Single Bullet Theory part two

     The miniscule space station hanging in the dimly lit outer reaches of the Fe Arrans's home system was only some 20 meters long. Although they could not be readily seen without sophisticated imaging systems, there were hundreds more just like it scattered though the solar system. Private space stations were one of the very few remaining possibilities to live in privacy, yet still remain within a decent commuting distance to the offices, shops, shipyards and factories of Sedgwick Station.

     Peter 350125 Cat lived there, alone. He had worked hard for the Sedgwick Corporation his entire life. He had been decanted from the clone tanks as one of a batch of workers genetically predisposed to engineering, and had done well at his job, until an industrial accident killed almost all of his colleagues.

     Peter stared at his appointment calendar. Most of it was empty, the way Peter liked it best, but his yellow-green eyes narrowed and his cat-like ears twitched as he saw his only appointment slowly approach the middle of the display of his term. He was not looking forward to it.

     His face blank, he approached the only airlock to his tiny bubble of air and warmth, dressed in a black leotard with heavy boots and a large, black overcoat. He took a long look at the sparse furnishings of his home through the inner door of the airlock before opening the outer door. He and a puff of gas blew out into vacuum.

     Peter turned his face to the naked rays of the distant sun, and began to accelerate through sheer force of will.

     The accident had been terrible. Sedgwick Station had vibrated noticeably for weeks afterwards. Peter had been the only survivor; not because of some cleverly sought shelter, or cunning plan, but instead through strange powers he had always been told were impossible for clones.

     The doctors and mages that had examined him after the accident had quickly received yet another shock at the precise nature of Peter's abilities. He was, in effect, a perpetual motion machine - capable of routinely worming through the statistical loophole in the theories that had formed the basis for thermodynamics for the last five hundred years. Not only did this clone have powers - he had, literally, infinite energy at his disposal.

     Within a minute Peter was flying at relativistic speed. The only light he saw was a tiny point source where the yellow-white sun should be, its light blue-shifted into a band of gamma radiation that had only been seen in the fireball that had created the Universe. Peter saw it through the senses he could never describe to others - corsucating isoclines of bound energy.

     Even at this unbelievable speed, travelling in normal space-time took about eight hours relative to an outside observer. Most commuters chose one of several pre-programmed hyperspace jumps. Peter, on the other hand, rather liked time dilation. He let his sense of time fall away as he felt for the gravity well of the homeworld.

     How long did it last? Peter neither knew or cared. He dropped to free fall almost instantaneously, and caught the resulting gravity wave as his invulnerable eyes readjusted to the bright light of the inner solar system.

     This is the part I hate he thought. During the short time they were together after the end of the Interstellar War, Jinx had told him her grandmother's tales of the so-called "Last War" - the thought that the penultimate, annihilating conflict between the Reyll Theocracy and the Sedgwick Corporation's new order was merely the culmination of several hundred years of horror hardly muted his feelings, feelings most of his people were absolutely convinced were impossible for the cloned.

     The surface of the planet was scorched and blackened. The clouds were a dirty off-white and diffracted the light of the sun in reds, greens, and violets along the edge of the atmosphere. The seas were slate-grey, any a few of the smoking craters that had once been cities were still, rarely, visible as glowing cinders, still burning after a century and a half.

     He could feel the place he was manufactured approaching - the huge structure of metal, rock, ceramic, and plastic in which a hundred million spent their lives. His feelings flattened, which was, all in all, probably for the best.

     Soon he would stop being Peter Cat, and start being Arsenal again. He would talk to fans, sign Honor Guard vids, and arrange for yet another guest appearance on board the Nightstalker, hunting pirates and criminals alongside the next generation of interstellar superheroes.

     The money better be damned good he thought. If Entertainment Division doesn't put out for this one...

     Jinx Bubastis dropped out of hyperspace, turned an orbital pirouette, and punched the drives. Below her sleek vessel, the night side of Suburbia Prime twinkled up through the cloudless atmosphere. The myriad tiny lights looked as if someone had thrown a kilometer-long string of twinkling Winterclearance lights down a well - only the barren dunes, not yet irrigated with imported water, were immune from the tumor-like spread of the subdivisions.

     She picked up a bag containing a liter of concentrated LSD solution, and felt in her mind for the memories of the sleazy dive by the spaceport on the west end of the Diamond Dunes project. She reached her senses out, and felt the weak emanations of the minds below her. Everyone makes jokes about how stupid the Suburbians are, she thought. If they only knew just how...

     Finally she found a mind through which she could see the interior of the bar, and then another. Touching their senses at a level noone could detect, she triangulated a location by the porn dispenser. Focussing her weak telekinetic powers, she found a norm to spacetime and slowly dematerialized, "flying" in a direction light cannot follow, gliding down the gravity well just inside of hyperspace.

     Her rematerialization inside the bar drew little attention; decades of practice had taught her to reenter normal space-time slowly. She could feel the dull hum of the minds of the gangsters sitting in a loose circle around a table, the table noone but the barkeep dared look at.

     Hey, Arcana - whassup?

     He was a scrawny little cloneboy. Jinx felt his emptiness.

     Biz. You questing?

     No. But I know people who are. What is it?

     Jinx pulled out the bag of acid. Two other gangsters awoke from their depressant stupor.

     Whazzat sposd ta be?

     Ah bleeve itz L-

     The small one spoke.

     Nobody wants that here.

     Jinx felt ten minds outside. Fuck.

     Small boy saw his chance, and pumped a round of plasma into Jinx as the police stormed the bar.

     Jinx stared at him levelly as her superficial wound closed, the heavy steps of the first two cops, dressed in riot armor, drumming closer in her ears. The first cop laid a gauntlet on her shoulder.

     The plastic guantlet and the arm attached to the hand inside clattered from the far wall of the bar. Five cops opened fire, and blasted bloody holes in the people standing behind the point Jinx was standing.

     I hate teleporters, mumbled a constable.

     Small boy spoke up.

     Where were you?

     The lanceman walked up to the table and a white plastic card clattered on the table. Shut up, scumbag.

     From the far corner of the bar, a small woman no one could see watched the cops storm away as small boy tried to wake up his "friends". This is the last time I book through an agency, she thought.

     Small boy walked off with the card. Jinx, invisible, followed.

     As she came closer, she let him hear her footsteps. Jinx felt a deep satisfaction at his panic. She reached up, grabbed the back of his neck, and forced him to the ground.

     It's been a while. It's been too long.

     Small boy tried to scream, and couldn't. Jinx made him open his eyes. Lets see if this makes you a little more lively.

     Jinx crushed the bag of liquid LSD, dousing the gangster's face with hallucinogen. Come on...

     She teleported with him out to the dunes, and she waited as small boy, paralyzed and tripping, discovered parts of his mind he never knew he had.

     That's better. A little seasoning always helps.

     A military patrol found his dessicated body about a week later. The service mage attached to the patrol was ordered to do a psychometric scan, and did so, unwillingly.

     Immediately afterwards, he ran widly into the dunes, crying and screaming She ate his soul!

     No one believed him, but they put out the APB anyway. Everbody knows clones don't have souls.

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David White, 1998, all rights reserved