Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
I wake with a dagger in my hand. The other end of the dagger is in someone’s neck. Raising my gaze, I see the life fade from his eyes. The moment stretches as details sketch themselves in around the face of someone I don’t know. A ship’s bridge. Crew members staring in horror. A purple and green planet on the view screens.
The nearest person’s gaze flicks to my left. Something hits me from the left. I’m knocked down, dagger seemingly locked in my hand. Blood fountains across my falling view. I hit the floor, then hit my head. Darkness.
“Is she awake?”
“She’s coming round, sir.”
I open my eyes. The ceiling is blue, the lighting soft and indirect.
“Welcome back, Shistal. If that’s your real name.”
“Becky. Rebecca. Rebecca Ethelsdotter.”
“Dotter? You’re from the Scandic Worlds?”
“Why do you have greenish skin?”
I raise my hand. Long fingers. Their colour is wrong. I giggle.
“Eisa said I had green fingers. Don’t think she meant it literally.”
“Eisa got a new boyfriend. Madden Lars. I thought he was a creep, and that was before he tried it on. I told her, she finished with him. He said he’d get me for doing that.”
“How is this pertinent?”
“She said he described his job as ‘cyberpsychiatrist’. We laughed about robots lying on a couch. A few days later, I found out what they do is adjust behaviour with implants.”
A bearded man with blue eyes leans into my view.
“We’ll have to continue this conversation later. Something just came up.”
It goes quiet, then crewmembers come in and wheel whatever I’m lying on into a grey room. I hear the door close with a hiss.
The bearded man reappears.
“Sorry about that. I think I got where you were going with that line of thought. Hold still. We’re about to do a passive scan.”
“Because I think anyone who set you up with an implanted cyber-identity so you could assassinate someone, but rigged it to have you live long enough to realise, is nasty enough to have booby-trapped it. That’s why I moved you to a shielded room: so this Madden or whoever he works for can’t detonate you before we’re done.”
Swallowing hurts; my mouth has gone dry.
He leaves. Time passes. Things hum and stop, then click and stop, then hum again. There’s a hissing noise. Things get blurry. Darkness.
“Welcome back, Rebecca.”
I’m lying in a bed with a raised back. The bearded man is sitting to one side. There’s a nurse on the other. A uniformed man in body armour stands by the door.
“Was I booby-trapped?”
“Very much so. You’d been set up to injure or kill everyone near you. The medical team have taken it all out. Our security team have already extracted enough information to prove that, despite your body being used, you’re not actually guilty.”
“What about Madden?”
“He’s been arrested and taken off Issker for questioning. I also requested a protective detail for your family. Just in case.”
“I thought he meant it, too. But I was preparing for petty vandalism, not kidnapping.”
“It certainly raises some dark possibilities. You’ll be questioned when you return home. They’re sending a vessel to collect you. Until then, you get to enjoy the cruise from this private room in our medical centre.”
Questioning isn’t the problem. I’m more concerned about how I stop being green.