And now–a continuation of last month’s “Saturn Rising”
(If you need to catch up, here’s the link to Episode One: https://thebeautifulstuff.blog/2021/01/21/dime-store-novel-episode-one/)
“Where in the hades are we taking this—thing?” she barely acknowledged the bound and now gagged girl in the seat next to him. The gag had been Laria’s idea. Though their ‘package’ had come willing with Link’s smooth and deep-voiced insistence that she had nothing to fear, Laria couldn’t have her sobbing out thanks or screaming in alarm. They had enough ferking problems. Getting off of T’Elliot’s ship hadn’t exactly been graceful and Laria suffered a deep gash when a lucky blaster shot had caught her arm as they’d tumbled through the airlock and activated the emergency escape course. Thank Kronos her ship was smarter than Link. The girl looked at Laria from beneath long, black lashes and a shiver ran beneath her suit. Those nebulous eyes, deep and trusting, reminded her of Edmund D’Sol. He had those eyes. Too soft for a place as hard as The Ring. Maybe this girl was a Prophetic also. Maybe she was just a girl that someone wanted. “I’m not into flesh trafficking, Link, so you’d better have something else in mind.” “Ugh, do you think me so crass?” Link placed his hand over the heart of his blue leather vest. Leather. Remnant of the creatures that had almost made a go of it in some of the settlements. Almost. Nothing survived out here. “I don’t know what to think of you anymore,” she shook her head. “Now that hurts! Eight years we’ve been out here and you’ve never cut me so deep.” “We both know that’s not true.” “I forgive you my finger.” He said and held up the shortened digit in salute. “Forgive me? Listen, you deserved that ounce. Probably more.” “And to this day I’ve learned my lesson not to touch unless invited.” He smiled. She felt a small tickle in her cheeks, as though they were trying to mimic it. “Is that invitation still waylaid, or can I expect it soon—” “The girl, Link. Focus.” He rolled his eyes. “Someday, Eularia, you’ll see me for the catch I am.” “I already know of at least three things I’d catch from you so, no thanks. The girl.” “Titan,” he said the word like a bitter taste in the back of his throat. “No ferkin—” “Titan, the far side,” he repeated. “I—” “Hate me?” “Don’t like this. This whole thing. This isn’t Dolarian Chickens, Link! This is a kronosdamn human! Who pays for humans? No one good, I can tell you that much.” “Do you want to get out of The Ring or not?” Laria set the course to stay in the orbit of the second ring then spun her chair around to face the girl. Reluctantly, and with a scowl so fierce she might have been able to overthrow a government with it, Laria removed the gag from the small triangle of her face. The girl did not scream, only studied Laria, curiously. “You are from a different people,” she said softly and in broken words. “Mismatched eyes, very rare. Are you alien?” “Oh for…no! I’m a Mutt.” Laria shifted uncomfortably. “But you have old blood…something…before Royal even—” The girl’s face was in awe. “I didn’t ungag you to talk about a lot of old people that I wouldn’t give two shits for. I wanna know who you are.” “I am Rhea.” “Wow! The goddess? Funny, I imagined you taller.” Laria dismissed. “Rhea D’Sol.” Rhea elongated the last name and stared at her pointedly. Laria cocked her head and shied away from the coincidence. “And?” she said, as if that was supposed to mean something. “I am the map to the Conduit.” “Like I said, a map.” Link said, a wave of his hand and everything explained. “A map is a set of coordinates, laser brain, not a kronosdamn person.” “I am the map to the Conduit,” the girl repeated, as if for the first time. The revelation meant nothing to Laria even on the second go around. She sighed, the line between her eyes deepening. “Right. A map. Cool—” she rubbed the line inadvertently hoping the headache behind it would magically stop. “Link. I swear to the gods—” “I promise, its nothing shady!” “If we get there and its some drooling old Royal looking for his kicks with a fourteen—” “I am fifteen—” “Year old kid,” Laria interrupted. “I will tie you to a lanyard and drag The Ring with you.” “I swear, Eularia—” “I will hit e-ve-er-y ferking rock in The Ring, Link.” “Understood, Captain,” he leveled his deep brown, olive eyes on hers and smiled. Laria buried her head in her hands and nodded. “I guess we’re headed to the dark side of Titan. Buckle up, ferkers. It’s gonna get rough.” * * * * “God is a mean-spirited, pugnacious bully bent on revenge against His children for failing to live up to his impossible standards.” W. Whitman Evangeline A’Faust hated Saturn. Mostly, she hated Saturnians. But today she set into motion a plan that would allow her to leave this Kronos forsaken out-post, once and for all. Based on a prophecy she had intercepted in the grit of The Ring; she began planning the acquisition of an important map that would lead to a Conduit. A Conduit which, she hoped, would open a portal to a new planet. She had always been underestimated; the spoiled daughter of the Supreme Council Leader himself. But she had no desire to take control of this planet’s dying population. She wanted a new solar system to mine. More bountiful profits to gain. She could be the Supreme Goddess of a new world if she desired, unfettered by the laws of this one. Evangeline smirked at the turbulent and impassable rings outside her window. The key to her power was on a ship not six-marks from them. By the end of the moon rise in Titan, she’d have the map and soon the Conduit. Evangeline looked down at her manicured nails and picked a bit of crusted blood from one corner; murdering the Prophetics who knew of the Conduit had proven to be nasty, bloody business. But one she took pleasure in. Bloodshed could only lead to a higher purpose, higher than any who had come before her. And, after all, Saturn’s Children were born to be sacrificed. When the vastness of space began to close in on her, she turned away from the viewing deck and clasped her hands carefully in front of her robes. She’d sent that idiot, Janus A’verlink, for the map, having learned by removing a Prophetic’s organs, one at a time, that it was in the possession of T’Elliot’s pirating crew. The Ring Rats were also attempting to at gain control of the Conduit, it seemed. Her back-up, because where Janus ‘Link’ A’verlink was concerned one should always have a back-up, was to have her best and most viscous marksman go after them and clean up any Ring Rat interlopers that might try to take control of the map. It was a delicate balance to maintain. But Evangeline loved balance.