Jun 30th 2011, 21:38 by E O Hatterpol | 1228 AU FROM SUN
"Hey! Come back here, murderer! Come back here & face great justice!"
"I DIDN'T MURDER ANYONE, YO!" I screamed back, fleeing the Deep Space Observation Deck (DSOD).
I ran as fast as my legs would take me around the snaking bendsof the Starbase's tentacles. Outer space stared at me through suction cup windows scattered all about. I could tell I was running towards the main square - the Squid's Beak - because the circular hallway was widening.
When I finally reached it, I was breathless & light-headed.
"Why... this Starbase... gotta be so big, yo..." I wheezed. Any one of Starbase Octopus' eight tentacles was big enough to make the Starship Flybrary look like krill, let alone its enormous head.
I scanned a map frantically for the Help & Welcome Department. Even though I was 1,228 astronomical units from Earth - 114 billion miles - I recognized the map's style instantly: it looked just like one of those silly kiosks with adverts round the back you would find in a mall!
"This is absurd! I half-expect to find Wet Seal & 5-7-9 up in this horseshoe crab! Is outer space ahead of Earth fashion-wise or behind?
"I don't got time for this, clam it! Let's see... ATM... MTO Kiosk... Tour Ship Drop-Off... Family Washrooms... where are the bleeding departments listed?!"
I could hear the rabble catching up. I didn't have much time.
"Ah! Here we go!" I said. "Seafood Saltiness Regulation Department, no... Suction Cup Window Cleaning department, definitely not, although I do like to watch them squeegee... focus, E O!
"There! Help & Welcome Department, Tentacle #4!"
I tore off across the Squid's Beak, nearly clocking a small child in my haste. That probably wouldn't help to clear my name. I heard that stupid man & his stupid family shouting out for my head just as I turned the bend. Luckily, there were so many tentacles going off in so many directions it'd be impossible for them to know where I was going without seeing me first, so I felt safer.
But I still had to stop Nixie before she got herself mixed up in something dangerous. Dead zonbi or no, she should stay out of it! At least that's how I'm trying to roll after my multiple near-death experiences in the Kuiper Belt.
I ran & ran & ran - so much running! - round and round the sinuous Starbase. I had a stitch in my side just under my bad ribs & had to mush on it through my asteroid-thread spacesuit to keep going.
But finally - FINALLY! - I could see a girl walking determinedly to the Help & Welcome Department, swinging her shiny, jet black hair behind her with an air of determination. Even from here, I could tell she loved authority.