Carmen visualized the security panel as clearly as she could after the brief look at it that she had when the door’s grate opened. She could feel the rock, and to a lesser extent anything that the rock was touching, but she had to hope that her memory of the buttons and controls on the panel were right where she remembered them. She mentally lifted the rock and punched it into the panel again, hearing the shouts of the two on the other side as they realized what was happening.
“Come on, I know the release button was around there somewhere…”
She hammered the rock into the panel, moving it slightly each time, hearing the frightened footfalls of the pair in the hallway rushing nearer. Just as the two arrived, Carmen propelled the rock into the control panel one last time and heard a click from her door.
Carmen pushed her way through the door, not waiting for it to gently swing open. The door collided with Rillem, knocking him back into the rushing Jen and causing both of them to fall to the floor. Carmen twisted her hand back and the three stones spun back to her like a yoyo, two from her former cell and one from the Door Release button on the control panel.
Carmen picked a direction… the one away from the two on the floor… and ran. A staircase rose from the hallway, and Carmen took three steps at a time, leaving the sight of Jen and Rillem before they even made it back to their feet. She heard them shouting, and laughed. No one could catch up to her once it became a race.
At the top of the staircase, a dark alcove opened into another hall, stretching off in either direction. Carmen paused for just a second, considering both.
“Go to the left,” said a sonorous voice in the darkness.
Carmen spun and stared into the shadows. After a moment, she could just make out a figure dressed in black, wearing a red mask and a wide-brimmed hat with red lining. The Phantom Matador.
“I was alerted to your plight by an associate,” said the Matador. “I told him you would not need my assistance, but felt it best to check on you myself. I’m so happy to see…”
Carmen leapt at the Matador, furious. He easily sidestepped her, twisting in the shadows with an unnatural speed.
“This is not a time for us to dance,” he said. “This is a time for you to escape these fiends.”
“I’d rather take you out and get captured again. And they’re not dances, they’re races! I don’t need a gatecrasher telling me what kind of sport I’m in!”
“We are all involved in a great dance, though, are we not? Life growing, developing on rocks that spin around stars in other people’s skies, in a dance that-”
Carmen jumped at the Matador again, and again he sidestepped.
“I hear her!” shouted a voice from below. Carmen looked down the stairs and heard the thundering steps of Jen and Rillem nearing. She looked back at the Phantom, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Carmen scowled and stepped through the door, looking to the right and left. Wherever he’d gone, he’d moved quickly and quietly. Carmen considered both of the routes of escape, considering the Matador’s words.
Carmen ran to the right.