Chitkuwi (Part III)

(Part III of III)

 

1.

 

She was no longer Mimëntët Alànkw or Chemaxawësh. The truth was she didn’t know who or where or when she was. She had travelled so fast and so far to this new something that she seemed to have left everything behind—and she didn’t have her stories to tell her who she was.

She tried to feel the black rock and ice around her. But she could not feel it. She could only move through it by making it vibrate, and in the vibration of her movement there was feeling. A feeling that reminded her she was there, but not who she used to be or where she was going. So she kept moving, vibrating and vibration, travelling from the rock and ice into the gases and dust that swirled above. Swirling so fast that at first she could barely keep up, retreating into the rock and ice to get her bearings, and then trying again until she could move with it. Move up, and out, through an electrical-like current and metallic-filled air she did not breath or taste except in its vibration.

Sometimes she would take refuge in the cold, moving so slow through it that she thought she might be dead, returning to the comfort of the rock and ice from which she had emerged. Moving always through waves of vibration that she could almost remember. Almost. But she simply could not remember without her stories. And if you cannot remember your stories, you are nothing.

 

2.

 

At the end of her shift, Ketchum looked around the bay and the inventory remaining. They had barely made a dent in the work—a feeling obviously shared with the crew who mumbled and groaned and stretched as they walked out. And that was, surely, the point. To keep them too busy to do anything else, to pay attention to anything else. “Rebellion makes work for idle hands,” they said, or something like it.

Wolfe entered as Ketchum was finalizing her daily report for Greeves. She wanted to go to him. She hadn’t had those feelings in quite a while—had almost forgotten that people shared their bodies with one another—and it caught her off-guard. But his response to her was equally visceral and inviting. She could feel the way he looked at the curves of her breasts and hips, the fullness of her lips, his eyes dilated and fixed but averted so as not to be noticed. But she did notice, and for the first time in a very long time, she wanted him to know it.

She also wanted to share the horrors she had witnessed that morning. Perhaps her sudden desire for contact, for an intimate touch, was owing to the inhumanity she had witnessed. Remembered. She so wanted to figure out how to stop Jacobs and the SF. To reconnect with Jadz. She was ready to fight.

Instead, they had to talk about schedules, say goodnight to the last of the crew to leave, finish up and send off their daily reports.

In the effort of that performance, Ketchum rubbed her eye and Wolfe stretched his leg.

“We’re quite the pair,” Ketchum commented.

Wolfe agreed, “Yes.”

At that moment Shepherd entered the bay and relieved Ketchum, who excused herself. She and Wolfe had already made plans to meet for dinner.

 

Several decks below them, an Ensign rolled Lipovskaya’s body out of an interrogation room on a gurney. As Efim stood just outside the door and pulled off his gloves, the Ensign pushed through the door and turned the gurney to make his way down the hall to the storage elevator that would take him to an incinerator.

Efim had gotten bored with Lipovskaya’s sarcasm and refusals. He had the Ensign bag her up and take her to finish what he started—to be burned alive. An irony, Efim mused out loud, of contrasting elements. And he needed to be amused, impatient as he was with having to go through the motions of conducting a proper interrogation.

But as usual Section 31 confidence was ahead of itself. As the Ensign was busy pulling the elevator gate down behind them, Lipovskaya rallied, attacked him from behind, disarmed him, and shot him dead. She was not only not dead but very much able-bodied, despite several hours of hypothermia and waterboarding, during which time Efim had taken so many breaks that it allowed her to maintain some—just enough—semblance of herself. She tore off the Ensign’s clothes and shoes and put them on, checked his—now her—weapon, and took off into the station’s darkened maze.

 

3.

 

Since she was no longer Mimëntët Alànkw or Chemaxawësh, she was having to learn who she was all over again. She seemed to have no relatives in this place of black metal rock intertwined with ice crystals. She was something else. An else without stories.

She learned that she moved fastest through the rock and ice than through the gases on the surface, except in those regions where the wind moved at its strongest. There she gave herself up to the gas and dust, letting herself be carried along its tumultuous path, until she tired and retreated back into the rock and ice and her vibrations of it.

She also learned how to ride the winds up through the gases and out into the sky, towards the inner rings of ice and rock. A part of her wished she lived up there, among the stars, and so she tried for a while to reach one. Found some moons lodged in between the rings. But the further and further out she moved, the colder she became. She would simply release herself and allow the gravity of the metal core to pull her back down.

As she learned these things, she seemed to be learning only about the limits of her mobility. And as she thought that, she feared that mobility was all that she was now. “Alëmihële,”[1] she thought. I am only Alëmihële.

 

4.

 

Jacobs, Torq, and the SF gathered in the command center. Efim and the others had changed out of their lab coats and into their fatigues. Jacobs reviewed the audio from Saturn with them, looping it muted as data codes and light graphs on the wall of monitors behind him.

“These are clearly transmissions from an intelligent life form. And they are clearly a warning. A laying down of a flag in this sector. But we will not allow them to interfere with our directives. We will wage a war of extermination and continue until this alien race is extinct!”

He was preaching to the choir but choirs responded to preachers.

“These Saturnians—or whatever the fuck they are—are the enemy and we will wipe them out. Their women and children, their cities and villages, their property and infrastructure. Forget oblique references to operations, this is a fight against those who would take from us that which we have need and want. This is a war. Against an enemy who would prevent us from our destiny—from our profits!”

The members of Section 31 raised their hands in the air and cried their victory.

“UCorp is not having any of it. We will not have any of it! H-55 is the energy source we’ve been waiting for and we will eradicate the competition. We will locate the little snakes down there and we will destroy them. Every last one of them!”

The soldiers cried and whooped as if they were drunk. Efim, Holmes, Báthory, Ripper, and Rais looked at each other, amused at the theater.

Jacobs dismissed them, “You have your orders.” Torq led them out of the room. They marched to the shuttle bay. The probes they would send had been developed to penetrate Jupiter’s atmosphere; they were modified to deal with Saturn’s 1.6093 kph winds and seemingly ongoing cataclysmic storms in -150 Celsius temperatures.

 

The bay’s control room was a multi-leveled series of desks and monitors. Soldiers took their stations with Efim, Holmes, Báthory, Ripper, and Rais directing. Jacobs and Torq paced behind and above them from a ready room.

The probes were dispatched, their transmissions returned and studied, as they searched in vain for the exact location, the source, of the sounds. At one moment, someone suggested that the sound seemed to dance in perfect clockwise motion along Saturn’s equator. But as soon as the words were spoken, the movements changed course. The pattern shifted.

“Monkeys think they can fake us out,” Jacobs muttered as he paced.

“Like we can’t figure them out,” Torq agreed.

In the end, they could not figure out or pinpoint an exact location. The probes were recalled. Jacobs and Torq were incensed. Efim, Holmes, Báthory, Ripper, and Rais baffled. There were sounds, echoes, but no seeming source of them. They were everywhere and nowhere.

“How the fuck can that be?” Jacobs spewed, Torq moving out of the way of his spit.

 

From several decks above, Ketchum could see the probes returning—some more weathered than others. So as she left the cargo bay, she took the long way back to her quarters in order investigate.

As she turned a corner out of a storage elevator’s door, she literally ran into Lipovskaya, whose weapon was drawn and focused on her. Ketchum pulled out her own and they stood off. It wasn’t until Lipovskaya cleared her frazzled blonde hair from her face to see Ketchum more clearly that Ketchum recognized her.

“War is peace,” Ketchum said, and repeated. “War is peace.”

Lipovskaya took a step back and studied Ketchum’s face. She mouthed the phrase—“Freedom is igKornce”—and stared at Ketchum’s face.

“Effie?” Lipovskaya whispered to herself and then out loud. “Effie!” They both lowered their weapons. Ketchum moved to hug her but Lipovskaya backed up so she stopped herself.

“We thought SF had killed you. We thought you were dead,” Ketchum said, relieved.

“So did I,” Lipovskaya said. “But no such luck for them.”

 

Ketchum led Lipovskaya to her quarters, tended to her wounds, let her shower, got her a change of clothes and food.

Over soup and bread, Lipovskaya made Ketchum swear not to tell anyone that she was alive or where she was. She could do more if no one knew. After much convincing, Ketchum agreed to keep her secret.

Lipovskaya then told Ketchum that there was an infiltrator. She didn’t know who it was but somebody had to have betrayed them. Efim knew too many things about her, hadn’t even bothered to question her. She assumed they knew more about the Ktën than he led on. They had to be careful.

Ketchum agreed.

Lipovskaya then explained that H-55 was the promised new energy source UCorp was waiting for and that there was some kind of life on Saturn—that the SF was set on destroying that life to get unfettered access to the energy on Titan and they assumed on the other moons around the gaseous, metal mass. But Lipovskaya and her team had only just begun their research and only just submitted the preliminary results when the K‑5 happened and their access to the network was cut off.

Ketchum listened carefully. She wanted to know who else of the Ktën were onboard. Lipovskaya said she only knew of Jadz, from the station, and Wolfe and Khaled, from the freighter. That no single group out there ever knew more than about 4 or 5 others and that only one among them would know everyone—she thought that might be Wolfe or Khaled. She gathered there were other groups on the freighter.

“And our directives remain the same?”

“But trust no one—any one of them could be a collaborator.”

“So why trust me?” Ketchum asked.

“Because you I know… I am tired now. I must sleep.”

“Of course. But, just one more thing. Our mission remains the same?”

“Yes. We are to destroy the station. All of them will be destroyed.”

“Good. UCorp must not be allowed to destroy the stars as they have the earth.”

 

Ketchum left to keep her appointment with Wolfe. But she was late. By the time she got to the mess hall, they were no longer serving dinner and she couldn’t see Wolfe anywhere. She sat alone at a table in the middle of the room, staring at a cup of coffee.

She could almost see the smell. Her prosthetic was fully recovered from the sleep mixture and engaged. Her brain was still sluggish in processing the information but it was all there. Sometimes she would be aware of it in the moment and sometimes she would realize a bit later that she had seen and understood things more than she could process. But in either case, it was a powerful sensation of seeing and recalling that stimulated her other senses. It made her feel alive.

She knew Wolfe was approaching before she saw him. He plopped himself across from her, pulling out a flask from his jacket pocket and putting down a couple of empty cups on the table. He poured a shot, threw it back, and immediately poured himself a second. He then poured one for Ketchum.

“There’s nothing wrong with the communications array on the station. Not one goddamn thing.” He spoke softly and quickly as Ketchum drank to catch up.

Ketchum nodded.

“You got anything?” He asked, looking about the room.

“Working on it,” she replied and took a sip of her drink.

“Okay then,” Wolfe closed up his flask and got up to leave.

“That’s it. That’s all you’ve got to say to me?” Ketchum showed her frustration, raising her voice a little. A group across from them looked over but quickly got back to their card game. She became embarrassed. She had so much she wanted to talk to him about—had so many things she wanted to say.

Wolfe poured her another drink. “Casual, Effie. Fly casual.” He looked around and gestured towards a table of soldiers nearby.

Ketchum took a small sip and exhaled. She spoke softly. “They’re torturing the scientists to death.”

Wolfe nodded. “I know. We know. We’ve tried. There’s nothing we can do for them right now. I’ve got to get back to the bridge,” Wolfe said and then whispered, “my quarters. 19:30.”

Ketchum nodded and Wolfe took off.

She finished her drink slowly. And then concentrated, trying to recall everything she had seen that morning.

With some effort, she could. She could see it all in her mind’s eye. Almost with perfect clarity. And in the effort she realized that the processor in her prosthetic—the one that helped her translate raw pixel data into recognizable shapes and colors for her visual cortex—somehow also coded her memories. Or vice versa. Memories attached themselves to senses, senses belonged to memories.

And there it was. Efim’s orders. The blood on Rais’ jacket. “Love is stronger than death.” Blood red wine. And the woman. The woman who watched her. The woman following her out of the cargo bay, down the corridor to her quarters, back to the mess hall. Ketchum looked up and around the room and saw the woman, sitting quietly in the corner. Meital! Meital was following her.

Ketchum returned to her quarters. Now that she knew to look for her, she watched Meital, who thought she was maintaining a safe distance. Out of sight. How much did she know? Ketchum wondered. Did she know about Lipovskaya? Probably not. She had no memory of her from the morning. Only after her shift at the cargo bay. Was there someone else around? Someone she had missed?

Ketchum opened the door to her quarters to find Lipovskaya was gone. Her weapon’s box was open and missing half its contents. “Damn it, Pamela.”

 

5.

 

Alëmihële took refuge in the rock and ice. It suited her to stay there, alone, and so she did.

Manëtu saw this and thought, “This has gone on long enough.” So Manëtu joined her there.

“You are not movement. You are not only moving,” Manëtu said.

“That is all it is now. It only moves. Alëmihële.”

“You are disoriented. Unsettled.”

“I do not understand why it is here, in this place without place or time. What is it supposed to be doing? What is its responsibility? It only seems to be good for moving.”

“I will not tell you everything now, only that you are not Alëmihële. You are Xinkwitakòn.”[2]

“It is Xinkwitakòn,” she replied, as a question.

“You are Xinkwitakòn,” Manëtu repeated.

“I am Xinkwitakòn.”

Manëtu showed Xinkwitakòn some of what it was to be herself. “Silence is death,” she explained, and had Xinkwitakòn follow her through the rock and ice, the gases and dust, the clouds and the cold and the ice crystals, and showed her how to vibrate them together or apart, all at once or one at a time, to produce different kinds of patterns and textures. “You are life.”

“I cause these things to happen?” Xinkwitakòn asked.

“You are the sound,” Manëtu answered. “You are not the cause or effect.”

Manëtu showed Xinkwitakòn how she was in relation to the core, the magnetic poles, the gravity, the equator, and the rotation and winds and temperatures of the planet. How she could produce different rhythms and how to pull them all together or take them apart to tell different kinds of stories about herself—her love, anger, grief, joy, pain, loss, aspiration, here, there, now, then. “You must tell your stories to be,” Manëtu said. “I must tell my stories,” Xinkwitakòn repeated.

Xinkwitakòn created, was the creation. She made and was made in relation to the place, she was made and unmade by the place. Xinkwitakòn knew that she perceived and reflected herself through the aspatiality and atemporality of different elements but that she was only ever Xinkwitakòn in space and time. The meaning of the tree in the forest who cries out when cut down and pulled up from its roots is in the place-record of the cries—in the futures of their telling and hearing. Xinkwitakòn remembered that that is where her stories were and retreated into the place where she had emerged, binding herself to its past and future. In the overwhelming rush of stories from the core of rock and ice she remembered all that she was and filled with the contentment and peace of knowing her responsibilities and then feeling, for the first time, the shell of Turtle below her. She wept sounds of relief and joy in familiarity.

So contented and peaceful, Xinkwitakòn didn’t notice when Manëtu had to leave to return to the other world. At the exact moment of that thought, the first probe from the Scire-6 attempted to breach Saturn’s winds and find the planet’s surface. Xinkwitakòn watched it explode. And then another. And then another. And then another. Each one to a different region of the planet and each one with the same result. And the sounds they made were deafening, like she imagined death would be. So she decided to ride in a probe for a while to figure out what they were doing. She moved around inside, then back and forth through its transmissions, listening to its languages of data code and light. But the code and light that the probe generated mistranslated everything it heard and saw into the false binaries of 0 and 1, evil and good, enemy and friend, yours and mine, irrelevance and value. The fixed formulas of differentiation it assumed to be true did not only get it all wrong but distorted and mislead about what was. Xinkwitakòn, disheartened, returned to the rock and ice and prayed to Turtle for wisdom. She would not see another probe for quite some time.

The second time the probes came—long after Xinkwitakòn had learned to make herself into the songs of life and death by controlling all manner (and matter) of frequency and pitch—they were more methodical and determined, ominous and menacing in their size and speed, and then they too were gone. In a blip in time, first here and then there, not long enough for her to try to change the distortions and misfeeds of information and light that they transmitted. And while the last time she wanted to correct them, this time they affected vibrations cold and foreboding.

 

6.

 

Section 31 secured the last of the probes in the docking bay and returned to the command center where Jacobs was waiting for them.

Jacobs was incredulous that they couldn’t figure it out. But now that they had an accurate map of the planet, he decided they would proceed on schedule with the drones.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Jacobs injected. “They live underground.”

“How reptilian,” Báthory whispered to Holmes nearest her, titillated by the idea of capturing a specimen. “Indeed,” Holmes agreed.

“So we’ll just have to blast the hell out of their rock, or shield, or whatever that fucking planet is.” Jacobs pronounced. “Force them into the light of fire.”

“Would be a shame to lose the opportunity to gather a sample for study,” Báthory said. Jacobs brushed her aside. Operations were to commence at 05:00.

 

Efim and Ripper were the first to leave the command for the five-hour respite. Their dead bodies were found not too long after by Holmes and Rais, who returned quickly to inform Jacobs. Jacobs and Torq were infuriated. Clearly the Ktën had engaged.

Jacobs called Venables and Shepherd, Penn and Anderson to meet him at command. The Ktën would have to be dealt with but Jacobs was not willing to alter their timeline. So he ordered Torq to put the station and freighter on lockdown and ordered the Captains to assist. Once they had finished dealing with whoever or whatever was on the planet, they would deal with the Ktën.

Torq thought Jacobs was getting ahead of himself. He assumed that the scientists were a part of the resistance. That their initial reports about life on Saturn were premature and hysterical. Or a vintage Ktën ruse. Jacobs regularly called them “tree huggers” and “hippies,” old terms for an older generation, Torq thought. Jacobs was beginning to show himself irrelevant to a UCorp whose ambitions reached beyond earth and into the galaxy. And beyond the scientists Jacobs really had no idea who the members of the Scire-6 cell were or what their plans were. Neither had he been able to find anyone onboard the K-5. Jacobs was all conjecture and circumstance and Torq preferred facts.

 

Ketchum, Wolfe, and Jadz were in Wolfe’s quarters when the lockdown orders were announced over K-5’s comm system. Jadz was just then explaining her reasons for wanting to bring in Meital. Ketchum was trying to decide—could she trust Jadz with what she knew? Did Jadz trust her enough to hear it? The announcement interrupted their concentrations. Wolfe was about to say something when there was a knock on the door.

“That was a little too fast,” he said as he opened it.

It was Khaled and Ward. Khaled explained that they were under orders to search everyone’s quarters, then ordered Ketchum and Jadz to return to their own.

Ketchum was just down the corridor but Jadz had to make a long way back to the station. They parted without saying anything more, both knowing that there was much left to be said.

 

7.

 

Xinkwitakòn didn’t have to wait long for the blasts to begin. They rang like a meteor shower against the rock and ice, gases and dust, clouds and cold. At first the explosions were superficial but then consequential, rippling damage from her core ever outwards.

The planet began to crack and moan and then oozed hot molten lava up and out in protest, spitting fire and water into the torrential winds above which then hurled the rock about like it were sands of pebble.

Xinkwitakòn screamed at the drones to stop, to listen, but her stories fell on deaf ears.

She would have to be brave.

She got herself onto one of the drones flying by and screamed bitter horrible death. She screamed for herself, for the planet below, for Turtle, and in her screams remembered her ancestors, her children the Ila, and all her relatives.

In the vibrations of her anger and grief, past and present, the drone began to vibrate, bursting cracks and fissures. One of those cracks released the drone’s load of unexploded bombs.

Xinkwitakòn vibrated more of her frustrations at their refusals to hear her, to hear anything else than what they expected—0, evil, enemy, yours, irrelevance—that she didn’t realize the drone had returned to the K-5’s docking bay until it was too late. As it landed, Jacobs and Torq stood nearby to examine the damage.

Xinkwitakòn left the drone for the corridor exiting the bay along the air waves caused by the drone’s landing and virtual collapse into itself.

Jacobs turned to Torq, screaming obscenities about the alien vermin who had destroyed his drone, and then screamed orders that all drones be deployed and continue their assault until Saturn was nothing but a dust bowl.

Torq tried to suggest that if they completely destroyed the planet, they risked destroying its moons, putting H-55 at risk. But Jacobs ignored him and called for reinforcements. Venables, Shepherd, Penn, Anderson, and all available officers and trusted personnel were commanded to report to the docking bay for new orders.

 

8.

 

The announcement over the comm that they were under alien attack made Ketchum laugh out loud. She almost missed the orders over her personal comm to report to the docking bay. She wasn’t sure what the subterfuge was all about but she was not going to fall for it. She pulled out the remaining contents of her weapon’s box and suited up. Just then, her entire body was shocked by the loudest sense of pressure that she had ever known—an energy that seemed to originate in her core being and migrate outwards in spirals of vibration. She grabbed her head, trying to hold herself together, then exhaled a scream so loud it shook the room, or at least her sense of it. If silence was death, she thought, then life was in that scream. In the mix of terror and anger she knew—she remembered—who she was and where she was from and what she needed to do. She could see it in her mind’s eye in perfect clarity, like a memory she longed to create, a history she wanted to be able to tell, a history she wanted to stop.

Ketchum exited her quarters. The corridor was quiet. She intended to make her way down to command, learn what she could, and then find Lipovskaya, Wolfe, and Jadz. But as she turned a corner to avoid the main elevators, she quite literally ran into Lipovskaya, Wolfe, and Jadz coming to get her.

They hid themselves away in an access shaft and shared what they knew as quickly as they could. Ketchum hesitated for a moment about whether or not say anything about Meital but decided it was important. Jadz couldn’t believe it, wanted to hear it for herself from Meital, but Lipovskaya wasn’t surprised.

“You will ask her,” Lipovskaya said to Jadz. “You will know.” She then explained all that Efim had seemed to know about her—all entirely personal and intimate, secrets only a lover would know, nothing about the Ktën. He didn’t even really seem to know she was a part of the resistance or what the resistance was about. Was just interested in getting rid of those who might cause UCorp trouble in their plans for H-55, in their future profits.

It took them no time to agree that they would skip Jacobs’ circus act at the docking bay and commandeer the K-5. They would need Khaled’s help.

Since they knew everyone was at the docking bay, they decided to head to the SF command center first. Conduct some recon and perhaps secure more weapons. They decided it best to break up, take different routes, so as to better ensure their success. Lipovskaya and Jadz headed out first, taking a service elevator; Wolfe and Ketchum headed out next, making their way to a stairwell.

 

9.

 

After a crowd had gathered in the docking bay, Torq quieted everyone down to hear from Jacobs, but only after pointing out to Venables and Penn in front of Jacobs that some of their bridge officers were missing. Jacobs waved away Torq’s concern and faced the crowd.

As he pontificated about UCorp patriotism and alien attacks, Xinkwitakòn returned to the bay and listened carefully. As she listened to the lies, her despair transformed into rage. I am not your enemy, but I can be your enemy. I am not your other, but I can reflect the other you see. I am not evil but I will be the evil you have made. I will be your savage, your terrorist.

Xinkwitakòn moved along the air waves in the bay to create a wind through which she produced large sonic booms—clockwise, round and round, slowly at first and then faster and faster. She boomed the sounds of savage defiance and terrorist refusals, of anger, producing chaotic energy waves that dispelled the air into pockets of frenzied commotion.

No one could tell where the sounds originated from or where they were going. They covered their ears and screamed silence.

Jacobs and Torq, thinking they were under attack, ordered return fire and retreated to the control room. The ensuing chaos in the bay—as everyone shot into the increasing booms and vibrations—muted the discordance in the freighter’s structural integrity. As the bay’s electric shield collapsed along with the bearing walls, the remaining air was pulled instantly out into space, taking everything and everyone with it—drones, shuttles, cargo, men, women, flew out into space to become debris in Saturn’s rings. Everything and everyone but Xinkwitakòn, who made her way deliberately back through the rock and gases and water of the rings, back along the gases of the winds, back into the black metal core of Saturn.

 

10.

 

Jacobs and Torq exited the control room to the outside corridor and made their way to the command center. They intended to retrieve firearms before heading to controls. But in their heightened confusion and disbelief, they didn’t anticipate or notice Ketchum, Lipovskaya, Wolfe, and Jadz waiting for them. They had watched from the security monitors at the center what looked like an explosion out of the bay, the expulsion of everything and everyone who was there out into space, and Jacobs and Torq run like cowards away from it all.

“War is a lie,” Ketchum said in defiance.

“Freedom is a lie,” Wolfe followed.

“The fucking Ktën,” Torq said.

“IgKornce is a lie,” Wolfe declared.

The hand-to-hand fight was quick. In a moment when Torq had knocked Jadz out and gotten the advantage with Lipovskaya, Khaled entered and shot him dead. Ketchum and Wolfe finished off Jacobs, but as Lipovskaya helped Jadz up, Meital and Ward entered, guns drawn.

 

“What the fuck?” Jadz cried. “You’re going to shoot us?”

Meital pretended to be pointing her gun at Khaled. “He’s the traitor, Jadz. He’s been giving UCorp intel on us all along.”

“What are you talking about?” Khaled responded.

Wolfe overtook Ward, knocking him out and to the ground.

Meital cocked her gun. Lipovskaya put her guns on the ground and walked up to Meital, facing her off.

“You are the collaborator. Not Khaled. Not my brother Khaled. You,” Lipovskaya said. “You told them everything. Everything about us. Everything that Jadz told you while you two made love.”

“Is it true, Meity?” Jadz asked. “Is it true?”

“The interrogator knew it all,” Lipovskaya said as she moved closer and closer to Meital. “He knew what we did in bed, how we did it, when we did it. Nothing much about the Ktën, because we never told you anything. But everything else, he knew.”

Meital pressed her gun up against Lipovskaya’s forehead.

“You are traitors,” Meital said defiantly. “You would thwart peace for socialism. You would deny us our profits. You—you are the traitors!”

Lipovskaya spit in Meital’s face and backed up a step. She looked over at Jadz. “If you cannot do this, I will.”

Jadz stared at Meital, looking for understanding, for some recognition of the old friend she loved. And though she saw none of what she needed there, she just couldn’t do it. So Lipovskaya did. The only respite any of them would find from the pains of betrayal would be in watching the Scire-6 explode into the silences of space. So the group proceeded to the K-5 bridge. They didn’t have any trouble taking command but they had disagreements about what to do next. After a long discussion, they set the self-destruct command and ordered the station to be evacuated. They knew bringing the crews together would create problems for the Ktën in moving forward. But they were not going to indiscriminately kill everyone on the station. They were not UCorp. They didn’t want to be part of a resistance built from the refuse of mass murder.

 

11.

 

Xinkwitakòn returned to the safety of the back of Turtle, in Saturn’s core. Molten lava all around them wailed and cried and laughed and spit fire and water against the universe. Xinkwitakòn thought that a Fire Serpent must be around and looked for her but did not see her just then. Xinkwitakòn had become Manëtu now and would travel to other worlds. Perhaps she would look for Fire Serpent. Perhaps she would return to the forest. Perhaps she would go back to the sky where she fell through the hole to land on the turtle’s back. For now, she would create a song about love.

[1] Alëmihële: It is moving.

[2] Xinkwitakòn: Sound.

California-born Lenape (citizen of the Delaware Tribe of Indians). Educator, writer, filmmaker, digital art hack, lover of science fiction and film, kitty staffer.

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