Anyway, it's probably dawn by now, and the "gang" is able to sleep not because they've been up for 24 hours or however long Voltar's day is, but because "they did not care what time of day it was: it was always night in the Domestic Confederacy Prison." All that research about humans adopting a 24-hour-ish circadian research even when isolated from daylight apparently doesn't apply to these aliens who are otherwise completely interchangeable with humans.
Flick keeps going on about his dream coming true, how he's going to start planning how to rob their apartment after he has some sleep... and then the horror begins.
Flick gave Madison a single, cross-arm salute and turned to go to his own rest.
A wail was coming from somewhere.
Yeah, the onset of horror is quite sudden.
It got louder.
Someone was shouting a single word. And shouting it with panic that held the raw screech of terror!
So maybe they weren't shouting as much as screeching, eh?
It wasn't a word Madison knew. It was being repeated over and over.
Pounding feet raced toward them. A single man flashed by Madison's open door, screaming that word loud enough to hurt the ears!
"The sealer!" cried Flick. "Come back here!"
But the man raced screaming straight on, tearing through the berthing apartments of the crew, still screaming!
Wish I'd thought to keep a "PANDEMONIUM!" count over the course of this, we've got to have broken ten cases by now.
All the cons are awake now, and eventually manage to corner and pin the spaz. The horror writer explains that the screamer is from "the back country of Flisten, from his eye shape and long fingernails. They're like monkeys, those people." And even though racist horror-writer doesn't speak "Guaop," he thinks the word means "ghosts." The closest Madison can come to imitating it is "slith-therg," in case you were wondering what this alien language sounds like.
From the guy's gestures, it looks like he was poking around on one of the upper floors when he encountered that "ghost." And immediately, every single convict races towards the staircase to go see the spook in question, much like how stupid tourists out west will charge en masse to try and catch a glimpse of a grizzly wandering near the parking lot. I didn't get any good pictures of it before it ran off.
Madison and Flick pursue, the latter complaining that "you're cheating!", when suddenly a forcefield shimmers into existence, cutting them off from the others at an intersection! And by "forcefield" I mean "bulletproof glass panel" sliding out of the ceiling. Wonder if Voltar space guns count as bullets for such purposes?
The gang, meanwhile, has split into three groups to search the corridors for that nasty "ghost."
Suddenly, the group in the right-hand corridor halted.
On the other hand, since I didn't keep a "PANDEMONIUM!" count I never had to deal with the question of whether or not to count "CHAOS!" in a separate category or not.
They began to scream and retreat.
With raised stingers, a squad of police was charging straight at them!
"Oh, Gods, they were wise to us!" howled Flick. "Come back here. QUICK!"
But then the middle group starts to run from a squad of "SOLDIERS!", while the third bunch also flees because "ASSASSINS WITH ELECTRIC KNIVES WERE BEHIND THEM!"
Madison and Flick looked anxiously back into the right-hand corridor.
IT WAS EMPTY!
They looked into the middle corridor.
NO SIGN OF THAT GROUP!
They looked into the left-hand corridor.
THE WHOLE CREW HAD VANISHED!
Before you ask, no, the cons haven't "vanished" in the sense that they ran away, they've vanished while Madison and Flick were busy looking at the other groups. The horror!
A wispy, filmy shape, a ghost indeed, drifted down toward the glass barricade and LAUGHED!
Oh, it was a horrible sound!
Madison and Flick fled.
I think this is a bit more stupid than someone who grew up watching TV freaking out when a "picture" moves within its frame. At least with TVs you can usually tell when they're on, there's that hum of electricity, a bit of static, the heat rising from the screen. Being able to convincingly disguise one as an oil painting would be a good surprise, but it'd take all of a second to realize the ruse.
This? These people were literally walking through holographic doors last chapter.
Back to Chapter Two