Maria lay quietly in Dave's arms not thinking of much of anything. In only a matter of moments she had turned from a strong willed single woman into a weak and quivering little girl hiding in her boyfriend's arms. Life was indeed strange. Even more so was the fact that she lying in the middle of a dark prison on some alien world.
Slowly she pushed herself upright and then to her feet. "I think we got distracted." She chuckled softly. "We were trying to get out of here."
As if on command Dave stood up. His first kiss with Maria had left him in a bit of a stupor from which he still had not totally recovered. "Um, oh yeah." He laughed. Expeditiously, he strolled over to the bars of their cage and began to look them once again. A split second later, however, he turned back around and smiled at his girl friend.
She was still standing beside the wall with a very contented look on her face. It was a look that he had only seen once before and then only for a fleeting second. Now it was fixed firmly on her face with no sign of departure. "You know," he said, "That's a different look for you."
Maria cocked her head to one side. "What do you mean?" She asked, somewhat confused.
The boy's mouth grew into an even bigger smile than before. At the same time a streak of red crept up from underneath his collar and moved up his neck and over his face until it finally reached his forehead. "I just mean you're usually so stern." He answered. "You look much better with that pretty smile."
Now it was Maria's turn to blush. She had never known Dave could be so sweet. He was usually just complaining about everything. He must have been way more serious about saying he loved her than she thought.
The bad part about it all was that she could not think of a thing to say in return. For what seemed like an eternity, she just stood there and smiled hoping that something intelligent would come into her head. In the end, she did the only the only thing she could, giggle out, "Thanks."
She could not believe it. It did not seem like her at all and yet that is what came out of her mouth. Fortunately, Dave did not seem to notice. His smile only got bigger. To her, however, it was embarrassing. Especially, when she remembered what she was wearing.
The young girl looked down at the skirt she was wearing. It, and her legs below it, had turned a deep brown from all the dust and grime she had been sitting in. Not that it mattered a whole lot at the moment. She was more concerned with getting out of her cell. All of a sudden life seemed a bit clearer again. This new relationship with Dave, no matter what it was destined to be, would have to wait.
Confidently, she marched up to the bars and began to look them over again. Unfortunately, neither she nor her companion had time to do a very thorough job of it. As soon they began, the sound of footsteps could be heard down the hall. They grew slightly louder every second until they swung around the corner, into the chamber outside their cell in the form of a dark figure.
The person, whomever it was, paused in the shadows as if they were studying the two youngsters. In a few moments, however, the dark form once again began to gradually move forward. As it did its shape started to become and more clear.
Maria and Dave stood behind their bars with extreme curiosity. They were not at all sure what was about to happen. All they did know was that, considering their current situation, it probably was not going to be pleasant.
As the shadowy figure approached the youngsters braced themselves for a struggle. They could feel their hearts begin to beat faster in their chests and their eyes narrowed. Quickly, they shot a glance at each other to confirm that they were both thinking the same thing or, at least, to let the other know that they had a plan.
Finally the shadowy figure stepped into the light. It was Vee, the girl that had warned them about the Udijis plant. She looked scared. Even when she saw Maria and Dave her mood did not brighten. In fact, her expression grew colder.
"You two!" She whispered loudly. "What happened to us? Where are we?"
Both Dave and Maria shook their heads. "We don't know." The boy answered, still fixated on the cell bars. "How did you get out?"
"It's a long story." Answered the other, jogging up to the cell. Then, with a few quick swipes of her hand along the bars of the cage, a small opening appeared near the bottom. Without a thought of hesitation both prisoners scurried out into the open area beyond.
"What now?" Maria asked glancing around the room. "How do we get out?"
Vee thrust her hand out and grabbed the girl firmly by the wrist causing her to pull back from shock, but only for a moment. "There are a couple of ways." She answered. "Just follow me, ace, we're getting out of here." With that, she sped off in a hurry pulling Maria along by the arm. Dave, who was trailing along in the rear, quickly lurched forward and grabbed his friend's other wrist.
Like a mole, the small group rushed into the dark underground caverns leaving any sign of light, either torch or natural or anything else, behind them. After that they were simply running blind behind their leader. They ran this way and then that and then this way again. It was like mind numbing puzzle and before long they all began to wonder if they were still attached to the person they thought they were. For that matter, they wondered if they were still attached at all.
As they went, Maria rubbed Dave's wrist with the tips of her fingers. He was still there. But why was he not saying anything? It was not like him to have no comment or witty remark. Maybe he decided it best to stay quiet but that did not seem likely either. Usually someone would have had to tell him to shut up at least once anyhow. Something strange was definitely afoot, either that or she was suddenly extremely paranoid.
"Hey." She called forward in a whisper. "Can we stop a second?"
"Quiet." Came the murmured reply. "Do you want them to hear us?"
The young girl reached back once again with her fingers. Something was wrong. For some reason it did not feel like Dave's hand. She tried to think back to the last time that she had touched it. At the time it was dry and somewhat course to the touch, almost like stiff sandpaper. Now, however, it felt soft and smooth. The hand that had been grasping her wrist had obviously never done any of the kinds of labor that her friend had done. It had certainly never cleaned out a waste receptacle or polished the inside of a freighter's ion converter.
"Dave?" She whispered, ignoring Vee's warning. There was no answer. Suddenly, she stopped hard, pulling hard on the arm in front of her. This, however, did not instantly deter their forward progress. For a second the young lady still found herself moving forward and probably would have continued on by being drug if she had not employed the full force of her will and pulled backward as hard as she could on the leader's arm.
"What are you doing?" Vee yelled in a whisper. "We have to keep moving or they'll catch us."
"I think they have already caught us." Answered the other girl sternly. "Dave is missing." With that, she pulled her other arm hard back and dislodged it from the unknown person behind her. "Who are you anyway?" She asked.
"I am your salvation." A voice whispered from the shadows. It was almost hypnotic in nature and with every syllable Maria could feel an urge to run from it as if it were, in some way, malevolent by nature. At the same time, however, it was such a still soft voice that she wondered if it were anything to worry about at all.
Instinctively, she stepped backward to give herself a little room between her and the voice. Vee, who was still right behind her, set her hands gently but firmly on the young girl's shoulders. "Don't worry." She explained. "Just listen and everything will be fine."
Maria slightly jumped at the touch of the other girl. Between the pitch darkness and the hypnotic strange voice the mere touch on her shoulder bestowed her with a strange a sense of dread. She could feel beads of sweat forming on her brow as she stared out into the black nothingness. It almost felt like she was dreaming.
Silently, she took a deep breath. The anxiety was growing inside of her with each second but she did not want to show any sign of fear. "What do you mean, my salvation?" She asked sternly.
"Exactly that." Answered the voice. "I have a special ability to see people's pain. I know everything that troubles you. More importantly than that, I can make it go away."
Immediately, Maria's thoughts went back to her father. "What do you mean you can make it go away?" She asked fearfully. She was getting more apprehensive by the moment and was almost sure that the answer to her question was most likely going to be that she would be dead in a matter of mere moments. In reality, she did not really want to ask the question at all but the possibility of any sort of reprieve of the pain in her heart was too great to ignore.
"He means," Vee answered, leaning into Maria's ear, "that anything and everything that is causing you pain can be made to go away."
"That's right." The voice answered. "Through my power you can live a life free of problems. All the trouble and strife you feel right now can be swept away in an instant never to return."
"What are you talking about?" The girl replied. The fear that had been growing inside of her was now turning into confusion. What sort of power could possibly take away so much strife? It went against all reality. It was like a fairytale.
"Your father." The other continued. "I can bring justice to his murderer. I know it must sound impossible but I can help. It is...what I live to do."
"Trust him." Vee whispered softly into her ear. "It sounds strange but he can really do it."
"How do you know about my father?" Maria exclaimed, pulling herself away from the arms behind her.
From the darkness came a quick snicker from the stranger. "My dear." The voice said. "I know because you know. I sense in you a need for justice for father. He was...murdered?"
It was astounding. Who ever this was he knew her deepest secret. Could have over heard her conversation with Dave? It was the most logical answer she could think of. The only other thing she could think of was that he was reading her mind. "I wasn't eavesdropping." Said the voice in the shadows. "And even being so far from earth you can still get justice. I can help."
Once again, Vee moved behind the girl and placed her hands firmly but gently on her shoulders. "You see." She said." He knows your pain. Let us help you get rid of it."
The young girl's mind began to fill with wonder. She wanted to believe them but it still seemed impossible. She was as far away from earth as she could possibly be not to mention that she had traveled through time as well. "I still don't understand." She said. "How can I possibly see justice for my father when his murder is so far away?"
Through the darkness Maria could hear the stranger's footsteps crunch on the cavern floor as he started to walk toward her. At the same time small flames begin to peek up timidly from torches along the walls on either side of them sending a dim light into the cavern. The owner of the unknown voice could now be somewhat seen.
He was still mostly a dark shadow but his tall thin silhouette was now visible in dim lights. For some reason it seemed to exude a feeling of pity, yet, at the same time, a sense of total control. "I am called Atans." The stranger offered. "Look into my eyes and all of your questions will be answered."
In that moment Maria forgot about everything she held dear, the Doctor, Dave, everything. The only thing she could focus on were the two bright blue eyes that were now visible in front of her. An eerie feeling penetrated her body as if something unreal was happening. She could feel her mind slipping away from herself as if she were entering into a different level of consciousness.
From behind, Vee gripped tighter to the young girl's shoulders. "Now, you'll understand." She said. "It seems strange at first but don't fight it."
"Become more than what you are." Atans explained. "That is how you gain your justice. Your stepmother never thought you would amount to anything. If she did, you would have been killed too."
Suddenly, Maria's face perked up. She had never, in all this time, wondered why she had been left alive. It was not like there had never been a chance. After all, as head of the police unit Illia the power and the opportunity to get rid of her but never did. Why? The only thing that she could think of was what Atans had told her. Her stepmother did not consider her a threat, even if a thousand years past she would have still believed Maria still unable to expose her.
More over, she was now sure that she knew what the shadowy figure had meant. She may not be able to bring her father's murderer to justice but she could strive to become far more than what she was ever expected to be. It would be, in a small amount, revenge. The young girl's face twisted into an evil smile. "What do I have to do?"