Vanya the Terrib (2)

This is the last I’ll post of this story before it is complete!  🙂

2. Michayl Ran

If you worked for the Service, you worked odd hours. Vanya had had her required daily four hours of sleep just before going in to see Connor; which meant that now, at 22h, she was as most others were at eight in the morning.

Going back to the apartment was not appealing. One name. They had given her one single name. There had to be hundreds of MichaylRans. She didn’t even have an indication whether the man she was looking for, was alive today.

It was a maddening assignment. She could presume that her orders were to find the man; or possibly, find out about him. What was he wanted for? Was he a criminal, or a key enemy? Where could she start finding out more?

She had reflexively scanned her superior’s thoughts for any information he was not disclosing. Once again the man had been too slow for her; she had received quite an insight into his mind before he’d drawn the shutters. It was of course rude to the point of a civil offence to pry into another’s thoughts. But pure humans, the kind without any genetic modification, were generally easy to dodge on this. Even the sharp first-in-line of Sanity Inc, the secret service organization that hid behind the image of an asylum.

And that fast scan of her superior’s mind had revealed nothing extra. They had not briefed him. They had only told him the name, instructed him to give it to his most talented agent, and impressed the importance of the mission on him.

It had been an important insight. He was not hostile at present. He had accepted that he was the top candidate to follow in the role of the General-in-chief. He had stopped seeing every last underling as competition – for now. This was a relief; it meant that he wasn’t about to sabotage her.

But it brought her no closer to any answers. Vanya checked into an all-night café and bought herself an espresso and a ring pasty. She pored over the name that was by now deleted from her ideas booklet and engraved in her mind. Michayl Ran.

There was commotion outside the glass of the café. Vanya looked up with mild interest, chewing on her ring pasty. There were cops in blue fluorescent uniforms, arguing loudly with somebody. And then they entered the café.

V. Nascale, Third Class Citizen!”

Vanya stared at them in surprise, miming the perfect reaction of an uninvolved onlooker. She deliberately blanked her mind, then pulled a shield across, of her alternative persona, Violet Garret.

She’d been too slow. One of the policemen walked straight up to her, holding out hand links. Vanya’s violet eyes stared at him in innocent shock; but the shock on her insides was real. Here was a master mage. The Force only employed those for first-degree criminals.

Her thoughts in turmoil, she compliantly held out her wrists to be chained with the thin silver wire, and her hands taped with the tiny receptor electrodes. The café lady gaped at her in shock as she downed her espresso and allowed the police to lead her away, out of the glass doors to their small vehicle.

Vanya allowed herself to be bullied into the tiny four-seater. The car folded its pods in under its belly and took off in a swarm with the other four police cars; the cop who had followed her into the cabin, held the remote to her hand-links high, where she could see it. She relaxed, accepting that all resistance was futile. And she forced herself not to wonder to herself what this was about, what she was being arrested for, and what lay ahead. A mage could read you like a white screen; and the police officer under whose control she was, was such a man. Quad or quint mutant, at least.

The small vehicle in which she was caught with this dangerous officer of the law, and the driver, veered away from the swarm with a signal and turned to the right, down the bright streaming light tunnels of the City. She iced. This could only mean that she was being taken to the maximum security unit. She watched in her overview mind how the rest of the swarm returned to the police headquarters to report in successful and wait for the next order. And then she tentatively touched on the mind of the driver.

The result was an instant rebuff.

Oi could have you arrested for that!” snapped the driver, glancing briefly at her. She had to smile. She was already arrested. As arrested as it got.

The small vehicle followed the light patterns of the city for what seemed an eternity; then suddenly it veered upward, and tumbled away, through a release passage, into the black night.

 Vanya scowled and stopped herself from wondering where they were going. She’d heard of a prison unit in some far reaches of the City; perhaps it was easier to take the shortcut through open space. But the vehicle steered well away from the City. The lights of the huge metropolis fell behind, and Vanya saw the City as it was, a floating structure of light, metal and glass in the fathomless blackness of space.

And the vehicle continued curving away. Away, even, from Luna, the City’s mother anchor planetoid.

She didn’t dare to ask. She didn’t want to know. From second to second her thoughts were being monitored, not only by the mage officer but by the feedback of the hand-links to the small apparatus the mage held in his hand. She didn’t dare to glance at him, either – behind the impermeable polyrene mask there had to be some person, some identity. She would have looked for his eyes, to determine the degree of mutancy, if she’d dared. But…

They fell through the night for a very long time. It was frightening, not having any real point of reference other than Sol – the large sun, nearly the size of a copper dc, a doublet coin. No up or down; left, right were interchangeable.

She knew beyond doubt by now that they were taking her off-site. She had heard rumours of high-security prisons and work camps as far as Luna and even Mars; and she had heard whispered insinuations of more, of interstellar prisons. Why – no, she should not even wonder. It was too dangerous.

And then the car curved towards a blue-green sphere, with something like haze surrounding it.

Vanya had been keeping so still that she didn’t have any more rigid to go to. But her back stiffened significantly when she realized that they were taking her to Earth.

Surely, whatever they thought she had done couldn’t possibly be that vile? She had heard, once, of a criminal who was so corrupt that he was condemned to Earth. For life – which wasn’t expected to last long beyond that.

And for the first time something strange reared up in her. She wanted to live! At least she wanted to know what her crime was! She cleared her throat to protest, and instantly the electric shock from the hand-links zinged through her, derailing her fine-tuned senses.

You stay quiet,” growled the huge police officer next to her. “Speak when spoken to. I didn’t need to say it.”

Vanya watched the blue planet approach. The whole thing didn’t make sense to her. She could see craters and deserts where the radioactivity had rampaged on; but she could also see amazing green stretches, and wondered what creatures might live in those green hells. And then the car was crashing down towards the ground, faster than comfort. Primal fear gripped Vanya and she squeezed her eyes shut. The police wouldn’t send their own officers to their deaths, particularly not a mind mage of the first degree.

The horrible sensation of falling stopped. Vanya opened her eyes, hyperventilating. They had come to a halt in front of a very strange structure in the sunlight. A squat, four-story building made of what looked like square rocks. It did have glass, but sparingly, as windows only. She wondered why.

The hatch opened and the huge policeman bullied her out of the cabin, and led her rather roughly, her arm in his iron grip, towards the entrance of that building. He pushed her in through the door and man-handled her towards what looked like an elevator – but a strange one, made of metal. The thing had no doors. Until they were inside, when the doors suddenly appeared out of its sides and closed, squealing. Metal doors. You couldn’t see where you were going.

The police mage punched something into the small touch-panel and the rickety thing ascended. Not smoothly. It felt as though it were going to fall apart any moment. It sounded the same. Vanya breathed cautiously; the air here was somehow thick and heavy. She wondered how much atomic heavy metal she was inhaling and how long she could breathe like this before she died from it.

Earth. Planet from distant nightmares. Here she was; she couldn’t believe it.

The horrible elevator arrived on the fourth floor. The doors squealed open. Vanya was pushed across an expanse of raw cement, and towards a metal door. The officer grabbed the handle and pushed it. And the door swung open.

The police mage gave Vanya a rough shove into the room and released her. He placed the remote control onto the large executive desk and nodded briefly at the person behind that desk, and left the room, closing the door behind himself. Vanya stared after him in surprise; and then she looked at the man in front of her.

Her grey-haired captor smiled, picked up the remote and glanced at it, and sank it in his pocket. He got up from his executive chair – an old, weird-looking chair, but nevertheless executive – and rose to his full height. And looked down at Vanya, and extended a hand.

I’m Mick,” he introduced himself. “Michayl Ran.”

(c) copyright Lyz Russo, 2011

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16 thoughts on “Vanya the Terrib (2)

    • Yes… don’t know yet when as the story isn’t finished yet. Once it’s complete, I’ll have to go over it about 15 times and then present it nicely to my kind editor in Durban, who is an English fundi and an impressive author. It’s a process :). In the meanwhile I’m working on 2 other books – one is Solar Wind 6, and the other is at my “home” blog at letterdash/elgado. (“Call me Firefly”.)

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  1. Pingback: Friday Story Post – the red ant

  2. The story reads well and maintains my interest but the lack of attention to the variations of gravity in the satellite habitat and transition to Earth seems something worth considering. The real story, of course, has not begun since this is just the setting and the characters.

    • Thank you.
      Oh, sorry, wait, I replied to your comment on the wrong post!

      Yes, I haven’t yet developed it properly. I’m currently writing on other stories, but I’ll give this a lot more attention once I start developing it. So for now, I guess, it’s just the sketch of a storyline.

  3. I have been fascinated by SF ever since I was a kid in 1933 and listened to Buck Rogers on the radio and gulped down everything H.G.Wells and Jules Verne turned out. If the space habitat was toroidal with simulated gravity spin a three hundred storey office building would have major gravity differences between the ground floor and the top.

    • That’s right. I’ve been giving this thought, and it reminds me of another post, “In defense of Science Fiction”. (I’ve been looking for it and can’t find it at this moment.)

      Not everything that happens in an alien or space setting needs to be explained in technical detail. If we knew how teleporters worked, we’d be using them today already. But for instance, in any good space shoot-out, you hear the ship engines (impossible in space); you see laser beams from the guns (once again only possible in gas not vaccuum); you see the burning of missiles (they don’t burn), and so on. There also seems to be, always, sufficient light for everything even though it’s space.

      The article describes how, despite these impossibilities, it would be doing science fiction a great disfavour to depict it as it really is. It would be making for extremely boring movies.

      I also read again what I had written so far. The space city is in the far future. Vanya (through whose eyes we experience the story, at least that is the aim) doesn’t think about the details of her world, just like we don’t think about the cogs and belts when going up an escalator. She focuses on her job and uses what is around her. If I lapsed into technicalities about gravity (which is quite obviously equalized so as to be comfortable for those living there) and air pressure etc, I would be distracting the reader from the actual storyline and action and it would slow down the plot. (Eventually air density matters, it’s a plot point, but more about that later.)

      What I do go into a lot more detail about later in the story is this “mutant” issue.

      🙂 But thanks for your observant comments!

    • I agree absolutely insofar as story telling is concerned and, as for myself, the most impacting stories I have read, such as Le guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness have far more to do with deep human feeling than technology but awareness of unavoidable peculiarities in the very different existence in space can offer opportunities of giving a reader the sense of presence in a surrealist environment or even add a bit of humor for the unexpected. FTL travel is taken as a given in Star Trek but in the recent film Extraterrestrial the strange distortions of time when passing through a wormhole added a very wild element to the fundamental qualities of the plot. What I prize most in science fiction is the sense of almost frightening strangeness such as Heinlein added in “Goldfish Bowl” or “By His Bootstraps” or the Strugatsky brother’s Roadside Picnic or Padget’s All Mimsy Were The Borogroves or the film 2001.

    • Yes. True.

      There are different sub-genres and styles within Scifi. I have to say, a lot usually gets added to my stories during edits, and your comments here are very valuable and appreciated. I like weaving the tech into the plot and background, rather than make the reader feel out of his depth with strangeness; but in this story I haven’t yet taken the time to bring in everything that should be in.

      If you were to compare it to a painting, these are the sketches and main strong lines, and the details will be added over time. 🙂

      I also enjoyed Heinlein, and the movie Extraterrestrial – very much. The one is a completely unfamiliar world and the other feels as though it could be tomorrow.

    • When I was very young, about 6, I started to read fairy tales and ghost stories and Greek and Scandinavian mythology and Arabian tales of monsters and myths. I used to read about six books a week until I exhausted that type of stuff and then went into the Wells and Verne science fiction. The science fiction became an extension of the magical stories and strangely, the computer is a machine that speaks like Aladdin’s lamp genie and if you make a mistake in computer language it is like those wishes where the wife winds up with a sausage on her nose. Arthur Clarke who wrote some wonderful SF once said that science from an advanced civilization appears like magic and the whole Star Wars series is mostly fairy tales with emperors and princesses with space ships. The film “AI ” was a scientific version of Pinocchio and even “Frankenstein” was the Golem.

      Frank in Contemplation

      They call me Frank these days

      And the name implies me many ways.

      My character is blunt, somewhat unswerving.

      My features rather crude, I am a creature

      Of many parts, they say, unnerving

      In random chaotic fashion. But, anyways,

      I function. Admittedly with little passion.

      Those hormone fires sparking desires,

      That smolders into what inspires humanity

      To love, to hate, to insanity, to inanity,

      Do not reside in my inside.

      My thoughts have space,

      Do not jumble or collide.

      I am a spare parts man. My maker

      Doctor Frankenstein, gathered fingertips,

      A fine array of noses, lips,

      A box of ears and bellybuttons, fifteen,

      Pink, well formed and quite clean.

      My bones had lain with frozen stones

      For decades, disinterred but well matched

      And sturdy. Three from an acrobat, one,

      A delight, once lived inside a knight. Two patched

      Out of pieces from a horse, a cat, and just for fun,

      Two from a calf

      And one from a giraffe.

      Am I human? Mostly, I would say.

      But can any normal human say more?

      Speaking Frankly it seems not.

      Any peek into the random mind

      Would find, perhaps a common spot

      Where each could join, relate.

      Happily to twist and knot.

      But minds are vast topologies

      Teeming with mythologies.

      Here and there a mountain peak

      May glisten in the light

      Of clean perception,

      A point to guide the wild ride

      We all endure for reception

      Of markers inside

      To know what’s wrong,

      Or what might be right.

      But deep down low, below

      Where fantasy is spun,

      Where hot blood must run

      With energies that spark and glow,

      Where frigid caverns harbor fears,

      Stalactites bleeding tears,

      Strange pallid creatures spawn and grow,

      Blind, with trembling antennae feeling

      To supplement their senses, reeling.

      Here is where our mind appears,

      Here is where the join begins,

      Where necessities and desires

      Ignite to free their eager djinns.

      Being thus, both minus, plus

      In fragments of humanity

      I teeter in my loyalties.

      Inflections there roil and muss.

      Internally no royalties

      Dictate my state of insanity.

      My mind, from the good doctor’s hand

      Was pieced in ways, sometimes grand,

      Sometimes out of opportunity

      From a mélange community.

      Centrally there was the plan

      To integrate disparate parts

      With surgic skills and arcane arts

      To merely duplicate a man.

      But my baron had a mind

      Of extraordinary kind.

      His thoughts were rather wild and free

      That wandered into rare country

      And harnessed serendipity.

      He viewed the brain as working space,

      A foundation kind of place, a base

      Whereupon to erect, construct, and intervene.

      Intimations, cross connections, strange collections

      From exotic sources. Monkeys, mice, even horses,

      No sense to be conservative, release creative forces

      And sweep the whole horizon on the biologic scene.

      With appreciation and surmise

      He snatched the brains for eagle eyes

      And to set the world agog

      Applied the slimy senses from a frog.

      Out of a squid he stole great nerves

      Laid out in lines, tangles, curves

      To olfactions from a dog.

      Thus it went, adventure bent,

      And no particular intent

      But merely elected eclectic enterprise

      To appropriate variety to human guise.

      So thus am I constituted

      In ways strange and convoluted

      Some parts blatant, some more muted

      To contain within my brain

      Much surmised and quite a bit

      Simply grabbed and uncomputed.

      But now the doubts, most elegant,

      Are running out in this rant.

      Am I animal or plant?

      I really cannot say.

      A few genes from mushrooms

      Were inserted

      (Some upright, some inverted)

      Fitting in quite alright

      So I’m mildly saprophyte.

      The conclusion, in confusion, comes to admit

      I’m a bit of this and that most adroitly fit.

      My claim to humanity, although sincere,

      Based on just my form is not too clear.

      I walk like any bird or man

      Converse like any parrot.

      My fingers are slightly thick

      Resembling a carrot.

      I cannot classify my thoughts

      As fish or fowl or oyster.

      Some ideas float to me

      Not fitting for a cloister.

      My mosaic being borrowed with great plunder,

      Is strange undoubtedly, and something of a wonder,

      It partakes of living things, a smorgasbord of life.

      Nothing clear nor direct, not any absolute,

      Not more human than an ant, or, perhaps a newt.

      I am a universal, a poem said to living,

      Proteins intermingled and delightfully forgiving.

      It’s not a bad thing now, amidst our human fighting

      To be a being out of many, accepting, not benighting

      All living things, derive their wings,

      Their eyes, their ears, their hearts,

      All their bones and working things

      From each other’s working parts.

      For life is made to see, to hear, to dance in sunlit joy.

      It matters not what parts you’ve got

      Or what you might employ.

      We live, we love, we reproduce,

      We are of Earth and air,

      We’re born to laugh and love and sing

      And strike away despair.

      I am a being of all of us that walk or swim or fly,

      Exist in space, seize this time that flows so quickly by.

      I am you and you are me, it’s all so very clear.

      Our time is always merely now, our place is always here.

      So join with me in ecstasy to surely be aware.

      This world is made to be played, intensively to care.

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