The stare of stars from eons ago gave a passing glance to the tiny craft drifting slowly away from Persephone Station. Veiled by the darkness and coasting through space, it went unnoticed on the radar of the large U.E.R. frigates that formed a mechanical canyon around it. Drifting and rotating slowly. Just like a bullet that was stuck in time.
“Even if a member of the crew looked out a window, they might not even notice this thing.” Jason Gathers half-chuckled as he took a small swig from the bottle. Nose burning from the scent, a tiny bit trickled from the corners of his mouth and bubbled in the small cabin around him, twitching and trembling tiny little amoebas of alcohol. Silence purred.
“Wish I could at least listen to music, this is going to take a while.” He gobbled up the bubbling bits of whiskey from all around him, and Jason reminded himself of a dog he used to have. Junior giggled endlessly watching the dog chase after the bubbles that Jason blew for the pup to chase. After papa taught him how, Jason Junior loved blowing the bubbles himself. New liquid appeared in the small compartment as he stared out the window at the stern steel sides of the massive warships.
These bubbles came from his eyes, translucent and reflecting the lights that littered the sides of the frigates. Thousands of portholes stared at Jason. He stared back. Thinking. His wife used to tell him that he thought too much. After what happened on the mining base, she never spoke about it again. She never spoke about anything. Tears constantly flowed from her hazel eyes as she stared off in silence. She gazed at the spaces in-between atoms. A half-trained doctor that the workers had access to made some vague diagnosis:
“She’s traumatized, Jason. There’s not a lot I can really do for her besides some kind of therapy, and I don’t have the time…” The Doc motioned behind him – like a ringleader in a circus – to the lines of tiny dirty cots behind him in the cave that was his clinic. Coughs mixed with wheezing breaths and the barely audible sound of mice chirping to each other from the shadows.
“There’s not enough meds to go around to fight this flu, and the accidents keep piling up. I’m doing the best I can. I’m sorry.” Jason stared back at the Doc. His eyes must have been hollow looking, tired. He sure felt tired.
“Look, Jason…” The Doc put his arm carefully around the shell of a man, and walked him out of the cave clinic and into the main cavern. Even through his shirt, the Doc could feel that he was cold. Stalactites poked down threateningly. They seemed larger than usual. At least it didn’t smell like gangrene out here, Jason thought absentmindedly.
“Just try and talk to her. I know it’s hard… All of us cried for you. Just like we cried for the Willow family, and for the Karns. I’ll tell you the same thing that I told them: Talk, be with each other, be there for each other, and for god’s sake – keep working. Idle hands do the devil’s work, they say. Sure wish they’d give the guards more real work to do. I hear they get fed well. I bet they could mine if they tried…” He trailed off awkwardly.
Jason stared at Doc’s face. He was trying hard, but Jason’s mind hardly retained any of what he said. His wife was essentially catatonic. She had one sick day left from work, but if she didn’t show up for her shifts then they would put her out the airlock. Just like the old lady Karn, after her sons were killed for insubordination. Jason forced a smile. The doctor forced a smile back and disappeared back into his clinic.
More tears were bubbled around Jason in the cabin of the craft. His hand was playing with the grip of his sidearm absentmindedly, and he took his hand away to swat his stray tears. Only a few more minutes before he would be able to kick the engine on, and get back to Axis.
An old proverb of sorts crossed his mind: “Revenge is a dish best served cold”. Space was very cold. He saw his wife’s streaming tears turn to ice in an instant as the air whipped out of the airlock. Tiny bits of ice spiraling into infinity.
“I’ll never get sick of this view, R.J. It makes you feel small, every single time. It’s humbling.” Omar was looking over Robert’s shoulder at the Earth’s sphere below them. A beautiful orb hurtling through space. The moon could be seen hovering over the opposite side of the blue and green glow below.
“I wonder how long ago that weird shrine-thing was placed there on Luna. Do you ever think of that?”
“Not really, Omar. I’m actually crunching some numbers in my head. Do you have the recent market price for yttrium? I think it spiked again because of the U.E.R.’s increase in ship production.”
“Sure. I probably have it in my folder here.” He started ruffling through his papers and Robert thought about other polite ways to tell him to shut up. He needed silence to think every time before a negotiation. “Robert-time”, his wife called it lovingly. She always knew to just give him some chamomile tea and to go watch the TV in the other room. God, he loved her. And he was lucky enough to be loved back.
“Here, R.J. This is that memo they sent out the other… What the fuck?”
Robert looked to Omar, irritated. His eyes were wide and locked straight ahead. Robert followed his gaze to the door to the pilot’s cabin, which was ajar. Dark blobs came tumbling and fluttering out, the strange dance of liquid in zero gravity.
Omar unbuckled his seat belt and pushed off his chair, drifting quickly to the front. Steadying himself quietly on another cushioned chair, he slowly reached out and poked one of the dark blobs and Robert watched as the liquid trembled away from him. Looking at his finger, the color drained from his face. He looked at Robert and mouthed:
The sound of a heart thumping filled Robert’s ears. He and Omar stared at each other, each wondering what to do. All the while the blood tumbled through the air between them. Robert grabbed his suitcase, and he looked up to see a man wearing a pilot uniform holding a large knife to Omar’s throat. A skinny, long blade.
“I take it this one’s name isn’t ‘Robert’, is it?” The man sneered through gritted teeth. Robert reached his hand up and out to Omar’s horrified face. A vain gesture. The blade pressed tighter against his throat for a moment, drawing blood. Robert continued to stare in silence, unable to respond to the terrible question.
In one swift motion, the man flicked the knife back, pushed Omar to his knees with a hand and a quick kick, and stabbed straight down into the back of the neck. After a spasm, Omar’s dark eyes rolled back into his head. The man grinned as the limp body was pushed onto the ground, and bounced softly back up. Floating face-down as if possessed. In shock, Robert could only feel a numbed surprise at how little blood came out.
“You’re coming with me, Robert — or should I say R.J.?” The sinister sneer was almost cartoonish in proportion to his face. R.J. felt cold, only his friends called him that. How could he know? Robert’s face was an open book.
“We know more than you might think. We have people in the Republic government, in the Consortium…” The man chuckled as he drew a small silenced gun and pointed it at Robert.
“We are everywhere.”