Pilot of Presidium- Chapter 4

Cilla Mouchette

After the interlude with the Brigands I knew Gye would kill his mother for lunch. That's when I tried to figure why hoit-toit Rhyse shoved him down our throats.

I did a search of past rosters of Hawking ships. Yeah, I didn't have the clearance, but Ian the Geek helped.

So here's the suss; Rhyse, on one of her flimsy yachts was attacked. The Arcturus came to the rescue. I know the Captain well, very well. Lenny McGovern and I...well, he'd be happy to hear from me.

Point, though, is that one Gye Tomaka was a member of the Arcturus crew. Uh huh. So that's where they met.

I sent Lenny a hail, hidden under usual ship to ship crap and he responded.

What I had to ask couldn't be over a com, what he had to say was best said in a bed.

I talked Donnie into a side trip to Smudge for a quick buck. Not that I wasn't keen on a quick buck, but Smudge was where I could link Lenny.

Smudge was the latrine of the galaxy; and was convenient from just about anywhere.

As soon as we made port I was off, getting to the Dead Horse, set to put on a wait for Lenny. But he was there, having pulled in last night and had booked a room at the Swank, the best flop house on Smudge.

We greeted distantly, because one of the things you learn about scuttlebutt is that it travels at lightspeed.

Wrapped in ragged ass blankets we made it to the Swank, and let our bodies do the talking. Later, we sent for crud to push in our mouths, and I brought up Gye.

Lenny gave me what I knew, then, what I wanted.

The Swank

Getting the Data

"Madame Rhyse and Gye connected from first meeting. Eating together, sharing 'cultural' blather, and when her yacht space ready, he jumped and went with her."

Lenny leaned back on the sofa, he wore a towel, it wasn't doing much coverage, but I wasn't interested in his nether region right now; I was fuming that Gye would be attracted to a woman like that Rhyse...when he could have someone like me....

"A few days later he appears and..."

"She kick him out?" I grated, fixing my towel.

"I don't know," he rumpled his hair, a shade darker than Donnie's, but still blond. "It strained my brain trying to concoct why Rhyse'd want Gye."

(He must be kidding),

"She's a trillionaire, he doesn't have a change of clothing. Further, he's a Gennie...then I realised..."

"Subtitles!" I call, chewing a piece of whatsis.

He paused, rewound, Gye jumping ship, then logging back on, as if offing without a bye was how it played.

"She, Rhyse, sent me a message..." he gave with a jerk of surprise as he poured the liquid dirt they called coffee into a cup that probably wasn't clean when it came up here.

"I fought through ten levels of bureaucracy to contact her, her response smelled like I had been mistreating her puppy."

If he told me Gye had taken up with a transvestite I wouldn't have been more shocked.

Since he'd been forthcoming, I told him about the Rhyse demand Donny take Gye, which is why Gye was now on the Presidium.

"Well, Donnie will know how to play him," Lenny mused, "Gye's like a...I don't know what he's like. He's useful in what he has use, other than that, he's an avoidance. Minnie," (his pilot) "...went up to him once in the galley, he slammed her across the room, then in this sweet voice said; "I don't like to be surprised," and walked out. Broke her arm."

I shivered. I had thought of lurking in the aux galley where Gye ate.

Lenny was looking into my face, he had a look I didn't like to see. It was a superior smirk.

"Cilla, I told Minnie, I tell you, stay the hell away from him. He isn't human. He's a Gennie."

"Like I didn't know that." I snorted.

"You don't. Let me tell you...."

"Don't pontificate."

"Y'know, you and Minnie share one brain. When you think you know something you ride it, But you don't know. Gennies aren't human. They're created in laboratories from genes of dozens of...donors and what is created is not a baby, it's a freak! Remember in biology when we'd get bowls of genes and create flies with flower colours? That's how they're created,"

Lenny flung, slamming himself back against the shoddy cushions.

"Gennies got genes from tigers, three toed sloths, and they are bred. Genes from one freak mixed with genes from another freak, new genes added from someone's garden or pig sty, and that freak's genes make the fourth generation freak. And these freaks, for they are! They aren't natural. It isn't blue eyes or perfect teeth,it's the hearing of animals, the sniffer of a bloodhound, it's human genes patched and tricked... when you look at Gye you're seeing a scientist's conception of a perfect man."

(Or a virgin's fantasies of a perfect man.) I think.

"And bred out of them are what makes us human. Love, true loyalty, socialisation, they don't have it. All they got is self interest to spread their genes."

I really had heard enough, went to rise, he gave me a puppy sized shove, and as if he's giving the secrets of the universe;

"Y'know with lions the first thing the Alpha male does is kill all the cubs that aren't his. And he goes breeding the females, couldn't care less about them, he's banging them to get his genes to the next generation. In two years, he'll be killed by another lion, who'll kill his cubs..that's Gennies."

I nodded, acting as if I ate the portion he'd served and belched, but I couldn't buy it. I'd seen Donnie with Gye and there was a link. A friendship. And it wasn't necessary.

If Gye could link with Anisette Rhyse and leave her, her being so rich and powerful, there was something else there. And Lenny laid it out;

"You think he and Madame Rhyse linked in some gooey part of their anatomies. But he's a spy," and Lenny made that nasty laugh.

I got up now, went to find my clothes.

"Oh, go on, sulk. Be annoyed. Minnie, the rest of my crew were thinking romance. It wasn't romance, it was espionage. He's a spy. He's Hawking's eyes, ears, nose."

"A Gennie? Who can trust a Gennie?" I flung back at him.

"He's a mercenary, Cilla. Hawking is the biggest game in town. Who can pay more?" Lenny poked.

I dropped my blouse on the bed, turned to face him.

He smiled;

"Your brain just kicked in. I thought you, of all people, would figure it out without me having to give you the subtitles."

"I've got to go," I say, taking my blouse, pulling it on, wanting to tell Donnie.

Lenny let me get to the door;

"By the way, Gye is wanted. There's a price on his head."

"How much?"

"Ten Million."

"Lie!" I blast.

"Okay, see ya around..." Lenny flicked.

"Ten Million? Who'll pay that?" I dig.

"Listen, I'm not going to help you into your coffin. If you forget my name, if you never speak to me again, I don't care. But don't forget this; stay away from Gye. Don't even think about collecting that reward."

"See ya around!" I say, hopping out, getting back to my ship as quickly as I could.

FireBird

The streets of Smudge, as usual, were teeming with the lowest life forms. I was pushed to a wall by the throng. I looked for an in, and that's when I saw Firebird.

There are people you hear about and don't believe half.
Firebird was a legend.
I always shrugged it off, thinking no one could be all that.

Firebird was a bounty hunter; the most successful.
She hunted on Smudge. The most dangerous place for someone in that line of work.

She hunted here, and she was always successful, and no one ever tried to interfere in her business.

There are myths and pieces of truth, and I'll go with whatever is current. Because whatever it was or why, it was.

She was wearing a black cloak, not a torn old dirty one, but something you could wear to the Opera.

On her forehead was the amulet, a bird of glowing red.

I didn't look at it, I knew better, I focused on her face. Her wide grey eyes, her aquiline nose, her mouth in confident bemusement.

She didn't walk, she cut a swath. In front of her, crunched and craven, was her quarry. I knew it by his robotic steps.

She strode through the streets of Smudge as if she were alone on an empty boulevard. Smudgees scurried like rats to let her pass, keeping their heads low. She deigned not to notice but I could see it in her face, that pride, that power, and I followed her.

Not close, but keeping her in sight as she went through the crowd, going to the Pier.

No one strides like that on Smudge, people will kill you for a day old biscuit. People don't expose their faces, but not Firebird. She strolled down that boulevard towards the Pier as if she were in a park on an extra secure mudball, strolling to tea, not cutting through the filth of a place that doesn't even have a decent name.

When she made the turn and was going up the gang plank of Pier One she said in a voice like a bell;

"What do you want?"

and though I had her back, I knew she spoke to me.

"I know where there's a Gennie with a Ten Mill reward on his head," I call.

"How nice for you," she said, "now get off my tail," and she kept walking, her quarry in front of her.

I stopped, I couldn't believe it.
She's a Bounty Hunter.
And she's turning down a Bounty of that size?

What did I say wrong?

Back on Board

I shook my head, it didn't match. A Bounty Hunter turning down...?

I continued up the plank to my ship, in to the galley to take the taste of the crap I'd eaten on Smudge out of my mouth.

When I'd done, I was on my way to my cabin when Gye was in my path, I couldn't meet his eyes, so turned away, tried to get past. He stepped in front of me. I raised my head.

"Treachery becomes you," he said, and walked around me.

I hadn't blushed since puberty.

I went to Donnie's cabin, he wasn't there, so I waited. I decided to take a shower. I should really go to my cabin, but didn't.

When I'd finished, I pulled back on the same dirty things I'd taken off, there was my Captain.
I told him what Lenny had said, starting with the word 'spy' and ending with 'reward.'

"I knew that," he said, stretching out on his sofa.

"You know?" I must have looked like an idiot, my wet hair slapping around my face as I brayed.

"Yeah. Which is why I told Gye not to leave the ship."

He's talking in this dull voice as if everything he's saying is so boring, he can bearly sit straight. And he goes; "Cilla, listen..."

"Oh don't you start! Oh no! I've already heard it from Lenny! I don't want to hear it from you."

Offensively he said;

"I once heard that Gennies are almost fatally attractive to normal fems. I guess it's true. Because he doesn't look at you, you're willing to sell him just because you know there's a price on him. You don't care for what, and you're not a licensed bounty hunter who can live without a conscience..."

"I saw her..." I interrupt.

"Huh?"

"Firebird. I saw her on Smudge."

"She's real?" he asked with that squinty eyed look.

I nodded.

He gave me a measuring glom to mark if what he'd heard and what I'd seen are in the same quadrant, and knew, just by the off shine of my face, she was.

"And I'm sure you invited her to take Gye off our hands, huh?"

I got defensive; "What is with you? You act like he cares if you live or die, like he's your friend or something!"

"He's a member of my crew. And as long as he's a member of my crew, I won't...betray him."

The way he paused, the way he searched for words, I knew his link with Gye was a little more than just a name on a roster. I flung a hand and stomped out, made it to my cabin where I changed my clothing, showered again to cool my temper.

I don't know, maybe I'm screwy. But a guy is put on a ship as a spy. He's got a fat price tag, enough to buy this ship, and there's a bounty hunter in spitting distance...
well, she'd get the bounty so scratch her...
but!
I can't compute why Donnie wants Gye here, and is protecting him.

Unless, it all ties back to Rhyse/Hawking.

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