In the Shadow of Heaven [ORIGINAL VERSION]by
Chapter Forty-Two - What Shall We Do with a Drunken Spacer?
What Shall We Do with a Drunken Spacer?
“My brother’s bought us black-grain beer, you’d better believe we’ll drink it all down. One glass, two glass, three glass, four- you’d better believe we’ll drink it all down. When Donny Daylight dances at our door, you’d better believe we’ve drunk it all down. Five glass, six glass, seven glass, eight- you’d better believe we’ve drunk it all down.”
-from “You’d Better Believe”, drinking song
Yan was shipped off planet with little pomp and less circumstance. The ship she would be travelling on, the Tranquility, was full to the brim with passengers and cargo. It was followed closely behind by the Petra, carrying even more passengers. Both ships, after they dropped off this first load, would return to pick up more starting colonists. Trade Guild ships, though they had a great capacity for inanimate objects, such as ore or wheat, did not have the berthing space to carry the thousands of passengers that a new colony required. A Fleet ship would have done the job, but the Trade Guild would have rioted to lose the business of shipping colonists around. Besides, the Fleet was busy exploring and fighting (though according to Kino, Tyx III was at a complete standstill), so they didn't have ships to spare.
Still, the Tranquility was more crowded than Yan could bear. The Petra and the Tranquility were both favored recipients of colony contracts because they had more living space than any other ships in the Guild. That living space did not necessarily mean comfortable space; all of the colonists were bunked several to a room, could only carry one bag with them into the habitable sections of the ship, and were eating boxed rations for the entirety of the journey. Yan, being an important figure, was given special treatment. She was allowed to eat with the Tranquility's crew and she had her own private cabin, but it was still an unpleasant experience.
Walking down the corridors, she practically tripped over colonists who were hanging out in the hallways for no good reason. Being on a spaceship with nothing to do but wait to arrive apparently led people to become stir crazy. The colonists were remarkably friendly people who wanted nothing more than to shake her hand and tell her how excited they were to be starting their new lives. Yan had more polite conversations with these people than she could count, and she began cloistering herself in her own room to avoid them.
It didn't help that she was unsure of where she stood with the crew of the Tranquility. While it was almost certain that the gossip about her (was it gossip if it was true?) had almost certainly reached the crew of the ship, it was possible that Apprentice Olms's assessment of Yan's character had also been spread around. Everyone treated her politely and no one brought up the incident aboard the Sky Boat, but that could have been just due to her status as well. When Yan started fretting about it too hard, Iri threatened to smack some sense into her. Yan tried to keep quiet on that particular subject from there on out.
The one saving grace was that Yan's friend from the Academy, Genna Markus, was part of the high level leadership of the Anthus Colony Project and was coming along to start her new life. Well, she was an apprentice to that high level leadership, but it was close enough. Yan was in the somewhat awkward position of being an apprentice herself but also being the guest of honor on the ship. She wished that Sandreas had been able to come, because his presence shielded her from attention. Still, Yan had a fine time catching up with Genna, exploring the depths of the Tranquility, and trying to be a good guest and gracious leader.
Yan did decline any offers to tour the bridge of the Tranquility, though. She was taking the advice of Joun Migollen, the second of the Sky Boat, under consideration; it wasn't proper for her to pretend to be a spacer any more. So, while she was still able to dodge about the no-grav sections with the greatest of ease, she made no attempt to fit herself in among the crew of the ship.
Yan and Genna were amusing themselves on the observation deck, one of the few places that was not full to the gills with colonists. That may have only been because they hadn't been told of its existence. The colonists were all berthed in the no-grav sections as well, in the one cargo hold that the Tranquility had specifically outfitted to be able to carry passengers, so they didn't have the normal excuse of not being used to the no-grav sections to visit the observation deck. Perhaps they just didn't like to be reminded of what was outside the ship's walls. Either way, it suited Yan and Genna just fine; they were grateful to have some time to catch up and talk to each other. It had been months since they last were together at the Academy, and a lot had changed since then.
"Are you excited to be living on a new colony?" Yan asked.
"I'm looking forward to it, but I don't know if excited is the right word," Genna said. She had mellowed out a bit in the months since graduation. "Farms is farms."
"You won't be a farmer, right?" Yan asked. "I really don't know anything about colonization."
"Pretty much everyone has to be a farmer," Genna laughed. "But you're right, I'll be mostly working in central planning. I don't think I'll have time to start a farm of my own until my apprenticeship ends."
"Do you want to start a farm of your own?" Yan asked. Genna frowned, and shoved her mechanical hand deep into her cassock pocket.
"Not right now, anyway. I don't know. Once I'm done with my apprenticeship I'll have a better idea what pathways are open to me. Maybe I'll run for governor."
Yan laughed. "Ambition, I like it."
"Well it would be dumb to waste Academy training on farming, wouldn't it?" Genna said bitingly.
"Why'd you pick this apprenticeship anyway, you were offered a position in…" Yan struggled to remember what her friend's other offers had been.
"Law. I was offered a law apprenticeship." She didn't go into the details. It probably didn't matter, since she hadn't taken it.
"Why didn't you take that one?"
Genna shrugged. "I had this crazy thought that it would be nice to get in on the ground floor of something."
"Yeah, that is crazy," Yan said. "You'll be an old lady before this colony has even a hope of relevancy."
Genna laughed. "Heh, you never know, Anthus could turn out to be the best colony ever created."
"Just because you're there?"
"Of course! Everything is better with me on it!"
"What are you actually going to be doing, though?" Yan asked, switching the subject away from Genna's comical self-aggrandizement.
"Eh. That's kinda complicated to explain. How much detail do you actually want?"
Yan considered this for a second. "Thirty second summary."
"Might as well not even bother asking, but fine. This is the first wave of colonists. We need to work on getting infrastructure set up. So first things first is getting down on the ground and assembling quick shelters, then from there we construct permanent buildings, roads, farms, stuff like that. For the next couple years it's going to be a lot of land clearing, building from supplies that are coming with us now, and setting up things that can be used in the future."
"So when you get down there, are you even going to have a place to stay?"
"There was a pre-first wave team, obviously. They've been there for ages, so there is some shelter set up. We're not gonna just be dumped on a planet in the middle of nowhere with nothing- that would be insane." Genna's voice was rich with disdain.
"Well, I don't know, you could have filled this whole ship with crazy people who would love to do that."
"What kind of monster do you take me for? I don't want to do that."
"I guess I don't know anything about colonization," Yan said, shrugging. It was nice to be back with Genna- she was funny.
"There has been nothing more obvious than that," Genna said. "I mean, God, when I first met you, you didn't know anything about how to live with anybody who wasn't your cousin."
"That's true," Yan said. "Guilty as charged."
"I never did ask," Genna said, changing her tone, " what made you not take the xenobio job? You'd only been talking about how cool all the life on planets was since the day you learned enough New Imperial to say it."
Yan considered her answer for a second. "I didn't really feel like I had a choice."
"That's dumb. You always have a choice."
"I don't know," Yan protested. "I always feel like I'm just being pushed along. And that was God pushing me into taking this apprenticeship." Yan gestured down at her whole self. "So here I am."
"God told you to do it? That's really the line you're going to use?" Genna laughed. "I see you're the same old person you've been for years."
"What else am I supposed to say?" Yan asked, feeling a little put out.
"Oh, maybe, 'it was the greatest opportunity that ever passed in front of me, so I snatched it like a hot potato', or 'I have a desperate desire to climb the social ladder', or 'I don't know, we just clicked really well in the interview'. Anything to make yourself less passive," Genna said. "I don't know how you're going to rule the universe someday if you're all 'I just did it because God told me to'."
Yan didn't love the direction this conversation was headed. She put her hands into her pockets and fiddled around with the collection of pens and lint in there. Briefly, her right hand ghosted over the form of the gun on her hip. Yan clamped down on the urge to shudder.
"Well there's also Sid and Kino who could take over," Yan said. "No guarantee that it's going to be me as Voice in the end."
"Yan, listen to yourself. I met Welslak and Mejia when we were at the Academy. I had classes with both of them at one point. You're really saying that you'd rather have deaf baldy or weirdo rule the universe before you?"
"Hey, don't be mean, they're my friends."
Genna rolled her eyes. "The one-hand farm-hand is here giving it to you straight," Genna said. "If you don't become Yan, queen of the universe, I'll throttle you myself."
"That's really not-"
"That wasn't a threat, that's a promise!" Genna emphasized. "You'd better start living up to your potential, or I'll worm my way onto the Imperial Council just so I can getcha."
"If I survive that long," Yan muttered.
"If you don't survive for me to kill you, I'll-" Genna struggled to think of an appropriate threat. "I don't know. I'll think of something."
"I'm glad to hear it," Yan said. Genna was fun to be around. Yan had missed lively dinner conversations at the Academy.
Yan felt the stirring in the power that signaled the Tranquility's aging stardrive warming up. Unlike some of the ships with a newer stardrive Yan had been on, the Tranquility's took a good few minutes to gather up all the energy it needed to make a jump. That was what happened when a stardrive got old, Yan supposed. She wondered how much longer it would be before the Tranquility would have to fork over the massive amounts of money to get a new one. It couldn't be too much longer; it would be a disaster beyond imagination if the stardrive on a ship actually failed while it was out in the universe. The crew would be stranded and as good as dead. Yan hated to think about it.
"We're going to jump soon," Yan said, warning Genna. Seeing the jump was the whole reason they were in the observation deck.
"Do I need to hold on?" Genna asked.
"Nah, you shouldn't feel anything. Just keep an eye on the stars. And say 'bye-bye' to the Petra." Yan pointed out the window to a tiny, green lit speck in the distance. The Petra and Tranquility both had some of their onboard lights on, just as a courtesy to the other ship. It allowed for easier communication, if everyone could see and point their antennas in the correct direction for broadcast. The Petra had a few hours before their stardrive would be ready to jump, so they wouldn't be seeing them again for a while. That was assuming that the two ships would continue to jump to the same places, anyway. Yan didn't actually know what the itinerary looked like.
"Here it goes," Yan said. She stared out the window and felt the rip in the power as the Tranquility's stardrive jumped them. It was a feeling Yan was very familiar with, but it never failed to make her jump a little. The stars outside the window instantaneously shifted position, and the hum of the stardrive quieted, going into its rest cycle.
"That was anti-climactic," Genna said.
"I'm not really sure what you expected," Yan said. "I told you there wasn't that much to see."
"I wanted like flashing lights or something cool like that," Genna complained.
"Well I'm sorry that it failed to meet your expectations," Yan said. "Should we head to dinner? It's about that time."
"Oh, yeah, that fancy thing."
Yan had been invited to a dinner with some of the colony management. While sure to be the opposite of fancy (for politeness' sake, the Anthus colony team were restricting themselves to the same meals as the colonists, rather than partaking in the much more varied offerings in the Tranquility's dining hall), it was sure to be a good time with pleasant conversation all around.
They made their way out of the observation deck and through progressively more crowded hallways until they reached the elevators that would take them into the rotating rings of the ship. One luxury that the colony leadership didn't pass up was bunking in the gravity section, and using the few conference rooms aboard the Tranquility for their own meetings. It was much more pleasant to eat in gravity than to float around, so Yan was happy that they weren't staying in the crowded hold of the ship.
Genna introduced Yan to some of the younger members of the Anthus team that they passed as they walked, those not quite ranking high enough to join the dinner. Genna had no qualms about knocking on people's doors and sticking her head in to chat for a few minutes. Yan was glad that Genna had made some friends among her coworkers. At least they seemed like friends, due to the familiar way that Genna addressed them, but as always, it was hard to know with her. She was equally abrasive to everyone except her boss. Yan couldn't guarantee that Genna wasn't talking about her boss behind her back, though.
Yan had met everyone in the upper leadership when they had first all boarded the Tranquility. There were a few who were on board the Petra to help coordinate all the colonists and supplies, but the bulk of the leadership was together here. A good few of them were gathered in one of the re-purposed meeting rooms, lounging on the creaking old office chairs that filled the room. Clearly, the Anthus team was using this room as more than just a dining hall, as maps and timetables were hung up all over the walls. It was a visually chaotic environment, and Yan took a second to process it as she came in. Everyone insisted on re-introducing themselves and shaking her hand, just in case she had forgotten who they were. Yan did her best to remember everyone, but the room was full to bursting with people, all of them talking loudly and enthusiastically about things that she didn't know anything about, and it was just a little overwhelming.
Everyone was alarmingly friendly. It felt like all the thousands of colonists aboard the Tranquility wanted to stick their heads in the door and greet some member of the leadership team personally as they ate their dinner. Even the man who brought their rations up from the storeroom had a long conversation about how his wife was doing with the team before he passed the food out. Yan's stomach was growling, but at least that couldn't be heard over the hubub of the room. She had to wonder if this camaraderie was born only of excitement and close confinement, or if it was a natural product of the people who had been selected to be part of this first wave of colonists.
The Anthus colony was made up primarily of people from Almanzil who wanted to get away from that heavily industrialized core world, but as with most colonies, they opened up their population to anyone who wanted to join, so there was a fairly diverse mix of people, though almost all young. Making new colonies was not the work of the old. There were very few children. The whole atmosphere reminded Yan of the housing at the Academy for the upper year students. Everyone knew their place, but they were young and untethered and in the same position together. It lead to a looseness Yan had not seen elsewhere. She had forgotten how much she missed that spirit while working with Sandreas.
When they were actually all settled down to eat, Genna's boss, Josain Ydra, pronounced that there should be a moratorium on work talk during dinner. Ydra was a stout woman who reminded Yan of some of her aunts, and she spoke jovially and loudly to everyone at the table. She didn't dote on Genna, but there was definitely a fondness in the way that she addressed her, and sat her at her side during dinner. Genna was the least senior person in the room and she sat between two of the most senior, Yan and Ydra, so she kept quiet. Someone broke out a few bottles of alcohol from some secret stash, and it was a nice compliment to the otherwise dull food.
There was only so much one could do to make packed, cold lunches an inviting party dinner. Yan tried not to be ungrateful, but she longed for the homey spacer fare that was sure to be being dished-out in the dining hall of the Tranquility. Someone had put all their sandwiches on trays to serve them, and there were little bags of cookies and chips to eat as well. People kept passing her glasses of some Almanzil specialty, and she couldn't refuse. At first, Yan was worried about drinking so much, so she sipped her drink slowly, but it turned out to be quite strong. As more people passed the bottles around and topped off her glass, Yan drank more, and eventually lost her inhibitions about it.
As the night wore on, no one seemed to be letting up on either the rowdy conversations (in fact, they seemed to be growing louder and less focused as time went on), or the passing around of the drinks and snacks. It turned out that someone or someone else had smuggled in some interesting foods with their luggage, and everyone sampled the cheeses and cakes that were produced. The room was a pleasant haze, overly warm, overly loud. Yan was laughing at everything Genna said, Genna and her boss were insulting everyone at the table, people were talking of plans for the future, all the things that they wanted to do. The room swam, and Yan swam in it.
Eventually, people started to trickle away, and Yan did her best to say her goodbyes and stumble back to her room. Iri was waiting outside the party, with a stern expression on her face. Yan laughed.
"Hi Iri," Yan said.
"You are going to be one hungover bastard tomorrow," Iri muttered. "You smell horrible."
Yan laughed again. "Sorry."
"What made you drink so much? I've never seen you like this before."
"Can't say no when I'm havin fun," Yan said, swaying on her feet.
"God. You're lucky Halen isn't here to beat that instinct out of you." Iri grabbed her arm, helping her walk down the hallways, brushing past countless straggling colonists who were still out in the hallways talking and laughing, deep into third shift.
"Halen looooooves me," Yan protested, letting Iri steer the way, leaning hard on her. "Youuuuuuu love me."
"Halen and I both like having you functional," Iri said, but she was smiling.
"I knew it," Yan said. "You love me." Yan cackled with laughter.
"I love you enough that I'll tuck your sorry ass into bed. I’ll even give you a painkiller in the morning when you come to your senses," Iri said.
They came to Yan's quarters, a tiny room that was just like every guest room on every starship. Iri mashed the combination to open the door and led Yan inside.
"Can you manage your sloppy self enough that I don't have to babysit you?" Iri asked.
"I'm not a baby," Yan said. She sat down on the bed and kicked her shoes off, sending them flying to the corners of the room. She wiggled her sock-clad toes at Iri, who rolled her eyes.
"Fine. I'll see you in the morning then," Iri said. "Goodnight Yan."
Yan waved goodbye to Iri as she shut the door behind her. Yan was feeling completely out of herself. She her thoughts felt dampened and she was unable to focus. Yan made a halfhearted attempt at getting undressed. She took off her cassock and ended up tripping over it, all tangled up in her legs. Yan kicked it away and fell backwards onto the bed, then squirmed around pathetically as she tried to remove her belt and pants. The belt came off, and she tossed it onto the floor, but the pants did not. Exhausted by her struggle with her own clothing, Yan curled up under the covers, still mostly dressed, and fell asleep.
She was woken some unknown time later by the sound of the door opening and light from the hallway spilling into her dark room. She turned her face away from the intrusion, yanking the sheets higher up over her head.
"Go away, Iri," Yan grumbled. "It's too early."
"Oh fuck." There was the sound of a panicked shuffling, and as quickly as Yan realized that the voice of the intruder was not Iri, she was already being jabbed in the arm with something, straight through her shirt. It stung, and Yan flailed around in the dark at her unseen attackers. She tried to use the power to free herself, but it slipped from her grasp like water through a pipe.
Yan felt her hand impact something hard as she punched and kicked, and someone swore again. Someone tackled her, pinning her whole body down. She came to her senses enough to try to scream, but then the heavy man on top of her jammed a cloth into her mouth and covered it with his hand. Yan was panicked, trashing about as much as she could. She tried to reach for her gun- was it still on her hip from when she crawled into bed? No- she remembered with a jolt of panic that she had taken it off and tossed it onto the floor somewhere. Again, the power that she tried to grab at slipped away from her.
She couldn't breathe, but she tried, snorting air in through her nose like a panicked animal. Spots formed on the edge of her vision, then swam in towards the center. Yan lost consciousness, falling down into a deep well of fear and horror. She was lost.
End of Part One
Bio: hi I'm noodle, I studied aeronautical engineering in college, then I taught high school math. now I'm [redacted] and [remainder of message lost].