– 1 –
I slouched on my bunk and stared at the ceiling hologram revolve. It was the boiling ocean throwing itself against the rocks of some shore. It was Kageshima’s time to watch the sea. In about one hour I would change it to the starry night sky over the Sonoran Desert. This was relax time, after a 25 hour shift on the transporter taking us to the mining regions in the asteroid belt.
With us I meant, Ivanov, Rico, Kageshima and me. Captain Rizzo would remain on board. Five men wedged into a tin can floating through the black emptiness of the space, heading towards some expensive rocks and dirt. The journey we just started would take seven months.
Kageshima was moving, and I watched him start his tai chi exercises. Eyes closed, concentrating on his movements, his muscles worked under his soft skin. I pulled my prosthetic leg in, so he’d have enough space.
I heard he had a fight with drunk Rizzo. It ended with calling names and a bloody nose. No doubt it was self defense on Kageshima’s behalf.
Rizzo was doing the job for over twenty years, and he was lonely. The booze must’ve killed enough neurons that he’d try to hit on Kageshima. On a ship like this, there wasn’t much else to do than drinking, and facing the one-eyed snake. And Kageshima had a distinctly feminine appearance, small and slender, long lashes over dark almond eyes. That old fart went insane over any trace of feminity.
“You’re officially classified as liquid, Kintaro.” I told him and decided to watch his back from now on. Rizzo wouldn’t dare to pick a fight with me. I’d break him in half, with my pinky.
“Sumimasen, sorry?” He turned to me confused.
“You move like a Bengalese tiger,” I stated and meant to be appreciative. Kageshima pulled a sour face instead.
“Ian, don’t say that.” Did I hit a nerve? Why was he stressed? “Did Jefferson set you up? He did, didn’t he?” His black eyes glistened, his cheeks boiled.
“Rico?” I shook my head. “What do you mean? Set up?”
“Nothing in special, just curious.” Kageshima lied. He was bad at it! Why would he lie? What was wrong? “You two know each other for long?” He asked carefully. I had the feeling that I needed to be wary, for some reason. Kageshima sat down, beside me.
“Well, yes. We already worked for five years together. On Gorgo Beta. A mining ship. He saved my life.” I patted my prosthetic left leg. “I was sent out to repair one of the giant waldos, and Rico was instructing me. Somehow, I got my security line tangled up in the hydraulics, and when the gear slammed back into motion, the gripper went online… You can imagine. It caught and yanked me into the grinder mechanism.” I tapped my left prosthetic arm and eye. “It tore my arm from its socket, ripped my leg straight off.” Kageshima’s eyes lock on mine.
“So… Rico’s your best friend.” It sounded flat, as if he was stating it to himself. He looked at me and smiled. It was a sorrowful smile, the saddest I ever saw on a man’s face.
“Yeah…” That was a strange reaction. “Come on, he’s the funniest guy. You’ll like him, once you get to know him.” I tried, but Kageshima stood up.
“Let’s talk later, Ian.” He said and resumed his exercises.
– 2 –
There was a killer on board. I had seven month to unravel his identity and to pin him down. I went through the received data from the ministry. The profiles of Rico Jefferson and Ian Dervall were promising. I could rule Ivanov and Rizzo out, after today’s incident. Rizzo really thought I’d be defenseless. He won’t make the same mistake again.
I shared my room with Dervall, a huge afro-american cyborg with sand colored eyes. He occupied the lower bunk, I had the upper. A quiet man, with the average of ten words and two facial expression a week.
My first thought upon meeting him was, that he was Jefferson’s brute lap dog. The way he followed him everywhere, like a shadow. Gaining his trust was most important. I started with him, and see where it takes me.
I knew he and Jefferson had a history together. They worked for five years on the same mining ship, most likely side by side. It was that time, when Dervall had his accident, leaving him a ruin of a human being. I’ve read the log data and the surveillance feed transcript on that accident. It was fishy. Someone had it altered. I wondered why though…
On the ceiling, the ocean hurled and splashed against rocks. It was the comfort holo for the passengers, designed to keep us happy. Depression was common during these long flights. I chose it to soothe Dervall’s alertness to my actions. Monotony was a cyborg’s weak spot.
I used the time for tai chi, to let my thoughts fly. A clear mind is a most effective mind. “You’re officially classified as liquid, Kintaro.” Dervall said. I mustn’t let him know that I was capable of killing him with bare hands. My moves could betray me.
“Sumimasen, sorry?” I managed.
“You move like a bengalese tiger.” He added a gummy full teeth smile. Did he see through?
“Ian, don’t say that.” I hoped not. It’d be very inconvenient if he sussed me. “Jefferson set you up? He did, didn’t he?” I tried.
“Rico?” He shook his head confused. “What do you mean? Set up?”
“Nothing in special, just curious.” I thought of his pain and suffering. I sat down on his bed. “You two know each other for long?” I looked at what was left of him, lining of scar-tissue ripping his perfect dark skin to ribbons, stitched up with nearly skin tone prosthetics.
“Well, yes. We already worked for five years together. On Gorgo Beta. A mining ship. He saved my life.” He patted his prosthetic leg. “I was sent out to repair one of the giant waldos, and Rico was instructing me. Somehow, I got my security line tangled up in the hydraulics, and when the gear slammed back into motion, the gripper went online… You can imagine. It caught and yanked me into the grinder mechanism.” What if that wasn’t an accident? What if it was a cover up for something else? Dervall tapped his left arm and eye. “It tore my arm from its socket, ripped my leg straight off.” Did he even remember how it happened? I doubted that.
In his eyes, I could only see the dullness of a man under heavy medication. “So… Rico’s your best friend.”
“Yeah…” He furrowed his brows. “Come on, he’s the funniest guy. You’ll like him, once you get to know him.” I bet! Something told me that Jefferson was a dangerous man. I had to be very careful about this.
I stood up. “We’ll talk later, Ian.” My body went on with the exercises, but my mind raced.
This short story was an assignment for HWWF 2015. The task was to interpret a dialogue from two different points of view, and that the characters talk about a person not present, lighting two different sides of that absent character.