A Sighting on the Blind Side
by Margaret Karmazin
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
“He was with a sex robo, pretending to have a conversation. I don’t understand why men bother talking to a sex machine. Do they imagine the robo cares what they think? Anyway, he’d been watching me. Somehow he knew what I was, knew what Nigel was. Frank has been around.
“When we passed near him, he was thinking: That bastard, I’d like to ram a rod into both ends till they meet in the middle. His eyes focused on me and that was when he had the thought that he knew someone who could remove the tattoo.”
“How did you know,” I ask, “that he’d be willing to risk—”
“Somehow he knew I’m hybrid. A while later, he said in his mind, ‘Dock 515, tonight 2300, password RODINIANGEST.’ My problem then was how to get there.”
“Wait a minute. How would he project to you? Can I do that?”
She is silent for a long moment. “Maybe he was just thinking it for me and I just happened to be near enough to read.” She seemed a little evasive.
“So, how did you make your escape?”
She shudders. “Nigel de Galodea, like most arrogant assholes, has an addiction. His problem is spriol, very high grade, elite spode. I guess it’s hard to be a Galodea prince with access to anything you want and not get sucked in.”
“Never heard of the stuff,” I say. I tried spode once, decades ago. The experience was not negative, yet not positive enough to attract me a second time. Alcohol is better for my personal oblivions.
“Not too many people have. But he wanted some and there wasn’t any on Koglan IV. I knew how to make a version of it from spode. He jumped at the chance, got me everything I needed. I wouldn’t let him watch and he was so eager, so desperate, he let me boss him around. I cooked it strength and a half. Could have done double and killed him, but I controlled myself. A Galodea family avenging a murder is not something you want on your tail.
“He took forever to get blazed, but obviously I made it out. Frank let me in and we were off and down a wormhole sooner than it takes me to smoke a v-stick. Our plan was to drop off his cargo at Triton Station, then he’d take me to that guy he knows who’d rid me of the tattoo.”
She gave me a look that could shrivel your organs. “But now he’s back there freakin’ out about his ship and you, you idiot, you messed up whatever future I was gonna have!”
My God, she’s right. Then something occurs to me. “We’ve only been gone a few hours. Frank is probably just mellow enough by now to see some girls for a romp and may not even notice anything wrong for another hour or so. Maybe more if he nods off after.”
“He told me he wasn’t going to drink this time. Chances are, he’s already called the cops. They’ll be crawling all over the place. The dirty bastards will send me right back to Galodea. Most of them are in its pocket!” Her eyes are filled with stark terror.
“Look, even though you probably think I dislike you, that’s not true. I admire your spunk. The thing is, I don’t relish being killed for all this.”
Funny, but just a few hours ago, I wouldn’t have cared if someone blasted my head off, but now... well... I feel an old longing when I look at the girl, and I’m not referring to sex.
“I’m wondering,” I say, “why Frank would risk his own life to free you. Something’s not adding up.”
She doesn’t look at me.
I grab her arm and shake her. “Listen, I don’t need to read minds here. Frank is a hybrid, isn’t he? Somehow he hides it, has all this time. You didn’t just read his mind, he projected to you!”
“Tell me you haven’t suspected it.”
“He never said,” she replies.
“How far away can you read me? Across the room? On the other side of the ship? A hop, skip and a ship away?”
“I don’t know, across the room.”
“I see. Not on the other side of the ship then?”
“And if you’re in a place with a bunch of people around, you hear them all at the same time?”
“Sort of, but if you want to hear just one, you can concentrate on that one.”
“And can you project to someone?”
“I don’t know, farther.”
“And to receive it, the target would have to be telepathic?”
“I guess so.”
“So how far away was Frank from you when he sent his message about being at Dock 515?”
She hesitates. “I see what you mean.”
“Now I understand why he was so sympathetic and how he knew where to get rid of those tattoos. Maybe he won’t be so quick to call the cops, not with his own hidden background, the shady cargo he sometimes hauls, and the fact that you never know which cop is in Galodea’s pocket. What we need is a way to contact him without you sticking out like a sore thumb.”
She’s all big eyes now, street sass gone.
“Any booze on this heap?”
She gets up, opens a drawer and pulls out a bottle of Mars-Dunberry Scotch and pours me a double.
“I need to think,” I tell her. “Can you send a message while protected by benidium?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “Listen, gotta remind you, I wasn’t hiding in that bay just to avoid the life scanners; Galodea could pick up my tattoo in well-traveled space.”
“To get close enough for you to even hope to project, it’s not just you we have to hide, it’s the entire ship.” Something occurs to me. “We could conceal ourselves behind one of Saturn’s moons, reasonably close to Triton. There’d be the jump from the wormhole exit to that moon and during that we could be detected. Is it humanly possibly for the Galodea to check all points at all times? You didn’t live in the benidium bay the whole time you’ve been on this ship...”
“I’ll take the chance if you will,” she says.
I don’t stop to breathe because if I do, I could change my mind. “Get into that bay,” I order, and she runs like hell.
In Control, I set the coordinates for Wormhole III return, then for the fastest jump possible, considering the abilities of the Nuts & Bolts. The cat, as if he understands the seriousness of the situation, hunkers under my seat. My hands are slippery with sweat. Not a religious man, I mutter a prayer and signal Go. This is it.
In a matter of twenty soul-wrenching minutes, Hyperion’s spongy looking surface is 32,000 kilometers from my drenched face. The cat, now cleaning his left paw, seems ignorant of his close call with the Reaper. Not that we’re safe now.
I shakily signal Linya. “You okay?”
Oddly, her little voice warms my heart. “Yeah,” she says. “We’re there already?”
“We are. It’s time for you to see how far you can project and if the benidium stops you. Do your thing, hybrid.”
“Okay,” she says, voice tinier still.
There is a long silence while my guts make dangerous gurgles. Not now, please, not now.
Finally, she speaks. “Got him. He knows we’re here. Give me our coordinates to send so he can get here in a shuttle. It’ll take a while though.”
I do, my relief intense. But it’s short-lived. We’re being approached by an unidentified ship, second class. “DON’T LEAVE THAT ROOM!” I bark at her. “Somebody’s coming.”
She doesn’t reply and I feel a panic that completely dwarfs my former one.
They signal and, full of dread, I open communications.
A smirky face fills the screen. “You have no clearance to be in this area. We’re coming aboard.”
Though practically blind with terror, I manage to blurt, “Who are you?”
“Never mind. Maybe we’re Policia. Don’t try anything. Our weapons can reduce your ship to oatmeal.”
They’re not the police. The police would know the Nuts & Bolts is not “my ship.” That means they’re probably Galodea. Linya and I are good as dead — after they torture us for days first.
I should have familiarized myself with the ship’s defense, but then I haven’t been in it all that long without distraction and didn’t expect to need weapons in Lao Zone. They lock onto the airlock and, though practically pissing myself, I walk to meet them.
There are two — one wiry and covered in scars and the other tall and beefy. “Strip,” they order.
This is it. They’ll probably blast off my penis for the pleasure of it. Instead they tie and gag me, leaving me heaped on the floor in a humiliating posture.
As I wait for them to return and finish me off, my life runs past. I think about my kids I never see, about what they’ll probably put Linya through, about what will happen to her if she survives. What’s the point of it all if life just turns out like this?
For what feels like eons, they clang around the ship. Then I hear a couple of thuds and their ship pressing off. What the...? Here I am, a naked trussed pig till Linya finds me, if she’s still there. Not that I relish her seeing me like this. I’ve soiled myself too.
Suddenly, she’s behind me. “How do I get these off?” she says, referring to my bindings. “They’re metal.” She removes the gag.
“Find a stun; they took mine. Look in Control, galley, anywhere.”
Ages pass before she returns. “They took stuff, drawers are open all over, but I found this.” She holds it in front of my face. It’s a large work stun, but it will have to do.
“Set it low and try not to hit me.”
I feel heat, but she manages and the bindings fall off. She hands me the stun and I do my ankles. “For crying out loud, let me clean myself up.”
“Don’t worry. Nigel shit himself all the time when he was wasted.”
“Just the same,” I tell her. “But before I go do that, how did you keep away from them?”
“Frank thinks of everything,” she says. “Inside that bay, there’s a little door to another compartment. That’s benidium-lined too, and big enough for me to curl up in. When the door’s shut, you can’t tell unless you know it’s there.”
“I suppose,” I say, “that’s where he stores his really illegal cargo. Thank God. Now get back in that bay!”
She obeys while I clean up and return to Control. Frank has signaled he’s halfway to us.
“So who were those abominations?” I transmit to Linya. “Not Galodea — we’re still here.”
“They work for a small crime boss. I read their little pea brains. Robbery is their game, mainly drug cargo. Wasn’t any on here so they left. They took some of Frank’s things. Bastards.”
It occurs to me Frank probably wants to kill me, but I’m too exhausted to care.
Linya says, “What am I going to do after the tattoo is off? I can’t stay with Frank.”
She sounds so small and scared and it’s then I know what I want.
Soon Frank’s shuttle is clamping to the airlock and his voice booms, “Open, you son of a bitch!”
“He’s here,” I inform Linya.
I open the airlock and in a matter of minutes, he bursts into Control, Linya dangerously out and behind him.
“Let me handle this,” she projects, giving me a hard look. “Don’t hurt him, Frank. He knows everything, more than you can guess. He’s sorry he took your ship.”
Frank shoots me the evil eye.
“Tell him you’re sorry, Phil,” she says.
“Sorry, Frank,” I say in the manner of a twelve-year old forced by his mother. “I was desperate. Wasn’t thinking clearly.”
“I could freakin’ kill you,” he says.
There’s a long, embarrassing moment. I say, “After she’s clean, what are your plans for her?”
He looks surprised. “Uh, I dunno.”
She looks at me.
I find myself stuttering. “Well, uh...”
“Yeah?” says Frank impatiently.
“She can stay with me if she likes. I’ll say she’s my niece, maybe later adopt her. They have a decent secondary school on the station, beamed-in classes, visiting professors...”
“I’m probably really behind,” she says tentatively. But the fact that she notes this pleases me.
Frank shrugs. “Up to you, kid,” he says.
I can’t believe I have done and said this, but it’s exactly what I want. More like what I need.
“You’re pretty old,” she observes.
“But not dead yet.”
She gives me a long stare, not at all sassy, then nods.
I head to the station in the shuttle while Frank, with Linya stashed back in the bay, heads out to where he won’t say. I claim to administration that I’d been sick as a dog, delirious even. They deduct from my pay and issue me a warning.
Frank and Linya are gone two months before they return with Linya’s arm clean. He hands her over, safe and sound.
I’ve hired a remedial tutor and Linya is catching up quick. It won’t be long before she can take her pick of any university on Earth and Mars.
This time, I’m doing my best not to screw up as a parent. And I’m not the least bit bored anymore.
Copyright © 2012 by Margaret Karmazin