Sky in the Stars, Part 9

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Skylar races to beat someone to the punch, literally.

 16 March 2931

Gray Hunter Alpha Station

Uncharted Space

 

 

“Ghost him?” Skylar asked. “How do you plan to do that?”

“Me?” Cheri chuckled, “You’re going to do it. He’s your problem, not mine.”

 “Gee… thanks, Cheri.” Skylar sighed.

Cheri patted Skylar on the back. “Anytime! Doesn’t mean I won’t help you. I’ve got something out for that bastard too.” She said, rubbing a scar along her neck.

 Skylar sat on her bed and looked at the floor in thought. “You really think he’ll come after me?”

“Without a doubt. It’s only a matter of time before the security footage gets put together. You may have been off the camera, but they’ll know who went down which hallways and who didn’t come out of them.” Cheri bit down on her lollipop. “Evo will tear your ass to pieces.”

 Skylar laid on her back and whined, “Cheriiii… ugh! Why didn’t I just ignore that guy when I had the chance?”

 “Beeecause you were pushed to your limit with the scummiest of the scum on this station?” Cheri crossed her arms. “I mean, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Murder happens all the time. Most of the people on this station were criminals, or well on their way to becoming them. This is lawless space. People take the law into their own hands here.  The only one you have to worry about is Evo. No one else cares that a no-name druggie got shanked in the lower sector.”

 Skylar covered her face with her hands. “Then I have to think of something. Walking up and stabbing him isn’t going to cut it.”

 Cheri shrugged. “I don’t know, Skylar. You’re smarter than most of the people on this station. Use your brain. You went to school, I didn’t.”

 Skylar sat up. “It was med school.”

 “You almost became a doctor right? Don’t they say, those who cureth can maketh ill? Or some shit like that? Bible right? Book of Matt.”

 Skylar furrowed her brows. “...what?” She shook her head. Skylar became pensive and began pacing the floor. “I mean, I could… work something out. Yeah.” She nodded to her own thoughts, and twirled some hair with her finger.

 Cheri looked confused. “Talk to me, Sky.”

 Skylar held up a finger. “I need to go to the lower sector. There are some things I need to buy.”

 “In the lower sector? The hell do you need from down there?”

 “You’ll see.”

 Cheri tilted her head to the side. “Well, how can I help?”

 “You still work in catering, right?” Skylar asked.

 Cheri raised a brow. “Yeah, why… OH! You’re going to poison him!”

 Skylar hushed Cheri. “Shhh! Just tell the whole dorm block, why don’t you?” Skylar shook her head. “No. That would put you and the other cooks at risk for blame. Not to mention put an investigation on our food supply. But I will need you to get something into his food.”

 Cheri scoffed. “Do it all the time.” Her eyes looked at the concerned Skylar. “Not yours, of course. Sometimes I like to slip in laxatives and shit… some people just ask for it, seriously.”

 “Right… well, I need to do some quick research, but I’ll give you a heads up when I’m ready. Okay?” Skylar led Cheri to the door.

“Yeah, yeah. No problem.” Cheri said, walking out of Skylar’s room. “Just give me a call.”

 

 

 

Later on that night, Skylar had ventured into the underbelly of the Sigma 5 Alpha Station. This was far below corporate and residential levels, deep below the market and engineering sectors. It was equivalent to a sewer, a place people shouldn’t have been. All one could hear is the soft humming of the stations power generators, gaze upon exposed heat and electrical pipes.  The only lights were brought on by lanterns that others had brought themselves, which hadn’t done much. Here, the dirty and destitute vagrants of the Alpha Station lived out their lives on a drug-ridden crash course, avoiding the rabble of Gray Hunter’s corporate operations. They were people of regret, first coming to Gray Hunter in search of opportunity… but found something else instead. Now they were left with no place to go, but to throttle the market and try to make a living feeding off the addictions of those who kept their dark dealings with drugs a secret.

 There was no law on the Alpha Station. No security. Even if the executives wanted the dealers out of their station, they wouldn’t have the guts to go down to do it themselves… it would probably mean a stain on their new suit. Skylar hadn’t been down here before… but she certainly knew what went on their. Her recent murder victim had crawled from the underbelly induced in more drugs than a human was probably able to withstand.

 She looked around, gazing at the many make-shift drug stands that the men and women had set up. There were no signs to tell her what was sold, only the raspy and rotten voices of the merchants to announce it. Ecstacy? No. Hydrocodone? No. She was looking for something else. Her brain was still fresh with the constant drillings of scientific drug names from college. She kept an ear open, while her gaze was focused at the floor, trying to mind her step.

 “Stims, get your stims here.” said one of the merchants sitting on the floor. He was a no older than she was, and couldn’t help from twitching occasionally.

 Skylar stopped and turned her head. “What kind of stimulants?” Skylar asked, crouching down to his level.

 “You know, stims! Stims to keep you going, keep you up… keep you ticking and going… going…”

 Skylar frowned, “What is in these drugs? The chemical compound.”

 The man rolled his eyes, “D’uhhhh… don’t know! S’on the bottle.” He said, showing Skylar the bottle. She gently took it, reading the information. “Got more if you wanna see. I can’t read it… eyes moving too much. Haha!”

 Skylar looked over the labels in the dim light, “Epinephrine… caffeine, hey, what’s this?” Skylar pointed to one of the words: Trixanthaklanine.

 “Oh that… something new! New blend of some shit. Same as the other stuff. Gives you that kick you need.”

 “I’ll take one of each.”

 “20 even.” The man said.

 Skylar frowned, seeing as she had nothing to offer, but instead pulled out her prized switch blade. “How’s this? Was worth 35 credits. Only used it a few times.”

 The man took the knife and handed Skylar the drugs in a bag, “You got a deal my friend! Tired of these bastards stealing from me. YOU’LL NEVER GET ME NOW!” The man continued to go on, stabbing invisible perpetrators. Skylar slipped away and returned to the residential sector and to her apartment.

Once returning to her quarters, she immediately took the shower she felt she needed.  The underground sector was a disgusting place to be.  She took a moment to look at herself gazing over her naked body as water trickled down. She wasn’t the girl she was a year ago. Already the station had turned her into a fighter, more so than before. On Earth, it was about self-defense and staying fit. But now, she was far more than that. The musculature was beginning to show clearly.  She couldn’t help think that her body was beginning to change along with her mind the longer she stayed here. With a heavy sigh she left the shower, drying herself first before walking into her bedroom and slipping into shorts and a tank top.  There on her desk was the bag of drugs.  She took a seat and looked at them for a moment before she went to work. She started to crush them into a fine powder, mixing it all together before sliding it back into the bag that was given to her. She leaned back into her seat and nodded.

 “It’s him or me right?”

  

 

 17 March 2931

Gray Hunter Alpha Station

Uncharted Space

 

 

Early the next morning Cheri’s door buzzed. She slid off her bed, tossing a cigarette aside before opening the door and gazing about Skylar, now donned in a leather vest and denim pants.

 “Sky, what’s up?” Cheri asked.

 Skylar let herself in and led Cheri along. “Cheri, here’s what I need you to do.”  She took out the bag of whitish powder. “You probably know what Evo eats mostly.”

 “Same thing every goddamned day.” Cheri snorted.

 Skylar handed the bag over, “Get this into his food… mix it around.  Put it in his drink too.”

 Cheri leaned forward, opening the bag to take a whiff, “What’s in it?”

 Skylar snatched the bag from Cheri, giving her a stern look, “Please don’t.”

 Cheri blinked and nodded, “All right, all right…” Skylar handed the bag over again. “You still haven’t told me of what this is going to do. You said you weren’t going to poison him.”

 “I’m not.” Skylar said, turning around. “Get that that into his lunch. Specifically lunch… the effects won’t be as great after breakfast. It’s tasteless. He won’t notice anything really.”

 “Yes ma’am, captain ma’am.” Cheri tucked the bag into her pocket, “Lunch it is.” Skylar continued to walk out. “You still haven’t told me anything!”

 “Come to the training center in the upper sector if you want to see what I’m going to do.”

 With that, Skylar left, shutting the door behind her. Cheri sighed. “Has to leave me in mystery.” She rolled her eyes and went back to relaxing.

  

 

The following day, Evo made his usual routine. Getting ready for the final days of training before they would be off to Gray Hunter’s operations… whatever it called for. He was sluggish that morning, as he had been for the past few days. He was left with a hangover every day, an alcohol-induced ailment that he was beginning to ignore for the sake of his late brother. Many would not have expected Evo to have anything of a soft heart, especially for a drug addict like his brother. Most people never saw them together… or saw Evo trying to help his brother at all. Still, down in his soul, something called to him.  Something made him tip the bottle every night. But for now, he was going to put up with it. He made his way to the food court, a place nearly everyone in the station had ventured to get their fill on meals.  Everyone had moved out of the way for the 6’2” behemoth. If it wasn’t his height, it was his mass. Evo certainly had more muscles than most, at least enough to do some damage. As Cheri knew, he ate at the same place every day… at her station where the meal was little-short of acceptable. It was better than most of the things on the station, at least for lunch time anyway.

Cheri offered him a crooked smile in her white apron and cap. “What it’ll be today, Evo? Chili?”

 “The usual.” Evo replied, rubbing his temples to subside the pain. Cheri worked behind the counter, hidden by the shelving… pouring the substance into his food and drink. Within a few moments, his meal was ready. He took his tray without a word and went to sit down. Skylar watched as he walked by unaware. Skylar looked at Cheri who nodded back at her.  Skylar nodded and returned to eating her station-food.

 Evo sat down, slowly eating his food. His disposition was less than cheerful. Skylar watched from afar, nearly feeling some remorse for what she had planned to do, but she was quick to remind herself what kind of man Evo was and what he’d done to her. The harassment, the abuse... were his crimes worth murder? She thought. No. But she valued her life. Evo was no man to forgive, she learned this first hand. Had this been anywhere with any sort of law, things would be different. But it was everyone for themselves here. She stared at him for minutes, watching as he slothfully ate his food. The stimulants would take some time to affect him, but by then she would have already left to gather her things for training. She had to hope that the dosage was enough.

 Nearly an hour later, Skylar was found in line being scolded by Bard as she always had. She was adorned in a tank top, baggy cargo pants, boots and elbow and knee pads. Everyone in line had been standing at attention. Much to Bard’s surprise, Evo had been late. Skylar observed Evo’s unsettled expression. He was certainly not himself, his widened twitching eyes were proof of that. He tried very hard to keep his composure, but the high-concentration stimulants had begun their work. His breathing was shortening, his posture uneven. His eyes couldn’t seem to stay focused. While Bard took notice, he continued to berate the rest of the group in front of him. The exercises continued, the group performed the usual tasks at hand. Even Skylar admitted that the training regimens were never easy, despite the many months that they endured. She counted on this. Skylar had less mass to move… leaving Evo far more exhausted by the end of it.

 When the training session had ended, Bard was ready to dismiss the group, but Skylar spoke up.

“Sir!” she shouted something she never did.

 Bard raised a brow, and marched right over. “What is it, Connor?! You think any of us want to be here any longer than we have to?!”

 Skylar looked over at Evo, his face was a clear telling of something awful to come. “I challenge Evo for his rank.”

 Bard stood straight up, “A challenge for rank?! Evo’s a clear 5 ranks higher than you, Connor. FOR A REASON!”

 “I know, sir. My challenge still stands, sir.” Skylar nodded.

 Bard nearly smirked before scowling at Evo. “Evo, Skylar’s got a proposition for you. Do you accept?”

 Evo snapped to attention, “Y-you don’t expect me to t-take it seriously? D-do you?”

 Bard leaned in. “What’s with the stutter, Evo? You scared of the girl? Make it quick… she’ll shut up.”

 Evo wiped his sweaty face and took a deep breath, “Yeah… yeah…”

 Bard stood back, and crossed his arms. “All right then… rings yours, you two.” He looked at his two underlings. There was but a single light in the training area. As the others scattered around, they were concealed in the darkness. Skylar approached the center ring as Evo did. Bard stood back into the shadows. A light illuminated a room to the far right. There stood the silhouette of a suited individual, watching the match through a window.

 Skylar stood straight, looking up to her opponent. There was no fear in her eyes, only the hope that her plan would work, otherwise she would get beaten until she willingly surrendered.

 “Heard about your brother, Evo.” Skylar said. “That’s too bad.”

 Evo snarled, “Shut up, Connor. You don’t know a goddamned thing.” Evo snapped forward and swung a fist. Skylar shut her eyes for just a moment to regain her focus. She glared at Evo’s movements.

 Step. One foot forward. Watch… slight weight change in his leading foot… ready…

 Evo’s fist drew closer to her face.

 Ready…

 She could smell the sweat from his hand. 

Skylar ducked, lunging forward with a fist of her own. She struck Evo in the gut, his relaxed muscles braced for nothing. He staggered back, but it only made him angrier. Skylar would dodge and feint constantly, trying to wear Evo out and drive his heart faster and faster. But even Skylar couldn’t keep up with everything. Evo’s brutal swings had caught Skylar a few times.  

 Not enough… more… more… come on…

 Evo punched Skylar, then picked her up and slammed her into the ground. There she remained motionless for a time. It was quiet; all one could hear was Evo’s excessively heavy breathing. He was beginning to panic. He realized something was wrong with him. Just before he was going to walk around, Skylar struggled to her feet.  She chuckled, staggering to her feet and putting her fists up.

 “Some brother you were. Let him get addicted to drugs, and get killed?” Skylar said. Evo turned around, his face contorted in anger. “Parents raised you well.”

 Evo growled and charged for Skylar whose cheek had already swelled. “What did you just say?!”

 Skylar spit blood to the ground. “You heard me, Evo! Your family’s a fucking waste!” Even Bard was surprised. Angering Evo on any occasion was a bad idea, everyone knew that. Even then, Skylar had gladly taken the beatings. Her eye would swell, her body bruised. A tooth lost. Again she was sent to the ground… and again she stood up. “What’s the matter, Evo? You don’t look so good.” Skylar taunted.  Evo was reminded of the state he was in. He had even staggered while approaching Skylar, gaining everyone’s attention. Bard narrowed his eyes and watched Evo’s strange behavior.

 Evo rushed for Skylar, swinging a fist for a vicious hook. Skylar ducked, pulling Evo forward and exposing his underarm. Skylar struck with her knuckles forward and hit sensitive nerves causing him to lose his footing for just a moment. She pushed him forward onto his back, his nerves still trying to regain control. With a loud thud, he crashed onto the mat. Skylar jumped to him, dropping an elbow directly over his chest. In that single moment, Evo gasped before angrily tossing her aside. He stood up, stumbling to his feet before making his way to the girl.  Skylar stood still, arms down as Evo slowed down panicking more and unsure of what was happening to him.  He continued moving forward, falling to a knee… reaching a begging arm to Skylar with the first genuinely scared face she had ever seen upon him. He fell over and rolled onto his back.

 “Whoa whoa… hey!” Bard’s eyes widened. “Hey! We need a medic here!”

 Skylar stood back, catching her breath before falling onto her butt and sighing. The shadowed figure to the edge of the room was gone. Cheri rushed into the training room and took Skylar into her arms, moving them away from the men swarming over Evo’s body.

 “What did you do to him?” Cheri asked.

 Skylar sat with a swollen face, solemnly staring forward at Evo for the last time. Skylar was tended to personally by Cheri, and Evo was taken away on a stretcher minutes later.

 Bard approached the two women. “Well, Connor… looks like you’ve moved up to rank  Esker-4.” Bard said, giving a slow clap. “Better get some rest girl… we’ll be sending you out into the field faster than you think.”

 Cheri took Skylar from the training center, acting as a crutch for her friend as the two glanced at the blood splatter on the training mat.

  

 

Skylar rested on a bed in the medical sector, Alpha Station’s finest hospital of sorts, for whatever it was worth. There in the hallway stood the suited man, only recognizable to most people by his smooth voice.  He stood straight, looking into the room windows as patients underwent their  procedures. He stood with Bard looking at Skylar, and then to Evo who already had his head covered.

 “Fucking crazy day...” Bard said softly. “What do you make of it Chairman?”

 “Evo’s mourning over the loss of his brother sent him to suffer the same ill fate of substance abuse. That’s all that happened, Bard.” said the Chairman.

 “But Evo? I mean… not once has he had a trace of drugs in his system on every single test for the past four years now.” Bard turned to the Chairman. “And then Skylar decides to fight him, knowing full well she couldn’t… and Evo ends up dead? Come on, doesn’t this all look fishy to you?”

 The Chairman smirked, “Evo’s heart was racing fast enough that a well-placed strike to the chest would stop a fast-beating heart completely. Just so happens the day that Evo overdosed, is the same day Skylar picks a fight with him. Of course it sounds odd to me, Bard. But if that is the case, then…” The Chairman looked at Skylar who was being treated for her fractured ribs, cuts and bruises.  “...we’re dealing with someone far more valuable than Evo was. The only question is why.”

 “Why what?”

 “Why’d she do it?”

 “Fucked if I know… she’s crazy. Young girl like that showing up on Alpha Station, unscheduled and unchecked. Who is this girl?”

 “I don’t know… but she intrigues me.” The Chairman straightened out and patted Bard on the shoulder. “Keep your eye on her… I think Skylar’s got more to surprise us with. Until then… we’re sending her to the asteroid field.”

 

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