Antagonist Heading to Exoplanet

[StoryADay May Prompt: “Your Villain As A Mirror“]

She had, as always, no regard for life, but on the way to the planet Uran V she did not act against anyone. Not on the slow fall, the quick skip, and not yet on the interminable rise. The ground under her feet? A firm stance, the horizon in sight or felt in her bones, and a sky higher than mountains and all that wonderful volume in which to breathe and move? An assassin needed a world to conduct her business. Packed into a channel colony ship between the Sun and Uran, her destination’s parent star, she was sick as dogs, without a weapon, and wondering just how much strength she could muster from her wrecked body to throttle the boy who had spent months tormenting her. Right: the trip between two stars is over in minutes. The trip from Earth down the gravity well to that fast interstellar channel? Forever. Another forever on the other side climbing up to Uran V, and, by the way, five in this case meant the last leg was the longest leg.

For fuck’s sake, he was coming around again. Must be five years old. He decided as soon as they left Earth orbit that Menala was his favorite person in the universe. She tried ignoring the petri dish at first. He just kept talking. Mom and dad smiled in the secret language of parents, probably deciding this poor, emotionless, tall, thin woman traveling all alone must need a little ray of sunshine to brighten her day. Maybe make her feel motherly.

What she wouldn’t give for a laser bolt. Not allowed on colony ships. Hadn’t yet discovered where her weapon had been hidden by her employer’s agents. Maybe they hadn’t bothered.

She got sick, of course. Colony ship’s doctor couldn’t figure out how. Nanobots had been doing their job for a hundred years. Little babies didn’t carry communicable diseases anymore. That was part of the savage past, before Mars and Venus were dismantled. Right: the slobbering, sneezing, coughing pandemic must have been making it all up, then. The mucus pouring out of her nose and asshole was just her being psychosomatic.

She added the doctor’s name to her list.

Menala wasn’t used to traveling in space. Terra firma for her, and, besides, wasn’t the future all about the automated destruction of all the destinations in space? Having sucked up all her neighbors, fashioning Earth into a shiny forever jewel in the great expanse? All the intrigue was on Earth. All the people other people paid her to kill. Want to kill someone in the stars? Better be able to pay a lot of money and spend a lot of time convincing the best assassin in the business that she should go ahead and head out into the last place—space—she ever wanted to go.

This time he climbed up on her lap. Laughed. His parents protested, but they didn’t get up to grab him, and the half smile on their faces said it all. There were other ways to kill. No weapon required. Just a moment with his neck between her hands and no one watching…

He ran off again.

The thing she hadn’t known about colony ships was that you all sat out in the middle of it, not far from the larger bay holding all the cargo, and you slept in those seats, too. Oh, they leaned back all the way. Left enough room for that and a little space to walk between the snoozing, but this wasn’t anything like a hyperloop pod or a plane or even the transport that launched from Earth and deposited them here. Private rooms for everyone in those. Could spend the entire trip removed from the masses. Colony ship? Cattle.

She added her employer to the list for not telling her ahead of time that they were going to save on expenses by sending her economy. She decided her employer must be racist, too. All these brown people and that kid’s parents probably thinking her brown meant she was also good folks. Nice analogy, cattle. Nice to know not even racism could escape gravity, even when the stars open up their hidden gates and the human empire has all the room it needs to grow.

Not to say there weren’t plenty of white people around. Most of them crew. Most of them sneering. They joined the rest on her list.

She began to plot. It helped her ignore she was sick and weak. It helped her smile at the boy and his parents. It helped her sleep that ship night, and she felt rejuvenated the next morning. How much further to Uran V? Just about three weeks left in the journey. Plenty of time for a few accidents without causing everyone to panic too much and make things difficult for her.

“Hey, kid,” she said sweetly the next time he approached her. Menala had never spoken to him before. “What do you think is on the other side of that door?”

No talking, for a change. He shook his head, eyes wide. One of the doors leading to the cargo hold. Not guarded all that closely. Not all that hard to gain access to, with the cheap security measures on this cheap ship and all these cheap pleasant souls onboard. Plenty of things to go wrong in the cargo hold. She glanced over at the boy’s parents; they were napping. A lot of the colonists spent their time napping when they weren’t sleeping.

“Wanna find out?”

His eagerness was almost cute.

StoryADay May 2016 Day 13

Published by

Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet living in Tucson, Arizona. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey and Fairy Tale Review’s “Fairy-Tale Files“.