“You don’t think we should be more serious?” Colli didn’t try to hide her irritation.
“No,” he replied, bluntly
“Uh?” Sung broke in, before they could carry the argument further. “Colli, this is Keleon Tamastersine. Keleon,” Sung looked disapprovingly at him. “This is Collianna O’Glacken. She needs your help.”
“Why do I need his help?” Colli let her aggravation flow out with the words.
“Can you drive a car?”
“I can.” Mary stepped through the doorway. “I can even repair one.”
“I thought I told you to stay down there.” Sung glared at her.
“Sorry.” Her smile was less than acquiescing.
My sister’s more like me than I thought, Colli sighed. “See. We don’t need you.” She turned back to Sung. “When are you going to tell me what the assignment is?”
“Can you build and…” Keleon interrupted her, “and operate an offworld transport?” He smirked
Mary opened her mouth, but no words came out.
“Why would we need to do that?” Colli faced Keleon. She didn’t try to hide her dislike.
“Go ahead. Tell her,” Sung laughed.
Keleon grew serious. “Surely you don’t believe Illianna and Jovan are of this world.” He moved close. This let him stare down at her.
Colli stiffened her back, to stand taller. “I hadn’t really thought much about it.” She shrugged. “I just knew they were different. But I haven’t been here long enough to know what the locals are like.”
“Locals?” Mary laughed nervously. “I guarantee they’re nothing like Illianna, Jovan, and especially not Trevan.” She turned to face Keleon. “You can build an offworld transport?”
“Not only can I, but I have.” He motioned to an old black car with its hood up. “Don’t let this deceive you. It’ll break easily through the atmosphere, easily.”
“Nah-huh.” Mary moved over to the vehicle.
“Yes, it’ll travel to the edge of the solar system and back in less time than it would take you to drive that fancy little sports car of yours back to town.”
Colli felt like she was watching one of the weekly vid-performances from the rec-center. She stood there, mesmerized by the repartee between her sister and this irritating stranger.
“Hey Sung? Can we take it for a spin?” Keleon surprised Colli by including her in the “we”. “You can come too, if you want.” Keleon nodded at Sung.
“That’s a good idea. Come on Colli, you in the front with Keleon. Mary and I’ll take the back.” Sung guided Mary to the far side of the car, much as he’d guided Colli up the stairs. He wasn’t going to give her another chance to disobey him.
Colli realized few people succeed at disobeying him. She had once, but wasn’t going to try it again, at least not yet.
By the time she climbed into the front passenger seat, Keleon had started the motor. It had a rickety, raspy sound that shook the metal frame.
Metal restraints snapped around Colli before she could open the door and get out of the foul smelling death trap .
“Sit still. You’ll be fine.” Keleon leaned his head back and laughed. He flipped a switch. The windows darkened. Fresh filtered air puffed in Colli’s face. The engine settled to a powerful hum. “One more thing.” Reaching in front of her, Keleon activated a visa-screen. “You’ll want to see where we’re going.” Again his voice irritated her.
The ride was exhilarating. Before the force of gravity could press in, the vehicle passed through the outer atmosphere. For a moment, the moon glowed brightly on the screen. Then it was replaced by the outer planets.