by Cheeseburger Brown
"Hey!" I objected.
"Be quiet, imbecile," she hissed, hard eyes locked on mine. She gestured with her chin. "Get moving. Quickly. Before they see us."
A pod of pests was drawing taut around us, their grotesque wet eyes blinking and their big lumpy hearts slowly throbbing. Their paws appeared to be fully weaponized.
The woman took hold of my arm and pulled at me. "Who are you?" I demanded. "Listen lady, I'm on contract with the ministry --"
She violently manoeuvred me into an alcove aside the main passage I'd opened up, my dispenser yanked out of my hands as the cables reached their stretching point. I complained profanely at this which caused her to clap her hand across my mouth, as if I were a child causing an embarrassing commotion in a public space.
Which I obviously wasn't. So I bit her.
She kicked me unmentionably. I slid down the wall and sat on the ground.
Before me roiled the great cloud of dust unleashed when the drill had penetrated the tunnel, twin whorls marking the passage of the bossy woman and me from the smashed and sun-lit middle to the corridor's shaded jowl. Motes chased motes in lazy waves. Droplets of swill from the square above accelerated as they drifted in small, irregular clusters toward gravity.
Finally, the animals' nervous systems caught up with events and they responded to the incursion into their space, yowling in alarm and flinching away.
Two full seconds had elapsed. My patience was strained to the utmost.
"What is the meaning of this?" I cried. "The vermin will take my dispenser, and that means I have to stump all the way back up to my palette to fetch the spare nozzle. You're interfering in official government business and all that. Who do you think you are?"
"We are Queen."
"Ha. As if."
"We are Queen, citizen. Now follow us, away from this company. Fly lightly."
"What company? Quit jerking my chain, lady."
She held one hand aloft, eyes on the animals. "On our signal…" she said and then briefly beeped. She ran. What the hell? I ran too. While the beasts bent over my dispenser to point their eyes at it the woman and I dashed behind their backs and away, along the corridor, flitting between new knots of pests that came lumbering in at the drill's noise -- a noise now echoing away, sloshing around corners, reverberating in lattices, fading to mush.
While we sprinted a third second languidly passed.