07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was naïve of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.


"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

Pages: << 1 ... 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 ... 43 >>

08/17/12

  10:30:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 906 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Backup

?It's odd having you here this early,? Colleen said, closing the lid on one of the cyanobacteria tanks.

?Why's that?? Ang asked.

?Well, usually, a replacement comes up with the scheduled supply, we work together for a week and I give on the job training, and then I go home. Instead, the both of us are up here for the next nine weeks; for two whole months the moon is going to have a backup biosystems engineer- when a week ago they hadn?t even decided on who was going to replace me, or even if I was going to get to go home as scheduled. It's just... weird.?

?Well, look at the positive side. I can lighten the load, or help you catch up, or, if there's something really ambitious.?

?There's always something ambitious to try,? she said with a smile. ?But we've got nine weeks to get to that. First, I should probably show you the one thing you're going to need to survive- well, okay, most of the crap in the greenhouse is food, and on an abstract level you do need food to survive- but I meant I want to show you the bacterial reactors. They're actually kind of primitive, all things considered. This is fairly low-tech- it's one of the ways they make insulin on Earth. We?ve been making artificial insulin for more than fifty years. But we've got a few little technical tweaks that were necessary to overcome the low gravity.?

?But this thing, that looks like an old-fashioned washing machine, it?s what we call a bactereactor. It?s just an industrial-size petri dish, that keeps itself pressurized at a constant temperature, to maximize bacterial yield. This one specifically contains bacteria that have human insulin genes inserted into them, so the produce insulin. It automates the process of separating out the insulin from the colony, and actually keeps a separate breeder colony in reserve. The only thing the process needs to continue is a steady stream of artificial sunlight and nutrients; it?s as closed a process as is humanly possible.?

?But speaking of the low gravity, more than anything, that's what's going to take some getting used to. I stubbed my toe four times a day for my first ten months up here. So basically just when I got my 'sea' legs, it was time for me to start thinking about going home.?

?You opted for a year?? Ang asked, almost puzzled. 

?Yeah. I've got a daughter, and a husband, back home. She was a newborn, and I thought... I knew that if I took the minimum, I could be back by the time she was old enough to know I was missing. I just couldn't stand the thought of missing my daughter's first words. And I can't describe to you how devastating it would be for me if her first sentence was, ?Where's mommy??

?I think I understand,? Ang said. ?Though I'm the opposite. I don't have a family, back home, or at least not one I'm in a rush to get back and see. A father, and mother, and a brother, but no real family of my own. And that's why I'm in no hurry at all to go home.?

?But the reactors, really, take care of themselves. Barring an accident where we have to restart them from scratch, anyway. But daily you?ll be spending most of your time in the garden- which thankfully is just down this way.?

?It?s underground, like most of both stations. It?s more important to keep us safe from radiation and meteor strikes than to take advantage of the view or the natural sunlight. And thanks to the Peaks, we basically have as much free power as a lunar colony is ever likely to need. Even with the maglev, both stations, and the elevator, at peak we?ve only ever used 10% of our lowest power. We have so much excess capacity that they haven?t even bothered to ship all of our backup batteries, yet. They?re massive- each one requires its own separate launch- but we?ve only got a third of the batteries the Station was designed for.

I helped design the garden system on board the Perseus. We consulted with Dr. Wesley- Maria, that is- we being myself, Rica, and a panel of nutritionists, botanists, and hydroponicists. But I had no idea- the size of this is just so... You have more potatoe plants than the entire growing area on the Purseus.?

?Oh, I know. It's going to drive them nuts. Even here, with all of the varieties we grow, meals can get a little blah, if we aren't being conscientious about our seasoning. But I can only imagine how boring it's going to be, eating the same dozen dishes for two years.?

?Yeah,? he sighed.

?Shit. Sorry. I keep forgetting... we'd all of us kill to be going to Mars. Except maybe Maria. I don't know what's up with her. But she loves the Moon. I don't think she'd leave it to visit a planet that vibrates at the precise frequency to give women the perfect, ongoing orgasm.?

?Venus?? Ang asked coyly.

?No. Venus is kind of like hell. Only less hospitable. Maybe beautiful from afar, but deadly up close. They should have named her Medusa, instead. But I don?t know that there?s a force, on Heaven or Earth, that could get her off this hovering cheese ball.?

?I can understand that feeling,? Ang said.

08/11/12

  10:29:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 862 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .20: Poll Dance

?I?m sorry,? Candi told me when she picked me up.

?I?m used to being up in the morning,? I told her.

?Not that. I requested you come with me, today. The captain draws names to watch the polls, and I lost the lotto. But since you?ve never been, I asked to take you along, on the job training.?

?It?ll be nice, have a bit of a change of scenery.? She blushed at that, inferring a compliment I hadn?t intended.

?One of us always goes,? she said, trying to cover. ?It?s technically become a gender crimes beef. Man on woman, woman on man. Voter suppression doesn?t change- only the targets do. But it means we?re marginally in charge. I?ve been once, when I was on the jobbing with Gottfried?s predecessor. You know unis; they prefer to have someone in charge, so they don?t have to use their brains. So mostly it?s a day spent fielding dumbass rookie questions. Though there?s always the potential that we?ll have to stamp out a fire. But it?s early enough we should be able to get breakfast.?

?I could eat the hell out of some eggs,? I said.

?Oh, when I said ?time? I meant drive-thru time, not sit-down time. Polls open in twenty minutes.? I groaned. Mostly because there was only one fast-food joint in sight- and I suspected we didn?t have time to go chasing better fare than a hot dog wrapped in a soft pretzel. ?And I thought you?d find the idea of a wiener wrapped in a warm, moist sheath amusingly suggestive, given what we?re doing today.?

?Pretzel?s aren?t supposed to be that moist,? I said. ?Really ?soggy? is probably more accurate.?

She pulled up to the drive through speaker and rolled down her window. ?Two number ones, with the biggest, blackest co,? she cleared her throat, ?coffee, you?ve got.? She grinned at me as he read her total, but I didn?t react. ?You know, at a certain point, if you don?t react or flirt back it starts to feel like harassment.?

I laughed at that. ?I wouldn?t worry about it,? I told her.

We collected our food at the window, and the smell made me even more nauseous than the concept had. We drove to our voting station, set up in an elementary school, and we parked outside.

She unwrapped her wiener-pretzel, and took a bite. ?It should be a low-key day,? she said. The only people who come to the polls anymore are the really elderly- people so set in their ways they can?t trust the convenience or practicality of mail voting.?

Then she seemed to remember she had ulterior motives, and very suggestively took her second bite, practically fellating the decapitated hotdog before sinking her teeth into it again. And I noticed she?d worn a particularly cleavage-showing shirt and coat.

I took my first bite, which released even more of the odor up into my nose; it took real grit to keep from throwing up after that. But I wasn?t sure I could handle eight hours of her attention; I was already disheveled, but I made sure to spill mustard on my shirt, to make myself look even less appealing.

?You know, you can take that shirt off, if you want; I don?t mind.?

?No, I honestly prefer to look like a hobo,? I said.

?So not just smell, then?? she grinned.

?Touché,? I said, and tried not to smell while I took another bite of my dog. ?Maybe it?s just a chunk of hotdog lodged in my brain, I don?t think I get why this is a gender crimes thing.?

?Voter intimidation is technically a crime, but not one that gets very strictly enforced. Hence the widespread existence of ?poll watchers.? And sometimes watchers step out of line, and go from merely being dicks to actually breaking the law. And nearly as often, the people they?re intimidating break the law in retaliation. Admittedly, there?s a bit of a double-standard, since really we?re here trying to get feministas on a disorderly conduct or violence charge, to flip them on actual gender crimes. The men we just chase off with a boot in the ass.?

?But,? she continued, ?there isn?t anything particularly contentious on this ballot. The only item that might get us some real traction is Judge Kraeter?s senatorial campaign. He?s said some? inflammatory things, that might rile up women against him, and might rile up the men?s rights crowd to watch their polls- wow, that was Freudian.?

?Honestly, it?s a dance. Men?s rights poll watchers get increasingly aggressive, and we let them until we can?t ignore it anymore, and chase them off. But they just switch partners with other poll watchers at another precinct. If we?re lucky, maybe we catch up a feminista in the mix, but it?s very much a drag net- we take in all kinds of bottom feeders, but odds aren?t great we?ll catch anything to eat.?

I reclined my seat so it was comfortable, but I could still see over the dash, settling in for a long, uneventful day. It did however, answer one of the age old questions: who watches the watchers?

Apparently, I do.

08/10/12

  10:29:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 772 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Interlude

?So that was the ex-husband? I kind of expected something... more,? Mai said, biting her lip.

?Like tits and a vagina?? Maria asked, bemused.

?Well, obviously he isn't my type,? Mai said, ?I'm just surprised that that is yours.?

?He's... rougher around the edges, but I suspect that's mostly the trip up.?

?You would have empathy for that; you came up here looking like a used condom.?

?How would you know??

?I fooled around with a guy in college. He was gay, and we both wondered if we were bi. And discovered that, no, no we were not.?

?Complete and utter craziness- walking away from dick.?

?A little dick isn't a bad thing, but after like three minutes of interminable pounding, all I could think was, 'what wouldn't I do to have a cunt in my face?' I guess for me, straight sex involved too much dick- and for him, not enough.?

?Maybe you just need the right ratio of lesbians to gay men, mixing and matching so everyone gets just the right amount of dick and cunt.?

?One big gay orgy? You're kind of turning me on. But is that you offering??

?Just brain-storming.?

?Tease.? Mai laughed. ?But you do seem to have dick on the brain all of a sudden. Is that why you made sure you were freshly showered when the ex got here??

?That's... creepy.?

?That's proximity. We work together- close enough that we're always reaching over each other. I don't go out of my way to smell you- it just happens. And it happens often enough I know that you rinse every day, use soap every other day, and wash your hair twice a week- Mondays and Thursdays. Except this week- when all of a sudden on a Tuesday you had to clean yourself a second day in a row, and wash your hair all over again.?

?He's my ex husband. I wanted... I wanted to feel sexy around him- not like he'd dodged a bullet losing me.?

?You shave your legs??

?I can't see how that's-?

?If it were irrelevant, or more importantly, if you hadn't, you wouldn't have an issue saying so.?

?Unless of course I find the entire line of questioning to be insulting, not to mention intruding.? She tried to look stern, but couldn?t hide her smile. ?Okay, so maybe, possibly, the idea of letting him plough the fields had crossed my mind.?

?Seeing as he'd already ridden his unicycle down your freeway.?

?You are such a bitch,? Maria said with a grin.

?I'm just concerned.?

?Yeah, I'm sure your motives are entirely pure.?

?Jealousy can be altruistic,? she said with a smile. ?At least theoretically.?

?I'm just not hugely into girls. I mean, I did my due diligence in college, and they can be fun...?

?There's no pressure,? Mai said coyly, ?but I can be fun...?

?Speaking of theoretically...? Maria said, leading her eyes towards the small cage in front of them. Mai opened the top of the cage, and removed one of the largest female rats, and let it crawl up her arm.

?So far, there's been no change in reproductive health or viability of newborn rats in the Moon's gravity. It's still early days, since we're more concerned with the long-term, but at least for now, it looks like the one-sixth Earth gravity might be enough to hold off bone and muscle density loss, and the other ill effects we?ve catalogued in the organ systems.?

?Good, because I have no desire to leave,? Maria said.

?Me either, but I'm not sure I know what that has to do with fertility and viability studies.? The rat crawled onto her shoulder, and stretched as far as she could, trying to sniff at Maria.

?Just because I don't want to leave, doesn't mean I don't want to have kids.?

?And you're thinking of using one of the yay-hoos for a baby-daddy??

?Actually... I was thinking of asking Paul. Not now, obviously. We still don't even know what low g might do to a baby. But I figure come the return trip, we'll have better data, and maybe I can hand him a specimen cup and a porno disc and ask him real politely.?

?So long as you're not thinking of trying it the old-fashioned way,? Mai said.

?No. Takes way too long. They'll be furloughed maybe a week. Whereas if I get my hands on the baby batter myself, I can bake the cake in my oven at my leisure. And I can in vitro the thing to make sure it's a one and done.?

?And they say romance is dead,? Mai grinned. 

08/04/12

  10:28:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 3399 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .19: Disarmed

Lisa was trying to sleep, but having a terrible dream, so when she finally opened her eyes she was ready to take a swing at the imagined horror assaulting her. But it was May, gently shaking her arm. ?She stopped crying,? she said.

Ofelia had been awake for most of a day. She remembered the assault only in pieces. But losing her arm was difficult. She hadn?t eaten, yet, and she slept only when sedated.

Lisa sat up, and Mae rested on the edge of her bed. ?You don?t have to go see her, right now,? Mae told her. ?I think she?s already overwhelmed. That kind of an injury, and then everybody else crowding in, like they have a right to stick their nose in.?

?What?s it like?? Lisa asked.

?A lot of IED injuries result in amputations. But most people experience phantom limb syndrome; her arm will itch, ache. She?ll be in a lot of pain, and she?ll have to learn how to do everything all over again. The combination means she?ll have a severely short fuse. I hate the thought of our sweet little Ofelia going through all this; I regret I could only kill that bastard the one time.?

May stood up, ?You should know she asked about you, first thing. She wanted to make sure you were all right. She?ll want to see you, eventually. But it won?t hurt for you to take your time- she?s got plenty of visitors, right now; probably more than she wants.?

Lisa tried to go back to sleep, but she was awake, now. But she wasn?t ready to see Ofelia yet, either. So she went to the kitchen, to procrastinate a while longer, and possibly make something to eat. 

Anna was at the sink, rinsing dishes. Lisa wouldn?t have given her a second thought, but Anna dropped one, on the edge of the sink, and it shattered. Then she looked at Anna, who was shaking, and crying. ?Are you okay?? Lisa asked.

?Ellen?s leaving tonight. She didn?t tell anyone. But she?s going to sneak out.?

Lisa understood. She?d only been with Anna for a few weeks, but every sound in the Shelter filled her with dread. She couldn?t imagine how Ellen must have felt. ?How long has she been with you?? she asked, kneeling down to help Anna pick up pieces of the broken plate.

?Since the beginning. I wasn?t even 20, yet, and didn't have the brand; but I wanted a dual modified radical mastectomy- prophylactic.? They shoveled the plate shrapnel into a trash can. ?I had a family history of breast cancer, and tested positive for a mutation on BRCA2- the Burqa gene- tell me that isn?t ironic. But I couldn?t find a clinic that would do it, or the reconstructive surgery, because the procedure was no longer considered necessary- except in the event of a pregnancy that could be harmed by cancer.?

Lisa sidled up beside Anna to help her with the dishes. ?That was how I met Ellen. She was still a resident, and she heard her attending turn me down. And she followed me out of the hospital, and told me she?d do it. She wasn?t a surgeon, or anything, at that point, but she agreed to study up on the procedure, and do it, for me. And just committing to that- that was when I fell in love with her; I didn?t even expect her to go through with it, but I have never in my life been more smitten. She maintained very strictly that it wasn?t appropriate for her to see a patient- even an illegal one- so nothing came of it. But it was so selfless, and brave? She was the reason I went into nursing.?

?That might have been the end of things. But one night she was working the OR, and a patient came in with bleeding from an underground abortion. Protocols were very clear that she had to call the police, and experience taught her that the girl would be arrested, and do time. The patient?s name was already in the paperwork, but she called me; she said if I owed her a favor, and she wasn?t sure that I did, but that we?d be square and then some if I came to the hospital, just to hear her out.?

?In the time it took me to get there, she cauterized the bleeding, and then she asked me to help the woman leave. She said, ?I have to go call the police, and tell them I suspect your bleeding is the result of an illegal abortion. While I?m doing that, you?ll be unattended, and I can?t compel you to stay.??

?I took the girl back to my apartment. What else could I do? She stayed a few days, because she was still too ill to do much else; they really butchered her. But we talked. She led a harrowing life; at least, I thought so at the time. But having lived here, with so many incredible women, it almost seems mundane??

?But Ellen tracked me down. She gave the girl money, and told her she should leave the state. Most states still don?t extradite on gender crimes. We drove her to the train- that ought to tell you most of what you need to know, right there, because the police weren?t staking out the station.?

?I told Ellen afterwards, in the car, that it had been really cool of her, helping the girl. She admitted to me that it wasn?t the first time, and it wouldn?t be the last. She couldn?t help herself; she couldn?t abandon girls to the system. And I told her we shouldn?t. My eyes were opened. There was no just going back to the way things were.?

?I feel silly for that, now; we thought we were being so original and innovative. It turns out undergrounds existed in dozens of cities already. But eventually we found that out, and started networking- and it was the networking that eventually got us access- real access, not just whatever we could steal from a pharmacy- to equipment and supplies, and to information.?

?At the time, Ellen was only working with me on procedures that were legal but weren?t covered by insurance anymore. She was the one who found atypical glandular cells in my pap smear. She did an endometrial biopsy, and found hyperplasia; it had already become cancerous. Under those circumstances, most hospitals will still perform the operation- but not with my brand. I had no choice but a vaginal hysterectomy; it was the only way for Ellen to do it safely with the equipment and training she had.? 

?I don?t know that I would have ever wanted kids, but not being able to? just makes it all harder. But the worst part is I?ve been in so many fights, even here, with women I cared about, and otherwise respected, who told me I couldn?t have an opinion on their lives or their child-rearing because I wasn?t a mother- couldn?t be a mother; in essence saying that I?d never be a whole member in the tribe of woman.?

?That devastated me. I grew up thinking gender roles were stupid, that a woman defining herself on the basis of her lack of dangling organs was proof of somebody who wasn?t confident enough in herself. But? it?s hard to even put into words, let alone ones that will tell you what it?s like to be frozen out of your natural role. I still don?t think I ever want kids, but?? she swallowed.

?And Ellen waited a while. We were friends, by then, good friends. So she was comforting, and there for me. But once I was past the hump and well into my recovery, she told me she loved me. And she said she?d spent so much time with her hands in my vagina we were practically dating already, anyway. But we took it slow. Neither of us wanted to muddy the waters, and find ourselves in a relationship we didn?t want, since we were basically coworkers. But we?ve been together since. So when we fight, professionally? there?s always a little extra fire in it.?

She let out a ragged gasp. ?But she?s the love of my life, and I?ve tried to deny it, but I know she?s just walking away.?

?She?ll come back,? Lisa tried to reassure her.

?I don?t know that she will. This time feels different.? She snorted, to keep her nose from dripping on a newly rinsed dish. ?I?m sorry, dropping all of this on you, especially right now. You should be worried about Ofelia.?

?It?s okay to worry about you, too,? Lisa offered.

?But mum?s the word. If Ellen wants to sneak out quietly, she?s earned that.?

Anna left the kitchen. Lisa wasn?t hungry anymore, if she ever had been. And she couldn?t think of anything else to distract herself with.

So she left the dining area and walked down the hall. The room into Ellen?s clinic was open, and she could hear the doctor talking to Ofelia. Slowly she inched into the room. She tried not to listen, like whatever Ellen was saying could possibly be personal and sensitive. That was why she wasn?t ready when Ellen spun around on her heels and smacked into her. ?Sorry. I didn?t know you were there,? she said.

?It?s okay,? Lisa said. But she was more concerned in blending in, and Ellen was leaving the room, and there was no one left to distract from her. And when she looked up she knew she?d been noticed.

?I?m glad you?re okay,? Ofelia said softly. 

?Yeah,? Lisa said numbly. She wanted to reciprocate, but couldn?t figure out how; Ofelia was alive, but Lisa wasn?t okay with what had happened to Ofelia, so she knew the younger women couldn?t possibly be.

?You have to stop it,? Ofelia said. ?I can?t be the cripple. I don?t mean,? she sighed. ?I lost an arm. It happened. And I?m still dealing with that. But I can?t do that and become the girl no one can look in the eye, the one everyone has to watch what they say around, the one who can?t carry her own weight and isn?t allowed to go out or even help.?

Lisa couldn?t even bring herself to make eye contact. Ofelia put her hand on Lisa?s cheek and pointed her chin up, to meet her gaze. ?And everyone feels guilty, but you, especially, need to know that this wasn?t your fault. We got attacked by some fucking troglodytes. But responsibility for this, it?s on them, not you. I lost Merril, but I don?t want to lose you, not now, just because you?d rather feel sorry for yourself- and for me. I need a friend right now, not an albatross.?

?I mean, I understand if you need to deal; me, too. But I want us to deal, together. I was so pissed at myself, while it was happening, that I?d let you get into it. I should have just,? but she couldn?t say anymore.

?Shh,? Lisa said, cradling her head. ?It?s not your fault, either.?

?I know, but, in a way, I wish it were. Because if it was my fault, then there might have been something I could have done, better, or? if it was my fault, I wouldn?t have to feel so fucking helpless right now.?

Lisa hugged her.

?But you know one of the more fucked up things? Mitchell?s already started nagging me about what to do with my severed limb. He?s complaining that it?s taking too much space in his fridge, which he might need for medicine. And I just wish they?d thrown it out. It?s a part of me. But a useless part. I wouldn?t care if it was gone, but? being asked to decide how to get rid of it? just sucks.?

Lisa thought for a moment. ?Feel free to smack me in the mouth,? Lisa said, ?if this is completely fucked up. But how about we bury it??

?I wasn?t exactly expecting us to keep it in the freezer,? Ofelia said, starting to smile. ?Where would I put my dilly bars??

?I mean, we hold like a funeral.?

?Like a Viking funeral?? Ofelia said with excitement.

?I guess- I just more meant giving you a chance to say goodbye to that part of you. To have some closure.?

?By torching that part of me.?

Lisa laughed. ?If that?s what you want.?

?Ooh, and we could have s?mores.?

?Ew.?

?Not after we put my arm in the fire. Before. Obviously. I?m pretty sure we?ll all lose our appetites after we huck my limb into the flames. Either that, or we?ll all really want hot dogs,? Lisa caught herself nearly smiling.

?I think I have to be the voice of reason: we?re not having hot dogs.?

?See,? Ofelia said, grinning at her. ?This doesn?t have to be dour.? But then Ofelia got more serious, and took a deep breath. ?I don?t know if you noticed, but I?ve been kind of keeping my arm away from you,? Ofelia showed her the limb. The skin below her elbow had been sewn tightly against the two bones in her forearm. ?Gross, right? It?s a Krukenberg pincer. Makes me feel like Kalibak.?

?You mean Calibos, right??

?I don?t know.?

?Kalibak?s an obscure character from a comic book; looks like an angry human hamster. Calibos was the guy with that claw thing in Clash of the Titans.?

?That guy, then- only totally prettier.?

?Obviously.?

?Ellen says it?ll let me feel stuff, and like fork stuff,? she said, thrusting it in the air; ?it?s probably the most useful kind of amputation you can have.?

?You know what would be great?? Lisa gripped an imaginary pull-cord in her teeth and yanked, then started making engine noises.

?Oh my god,? Ofelia said, her eyes becoming bright, ?I would eat so much carpet for a chainsaw hand. I wouldn't even care if it was Mayday's carpet.?

?What's wrong with Mayday's carpet??

?No idea. It's just... her thighs are as big around as my waist- and built of like solid fricking muscle. She intimidates my girly bits just by looking at me.?

?It'd be too much like sleeping with an underage,? Mae said, surprising them both from the doorway. ?And all I think I could design for you would be a derringer hand.?

?That could be cool, too.?

?But probably stupid. You can always pretend not to know better if you get caught with a gun. But caught with a derringer hand? Even Clint couldn't talk his way out of that. Speaking of, I overheard your idea about s'mores and a Viking funeral, and I sent him on a marshmallow run.?

?He?s just going to be our grocery bitch forever, isn?t he?? Ofelia smiled. ?I love that.?

The front door opened. ?Speak of the bitch,? Mae said.

?I'll try and assume that's somehow complimentary,? Clint said, holding up his grocery bag. ?But are we ready to do this??

?Yeah,? Mae said, ?assuming?? she turned to Ofelia.

?Totally,? Ofelia said. ?The sooner we can stop Mitch from giving me the stink eye the better, and ever since we mentioned s?mores my tumbly?s been rumbly for them.?

?Then let me gather everybody up,? Mae said. ?We'll be taking it outside.?

?You already gather up some wood for the fire?? Clint asked, following Mae out of the room.

?Got a nice little pile, with kindling...?

?You want to uh,? Ofelia's eyes were sad, then embarrassed, ?I could use a hand getting dressed.?

?Sure,? Lisa said.

Fifteen minutes later, Ofelia was roasting a marshmallow in a fire built on the spot where Anna usually parked her car. She let it catch fire, and turn black, then swung it around to put it out.

?Philistine,? Mae said. ?You're supposed to brown it, not torch it.?

Lisa glanced at Ofelia's arm; the fork it ended in reminded her too much of her marshmallow prong to stab it through her first marshmallow.

?Yeah, but? she bit the edge of the marshmallow and tore off the charred outer skin, ?now it's like I?ve got a whole new marshmallow.?

Lisa stopped looking, and ran her marshmallow through, then started browning it.

Ofelia removed her marshmallow from the fire, and Mae slid it off her prongs, between two slabs of graham cracker, with a piece of chocolate bar. Ofelia blew on it, then took a bite. ?Who invented the s?more?? Ofelia asked through a mouth overfilled with warm marshmallow.

?Jesus,? Lisa purred, biting into her own. 

?Actually,? Mae said with a little grin, ?the first published instance of the s?more is from a Girl Scout manual from the twenties.?

?Yeah, suck on that, Boy Scouts,? Ofelia said.

?And,? Mae added, ?we never discriminated against gays, transgenders, or non-Christians, either.?

?Yeah,? Ofelia said, ?suck on that, American Heritage Girls- that really doesn?t roll off the tongue, does it??

Ofelia glanced at the bag of marshmallows, but she didn't want to have to ask for help. ?I'm going to miss my arm. Not just all the things I know are going to be harder, but it was such a part of me. I don't know how I'm going to get along without it.?

?Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about giving up, or killing myself, or anything. But when the question, 'Who am I?' reared its existential head, I'd look down and knew everything I needed to know. But I'm not the scared, rebellious girl who got the tattoo, or the pissed off freedom fighter who finished it off with a brand she stole from a man who wanted to rape her.?

?On the one hand,? everyone around the fire tensed, which was probably the worst thing the collection of them could have done, under those circumstances. They all looked at her; her recovery had been so fragile, and they were all afraid what it would do to them if she started to cry again. She smiled, and it spread across her lips until they couldn?t contain her teeth anymore, and she laughed. She covered her eyes with one hand, and Lisa worried maybe she was crying, but she kept laughing. She ran her fingers through her hair as she started to compose herself, and her eyes betrayed nothing but amusement. ?Sorry, I guess I?ll have to get used to only having the one.?

?But what I was getting at, was, they took away that safe certainty in who I am. Every new day is a struggle for definition. It's a kind of freedom. But it's terrifying. But I feel a hell of a lot better knowing it isn?t a struggle I?ll be facing alone.? She put her hand on Lisa?s shoulder and squeezed, and every woman did the same, until they formed a circle around the fire. ?I love you girls- though not in a Mae way.?

?But now, the moment I think you?ve all been dreading,? she bent down, and pushed the blankets off her severed arm, and held it up, ?the pyring part. You don?t have to stay and watch, or probably worse, smell.?

She held her arm up in front of her. ?Goodbye, hand. You did some cool stuff over the years. Especially that one time; I won?t elaborate, since we?re in mixed company. But you got to go out at the top of your game. Life?s going to be weird without you.? She sighed, and dropped the arm into the fire.

One by one, they left. Lisa and Ofelia were the last, staring into the fire. ?Would it be weird if I told you that smell is making me hungry?? Lisa asked.

?I?d tell you to eat me, but I worry you might try,? Ofelia said.

?Are you sure you're going to be okay?? Lisa asked, squeezing her hip.

?With this? I don?t know. I might always be bitter, and pissed off, about it. Maybe I should be. But I?ll be okay, in general. You know how they say you don?t know what you?ve got til it?s gone? Well, suffering a loss like this, you also get to see what you have in pretty stark relief, too. And the way everybody rallied around me the last few days- it?s not all bad, is what I?m trying to say. And in a weird kind of way, I almost feel more whole.?

08/03/12

  09:48:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 855 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Peaks of Eternal Light

The excursion out to the Peaks was scheduled to take up half their allotted time on the moon. Unfortunately, that left a lot of time in Station Alpha for reflection, for the doubts and dreads of a two year mission to sink in hard.

Clod was tense. Paul could sense that, see it in her posture, and the way she clenched her jaw.

He knew it was dangerous, too. He knew the way she looked at him, and that only a few days out, it was already hard for him not to look back.

But she was also alone. The knock-on effect of Alisa and Rica pairing off like they had, was that she was the last woman standing. She was military, so she was also going to be different, less girly, than they were. But she still wasn?t a man, and wasn?t exactly one of the boys, either. It was isolating.

So it was a fine line Paul walked when he walked over to her.

?You get the feeling they sent us here just to have us out of their hair?? Clod asked. ?Not that I blame them. This is where they work. We can?t expect them to make it Disneyland for us- though I?d gladly buy an overpriced corndog to see your wife in a dog costume. Ex-wife, I mean- sorry.?

The rim of Peary crater was covered in solar panels, and the reflected light illuminated even the deepest parts of what had formerly been the dark bottom of the crater. The light would have been blinding, but the windows had a smart dimming system that used dye-infused solar cells to dull the light while converting some of it to energy. ?It's beautiful,? Paul said.

?And a little insane. I'm not complaining. I've worked for and in government for basically my whole career. But how much did we spend on solar panels, how much did we put into building this place? A lot of it was done robotically, so cheaper than if we built it traditionally, but those bots took R & D, and the AI got programmed by somebody. How many prescriptions for the elderly could we have bought with that money?? She touched the window. ?We're lucky- insanely lucky, to get to do what we do. But sometimes I wonder if our species wouldn't be better off just keeping our feet on solid ground.?

?But that isn't what humanity does,? Paul said. ?We put effort into crazy things- sometimes just because we can. But we built smoke detectors to install on Skylab. How many lives have they saved since??

?The Ballistic Parachute System, developed by BRS for NASA, has saved hundreds of lives,? Speed added helpfully.

?Here's one from my backyard,? Paul said. ?Cooling systems originally designed to keep astronauts from roasting on the lunar surface were adapted for medical use, including treating multiple sclerosis.?

?Those systems were designed to help astronauts survive temperatures as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit,? Speed said.

?Surgical robots, artificial hearts.?

?I'm not saying we shouldn't be in space,? she said. ?I'm not even saying we get nothing out of it but a great story. But is this the most cost-effective way to use those research funds? I mean, how many billions did we waste just blasting our penis ship into space??

?The world might be a better place if we hadn't built jets that could fly faster than sound, or researched nuclear tech,? Paul allowed. ?But that research could also be what helps people live longer. Or maybe we'll just use it to build better sex toys. But space, it's... emblematic of our quest, as a species, to do better, to go farther, to progress and evolve. It's important, because it says that we aren't just sitting on our hands. It's important because it shows that we're trying to build the future- not just waiting for it to come to us.?

?Rocketry started as basically a Nazi science. And then we fought over space?s frontiers as just another front in the Cold War. But for forty years now it?s been a place where humanity comes together. When the US cancelled its shuttle program, we used Russian vehicles. And even though we haven?t always been able to democratize as much as we?d like, at least we?ve tried to make every step we take one we take as a species. Space is important, as an idea. And as a beacon. And as proof of what we can do together.? 

?Plus it?s really fucking cool,? she admitted.

?Right? You get to fly a rocket ship through space. You said it. We?re lucky. And maybe I am just rationalizing, but if I really thought, even for a second, that what we?re doing here wasn?t for the benefit of mankind, I?d quit.?

?You would, wouldn?t you??

?I?m a doctor, right? It?s not like I don?t have other options. And you?re one of the world?s premier pilots. We?re lucky. We?ve been asked to do something extraordinary for the rest of humanity. And with the technical demands of even going this deeply into space, this is probably the final frontier of our lifetimes.?

07/28/12

  09:31:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1428 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .18: Near Miss

My phone woke me up. I assumed my alarm hadn't gone off again, but the clock said it was 3 am, a full hour before I was supposed to be at the station.

When I picked it up it was Gottfried. ?Got a live one, for you,? he said.

?I'm not on shift yet,? I complained.

?And that's about ten kinds of not my problem.?

?Sorry,? I said, ?you woke me up, so maybe I'm slurring my words: do it your damned self.?

?I'm already on a case,? he said, enjoying the chance to prove he wasn't entirely useless. ?Really, it's the same case, but it's two-part. Girl practically spilling over with child ran a roadblock. We have reason to believe she was smuggling contraceptives. I'm chasing the girl. But I need you to check out the roadblock, see if the chuckleheads there remember anything useful under pressure.?

?So I'm batting clean-up just in case our coworkers are idiots.?

?Do you really begrudge me the ten more minutes of big-titted dreaming I've cost you??

?A little,? I admitted.

?I'm mobile. So dispatch will give you the pertinent details to get you there. But a black and white's pretty sure he found the car she ditched. I've got to get back to the hunt.?

The roadblock was out of town, far enough I was pretty sure it wasn't even in our jurisdiction anymore; it was a stretch of road that was county, and 'belonged' to the sheriff's department. I wondered how that would get written up, or what kind of hoops the captain was likely to jump through to get it post-facto approval. 

It didn't surprise me that it was four relatively new police I found at the roadblock. They met me by their patrol cars, on the city side of the barricade. I opened my tablet to a note taking and recording program. ?Describe the girl, and what happened,? I said.

?Don't you want to... separate us, make sure we have our stories straight,? the officer with 'Gonzalez' on his nameplate said.

?You reported the incident well over an hour ago. If you didn't have your stories straight by now you'd be too stupid to have passed the entrance exam. And IA might want to do all that, but I'm gender crime; I care about the girl, not about why you?re out this far.?

Dexter thought a moment, then decided it made sense to cooperate with me. ?Pregnant. She slowed up when she crested the hill. Usually, that happens, it's somebody near the legal limit, and they're wary to blow to find out where they'll fall. But drunks slow down, or in rarer cases, turn around and make a run for it. But she put her foot on the floor. Malcolm and Davis just freaked, got out of her way. Gonzalez froze, then tried to get into his patrol car, in case he needed to pursue. I drew my service weapon and fired, five shots into the windshield. One struck the driver, somewhere in the torso. But she managed to clip the one squad car so it got jammed together with the other. It took Gonzalez nearly a minute to get the cars separated, and by then she was just gone.?

?Bag his gun,? I told Gonzalez.

?Excuse me?? Dexter asked.

?It's an officer involved shooting. They're going to run ballistics on the weapon, and if we do manage to get her, they'll tie the bullets in the car and in the girl to your gun. This paint from her vehicle?? I asked, pointing at a streak on the bumper of one of the patrol cars.

?I suppose, though I don't know what good it'll do you.?

?If we manage to catch her, this ties her to the scene. It links her to some moving violations, and officer endangerment, at a minimum. And it keeps her from suing you for shooting her without cause, later.? He felt foolish, and gave me a stern smile. Then his head shattered into a hundred pieces; it was like watching a balloon pop, a balloon filled with tomato soup and a fistful of undercooked hamburger.

I got down behind one of the cars. Gonzalez, true to his earlier performance, froze and didn't get behind cover, and took the next round in the chest; it punched a hole big enough to mistake for a toilet bowl.

Shooter was using a big bore, in a rifle of some kind. Effective force told me she was close in. I say she because I'd heard the report of an ambush on my days off, by a trained team of snipers during a botched gender crimes arrest- too good and too fast to be one woman, according to the report.

But seeing her, in the flesh- or at least in action, I knew it had just been the one shooter.    Malcolm was crouched perpendicular to the other car. He was careful enough not to leave his head visible, but his feet could be seen beneath the car. Shooter used them to get a bead on his torso and fired. Because of how he was crouched, the bullet went through his right arm, into his torso, and across and into his left arm near the wrist. It was about the most damage a single bullet could do to a human being. He collapsed, and Davis tried to put pressure on his first torso wound. But he was also putting himself perpendicular to the shooter.

?Flatten out,? I told, and he stared at me like I was yelling in Portugese. And then when he finally realized what I meant, he pushed himself against the passenger door. But that gave her an easy target, too, just following his feet up. I closed my eyes, knowing what was coming, and that there wasn?t a damned thing I could do for him. When I opened them again I could tell from the wound he was dead or dying, and we were far enough out that even without being pinned down by fire there wasn?t a chance in hell an ambo could get to him in time.

Most big rifles keep five in the magazine, and the shooter was only down four; I didn't dare move. Then I heard another shot, and it struck metal. I had a feeling, but I couldn't stand up to verify it. Another shot, and this one went through the engine block of the car I was hiding behind. I sighed, knowing where the last shot- though not the last in the mag, as she?d definitely changed the old one out by now- would go even before she pulled the trigger. It killed the other patrol car's engine. I peeked out far enough to see my own car, and the hole she blew in it. She was stranding me out here- so I couldn't follow her.

Given the lull between the first four shots and the latest three I felt it safe to assume she had at least one, but probably another two rounds left in the rifle. But if she was stranding me, that meant she didn't plan to kill me. I played that hunch, and stood up. It took several seconds for my eyes to adjust to the darkness beyond the patrol car lights, or to see through rain. She was lying in the mud, just far enough away that had I not been looking I never would have seen her. She was still aiming down the rifle, and I think she was deciding whether or not to murder me.

I put up my hands, then very slowly slid my revolver out of my coat pocket, and set it on the hood of the disabled patrol car in front of me. 

She stood up, and mud dripped off her large frame. She had a big revolver strapped to her hip that gave the snub-nose I carried penis envy. But she didn't want me dead. And I didn't want her bad enough to get dead in the process; she was a professional, and at this distance I wasn?t sure I?d hit her before she returned fire- and she wasn?t going to miss.

I managed to snap a camera picture of her walking away, holding the big rifle in one hand like some kind of Frankenstein monster, rain giving her a speckled halo as lightning struck somewhere beyond her. I didn't turn the photo in for evidence. I wasn't sure I believed what had happened, and I wasn't sure my description would sound any less mad with the photo.

07/27/12

  09:31:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 755 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Station Alpha

As the maglev train came to a stop at the station, Paul swore he saw a face. Maybe two of them. He wondered if he was just personifying one of Speed's screens, until the doors opened, and two technicians were standing there, holding tools.

?This is weird,? the man with the name ?Faias? on his jacket said. ?There's never two of us at Alpha. Hell, there's rarely one of us up here, anymore, since all of the modern accoutrements are at Beta.?

?The Lunar Station, to you tourists,? the other man said. ?I'm Bill, by the way. I deal with the photovoltaics. You know all those pock marks on the Moon's face- well, one of those happened where we had a solar panel- and our panels are all daisy-chained, so it put all of them in that array off-angle. We were losing 4% of our power because it was at a suboptimal angle. Not that we ever really use all of our power, but heaven forbid there's ever a problem...?

?Problem?? Paul asked. ?I thought NASA installed a nuclear backup.?

?Nope,? Bill said. ?It's still on the drawing board. But we did get them to okay a, well, are you familiar at all with the gravity backups nuclear plants use?? Paul shrugged. ?They pump water to a reservoir at a high altitude. If the power ever goes out, water flows down hill. It pushes turbines, and at the same time, can be used as a coolant. Well, for us it's our drinking water, but it also pushes turbines- albeit at much crapper speeds due to the lower gravity. That's the emergency emergency power; we've got all the power cells charged up, which is our usual emergency power. But if somehow there was a disruption in the solar power, we've got, what, six weeks before life support would fail??

The other man shrugged, and when he realized everyone was staring at him, said, ?Crap. I'm David, and I should have gone first, because my thing is way more boring. I was just here for some routine maintenance on the maglev systems. Most of it's automated, but some parts need more dexterity than we can get out of the Honda bots.?

?But look at us, jamming information into your face. I'm sure you got that the entire way up from Speed.?

?We aren't complaining,? Martin said. ?In fact, it'll be nice to have someone around who can show us the ropes.?

?Oh, uh, actually,? Bill hawed, ?we're taking the train back to Beta.?

?Yeah. Unfortunately we've still got all kinds of crap on the schedule for today. NASA does like to workhorse us.?

?Yeah,? Martin said, ?I'm not looking forward to that.?

?You get used to it,? Bill said. ?I mean, they did spend millions of dollars to launch any one of us into space. It makes sense they want to make sure they're getting their money's worth.?

?He just says that because he's a train engineer; so long as he can play with his trains he doesn't care if he works eighteen hour days. Not that he ever has to; there's only so many trains for him to maintain, after all.?

?I do other things,? Bill complained. ?It's not like I spend the rest of my days lounging. Except Wednesdays. Them?s my lazy days.?

?But we actually weren't kidding. Pardon us, if it's rude, but we really actually do have to be gone. I still have to go make sure the battery backups we keep at Beta are fully discharging. And Bill... I'm pretty sure he just has lounging to do.?

?And exercise. They put exercise on our work schedule.?

?Only so our muscles don't deteriorate to a point where we won't be able to hold ourselves up when we get back to Earth.?

?Back? They'll pry this Station from my cold, dead hands.?

?Assuming you mean grabbing hold of it, which you'd presumably do from outside, yeah, cold and dead would describe your hands. Unless you're in sunlight. And then you'd have dead, overcooked hands...?

The doors to the maglev train slid shut behind them.

?So,? Levy said, ?do you think working on the Moon makes you crazy, or is it just the kind of job only crazy people volunteer for?? Levy seemed to remember Paul was in the room. ?Sorry, man.?

He smiled. ?I'm pretty sure, since she's my ex-wife, that you're allowed to intimate she's crazy. I don't know that I agree, but I'm not going to call foul on you.?

?Cool,? Levy said.

07/21/12

  09:30:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1647 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .17: Choice

Ellen emerged from the operating room after several more hours. She was a wreck; she'd been crying, even through the surgery. But now her resolve was stone. ?I'm done, Anna,? she said.

?How is she??

?Not with Ofelia- though she should pull through; there wasn't anything I could do for the arm. But I'm leaving.?

?Ofelia needs you.?

?And I'll stay, until she's stable enough for me to leave to Mitchell. But I'm going.?

?The rest of us, need you, too.?

Ellen violently tore the mask off her neck and let it fly towards the ground. ?I'm a doctor, goddamnit. I'm tired of mutilating people and pretending it's medicine. I'd have better equipment working with doctors without borders- and frankly far fewer horrific mutilations. I care, Anna, deeply, about you and everyone else. And that's why I'm leaving. Because you need to know that I won't be here for you, anymore. I'm leaving because you need to stop this shit. Your safety net is walking out the door, and I pray that that's enough to convince you to give up this insane quest of yours. You can't save the world, Anna; but you can save the women here.?

Ellen stomped her way past Anna, then up the stairs, and slammed the door to her room.

?She's just pissed,? Anna said, though even Lisa could see she wasn't sure she meant it. ?She's quit like this a dozen times before.? Anna went to the kitchen.

?I could use a drink, too,? Mae said, and followed her.

Clint came in the front door. ?Where've you been?? Lisa asked him.

He held up a reusable grocery bag. ?I went on another formula run. I picked some up on my way earlier, because Mae asked me to, but I hadn't known... this way no one will have to go out without some kind of escort. Or maybe I just needed something to do, that wasn't me sitting around waiting for bad or worse news.? And he realized he still didn't have the news.

?Bad, instead of worse,? Lisa said. ?She lost the arm. But Ellen thinks she'll be okay.?

?That's something,? he said. ?But I can't shake the feeling that I should have been here.?

?It was almost literally a milk run,? Lisa told him. ?You can't be here all the time. And you can't always protect us.?

?I know it isn't practical, and it isn't rational; it's probably even a little patronizing-?

?A little,? she said gently.

?But when things like this happen, or Mike... it shouldn't be like this. And I shouldn't be this helpless. None of us should be, but...?

?I know what you mean. Stories tell us that there's supposed to be some supremely evil dick at the center of all of this, who possibly at some point in the story turns literally into a snake to remove all subtlety from the metaphor, someone who ultimately we get to punch to return the world back to sanity.?

?But there's nobody to punch.?

?This is just the world we live in.?

?That's a supremely depressing thought. I feel a powerful urge to get drunk.?

?You'd be in good company,? she said to him, as Anna and Mae slunk into the TV room with a bottle and two glasses.

?But?? he asked.

?But isn't that the coward's way out.?

?It is?? he asked.

?Ofelia's drugged, to spare her the incredible pain those bastards inflicted on her. But shouldn't we bear it? What they did to her, shouldn't we acknowledge the rage, and the helplessness. Shouldn't we be harnessing that, for the next time we have to sneak something past the police, or do whatever other dangerous thing we have to do??

?I think I'd rather despair tonight, and be usefully pissed off tomorrow,? Clint said. ?But if Mayday's grieving through a bottle, I should probably commiserate sober. At least one of us should be in shape to use a gun, if it comes to it- God forbid. But I'll be near the bottle, if you want me for anything.? He nodded to her, then followed Anna and Mae's trail. 

That was when the operating room door opened again. It was Mitchell. ?I've got her cleaned up and bandaged, if you'd like to see her. She's still under heavy sedation, so she won't talk back, and she may not hear if you talk to her. But...?

?Sure,? Lisa said, getting up out of her chair.

?I've been up thirty hours; I hate to even ask...?

?Take a nap,? Lisa said. ?I'll get you if anything happens.?

?Knock on wood,? he said, and cracked his knuckles twice on the doorframe as he left. Lisa lingered in the hall. She wanted to go in, and hold Ofelia?s hand, but that only reminded her that she was only going to be doing half the hand-holding she used to. 

?How is she?? Mary asked, coming down the stairs; the sudden noise had made Lisa jump. ?You okay??

?I just thought? I haven?t had a moment to myself all day. I thought I was alone, and I got lost in my thoughts.?

?I can leave,? Mary said, though from the pout of her lips Lisa knew she didn?t want to.

?No,? Lisa said. ?I don?t think I want to be alone- I just thought I was.? Matthew cooed in Mary?s arms. Lisa was surprised to see the woman holding her baby again, and noticed the color had come back to her cheeks. ?I?d been meaning to ask,? Lisa said, but paused, wanting to make sure she formed the thought carefully, ?I didn?t expect to see a baby here; I thought??

?It?s about choice. I chose to keep him- even if his father was a rapist.?

?But the sickness yesterday that?s so suddenly gone. It was morning sickness, wasn?t it? You're pregnant?? She waited for Mary to say something to confirm. ?Again??

?Why does everyone ask that, like I'm the first woman to get knocked up twice,? there was half a smile on her face, but sadness beneath it. 

?The father??

?Mike.?

?Fuuck.?

?Yeah.?

?I assume you're gonna keep it,? Lisa said, looking at Matthew, curled up quietly in her arms.

?It's a choice,? she said, and she couldn't not look at Ofelia, and her bandaged arm. ?It's getting more dangerous to take care of the child I have. And?? she hesitated, because she didn?t know if she knew Lisa well enough to admit what she wanted to. ?There are complications.?

?Complications?? Lisa asked.

?We just found out, yesterday, while you two were out,? she winced. ?My daughter. Her brain, spine and legs aren?t developing correctly. Even with the proper medical care, she?ll be in constant pain. And I just talked to Ellen; with her gone, the odds of getting my baby that care are even slimmer. But like I said, it?s a choice??

?So you said. But I don't know if I follow. Maybe I just have trouble understanding where you're coming from.?

?You mean where Matthew came from?? she smiled, full of pride looking down at her son. ?I was married, probably too young. But I was old enough to know I didn?t want a baby yet. So I used an underground clinic to get an IUD. I didn?t tell my husband, because I knew what he?d say; also, it wasn?t his decision to make. But one day he felt the string- the one that?s there so you can make sure it?s still in place, and still effective. I didn?t find out he knew until the next day. He called me ?puta? and,? she flinched, and her face shivered, ?he beat me until I couldn?t move, other than to plead with him to stop. Then he tore the IUD out of me with a pair of pliers- and I do mean tore.?

?This was shortly after Congress failed to renew the Violence Against Women Act, so a lot of the shelters that had depended on federal funds had shuttered. I ended up on the street, relying on handouts, or whatever day labor I could find. I'm a citizen, but I was denied a restraining order, so I couldn't work a legal job without providing my home address- and that would have given Javier a way to find me.?

?But living on the streets carries dangers of its own, and I was raped. There's no point rehashing the details; but I was taken to an underground shelter, and fixed up. They sent me here, from New Mexico. I realized shortly after I arrived that I was late. Ellen gave me an hCG test, and told me I was pregnant. It had been too long for it to be Javier's child; I knew my son had been fathered by a rapist. But I chose to keep him.?

?I don?t mean to second-guess,? Lisa said, ?but was it really a choice? For me, there was so much? propaganda, so much stigma attached to abortion, growing up. I don?t know what I would do, in that same position, is all I mean.?

?Cultural mores, taboos, they weigh from both directions. My mom was a proud feminist,? she smiled, then it turned into a wicked grin. ?And my dad was a loud Catholic. They loved the hell out of each other; and fought like crazed animals, sometimes. True independence is an illusion; no one matures in a vacuum. We have heroes, we see villains, and ultimately we try to walk a path that?s our own, through an ideological valley whose landmarks have already been described and claimed by others.?

?That?s why choice is so important to me. I may not even be consciously aware of everything that makes me the person I am, or influences the decisions I make. But I have to be able to live them; and that?s why I?m the only one qualified to make them.?

07/20/12

  09:29:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 882 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Maglev

They'd been on the Moon for over a day, but now, riding the Maglev towards the North Pole, Paul was happy to have a little distance between him and Maria. She left him the day she made her decision to take the lunar research job- she thought a clean break would help them get on with their lives.

Not that it had been all that clean. They fought about it for weeks, until Paul finally vocalized the heart of the argument: ?You're leaving me.?

?What? That's not-?

?You're talking about going to the Moon. Indefinitely.?

?You're a fucking astronaut, you ham.?

?But the nature of that job is we always come back.?

?You're going to Mars.?

?Two years. I can wait for you for two years. But how long are you going to be gone? Three years? Four? Five? Ten?? She didn't have a response for him.

?I'm sorry,? she said, and touched his arm. But he was tired- finally acknowledging what this whole conflict had been about, it was all he could do just to lower himself down into a chair at their nook table.

She left him the next day.

She had her divorce papers couriered over a week later, and he signed them without reading them. Movers came and boxed up her things and moved them while he was at his astronaut candidate training.

But seeing her on the Moon, he wasn't reminded of the fights, or even the shitty way she left. He remembered her skin against his in the bed they shared. The way her hair smelled a few days after she'd washed it.

Paul sighed. The lunar landscape rushed by so fast it made him nauseous to look too near to the maglev tracks. But farther away were hills and craters, and they hardly seemed to move at all.

?Demi Moore.? Levy said to the monitor.

?Striptease, About Last Night, The Scarlet Letter, GI Jane, Indecent Proposal, We're No Angels, The Seventh Sign, No Small Affair, and Blame it on Rio.? 

?The Olsen Twins,? Levy said.

?You're a sick man,? Martin said. ?Don't answer that, Speed.?  

?Oh, my God,? Clod said, ?this is so boring and forever-taking. I mean, I'm prepared for space-flight to take forever, but that's because we're travelling ridiculous distances. But this? It's the Amtrak Capitol Limited.?

?The trip from Chicago to Washington, D.C. takes eighteen hours,? Speed responded. ?So the trip is closer to the time it takes for the lunar elevator descent. However, the distance in miles is approximately 1,230 kilometers. The maglev from the Lunar Station to Alpha covers 2726.34 kilometrs in only 7 hours.? 

?Thanks, Ike.?

?Do you have me confused with the thirty-fourth President the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower??

?Yes. Or, I was making a sarcastic comment about the fact that you 'know everything.'?

?But in place of you, I presume Ike uses the first-person pronoun 'I.'?

?That's clever,? said Alisa. ?Bitchy, but clever.?

?I prefer bitch clever,? Clod said with a smile. 

?But as we are approaching our destination, I have collected information that should be of import as you visit the Peaks of Eternal Light. The name 'Peaks of Eternal Light' is, technically speaking, a misnomer, as the peaks are not perpetually lit. However, compared to similar spots on Earth, which spend a minimum amount of 30% of their time in the shade, the peaks are closer to eternally lit.?

?How much closer?? Rica asked.

?There are four peaks along the rim of Peary crater that remain lit nearly the entire year round. However, during short periods each of them experiences shadows during the winter.?

?On the horizon, you can see Lunar Base Alpha. This was the initial site of the lunar base, chosen for its proximity to the peaks and to frozen water deposits near the north pole. The base was constructed by automated colonization robots- similar to those initially proposed for the first full Mars mission. Once initial construction was complete, they built the electrical lines over which we're now traveling. After building the lines, they leveled ground to construct a maglev train for travel between Alpha and the Station that was being constructed in parallel at the base of the lunar elevator. The Station location was near mineral deposits that were used in its construction.?

?Contrary to somewhat popular misconception, the Moon's rotation of 10.7 kilometers per hour is too slow to factor heavily into space port construction the way it does on Earth, which rotates 1,669 kilometers per hour. However, the centrifugal force necessary for a space elevator required it be constructed at the equator, to make use of this speed, as even marginal reductions could greatly increase the necessary height of the elevator or weight of the counterbalance.? 

?I?m so glad Mr. Wizard?s Lunar Tour is almost over,? Clod said.

?Who?s Mr. Wizard?? Levy asked.

?Born Donald Jeffrey Herbert Kemske,? Speed began, ?Mr. Wizard hosted two children?s television programs, the first beginning in 1961, and the second being shown in reruns until the year 2000.?

?Wait, 2000?? Levy asked. ?How old are you??

?I used to watch them with my dad; he had copies on DVD.?

?DVD? I ask again: how old are you??

?You answer that, you glorified Amiga, and I will find a way to disable your programming.?

?What?s an Amiga?? Levy asked.

?Don?t answer that, either.?

07/14/12

  09:28:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 574 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .16: Sympathy for the Devil

I found myself in the chief of detectives? office, without knowing why. Though I had my suspicions, and they bore out within his first couple of words to me. ?The captain, seemed concerned for your well-being. I don?t get concerned,? he said, then flashed me a knowing grin, ?I get evidence.?

?I don?t know if you know, but the department keeps tabs on its officers? resource usage. We?re not only talking the internet, but the intranet, the archives, anything you access through a computer- whether or not it?s the one at your desk, or one of the ones in the cafeteria, or remotely. And you?re walking a dangerous path, Harmon.?

?I say that as a detective; I?ve been in your shoes. Your predecessors, the two who retired out early, their search histories resembled yours. And before we got a dedicated gender crimes desk, I saw my fair share of officers who couldn?t not ask those questions.?

?It?s the nature of the job- we question. We want to make sure everybody is who we think they are. And normally, that?s a noble instinct for a career police such as yourself. But Camus said ?real nobility is based on scorn, courage, and profound indifference.??

?Camus?? I asked with a chuckle.

?I looked it up before you got here; there?s a surprising dearth of nobility quotes.?

?I?d have gone with Shakespeare,? I told him with a wry smile.

??Sweet mercy is nobility?s true badge?? That?s hardly helpful. But I understand- I do. We've all got mothers, daughters, wives, We don't hate women. But these things are crimes. We don't get to write the laws as we see fit. We just have to enforce them as written.?

?Now I?m not fool enough to tell you it?s a slippery slope- because we both know that?s a fallacy. But it?s dangerous to harbor these sympathies. And I?m not just talking about it harming your career. I?m not even talking about those crazy, ?with us or against us? shits who take the occasional potshots when they think we aren?t being kind and gentle enough with the men?s rights fucks?.

?But we both remember Leo Carver. Good man- better cop. But he let being black get in the way of that. He let the fact that in narcotics he was arresting more blacks than whites affect his judgment. And that affected judgment let some fucking crack whore get close enough to him to put a shiv in his side. His sister in the community left him to bleed out, alone, on that street; even took his phone, which he could have used to call himself an ambo, to sell for more crack.?

?We lost Leo because he was too fucking noble for the job. And I don?t want to be using you as a cautionary tale for the next schlub who can?t seem to keep his shirt tucked or his tie straight.?

?I?m not sure it?s fair, comparing gender criminals to crack whores, sir,? I said.

?I?m not saying they?re equivalent, exactly. But as a cop, they?re the enemy. And even if you don?t approach it like that, enough of them do, that if you?re not watching your ass, one of them will put a bullet in you- or worse.?

He sighed. ?But I?m getting dangerously close to having a philosophical discussion with you- and neither of us want that. Just do your fucking job, and don?t get yourself killed. That?s all.?

07/13/12

  09:28:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1390 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Triangulation

Levy closed the access panel on the robot?s back. The robot?s head swiveled around like an owl?s, and it said, ?You have returned this unit to a fully functional state. Thank you.?

?I know that?s the definition of perfunctory,? he said, ?but you?re welcome.? The robot?s treads fired up, and it started down the hall. ?Hold up, a sec.? The drone stopped, and its head swiveled back towards him. ?Who?s supposed to be in charge of your maintenance??

?If I may interject,? Speed said, ?drone maintenance at the time of that unit?s malfunction was being handled by Sinclair Bonnel, and is currently being performed by Mika Gonzalez.?

?Thanks Speed, robot,? he nodded, and the drone?s head turned back around, and it continued away. ?And where?s he? Because I?d like to give him a piece of my mind.?

?Gonzalez is currently working on the computer systems, in the central network hub.? The nearest monitor changed to show Levy a map of the facility, and drew a glowing blue line from his location to the hub. ?But if you believe there may be a violent altercation, should I contact the Station commander??

?Nah,? Levy said, ?I doubt I?ll even talk loudly at him. But? just because we haven?t programmed robots to feel, yet, doesn?t mean we should treat them like they don?t.?

?A sentiment I appreciate- at least as well as I understand appreciation.? Levy made one wrong turn at the top of some stairs. ?I think you meant to go left,? Speed told him. Then he was at the hub. He walked in, trying to get up a head of steam.

A woman heard him come in, and turned away from her console. ?You?re not Mika,? Levy said, surprised. And immediately, he remembered a girl from his fourth grade class he had a crush on named Mika, and hoped he wasn?t wrong. 

?You?re very astute.?

She was from southeast Asia, possibly India or Pakistan. Levy caught himself before he responded that she was ?very pretty.?

?Did somebody call?? Mika asked, wriggling out from behind a server tower. He was covered in dust, but it was most pronounced on his belly, which stuck out enough that Levy felt less self-conscious about his own waistline. It looked especially strange on the other man, because in the face he looked far more youthful and healthy, despite wearing a pair of thick glasses.

?Mika?? Levy asked. The man nodded, and put out his hand. Levy shook it. ?I wanted to talk to you about

?So, wait,? Levy said, ?you handle the drone workforce and the computers??

?Just helping out. Speed found a couple of bad chips of RAM, so I switched them out. Bella?s the one in charge, here.?

?So you?re a drone, too, and she?s the queen??

Mika laughed. ?I suppose you could put it that way.?

?I wanted to talk to you about the state of your drones. In particular the one that was on the minigolf course.?

?Yeah, I saw that you had him dragged back inside, and that he?s up and running.? Bella turned around again, and this time she smiled at Levy. ?Thanks for that.?

?Okay, but why was he taken out of service? It was a simple part that needed to be serviced- it didn?t even require any new components.? Bella slid the zipper on her shirt down, until her breasts cleaved pleasantly at Levy. Mika noticed, and got a little red in the face, but both men tried to ignore her.

?Um, for that you?d actually have to ask my predecessor.?

?Sinclair, I heard, but you?ve been up here a while on your own, now.?

Bella bit her lip coyly. ?Look, could we maybe talk about this outside??

?Yeah,? Levy said, not entirely sure what was going on, but he followed him out into the hall. ?I?m not looking to start a debate about sentient life- I?m not one of those people- but there?s really no excuse for letting your drone maintenance go like this.?

?Um,? Mika said, ?there?s one excuse. Maybe one and a half, really: I didn?t know how to fix it.?

?Come again.?

?I?m great with AI, and pretty good with quantum entanglement. But I?m a lousy mechanic. Just god-awful at it. You know that simulation they run us through, where we have to repair a repair drone before it overheats? I burned through my drone, every time. But the AD at the time said it wasn?t too big a deal, they needed my other expertise more than the maintenance crap, and they had Bonnel up here already and it wasn?t like they needed the redundancy. But you know how this crap happens, the AD retires, then Bonnel does, and they see that on paper I?m supposed to be able to handle his workload, and suddenly I?m captain of a slowly sinking robot ship.?

?Okay, and maybe my math skills are a bit rusty, but that seems like only one excuse; what?s the other half??

?Bella.?

?Bella??

?The lurve.?

?Bad??

?Superbad.?

?Reciprocal.?

Mika held up his hand and waggled it in a ?more or less? sort of way. ?Mai calls it the yo-yo; sometimes she holds me close, and other times she pushes me away. But I?m insane for her- completely her plaything, and half the time it seems like she couldn?t care if I disappeared. Some days I mean we?re like a real couple, basically. At Christmas she videoconferenced with my parents. My dad loved her cause she?s hot, and my mom was stoked because she?s Asian.?

?You?re Japanese, right??

?Uh-huh.? 

?A Japanese engineer who?s bad at building robots. School must have been tough.?

?You might be stereotyping, but it totally was. But it?s not like I suck at everything in engineering, just the manual stuff. I thought when I got my degree I was set. But then I got into the program and??

?It?s nuts, man, believe me, I know better than anybody. I?m insanely lucky to be here, and I?m still convinced it?s like 90% accidental. But what was I going to do? Tell them no? Tell them, ?Yeah, I think going to the Moon sounds great, but I?d really like to stay here and hone my mediocrity, and maybe eventually fifteen years from now settle for a job at a votech school.?

?But she likes brains. Anytime I?ve got something cool and experimental to talk to her about, I?ve got a shot at second base. But you walking into the room? um, how to put this in the least creepy way possible, but as brains go, you?re really well hung.?

?That was the opposite of the least creepy way to put that.? 

?But with you around, I mean, I?m like? he held up his pointer and thumb, indicating about half an inch, then stopped himself. ?I?ve never come so close to walking into a small Asian penis joke before. But see. She turns me into a lunatic- and God help I don?t know that I have it in me to care.? 

?But with the fickleness, and the ice queeniness and everything,? Levy said, ?I think you should maybe consider the possibility that she?s not that into you, dude. I mean, sure, she likes brains- and that?s a good in for you. But if she?s still teeter-tottering after all this time, I don?t know that it?s ever going to happen. And I say that as someone who has been there- lived there, really- or at least sublet an apartment there. If you get the chance, yeah, you should totally tap that. But don?t mistake this for Romeo and Juliet. This is, maybe, Taming of the Shrew, only instead of the mysoginistic ending, the shrew tells you to fuck off home to masturbate.? Mika turned red. ?She?s already done that, hasn?t she?? He nodded.

?Dude.?

?She called me in one day while she was sunbathing up at Alpha. You can do that- I don?t know if anyone mentioned it, but by dilating the shades you can make the sun in the viewing room comparable to radiation levels on Earth. It was a thing of, such beauty I can?t explain it. I?m hopeless, aren?t I??

?The fact that you?re asking that shows there?s some hope. Not a lot. Maybe not even enough. But there?s hope. It?s a tiny sliver. But, you know, maybe there?s hope.?

07/07/12

  09:27:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 2472 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .15: Right to Bear Arms

Lisa barely remembered Mary from her introduction. The other woman was older, taller, and she held her child with a kind of, nobility, almost, like she was waiting to be painted.

That was why she hardly recognized the woman who crawled out of the bathroom and collapsed in one of the dining room chairs beside her. ?I know we don't know each other- not well, anyway. But I'm sick; I have a stomach flu, or something horrible. And I don't want to give it to Matthew,? she paused, waiting for Lisa to put the thought together, ?so I need some formula.?

?You want me to go to the store?? Lisa asked, casting around for a more suitable candidate. But she didn't see anyone.

?I hate to ask,? she said.

?No, no, don't,? she said, mostly because as ill as Mary looked Lisa was afraid that if she kept prostrating herself, the strain of it might kill her. ?I'm just... I haven't left the Shelter on my own, yet.?

?You won't need to,? Ofelia said, bringing a dirty oatmeal bowl into the room. ?What are we doing??

?Formula run,? Lisa said. ?Mary's sick.?

?Aw, poor thing,? Ofelia said, carrying her dish into the kitchen. ?Want me to make you some tea or something??

?I'm okay,? Mary told her, though it barely carried that far across the room.

?What about Matt? We could watch him for you.?

?Jeanine's doing that,? Mary said, ?and I wouldn't want you taking him out.?

?No, of course not, I meant after we get back,? Ofelia said. 

?I didn't think Jeanine had a maternal bone in her body,? Lisa said.

?I think she has one,? Ofelia said with a grin. ?I think it's a dinosaur bone, that got caught in her digestive tract when she was a teenager.?

?You girls should respect your elders... and not always assume we can't hear when we're being disparaged,? Jeanine walked into the room, bobbing Matthew in her arms to keep the baby quiet, but holding him far away from herself, as far as she comfortably could. 

Ofelia smiled. ?I respect anyone old enough to have dated Hitler- but obviously with the good sense to have turned him down. But if you two have the home front settled, we'll go get the little'n his grub, before he gets fussy.?

?Yes,? Jeanine said, ?please do. I agreed to babysit; I didn't agree to horrible wailing monstersit.?

Ofelia nodded towards the hall, and Lisa followed. She wasn't sure if they were leaving out the secretive underground passage, or the front door. Ofelia noticed, and smiled. ?For grocery runs it's okay if we go out the front. We just don't want there to always be correlation of someone leaving our building and Mayday wreaking havoc.?

It was the first time Lisa had walked down their street during the daytime. On the outside, the Shelter was gray, with white trim around the doors and windows. The home dated back to the last century; it even still had a horse-ring attached to the curb.

Twenty years ago, the home, along with the rest of the neighborhood, would have been a nice, cozy suburb. But crime, and neglect had seen it fall into disrepair. ?Last year, the cops busted a meth lab down the street,? Ofelia said. ?That place had always creeped me out- reminded me strangely of home- but it wasn't until they arrested the people living there that I had any inkling why.?

?So where are we going?? Lisa asked.

?There?s a market we go to, not far from here. The owner knows us, and spots us the money, and Anna squares up with him at the end of the month. He and her go a ways back. His wife had polycystic ovaries, but she couldn't get a doctor to prescribe the progestogen she needed because of the stricter regulation of contraceptives; it didn't seem to matter that she'd had her tubes tied while that was still legal, or that she needed them for a medical reason besides contraception. Anna found out about them through a sympathetic doctor, and was able to get them some Mexican progestogen, but by then it had developed into endometrial cancer. It spread to her pelvic lymph nodes. Anna smuggled her to Canada, and she underwent treatment. They couldn?t beat it, but she lived three more years, which was more than her doctor here ever gave her.?

?Anna's Robin Hood, isn't she?? Lisa asked.

?Something like that. I completely fucking love her. If I still had growing up to do, I'd want to grow up and be her.? They heard the sound of glass breaking, and Ofelia's expression changed. ?Shit,? she said.

?That come from Mr. Liu's?? Lisa asked.

?Yeah, that's his store, there.? The glass front door shattered, and the can of green beans that had broken through it rolled down the street towards them. Two men close to thirty walked out of the door, swaggering.

One of them noticed Ofelia immediately. ?I know you, don't I?? She tried to pretend she hadn't heard him. But they started walking towards the two women. ?Yeah. I've seen you hanging around with those dykes. Where's that big bulldog dyke of yours? She's got some nice tits, but I figure she's got a dick to go with them, and I don't swing that way. No, you, you're more my speed.?

?Fuck off,? Ofelia said. ?Come on,? she said to Lisa. She hoped if they made it inside the door they'd be safe.

?Nope,? he said, and punched Lisa in the guts. She doubled over and fell onto her knees.

?Phil!? the other man yelled.

?Nut up, Travis,? Phil said. Travis looked nervously from his friend to Ofelia. He grabbed her arms, and shoved her against the wall. She hit her head and crumpled onto the sidewalk. But when she did, her sleeve slid up her left arm.

?Phil,? Travis said. The other man walked over, and saw the brand and tattoo on her arm.

?Now that's interesting. An adulterer? At your age. That's impressive.?

?What about the other one?? Travis asked.

?The friend of a whore is a whore,? Phil said.

Travis kicked Lisa in the side, and gave a wry smile, ?Then what about the enemy of a whore??

?That's me,? Phil said with a grin. Ofelia recognized that grin; the last time she'd seen it was in that alley back home, on the man who'd chased her with the brand.

But Ofelia wasn't the same girl who'd been chased down in Missouri- she was the one who took the brand away, the one who'd tried to sodomize her attacker with his own weapon. And she was never unarmed.

She had a butterfly knife in her pocket, and she got it out, flicked it open, and buried it in Travis' side before he knew what was going on. But the blade stuck, and Travis fought her while she tried to retrieve it. Phil hit her in the nose, and she fell into a heap on the sidewalk.  

?Here, let me see that,? Phil said, and reached for the knife.

?No, you fuck, you're supposed to leave it in,? Travis yelped. He turned so the knife was out of Phil's reach. ?Taking it out runs the risk of doing more damage, maybe releasing pressure that's keeping bleeding down.?

?God, don't be such a fucking baby. It's a flesh wound.?

?She stabbed me in the torso- how the fuck is that a flesh wound.?

?You aren't going to bleed out, is what I mean. And just shut up, because she's got worse coming to her. Because, to paraphrase a great man,? he reached to his belt, and the machete in its scabbard hanging off it, ?that ain't a knife,? he drew it, ?this is a knife.? 

?It's not a knife, fuckwit-? Ofelia got out, before she started to cough on the blood dripping down her throat, and when she got her voice back she coughed out, ?it's a machete- and you?re waving it around like a rather pathetic little dick metaphor.?

?Coozes, man,? he said, ?just do not know when to shut the fuck up. But that's okay. I figure everybody deserves a second chance. So I'm going to help you start over, by removing the stigma of that brand.?

Lisa tried to grab Travis? leg, though whether she was trying to attack him or just pull herself up off the ground he couldn?t tell. He kicked her in the stomach, and laughed.

Phil used his free hand to drag Ofelia away from the store wall, which pulled her sleeve further up her arm. Lisa was terrified of what was about to happen, so she was almost grateful when Travis kicked her again, and distracted her.

Then Phil brought down the machete on Ofelia?s arm, just a few inches under the elbow. The first blow ruptured the skin, and blood burst across her arm. The second strike made it through the meat but stopped at the bones, and she screamed until she was out of breath, but she kept trying to scream even as the third blow broke her ulna. Lisa prayed for Travis to kick her again, to blot it out, and he did, but not hard enough, not enough to keep her from seeing the absolute agony on her friend?s face. The next blow snapped Ofelia?s radius. Phil kept hold her arm even after it went limp, and kept hacking at it until it was only held on by a hanging thread of skin.

?There,? he said, panting from the effort. He dropped her arm like it was a sack of trash, and carefully he laid his machete down on the sidewalk. ?A new lease on life. Now I hope you?re ready to say hello to my little friend,? he said, cupping his crotch with his machete hand. Both exploded before he heard the shot, because the round from a .357 magnum moves faster than sound.

Lisa had just enough strength to push herself off the concrete to see Mae standing down the sidewalk, holding a smoking revolver. Had it not been for the horrific wailing of the newly minted eunuch as he dropped to his knees, she might have mistaken her for an angel.

Mae ran to them. ?You okay?? she asked Lisa, as she whipped her belt out of her jeans.

Lisa moaned ?Kinda.? Mae slid out of a button-up shirt, and wrapped it around Ofelia?s arm, then put her belt around it and tightened. Mae helped Lisa lift up, and together they got Ofelia to her feet, though she was swaying. But the thin flap of skin that had been holding her arm together tore, and the limb fell to the ground.

?Hold on,? Mae said. She knelt down to pick it up, but stopped as Phil moaned. She grabbed his hand, and pushed his thumb out from the rest of his fingers. ?Stick a finger in your dike, asshole, or you'll bleed to death.? She shoved his thumb inside his gunshot wound, and he screamed. But he was already delirious from blood loss, and seemed to believe her.

?Thank you,? he said breathlessly.

Mae picked up the severed arm, then helped Lisa with Ofelia?s weight, and they exchanged a look as they started to carry her away. ?I lied,? Mae admitted. ?He's going to bleed out, anyway; all that thumb?s doing is gouging the hole. But he deserves every fucking second of agony he can get before he goes.?

They got her into Mae's car. ?How'd you know where to find us?? Lisa asked, as she crawled behind the driver's side seat.

?Mr. Liu called.? Mae slammed her seat back, climbed in, and the car thundered off towards the Shelter. ?He said they rang his bell pretty good, or he'd have called faster. He wanted to call the police, too- but there's no telling what they might have done to either of you. And given that I was close, I doubt their response time would have been any better.?

It reminded Lisa terribly of the night with Kara, but she couldn't let herself think that- because she couldn't stand the thought of Ofelia dying.

It was different, as well, when they arrived, because Mae was able to pick the smaller women up and carry her into the shelter without any trouble. Lisa was left with the severed arm, and was struck at once by how heavy it was, and yet how light, too. The tattoo and brand that Ofelia had been so proud of, and had formed such an important part of her personality, were mostly obscured by blood smeared across her forearm. And Lisa shivered at how cold the limb had already become.

?I'll take that,? Mitchell said as she came in the front door. He was already dressed in surgical scrubs, including a facemask, cap and gloves, and he pinched the arm delicately, holding the fingers down so it didn't further drip any more blood. 

Lisa collapsed into one of the chairs that had never made it back into the dining room. Just then, Anna came pounding down the stairs. ?She's inside?? she asked Mae. But she burst into the other room before the larger woman could answer.

Mae and Lisa sat in silence, listening for anything that would tell them if their friend was going to be all right- if that phrase was ever going to apply again. They heard muffled conversation, and it got louder, until they could nearly hear what was being said through the wall.

The door opened up again, and they could clearly hear Ellen ?-under sedation, but that doesn't mean she can't hear you.? Anna followed her out into the hall. 

?I'm sorry,? Anna said quickly. ?I just want to know her prognosis.?

?It?s basically an improvised Krukenerg procedure. He hacked through the radius and ulnar. Have you ever used a machete on bamboo? Her arm is splintered all to fuck. The nerves are nonexistant- they've been shredded. Even if we were in a hospital, with the proper equipment, I'm not a microsurgeon- and I?m skeptical even one of those could help.? 

?And if we take her to a hospital she runs the risk of someone seeing the brand on her arm and deciding to put a pillow over her while she's sleeping.?

?We could post Mae,? Ellen suggested.

?And they'd kick her out as soon as visiting hours were over. And that would still leave her at the mercy of some dick security guard, or nurse. There isn't another way, El; I wish to God there was. Do what you can to save the arm, but Ofelia's the person- she's what matters.?

?I don't know that she'll agree.?

?She'll get over it. But she won't have the chance if she dies.?

07/06/12

  09:25:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1359 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Distractions

There was a knock at Martin?s door. ?Open,? he said, and the door did. It was Levy.

?They?re totally going to bang,? Levy said.

?You shouldn?t obsess over it,? he said coolly. ?Nothing good can come from you imagining your coworkers having sex every time they?re not in the room with you.?

?No, not the lesbians. Paul and his ex wife.?

?Hmm? What makes you think that??

?Body language. Their faces might have been all, ?you suck on lemons,? but their bodies were completely, ?I have other things you could suck on.??

?You?re incredibly bored, aren?t you??

?It?s disturbing how bored I am right now.?

?And I assume you?ve exhausted your usual means of amusing yourself.?

?I?ll say. I exhausted my penis into a coma, and it?s learned to protect itself with calluses and numbness; it?s at least temporarily immune to my charms.?

?Already? No- I didn?t need to know that.? He kicked off his bed, and set his reader down on the nightstand. He led Levy out.  

?Paul?? Martin said in front of Paul's door. A comm. opened up into his room.

?What's up?? he asked from inside. A moment later the door opened. Paul, sweaty, and shirtless, was standing there.

?We?re not interrupting anything, are we?? Levy asked, trying to steal a glance past him. ?Say, anything with your ex-wife??

?No,? Paul said. ?I was just doing some push-ups. Why??

?No reason,? Martin said.

?We're bored.? Levy said. ?Rather than let our brains shrivel up and die, we're looking for stimulation.?

?I mostly just wanted him out of my room,? Martin said. ?I'm less worried about shrinking brains.?

?He?s kind of right. If you deprive yourself of variety, the hippocampus atrophies and cortisol levels in the brain rise, and high cortisol is associated with stress and depression.?

?There you have it. Doctor?s orders for us to find something to play with.?

At that particular moment, Maria happened to walk by. Paul grabbed his shirt and slid it on as he chased after her. ?Hey, wait up a second.? She stopped walking. ?What is there to do up here??

?There?s the usual diversions,? she said, ?we get regular communications uploads with TV and movies, music, books.?

?But we?ll have that the whole way to Mars. What does the Moon have? If we only had a day to see what this place has to offer. What would you suggest we see??

?A 354-hour lunar day, or a regular one??

?Normal kind.?

?Mostly, we work. I pull eighteen hour days, usually. Most of us, we?re up here because we love our work. You don?t get into science for the dicks or the money. But if there was one ?special? thing about being on the Moon, it?s definitely taking a walk.?

?We don?t like to do surface walks unless we have to. Lunar dust is nasty stuff, it?s abrasive and it fucks up our equipment, not to mention the possibility of micrometeorites and solar radiation. But the Station was built inside a lava tube. You can walk around in there with pretty much no danger- except the possibility of tearing your suit and decompressing. But that hardly ever happens.? She grinned.

?And, off the eastern end of the Station, there?s a little putting range. It?s just some broken equipment, including one of the maintenance bots we couldn?t quite get working.?

?That sounds perfect.?

?Decompression's pretty much standard, but Speed can walk you through, just to make sure there aren't any surprises. But it's down that set of stairs over there,? she pointed, ?and then straight on until you hit an exit. Suits are all there.?

?Thanks.? He started to lean in, before he caught himself. ?Shit.?

?What?? she asked.

?I was going to kiss you goodbye. I didn't even think about it. So weird, how second nature that all still is to me.?

?We were married longer than we've been divorced. And we didn't get that chance to... decompress, I guess.? Her watch started to vibrate. ?Shit. I've got a specimen I need to collect. But it's all pretty straight forward. We only have the one set of clubs. I mean, I suppose we could always use the 3D printer to fab another- but you?ll have to share.?

?Thanks,? Paul said, ?and this time I won't even try to kiss you.?

?You're welcome.?

Martin and Levy were still standing by his door. They looked at him expectantly, but he held up his hand, and walked over to Clod's door. He knocked. ?Who is it?? she asked over the comm.

?We're going for a walk, and some miniature golf.?

?Who's we?? she asked.  

?Right now me, Martin, Levy-?

?Levy?s going to minigolf? I have to see that. Just give me a second to put on a shirt.?

?You're topless?? Paul asked.

?No,? she said, as the door slid open, ?I just wanted to give you a reason to smile.?

They all started walking towards the stairs Maria had pointed out. Martin called up Alisa on a comm. ?Where'd you two get off to??

?We?re taking a tour of a lunar cavern,? she said, over the sounds of giggling.

?You mean the lava tubes?? Martin asked. ?Because we were going to go for a walk out there ourselves- and for a round of minigolf.?

?No, the caverns we're exploring are a little more secluded- and exclusive.? There was a loud moan in the background. ?Maybe we'll join you later,? then she disconnected.

?I wouldn't,? Martin said with a smile.

As they approached the airlock, Paul swore. ?I forgot something important. There's no way Clod's getting into her suit alone.?

?I hadn't forgotten,? she said. ?You're the ship doctor. I'm sure you're going to be pawing me at some point. So I don't see a major problem with you starting a little ahead of schedule.?

?I really should have gone to medical school,? Levy said.

?But even if you had, it's saying creepy things like that that would have kept me uncomfortable around you.?

?I'm not creepy,? Levy protested. ?I have a neurotic charm.?

?Eh,? Martin said, wiggling his hand from side to side.

 Martin and Levy helped each other dress, while Paul helped Clod into her suit. He was nearly done strapping her in when he realized, ?This is far less sexy than you described.? 

?I'm trying to find a way not to take that personally,? Clod said with a grin.

?I mean, I'm palming your thigh, but I'm really only touching your leg in the most technical sense; sure, somewhere under all that Stay Puft suit is a naked leg, but I can't feel it, in the slightest. It might as well be Levy's leg.?

?But now I do have you picturing my thigh in your hand,? she said with a smile. He helped her into her helmet, and snapped it in place.

?You're diabolical,? he said.

?But it's sexy diabolical, right?? she asked.

They gathered around, and helped Paul into his suit a chunk at a time, and in just a few minutes they were all standing outside the airlock. Paul spotted a pile of clubs inside on of the fabricated storage bins, picked them up and handed one to Clod.

Levy noticed the broken robot, half-buried in lunar dirt. Only one of his arms was functional, and it was swinging from side to side as an obstacle. ?That seems a little cruel,? he said. 

?You?re a strange man,? Martin told him.

?I?m just saying? he might not be ?real,? but that?s no reason to leave him out here alone in the lunar dust.?

?Like I said, you?re a strange man.? Paul handed Martin a club. ?Thanks.?

?Well, I think I can fix him.?  

?Wait,? Paul said.

?What?"

?Two things. One, you should stay out here, relax, golf a little. You can tinker later, but this may be your only chance to go golfing on the Moon.?

?And second??

?He's covered in lunar dust. The abrasive crap that can cut through a spacesuit  pretty easily, or at least clog it all to hell.?

?Right. We should get a bot to drag it in,? Levy said, taking a club from Paul. ?Later.?

06/30/12

  07:00:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 748 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .14: Enemy of the State

I was numb. It was an abortion clinic, illegal, sure, criminal, even. But the SWAT team gunned them down in cold blood, with a ruthless efficiency that told me it wasn't the first time, and wouldn't be the last.

And what scared me more, is they did it with impunity, right in front of me, as if it wouldn't bother me one bit. The SWAT leader, Colson, thanked me. Then he handed the child over to one of his subordinates to be put in an incubator.

I took a breath after I got back to the station, to calm myself down. And I forced myself to walk calmly over to the captain's office. I knocked. ?Sir? I'd like to talk to you about the raid.?

?Some feminazis opened fire on members of my SWAT Team,? he said, though he couldn't possibly have gotten back any reports yet. ?Not very fucking bright.?

?I?m not entirely sure they started the firefight, sir.?

?Maybe they didn?t start it but they tried to fight it.?

?It hardly seems like an occasion to quote Billy Joel. Four women are dead.?

?And one kid is not.?

?The SWAT commander told his men to give no quarter.?

?That?s unfortunate. Sometimes good men get overzealous.?

?Are you telling me not to file charges against him??

?I?m not telling you dick, son. This is a career, like any other, staffed with people, like any other. You step on the wrong toes, and they?ll find a way to get rid of you. If you still want it to be your career, you'll act accordingly. If you don't, well, you won't. For what it's worth, you've done good police work for me in the past; I get your reaction, I do, and I?d love to keep you around. But I've worked this job long enough not to mourn the careers of those too principled to work within the system.?

?Thank you, sir.? I left his office, with plenty to think about. The arson detective I trained with, Samuelson, was scrambling. ?Where?s the fire?? I asked him, not at all ironically.

?Women?s housing on Grant. Apparently the feminazis there got pissy about the raid on their abortion clinic. So they decided to self-immolate in protest- and the whole fucking place went up. Fire department are on the scene- and they don?t think there?s any salvaging the building.?

I was numb. ?Jesus.?

?Yeah. Dumb fucking cunts. I can?t imagine how many innocent women they killed for their political bullshit.?

I didn?t even respond, just walked back to my desk. I didn?t believe the story. There had been less than a dozen immolations in the US, and basically all of them were protesting war. Even if you took these women at their rhetorical word, that there really was a war on women- and after the morning I?d had, I don?t know that I could have disagreed- there was no record of mass-immolation.

I?d believed Samuelson was a good man, but it seemed like he?d already been fed his report. I slid back into the chair at my desk, I saw that I had an email from Colson. The file size made me blanche; it was big enough that there was a good chance it involved an attachment with a bestiality video or some other obnoxious thing. But I grit my teeth and opened it. 

It was a list of names, with dates, and capital letters beside them. I started scrolling, idly wondering what the names could all mean. And after a moment I recognized that the names were all women. That was when I realized what I was looking at.

After Roe v Wade was overturned, Congress passed a bill retroactively labeling all abortions not medical procedures, and therefore not protected under doctor-patient privileges. It was pretty common knowledge that the Justice Department had requested all records pertaining to abortive procedures. What wasn't, was what they'd done with it.

And looking at the list, I remembered a statistic that had always stuck with me. Roughly one in three women in the country got an abortion. And that's what I was looking at, the names of every woman who ever had a legal abortion. The list contained over 50 million names.  

Added to the bottom of the list were the names of the four women killed in the raid, all crossed out. It was then that I noticed the subject at the top of the list: Enemies of the State.

?Fucking God,? I said.

06/29/12

  07:00:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 778 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: A Problem Like Maria

?Speaking of repetitive stress,? Martin said with a smile. Paul gave him a confused look, then followed his eyes. Maria was standing a few feet off. She obviously still had more she wanted to say, to him specifically, but she was reluctant to engage him. ?Good luck,? Martin said, then retired to his room.

Paul shrugged, and walked over to his ex wife. ?This is weird, right?? she asked. ?I kind of expected not to see you again. Even if they can ever get me to go back to Earth, I just thought-?

?We've known for a while we'd be up here together.?

?Yeah. But knowing it'll be weird doesn't really do anything to stave off the weird. And awkward.?

?There's no reason it has to be awkward,? Paul said.

?Then we're in agreement we should have casual sex?? she asked.

?Maybe it does have to be awkward; I?m kind of seeing someone.? His eyes drifted unintentionally to Clod's door.

?Really? Look at you, shitting where you live.?

?What? No. Planetside.?

?Riiight, the 22 year old.?

?You knew??

?You don?t remember drunk-massaging me pictures of her in a lacey little set of bra and panties, grinding on your lap? I believe the message was ?22 year old girlfriend, nananananananana Batman!??

?Really??

?Nice belly. I remember having a belly like that, when we first met. I chose to view it as an homage.?

?Wow,? Paul said, wincing, ?I?m a dick.?

?A little. But I picked my career over you. You had reason to be a dick- at least a little.?

?Yeah, but, by staying, I was picking my career over you, too.?

?Really? They invited you onto the Lunar Station??

?Not? exactly.?

?Not at all. They wouldn?t let one of their prized space monkeys be a lunar lab rat. Hell, Ken would rather bounce you as a cautionary tale than let that happen. Don?t try to share the blame with me on this one; I made the decision. It sucked, that it was a decision I had to make, and it sucked worse that I lost you in the bargain, but as passive aggressive drunken revenges go, I?ve seen much worse. Done much worse.?

?I?m? I?m glad you don?t hate me.?

?I hate you a little. But I figure we can be professional for the few days you?re here. Deal??

?But you hated me little enough to ask for casual sex.?

?Asking sounds too far down the road towards begging; I merely suggested. And I didn't have time before I left to start dating again. And, no offense to my coworkers, but they're a bunch of binobo fucking chimps- and I wouldn't tally any of their bananas.?

?I did come with some other men who, as far as I know, aren't attached, and are probably at this point of that sailor mentality where any port might be better than nothing, since we're about to go off the edge of the map.?

?Your captain does have a little of that older gentleman suaveness, too, and the accent is not bad. And it's actually kind of sweet of you, offering to whore your crewmates out to me- or me out to your crewmates, maybe. But the wonderful thing about screwing my ex husband was there wouldn't have been any strings attached. Just some nice, fun, mediocre sex.?

?Mediocre?? Paul grabbed his chest and pretended to be shocked.

?Fair to middling,? she said with a smile.

Paul could feel the blood pumping in his ears. She was blushing, but he suspected that wasn't the only blood flow she was experiencing. He could smell her, which in this sterile station made her a blindingly bright beacon. He found himself remembering what her skin felt like, to the touch, against his lips- but the memory was imperfect, and that made him want to kiss her to test it. But instead he smiled. ?You're just trying to goad me into feeling like I have to prove my virility, so that you get not just sex, but really good, something to prove sex.?

?Damn. Foiled again. But you've got a girlfriend. Mazel tov. And at least what of her I've seen, a looker, too. If I make it planet side before that little flat tire on her blows out into a fat tire, I'll bounce quarters off it- maybe naked, if she doesn't mind sharing you for an evening- because hey, what are ex wives for? But right now, I've got work to do. And I'll try to keep my hormones in check.?

Paul felt a little guilty watching her ass wiggle as she walked away. But she was his ex-wife; he was pretty sure it was allowed.

<< 1 ... 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 ... 43 >>