Artie Sanchez ran down the corridor as fast as he could. The low gravity made him slip as he turned the corners despite the gecko grip soles on his shoes. He was big for his five years, but on Virginia Space Station the gravity was only two thirds earth normal and Artie wasn't used to the low gravity. His breath burned his throat and he had a stitch in his side, but he couldn't stop. There was a man trying to kill him. "Stranger Danger!" he was saying to himself repeatedly. He didn't know why, but a huge man in a uniform had tried to grab him. Artie had escaped by biting the man on the wrist. Artie had to find a place to hide and find it quickly. Where do you hide on a space station? There are no trees to climb or bushes to crouch behind. Every inch of the station had been planed for efficient use of space. There were no secret passages or mazes of dungeon like corridors. Each corridor gently ran around to meet itself in exactly one kilometer. Every 20 meters there was an intersection with a side passage that went left and right to the next circular corridor. Artie would be able to avoid capture only as long as he could keep moving. The wide entranceway to one of the common rooms appeared ahead. This is where the passengers on Virginia Space Station waited for their connecting flights to the moon's surface or for the shuttle back to Earth. Artie turned quickly and ran into the large room, searching for a protected place to hide. The Earth was in one of the view ports swinging by at a dizzying speed. Artie paused to catch his breath and watch it, but never forgot his peril. He ran to the back and hid under a table. Artie's breath came in gasps and he struggled to quiet himself. A man in a uniform came in the room. His angry eyes searched the room. The man had a large white scar cutting at an angle across his forehead and down his cheek. Artie pushed back as far as he could beneath the table, hoping that the man would not see him. "There you are you little rat!" bellowed the man and he leaped over a group of chairs with the ease of someone long used to low gravity. "No!" screamed Artie and crawled quickly aside. He took off between the furniture. The big man's momentum kept him from changing direction until he reached the table. He pushed off in the boy's direction, but Artie had made it to the door and was on the run again. Artie knew that he was done for unless he could find a place to hide. Soon he would make it all the way around the station and he would be back in the passenger section. It was impossible to hide there. Too many people would see him running and mark his passing. He ran through the residential sections of the station. All Artie saw were locked doors. He turned down a side passage, but it soon ended and he slipped and fell as he made the turn to run down a long main corridor again. The emergency airlocks came up on his left and Artie had an idea. He slapped on the air lock access button. The airlock doors opened with a whoosh. Artie ran into the small room. There were controls on the wall. Artie quickly scanned them. He was a good reader for his age, but the instructions were too technical. Artie wanted to close the door so he could hide but there was no immediately obvious ways of doing this. Artie pressed a button and a red light came on. "Warning, please run suite integrity test, level three, before continuing." A computer said in a friendly female voice. Artie heard the big man coming down the hallway. He crouched, ready to leap. Artie was trapped. The man ran by, but he must have seen of Artie through the corner of his eye. Artie heard him trying to stop, his shoes screeching on the smooth deck. A second later the man rushed into the room. His huge hands reached for Artie. Artie kicked off from the back wall of the airlock and skidded right between the man's legs. The man kept moving and bounced on the back wall of the airlock. Artie bounced off the opposite corridor wall and slapped the "close" button on the airlock door. He heard the computer voice saying "Warning!" before the sound was cut off by the sealing of the doors. He could see the man through the hatch screaming at him. Suddenly the lights on the door cycled yellow and then red. The outer door opened and the man with the ugly scar shot into vacuum with the rush of air, his eyes bulging out of his face. He was vomiting blood. Artie sat down to catch his breath. He was breathing in quick sobs now and the pain in his side was agonizing. Just then, his mother came around the corner with another man. The man was wearing a uniform, too. Artie froze. Uniforms terrified him. "Oh, here he is Captain." She said smiling, taking Artie by the hand. "I was so worried, but I knew he couldn't be far away. Thank you again, Captain." "Any time, Ma'am." The captain said bowing slightly, touching his cap. "We have to catch the shuttle in 20 minutes." Artie's Mom said, "We're spending summer vacation on the Moon with my brother. Oh, and please thank the steward, you know the big man with a scar. He's been helping me look for Artie all morning. He was so nice." "He'll be along any minute now," the Captain said. "You can't get lost on a space station. After all, where could you possibly hide?"
x x x