Rachel can get them out?

“She listens to you,” said Brigitte.

“She sure does,” I said.

We backed slowly away, and then I realized that we were backing towards the hospital, where a crowd of people was waiting and there were security guards. I began to move towards the cops, again, but that was no good, either.

“What do we do?” I asked. The naked girl was standing, looking at me, and the cops were looking at each other. I thought maybe they were planning something and thought I should tell them to stop it but how would that work? Tell them to stop doing whatever they were doing?

“I’m not sure,” Brigitte answered, and we stood there, with her pointing the gun at the cops and the cops slowly lowering their hands, and then suddenly the rookie remembered something and pulled his own ray gun out, and pointed it at Brigitte.

“Okay, miss, drop the gun,” he said.

I couldn’t believe it had taken him that long to realize he was armed, too.

“I won’t,” Brigitte said.

There was noise behind us.

“Drop it or I’ll shoot,” the rookie said.

“You won’t,” Brigitte said.

The naked girl was staring at me.

The noise behind us grew louder. It included some shouts and some yells and some noises like scuffling.

“I will,” said the rookie.

“Just shoot her,” said the older cop.

“Get him,” I told the naked girl, who hesitated for a moment until I looked at the rookie and she jumped on him again and tried to tackle him. He was ready for it and he began fending her off, hampered only slightly by his need to not touch her breasts or vagina or rear end because of her nudity, and hampered also by the fact that she was biting.

The older cop wasn’t so shy and grabbed at her and I dared looking behind us now because there was definitely a lot of noise coming up there. I saw, when I looked, the crowd of people moving aside as Doc and Mr. Damned Soul, the guy Brigitte called Samson, were fighting with a couple of security guards. Doc had zapped someone, I thought, because there was a guy lying on the ground twitching, and he was hovering near Mr. Damned Soul-Samson’s ear. That guy, for his part, was shoving people and punching people and looking for a way out.

The older cop pulled the naked girl off the rookie and held his arms around her waist; her legs and arms were still flailing towards the rookie.

“Attack the guy that’s holding you,” I told her. She immediately began kicking backwards and throwing elbows and writhing. The rookie, meanwhile, stood up and held up his gun and there was a hum and I felt some ambient heat and he went back down.

Brigitte had shot him. She looked as surprised as all of us, I’m sure, felt, but she then grabbed the gun he’d dropped and handed it to me just as there was a yell and I looked back, taking the gun, and Mr. Damned Soul had broken through and was running towards us.

“Hold onto that,” Brigitte told me, and I turned back. The naked girl had spun around and was biting the older cop’s ear and he was now trying to shove her away. Brigitte said “Call her off,” and I told the naked girl to come by me. She immediately stopped and wriggled free and came to stand by my left side. Samson came running up and Doc was right there and Doc came and hovered by my ear.

Hello Rachel he said and I was really grateful because I’d missed Doc. My throat got a little chokey feeling.

“Give me that,” said Samson, and took the ray gun, which I wasn’t happy about but I also didn’t object because I wasn’t sure I knew how to use it and he looked like he did know how to do something with it.

“I guess the idea of sneaking away is done for,” I said.

Samson shot me a look but didn’t say anything.

“Where do we go?” I asked anyone in general. The older cop was standing there with his hands held up but now I heard sirens.

Straight ahead said Doc in my ear and I relayed that to everyone and we took off running, pausing only long enough for Samson to zap the older cop, and for me to tell the naked girl to follow me.

Just up around the corner was the big street we’d been heading for. There were no buildings across the street, just a park of some kind and I could smell water. The main street was crowded with bicycles and people walking and horses and carriages and dirigibles and unicyles and all the other things that people use to get around, and I heard the sirens louder and could hear the rumble of engines like the ones the cops down south had used.

With Doc’s directions we ran straight across the street, making more of a spectacle than I thought we should, but a corpse , a naked girl, and an octopus running with two girls one of whom is in a hospital gown, would probably make a big spectacle, anyway, even if they didn’t stop traffic and even if the corpse, Mr. Damned Soul, didn’t keep threatening to shoot anyone who got too near him.

“Stop that,” I told him, and the naked girl stopped and I grabbed at her but she didn’t move and I said “For Pete’s sake, I wasn’t talking to you, I was telling him to stop so get going” and then she did, and I was wishing that she was a little less obedient and we made it into the park and I could smell water more strongly.

There were people in the park, sitting and reading or walking or doing what people do in parks. I don’t know what they do. Some were sleeping and I envied them because I was really tired. We kept on running and the sirens were really loud but not directly behind us yet. Doc steered us through some trees and then down into an underpass, a little kind of footpath that went under another footpath for no discernible reason, and then back up. We slowed down as the sirens grew more faint and there was nobody near us.

Doc was beeping and whirring. We stopped, just on the other side of the underpass, and everyone looked at me.

“What,” I said, but they just stared, and then I realized that they were looking not at me but at Doc, waiting for him to do something. He’d stopped floating, and had settled onto my shoulder. I could hear little whizzes and clicks.

“What’s going on, Doc? Do you know where to go now?”

Hold Doc said. Hold. Searching Hold. Then he brightened and lifted up again. We need to go this way he said and pointed one little plasticky tentacle off to my right.

“You heard him. Let’s go,” I said, but Samson and Brigitte were already turning that way. I guessed they’d gotten used to listening to Doc while I was gone. Which brought up a question. “How long was I gone, Doc?” Doc knew what I meant.

4 days you were unconscious.

“How long has it been since I was captured?”

7 days.

Seven days. I thought about that. That meant that I had been unconscious, held by Reverend Tommy and Brigitte’s father, for 3 days, probably while they traveled here. 3 days in which I had not gone to Hell.

Also, that reminded me that Brigitte’s father and Rex were dead, and it reminded me of how I’d acted when he died and I felt bad. I also wondered when I should tell her. Was being on the run from the law the right time to break that news? I’m unversed in social graces.

“So it was four days from when the Art Museum disappeared?” I asked Doc, trying to work it all through. We were walking, now, through an area of the park that was mostly little trees about a hundred yards apart. I could hear water, too, and wondered if Doc was taking us to the water to try to get a boat or something.

Yes, Doc said, and then ordered us to stop.

“What’s here?” I asked. Brigitte had come to stand next to me. We all looked around. The sounds of the sirens were more distant, still, and I guessed we’d come pretty far even in the minute or two that we were walking, but not that far.

Nothing, said Doc, and came and sat on my shoulder.

“What are we supposed to do?” I asked.

You have to take us, Doc said.

“Take us where?”

Away from here. We need to leave.

“I don’t know how to do that, Doc. We need a dirigible or something.”

No. You have to take us from this world.

“What?” I asked.

You have to move us from this world. We will not escape otherwise. They will close in on us. I have been searching for a way and I cannot find one. So I have led us far enough away to give you time to move us into one of the other worlds that you can go to and then we will use that to escape and come back here.

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