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Log of the Month for April, 2021

Living on Lakes
Posted on April 9th, 2021 by Hannah Ziredac

S/2189 F3 1 ‘Grapefruit Moon’
Johnsburg
1985 Hennepin Avenue
March 21, 2400

Simulated daylight splashed across Hannah Ziredac’s face at 0900 hours. Half asleep she pulled the mottled, mildewy guest-room duvet up over face and let out a groan. Another mass of blankets shifted on the mattress beside her. From underneath it rasped a voice: ‘Computer, lights off; fuck.’

Hannah squinted through her lingering drunk, tried to recall which winsome, windswept laureate she’d snagged last night. There had been three of them: tweed, corduroy, and black denim. All of them were champions of the Grapefruit Moon aesthetic; they took their whiskeys neat, they rolled their own old-fashioned (but still genetically-modified) cigarettes, and they all cleared their throats in the exact same way before reciting a violently misunderstood quotation from a classic work. And damn it all if all three of them weren’t cute as hell.

The lump under the blankets sure wasn’t the guy (whatever his name was) because the raspy voice bespoke a clear alto, and What’s-His-Ass had a resonant basso. He fancied himself a professional critic, had a little paper notebook in his jacket’s breast pocket, would scowl and scribble little notes for every song that came on at every bar on their crawl. What’s-His-Ass had actually resorted to feats of strength to try and impress her. Eye-roll. He was cute, sure, but he was far from Hannah’s first choice.

That left Libby the poet who ‘wrote from the heart and didn’t cop to any font of influence’ (yeah right), and Fennian the travel writer who so shamelessly aped the Hunter S. Thompsons of history with her booze-soaked roman à clefs. They both danced the fine border between being blasé about everything they witnessed on the bar crawl, and showing interest in Hannah. Jym had warned Hannah of this, and insisted on his intel: ‘They both like you. They’ve both told me at least a couple times how much they’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you this weekend. Don’t let their ennui ward you off.’

Hannah peeked out from under the duvet at the earthtoned room, smelled cheap incense and old laundry, saw a dresser top populated with wadded clothes, water glasses, never-read books, and many unidentifiable trophies of a deeply sentimental life.

It’s the poet, she thought. Has to be.

She unfurled the duvet and pushed herself up onto her elbows, rubbing the crust from her eyes. ‘You alive over there?’

The blanket lump gave a grunt.

‘Jury’s out, huh?’

Another grunt, then the most helpless utterance of, ‘How are you?’

‘Oh, me, I’m still drunk. Think I only slept for, like, an hour?’

‘Oh god.’

‘You don’t sound good.’

The lump shifted, but did not uncover itself—not even enough to see the hair color and confirm just who the hell it was. ‘I’ll be fine.’

‘What’s your go-to hangover cure? Hot shower and yoga?’

‘No.’

‘Long walk?’

‘No.’

‘Bacon and eggs?’

‘No.’

‘Hair of the dog?’

It was either a belch or a staved regurgitation. ‘Mbph, no.’

‘Lie down and be miserable all day?’

Long pause. ‘That sounds about right.’

‘You wanna know my hangover cure?’

Mmng, what?’

Hannah slid a hand under the blankets and found the naked hipbone of her bedmate. She lowered her timbre a perfect fifth, said, ‘Physical therapy.’

Ughhh?

‘Hand to god, girl, it’s an actual remedy. Breakfast on me if I’m wrong.’

‘Okay,’ the lump murmured. ‘Don’t expect me to be too active, though.’

Hannah lifted the bottom half of the lump’s blankets and crawled underneath. She said, ‘I got you.’

=Λ=

Three hours later

Coffee in her veins and a free breakfast in her stomach, Hannah exited a greasy-spoon diner called The Nighthawk and strolled into the dark mid-morning. Much as she wanted to go on fortnightlong benders in this hellhole, there was only so much perpetual night that her brain could handle. Next stop was definitely a resort in some planet’s tropical belt. Fatty foods, sweet and sugary drinks, and sixteen solid hours of sunlight.

Such places were also ripe with rich dullards.

The road to the Johnsburg Spaceport took a long stretch out of town, so no one’s Grapefruit Moon experience could be ruined by the sight of shuttles diving in and jetting out of an anachronistic structure. Hannah preferred the walk, though. One hangover cure was usually enough, but after these extended periods of liver abuse she liked to employ as many cures as she could. ‘Physical therapy’, caffeine, protein, cysteine, water, mobility.

As she walked she let her head hang back. The galactic center and all its billions of children reigned in the sky, glowing prismatic in the stellar cloud. Hannah smiled to herself. That was the magic of the stars, leastways: given another millennium, humankind could very well see every single star up close, could visit every rock and ball of gas that swirled around them—but looking up at a starry sky still rouse joy and wonder like little else.

These G-Moon scrubs got it so lucky, and they’re all too gin-soaked and self-important to notice. If I lived in a place that never saw sunlight, you bet I’d be staring at the sky more than anyone.

A slight breeze brushed up from behind her, almost like the wake of a passing car. She kept walking.

Twentyish minutes passed before she made it to the spaceport. She flashed a credential here, gave a voiceprint there, and was soon again aboard the Skylark. First things first: she kicked off her shoes and replicated a whiskey ginger. ‘Hangover overkill, final phase: hair of the dog.’ She sat down in the pilot’s seat, took a big sip without a care for being seen by some spaceport official, and keyed in the Skylark’s personal security code. The computer, flight, and nav interfaces all lit up on cue, but when she touched the command to power up the engine, it didn’t respond.

Hannah furrowed her brow and scanned out the window. No guards, technicians, anyone; no comms from spaceport control, nothing.

‘The hell?’

She tried again, and again, the Skylark lay dead.

‘Okay, what in fuck’s name is wrong with you now?

And the cabin filled with that signature light of a teleporter. Hannah looked up at her windshield and saw the transparent reflections of two men in black and white suits, holding out Type-2s.

One of them said, ‘Engine trouble, miss?’

The other said, ‘FSA Investigators. Hannah Ziredac, you’re under arrest for several counts of fraud, conspiracy, burglary, and theft. Stand up and turn around slowly.’

Hannah rolled her eyes, put her hands up, and did as ordered. Before her stood two human men well into their fifth decade, holding out badges in their offhands.

‘You guys aren’t feds,’ she said.

The taller, blonder of the two blinked. ‘Ms. Ziredac, I assure you that we are.’

‘Come on, dip-ass, you think this is the first time I’ve been nabbed by law enforcement? Why’d you beam to me, when standard procedure is to beam the suspect to you?

‘Because,’ said the shorter, darker-haired one, ‘it’s easier to beam the whole thing out at once.’

Hannah glanced side-to-side. ‘“Whole thing”?’

The taller one hit his badge. ‘Agent Teccan to Pinkerton. Engage.’

Again that shimmering white-gold transporter light filled the cabin, but this time from without. Seconds later the spaceport pad was empty.

=Λ=

FSA Pinkerton
Interrogation Room A

‘Géra Daviau, Leojé IV.’

‘Malasker Azru, Metriaga.’

‘Ralor Tylendis, Deep Space 9.’

‘Millian Sardé, Albion.’

‘Nol, Zabik Prime.’

‘Kraes, Zabik Prime.’

‘Groor, Zabik Prime.’

‘Matter of fact, Ms. Ziredac, I’m not sure there’s a Ferengi expat on Zabik Prime you didn’t shake down.’

‘These of course exclude your countless Ferengi, Cardassian, and Bajoran victims.’

‘Which we can’t charge you for, obviously, and the red tape is too thick on both sides for a proper extradition—but the diplomatic incentive for taking you out of operation is just too good to ignore.’

‘So, to answer your question, Ms. Ziredac, we start with your recorded and signed confession to the crimes you’re suspected of.’

‘You really shouldn’t bother trying to lie. There is almost a literal tower of evidence against you, which the most talented defense attorney in mapped space would have trouble dismantling.’

‘Confession will make it easy for you.’

‘For everyone, really.’

‘In turn, further resistance will be insanely difficult for you.’

‘And for literally no one else, Ms. Ziredac; I can’t stress that enough.’

‘So, you’re up.’

‘Start wherever you want.’

‘We can wait; we have all day.’

Hannah Ziredac smirked, took another tepid gulp of the water they had replicated for her. These cops, these avatars of old-world tactics: Agent Yelsor Teccan, playing the ‘good cop’, sitting opposite Hannah and speaking quietly; Agent Keith Mijimoh, leaning over her from the side of the interrogation table, speaking with his best ‘dad voice’, blocking her line of sight to the door.

Modern interrogation rooms were built with pristine noise-cancellation technology, creating that extreme level of perfect quite where, if left undisturbed would cause a person to eventually hear their own blood pumping through their bodies. Teccan and Mijimoh had discreet earpieces that played constant background noise only they could hear, to stave off the rooms’ effects. Hannah was skeptical of this technique, and almost wanted to see if her resolve could outlive theirs.

But, she had places to be.

‘Alright, alright, I’ll start.’ Hannah cleared her throat. ‘To sit in solemn silence on a dull dark dock.’

The lights went out. An alarm sounded on the other side of the door. The agents drew their phasers and stepped away from the table.

Hannah continued: ‘In a pestilential prison with a lifelong lock.’

The door of the interrogation room swished open, drawing the agents’ attention to it.

‘Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock.’

The alarm was cut; emergency lights went black. The agents, starting to realize what was happening, turned their phasers to Hannah and tried to fire—to no avail.

‘From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big, black block.’

While her incantation lashed the Pinkerton into quiet darkness, it also activated her newest acquisition: her dual-function night vision and infrared contact lenses. Old Section 31 tech, rumored to be from one of the ‘false bottom’ dark-sites that not even a lot of Section agents knew about. Some thievery corporation or another managed to get them into the black market ring, and the merchant who won the bid happened to owe Hannah a discount. Hannah’s pair lacked the requisite custom fit and left her a mite nearsighted, but fuzzy shapes were better than complete blindness.

She got up, wrested Mijimoh’s Type-2 from his hands, sidestepped to avoid his retaliative jabs, and stunned both agents to the ground.

Hannah mock-sobbed, said to their prostrate forms, ‘Alright, you got me, I did it, I’m so sowwy. Computer, confirm lockout.’

Security lockout confirmed to Ziredac, Hannah.

‘Gel. Which way to my ship?’

Impound bay is on Deck 12, aft.

‘Confirm that comms are blocked?’

All communications in and out of the Pinkerton are blocked.

‘Fab.’

My oh my, did Hannah Ziredac love her ship, and all its little toys. Most expensive toy was a voice-activated code sequence that wormed via subspace into another ship’s computer system, carrying her voiceprint and a million lines of code that transferred control completely over to her. Best thing was that it was all smoke and mirrors: gave the outward appearance of an EMP, but really just dug its way to the very kernel of every connected power system and flicked the switch to off unless Hannah wanted to use it. How this included phasers, tricorders, and any other auxiliary tech was beyond Hannah’s understanding, but it worked, and she would fucking marry it if she could.

The FSA commissioned small frigates to serve as mobile offices for investigative teams, so the Pinkerton was not hard to navigate. Deck 12 was its bottom, and it was almost chiefly comprised of the impound bay. The Skylark was its sole occupant, aside from another agent who lay stunned by her ship’s automated stun sentry.

Hannah climbed aboard, accessed and overrode the FSA lockout on her power systems, and she was in business.

‘Computer, open impound bay doors.’

Doors opening.

‘Transmit com shipwide.’

Shipwide channel open.

‘You guys tried so hard, and I’m so proud of you, but I’m afraid the mustard remains uncut. Better luck next time, buh-bye.’

The Skylark slid out of the impound bay and out into the space above Grapefruit Moon and Forda III. Hannah laid in a course for one of her unused escape routes, ready to blast her ass out of Federation Space and lay low for a while. Her leftover Daviau latinum would hold her over for at least—

A hail came through.

A Starfleet hail.

‘Oh shit. Shields up.’

Sensors picked up three incoming starships bearing smaller, irregular dimensions for Starfleet vessels. Irregular, that is, unless you put them all together.

‘Oh shit.’

The Prometheus-class Mk. II starship appeared out of warp: one battle section to her port side, another to her starboard, and the saucer section dead ahead. Three sets of weapons systems were powered up and locked tight on her.

A channel opened from the saucer section, with only two words: ‘Hello, Hannah.’

‘Oh shi—’

And in a blinding flash of golden light, the Skylark vanished from space.

=Λ=

USS Meridian-A
Bridge

‘Ms. Stilton?’

‘I’m…I’m getting no readings at all, sir. No trail, not even a projected nav heading.’

‘Mr. Leirone?’

‘Sensors are operating at full capacity, Captain.’

‘Ms. Kenton?’

‘I’ve never seen anything like that before. It’s almost like she…like her ship transported out of there. That kind of instantaneous matter transference is only on-record as used by the Q Continuum, but this… This has a photonically-charged tachyon signature. This wasn’t the Q.’

‘Commander?’

‘Hannah crippled an FSA ship, sir, and she’s slipped through plenty of other fingers. Maybe some kind of black-market tech.’

The captain clenched his fists and said, ‘Then I guess I know where we’re headed.’

=Λ=

Unknown

Shimmering auras clouded Hannah’s vision; she blinked, dug her palm-heels into her eyes, shook her head. When she opened her eyes the auras started to fade, revealing her new environs.

She was no longer aboard the Skylark. Instead she stood in an arboretum of beech and elm, choked with cypress and hawthorn. The brook than ran through it was fabricated, as was the cobblestone path on which she stood. In the ceiling above the treetops Hannah spotted ventilation fans set to circulate oxygen. She noted the seams along the ceiling, where it must give way and open the arboretum to natural sunlight.

‘Are you alright, Hannah?’

The voice came ringing and round through a com to this room. Hannah spun around, searching through the trees and up and down the path for a source. When she spun she felt a familiar weight on her left hip: her phaser pistol shifted in her harness. Teccan and Mijimoh confiscated that first-thing upon her arrest, probably tagged and locked it in the evidence hold until they could cart her off to trial. How’d I get this back?

For safe measure she drew her phaser pistol and set it to stun.

‘It’s alright, Hannah, you won’t need that.’

Hannah chortled. ‘Oh, silly me. Yeah, you’re right: you capture me, steal my ship, and then I just trust you, okay. Okay, mysterious voice.’

‘I also gave you your phaser back to begin with.’

Oh. ‘Fair call. Gonna keep it out just in case, though. Sure you understand.’

The voice said, ‘I do,’ then, ‘The direction you’re currently facing on the path. Follow it to the next room. Whenever you’re ready; take your time.’

Hannah followed the cobblestones through the atrium. The stream babbled alongside her until it bent left under a wood-plank footbridge. As she crossed it Hannah looked down into the water and saw many shadowy shapes swimming downstream. Along the way the longer boughs that reached above the path dangled delicate swaths of lichen before her. Everything in here was designed to put people at peace—or take them off their guard.

After a minute’s walk she came to an open doorway welcoming her at the end of the path. Beyond the doorway the floor turned to a fine hardwood, and the walls were lined with red-oak wainscoting. Hannah checked the corners and stepped inside, finding a broad space with a large desk at the far end. On either side behind the desk rose two room-height windows that peered out into open space.

And at the window on the left stood a woman, who turned at Hannah’s arrival. Upon seeing the woman’s face Hannah was struck by an old familiarity that she could not, for the moment, place to a name. The woman was in her mid-forties, thereabouts, with strands of silver running through her brown hair, but Hannah got the distinct feeling that she knew this woman when both were much younger.

‘Hello, Hannah. Can I offer you some tea?’ And the woman sat at the desk, gesturing to the chair on the opposite side.

Hannah didn’t move. ‘Do I know you from somewhere, lady?’

‘You do, but you were very young the last time I saw you.’

‘Then you’re gonna have to jog my memory.’

The woman smiled. ‘It’s Destiny, Hannah. Destiny Salladay.’

Hannah’s brain was stuck between stations. ‘What?

‘I know. I’d be shocked too.’

‘Destiny.’

‘Yes.’

‘My brother’s high school sweetheart.’

‘Yes.’

‘My brother’s dead high school sweetheart.’

‘Officially.’

‘Prove it.’

So-called Destiny laughed. ‘I’d be happy to oblige, but there’s no way for me to prove it with a method you would trust right now.’

‘Try me.’

‘I have you here in unfamiliar territory, having used technology you’ve never seen before. Would you believe a DNA scan using my equipment?’

Hannah chewed the inside of her cheek for a moment. ‘Another fair call. I don’t believe you, though.’

‘For the moment, you don’t need to.’ Destiny rose and circled the desk, giving Hannah’s gun-hand cause to twitch. ‘All you need to know right now, is that I want you to come to the system designated SK19 19 in 175 days.’

Ha. Sure thing, quote-unquote “Destiny”, let me just put that in my get-ambushed-robbed-and-vaporized schedule.’

‘If you don’t, you’ll never know anything about that little Light you use to find your marks.’

Hannah blinked. ‘How the fuck do you know about that?’

‘Short answer: I’ve been researching them for years.’

Them? You mean there’s others?’

Destiny nodded. ‘Not everyone uses theirs for quite so nefarious means, but, yes.’

‘Okay, Judge Judy, no need to get sanctimonious on me.’

‘Oh, I don’t judge. Not everything I do is within the bounds of the law either.’

Hannah glanced around Destiny’s office or study or whatever the hell it was. It was not lavish, but not plain; it bespoke a gentle taste but one afforded by a lofty position somewhere. ‘And what do you do, exactly, when you’re not getting your body crushed by a crashing shuttle twenty years ago?’

‘That’s an even longer story than that of the Lights, trust me. If you show up at SK19 19, I can fill you in.’

‘Yeah, sorry, babe, that shit isn’t happening. I’m not going out of my way for a seminar on magic Lights. Unless you wanna tell me that it’s siphoning my brain energy or something, I’m gonna keep using it for what I’ve been using it for, and live my own goddamn life. Now, if you don’t mind, where’s my ship, and where’s the door that leads me to it?’

Destiny blinked long and slow. ‘Your ship is being repaired and upgraded in my shuttlebay.’

‘Upgraded? Excuse you.’

‘Trust me. You’ll like what I’m doing to it. Go through the arboretum to the other side and follow the directory.’

‘If I find a tracker of any kind, so help me…’ Hannah pivoted, speared for the arboretum door.

‘If you need extra incentive for coming to SK19 19, I can promise you well-paying work.’

Hannah stopped, turned.

Destiny smiled. ‘Like I said. I’m not exactly cozy with the law. Could use an extra hand.’

‘I’ll give it a think.’

‘No pressure.’

‘If you really are Destiny Salladay, you plan on talking to my brother?’

She seemed to struggle with the thought, and the words to convey it, said, ‘Not as of yet.’

‘Well, me neither.’

Hannah holstered her phaser pistol and headed for the shuttlebay.

=Λ=

The path from Destiny’s office to the shuttlebay betrayed nothing about the location. Was it a ship? A station? A hologram? No other people strolled the corridors or occupied any of the empty rooms; the rooms themselves betrayed no exact purpose. Much of this place outside the office and arboretum was a clinical white, unadorned, unremarkable. Sound did not echo even in the longest corridor, or the cavernous shuttlebay.

The shuttlebay itself bore no sign of bay door or hatch. Upon a landing pad in the direct center of the enormous space sat the Skylark, looking cleaned. Inside Hannah found that all of her mess was categorically piled along the rear wall of the cabin: clothes, dishes, other refuse. Géra Daviau’s latinum case was still there, still full of all the unused riches—as were her other misappropriated trophies.

A PADD sat on the pilot’s seat, listing the upgrades to the Skylark. Hannah’s eyes nearly popped out of her skull. The Skylark now possessed beyond-state-of-the-art holographic emitters to turn her cabin into a boundless holodeck. She was no programmer but some of the specs on this technology looked unreal. Her warp core was upgraded, her weapons were upgraded, her shields were upgraded… And she now had a goddamn cloaking device.

‘Are you fucking shitting me?’

Over the comms came Destiny’s voice: No shitting at all, Hannah.

‘A cloaking device?’

Even if I were on a moral platform from which I could tell you to live your life in a less perilous manner, your continued freedom is still of value to me. These new tools will help you if you’re in a bind.

‘You wiped my ship’s registry ID and gave it a new one. How the hell’d you do that?’

Someday I might explain. For now, enjoy. Do you have any other questions for me?

‘Uh, yeah.’

Quick ones, I mean? Like, questions to ask before I kick you out?

‘Oh. No.’

Then au revoir, Hannah. Stay safe. Oh, close your eyes.

Hannah did. When she opened them, the Skylark was back in open space—in the Delta sector near the Bajoran border, by the charts. Sensors showed no nearby ships. Without hesitation she laid in a course for Refuge. When the Skylark engaged she slumped back into the pilot’s seat and stared out at the zooming stars.

‘What a fucking day.’


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3 Comments

  • Kathryn Harper Kathryn Harper says:

    This one’s a ride, starting off so simply with a still-drunk morning and escalating through an arrest and an abduction. As usual, your descriptions are evocative and you’ve already established Hannah as an interesting character that I want to read more of. Add in another appearance of Destiny, and ending with heading to Refuge… where does this go next? What a read!


  • Emilaina Acacia says:

    I’ve really been enjoying the saga of the light, especially the story of this wise-cracking conwoman. Your style is impeccable as usual, I especially liked the descriptions and emotions of the always-night moon. Great job!


  • Scott Ammora says:

    Damn. Just damn. That is all. :: rereads for the third time :: Nice work, Dave.




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