Lisa was early for her meeting. The grass was growing tall and wild here, the mildest fan driven wind caused subtle waves to frolic through the field. The bugs weren’t back in force yet, but she had a few skeeter bites on her neck and arms. She saw her two kras mates approaching. She had not told Syrge and Scroot about this meeting. Kay must have called them separately.
Lisa sat in the grass and watched them approach. The reeds almost hid her completely. Syrge sat next to her. Scroot remained standing.
“Do you still remember the venting? And Elvis and Vince?” asked Syrge.
“Yes. Stop asking.”
“Well, I worry. Nano tech invading our minds and erasing memories is a pretty big deal, even on this station.”
“Kay said it was easy to override, just that people didn’t know they needed to. Since we knew it was coming, her tech kept our brains intact.”
“She told you to meet her here too obviously.”
“Some more people moved in near the six o’clock passage.”
“I saw smoke from their fires.”
“Are you still with Marion’s group?”
“You’re not going to be a…?”
“A whore? No. Even if I was so inclined, I’m not sure my condition would allow it.”
“That’s… I didn’t think of that.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. The slum sphere population was currently at around two hundred. Kria and Marion had gotten several dozen people out into the core passages. When the decompression occurred, automatic seals had slammed into place to protect the rest of the station. The wide-open area of the slum sphere had been emptied of everything not connected to the station. Robotic repair crews had resealed the sphere, and nano swarms had been fed through the ventilation system editing the memories of the populace that was aware of the events. A surprisingly small number of people due to diligent work by the Media President’s Drones. A week later the doors had reopened and the poor and downtrodden had begun making their way back. It was the only place to go when you couldn’t hack it in the Darwinian social jungle of the station.
Syrge pointed across the sward.
“Here she comes. She turned out to be an okay person huh? Thought at first she was just slumming with us for kicks.”
“Yeah. She’s okay.”
Blue Kay was walking slowly toward them. They stood up so she would be able to see them. Lisa stretched her arms toward the core, twisting lightly to work out the kinks in her muscles.
“Hey Zombie Lisa, Lysergic Adam.”
Lisa and Kay held each other’s gazes for a moment. Kay blinked slowly and looked down. She breathed in slowly.
“This place doesn’t smell as bad as it used to.”
“Give it a year.”
“… I talked to Vince.”
Lisa inhaled sharply and then forced herself calm.
“So he’s alive.”
“Yeah. He said that Elvis was… that he didn’t make it.”
Syrge sat down hard on the ground and put his face in his hands. Scroot walked over and sat next to him.
“So where’s Vince,” asked Lisa, not completely keeping the pain out of her voice.”
“I don’t know. He accepted my UNO and sent an INO. There was so much pain in it. Then he blocked me.”
Lisa’s body deflated slightly, she wondered for a second why she ever bothered moving her arms at all. They were just hanging there now, fine on their own, dangling still and numb.
“Oh man. He’s not dead,” her voice cracked and reached a little girl high pitch, “I’ve been all watery inside for weeks!” her laughter turned into a sob. Blue Kay covered her face with her hands. Her shoulders were shaking. Syrge went up and buried his face in her side. She put her arm around him and they stood that way for a timeless moment.
Kay finally pulled her face out of her hands and smiled garishly, tears streaming down her face. Her plumage was dull with fluttery colors.
“I was going to… I was going to get him some tech… Work with him to make this a better… place. I… thought… hhh… maybe… we’d be immortal… huc… together. I could imagine it with him.”
Kay was letting her emotions out. She had been chemically tamping them down. Part of her felt like she was showing off, another part of her was just a raw and screaming naked nerve.
Lisa was torn up by her sense of relief that Vince was alive and the finality of the fact that Elvis was dead. And she started to get angry too. Kay slumped to the ground and rested back on her arms, her face raised. She wiped away the salt water from her face. She forced some balance in herself without using her tech.
“So. Sorgit. Never lost someone close… I mean died, never died… had some one I… someone I cared about died. It makes me feel poor…”
Lisa’s burning, teary, shaking turned to a laugh, and back to a sob. Kay wiped her face again and looked up at Lisa.
“I’m still part of this kras though. I want you all to come live with me. My parents have already chastised me and moved on to something else. I just say you’re working for me. We can carry on Elvis’s dreams.”
Syrge used his shirt to wipe snot from his face and looked wide-eyed at Kay.
“Moving to the Diamond Sphere?”
Scroot stopped clacking away at his keyboard and looked over as well. Syrge laughed.
“Scroot’s a tech whore. He can’t wait to get a weirld rig!”
Kay raised her upper lip in nearly a smile and looked at Lisa. Lisa was breathing slow with her eyes closed.
“I’m not leaving. I’m going to rebuild Paisleyville. Better this time. We need to make it work from in here. It’s a horrible chance to start over. I may hit you up for resources sometime. As payback. For teaching you how to hunt. You know.”
Kay stood up and hugged Lisa to her tightly. Lisa stiffened a little but just let her.
“I’m going to leave you some things. Do you want to get some implants or…”
“No thanks. I’ve been tampered with enough. Before I was even born. I guess some terminals and nano cards would be great. Maybe some IDs for other parts of the station.”
Lisa pushed her self out of Kay’s embrace and turned on Syrge and Scroot.
“What about you two? You’re going with her?”
Syrge looked sheepish and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Yesssss. Ever since I found Scroot, I’ve been working to better our position. Take care of us. This is too much of an opportunity.”
“What about that purple cop guy? Guys?”
“Roman can keep him safe. I expect these guys will prove very useful to The Herald Dynasty, but uh… yeah… We will have to watch out for that guy. He seems to have some kind of hard on for Syrge here, but only because he thinks he is Scroot.”
Syrge crossed his arms and huffed.
“I’ll kick him in the shins!”
Kay looked down at Lisa with a worried look on her face.
“Are you going to be okay here? I mean… you’re only thirteen.”
“ACK-tually. I think I’m fourteen now. Not sure when my birthday is, but I always said it was in seventh month. So. Give me presents.”
“I actually do have presents. I knew you wouldn’t come with me.”
She handed her a pouch full of nano cards. A piece of tech somewhere on Kay’s person chose that moment to start buzzing. Kay perked up, held out her hands with her fingers spread wide.
“Hey! I got a call from The Custodian too! Look up there!”
The children turned to look at a round vent high on the gray side slope, in an area with no working black walls. They had to squint against the bright glow of the core.
“There!” shouted Kick Herald, The Fabulous Blue Kay.
At first they were just black specks spreading out slowly into the air, but within seconds the light began to reflect a rainbow of colors at the gaping faces of the kras.
“Birds!” exhaled Zombie Lisa.
“Wow!” from Syrge.
They came in a wide variety, spiraling and waving through the space overhead. Red ones, blue ones, brightest yellow and orange ones, black with flashes of white, iridescent purple, large and small. The air filled with the sound of the thousands of wings and a whistling frenzy.
Lisa held her arms out and started spinning slowly, looking up into the maelstrom of new station creatures.
“How come we never had birds on the station before?” she shouted.
Kay laughed and imitated Lisa’s spin. A great blue heron landed near the group and Syrge ran at it, causing it to take of in a flurry of panic. Lisa laughed and ran after him, Blue Kay followed run/gliding with her wings spread. She yelled at Lisa.
“Hey! I just realized I haven’t heard you cuss once today!”
Lisa glared at her over her shoulder.
“Trying to act more mature. But you fucking ruined that didn’t you?!”
As the children dance madly through the empty swaying verdant field, we pull back into the bird filled sky on a Rube Goldbergesque rigging, the sounds of laughter and swooshing wings fades, and we can just make out a small simian shape pacing the group through the tall blades.
End of Book 1.