Serial Saturday #2.4: The Ghost
"Dadatoa? Uncle Mendrika?"
He spread his arms wide, grinning... "Zanak'anabavy!"
Blink. She was one hundred fifty million miles away and five years younger and someone was pounding on their front door. Sarah had been huddled on the couch for days now, glued to news reports coming in from all the fronts. Her mother rushed from the kitchen and lunged for the controller. "Turn that down!"
"Turn it down," she repeated. "Iza io?"
"Mendrika," came the reply. "Open the damn door."
Her mother flung the door open and her uncle came in, uniform torn and dirty, rifle slung across his shoulders.
"Uncle Mendrika, your eye!" Sarah said, noticing the eyepatch across his right eye.
Her mother blanched. "What happened?"
"Start packing," he repeated.
"The Consolidation Fleet sailed sooner than we thought. They made amphibious landings on both coasts- the bulk came ashore at Taomasina this morning. Mahajanga and Marovoay are gone. The road to Antananarivo is wide open."
Mendrika and her mother exchanged a long glance, her mother's determined mask slipping for just a moment before she turned back to Sarah.
Blink. "Sarah? Are you going to invite me in?" Mendrika looked concerned. "What's happened, what's wrong?"
Sarah, trembling, stood aside and Mendrika stepped into the apartment.
"Is someone here?"
"I don't know. I just got back and my friend-"
"Stay here," Mendrika replied. She saw a glint of metal in his palm and she gave a little shriek as she realized what it was. "What? What is it?"
"You've got a gun," Sarah said. "Are you-"
"Where's your friend?"
She pressed her thumb onto the lock to the room where Annika's body laid and slide down the wall and began to cry again. He curled his finger over the trigger and stepped into the room. The hiss of the closet door came first and then she saw him cross the living room and step into her room as well before he finally returned, slipped the gun back into his pocket, and squatted down beside her.
"How long have you been back?"
"Not-" Sarah took a shuddering breath. "Long."
"There's no one in the apartment," Mendrika said.
He stood and extended a hand to her. She took it and with a firm tug, he pulled Sarah to her feet.
"Someone is trying to kill you."
Sarah snorted, wryly through the tears. "Can't wait to find out who wants me dead."
"We don't know."
"I'll tell you on the way," Mendrika replied. "Start packing."
"We thought you were dead, you know after Toliara fell."
"We don't have time for this, Sarah," Mendrika said. "Someone is trying to kill you. We need to get you out of here tonight."
"You show up here like a ghost-"
"They took Fianarantsoa and we fell back to the east coast. The Omanis had intervened by then and they picked me up. I spent two years trying to find out where you ended up and then I got... a job."
"I'll tell you on the way to the docks."
Mendrika put both his hands on her shoulders and gave her a shake. 'Sarah. The walkway, the power converter, and now a dead body in your apartment? Someone is trying to kill you. There's a ship leaving for Samundra City in," he glanced down at his comm bracelet. "In forty-five minutes and you need to be on it."
"What's in Samundra City?"
"Answers, I hope," Mendrika replied.
"You show up here after four years and you won't tell me who you're working for! Why should I trust you? Why should I believe you? Yesterday you were dead and now you're... you're... here."
The front door opened. Mendrika yanked her backward as two men in black burst into the room, guns drawn and Sarah's scream caught in her throat as he fired two shots and both crumpled to the ground. Mendrika lowered his gun and glanced back over his shoulder at Sarah. "Do you believe me now?"
"I'll start packing."