1 — Stranger in a Strange Land* * *
I awoke to an unfamiliar ceiling, and cursed. I suppose I may have simply deluded myself. I had hoped with the amount of effort I had put into my original disappearance that they wouldn’t find me. After all, I had spent over a year planning it out. Naturally, I started by faking my death in a spectacular, yet admittedly inordinate fashion by blowing up my ship, the Isekau.
By the time the first recordings surfaced on every form of media imaginable, I was in for plastic surgery, the kind that every girl in the solar system indulged in. Well, every girl other than me.
I suppose losing your own ugly, scarred mug isn’t the end of the world, but damn it, it was almost worse than destroying the Isekau, my pride and joy. Not to mention the prized collection of scars I had accumulated tromping around the system.
I really thought it had worked, too. An entire year with her, of sleeping in the same place every night, of stability. Not having to check door seals for any flaws, where a little cloud of death could slip in.
I was positive that my efforts were flawless, that total displacement of body, prints, and IDs would have let me slink out of the field undetected. But nobody ever did, and I was no exception, especially with my stacks of debts and favors I had built up. I knew I’d never truly pay them back.
I savored every day with her, drinking it in. The soporific job I held in a bottom alley Ramen Bar was just fine, when I went home to her. I guess I knew one day I was going to lose it all. Hell, it only took them what, a year and some change to find me? Whomever they were, they were most certainly well funded.
The list of those who wanted me in one piece as well as having enough money to capture me wasn’t very long. Hmmm? Let’s see: there was the House of Aphrodite, The Yakuza or The Martian Mob, any one of whom could have done it. But this didn’t strike me as their style, since I had woken up with my own mind and body intact. Well, at least on cursory inspection.
I started to get a bearing on my cage. From the moment I woke up, I noticed a pungent floral scent in the room, the slick coolness of the sheets. Were they latex?
The room’s layout was simple, while its furnishings were quite the opposite, expensive marbled white walls, Venusian quartz flooring with streaks of luminescence throughout, a large velvety white rug, and pastel pink curtains covered a floor to ceiling window.
The overall style seemed reminiscent of a casino’s high roller room. The door was opposite from the window, made of crafted chestnut, the grains flitted with gold. It was definitely airtight on closer inspection; Hidden seals and actuators making it clear I was trapped behind an airlock without access to the controls.
I was almost certainly not on Mars or Earth. One wall seemed to be concealed storage. I stood up. If death was on the menu today, I wouldn’t take it lying down.
I walked over to the window. An itching feeling told me that I was going to hate the view. Well, I’ve never been one to resist my own nasty gut feelings.
I opened the curtains. Fuck! I descended into an unmentionable string of curses. Well, I knew who had me. Of all the places. All the people. A view I’d never thought I’d have the “honor” of enjoying again.
I almost wished it had been the House of Aphrodite. They didn’t bother with exposition, just rewrote your mind. You would never know it had happened. Going on as happy little puppet.
It just had to be fucking Jupiter…