The Impossibility of J/CBy Ika
Page 1 of 3
Cally was alone, running on the stationary track. The holographic walls close around her showed lush, hilly landscapes blurring past and the air was wet and humid. Her hair stuck to her face in straggles where it was coming out of its ponytail, and her shirt stuck to her thin torso, darkened with sweat. Her face was sharp and blank: her mind was neither.
She got off the treadmill, putting a towel round her neck and wiping her face with a corner of it. She wondered what purpose was served by continuing to keep up combat levels of fitness, now that her comrades had demobilized themselves. She wondered whether and when her pleasure in disciplining her body like this had become masochistic.
Jenna was working the bar: quick-stepping her complicated way through a clutter of people at tables, people dancing, people queuing for drinks; charming her way past jogged elbows and spilled drinks with an over-the-shoulder smile and a whirlwind flirtation of eyelashes. The lights bleached and dyed and bleached her pale hair; coloured shadows came and went across her face. Dancing, she was; or, better, flying, breathtakingly and three-dimensionally free, the underlying strictness of metal and circuitry invisible to anyone but her.
Jenna sits in the galley, staring into space, her hands round a mug of something hot as if it was the only thing holding her half-upright, as if it was the only thing between her and the Andromedan fleet. The galley comm is linked in to the flight deck and she is barely audible over Blake's voice, shouting, Avon's voice, shouting back.
"It's over, Cally," she says.
"What do you mean?"
"Not us. Not just us. Everything."
The small white room is like a well Cally is falling down forever. Fatigue is screwing with her vision and the straight lines and right angles are warping around her.
"What do you mean, Jenna?"
"Blake's all there is left. He's all that matters now. Everything's gone insane, Cally."
"You're exhausted," says Cally. "We'll talk later."
Zen's voice over the comm: +Enemy strategy is now confirmed. Battle computers indicate full alien counterattack is underway.+
Jenna sways as she rises, heading back to the flight deck. Cally is too late to steady her. Two
Jenna sat down on the only chair left right-way-up in the bar, took out her penknife and opened a bottle, put her feet up on the small table, took a long drink, and sighed.
The sound of the door opening, when it opened, hardly startled her. She only shifted slightly in her seat to face whoever it was and checked that the handle of the gun in her boot was accessible.
"Who wants to know?"
Jenna smiled, swung her feet off the table, and said: "Get yourself a drink."
"I've got a commission for you," Shel said, flipping a chair one-handed off the next table over. She took a drink from the bottle in her other hand and sat straddling the chair, leaning her elbows on its back.
Shel nodded. "Four warm bodies. Not carrying."
"More refugees from the cleanup in Freedom City?" She hesitated. "Not this time, Jenna. They want passage inwards."
"Risky. They'd better not be carrying."
"Not so much as a packet of cigarettes."
"Well, I can do it, but it'll cost them."
"Ah," said Shel. "I don't think it will."
"Oh? Where are they going?"
Shel's eyes dropped. "Gavisos," she said. "Blake's base."
Towelling off, Cally shook the conversation she was having with Jenna (It's not just Blake, it never was, don't you see it couldn't be? There had to be something in you that...) out of her head. The cabin seemed horribly silent without it, and something else - lonely?
She frowned a little, thinking about it. She supposed she hadn't seen anyone else for - she wasn't quite sure how long. Too long, then. She realized, too, that she didn't even know where they were going.
She pulled on a lavender jumpsuit and went down the empty corridors. The conversation in her head started up again. (But, Jenna...)
"Course, Zen," she said over it before she realized that the rest of the crew were on the flight deck and she should have spoken to them first.
+Course eight two eight zero four. Destination is the planet Earth.+
"Why Earth?" she asked, and as they explained she began to feel hollow and lost. Nothing to fight for now but the dead, Avon?
Jenna and Cally are sitting warm and close on the couch. Avon enters, takes a moment to arrange himself - feet square for confrontation, knees loose against the motion of the ship - looks through them and asks: "Where's Blake?"
Jenna's chin goes up: steel and sparks in her voice. Avon tosses a data card onto the table: "Another of Blake's little schemes he hasn't thought fit to tell us about. You are not going to believe the target he has in mind."
"The Federation weapons development base?" asks Cally demurely, and catches Jenna's look, swaying pleasantly dizzy as she absorbs the force of it.
"He obviously thought fit to tell someone about it."
"Well, not exactly. I suggested it to him."
"You suggested it to him?" Jenna drawls, settling herself more comfortably into the fight. "That's very keen of you," and Cally begins to burn slow and steady in the measure of Jenna's half-hidden heat, but before she can answer Vila has deflected her into a four-cornered argument about whether Blake will attack Central Control.
"Alone, probably," says Avon.
"I doubt that," says Jenna, tilting her head and brushing her hand against Cally's.
"He wouldn't be alone if you just left him," says Gan. Cally smiles obliquely at Jenna: Exactly. She lets Avon sharpen his claws on Gan and then goes on with what she was saying:
"And for that attack we shall need all the weapons we can get."
Jenna turns towards her. They look at each other for a second, balancing in anticipation, like fighters bowing to one another in the ring, like dancers the moment before the music starts; and then Blake walks in and lines himself up opposite Avon, talking over the women's heads to him: "And where better to get them than the weapons development base?"
The energies in the room scatter and refocus along the line between Avon's face and Blake's face and a moment later the crew have shuffled, Cally next to Blake, Jenna in the centre of the couch, Avon behind her shoulder on the scan station.
Blake asks Jenna a question.
Avon answers him.
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