Jovian Shadows : Episode 23

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for Jovian Shadows, so I’m a little rusty.  Hopefully this will meet the standards of the previous threads of the story, and will rev me up to continue apace.

The guards pulling Jones were less then gentle.  Their fingers dug into each bicep like an eagle claw into a trout.

Jones gritted her teeth.  “You don’t have to be that rough on the first date…”

One of the guards snarled.  “You’re a traitor, and you’re going to get what’s coming.”

They had forced Jones’s boots off in the elevator.  That’s when they noticed they weren’t hers.

The elevator opened.  The hall was streaked with blood in long lines down to an emergency access hatch.

The second guard spoke.  “What the hell?”

Jones said, “You tell me.”

They dragged Jones down the low-g hall, their boots clanking on the metal plates of the floor.

They opened the door to the brig and threw Jones in.  She tumbled head over heels until she hit the far wall, her wind nearly knocked out of her.

The first guard said, “You’re getting spaced.  Nothing can stop that now.”

The second one said to the first, “You ever try to boff in zero g?  Goddamn impossible.”  He turned back to Jones.  “You’re lucky the captain put you in thiscell.”

The first one said, “You could tie her down on the bed.”

Jones caught her breath again.  She beckoned the guards.  “Come get some.”

They both squinted at her through their clear visors, and slammed the door shut.

Jones’ eyes took their sweet time adjusting to the near total dark.  “Well, Lim,” she said, “I don’t see how this is an improvement.”

Lim’s harsh croak of a voice said,  “You will not come to harm.”

“Oh?  What would you do if they decided they were going come in here, huh?  I mean, before I handed them their asses in their helmets.  You don’t even have a body.”

“I am fully aware of your capacity for murder,” Lim said.  “This ship is my body.  I control every system, every weapon, every sensor.  Do not underestimate what I am capable of.”

Jones said, “Fair enough.”  She pushed off the ceiling and landed on the bed, grabbing the restraints to keep from bouncing away.  “So now what?”

“You will be removed from this environment at the first opportunity.”

“This cell is pretty well locked and guarded.”

“Not the cell, the ship.”

Jones thought for a moment.  “You mean, you’re going to put me on the station?”

The door latch clicked.  Captain Castaneda opened the door.  “Cepheid, lights.”

The lights in the cell came on, bright enough to blind Jones for a moment.

Jones blinked as her vision came back.  “Come for that lunch date, cap’n?”

“I found something.”  Castaneda stood there, staring at Jones.  She tossed a detached finger through the air toward the floating Jones.  It tumbled end over end like an asteroid.  “We’ll have to add even more names to the list of your crimes.”

Jones batted the finger away with the back of her hand.  “What do you want?”

Castaneda said, “The FDR is a day out.  I’m going to turn you over to them, and let Home Office deal with you.  They’ll take you back to Earth, and probably brain-rape you until you’re a drooling potato.  Every conversation you’ve ever had with the rebels, every secret you’ve ever shared with them, will be pried from your gray matter, neuron by neuron.  You will pray that I had spaced you every day you’re in Home Office’s care.”

Jones said, “Are you having your period, is that what’s wrong with you?”

Castaneda was unphazed.  “I really do feel sorry for you.  You were a friend to me once.  Or maybe that was a lie too.  No matter, they’ll learn that from their torture, and I’ll have the report.  Your entire existence will be, literally, an open book.  Everything about you will be reduced to pages I can toss in the trash when I finish reading it.  You’ll be deleted with a touch on the screen.”

Jones snarled, “Why are you here?  What do you want from me?”

“I want,” Castaneda said, “to know why.  But I know nothing you say will satisfy me.  I just wanted one last look at you.  To remember you as you are.  Once you’re off my ship and in the hands of the FDR, you’ll never be the same.  I could guarantee your safety here.  Once you’re off the Polk, you’re on your own.”

Jones was breathing hard.  The calmer Castaneda got, the angrier Jones felt.  “Why are you telling me all this?”

Castaneda stared.  She was silent.

Jones was up in the upper corner of the room now, like a spider in a web.  “At least the FDR will have some decent officers.  Not a bunch of thugs eager to butcher innocent lives.”  Jones wiped away an errant tear.  “My job here was to stop the slaughter you were bringing to my people.  If I had to kill every last motherfucking one of you to do it I would, ten times over.”

Castaneda let out a closed-mouthed sigh.

Jones continued.  “I didn’t want to kill anyone.  I wanted the ship to be crippled so we could board her and ransom you all back to the Core, or even just let you go so we could get the JKP.  Then we’d have an actual warship, and maybe then you’d think twice about your murder missions.”  Jones shook her head, and a couple more tears flicked off her eyelashes and made little clear planets that drifted away from her face.  “I never wanted to hurt you, Heather.  You might not believe me, but maybe when you read the report, you will.”

“You did, Jones,” Castaneda said.  “You did hurt me.”  She pounded her chest with a fist.  “This is my life.  I swore an oath to the Core to protect and defend Earth!”

“Bullshit!”  Jones shouted, “You bought in!  This is a career move for you!  Playing soldier until you can get enough little medals to prove your value to Westhem or whoever will buy you.  You think you are career like Broadsky, just because you got to play leader for a few days.  Well that’s over now.  You have this on your resume, and now you can go home, get a cushy job, and forget about everything out here.  I don’t have that luxury.  My people don’t have the wealth and power Westhem does.  We just have each other.”

“You…” Castaneda said, “you people… You are traitors to the Core.  You claimed a world that wasn’t yours.  You broke away from your Human family to become Jovians.  And you fault us for trying to reclaim what is rightfully ours?”

Jones said, “Yours?  The planets are not yours.  And what stake do you have in this fight?  You’re a toy soldier.  When the FDR gets here, you’re replaced.  Another cog in the machine.  We- we’re free.”

“A freedom stolen from the corporations who funded the initial settlements,” Castaneda said.  “Your space station, your supplies, they all came from Earth.  They all belong to other people.  You’re thieves and must be brought to justice.”

Jones wiped her face with the back of her wrist.  “This is a lot bigger than property, Heather.  Insurance could have paid for everything lost.  This is about making sure nobody else seeks to escape the shackles of Core Law.  It’s about making sure everyone is under control.  Everyone.  The only difference between us, Heather, is that I won’t be controlled.  You let yourself be a part of the system.”

Castaneda shook her head.  “You’re not my problem anymore.  I only have to hold you for a day.”  She turned and opened the door.

Jones shouted, “Think you can manage that Captain?”

Castaneda walked out and shut the door.

The lights went out, and Jones was in the dark once more.

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