The Faint Trace of Ambergris
She sees the light and wakes up. Sees but doesn't feel. It's just not the same when the artificial sun sneaks through her window. Back at her grandmother's place on First Earth where she grew up, the sun would sneak between the blinds and warmly caress her face, and it was that warm caress, not the light itself, which woke her up. She doesn't want to think about that, though. She misses Nana, but is so thankful that she died comfortably, if there is such a thing, of old age. A life well lived. Thinking about Nana leads to thinking about her brother, and that's never a good way to start the day. But maybe it should be. If she began each day replaying the bullets flying, the traitors turning, and the look of horrid surprise on Jason's face, maybe she would be done with her mission by now. Wouldn't be here. Still here.
While fixing a traditional greasy breakfast to try to overcome her hangover, she plans her day. Titan Class operatives don't have to report for roll call. Don't have to wear a uniform. They are to be inconspicuous when in public, which on a station this large, is most of the time. With their mission to find, investigate, and infiltrate crime syndicates, their anonymity is of course highly important. They are the intelligence arm of the Off-Earth Army. And to serve and protect on a facility this large, that army comprises almost ten percent of the population. There's something about living “in outer space”, as they used to call it, that creates more criminals than in a similar sized town on any of the Earths.
The newest of the orbiting communities around Second Earth, Spartan is anything but. It can best be described as a cube, but with every conceivable convenience earthlings have become accustomed to, and the extreme luxury expected from a Class A community. But like cruise ships of old, the station is divided into classes. The government passed the Equal Opportunity to Off-Earth Communities Act just a few years before Spartan was constructed. Therefore it has the required 20% of it's residential floors devoted to “affordable housing” for the working class. The men and women who used to share what was more of a dorm experience can now actually can have a family and private quarters to return to when they're done working their asses off providing luxuries for the "real" residents.
She feels a bit better after inhaling her eggs (substitute), sausage (soy version) and toast (real bread, the one known luxury she allows herself). Yes, alcohol is a luxury, but in the quantities she consumes it, she'd be in a heap of trouble. Every monetary transaction on the station is log, categorized, and reported to, well, the Titans who are looking for the criminals. To operatives like her. Who have to report these “anomalies” to their superiors. That's why Leah has a rudimentary still in her walk-in closet. That's the one private place Titans have. Probably due to some sexual harassment suit somewhere a long time ago. Regardless, no one can demand to know the color of her underwear or question the homemade “water purification system” she insists on due to her highly sensitive nose. She can find a hint of the trace of ambergris when others, “Can't smell anything.”
She's grateful that so far there are no red flags popping up in the timeline she constructed. She doesn't need her investigation to go into dangerous territory. Well, at least not any more dangerous than infiltrating this intelligence agency which operates apart from all law (certainly not on paper, nor acknowledged by either the New United States or their neighbors in the rest of the galaxy, just in reality.) Everyone knows that Titans don't wait to shoot before asking questions, and will do about anything to get a suspect to talk. Even though such methods were outlawed on Earth two centuries before, they are common place away from terra firma these days.
Leah doesn't have time to see if the chip from the suspect interview is still in play before her shift begins. She's not looking forward to today. She drew the short straw of Titan assignments. She gets to play dress up and try to entrap one of the major power players on the station. He's suspected of running a good, old-fashioned pimp business in his casinos. Sigh. She hopes she has something clean and revealing to put on.
That just about blows the whole day. She now remembers what she did with her suitable clothes after she broke up with her latest lover. Well, that's not the right term, he was more like a machine she connected herself into to drown the stress and the monotony. As were her two previous partners. Ironic that she'll spend the day looking to catch the man who makes those connections ready and available and at an affordable rate, they say. She herself would like to use just such a service and skip the small talk and the boring dinners eating bland food to only then finally get what she's seeking. Straight to the point would suit her just fine. She's going to have a hard time though. She's thrown everything that she's worn when with him into her unit's incinerator. It was only way to stop smelling him whenever she got home.
She's aggravated and weary as she leaves her quarters for the shopping district. It's always the same. Whenever she thinks she's making progress in her mission, something like this comes along, and she has to waste her time doing the duties required of her post and not what she's really there for.
To be continued with:
Muse 6: "A Space Iliad"
Muse 7: “Threepenny bet”
Muse 8: "You Gotta Be Careful What You Wish For Here"
Muse 9: “Percocet and Pudding”
Hi. Long time. Life is not only Good, it's dang busy. Didn't have time finish the writing challenge. Haven't had any blogging time in what seems forever. This is the next segment of the sci-fi piece I was working on. I'm going to finish the challenge even though the winners were announced over a week ago. I'm stubborn like that. But I'm also posting this as my entry over at 10th Daughter of Memory. Button in side-bar. Come write with us!
To read the first four chapters, use these links.