful. She’d been hiding the ‘personal effects’ her cryodoc had set aside and did not want to risk revealing them. Now, breasts bound and hips slung with a toolbelt full of pockets, Babe needed to be found.
She checked her position against a pod evacuation map on the wall. The least elegant way would probably be the most effective.
Thumbing an intercom, she called. “Olly olly oxen free.”
There was no way Allenie wasn’t monitoring the ship’s communication system, at least remotely. She either knew where Babe was or would soon. Babe took a better grip on the belaying pin she’d grabbed as a makeshift weapon and jogged down the corridor.
She was ambushed, of course. Allenie found her at a junction of corridors by the ladder to the next deck. Babe had just enough notice from the corner of her eye to stop the blow from being incapacitating. They weren’t exactly where Babe wanted to be, but it would do.
Allenie darted at her again, swinging a heavy mallet. Babe rolled away, her back and ribs aching. She really did not want her arm broken. The mallet smashed into the floor, sending Babe scuttling back as she tried to stand, fumbling at her tool belt. She had to dodge another mad swing before she could raise the little tube to her mouth. Closer than she wanted to be to Allenie’s laughing face, she blew.
The effect was immediate. Allenie’s eyes teared from the irritant and started to swell. Dropping the mallet, she shoved blindly at Babe, throwing her against the ladder. Pulling herself up, Babe wiped at the blood stinging her eyes from a cut in her brow. Allenie slumped against an open doorway, her back to Babe.
Her voice choked with snot and pain from the irritant, Allenie spat over her shoulder. “Dirty play, Babe. Where’d that little trick come from, anyway?” Babe opened a pocket in her tool belt, raising her voice to mask the sound.
“Implanted in a sealed packet under the ribs before I ended up at the butcher’s. The cryodoc retrieved it for me.”
Allenie chuckled. “Smart girl. Of course, you’ve set a precedent for what ‘found weapons’ means.” There was a clinking as Allenie turned, the weapon from the butcher’s shop in her hand. “I ‘found’ this in my cabin, for instance.”
Latent electricity hummed as Allenie dragged the ball lightly along the floor at the end of its chain. There wasn’t enough room in the corridors for her to build up a full swing. But with an electric charge backing the spikes that much physical force wouldn’t be necessary.
Babe backed away. The ladder was too close to the wall to squeeze behind, so she stood exposed, measuring the distance as Allenie drew closer.
“Don’t you like my mace? I think it’s a beautiful fusion of history and technology.” She began to swing it lightly in an arc not yet parallel to the floor.
Swallowing her fear, Babe sneered. “You’re a fool.”
Allenie broke stride. “What?”
Babe triggered the control in her hand. The ball stopped mid-swing, hovering at hip height, mindless of centrifugal force. The other woman gaped. Babe fiddled with the control and the spiked head rose to the ceiling, hanging above Allenie’s upturned face.
“You always said how good I am at tempting you, Allenie. It was very easy to tempt you to this.”
Allenie threw the haft from her hand. It swung like a pendulum from the mass of spikes that remained fixed above her. She tore her gaze away, eyes pleading
“But, like I said, you’re a fool. That’s not a mace, you idiot. It’s a flail.” With a final twist of the controls, the spikes came crashing down in a hiss of burning flesh. “Where do you think the butcher got this thing, anyway?”