This is the first installment in Blinded, a three-part science fiction serialization about a teenage girl living in a space station far from Earth.
I don’t see Astrin as often as I’d like. She’s a star. A six-rayed star floating in the great blank expanse of space that’s this quadrant of Andromeda Galaxy. A gleaming, metal star.
Neither of my Dads has an in with a pilot.
I really wish they’d date outside of the family.
A young woman looks up from her zoo biology station, one of many similar stations in the octagonal school chamber, outfitted with different computer terminals and equipment for different purposes, her round face eager. An expression that quickly fades.
Starlee leans over Charmaine’s station, her hair littered with pearlescent globes from one of the premium shops on the Market.
“Why aren’t you working with Omar?”
Their teacher is, of course, out of earshot.
Omar, stationed on the opposite side of the room from her, is busy testing new theories of trash compaction on a miniature scale. He’s a huge fan of her fathers’ work, and a frequent dinner guest.
And he’s totally oblivious to the popular Medusa looming over her, a smug smile perched on her gold- tinted lips.
“I’m majoring in zoo biology, Starlee,” Charmaine replies as politely as possible, turning her gaze back to her computer terminal.
“So you can tame something one of your fathers find on the haul?”
There’s no one around, but she’ll hear Starlee’s troupe later, somewhere on the Market or in the Resto, repeating the question until her ears are so tired she’ll feel like sticking them out the nearest window and freezing them off.
“We already have a pet. Thanks.”
Starlee snickers, and turns. “I wouldn’t call a fish a pet. No one, but no one, keeps Earth pets anymore.”
Charmaine peers more closely at the calculation she was making on the reproductive rate of garl-frogs, a Keltish arboreal creature classified as a bipedal arthropod and so-named due to its frog-like jump and habitual croaking.
They’re also particularly slimy. She wishes she could encourage a large family of them to visit Starlee.
Could they be trained to steal some of those globes?
“But you make good credit!”
Charmaine lays on her belly on the couch, watching Kaye, named after the famous oceanographer who perished on his last voyage to the edge of Auriga, swim in lazy circles, his red fins fanned, ready for war should her pinky finger wiggle in his direction.
“Not that good,” Johan says, laying one hand on her head soothingly.
She shrugs it off and hears his wounded huff.
“We’re saving for your further education,” Silas adds, his voice edging on a hard note after her aversion to Johan’s touch.
Charmaine buries her face in a pillow and groans.
“But I need something new to wear!”
She turns her head to glare accusingly at her two dads. Johan has a hand to his forehead, looking aggrieved.
“Perhaps next month cycle,” he concedes, though Silas lays a hand on his arm even as he does so.
“Or you can trade in some of your old things, Charmaine. Why do you need something that new anyway?”
Charmaine peers up at Kaye who pauses momentarily to eye her, then flicks his tail and turns away. Why couldn’t fish smile?
She pushes herself up on her elbows, then sits up and vaults off the couch, heading for her room.
“Men,” is all she says as she leaves her fathers and Kaye behind.
The receiver, thankfully, isn’t cracked from where it hit the wall after she threw it.
“Whoah…”, Omar can be heard saying from the other end.
“Why are you always taking my fathers’ side? Seriously?!”
Charmaine’s certain he can hear how annoyed she is, but he vacillates.
“Well…my studies and all…I mean…freeze up, Charmaine, it’s not that bad!”
The receiver vaults out of her hand again, a small metal oval arcing towards one wall. This time, it crrks when it hits. At this rate, she’ll never get to wear opalescent globes in her hair.
“You could live on Lower Level B,” Kevaiah reminds Charmaine in the Resto.
“I’ll trade you for Mid Level G,” Charmaine says, just having finished her lunch. “We’re not any more popular, and you do have a better view. And,” she pauses mid-grimace, her face scrunching into an ‘this-is-so-unfair’ expression, “you get allowance.”
“I watch my brothers for it,” Kevaiah grouses.
“Oh, yeah,” Charmaine says, embarrassed, “I remember.”
She stays quiet as they leave, jostling Kevaiah’s elbow only after they dispose of their waste in one of the many recycling compactor tubes.
“I don’t suppose you need any help?”
Kevaiah laughs. “Off my money, Charmaine!”
Nope. No opalescent globes in sight.
There’s nothing in sight in fact. Just an empty classroom. A few computer terminals blink, obviously having been shut down haphazardly.
Kevaiah says, “Where do you think everyone’s at?”
“I don’t know,” Charmaine says.
A stray beep in the otherwise silent room.
The girls exchange glances.
“This is weird…,” Charmaine starts to say.
Then, the chamber door shushes open and Omar barrels in.
“You have to come up to the C-3 deck! You won’t believe…you father….”
“He’s okay, right?!” Charmaine says, face flushing.
“He found something!”
Charmaine blinks, suddenly not worried; curious. Omar dashes out the way he came, and she turns on her heel quickly to follow him out, Kevaiah just behind.
“Really?” Kevaiah’s voice is heard.
C-3 deck meant more than the trash-turned-treasure that sparkled throughout Charmaine’s aesthetically-pleasing quarters. C-3 deck meant something that Command was interested in.
“Yea,” Omar says, his breath huffing. “But you won’t believe it…”
They clamor on, the three of them, clattering from one level to the next, jabbing at each lift button, finally catching one three levels up.
And then. The lift moves.
And then. The lift finally opens onto the C-3 deck.
And then. Charmaine’s father. And Commander Sigil.
And then. The huffing, strained breathing of the three friends. And the gasps of other hubmates.
And then. Commander Sigil and her father holding up a bright, gleaming object between them. It vibrates slightly, then one rectangular panel opens revealing a large, diamond-bright eye. Haze filters around it as it turns its eye to regard the Commander’s lapel pins.
And it filters. And it fazes. And it shrinks.
Until a gleaming lapel pin, the exact size and metal of one of Commander Sigil’s, with the crease of a large eye still visible, rests in both the Commander and Charmaine’s father’s hands.
A perfect replica.
TO BE CONTINUED…