More Barium: 9/2-3

I’ve got more things for you, but I have to say: at this point all this material (and everything you’ve already seen so far) is currently being edited. I think some themes will carry over, and some details will, but a good deal of it is going to be totally rewritten. Which is good, because it feels clumsy on my repeated read-throughs.

That said, this picks up immediately after where the last section left off. Enjoy!

***

“Why isn’t the storefront in the central spar?” Cesi whispers into my ear while we cluster in line. “We’re just going to have to move everything out here again anyway. Do they even keep the supplies out there, down the gravity well?”

“That would be pretty dumb,” I mutter back. “I don’t know why they’d do that. I don’t know why we’re going all the way out there either. We might as well just call them up.”

We inch closer to the doorway, watching the lights flash blue as people churn and fling themselves into it. Then they’re red again, and we wait once more.

Cesi makes an uncomfortable noise. I glance around at her, but can’t see what’s the matter.

“Do you think this is a snipe hunt?” She asks.

Now I’m the one making that noise. I hadn’t even thought of that as a possibility. “It shouldn’t be, right?” I go hunting through the contacts that our parents gave us, and through the shopping history that they have on Titan Station, or at least the shopping history that is accessible to me without trying to jigger with our security. “We’re being directed to the same person that they usually do business with here, according to what I can find.”

Cesi pushes me gently, and I float a little closer to the head of the line. “Sure, okay, but do you think Mom and Dad actually go all the way to the storefront when they’re shopping here?” She looks around us like she’s trying to tell whether or not anyone is eavesdropping on us. She types the next bit. <Or do you think we’re being sent off to the storefront because it might be a comparatively safe place with a comparatively safe person?>

<More dangerous than alone with strangers.> I reply. <Maybe we were wrong. Maybe it’s just more dangerous than alone with a mostly trustworthy business contact.>

<Maybe.> Cesi pauses while we shuffle ahead in the line again. There’s a moment where I’m clutching the handhold next to the door, and people behind me are urging me in, but I can see that there’s only room for one person. I freeze, and Cesi freezes too. I think she knows what I can see.

“Come on kid! Just get in!” This from someone a ways back in the orderly crowd. I stare at him. He’s in a bright orange spacer suit, pale and built like someone Earth-born and -raised.

The neutral behind us in line frowns at him. They’re obviously a spacer, not like the loud man. It’s clear both in their build and in their skin. The only places where people that pale are still a consistent group is Earth. Or in the retrograde race-habs.

“You’re not getting in this one anyway,” the neutral says as the door lights flicker from blue to red. “Wait your turn and don’t bother the kids.”

“Yeah? Well you can go—“

“Don’t mind the dumb Earther, kids.” The neutral cuts off the angry yelling that continues behind us. They smile gently, “Take your time and stick together.”

I cautiously nod thanks. Cesi actually says it, and the neutral smiles.

They keep talking with us while the Earther man keeps yelling. “This your first time out and about the station?” Neither Cesi nor I says anything. They nod knowingly, “You can’t be from around here, or else you’d look more comfortable with all the crowds.” Another sympathetic smile. “We don’t all bite.”

I look at Cesi, then back at the neutral. It takes a few breaths to muster enough courage to speak. “Thanks.” It comes out more of a mutter than I meant it to, but now I feel awkward thinking about repeating myself. Maybe they heard me.

They nod. “Welcome.” They’re almost as quiet as I was.

I sigh in relief.

The lights flash blue, and we all clamber through the door.

I thought the huge space was terrible, full of all those people clustering by doors and streaming through the room with their cargo.

The personnel capsule is far far worse.

We’re packed into a tiny chamber, with more of those big red paint blocks and knockout text on the wall. There are arrows next to words in so many different languages all saying, “This Way Up.” The little disk of wall on the far end of the room has a big multilingual sign loudly proclaiming, “This Is The Floor.” There are bucket seats there, with lots of harnesses and stowage brackets. Everyone is scrambling for them as quickly as they can enter the room, and Cesi and I fumble with our restraints until they click into place. Lights blink blue then red then back again, warning that we’re about to depart. Then we sit silently, listening to the warbling hum of machinery as the the chamber door seals and the capsule shifts, rocking us against our restraints. One person, the Earther, curses as their personal bag drifts off the floor and slams into a wall.

We’re stuck in a tiny room with lots of loud strangers as they all curse and yell and grab at the bag to tie it back down on the soon-to-be floor. I don’t know about Cesi, but I close my eyes and keep them tightly shut. There’s just too much, too many people I don’t know being too loud too close to me. It doesn’t help that improperly stowed baggage is a hazard, one that every kid learns about before they even learn to fly in null-gee. This Earther’s bag could have just killed or maimed someone, and instead of apologizing for it I can hear them still cursing under their breath.

There’s that weird shift as our capsule descends the arm to its ring, the feeling of something pulling your body into a surface instead of simply floating free, and it gets worse and worse as we go. This might be what we evolved for over the past few million years, but it’s not my life. It feels like being trapped.

This whole thing feels like being trapped.

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One response to “More Barium: 9/2-3

  1. Pingback: More Barium: 9/3 | Fistful of Wits

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