The illusion that he knew what he was doing got Weyland out of the shop and down the hall. The cart was cheap, with wheels on the bottom instead of expensive anti-gravity technology. Although it looked brand new, one of the wheels was already sticky, and Weyland kept having to correct his course to keep Jianyu’s head from smacking into a wall.
Stun batons were an imprecise technology. That was inevitable in a galaxy filled with dozens of sentient species of all sorts of shapes and compositions. There was no electrical voltage, no sedative gas, no sound or vibration guaranteed to work instantly and non-fatally. Stun batons dispensed a sharp, short electrical impulse that worked on most species most of the time, which was as good as anyone had managed to get thus far.
Jianyu was a big man, and he had no known heart conditions. Both were points in his favor. But he also had a conductive metal rod in his brain, and that was a potential problem. With every passing minute that he didn’t wake up, Weyland wondered if he ever would.
He had to get back to his laboratory on the Benevolence. There was no way he could assess the situation here, with no neural probe and a com screen that seemed so thoroughly broken he wasn’t even sure it would collect any data.
Weyland found an elevator, but when he pressed the call button, nothing happened. The car was right there. He could see it right on the other side of the glass elevator shaft, but the doors were shut. He wheeled Jianyu behind a pillar and checked his pulse again, considering his options as he counted heartbeats. He didn’t seem to be in immediate distress, but he wasn’t close to waking up either. Weyland was stronger than most people expected him to be, but Jianyu outweighed him by well over a hundred pounds, and he was completely limp. Carrying him up a ladder in the maintenance corridors wasn’t an option.
His luck with the security officers had held so far. Their com screens weren’t locked down, so maybe they had some way of getting the elevator working too. He left Jianyu where he was and doubled back.
The officers were gone. The store was mostly as he’d left it, the wire shelves still toppled, the blood on the floor now dried to a crusty brown. Someone was shouting at the back of the store. Weyland thought he recognized that voice. He stepped around a display rack and found Sera. She’d backed the human girl up against the wall, and she had both hands wrapped in the fabric of the girl’s shirt collar so tight she was nearly throttling her.
“He was here,” Sera shouted. She shook her hands, and the girl swayed with her, making desperate little sounds. “Don’t lie to me, I saw him.”
“Someone took him,” the girl said, her voice thin and strained.
“Who? The guards?”
“Doctor.” The girl clawed at Sera’s hands, and Sera shoved her back into the wall. “Didn’t recognize him.”
“Are you looking for Jianyu?” Weyland asked.
Sera dropped the girl and spun around, drawing her gun. Weyland stepped out of the way, just in case, but when she saw him she inhaled sharply and pointed the muzzle down at the floor instead of at him. The girl slid down the wall, gasping for air, hands curled protectively around her own throat.
“I put him behind a pillar near the elevator,” Weyland said, speaking quickly, because Sera had that wild-eyed look she always got right before she did something drastic. “We need to get him back to the ship, but he’s not conscious and the elevator’s not working.”
Sera patted her vest absently, looking for something in the pockets. “Damn, I left my com screen by the dock. Do you have yours?”
“It won’t work,” Weyland told her. “It’s stuck on a security message.”
“Doesn’t matter. I just need the hardware.” Sera holstered her gun, accepted the com screen from him, and started walking out of the store. She didn’t bother to step around the fallen merchandise. A package of chips burst under the heel of her boot.
Weyland hung back for long enough to check on the girl. She was still breathing irregularly, but when he knelt beside her she shrank back and asked, “Whose side are you on?”
Her voice was raspy. Maybe she had some laryngeal damage. Probably not too serious, if she could still speak. Weyland told her as much, but she just stared at him and said, “If Earth’s not safe, nowhere is. We have to fight back.”
Something surfaced briefly from Weyland’s subconscious, more sensation than memory, huge and dark and cold. He thought he saw the same emotion on the girl’s face. With effort, he pushed it down again, remembered once again who he was. Each time, the choice felt a little easier, less like deciding between two branching paths and more like confirming he was on the right road after all. “Talk to a doctor if you vomit or feel dizzy,” he told her, and then he went to find his friends.
Sera had his com screen plugged into a wall panel near the elevator. Weyland wheeled Jianyu over and checked his pulse and pupils again while she worked. The elevator door finally slid open, and they maneuvered Jianyu inside, turning the cart awkwardly to fit it inside a space that hadn’t been built for cargo. Sera told him he’d have to leave his com screen behind so the elevator would work, and Weyland shrugged.
The car didn’t move as fast as Weyland remembered. It climbed through the station in fits and starts, giving them time to look out the glass at each floor. Some were empty. One looked like it was on fire. On one floor, a crowd had gathered around something Weyland couldn’t see. He thought it looked humanoid, but it was on the ground, and the mob was shifting and moving in a way that stirred strange memories in him. He looked at Sera, and she looked sadder than he’d ever seen her before, and they just looked at each other until the car had crawled its way up to the next floor.
Weyland put his hand in his pocket and was surprised to find the bag that he’d stuffed in there earlier. He pulled it out, checked the glass vial inside for cracks, re-wrapped it carefully.
“What’s that?” Sera asked.
“It’s a dog,” Weyland told her.
“Okay,” Sera said. She didn’t ask any more questions, and they finished the ride in silence.