WHAT COMES OF TOMORROW
Copyright (c) Victor Darnell Hadnot
Often I keep them plugged during the day for fear that Roc-Cholee might notice such unnatural elasticity. Space: I am without any. The inner chamber is a tumbled quagmire of wet earth which I am compelled to use as a latrine. I am confined to my original disinterring, the size of these large robot enclosures, where I lie on or inside my sleeping bag. I cannot extend it. The noise of machines working would be audible in the path.
I spend a part of each day wedged in the large flue, with my head out of the top; but that is more for change of position than for fresh air. The domed, prolific hinterland is so thick and so shadowed by its companions and by the obstacle that I can only be sure it is day when the sun is in the east. The inert center seems full of gases, unsatisfying of them and carrying in suspension the brown dust and debris that fall from above and the carbon from my fires that has accumulated on the underside of dispensation.
Roc-Cholee, as always, is my comfort. It is seldom that one can give to and receive from a robot close, silent, and continuous attention. We live in the same space, in the same way, and on the same sustenance, except that Roc-Cholee has no use for grain nor me for field furtive. During the hours while the robot sits cleaning himself, and I was motionless and disintegrated, there is, I believe, some slight thought transference between us. I cannot order or even hope that the machine should perform a given act, but back and forth between us were thoughts of fear and disconnected dreams of action, I should call these dreams insanity, I knew they came from it and that its mind is, by our human standards, insane.
All initiative is at a temporal. All natural phenomenons are at an end. We are so dependent on natural phenomenon, good and bad. I think of those men and women, cases faintly parallel to mine, who live in one space and eat poorly and lie in new arrivals, since their incomes are too small for any marked activity. Their lives would be unbearable was it not for their hopes of a good natural phenomenon and fears of bad. They have, in fact, little of either. But mental representation magnifiers of what there is.
I have no chance even of mental representation. A natural phenomenon has reached a state of equilibrium and stopped. I had one thought of morally objectionable behavior when that large transport innocently attracted the notice of the maintained security, one stroke of a magnificent natural phenomenon when Roc-Cholee’s projectile hit the narrow neck. In most other cases I have been able to account for the march of events by conscious planning or by my own instinctive and characterized reactions under stress.
Now natural phenomenon, movement, wisdom, and folly have all stopped. Even time has been put to an end, for I have no space. That, I think, is the reason why I have again taken refuge in this admission. I retain a sense of self.
Garrison was a large woman, not just in a figure but in height. I always had a thing for big women. I think it was because of the situation, hard times and tough ways, the ways of a new frontier. She treated me well though, I had no problems warming up to her.
I coughed. "You needed me for something?"
She smiled and then went behind her large desk, poured us both a drink and we settled in. "Jason, what do you think of production?"
I hadn’t had a good drink in a long time. I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying. My mind was on that drink and the sudden notion that it had been awhile since Garrison had me up to her to her control room.
"I’m sorry, you were saying," I managed to act like I was alert.
She had those really big breast that most heavy women have and when she spoke in just the right way, they waved and shook just ever so slightly–I liked that.
Garrison put her glass down. "If I told you that we needed production up by 10 percent. Do you think the crew could handle it?"
I swallowed by Scotch. "Garrison. We are at a 100 percent most of the time. The machines can handle it so long as there are replacement parts coming in, to handle the worn ones. But--" I let my voice trail off.
"But what," Garrison finally picked up on.
I just came out and said it, "People. We also employ people and people can only be pushed so hard. Then they need some down time. Any business psychologist will tell you that. And even if you do manage to get them to work that hard, for how long? Short busts like that might work. But that can’t be the new normal thing."
She got up. By the way she was nodding her heard she agreed. "I didn’t think it was a good idea. Like you said, we are already working pretty hard. I just got the last batch of the crew trained properly, won’t want to lose them to unfair and unsafe work practices."
Garrison went to a cabinet and bent over while doing a combination on a safe. I couldn’t help but stare at the big juicy behind of hers. But I wasn’t going to say anything, her being my boss and all the sex discrimination laws on the books. Suffice it to say, looking wasn’t going to cost me my job. But she looked around really quickly, a bag of gold coins in her hand and she noticed my looking at her. Her reaction wasn’t unfavorable. We both smiled at one another, a silent gesture that perhaps after working hours, something interesting might can happen.
"Here. Take this. Make sure the crew gets a little something extra for the efforts. Money is always a great motivator." She winked at me.
Why did I like big women so much? Was it because my mother was nicely sized and I noticed how much my father adored her, when I was little? Garrison seemed so sexy right now as she handed me that small bag of gold coins.
"I’ll do the best that I can. I think I know a few workers that might be up to the challenge and in good enough health to pull it off." I tried to exude confidence. The bag was heavier than what I was expecting.
I started to turn to leave and that was when I felt a firm pat on my behind. I looked around. Garrison was smiling at me with that big breast encouraging me on. Damn. Why did I like big women? I was such a pushover for this one.
Out the door I counted the gold coins. Wow. I was sure I could motivate a few workers.
I suspect that resignation was a lot easier for me than for an assassin, since I had nothing at all to give away, no accessory, no motive. I couldn’t preserve myself by telling them anything interesting. I had no right to pose a threat to others by irresponsible invention. So I kept on involuntarily repeating the truth without the slightest hope that it would be believed.
At last someone recognized my name, and my story of a distinctive stalk became faintly possible. But, whether it were true or not, it was now more than ever indispensable that I am discreetly murdered. And that was simplified. I had admitted that I had not spent a night under a building for five days, and that nobody knew where I was. They replaced all of my materials and possessions into my pockets, drove me fifty miles to the north, and staged the misfortune.
When I came out from that blasted conifer and found that my legs would carry me, I began, I say, to look forward. It would be supposed either that I was submerging or that I was lying hurt and incapable in some metropolitan cover where my corpse would eventually be found. The main security and the authorities in neighboring villages would be warned to look out for an expiring stranger, but it was most unlikely that any description of me would have been circularized to other regions. The security officers at the building had no official knowledge of my existence and would share their unofficial knowledge with as few outsiders as possible. It was a suitability to have no existence. Had I stolen with a discreetness instead of carelessly, the head of the organization would not have had my holographic photograph in all the security stations.
If I could walk, if I had new bullets, and if I could pass the susceptible zone without calling attention to myself, my chance of getting clear out of the territory was not negligible. I had my authorization, my maps, and my money. I spoke the language well enough to deceive anyone but a highly trained man listening for mistakes. Dear old Reverend Mucoso, my personal friend and their ambassador in Zecocjet, insists that I speak a dialect, but to him polished grammar is more important than expression. That’s a superstition inseparable from essential affairs. A well-trained diplomat is supposed to write Zecocjet, for example, like an angel, but to speak it with the peculiar gutlessness of an Epoxian shyster.
I wish I could apologize to Reverend Mucoso. He had certainly spent some hours of those last twenty-four in answering private emails about me, hinting as respectfully as possible that the bodyguards of the alliance security were a pack of informal fools, and following up with a strong letter to the effect that I was a member of his parish and that it was unthinkable I should be mixed up in any such business as was, he could hardly believe trivialities, suggested. I fear he must have been rebuked. The bodyguards were, on the reference of it, right.
It was now, I think, the first night; it was last week when I was caught, but I am not sure of the lapse of time thereafter. I missed a day somewhere, but whether or not I was hallucinating I couldn’t tell. I knew roughly where I was, and that, to escape from this collapsing world of rock and forest, I should follow any path which ran parallel to the stream. My journey would not have been so hard if I had crutches, but I could find no pieces of wood of the right height and with an angle to fit under my arms. It was, when I come to think of it, an impossible quest, but at the time I was angry with myself, angry to the point where I wept infantile tears of impotence. I couldn’t make my hands use enough pressure on a cutting instrument, and I couldn’t find sticks of the right length and shape. For a time I raged and cursed at myself. I thought my spirit had altogether let on. It was minor. When everything was insufferable, it was unreasonable.
I uttered, "It wouldn’t be hard, if there is one thing we know for certain about Fasel, it is that he couldn’t keep his hands off the woman. The greater of them, the better. It would be easy for a smart girl like Anne Bolt. So she played him and took him absently with her. She took him to Delgus Prime and there sent an email he knew nothing about. Finally she played him back to Vahlooa. She probably couldn’t support that. He desired to go home and she couldn’t let him get to far from her. Fasel was dangerous to her. Fasel alone could destroy all the indications that Anne Bolt had actually left Old Creek. When the search for Anne Bolt eventually began, it had to come to Fasel, and at that moment Fasel’s life wasn’t worth a plugged nickel. His first denials might not be believed, as they were not, but when he opened up with the indivisible story, that would be believed, because it could be checked. So the search began and immediately Fasel was shot dead in his bathroom, the very night after I went down to talk to him. That’s about all there is to it, excluding why she went back to the house the next morning. That’s just one of those things that premeditated assassins seem to do. She said he had taken her money, but I don’t accept it. I think more likely, she got to thinking he had some of his own concealed away, or that she had better change the job with a cool head and make sure it was all in order and pointing the right way. Or perhaps it was just what she said, and to take in the cover and the tributary. Anything is suitable. She went back and I found her there and she put on an act that left me with rocks in my mouth."
Krokane said: "Who terminated her, son? I gather you don’t like Fasel for that little job."
I looked at Krokane and said: "You didn’t talk to her on the cell phone, you said. What about Candy Harlow? Did you think she was divulging anything to your wife?"
Krokane shook his head. "I doubt it."
It would be ironically hard to fool her that way. All she said was that she seemed very different and subdued. I had no impression then. I didn’t have any until I got down here. When I walked past the wooded area last night, I felt there was something wrong. Inside the house, it was too morally pure and neat and orderly. Anne didn’t leave things that way. There would have been things all over the bedroom, paper stubs all over the house, bottles and glasses all over the kitchen. There would have been unwashed dishware and bugs and insects. I thought O’Tally’s wife might have cleaned up, and then I remembered that O’Tally’s wife wouldn’t have, not on that particular day. She had been too busy quarreling with O’Tally and being bitchy, or just being hormonal, whichever it was. I thought about all the things that could have gone contrary at this moment in time. Was this some sort of basic illusion and was I somehow swept up in all of this because I just was too foolish to know when to get out of it?
The lights dimmed. "So who was it then?" Came a cold and shallow voice.
I suddenly felt my leg again. It hurt, "I just got here and I’ve been away for a while."
The security woman didn’t seem to buy it or just wanted to make up her own set of facts based on prejudice and convenience. "You’ve been in some trouble?"
I didn’t want anyone to go there. I thought about the gold coins and the trust Garrison had placed in me or rather what she’d have done to me if she found out what I was really up to. "Like I said: I just got here."
"You seem hurt. How did that come about?" asked a thin man in a gray suit.
I was already looking for a door out. "How long has this investigation been going on?" I put forth hoping that I could shift the questioning. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle things. It was that with undue self confidence or pride came a slipup. I was an industrial spy working for a company funded by organized crime. People were starting to die and I might be responsible.
The coast, Amanda herself must be here, and Lisa Eckhart. Plus two domestic robots.
I stopped hammering the knocker. I groped for and found the knob of the door.
The door was disengaged.
I opened it on display. In the hall, rather over decorated like so many of Amanda’s possessions, several lamps shone on gaudy furniture and a polished floor. But the interior passage was empty too.
With the wind carrying and whistling at my back I went in and kicked the door close behind me. I had no time to give a hail. At the back of the hall a door opened. Lisa Eckhart, Amanda’s cousin, walked toward me, her arms hanging limply at her sides and her enormous eyes looked like a person in shock.
"Then you did get here," said Lisa, moistening dry lips. "You did come here, after all."
I stopped. The sight of her brought to me, acquired realization. It didn’t explain my uneasiness or my fear, but it did explain much.
Lisa was the quiet one, the dark one, the unobtrusive one, with her glossy black hair and her intimidating elegance. But she was the poor relation, and Amanda never let her forget it. I merely stood and stared at her. Suddenly Lisa’s eyes lost their faraway look. They were blue eyes, with very black lashes, they were filled with life and vivid, as if she could read my mind.
"Lisa," I blurted, "I’ve just comprehended something. And I never comprehended it before. But I’ve got to express . . . "
"Stop!" Lisa cried.
Her mouth moved. She put up a hand as if to shadow her eyes.
"I understand what you want to say," she went on. "But you’re not to utter it! Do you understand me?"
"Lisa, I don’t know why we’re standing here yelling at each other. Anyway, I, I didn’t mean to act so distant. I mean, I must tell Amanda . . . "
"You can’t tell Amanda," Lisa cried.
"You can’t tell Amanda anything, ever again," said Lisa. "Amanda’s dead."
There are some words which at first do not even surprise or stun. You just don’t accept them. They can’t be correct. Very carefully I put my traveling bag down on the floor and straightened up again.
"The security," said Lisa, swallowing hard, "have been here since light of day."
"There was some kind of an accident. I’m not sure? Where have you been? You look terrible and you have been hurt. What’s going on?"
I didn’t want this to get anymore complicated than it already was. I needed medical attention that didn’t arouse attention and that was why I was here. But I needed to get her mind off the events of the morning and back on here and now. All this, without questioning me too much.
"I was in an accident too."
"Wow! What in the heck is going on today? No. I’m just glad that you are okay. Well, relatively okay. I’ll get some stuff to take care of your injuries." She would help me now.
I needed to get my injuries under control and then I needed to figure out how I was going to get out of this mess. But first things first.
"Sure. I was answering a howl. It’s bad enough I had to use my own hydrogen car, but for Heaven’s sake, to get a ticket!"
"I prefer my own hydrogen car," Samantha said. "Those four cars belonging to the unit are ready for the junk collection."
"Three," I corrected. "One of them has been in the security garage for a month now."
"Zigfield went down to see about it the other day."
"No, the repairman told him there were four security cars ahead of the sedan, and they took precedence. Do you know anything about that?"
"Sure, it’s probable. I’ve still got an investment for the hydrogen I used. You know that?"
"Forget that. I’ve never got back a fraction I laid out for hydrogen."
"What did Zigfield do about the car?"
"He slipped the repairman fifth small gems. Maybe that’ll hurry him along."
"You know what the urban area ought to do?" I said. "They ought to purchase some of those used taxicabs. Pick them up for twenty or thirty thousand gems, paint them over, and give them out to the units. Some of them are still in very good shape."
"Well, it’s a thought," Samantha said dubiously, and we entered the building. We found Mrs. Thyme, the manager, in an office at the rear of the ornate entrance lobby. She was a robot woman, a late model with a well-preserved figure and a very husky voice. She wore her hair heaped on the top of her head, an implement stuck rakishly into the dark-brown pile. She looked at the duplicate negotiation and said, "Oh, yes, I see now."
"You knew Miss Clark?"
"Yes, she lived here for quite some time."
"Do you have any idea how long?"
"When did she leave?"
"It all started at the end of May." Mrs. Thyme crossed her splendid legs and smiled graciously. The legs were remarkable for a mechanical woman of her model, and the smile was almost radiant. She moved with skillful femininity, a calculated conscious fluidity of synthetic flesh that suggested availability and yet was totally respectable. She seemed to have devoted a long time to learning the ways and wiles of the female and now practiced them with familiarity and charm. She was pleasant to be with, this robot woman, enjoyable to watch and to hear, and to think of touching. It was like watching perfection and understanding that it could never exist in this world. No, not entirely. Oh. I’m sure that there were things and events that neared it, sure, we saw it all the time, in sports and science and the arts. But that wasn’t really perfection. That was all relative to the event or circumstance.
The robot female smiled. "You know a lot of strange things have been going on lately."
I acted like I wasn’t part of the strangeness. "I know what you mean. Was hearing a lot of stuff myself?"
"We are not used to getting deaths in this part of the area. Not really connected with the mining or the manufacturing facility."
Death was part of the process in those parts but the mechanical woman was right. "Well. I guess the more outsiders come in the more the natural balance of things is disrupted."
She looked in my eyes for a long moment. "Sure. I suppose so."
Miss Allen was tall and curvy. She didn’t mind putting on a tease if the notion struck her mind. I found myself wanting to seduce her even though I knew better and had other business.
"Not any. It’s not a right. It’s a choice. I have no reason to ask you to have dinner with me this evening, which might not be a bad idea, but it’s a choice, too. You’re at a point where you can tell me you’d rather dine at the vending machine with a monkey, only that wouldn’t be very nice. Also, when I asked if you have any gold coins from Garrison, you could also to tell me to go to heck if you find the question lacking tact. I might add that I would be at liberty to go to heck instead of being offensive. Have you any gold coins from Garrison?" I’d lost some of them.
She found it humorous. She had large teeth. She stopped laughing suddenly. "Oh my God," she said, "I haven’t laughed like that for years. This mess, what happened here yesterday, and then Amanda. No, I have no gold coins from her. You don’t have to go to heck." The laughter was all gone, and her green eyes, stared at me, they were cool and keen. "Anything else?" She was up to something, trying to charm me with her feminine wiles.
Again I had to withstand temptation. With Lisa the temptation had been genuine and natural; with her it was only partly genuine and only partly without exception. Larry had said she was in charge of communications and morale, and one more affair might be good for her.
Having protested, I shook my head. "Nothing else, unless you know of something. For instance, if you know of anyone who might have those gold coins."
"No, I don’t." She considered me. "Of course I’m interested, if you want to call it that." Then her mood shifted. "I was very fond of Amanda, and this coming after all her trouble, naturally I’m wondering why you came here. You say Garrison is making an inquiry?"
"Yes, she sent me. I don’t know who her client is, but my guess would be that it’s some friend of Miss Barnstein’s." I got up. "Someone else might be curious. Thank you, Miss Allan. I’m glad I don’t have to go to heck."
She got up and offered her hand. "You might tell me what this is all about."
"Only if I knew." Her hand was cool and firm and I kept it for a moment. "I’m sorry I bothered you in here." That was very true. "By the way, one more question, is Miss Cazemore around?"
She answered no and came with me to the corridor and left me, heading for the place I’d come from. I went the other way, to the platform. Down on the main level a woman was there alone, at a table with a case, she seemed nervous. Being apparent, I turned left, found a few things that seemed out of place and began to examine them.
The woman, the other one, came up to me and asked, "Did you find everything you were looking for?"
She must have taken me for someone else. "Yes, I think I’ve been able to figure out what has been going on here. And you? Why are you here?"
"Me? I’m always where I shouldn’t be. It is my nature. Why, coming to this planet next to a gas giant was something I shouldn’t have done. But look at me, here I am." She smiled at me and then seemed to take interest of something in back of me. But only for a second and then she shifted her attention back on me. But her face had changed. Her expression dimmed.
"I see," I said. "I’m just passing through myself. Got business and things to do. Messy stuff, all of this."
Her mind was somewhere else. "Yes. Very messy stuff. Death usually is."
She found no argument with me and I was relieved to be moving on without complications.
The flashes kept coming down like a dripping waterfall; I squinted my eyes cagily, kept one hand shielded up over them to protect my eyesight. I thought I saw one spark shoot across horizontally, instead of down vertically, like all the others; it was a different color too, more vibrant. I thought it must be an optical illusion produced by the alternating glare and darkness we were all being subjected to, either that, or a detached part of combusted metal from the roof, ricocheting off the wall. I closed my eyes all the way, just to play it safe.
There wasn’t much more to do after that. The noise and sparks stopped suddenly. We pried up the curved-shaped flap that was cut in the roof with heavy iron levers, to keep it from toppling inward and crushing those below. The cool, icy beams of light flickered through. A security man jumped down into our midst and ropes were sent snaking down after him. He said in a quick, mater-of-fact way, "Okay, who’s first now? Who’s the worst hurt of everyone?"
The light showed three forms motionless at the feet of the others in the confined space. The agent, huddled in the corner where I had propped him; the sophisticated looking guy with the thick glasses (minus them now, and a deep cut under one eye to show what had become of them) laying senseless on his back and the young guy, who had got on at the last moment, tumbled partly across him, face down.
"The agent’s dead," I answered the security man for the rest, "and the others, all hurt and in pain, even now. There is a guy with a broken arm here, take him first."
The security man deftly looped the rope under the armpits of the red-faced would be assassin, who was knotting the slack of one sleeve tightly in his other hand and sweating away like a pig to slaughter.
"Haul him away!" the security man shouted toward the opening. "And be careful, the guy’s hurt."
The assassin went up through the ceiling, groaning, legs drawn under him like a sick puppy.
The sophisticated man went next, head bobbing down in unconsciousness. When the noose came down empty, the security man bent over to fasten it around the young guy still on the floor.
I saw him change his mind, pry open one eyelid, pass the rope onto the crying woman who had been such a crybaby, and who was shaking all over from the nervous reaction to the fright she’d had.
"What’s the matter with her?" the security man uttered, pointing to the floor.
I tried to act like I didn’t care about what had happened, or that I didn’t feel for the woman and what she and, we all had been through. But the truth of the matter was that an assassin sent to kill me had managed to rake havoc on all of us, before being overcome.
"She’s frightened. She’s never experienced anything like this before. Fact of the matter, nor have I." I was lying but doing it convincingly.
"Okay, you’ll be next."
"No! I mean, take the others first, they need immediate help, I can wait." What I wanted was time enough to gather the missing coins I had hid and came back to claim. I still needed to complete the assignment Garrison had given me and I had plans of my own for the other coins I had managed to hide throughout the local area.
In the Badlands, where we were, paper money and plastic meant nothing to anyone. Only precious metals and gems carried any weight. This was the Wild West of space, not for fools.
Her face was flushed and she made odd, uncertain movements with her delicate hands.
"Yes . . . " Anna said, and spoke harshly, loudly, and so that the word was almost a shapeless sound. "Yes . . . "
And then Anna Morgan, taking both hands from the rails, pitched headfirst down the staircase. In a great moment of quietness, her body made a strange, soft thudding on the stairs. She did not utter a word.
At the bottom of the blue-carpeted stairs she lay quite still. Her head was at a hideous veer to her body, an impossible twist to her body. So that was how she died.
Anna Morgan died of a broken back. There were internal injuries. Seven people had seen her fall. Now she rested at the bottom of the stairs and no one would ever forget her swift fall down the flight. An ambulance robot confirmed the cause of her death and a doctor from up the way, called when it seemed the ambulance would never get there, established it, too.
But after he had knelt for some time by the body, the doctor beckoned the ambulance robot and they went out into the hallway. Then the ambulance robot beckoned one of the security who had arrived with the ambulance, and a security woman went into the hall with them. After a few minutes, the security woman returned and asked, politely enough, that we all wait upstairs. There were, she said verbosely, a few formalities.
We waited upstairs, in the dinning room. We waited for more than three hours, puzzled and in growing uneasiness. Then a tall woman of a medium build, about whom there was nothing special in appearance, came into the room and looked around at us.
"Why, Wilma!" Edna Powell said.
The tall woman looked at her, and then at Frank Powell, and said, "Yes." Then she said there were one or two things.
And then Edna said, "Yes," with a strangely flat tone.
How one introduces a security officer, who happens to be an old and close friend, to other friends who happen to be persons of interest, else why was the tall woman there? This had long been a moot question with Edna and Frank Powell. Edna said, "This is Wilma Dickens, everybody. Chief Dickens. She’s. She’s a security person. So there is a..." And uttered no more.
"All right, Edna." Wilma Dickens said. Then, "everyone saw her fall. Tell me what you saw." She looked around at us, back at Edna Powell. It was she who told her.
I wanted to get away from this place. Too many people turning up dead. And all over what? My cover had obviously been compromised. It was one thing to spy for a government but quite the other to spy for a large company. Industrial espionage paid well and usually it only involved stealing secrets. But in my case, things had gotten out of control. I had the information I was sent to gather but in the process I must have triggered a reaction from certain members within the company. A reaction that was leaving a death trail; leading to my involvement. No matter how removed from the actual fact. Time to finish gathering the gold coins and book the next rocket flight to another planet. There were a few places I could go where no one would know me and better yet, no one would care. My plan was to give Garrison what she wanted in the form of workers, but hire them cheap. Cheap enough and skilled enough so that no questions would be asked. Then she wouldn’t come looking for me. Once they were recruited my ties with Garrison would be over, leaving me free to disappear. I hated being a spy but that was all I new. It was what I was good at. Stealing secrets and selling them to other businesses. But now this.
It all goes without question that what comes around goes around. Me. I’ve lived a life of deception and suspicion. And yes: I’ve had to pay the price. No close friends, friends yes, but no one I can trust. Not with my life. I’ve had a few affairs. Feared getting married. And never saw children of my own grow up to become people that would make me proud. Now I’m sitting at the shuttle port along with lots of strangers. Some leaving this tiny planet because they have business else where in the system. Some leaving because they have loved ones they haven’t seen or been with in decades. Others like myself, leaving to escape what is sure to come if I stay.
The shuttle was slated to take off within an hour. It would then dock with a waiting spaceship that would take us all to whatever destiny our fates proclaimed. I’d managed to find just the right people to fill the slots for Garrison and she seemed happy with the choices. This planet was a mining and manufacturing planet. Lots of people left quiet lives to work here. The hours were long and the work hard. Even though the really dangerous work was done by general purpose and specialized robots, there was still enough uncertainty to render the occasional accident. I was able to gather about half the gold coins that was given to me for the recruitment. I was taking them with me to somewhere else, anywhere else, I just needed to get away.
When I spoke with Garrison and told her I was leaving she seemed sad. Almost disappointed. I think she truly had feelings for me that went beyond the playful sexual tease the two of us had going on for so long. Sex was fine but a woman like Garrison needed more than that. She needed the trust and the hopes and dreams of a man that was going to be there for her. Like she’d been there for me all this time. Oh, we had one last night together. Parting souls and all that. But this thing was bigger than what I had signed on for. Organized crime was rampant throughout the colonizes. No sooner did a new planet get discovered that had something of value on it, then here came big business, crime and the military. I kept thinking of the woman who I watched commit suicide by plunging herself to her death. The attempts on my life that left chaos in its wake. Maybe I was getting too old for this stuff. This kind of living, where stealing from one, to give to another; and all for money and not for glory. Wow. What a spiritless life style. I think Garrison was right: you have to have someone to come home to eventually. Otherwise you are prone to madness. Madness of the worse kind. Loneliness.
There was this kid sitting over there with her mother. They looked all happy to be going. I wondered what they were leaving behind. Was it family? Was it friends? A career for the mom? Just then I looked up and was surprised.
"Garrison?" The word came out my mouth without me being aware of it.
She beamed at me the way she always did. Made me feel that one person in creation truly cared about me. "I didn’t want you to leave without a final goodbye. I know what we said last night. But that was all in the heat of passion. You know," she found a seat next to me. Her scent was like roses mixed with flowers I didn’t know the names of. "Out here in the Badlands, it’s not often that people like us find each other."
I stopped her and kissed her on her soft lips. She was right. But if I stayed, death would keep following and I didn’t want anything to happen to her. We talked and held hands. Finally my flight came up and I had to leave. I remember seeing her parting face. Was there a tear in her eyes?
I know I felt sick inside. Was I in love with her? What happened to my professional detachment?
We all transferred to the waiting spaceship. Once strapped into our inertia seats I heard the sound of the lightning engine winding up, the thunderous vibrations shaking the structure of the vessel. Then with a flash of light we were all propelled towards tomorrow.