December 16, 2019

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-Scorpius Cell Part 4

Here’s our weekly  installment of free sci-fi goodness. Our current tale is the first in our ongoing space opera saga set in the Solar Winds universe. Start back with chapter 1, or read Scorpius Cell and other works of science and speculative fiction in their entirety.

Enjoy!

Solar Winds-Scorpius Cell

by David A. Dickinson

Chapter 4

The Professor squeezed his wine out into the cabin and gulped down the inky globules. Laughing, Andrea downed hers in swift swallows, the musky odor rushing to her temples.

“And me without my boots,” she said, kicking up her bare feet.

As the star closed in on them, it grew into a sharp elongated spindle. As they closed the gap between them, portal lights shining, lit from within by an amber glow, became visible.

“There she is…” Karl said, looking wistfully at the approaching vessel as it matched their orbit. “The Armageddon on Tap. A finer ship never plied the Solar System.” Looking at its battered patchwork exterior, Andrea suddenly realized she didn’t really know this man that had led them to this desolate region of the solar system.

“At last, Gemini Cell!” she exclaimed. Since jumping ship to join, Andrea had yet to meet any other members of the fabled Zodiac Cartel. With this mission a wrap, she hoped to be rewarded with full inner sanctum membership, and just perhaps, the tools for her revenge. “I hope they like the gift we brought them.”

The main pallet drifted into view. Heavily shielded, it had nested within its bulk their prize: the radium supply for Titania Colony. Its almost unlimited energy could fuel an inter-planetary ark for centuries. But the abduction of the core would not go unnoticed. Andrea hoped its theft would be a colossal thorn in the ass of the Terran Senate and the Martian Occupation. Surely this would hamper their ambitions to extend their tentacles into the Outer Solar System.

The communicator crackled to life. “Hello, gents and lady. This is Armageddon Command welcoming you to the sunless outer Uranus province”

“Damn him,” Karl extorted. “I told him no Comm!”

“Can you at least reprogram the accent?” The Professor suggested. “After all, it’s pronounced Yur-in-ness; it does not rhyme with a body part!”

“Andi, you haven’t met the V.I.C.A.R., our mascot of sorts.” Karl said as the grappling rods connected to the lifeboat and drew them into the holding bay.

Andrea nodded as she unbuckled and drifted towards the hatchway. Either it’s the wine, or the zero G suddenly isn’t agreeing with me, she thought.

“Where is the greeting party?” she asked weakly.

“We’re it, babe. You’re looking at the whole Zodiac Cartel.” The professor chuckled as Andrea spun from consciousness.

 

Muddled sounds and visions swam up to Andrea as she drifted in and out of reality. How long had she been out? Hours, days, years? There was no way to mark the passage of time. She felt that she had been stripped of her equipment. As she floated, bruised in the darkness, memories of events leading up to this moment drifted up to her. She was born on Mars’ moon Phobos; her parents were killed in the unsuccessful Martian uprising of 2213. She then wandered aimlessly through life and foster families until plans to marry and settle down with a man she had came to love at Bradbury Village had given them both hope. Marc had confided his involvement with the Martian Resistance on the night of his proposal to her, as if anticipating his future abduction.  “Anything happens,” he told her as tears welled up in her eyes, “I want you to leave Mars for the Outer Regions”

“You are all I’ve got to live for,” she quivered. “I’ll die at your side.”

He held her hand and pressed a small button-like object into it.

“They seldom kill you anymore.” He said.

She held the object up to the light and examined it. It felt cold to her touch.

“Merry Christmas, Hon. It’s an infra-ocular implant.” Marc continued, “It’ll allow you to see into the near infrared spectrum. Art majors like you get ‘em all the time.”

Cybernetic implants were common these days, Andrea knew.  Some people were so “augmented” that it was hard to tell where the person ended and the machine began.

“It’ll also allow you to spy this…” Marc dimmed the lights and held up a portable lamp. Nothing registered to her eyes but, excited by infrared radiation, the symbol tattooed on his forearm glowed. It was a ♂, the ancient Greek symbol of Mars. The symbol of the resistance.

Andrea rubbed it gently with her fingertips. “Does this mean I’m a ‘made gal’ now?” she said.

“Let’s just say, you’ll know me when you see me,” he said holding her close.

Andrea shivered as she recounted in her mind the events that swiftly followed. Plugged into the cyber-grid the next day, she received a message that almost jolted her from the system. “Do Not Go Home,” it said. “Proceed to Counter 22A at Bradbury Municipal Space Port.” Sweating suddenly, she disconnected the link plugged into her forearm. The tube shuttle she was riding swayed around her. She could easily disembark at the next station and head towards the Space Port Terminus. Everyone suddenly seemed to be watching her. She glanced downward as the Terran guard glared in her direction, admiring her shapely legs that jutted bare from under her calf-length jacket.

I have to be sure, she thought, passing up the next stop.

So she had proceeded home to find Marc preparing supper.  Going through the evening’s routine, she coyly avoided him until he fell into a slumber. Peeling back the sheets as he slept, she focused her new implant on his forearm. She hoped to trace out the symbol ♂, but found nothing but bare skin.

Andrea held her breath. A clone? She thought. It was possible. But why?

Quietly and swiftly, she packed a sling bag and headed out into the Martian night. Confusion filled her thoughts as she stared out the tube window at Phobos, now at the zenith. The aimless wondering of her youth on that bleak moon seemed close at hand once again.

To be continued…

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