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Not long after I got my hands and legs free, when I was sitting there, playing with the ball of mangled tape, the door opened. In stepped two…hmm…I guess someone else would call them terrorist types. They were clad in bulky loose clothes of indeterminate age and color, sort of beige-ish green like overused army surplus, and their heads and faces were covered in scarves. They even had sunglasses on, how cliché! And, of course, they were carrying guns.
Naturally, I gave them a big, friendly smile and asked very cheerfully, “Hello, there! How are you doing, today?”
That stopped them in their tracks. I immediately went on the attack, taking advantage of their confusion.
“Did you have a good weekend?” I asked. “I was hoping to catch the big game back home, with the Red Rockets versus the Bay Blasters, but I was lagged from the flight and had to go to bed early. Did either of you catch the score?
“Uhh…” one of them replied. He was the taller of the two, his clothes a little paler overall.
I fixed him with a hopeful look—raising the brows and such—and pressed, “So what was it? Who won?”
“The…Rockets won. 6 to 3?” The taller fellow glanced at the shorter one. “Wasn’t it 6 to 3?”
“Shh!” the shorter one hissed, and I got the impression it was a she under all those layers of cloth. “Don’t tell her that!”
“Let me guess, you’re a Blasters fan?” I asked, re-seizing the initiative. This part is key in negotiations: Keep the other side slightly off-balance, disarm them with pleasantries, and control the conversation with mixtures of sympathy and questions. “You know, I was starting to root for them, too? I’m actually more of a Satellites fan, truth be told, but Rockets versus Blasters looked like it was going to be great. And Jeff Cheung is such a great center, and their goalie this year practically defies gravity! What was your favorite part of the game? The best play of the night?”
“Well, I really liked the—”
“—Don’t talk to her like that!” short and female hissed again. “She’s our prisoner, not our pal!”
“Maybe you shouldn’t talk to him like that?” I asked, giving her a pointed look of my own. “Look, for whatever reason I’m here, whatever you might want from me, we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.”
…And at that point I had to jab my thumbnail into my palm to keep from laughing, because from the way short and female jerked back, it looked like I’d just stolen her lines out from under her. I can let myself laugh about it now, but back then, I knew one false twitch would ruin everything I was trying to do.