Klamath, Splinter One

Klamath © copyright 2012 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller All rights reserved Splinteruniverse.com is authorized to use this text.

Klamath

presented in splinters

by

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

1

No answer from the building. On the bluish lawn beneath the balcony lay assorted debris ejected during and apparently after the fight. Two chairs. Tape holders. Some kind of musical instrument resembling a bell with twin exhaust stacks. It was not yet dusk and the twin moons added strange highlights and multiple shadows. Commander Angela Lizardi called again.

“Sergeant Robertson, front and center!”

A bottle arced it’s way lazily out of the broken window. Around Liz Lizardi the policemen scattered.

The bottle thumped on the lawn, refusing to break.

“Captain may I borrow your loudtalker?”

The police captain who had fetched Lizardi to the altercation approached hastily, bearing the portable PA system.

“We don’t know how dangerous she is, Commander. She threw all three of them out the window. She may be armed!”

“Give me that. Captain. I promise you, if she were armed and ready to fight you’d already have major casualties on your hands. Now let me talk, OK.”

Lizardi pressed her lips in a straight line for a moment. If the whole thing weren’t so grim to start with it would be funny, she knew. Just hijinks after an assignment, something to be paid off and laughed about down the road. Just blowing off steam. Just a binge. Sergeant Redhead versus the locals, part four.

Except that the binge was now several months old, and this was Miri.

“SERGEANT ROBERTSON. THIS IS YOUR COMMANDING OFFICER. COMMANDER LIZARDI. PRESENT YOURSELF FRONT AND CENTER. ON THE DOUBLE.”

A crowd had begun to gather: they gasped as one as the red-haired figure flung itself onto and then over the balcony without hesitation, flipped in mid-air, and landed on it’s feet. The girl was bloody, and wobbly. She gathered her strength and marched directly for Lizardi.

Sargent Robertson reporting.”

The salute was less than snappy, the voice slurred.

” Sargent…”

Sorry, ” came the voice of the diminutive woman. “Sorry ,Commander.” Then she collapsed into a tiny, rag-doll pile on the blue lawn.

*

“Liz, you don’t understand. I didn’t start the fight. Really, I didn’t start it this time. That guy –the one I broke his nose. We’d been around together for a few days. Nothing special, but OK for a tumble or two, you know. Then in the middle of stuff he makes a com call and next thing I know he’s got these friends of his wanting to wait in line.

“Liz, the worst thing is, they was gonna pay him! No by-your-leave or nothing. Just •••that was it. I said no and I meant it, and the idiots wouldn’t take the hint, guess they thought I was just some kind of stupid kid or something.”

Miri. I don’t doubt they had it coming. If you were running your life by the Liaden code I’d guess wed have a good cause for Balance against all of them. But you did it,too, girl. You were so gone you didn’t see the problem till you had to hurt someone. You could have killed them all, throwing things around like that. You”re lucky you’re charged with Aggravated Assault and not Attempted Murder!”

“Lucky? Liz, what’s wrong with you? Them…”

“Shut up Miri,” came the voice, low. “Now.”

Miri was silent, eyes big in her face. Liz stared at the girl a moment.

Miri”s long red hair, usually neatly braided, was stuffed into an ugly green headscarf. Her face was splotchy and purpled; her grey eyes seemed colorless amid the bruises.

“No more. Not even once more. I’ll not come get you again, girl. They could have shot you, those police. You’ve got a history of violence here and they know you’re a trained merc. They could have gassed the building. They could have brought in Thark-hounds and I’d have been having to bury pieces. I’ve lost too many Miri. I can’t live the rest of my life rescuing you and I can’t wake up each day wondering if I have to spend it watching you be sick again from whatever you’ve been on for the last however many months. You have to get on with things, like all of us do. Got it?”

Liz, you ain’t leaving me here like this?” The qirl gestured around her,hands taking in the bed in the cell-like room.

I can if I have to. Listen to me. hear? I’ll drop you from the unit if I need to, but I don’t want to. If you tell me you want to get over this, fine. I’ll do whatever is in my power to do it. If you want to go on as you are I’ll tell the man out there you’ve resigned from Lizardi’s Lunatics and you can fight it through by yourself. Got it?”

Liz, you’re always here. You got me away for Surebleak and …”

” It doesn’t look like I have, Miri. I’m going to walk around the grounds once. When I come back in you’ll tell me yes or no. I’ll pull with you – all of us we got left will pull – with you! – if you want to get things right. Otherwise they’ll deport you back to Surebleak on your bill.”

The Commander gathered herself together, nodded to Miri, and nodded to the guards at the door on her way out.

2

My name is Sergeant Miri Robertson of Lizardi’s Lunatics. I’ve been a Lunatic for almost seven Standards, and that feels like most of my life. I’m 19 Standards old and I was born on Surebleak, which doesn’t count for much.I have a hard time right now concentrating.

The light isn’t so good and the keyboard they have in here is built into the desk so I can’t hurt myself. That means I can’t adjust it so good though, because this place is built for Terrans and I’m smaller than most Terrans. Back on Surebleak they say I’m mutated within acceptable limits. That don’t count much on Surebleak because they don’t much care. I think the only reason they do the test is because the have to for the trade rules or something.

I’ve been here two days so far. Liz got me moved out of that jail hospital by promising to have me treated. The only thing wrong with me is Klamath, I bet. I’ve been a bit wild since then, but there’s a lot that needs forgetting. Haven’t had anything much to eat or drink except a lot of greens and brown bread and water.

It’s OK, I guess. Not much to do, though. It reminds me of being on ship waiting for drop onto someplace except I don’t have all much to study or read. Guess I miss the Lunatics …wish I had some kynak or something. There’s not many Lunatics left. I don’t really know how long I’ve been here–they took my watch. The screen prompt has a number that changes and think it’s hours and days. I don’t know what day it is, though because I lost track a bit there before Liz brought me over. Damn.

This place has no windows and the door won’t open to my palm. I wonder if they keyed it against me because it seems to open for everyone else OK. If I get bored I’ll try my foot.

There’s been a couple of people in to see me. Some guy, Dr. of something or other, gave me a physical and a few word association things that don’t prove much if youre not from here. I think they thought I was a kid until my unit records came.

I wish Liz would have told me though – I peeked a look at the records and they said that Lizardi’s Lunatics were currently “inactive”she’s not hiring no one. I think what I really need is a chance to go fight an honest war. All Iwant is a planet that sits still under your feet and place where the wind… ah damn, complaining again. I’d like to forget that place. Except for Skel’s there, and Joey, and all that it ain’t a very important kind of place. Never was. Not even worth fighting a war about. Oh yeah. Some woman came in ask me if Iwanted to prefer counter-charges against those guys. Three to one – I can’t prove a thing cause this place don‘t allow truth tests. Hmmph. They all know what they was doing.

Should have broke more than his damn nose and a leg and a rib or two. “Circumstances” they want to call it. Due to circumstance Sergeant Miri Robertson will be remanded to the custody of her Superior Officer and a certified treatment center.” Circumstances. They going to pity us all because we was on Klamath? Damn. Wonder if there’s alcohol in the mouthwash.

Guess not, eh, this being a place to get someone clean? No drugs,no kynak, no fun. Gets tiring staring at the walls all day, and I aint going to watch the damned therapy videos this place shows. I aint crazy. Just a soldier needs something to do. Tired of staring at the wall. Just plain tired. I could use some Cloud real bad. Real bad! Tired and jittery, sleepy and wired...dont make so much sense.

Cloud. Cloud’d help more than kynak cause kynak reminds me of Skel sometimes. Cloud just lets me be here now. Here now hear now hear this…

I’ll sleep under the damn bed when I get tired. I’m little enough to do it, and it’ll give ’em a freak for a minute. Might be able to get out that way if i need to . . . Hide and sneak out. Might work. Might be some cloud out there.  

3

“She’s got demon speed, Commander, as you probably know. What you don’t know is how desperate she is right now. It’s· been five days since she had any buffering drugs at all, including alcohol. We’ve been sending her food in via the rotator even though we like to keep some kind of human presence when possible. She very nearly faked the door into letting her out by using her foot; luckily our technician spotted her on the monitor and overrode the controls or it might have worked.

Angela Lizardi nodded. Miri was bright and she’d try to find a way out. Anyway out. The Commander had had addicted soldiers before and had tried to see them all through it. That is, when they’d wanted help. They got mean, they got smart, they got cruel. Sometimes, they got better.

The problem was that the other soldiers had not been Miri, the only child of her own childhood friend. Nor had the other soldiers been so damn good at being a soldier as Miri could be. And so Liz sat in this tiny cubicle of an office, drinking local spring water out of a fragile paper cup while Miri was locked nearby, locked in by Liz’s own orders.

“And so we’ve been pretty well reduced to hand foods right now, since she sharpened the plastic edge of the cup on something and by folding it a few times managed to make a pretty effective blade. She can only get her water from the fountain right now. I’m afraid she hasn’t hit the worst of it yet, since she’d bee nable to keep at the keyboard for as long as two hours at a time.

“She‘s tough.” Lizsaid to the therapist. “How long once she gets-to the zero point?”

The woman shook her head.

That’s really hard to tell. She was in good shape physically when she came in, but the blood serum levels of the stuff were almost as high as someone who’d been taking it for a couple of years. Mostly the addicts we get in here arent in shape at all—they‘re kind of worn out already.

Liz nodded again. Maybe they didn’t understand. She grew up on Surebleak. It killed her mother early. Nearly killed her a dozen times, I guess. Thing is that she knows how to live on practically nothing– spent years living that way. Her weakness is she likes pretty things and thinks she don’t deserve them. Pretty people, good times: admires them all but doesn’t expect them. This is just another tough time.”

The therapist pointed to computer screen. ” Do you see what she was taking? Did you know?”

I didn’t follow my troops around to make sure they were being good little…”

Then what you need to know is on this screen. She was on a mixture of things when you brought her in. Alcohol was one, and a local inhalant called tristan-root. They masked the big problem for awhile, which was Cloud. It acts to short circuit long-term memory – anything up to a day or two is clear, and the farther back you go the less clear you get. I understand it’s possible to be selective: you can tell yourself when you take it that you don’t want to remember thus-and-so. That’s the reason it’s dangerous, too, because people forget that memory has a lot of triggers. So something comes up that reminds them of what they didn’t want to recall and they take a little more Cloud.”

Liz stared at the screen: graphs showing danger levels of the drugs and the time for each to zero out in Miri’s system.

” So Cloud has built up to amazing levels in your soldier. When she hits zero point–when the last of the accumulated Lethecronaxion goes back into solution and stops inhibiting those memory paths — that’s the bad time. It’s as if the inhibition acts as an irritant and once it’s gone the way to scratch the itch is to remember again. Hard, fast, and frequently.

“Lizardi hardly noticed the water in her hands as she involuntarily crushed the cup. “How long?” She managed to ask.

” It will start sometime today. It could last a week, or even more. Some just never come out ofit at all.”

” Let me know when it starts. I’ll be if available whenever. If I can help, page me through the Hiring Hall.”

“There’s really not much more you can do.”

I took her to Klamath, Doctor. I brought her back here alive. She’s damn well going to live a real life. Got it?”

“It’s up to her, Commander. It’s up to her now.”

Splinteruniverse.com is authorized to use this text.

 

Splinteruniverse.com is authorized to use this text.

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Sharon Lee & Steve Miller present rare genre moments for readers looking for a fiction fix