Excerpt for Seeming by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Copyright © 2018, 2016 by Nicole C. Luttrell

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Cover Art by Jeremy McClimans, 2018, 2016

Books in the Station 86 series


You Can't Trust The AI


Station Central (Coming in 2019)

Other books by Nicole C. Luttrell


Broken Patterns

Starting Chains

Missing Stitches (Coming soon from Solstice Publishing)

Days and Other Stories, a short story collection

Spook, a short story collection

Deciding To Start

Twelve Little Christmas Tales (Coming November, 2018)

Dedicated to my loving and wonderful husband, who never stops supporting me, laughing with me, sharing a life with me.

Also to every member of NASA, past, present and future. The human race will always look to the stars.

Episode 1

In the year 2099, a company called Galitech launched the first space station meant for recreational use. They shipped up food, sand, sea water, a whole lot of booze and somewhere around a thousand employees. What they created was called Station Center. It floated just beyond the moon and was advertised at the ultimate vacation destination.

Once everyone was convinced that the whole thing wasn't going to devolve into some terrifying human behavior experiment, the overcrowded Earth started looking skyward. In 2104, what was later called the Summer of The Stations, 99 space stations intended for residential use were launched.

At first, they were populated by the brave and the bored. Celebrities thought it was posh to move off planet. Eventually, moving to space was the equivalent of moving to another country.

In 2117, something happened that mankind had pretty much assumed was an inevitability. We made First Contact. A race of people called the Khloe found a random station, Station 86. The thing that surprised people most was that they weren't really all that different from us. While it was true that their skin was red and their hair hard and crystal-like, they were a far cry from the 'alien' everyone had in mind. Even so, it was a day that no one would forget, least of all the children on the station, including a little girl named Sennett.

The Khloe people weren't the last to find us. A few years later they were joined by a race called the Ma'sheed. They caused quite a sensation because they glowed. They sent envoys to stations and lost no time becoming friends. Finally, the Toth quietly made contact. A tall and exceptionally calm race, it was sometimes hard to tell them apart from an Earthian. The only real difference was that their nails and eyes were black.

Over time the four races got along with varying degrees of success. Because Earth was too far away, Station 86 became the political outpost for inter humanoid relations.

These are the stories of Station 86

Godfrey Anders leaned across the counter of his food district booth, scowling at the tablet in his hand. He'd been trying to write this letter for twenty minutes, and so far all he had was 'Dear Dad'. He took a deep breath and shook his mane of dark curls out of his face, then tried again.

I know we haven't really talked since Ki and I got married, but...

No, what the hell would that do? It was his dad that wasn't talking. He backspaced, and tried again.

I miss you, and Ki would love to come meet you.

That was a lie. As much as Ki would love to see Earth, she had no desire to meet a man that she called, 'that racist asshole.' No sense starting this out with false expectations.

I've just found out that I'm terminally ill, and...

No, that would just make him think he'd been right all along. It wasn't bad enough that his only son had run off to space to open a glorified food truck, but then he'd gone and married an alien. In the mind of Matthew Anders, a terminal illness was exactly what Godfrey deserved.

He wished people were in the habit of writing letters on paper still. Hitting the delete button wasn't nearly as satisfying as crumpling up a page when writing became difficult.

Across the aisle from him was a screen, on which the news was playing. With no customers to distract him, Godfrey turned his attention to it.

"The station is all geared up for the homecoming of Head Councilwoman Montgomery this afternoon," the news anchor said, a large grin on his face. "Down here at level one, security has been tripled due to recent anti-council protests. But that's not going to stop anyone from having a good time! There are no less than 15 hospitality stands, where citizens can buy drinks, frozen yogurt, klav and a vast collection of other treats."

“Excuse me,” said an older woman at the other side of his counter. Godfrey turned to her with a smile. She pointed to the sign above his head. “Do you really have fresh fruit from Earth?”

"The seeds are from Earth," Godfrey said, "and the soil is. But the fruit was grown right here on Station 86, in my own little greenhouse."

“But it's real?” the woman asked, “It's not simulated?”

“Nope, not simulated,” Godfrey said.

The woman raised an eyebrow at him. “How do I know it's real?” she asked.

Godfrey laughed. He took a yellow apple from a basket next to him and grabbed a small knife. “You can tell by the taste.” He cut a wedge of the apple for the woman. “Try this, and tell me it's not real.”

The woman took the slice, still giving him a distrustful look. All around them, people were milling around on the market level of the station. It was right in between the lunch and dinner hour, so no one was particularly interested in the food isles. Instead, they passed by, mostly men laden with shopping bags, running errands while the kids were at school.

The woman took a bite of the apple slice. As soon as she did, her eyes lit up. “I haven't had an apple like this since I was a kid,” she said.

"I told you," Godfrey said with a chuckle. "Simulators just can't reproduce that taste."

The woman started to reply but was interrupted by shouting.

They turned to see a young girl, her hand partway in the pocket of a man's jacket. Holding her arm was a police officer that Godfrey recognized, Sennett Montgomery.

Godfrey guessed that some might have found Sennett attractive. She kept her long hair set in thousands of small braids, corralled in a metal band. She was tall, with dark brown skin and brown eyes. He, however, was too put off by the amount of tech she wore to find her very attractive at all. She had the three circular circles on her temple that indicated a virtual screen. On her wrist, she wore the receiver, a thick silver band that reached nearly halfway to her elbow.

“Let me go!” the girl cried, as the man moved away, looking disgusted. “I didn't do anything.”

“Don't lie to me,” Sennett snapped, giving her arm a shake. The girl wrenched left and right, trying to get out of Sennett's grip.

Sennett shook her head and pulled the girl along with her. As they passed Godfrey's stall, the girl thrashed, kicked the front and knocked his tablet to the ground.

“Hey!” Godfrey cried. “Can't you keep your prisoner's under control, Officer?”

Sennett scooped the tablet off of the ground, and looked at it, still holding the girl by one hand.

"It's not bad enough you've been poisoning my plants, you've got to let pickpockets smash up the front of my stall?" he snapped, "I'd like that back now."

“You made your complaint about me, it was looked into, and no evidence was found,” Sennett said, “So you can shut up about your greenhouse, I haven't touched it.”

She took a step, just outside of his outstretched hands. “Well, what's this?” she asked, “Are you applying to the council?”

She held the tablet up to show him the application form. Apparently, it had opened when the tablet fell.

“That is really none of your business,” Godfrey said, snatching the tablet from her.

“You're a Foundation Party member, though. Isn't it the Foundation Party leader that's trying to overthrow the council?”

"Saul Mai just wants the council to be more transparent," Godfrey said, "And if you don't want that too, you're a fool. No one has any say on who's selected, the council chooses their own members. No one even has an idea of what happens during their closed-door meetings. I would think the Current Party would have a problem with that, too."

"So your way to fix that is to be one of the people doing things with no transparency?" Sennett asked, "Yeah, that seems like pretty common Foundation Party doublespeak."

“Yeah,” the girl said. Godfrey noticed for the first time that she was wearing the four intertwined circles of the Current Party as a pin on her jacket. Godfrey himself had the four overlaying squares of the Foundation Party on his own.

“You're under arrest, “ Sennett said, giving the girl another shake, “You don't get a say.”

She continued on, dragging the pickpocket along with her.

A few hours later, Godfrey was closing up when his wife, Ki, arrived. She looked tired, still dressed in her uniform from the hospital.

Even tired, Godfrey thought she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. She'd been the first person he'd met on the station, and her red skin had caught his attention right away. Her hair was a brilliant red, hard a stone, and chipped short to her head.

“Hey,” she said, giving him a tired peck on the cheek.

“Hey,” he replied, “Do you still want to go down to level one and see Councilwoman Montgomery come home?”

"Yeah," Ki said. She pressed a button on the side of the counter, letting loose three scrubbers. They scooted across the counter and the stove range, cleaning all of the surfaces. "It was just a day. David and the new Ma'sheed girl both pulled no-shows. Then, some kid at the college accidentally melted half her lab. No one was seriously hurt, but the ER was full of whiny college kids and freaked out parents."

“So we'll stop by a stall with some booze first thing, then,” Godfrey said, pulling a tray of clean dishes from the washer. Soon enough they had the whole shop cleaned up. They pulled the front shutter down and made their way to the transit station.

The transit had fascinated Godfrey when he'd moved there, five years ago. People moved from level to level on a set of train cars that traveled in a corkscrew formation along the outer walls. The clockwise trains went down, the counter-clockwise trains went up.

They obviously weren't the only ones interested in seeing the head councilwoman's return home. There was a line for the first train, Godfrey and Ki ended up having to wait for another. A group of college kids was waiting as well.

"Hey, check out the Cherry skin," one of them called. Her fellows chuckled. Godfrey looked over at them and was saddened to see that they were wearing Foundation pins. "Won't your parents be ashamed to hear about this," he called, "when I tell them about it?"

When the kids looked unimpressed, he said, “Kathy, Rodger, I know your moms will have something to say about this.”

Realizing that they'd been recognized, the kids slunk a little farther away, shooting Godfrey dirty looks occasionally.

“Little punks,” he muttered, pulling Ki close. She rolled her eyes and said, “Kids are kids, no matter the planet.”

They boarded the transit and took their seats. He pulled out his tablet and started scanning through the news. "Take a look at this," he said, pointing out an article to her. "There's a new poll out that says Saul Mai's got the highest likability ranking of any Foundation Party leader in the past decade. He's more popular than most of the Current Party leaders, too. Even that new guy they just voted in, Howard Stoats."

“Is it normal for Foundation Party leaders to be unpopular?” Ki asked.

“Well, it's always been the smaller party,” Godfrey said. He sighed, and added, “I know we're in space, but there's still a place for tradition, and history. We're out here to assure that our cultures live on forever, all of us.”

Ki sniffed. “Honey, you know I don't understand this obsession Earthians have with political parties. It just gives everyone something to fight over.”

“No, it gives the people the numbers we need to get our voices heard,” Godfrey said.

They reached level one, the docking level. Godfrey hadn't thought it possible that it could be any more crowded than it normally was, but somehow the people of the station had managed it. The hospitality stalls were packed, and any surface that could be sat upon was in use. Kids, clinging to parents or perched on shoulders, shouted everywhere. He was sure that everyone who lived on the station was there, from every planet. He kept a good hold of Ki's hand, especially when they passed a collection of officers. Their blue uniforms were meant to resemble American police officers on Earth, and they did a horribly good job as far as he was concerned.

“Come on!” Ki cried, pulling him forward.

“I'm coming,” he said, laughing at her excitement. “It's a big ship, we're not gonna miss it.”

Ki looked back at him and knocked into someone holding a child. "Oh, sorry," Ki said.

The woman turned. It was Sennett, now dressed as a civilian in jeans and a hoodie, holding what Godfrey assumed was her daughter, April. She looked very much like her mother, but with a head full of fluffy, dark hair. She was a cute kid, but Godfrey noticed that Sennett had her teched out as well. She wore decorative wrist cuffs and had an earpiece in one ear. Godfrey couldn't even imagine what a four-year-old needed an earpiece for.

“No problem,” Sennett said. Next to her stood a man who looked to be a couple years younger than her. He was pale, well built, with dark hair that was shaved close to his head. Like Sennett, he wore the three metal dots on his temples. He also wore the Current Party pin on his jacket.

“What are you doing here, Hypocrite?” Godfrey asked, “After bitching about the council?”

“Wanna watch your mouth in front of my kid?,” Sennett said.

“Councilwoman Montgomery's our mom, Dumbass,” the boy said.

“Mason, could you shut up?” Sennett asked.

“Well, that makes sense,” Godfrey said, “Not only are you a cop, but you're a cop with connections. That's why you're getting away with poisoning my plants.”

“Give it up,” Sennett said, “I'm not doing anything to your damned plants.”

“Well, they're not dying on their own,” Godfrey replied.

“Oh, why don't you take you're damned lame accusations, and-,”

She was interrupted by cheering. A massive screen behind them lit up. The Councilwoman's ship was nearly home.

Godfrey grinned. He supposed it was nothing major. The head councilwoman was in and out of the station several times throughout the year. But there was always this pomp and circumstance, this celebration when she returned.

The ship was sleek, thin and silver, meant only for short trips between the stations. The screen changed from the exterior view to an image of the Councilwoman. She was older, with gray hair pulled back in a low ponytail. She was smiling at all of them.

"Hi, Grandma!" April cried, next to Godfrey. Councilwoman Montgomery must have heard her because she laughed.

“Hello, everyone,” she said, “It is good to see home again. I've got to stop going away so long.”

The crowd let up a cheer.

Then the screen went black. The next moment, it sounded as though several large things hit the side of the station, just outside of the loading docks.

From the front of the room, Godfrey heard yelling. The screen remained black. Several IHP agents, dressed in black suits, began to move towards the docking bay and their ships.

“What is this?” Sennett whispered.

“Everyone, please remain calm,” said a voice over the loudspeaker. “All officers and IHP agents are now on duty. Report to your squad leader or immediate supervisor for orders. All civilians please return to your homes, now.”

From the front of the crowd, someone yelled, “The councilwoman's ship's blown up. She's been killed!”

“Are we under attack?” Ki whispered, pulling Godfrey closer.

“No,” Sennett said. She'd set April on the ground, and was looking at her receiver. “That ship couldn't have been taken down by anything besides station mounted weaponry. It had to have come from the station.”

Episode 2

Sennett slipped into her apartment, trying not to wake Mason and April. She knew they didn't like sleeping in their own rooms when she was gone at night. Sure enough, she found them both asleep on the sectional couch in the living room.

No one had expected Councilwoman Montgomery's daughter to be on duty that night, so no summons had come for her. She was thankful because she would have hated to ignore it. She'd had no intention of being stuck on guard duty while the bitch who killed her mother stalked around the station.

Though, for all the good it had done her, she might as well have gone in.

She made her way her bedroom, intending to change her clothes, grab a caffeine bracelet and some khlav then head up to the police station on Level 10. Maybe someone had found some sort of lead. Maybe she'd get extra lucky and it would be the kind of someone who shares leads with uniforms.

“Mommy?” April called, rising sleepily from the couch.

“Hey, Baby,” Sennett said, “I'm in here.”

April came into her room, just as Sennett had finished tucking her uniform shirt in. She picked the girl up and set her on her hip. "You don't have to leave again, do you?" April asked.

“I'm sorry, but I have to,” Sennett said, “I have to find the bad girl before she hurts somebody else.”

"But what if she comes here, and you're gone?" April asked. She set her head on Sennett's shoulder.

"You know what to do if that happens, don't you?" Sennett asked. It had never happened, thank God, but no police officer was so dumb as to not have a backup plan for her family.

“Go into the closet with Uncle Mason and stay there until you come,” April replied. She played with the purple cuff on her wrist, decorated with bunnies and moons.

"That's right," Sennett said. She kissed April on the forehead and set her on the ground. "How about you and Uncle Mason make strawberry pancakes for breakfast?" she asked.

“Can I have cherry milk?” April asked.

“Yeah, okay,” Sennett agreed. She was jealous as she watched April run into the living room to wake Mason. She wished that a cup of cherry milk would make her feel better, if only for a little while.

She went to the kitchen to heat up a cup of khlav and a hatsu. Mason joined her there a few minutes later and started fussing with the simulator.

“How do you eat those things?” he asked, looking at her pastry.

“They're delicious and filling,” Sennett replied.

“But they're filled with rats,” Mason said, scratching his head.

“They're not filled with rats, rats are from Earth,” Sennett said, “They're made with soto.”

“And what's a soto? It's a rat from Khloe,” Mason said.

“How are you making jokes right now?” Sennett asked.

Mason looked over at her, looking so much older than his 19 years right then. “I've got to stay here and take care of April. Cherry milk isn't going to distract her for long. If I don't make jokes, I'll freak out.”

"Okay, you're right," Sennett said. She gave him a hug and held on a little longer than normal. "Why would anyone want to kill her?"

"I'd start looking at the marshal from the Foundation Party," he said, "He's been the one running his mouth about how we need to do away with the council altogether."

“Right,” Sennett said. She made herself let go. “I'll be home when I can, but I don't know when that's going to be.”

“That's cool. We'll just hang out here and watch videos,” Mason said, “You worry about catching this bitch.”

The transit wasn't as busy as most mornings. Sennett managed to find a seat and settled in to nibble on her breakfast and try to distract herself with her news feed. It didn't work, but it gave her somewhere to look beside into the frightened faces of her fellow passengers.

An older man sat down next to her. “Ma'am?” he asked, “Excuse me, Ma'am?”

“Help you?” Sennett asked, looking up.

“You're a peace officer, right?” he asked.

“That's what my badge says,” Sennett said.

“Right,” he said, “Do you know anything? About what's going on, I mean.”

“Only what everyone else knows,” she said, taking a bite of her hatsu.

“Oh, okay. So, um, should we be worried? I mean, do we know who attacked the councilwoman?”

Sennett sighed. "Sir, we live in a great big station hanging in the middle of space. On that station, every day, we hunt down thieves, loan sharks, killers and your garden variety asshole who just wants to get drunk and punch someone. The only difference today is that the person who was killed was someone we all know. So, I think, we shouldn't be any more worried today than we are any other day."

“Oh,” the man said. He got up to find another seat.

Level 10 was busy. Detectives sat at their desks, either working or doing very good impressions. Officers came from locker rooms, or supply rooms, either going on shift or coming off. Interns and office assistants bustled around, doing all the random odd jobs that no one noticed unless they weren't done. All looked normal, same as it had been yesterday morning. The only difference this morning was that everyone wore a black band either over their badge or on their upper right arm. It was an ancient tradition, dating back to America on Earth, but an honored one. She had one on her own arm. It was nothing, weight wise, would barely have registered on most scales. She wondered if she was the only officer who felt it's immense weight.

Sennett went to the clock in screen and clicked her name from the list on the left-hand side. It popped back to the right, indicating that she was about to be in the field. Just as she turned to check in with her sergeant, though, Commissioner Stone poked her head out of her office. "Montgomery," she called, "Can I see you?"

She nodded, hoping she wasn't going to be sent home before she learned anything.

The commissioner's office was comfortable. A white desk with a sleek metal chair sat in the center of the room, with large screens on every wall. Two of Sennett's fellow officers, Joyce and Amanda, were already there.

When the door closed behind Sennett, Commissioner Stone said, “Thank you for coming. Before we begin, Sennett, I want to extend my sympathy for the death of your foster mother.”

“Thank you,” Sennett said, but she bristled. She and Mason had never much cared for the 'foster' disclaimer when it had come to their mother.

“Last night, Councilwoman Sonya Voit was nominated as the new head of the council,” Stone continued, “Needless to say, she was in contact with me not long after. Her first concern is the safety of the station while we find the killer. As such, she is asking a lot of us. Doubling shifts, increasing the detectives that are investigating. Especially now that the IHP has left.”

“Where did they go?” Amanda asked, “Isn't the whole point of the IHP that they're supposed to protect humankind?”

“I wasn't privy to their reason's for leaving,” Stone said, her tone frosty. “They received a message from their higher ups, and left.”

“Great timing,” Sennett said, “All the times they're in here interfering with our cases, and now when we could use a hand they've taken off.”

“No sense complaining about what we can't fix,” Stone said, “Now, the council has also asked for some officers to help guard them. That's what I'd like the three of you to do.”

“Do we think that the rest of the council could be targeted?” Joyce asked.

Stone shrugged. "You know as well as I do that Councilwoman Montgomery didn't have any personal enemies. But with all those anti-council rallies recently I think it's a good idea to at least be cautious. The council members are at their office on Level Two. Move out."

“Commissioner, I was really only checking in,” Sennett said, quickly, “I was gonna go home if I'm not really needed, and if you're sticking me on security guard detail-,”

“Montgomery, don't lie to me,” Stone said, “We all know you were out last night, making trouble for the detectives.”

“I don't think I made any trouble for anyone,” Sennett said.

“I don't think that's your call,” Stone replied, “You're a uniform, not a detective. You don't follow leads, you follow orders. Now move out!”

“You knew she was going to do that,” Joyce said as they boarded the transit. “I don't know why you even came in. If my mom had just died I'd be freaking the hell out.”

“I'd be celebrating, but that's me,” Amanda said.

Sennett shrugged. “There's a killer on this station. So long as she's out there, my kid isn't safe.”

They arrived at Level two. No one else got off with them. People didn't come to this level without a specific reason. It housed the council office, the post office, the offices for the Current and Foundation parties and some housing for visiting dignitaries.

Sennett and the others made their way down the quiet path to the Council house. It was larger than most buildings on the station, though it looked similar to other buildings in structure. With room being limited, buildings were made in simple, square forms. Most were made of a light, plastic-like substance that had been designed for station buildings. It was a light gray in color, giving the whole station a uniform, standard look.

Five of the council members were already in the conference room. It had a set of Vue windows, currently set for what Sennett had been told were Earth cornfields. The walls were a gentle blue color, with creamy flooring. The whole room spoke of calm.

Councilwoman Sonya Voit stood at the head of the circular table. She was a slight woman, with short silver hair that curled around her head. She gave Sennett a sorrowful look when she came in. “Honey,” she said, “I didn't know Commissioner Stone would send you. You should be at home.”

Sennett knew everyone in the room. There was Councilwoman Emma Mostevich, a tall woman with dramatic blond hair that hung down to her waist, who'd sent her toy cars every Christmas when she was a kid. Councilman Kevin Chan, who'd moved to the station from China on Earth before they closed their borders forever. He had come to dinner and gotten into loud arguments with Mom about weapons laws. Councilwoman Heather McAvoy, a heavyset woman, hadn't liked Mom and made a point of sending gifts of loud toys whenever she had an excuse. Councilwoman Shannon Heart was a gorgeous woman with dark black skin who always wore her hair in a tight bun, strung with silver chains that glittered in the light. Sennett had greatly admired her until she'd learned Heart's opinion of a man's place. While she still bristled at being stuck here instead of looking for the killer, she was less inclined, just then, to walk out on these people. They were her family.

“Thank you, Councilwoman,” Sennett said, “but right now, I'm needed.”

Sonya raised an eyebrow at her but didn't argue further.

The door opened again. Godfrey Anders stumbled in. “Sorry, sorry,” he said, “I had to close the shop up, and there was this-,” He stopped when he saw Sennett.

"It's fine, Councilman Anders," Sonya said, gesturing to a chair. "Have a seat, and we'll get started."

“Can I ask why we have police officers here?” Godfrey asked, sitting down while he gave Sennett a dirty look.

“They are here to protect us. There will be an increased police presence all through the station,” Sonya said.

“Until we catch this assassin, our first priority is the safety of our citizens,” Councilman Chan said.

“And we're sure an increased police force is the right way to do that?” Godfrey asked, “No, never mind, I understand. Pretend I didn't say anything, please.”

“If we can focus, please,” Sonya said, “we have a busy day, today. The IHP has left the station, and I've been getting reports from Station 83 and 7 that they've left those ones as well. In addition to that, we have meetings with Howard Stoat and Saul Mai. We've got a meeting with Commissioner Stone about the assassination. And, if we have time, we need to look into the matter with the mail.”

“What's going on with the mail?” Godfrey asked.

“No one's been getting anything from Earth,” Councilman Chan said.

“For how long?” Godfrey asked.

“At least six months,” Sonya said, “But, as I said, that is not the first priority today.”

“Did the IHP give any indication as to why they were leaving the stations?” Councilwoman Heart asked. “Isn't it their job to protect humans in space?”

“They did not share any information with us before they left,” Sonya said, “And, as we have no time frame for them coming back, we must rely on our own police force.” She gave the officers a smile, “I have every confidence in them. Honestly, I doubt we'll even notice the IHP are gone.”

“Except for the fact that they handled security on Level one,” Councilwoman Mostevich said. “They also patrolled around the station. Do we have enough officers to take over those jobs and still patrol inside?”

“What if we had some citizens keep an eye on lower crime areas?” Godfrey asked, “Or even academy cadets? That way the more experienced officers can focus on the larger tasks.”

“Great idea,” Sonya said, “We'll suggest it to Stone.”

From the table came the voice of the secretary. “Council, Marshal Howard Stoat is here for his meeting,”

“Thank you, Francis. Send him in, please,” Sonya said. “And if anyone hears something reliable about the IHP, bring it up as soon as you can. I don't like not knowing things.”

The door to the conference room opened. Howard Stoat, the marshal of the Current Party came in. He was a tall, slender man, with a neat beard. He wore an earpiece in one ear, and a wrist cuff tucked under his jacket sleeve. He saw Sennett when he came in, and winked at her.

“Marshal Stoat,” Councilman Chan said, “Good to see you. Have a seat?”

“Thank you,” Howard said, settling into a chair. He looked, as he always did, as though he belonged right where he was. “Good to see you all today. Are we still waiting for Saul?”

“No,” Sonya said, her face suddenly dark, “Because the two parties are so different, it seemed better to meet with the two of you alone. That way, we're hearing all that each party has to tell us.”

“That was thoughtful of you, thank you,” Howard said, but Sennett noticed that he frowned, for just a moment. He must have thought the same thing that she did. To divide the marshals, when they stood together on a subject for once, would weaken their position.

“The council was created on the ship here from Earth, did you know that?” Howard asked, “Six people, out of the 100 that originally came, were put in charge of running the whole thing. As those six members either passed away or retired, they were replaced by the other five.”

"Thank you, we all took sixth-grade History and Government," Councilwoman Heart snapped.

“I bet it didn't mention this,” Howard said, “The council was only ever supposed to be a temporary situation. Their job was to keep order on the station, but their second job was to decide upon a system of government. Instead, they simply kept replacing people as they left, with no outside opinions allowed.”

“You're here now,” Councilwoman Heart said, “Aren't you an outside opinion?”

Howard raised an eyebrow at her. “Councilwoman, I beg your pardon, but it took me a year and a half to make this appointment. I think it would make all of us feel better if there was some transparency in the way council members are selected. You make all of the decisions about our lives, and we have no say who is on the council and who isn't. I see that Godfrey Anders has joined your ranks. Maybe some people might have had an issue with a man who just arrived on Station 86 a few years ago being in charge. Maybe we would have preferred someone who had lived more of his or her life here.”

“Maybe some would have preferred someone who didn't have a Khloe wife, too,” Godfrey muttered.

Howard raised an eyebrow. "Someone from your own party might have made that objection, Councilman, not mine. But I know you. You oppose artificial births, food modification, human mechanical adaptations and I am not comfortable with you on this council, sir. I am very afraid that science will take a step backward if you're making decisions, you should forgive me for saying. If you had been voted on, if the majority of people on this station had said they wanted you making our choices, I would maybe shut up about it. No one got that chance, though."

“What are you suggesting?” Councilwoman Mostevich asked.

“Voting rights,” Howard said. “Elections. Not even right now, but when the council loses another member. Let the people chose who will sit with you.”

The council members looked around at each other. Finally, Sonya said, “That is something we will have to discuss. It may seem like a reasonable thing to you, but-,”

“But there is a reason we've never done that,” Councilwoman Heart said, “The people have a tendency to vote for the very worst reasons. Fear, manipulation, greed. I remember hearing stories from Earth about people voting for a leader because they felt like they could have a beer with them.”

“I was elected based on voting,” Howard said, “I don't think most of the people who voted for me feel like they want to have a beer with me.”

"Thank you," Sonya said, "I appreciate that you came to us. Perhaps a step toward compromise would be speaking to the marshals more often. Get the people's opinions. What do you all think?"

“It would be a good idea, I think,” Councilwoman Heart said, “Assuming you can stop the protests, Marshal Stoat. We won't talk to people who are screaming at us.”

“That's fair enough,” Howard said, “I'll talk to the people of my party, see what I can do.”

He got to his feet, giving the council a quick bow. “Thank you for your time. And, if there's anything the Current Party can do to help you in this trying time, you know how to reach me.”

The door opened again, and Marshal Saul entered. He was younger than Howard, with a bit of stubble on his chin and a well-defined upper body. Sennett, like most of the straight women on the station, thought he was good looking. She was sure that was how he'd gotten elected.

The two gave each other curious looks. “I thought we were meeting with the council together,” Saul said, just the hint of accusation in his voice.

“That's what I thought, too. But, what can we do?” Howard asked. He clapped Saul on the shoulder, and said, “We'll meet up after and compare notes, alright?”

“Sure, yeah,” Saul said, but he didn't look convinced.

As Howard left, Saul started to take a seat at the table. “Actually, we'd prefer if you stood,” Councilman Chan said. His voice was suddenly cold.

Saul looked confused but did as he was asked, clasping his hands behind him. "My esteemed council," he began, but Sonya held her hand up. "Stop. I'm afraid you're not here to discuss politics with us."

“I beg your pardon?” Saul asked.

“Saul Mai, do you know a young lady named Elizabeth Conrad?” Councilwoman Mostevich asked.”

"Of course, she's my goddaughter," Saul said, looking confused.

The council members, except for Godfrey, nodded at each other as though this confirmed their worst assumptions.

“Do you mind telling me what all this is about?” Saul asked.

“Elizabeth is ten years old, is that right?” Councilwoman Heart asked.

“She is. Council members, I'm not fond of games. Why don't you all stop hopping around and tell me what's going on?” Saul demanded.

Sonya got to her feet. “Accusations have been brought to our attention that you, Saul Mai, had sexual relations with Elizabeth Conrad.”

Saul turned pale. "That's not possible because that never happened," he said.

“I think it's very possible,” Sonya said, her face dark, “I've seen the proof.”

She tapped the table before her. A screen appeared that was out of Sennett's line of sight. But she could hear the noises just fine. A little girl, whimpering with ill-hidden pain, and a man grunting.

“Sonya, what is this? This isn't real,” Saul cried, “You're part of my own party! You voted for me!”

“And I am sickened by that now,” Sonya said, “We find ourselves in a particular position. What you've done isn't technically illegal. When we founded Station 86, we thought that mankind had evolved past that sort of illness. It seems that we were wrong. Still, we can't arrest you for something that wasn't illegal when you did it. We can and will arrest you if we find that it happens after today. I suggest, if you don't want this to become public knowledge, you quietly resign as marshal of the Foundation Party.”

“This is outrageous!” Saul cried.

“We don't have time for your lies,” Councilwoman Mostevich snapped, “You've seen our evidence and you have two choices. Resign, or we'll inform the rest of your party of this. Let them decide what to do about you.”

Saul looked back and forth at the faces of each council member. Finally, he landed on Godfrey. "You must know this isn't true," he said, "They're just doing this because people listen to me! Godfrey, are you really going to let them do this?"

Godfrey was looking at the table, a hand over his mouth. “I, I can't-,” he said. He looked up at his fellow council members. “You should have warned me that this was going to happen today.”

“I'm sorry, there wasn't time, under the circumstances,” Sonya said, “We can't let this happen again.”

“Go back to your home now, Mr. Mai,” Councilwoman Mostevich said, “Consider the choices before you.”

Saul looked like he had much more to say. But instead, he turned, and left.

After the door closed, Sonya set a hand on Godfrey's shoulder. “I am sorry, dear,” she said, “We should have warned you.”

“You're right, though, there wasn't time,” Godfrey said. He still looked as though he wanted to throw up. Sennett wondered if he was regretting his decision to join the council right then.

“We do have to move on, now,” Councilman Chan said, “We have much to discuss.”

It was hours later when the meeting concluded. Sennett felt as though she was losing her mind. She'd not come into work to guard people sitting in a secure room, she should be hunting down the killer. She tried to stretch her back without being noticed, being accustomed to walking for her shift and not standing in one spot.

As the council members rose to depart, Sonya said, “I've sent a request to Commissioner Stone for two more officers to join us. They'll escort you all home.”

“What about you?” Godfrey asked.

"I was just declared the head councilwoman less than twenty-four hours ago," Sonya said with a chuckle, "I believe it will be weeks before I see my house again. Good thing there are bedrooms here."

"Someone should stay with you, Councilwoman," Sennett said and regretted it at once. The last thing she wanted was to blow her whole night, watching Sonya while she did tedious paperwork.

Much to her relief, Sonya said, “I'm fine. There are guards here at all times, and everyone coming in or out of this level is monitored. Actually, if anyone else wants to stay with me, I wouldn't think that a bad idea.”

Councilwoman McAvoy chuckled. “Sonya, no. And I'm not going to be shepherded to my house, either, thank you.”

Some of the other council members shook their heads. Councilman Chan looked concerned, though. “I think it's a necessary precaution, Heather. At least for now.”

“Kevin,” Councilwoman McAvoy chuckled, “I'm a grown woman, I can look after myself.”

“Thorn was a grown woman, too,” Godfrey said quietly.

Sennett's heart jumped, hearing her mother's name in his mouth.

“No,” Councilwoman McAvoy said, folding her keyboard closed with a snap. “Have a good evening gentlemen, ladies. I'll see you tomorrow.”

She left, with no one else making an attempt to stop her.

“Officer Montgomery, will you escort me to my home? I think we live near each other,” Godfrey said, tucking his keyboard and screen into a canvas bag.

She wanted very badly to refuse, but as she couldn't think of a polite way to do so, so she just said, “I didn't know we lived near each other. I'm in section four of Level eight.”

“I know, I'm in section three. It's right on your way,” Godfrey replied.

“That works out well,” Sonya said, “Sennett, perhaps you could also escort Councilman Anders here tomorrow morning?”

Sennett suppressed a groan. “Of course, Councilwoman,” she said.

They left the office together, making their way towards the transit “Sorry to spoil your afternoon,” Godfrey said, “Maybe you'd rather just let this person kill me?”

"I want to be hunting the bitch that killed my mom, not babysitting you," Sennett said, "At this rate, I'm only gonna get a chance at her if she comes after you. Though, that might be a win-win for me."

“What's your problem with me?” Godfrey snapped.

“Really?” she replied, “You don't consider yelling at me about 'unnatural food' poisoning our kids, artificial births making us less human to be in any way offensive? It's not like you even have kids, I do.”

"That doesn't mean I don't care about kids or the future of the human race," he said, "You and your party, on the other hand, would rather trade our humanity for a quick fix for dinner."

“Ignoring science and technology isn't making you more human, it's just making you backward," Sennett said, "Is this why you asked me to take you home? So you could harass me?"

He took a deep breath, and said in a quieter voice, “I wanted to ask you a favor, actually.”

Sennett raised an eyebrow. “You picked a fascinating way to start off,” she said.

“Look, I'm sorry, but this is important,” he said, “I know what you just heard about Saul is, well it's terrible. And I know you want to tell your party about it. But, please, if I could ask you to wait-,”

“Why do you think I would tell my party?” Sennett asked, “I know you don't think much of police, but we do have a code of honor. That's what's keeping me from beating you, and what will keep me from even being tempted to share anything I heard in there.”

“Oh,” Godfrey said, “Well, I'm sorry that I offended you, then. But, I don't know how much I believe that he raped Elizabeth,”

They boarded the transit. Godfrey took a seat, while Sennett stood in front of him, scanning the crowd. The car they were in was all but empty. “Why?” she asked, “You saw the proof.”

“I saw a video,” Godfrey said, “But I also know the man.”

Sennett leaned against the wall. She tapped her wrist screen and started scrolling through messages. April had sent her roughly seventeen drawings.

Just as they reached Level Three, her emergency program went off. “All officers, Councilwoman McAvoy has been attacked on Level 7.”

Sennett stood up straight, glancing at the indicator that showed what level they were on. “Four,” she muttered, “By the time we get there, she'll be gone.”

“I don't know what you want to do about it,” Godfrey said, but Sennett was already pulling a small disc from her belt. She tapped the center of it, and it grew in size until she could comfortably stand on it. She waived her wrist screen in front of the window on the transit, opening it. “Come on,” she said, grabbing Godfrey by the arm and pulling him onto the disc.

“Wait, what the hell are you doing?” Godfrey cried.

“Not letting her get away,” Sennett muttered. She tapped her heels on the disc, working the controls to lift it out of the window and up through the air.

“Oh, shit!” Godfrey cried, clinging to Sennett's arm, “Why wouldn't you just leave me behind on the transit?”

“I was told to protect you, and that's what I'm going to do,” Sennett said, maneuvering onto Level Seven, “Don't be afraid.”

“That's asking a little much at this point,” Godfrey said. They landed, and Sennett grabbed her disc off of the ground before taking off at a run.

Officer Clark was already there. She was on one knee next to Councilwoman McAvoy, who was sprawled out on the ground.

Sennett looked around. She saw scared people, hiding behind trash bins or lying belly down on the ground, their hands over their heads. She didn't see what they were cowering from, though.

Suddenly, there was a popping noise. A woman, dressed all in black with a cloth over her face, appeared behind Godfrey. She pulled him out of Sennett's reach, pushing a gun into his temple.

Episode Three

Godfrey froze, the barrel of the gun pressed against his temple. He could feel his heartbeat in every part of his body, and he couldn't help but wonder how long he would have that luxury.

"Let him go," Montgomery yelled, leveling her weapon at the assassin. What the hell did she think that was going to do?

The assassin didn't respond. She squeezed Godfrey's arm with a frightening grip. “You humans,” she hissed. She had the metallic voice of a Khloe. “How superior you all think you are.”

"I don't know why you're doing this," Godfrey said, "but there has to be another way to make your message clear. You won't have many allies among the Earthlings or the Khloe if you're killing people."

“What makes you think I have a message?” the woman laughed, “We just want to see as many of you dead as possible.”

“I said let him go!” Montgomery yelled.

“Can we maybe not antagonize her when she's got a gun to my head?” Godfrey snapped.

“This isn't a gun,” the assassin said, “But you might wish it was. It's an acid injector. That's why your fellow council member's brain is currently leaking out of her ears. Do you know what? I think she's still alive.”

“Please, I've never done anything to the Khloe people,” Godfrey said, “My wife's Khloe.”

“And you think that makes you better than them?” she screamed.

Montgomery was doing something to the pad on her wrist. Suddenly the assassin's weapon made a popping noise. She dropped it with a shout.

“Now get on the ground and put your hands behind your head, or I'll find out what else you've got that's electronic,” Montgomery said.

But the assassin had already pulled a coin like device from her pocket and clicked it. She vanished.

Montgomery ran to Godfrey, the other officer was still with Councilwoman McAvoy. “Are you injured?” she asked.

"She, she's a Khloe," Godfrey said. All of the adrenaline was leaving his body, and he nearly sank to the ground. "I think there might be more than one assassin."

“Why?” Montgomery asked.

“Because when I asked her why she was doing this, she said we don't have a reason, not I don't have one,” Godfrey snapped, “And thanks so much for dragging me right into the line of fire, by the way. What the hell did you hit her with?”

Montgomery glanced up, as though making sure that her fellow officer couldn't hear. “Don't worry about it,” she said, “It's a focused electric disrupter. They're not strictly legal.”

“Great, a cop with connections who thinks she's above the rules,” Godfrey muttered, “That never goes wrong.”

"Right, I'll just let you get shot," she snapped, offering him her hand. He took it because he wasn't sure that he was going to be able to rise without help.

The transit station was growing thick with cops. Godfrey brushed the dust from his knees as Commissioner Stone walked up to them. He took a deep breath as she said, "Councilman Anders, are you alright?"

'That's right,' Godfrey thought, 'I'm a person of authority, not some farmer's punk son. You're going to be nice to me.'

“I'm fine,” he said, “I almost wasn't, thanks to your officer, though. She drug me out of the transit window on that insane disc thing of hers.”

The commissioner's eyebrow arched. “I am sorry if you were frightened, Councilman. I assure you, Montgomery is one of our finest uniforms. She wouldn't have put you in danger.”

“I don't agree,” Godfrey replied. Montgomery was standing at attention next to the commissioner, giving him a deadly glare.

Unfortunately, the officer who'd been on the scene when Godfrey and Montgomery had arrived chose that moment to approach. She set a hand on Montgomery's shoulder, and said, “Thank God you showed up when you did. She'd have probably killed us both if you hadn't, and all these other civilians.”

Damn their sorority mentality.

“I don't like how this situation is escalating,” Commissioner Stone said, watching as an emergency medical team lifted Councilwoman McAvoy's body into a transport pod. “Sennett, I'm sorry, I know you were on duty all day, but I need you to stay with Councilman Anders until I can free someone else up. It might not be until tomorrow.”

Montgomery nodded. “The killer's pride might be hurt, failing to get both of them. There's a good chance she'll try again.”

“No,” Godfrey snapped, “I'm not having this woman in my house.”

Apparently, he wasn't an important enough person to get away with that. "Councilman, I don't think you understand the gravity of this situation," she said, giving him a hard look. "You are the target of a dangerous killer. We've already lost two council members and I'll be damned if we'll lose another.”

“Fine, alright,” Godfrey muttered, “I'm sure that Officer Montgomery will make a very pleasant house guest.”

"Take the bullet shuttle, I'm upping your access," Commissioner Stone said, fiddling with her wrist pad. Montgomery nodded and guided him to the circular tube that went straight down the center of the station. It was a bit of a walk from the transit to the shuttle. Montgomery didn't seem to have anything to say to Godfrey, who felt as though he'd pushed his luck already. She didn't seem the type to hit a man, but he didn't want to find out.

Montgomery started to press things on her wrist pad again, and Godfrey heard Howard Stoat's voice. "My fellow members of Station 86," he said, "In light of the last few days events, I have a favor to ask you. Please, take care of your neighbors as we get through this together. Keep alert, keep safe and report suspicious activity to the brave police and IHP officers who protect us. For those of us who are faithful, pray for the families of the citizens we've lost. I will be attending a prayer service at the Grand Choral Star Synagogue this evening at seven.

“I know that we are struggling with our council for more of a voice in our community. We have a long way to go to achieve that right, a right that we should not have to ask for. But right now is not the time for political fighting. Now is the time to pull together, and look after each other.”

“Isn't he smarmy,” Godfrey said as they reached the shuttle.

"Shut up," Montgomery replied, waving her wrist pad over the security screen to open the door.

They remained silent in the shuttle and as they walked through the streets of the residential level toward Godfrey's house. They were on his block when he heard a hissing sound behind them.

They turned, Montgomery setting a hand to her weapon. Saul Mai stood behind them. He raised his hands when he saw them, saying, “Don't shoot, Officer.”

“What are you doing here?” Godfrey asked.

“I had to talk to you,” Saul said, “Godfrey, my wife kicked me out.”

“Wonder why,” Montgomery said.

“I didn't touch Elizabeth,” Saul said, “The council is making this up to get me out of the way.”

“Why would they do that?” Montgomery asked.

“Are you kidding me? They've got ultimate power here, and I threaten that. Do you think I'm the first, Officer?”

“I don't see anyone accusing Marshal Stoat of anything,” Montgomery replied.

Saul snorted, “That's because no one likes him, Ma'am. Godfrey, please. You're on the council, you might be the only one who can help me.”

Godfrey considered Saul. His hands were shaking, and his eyes were red. His normally handsome face was splotchy as though he'd been sobbing. Was it from fighting with his wife, or guilt?

“I don't know, Saul,” he said finally.

Saul ran a hand through his hair. "Look, I'm not asking you to put me up. I'm not asking for money or anything like that."

“Saul, I've seen the evidence,” Godfrey said.

“It's not real! Come on, you can see that, can't you? Look at the evidence, really look at it,” He glanced around, as though worried someone might spot him. “I'll contact you soon. Keep safe, Godfrey. I don't know how you got on the council, but I think having you there might be our only hope for freedom.”

As he turned, and faded away into the street, Montgomery said, “That was messed up. I can see why you'd want to distance yourself from him.”

“Shut up,” Godfrey said. They continued towards his house. “Can you get that video, maybe take a look at it?”

“No, but you can,” she replied, “You're the one on the council, not me.”

They walked into the house. Ki was already home, stretched out on the couch, watching tv. She looked up and blinked a few times when she saw Montgomery. "So, you had an interesting first day, I take it?" she asked.

The next morning, Godfrey stumbled into the kitchen to find Montgomery sitting at his table, sipping klav and typing on a virtual keyboard. She glanced up when he came in, and nodded. "Did Ki leave for work already?" he asked.

“Yeah,” she said, looking back at the screen hovering in front of her. “She's nice. What's she doing with you?”

Godfrey ignored her and started pulling eggs from the fridge. "Sending a report?" he asked.

“Sending an email to my kid,” she replied.

“Does her dad mind that you've been at work all night?” Godfrey asked.

“She doesn't have a dad,” Montgomery said, “My brother's in higher education. He lives with us, and looks after her while I'm at work.”

“Oh, you had her made, then?” He cracked eggs into a bowl.

“I suppose you'll have one the old fashioned way on purpose, with no advancements or bacterial protections,” she snapped, sipping her drink. “I mean, in this day and age, why not risk a slew of physical and mental handicaps with an old fashioned birth.”

“Sorry, I wasn't clear enough with my scorn,” he replied, “I was just thinking how selfish it was to become a single parent on purpose.”

“Tell me how I should raise my kid, with all that experience you have,” she snapped.

He sighed. “Any excitement last night?” he asked.

“One of your neighbor's dogs got into your trash can,” she said. After taking another long sip of her drink, she added, “I let him.”

He finished cooking eggs and toast, then sat down at the table with her to eat. She made a face at his plate but didn't say anything.

“I suppose I can't go to my shop today,” Godfrey said.

“No, what with the killer and all,” she replied.

“Ah,” he said. He finished the rest of his meal in silence.

He was just putting his plate in the dishwasher when Ki burst through the front door. Her shirt was torn so badly that she had to hold it together to cover her front.

“What's going on?” Godfrey asked.

“I was sent home, for my safety!” Ki cried, “Godfrey, why the hell didn't you tell me that you almost died yesterday, or that this killer is Khloe? Why did I have to find out from a nurse, after being spit at on the way to work?”

“How did people find out?” Godfrey asked.

“The only people who are supposed to know are police,” Montgomery said, already tapping away at her wrist pad. “Let me see what I can find out.”

“And why didn't you tell me?” Ki asked her.

Montgomery shrugged. “You're not my wife,” she said.

Ki muttered, and went to their bedroom to change. Godfrey followed after her. “What happened to your shirt?” he asked.

“Some bitch grabbed me on the transit,” she snapped, pulling it off and throwing it in the trash bin.

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