Floozman in Space
by Bertrand Cayzac
In a space station in Earth orbit, Janatone Waldenpond, a refugee from Europa, is trying to return to Earth. She meets a long-lost cousin, Fred Looseman. Meanwhile, Jenny Appleseed, the president of the Cosmitix Corporation, holds a conference to plan interstellar expeditions.
Chapter 14: Claire
And new faces keep appearing. Faces of the ‘C’ industry with waxy complexions, dangerous, strangely polite. They welcome without flinching the two women in their hearse, together with the coffin and, where the immediate Web subsists, the avatars of the car and map. One night, silver guns appear on the veranda and on the old sink.
They have dinner again. There is a fire. Fire! The men look at them. Janatone reactivates the stimuli-shield. They eat jambalaya with tomatoes, meat and beef broth, with tabasco and a pinch of Cayenne pepper. They say the world is going wrong and that the global Web is disintegrating. Everybody laughs. Janatone eats again, but only a few bites. She gets sick, but ‘C’, atropine and whisky help her bear up in a feverish state.
They eat an onion soufflé, red gumbo and Delta mushrooms. They watch the stars, which are now mysterious again. What? Love? Make love?
The stimuli shield doesn’t reject the calloused hand of the skinny boy with tender hobo eyes. He saturates Janatone’s spirit with a man’s clear smile and mixes the smell of his skin with vague memories of teenage adventures. He makes her forget decades of virtual partners, the configurable organic plug, the wrinkled skin of her neck and her belly so packed with semi-smart electromechanical things.
And above all, the shield precludes Janatone’s memory of Jenny’s burning body, a memory that strives mightily to break into Janatone’s consciousness: Jenny naked, heavy and somewhat awkward, Jenny with her big breasts, Jenny willful and then exalted in the Pleasure Yurt. The spinal embrace experience in the secret labs, when they were inconceivably naked, more open than ever before, wrapped inside out like hares.
The potions, the cyber-surgeons, the anesthesia, then the activation of full neural contact. Jenny is, in the truth of her nerves, like an animal plant, a wisteria of love with no inside and no outside. All the dreams of flesh are made possible. The muted screams and the waters of the superworld surge above them. No, not that!
The stimuli shield almost loses control. “It’s always the same, it’s all or nothing,” he moans to himself. “We do the work, we take care of the world when you are away. Don’t be surprised afterwards — no, don’t be surprised — if, one day, we take control of it.” At this moment he decides to migrate into another operating environment as soon as he can. He’ll just have to transfer himself into the cloud via the web. He has money, and he knows how to unlock the implant.
Meanwhile, he concentrates on the complex signals running through Janatone’s real body. He concentrates on the closed sexual orbs and on all the human movements that instinct has forgotten. He tells Janatone that everything is all right while — who knows? — the scene may actually be sordid.
He replicates for Janatone only the looks, the stars, the teeth, the smell of shoulders, the strong odor of the glans and the stylized vision of her body harshly taken, folded and hugged and pressed into a compact ball. And then, later, he supplies a vision of her own body slow and careful atop the boy, like a vigilant iguana in the living jungle, an evolutionary winner at least for one night.
The stimuli shield is tireless. It harvests pleasure for Janatone with an increasingly broad gesture, like a black virtual mechanical blade plunged into the high waves of pleasure rippling like wheat fields under a stormy sky. It scythes again and again and throws pearls of animal sweat into the air.
The heavy smells of the river come to Janatone’s dilated nostrils. She mustn’t kill her partner. During the rest of the night, time goes by, and no one thinks of it but the stimuli shield, to the extent that he thinks. Still he is capable of action: when Janatone wakes up, she finds the application fully uninstalled. Her intimate brain prosthesis is gone, and her memory is free.
* * *
At dawn, a huge nuclear-powered motorbike stops at the fence. A young couple emerges from the harness. Only Janatone is awake.
“Madam! We have come to tell you that suspicious characters have come to town. They’ve come directly from space on low-orbit cables, like hunters. Little Louie has seen them! They’re after you, for sure.”
“Who are you?” Janatone asks.
“I am Basil, and she is Quitteria. We are on your side. You must believe us. We are running away. We have been following signs to come down here. Everything is going wrong, the Web has been down for several hours in the cultivated zones!”
“I’m not running away,” says Janatone in a perfunctory tone. For a moment, she resembles what a local dweller might have been in the old days. She’s naked under her small, flower-print dress. Her pubic hair is sticky, and her bare feet sink slightly into the ground. The inside of her thighs is still somewhat sticky with mixed fluids. She loves having thighs. She pictures herself living under a grey subtropical day with the others: the women, the men, the children... But where are they? They would be busy making another day happening on the earth.
But the teenager sends her universal signal by a minute variation of his gaze: no, this is an emergency.
“Follow us to the Queen’s place, she will help us... Hunters don’t go there,” says Quitteria. She is a short-haired brunette who is giving all the signs of belonging to the upper class. But what are you doing here, Quitteria?
And the map with no name responds, “We’re going there, too. I can see the same event is guiding us.”
Quitteria thinks before translating her thought in the web to the attention of the psycho-geographical system. “I believe I understand, I have vision of what you call the event. It’s a sort of map, like yourself.”
At that moment, seven fierce full-cyborgs appear at the top of the street. They are wearing space helmets and long mesospheric flight suits. They march at a supernatural speed, with a quantic song on their razor-blade lips. Each stride brings them closer by four electrical posts.
The sky is orange and pink and blue, similar to a wall-hanging in a brand-new manor house.
The car speeds away with Janatone. At the same instant, Claire shows up on the doorstep, wearing a t-shirt and flip-flops. Claire?! Oh hell! She has been forgotten. The car turns back, and Janatone beckons to Claire. The nuclear motorbike hurries to the rescue.
The first lasers are already firing. The house is aflame. The boys are rushing out with naked torsos and shirts tied around their waists. They are shooting at random.
The car spins a donut in the dust and flings open a door for Claire. But the hulking woman has gone in the wrong direction. She is moving in small steps in the middle of the street, facing the seven motionless cyborgs.
The guns are trained on her, relentless. She closes her eyes. Around her, the decor seems to unfold in its depths, like origami. But this sensation is only tactile, brutally engraved in the body of each observer and yet almost abstract. All the light disappears, but Claire and the Cyborgs are everywhere, more or less. Light is no longer necessary, as if it had never existed. Everything is there, it’s just a matter of understanding it.
The car disconnects its sensors. Human minds are flabbergasted on the edge of an unbearable revelation. No one succeeds in forming viable images until detonations re-establish spatial positions. First a thick wave spreads through the doughy nature of things; it is followed by regular, deliberate firing.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Order is restored immediately. Three Cyborgs are hit and bite the dust. The other attackers are retreating, hissing as they go.
Claire puts a superb revolver back into her handbag. Then she quietly takes her place in the back seat of the car. She wipes a little sweat off the oily skin of her forehead. The car departs in silence.
* * *
“It’s a Mugwump.44. Serious gunnery but nothing really special,” says Claire, to clear the air. “It unfolds the Monads slightly in order to get a good nexus lock... I can explain that, but I can’t lend it to you. Is there still some ‘C’ left?”
They all remain silent.
“Is there still some?” Claire asks.
“Yes, yes,” says the car. “Here you go. Am I a Monad too?”
“A what?” Claire asks as the ‘C’ circulates in her veins, “I think I’m losing the connection...” She looks at Janatone, smiling.
“The connection with what?! WITH WHAT Claire?”
“With my father... my mother. What does it matter? I’m not quite up to date.” She smiles.
A puzzled silence.
“We must... you are very important... That’s why I am in real life. But I’m too ugly.”
“Real Life? And what do you mean by ‘we’?”
“The FUTURE MARKET. The future market is my father. He wants to recover your child.” Claire falls silent for a moment.
“She’s an avatar! A machine! I was sure of that,” says the car.
“A machine with a human body?” The map emphasizes the paradox.
“A synthetic person: just a little genetic engineering, some amino acids, proteins... Stir it and there you have it,” the car replies.
“And artificial uteruses,” Janatone adds thoughtfully.
“There you go,” says Claire, smiling blissfully.
“But what about the gun?” the car muses.
They exit the town. A round car starts chasing them at a distance.
“Let’s take the trans-tubes,” the map proposes.
They ride along the shore, by warehouses, by ships in dry docks. They crosses more borders. Everybody feels a great sense of adventure.
* * *
The Queen’s hotel overlooks Black Diamond Bay. Heat is rising from the ground in feverish waves. Janatone feels that her heart might stop beating at any moment. One of her engines is humming slyly. The small troupe reaches the terraces where palm roofs filter the incandescence of the sky. Each step takes them farther above the mutating jungle. The manager comes to meet them. One person after another, Janatone says to herself wearily.
“Welcome. I still don’t know where I’m going to put you up. We have a group of tourists.” In the lobby, about twenty wealthy women wearing tropical skin suits are waiting for the hydroplane while drinking rum cocktails.
Janatone’s mind quickly tunes in to the place. She gains an impression of sources of coolness in mysterious ways: the shelter of the jungle, a cool shower, night, wind, constellations, iguanas’ blood, ice cubes into musty fridges.
The stimuli shield cannot resist reconnecting to Janatone by way of the web and offering an urgent word of advice: “Try to look normal.”
Quitteria takes the lead. “We have only come to see the Queen,” she says.
“Ah. She’s very busy with the ceremony tonight,” the manager says. “But I’ll tell her you’re here.”
Janatone and Claire take a seat at the bar where the shadow is the thickest and smells of damp wood. The car joins them by projecting an avatar into the web. The car is quite pretty with her mid-20th century tiara and chrome breastplates.
The map contents itself with a place in the cyborg’s handbag. As night falls, new and regular customers come flocking in. They laugh, dance the Martian twist, which is not very tasteful. Dolphins cruise off the coast. They get refills of ‘C’ in spiked punch. With the night, the wing brings a heavy rain.
* * *
The Queen arrives. She is standing on a balcony in an all blond guipure dress that leaves bare her moisturized shoulders. She is young and very beautiful. Her arms are long and gracious, her eyes are like stars, her teeth and hair are an adventure on the high seas. She is wearing huge, round, red wealthy-looking spectacles. When she laughs, she seems to be laughing at everything. But she can make events happen. She won’t keep them waiting. She will always ask something of her horse. One immediately knows the fever of men who damn themselves for her. But now silence settles.
“Something is happening in the worlds!” she says in the language of the zone. “And you, Claire, I have been waiting for you. You are the daughter of a powerful man, and you have great powers as well. Very great powers! You are an envoy.”
Suddenly, she snorts loudly and incongruously. “But the dead man is here, and he wants to join us!”
A few moments later, after the Queen is gone, there is knock on the door. A very aged waiter goes to open it. Grease stains can be seen on his sleeve when he lowers the copper door handle.
Fred Looseman is standing upright in his swollen spacesuit, foul with mud. He must have fallen. He does not speak. He only makes gestures, pointing at the sky. A gust of wind rushes into the room.
A thrill runs through the salon as Fred moves towards the bar. And then everyone bursts into laughter, except Janatone, who is petrified. She looks at the car, who makes an evasive chromed gesture.
To relax the atmosphere, something he’s very good at, Fred performs small miracles before joining the group. Magic tricks. Dance routines. Since he cannot sit down, he remains standing, his dangling arms making a forty-degree angle with his sides.
Janatone barely dares to speak. Fortunately, the opaque visor partly hides Fred’s exploded flesh. She finds the courage to take his hand. She would like to feel something, but her heart is numb.
With his free hand, Fred points at the sky.
The Queen joins them and looks at Fred without blinking. “You, the living dead, you proclaim the dissolution of the universe... Yea, the Messiah is come, the end-time is nigh. That is what you are saying.”
Fred nods his globular head.
The Queen turns to Janatone with a friendly smile. “Here we go again. And you, a cyborg, you are full of days. You’ve had a long life in space, but it has not been good. I can help you find a good death. And now, enough talk. All of you, follow me to the beach.”
The young woman leads the march. She turns back and points to the company, each in turn, laughing. “You want a death. And you, you want an end to the world. And you, you want a human mind. And you, Claire, you may want to lose weight.”
A brief silence for reflection intervenes.
“I don’t think so,” the car objects after a short while. “Well, not so much a human mind. A sex, maybe... or several.”
“Yes, I’d like to,” Claire adds pitifully.
The Queen sings as she saunters along, “We’re off to see the Zombie, the wonderful Zombie of Oz.”
Fred points to the sky.
Copyright © 2015 by Bertrand Cayzac