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Authors: L K Rigel

Space Junque (7 page)

BOOK: Space Junque
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The tiny blue arcs flickered over the ship. A vulnerable spot toward the rear blew out. She turned her head. She didn't want to know what had evacuated into space.

She and Mike had won, and the sunflower ship had lost.

You die so we can live.

She stumbled out of the eyeball. Until now, in the constant violence that punctuated her life, she had only been an observer -- at most, a victim. Not anymore. She left Mike at the controls and headed for the Ppod. She hated him, hated being here, hated what was going to happen to her.

Had already happened.

The Glory and the Goddess

Char must have left something in the microwave. Its intermittent beep was giving her a headache. She opened her eyes and realized she wasn't in her apartment. She'd fallen asleep in the com center, the side of her face smashed against the hard table that held the hydroponics monitors.

The irritating noise came from the agronomist's entertainment screen. Probably time for another of his shows. The words
no signal
blinked in time with the beep. She turned off the screen and stretched.

The annex was nightside. Glowlights illuminated the floors but didn't obscure the light show out the ceiling window. Up here, free of the filthy atmosphere, the stars were brilliant, the reds and blues obvious. She couldn't remember which color meant a star was old and which meant it was new.

There were no stars where the planet took up the view, only a faint corona of light outlining the earth's curve. Char stood up then laughed at herself. As if in standing she would be closer, the better to detect any city lights still working on the planet surface.

She regretted the loss of her sunglasses. The slider/projector would have been useful, at least to get a better look at what was creeping about out there. Not strong enough for planet watching though. The annex must have some device for that, unless forbidden by IHS. She'd find the agronomist's personal quarters later and see what he had on hand.

Without city light patterns, it was impossible to know where they were. The great blazing grids that marked the metropolitan centers had simply disappeared. Civilization's organized light had been replaced by fire.

What was going to happen to the world's knowledge? How many libraries and databases had been destroyed in the last day alone? When all this was over, there might be no one left alive who knew the meaning of the colors of stars.

War and Rumors of War.
The phrase stuck in her head, but she couldn't place it.

The Imperium, the one-world government, was supposed to have ended all war. With the corporations united behind one Emperor and the right to profit enshrined in universal law, there was no incentive to war. That was the argument.

That was the bargain human beings made with the corporations. What choice did people have when every contractor was better armed than the countries they serviced?

Of course "one-world government" turned out to be a joke and no guarantee of peace either. China refused to join, and enviros like the DOGs and religios like the TU had bigger bombs and slicker stunners than the Emperor.

In the ceiling, the earth went black, not even any fires. They must be over an ocean.

A guttural, animalistic sound came from the com board. Mike, stirring from sleep. His hair was matted down, a few errant spikes sticking out at sadly unstylish angles. Not yet fully awake, there was an innocent softness in his face.

She didn't hate him, after all. Who was she to judge? Mike just wanted to survive, as she had in the eyeball screaming at him to launch the blanket.

"I was trying to find the Emperor's shuttle." He yawned and stretched then started working the board, no doubt resuming the search for his precious Emperor.

"They haven't answered your messages?"

"I'm not sending, just listening." He ran his fingers through his hair, absently lifting the spikes. "I don't want to call attention to the annex."

Char checked a monitor clock. She'd slept five hours. Apparently no one had attempted to dock in that time, but such luck wouldn't last. As Mike had said, people knew where the food was.

And people were out there. She could see ships dead in orbit, to be sure. There were also ships with their lights on, moving in nonorbital trajectories through the space station's debris.

Through the space junk.

Char touched her lips. There had been something in Jake's last kiss before he left to rescue Rani. Not a promise. An expectation. Char had thought then she would never see him again. Could he possibly still be alive? The V was full of high-ranking corporate and government types at play. The DOGs probably went after it too.

But if Jake
alive, he would think she was not. For all he knew, she was on the Imperial station when it went down.

"Hello?" A man's voice spilled out of the speaker. It sounded bizarre after so much silence. "Hello, hello? Can anybody hear me?" The signal was strong; it was the guy's voice that was shaky. "If anybody's out there, if you have contact with the Emperor, tell him it's safe at Corcovado."

"Idiot!" Mike pounded his fist on the table.

"Is that Geraldo?"

"Why doesn't he just send out a homing link?" Mike leaned closer to the panel and pushed a button. "Geraldo, this is Governor Augustine."

"Excellency! I can't tell you how --"

"Shut up."

Mike let the silence hang for unbearable seconds. Char would have felt sorry for Geraldo if she didn't despise him.

"The DOGs are listening too. Get off the com and stay off, you fool."

Mike broke the connection. "I'm sorry about that, Char. I had to risk it."

"I understand."

Just sitting here was going to drive her crazy. There must be something useful she could do. She found a schematic on the agronomist's compad and pulled up directions to the fruit section. "I'm going out to the crop pallets to do a hands-on check."

It took two Ppods to get to the other side of the annex. The pallet room was dark and cool with grow lights suspended over the plants, and the cleansing fragrance of growing things was strong. Somewhere between the melons and the berries, her threatening headache dissipated like the hydro mist.

Not surprising, everything was in good order. The blackberries were fat and sweet and the strawberries were as red as … Cripes, she couldn't get Jake out of her head. One particularly fat berry reminded her of that foo-foo drink with the origami dragon and the red stains the fruit left on his lips.

She picked the strawberry and bit into it.

"Now that's a very pretty picture, Meadowlark."

Jake! She whirled around. He was standing at the end of the pallet with his typical amused smile and his arms spread wide in invitation.

"How did you --?" She didn't care how he got there. She ran to his embrace.
, he felt marvelous.

"Char, you're alive." His voice was warm and wondrous and comforting, and his eyes as dark and kind as she remembered. It seemed like weeks since she'd seen him, not half a day. He kissed her forehead and eyelids and pressed her to his chest, whispering in her ear. "It's so good to see you."

He kissed her again, full on the mouth, insistent yet tender.

He smelled wonderful, as if he'd just showered with lavender and ylang-ylang. And he was clean-shaven.


Something wasn't right. Char twisted out of his arms and stepped back to get another look at him. Khaki flight pants, light green hemp shirt. Lovely muscles. Brown eyes, shaggy hair. It was Jake. But it wasn't Jake.

"Begone, Empani!" A female called out. "Back to the fall!"

Char scanned the pallets behind her. Nothing. Had she imagined that voice? She turned back to Jake.


The stress was getting to her. She was cracking up. But no way did she imagine that embrace. That kiss. She could still feel Jake's lips on hers. She could still smell him.

"No, little creature. You're not crazy."

A small woman stepped out of the shadows. Except there were no shadows.

"The Empani was drawn to your desire for the man in your heart." Her voice had a childlike quality mixed with an all-knowing vibe. She had light blue eyes with crinkly laugh lines, a turned-up nose and pouty cherubic lips. Her blood-red curls were streaked with silver and piled on her head, falling out of pink and gold binding cords.


"One of Samael's glories." As if that explained everything. "That one got caught up in you. It won't bother you again."

The woman was naked but for two pieces of shimmering material held over her front and backside by two tiny fairies sitting on her shoulders. Naked male fairies. Virile little naked male fairies.

"You see me." She seemed pleased by this fact.

"How did you get onto the annex? Who are you?" Char moved backwards, but the door was on the opposite side of the room past the woman. "Did you come with Jake?"

Only that wasn't Jake.

"As you
see me, aren't you forgetting something?" She raised an eyebrow as if Char had committed some transgression. The fairies glared. Their wings fluttered -- angrily, in Char's opinion.

Where had this hallucination come from? There was nothing in Char's past. No childhood story, no class in ancient folklore she could think of that featured such characters.

"Characters! Stupid human. Submit!"

Char's body flung itself to the floor, prostrate and trembling like some novice waiting for god.


"Much better." The hallucination came closer. With each step, Char's body shook with increasing violence. She couldn't handle much more of this.

"Oh, fine." The hallucination stopped and sighed. "I won't smite you. Sophia knows we haven't the luxury these days." She stomped her foot and spread her hands, like a child demanding a favored toy. "We need our holy fires!"

"What are you?" Char risked the question. A hallucination shouldn't be able to hurt her. But then how had it thrown her to the floor?

"I am that I am, you ignorant creature!"

The fairies' wings beat as fast as a hummingbird's, and Char's heart felt like it would match the pace. What was happening? She was so hot. And disoriented, obviously. Maybe the annex had been attacked. Maybe she'd been flung into space and was dying, in the thrall of some kind of narcosis.

In desperation, she surrendered to the vision. "What do you want of me?"

"Better still." The hallucination's voice quieted, and Char's shaking subsided.

In fact, she felt quite wonderful. Like she'd just lost ten pounds after weeks of healthy food and good exercise and tons of sleep.

"I am that I am," the hallucination repeated, this time in sweet tones that permeated to Char's core and left her content. With a sense of the perfection of all existence.

"My names are without number. Daughter of Sophia. Ishtar, Inanna, Astarte. Asherah. Consort to Samael, no matter how he denies it. Rise, creature."

Char sprang to her feet. Her body tingled. Was it excitement? Anticipation? Delusional euphoria?

"You may call me Asherah. Or goddess. I have chosen you to receive my revelation."

So delusional euphoria then. "Okay, Asherah. I'll play. Give me your revelation."

Char didn't tremble in fear. She didn't swoon in ecstasy. Everything went dark, and there were only Asherah's blue -- then white-gray -- eyes.

Hero Material

It was supposed to be a small favor, the Sacramento stop. They could take care of it while picking up a latte. Just usher an orbit virgin to her boarding gate.

Nothing like hauling whisky to Aleppo or running TU thugs to secret meetings in dead-of-winter Volgograd. Just make sure Mike's friend with the fake ID got past IHS and onto the Imperial shuttle. It barely registered in the tick-tick-tick of Mike's ongoing requests.

Mike came with the gig; without him, they'd be grounded.

When the
was denied an orbit license because of Rani's genetic markers, Mike threw out his chest and issued Imperial data links on the spot. Links which gave access to every port in the Imperium, sky or ground, and turned the
Space Junque
into a going concern.

Links which Mike could rescind on a whim.

BOOK: Space Junque
7.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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