Yes, this is totally meta. Normally I’d put a guest post up, but it’s Saturday and I don’t feel like it. I have a house to clean. (Bonus points to those who tell me where the quote “Fundamentally, we have a caldron to fill” comes from.)
I want to write after I clean.
So I’m not going to write a post.
The stomach flu seems to be done with me or vice the versa.
The pic at the top is to play with. And here’s the unedited beginning of what I’m working on today:
Sarah A. Hoyt
There was someone in the airlock.
This wouldn’t have been alarming if Joe had been in, or if we were in some place that I knew and could trust. It wouldn’t even have been particularly alarming if we had been in one of our routine investigations: tracing dodgy money across several star systems, or finding out if a hot asteroid cowboy was married in three different concessions.
But we were in the most serious investigation of our career and possibly of Joe’s career. And our ship had landed in an out of the way world, out of all hubs of commerce and law. And Joe had been gone for over twenty four hours. Since we kept Earth-standard-day aboard our ship that meant he had been gone overnight. And he never did that.
I realized there was someone in the airlock as I heard the door from it to the inside of our ship beep with loud and repeated alarm, indicating fumble-fingered attempts at entering the admission code.
I’m not an investigator, or an operative. Yes, I know I have an investigation license registered with the interplanetary Order of Private Investigators. I pay my dues, I’m up to date.
But we only got that so Joe could have me use the computer to look up the history of people he was investigating, or so that I could do similar no-stress, no-danger work. He was the investigator. He had the training. He had the reputation. I was only the fairly useless society girl he’d married.
Before I married Joe Aster my name was Lilly Gilden. You might have read about me on the various websites that keep track of what the very rich, very beautiful, very blue-blooded families in the galaxy did. When I got married, my abilities consisted of smiling, looking good in holographs and dancing.
In fact Joe and I had met while dancing the tango, a recently revived ancient dance. I was in one of the clubs I frequented, and he was on a case.
We’d danced two tangos, our bodies moving perfectly in tune, his blue eyes smiling down at me, and I knew I wanted to marry him. It didn’t matter that he was from a family of no consequence, nor that he had no money but what he made as a private investigator.
Papa had said that if I married Joe, he’d cut me off and then I’d regret the penury and the need to work.
Joe and I had registered our marriage with the Galaxy archives that day. And so far, two years in, I hadn’t regretted a single moment.
When he held me in his arms, and my head rested against his shoulder, I regretted nothing.
And if Joe ever regretted his largely useless and ornamental wife, he’d not let on.
We had, in fact, been living the perfect extended honeymoon, until this job. And now I was alone in the ship, while someone tried to break in.
Joe had taught me what to do when something like this happened:
First, get the zap gun from the drawer in the compartment we used as an office. Joe wanted me to wear it all the time, but I was afraid I would accidentally fire it.
Second, turn on the com and ask who was in the airlock. Even if the person didn’t answer, I should be able to tell by the sounds how many people there were.
Third, call him, and tell him to get home and remove the intruder. That is, assuming it was an intruder, and not just an inept client trying to hire us for something. Which had already happened more than once, in the two years I’d been aboard, and hadn’t the old man who wanted us to determine whether his young wife was genmodded got the shock of his life, finding me pointing my little silver gun at him.
I got that same silver zap gun. Like most of our battery and energy storage technology, that gun owed its existence to the ruins of the civilization our archeologists called Kyrion.
We’d never met the aliens who created them, but what they did with energy was borderline magical to us, and it had allowed my father’s generation to create guns like this tiny little ovoid, nestled warm in my palm. It could fire an intensely hot ray that would burn a precise hole in anything in its way. And it had no kick, no misfires. Just point and click.
I clicked our security panel enough to allow for communication, fiddled with it until every sound in the airlock was a hundred times amplified, and shouted into it, “Who is there?”
The sounds coming from the airlock were clicks, thumps and a curious sound, as if metal dragging across metal. And something else, something that bothered me without my being able to say why.
“Who is there?” I repeated, despising the way my voice trembled on the words.
Click. Bump. Thump, and just as an hesitant, curiously mechanic voice said “Stella?” I realized what was disturbing me, putting a cold shiver up my spine and making the hair rise in the back of my neck. There was no sound of breathing. No sound of breathing at all.
I swallowed hard and took three steps back, involuntarily, holding my little zap gun tightly.
You see, we’d come here on a borging case.
What is borging? you’ll ask. And well you might, if you are a decent citizen who gets his news through the official channels and has never come across the darker and seedier parts of human civilization.
Let’s just say that there are jobs so difficult and dangerous that no free human being will do them, and yes, that’s why slavery is outlawed in most planets and one of the most despicable crimes in the human repertoire. But borging is worse than slavery. Slaves, however much they’re considered and might even consider themselves property, can be freed. They can dream of escape, they can one day be again autonomous individuals.
Borgs, that is Cyborgs, the result of the borgers activity are just the brains of humans encased in gleaming glassteel bodies. The body is fed by batteries, the brain is kept alive by transfusions of a special liquid which you could call synthetic blood, though it’s more than that.
It’s a process that has 80% failure rate. Most of the poor souls – it’s almost never done voluntarily – who get borged go insane, the brain never fully adapting to the loss of human senses, or to understanding the new electronic senses. Most victims of borging die insane, locked inside a hard unresponsive body, blind, deaf, paralyzed and probably desperately trying to scream. They’re the lucky ones.