11th Sun: Chapter 20: Landing

Big Bertha hits the atmosphere like a ton of bricks. That’s not my fault, I’m a good pilot, but the atmosphere control isn’t broadcasting in a format Bertha can recognize, so I had to guess. The guess took an hour to make, but flight control had me cooling my heels for six while they got their shit together. My credentials are forged, so that doesn’t help. I’ve seen three gorgeous sunrises to make up for it.

I must be a good guesser because I don’t bounce off the atmosphere and die.

At this point I’ve been relieved to feel real gravity, but my hair is a goddamn mess. I care about that now. Inertia gravity has a much longer range in tidal force. For the past six months my head has experience less gravity than my feet. There’s more blood in my head and less in my feet, and my heart takes a little break.

My flight plan is crap. I enter deep in the southern hemisphere, and the jet stream is going in the wrong direction. I have to get under while I’m still hitting the breaks. Can’t do five miles a second in this atmosphere.

I cool it to 500 knots, and the the auto pilot can take over for the five hours to Mekt.

I stumble a bit getting out of the flight seat, and plod on my way, on unsteady feet, down to the bunkhouse to put some clothes on.

What the hell do I wear?

I spend a long time in the mirror, trying to decide what to do. Do I want the attention a female human is going to get? Or do I want to dress like a man? What does a girl gun runner wear, on a planet that loves her?

I end up in a daisy dukes and a tied flannel shirt over purple push-up bra. Rocking that cleavage hard. That means I gotta go with purple panties too. No, purple thong!

The sun will be hell, I need the sunglasses. Still no contacts, but I’m printing lenses that can read the local language. And a bandanna, the humidity I’ve acclimated to is making my hair frizz like hell.

Speaking of: Brush you’re hair 11. Oh, brushing hair in real gravity is a treat!

I’m worried, for the first time, about unwanted attention. But I’ve dressed for attention. It’s conflicting, but I feel like that’s a normal thing to feel. I strap a heavy piece onto a shoulder holster. Sometimes a 120 kW Beretta is a girl’s best friend.

And damn these boots look good.

I’ve downloaded a bunch of new makeup mods, and decide to go with something a little daring. Purple eyeshadow, and burgundy liner and lipstick. You won’t see my eyes through the glasses, but I feel…

I feel hot.

By the time the sunglasses are done printing I have clearance to land, and I put her down gentle like at the city municipal. Local time: 4:00 PM, about seven hours till sunset.

Personal time: 8:00 PM. I take some pills for that and hope like hell they work.

#

Outside the heat is a slap to the face, and the humidity is like a wet sock crammed down my throat. It’s at least 115 out here; the shorts were a really good idea. I step into the sun, and watch my skin put on a California tan in under 30 seconds. I’m back in the ship for a minute while I rustle up some SPF 200, and I’m still wiping down my skin when the customs officer shows up.

Customs takes 2,000 dollars to “pass” inspection, around 300% inflation. The customs agent doesn’t make a lot of eye contact, because he’s making more tit contact. Again it makes me feel powerful. I might cop a pose or two for him. Weight on one hip, hand on the neck in the heat. I peak over the sunglasses for a second, and then thank god for them. The sun here is heinous crimson and jams into the backs of my eyeballs.

I sign his clip board, and ask about transportation to the inner city. Train runs every 15 minutes, okay.

Inside the terminal it’s only a little cooler. My passport clears security. The agent is a little surprised to see a physical copy, and has to dig up a rubber stamp.

I’m getting a lot of stares in the airport, and I put an extra swing in my hips as my boots hit the tile. Look straight ahead 11. Pretend you don’t notice being noticed. I notice a lot of notices while I lean against the rail, sexy-like. Feels good.

I find a kiosk, buy a travel credit bracelet, and load it up with 500 of the local Hoke.That costs a lot more than $500.

When the train comes all the guys stand aside for me to get on. That feels nice, but I’m beginning to get a bit uncomfortable. A knuckle brushes my ass as the crowd files onto the train. I generously put this up to the close quarters, but it makes my spine jump a little bit.

I shuffle into the center, but this isn’t the first stop and the seats are packed. Stand and hold the cord, until a man clears his throat, makes eye contact, and offers me his seat. That’s… never happened to me once in 46 years. I nod and smile at him, and make thank you gestures. He doesn’t have an interpreter I’m sure, so I sit, grateful from the heat. I start to man-spread, realize what a bad idea that is, and put one knee on top of the other.

The guy is standing really close to me.

Like, really close.

He’s carrying a laptop over his shoulder, and pretending that the weight is making him lean into my personal space. The train shakes a bit, like trains do, and he adjusts his weight until he’s pretty deep into my bubble. I’m feeling a little adrenaline, to flavor my nervousness. He’s an bmale, and he’s not slender. Sitting down I come up to his navel. I’m thinking of what Susan said, that they’re not afraid to use force, and it occurs to me that there are no women on this train.

Still, I get ready to use some of that adrenaline.

This time the train doesn’t shake, but he fakes a stumble into me, grabs the pole, and swings a hand onto my boob. The shock strikes me harder than his palm, though I find out that getting hit in the breast really hurts. Then he gives a little squeeze, not even pretending. Time for decisive action.

I make a practiced draw, smooth and fast, and jam the barrel of the Beretta into his sternum. It looks pretty uncomfortable.

He gets my body language and takes a step back. I don’t remember standing, but I’m on my feet, keeping the gun in contact. There’s a nice big circle around us, so I have plenty of room to swing around him, and back him in to my seat.

He smirks then. And I flick my finger onto the trigger, because I know what he’s saying with that smirk, and it makes me blind with rage.

He’s lost. He knows he lost. He’s not in command. I am. I’m the one with the gun.

But the smirk says “You’re adorable. You think you can win… whatever this is. You think that you can be in control. But you can’t. You’ve already lost.

“Because you’re a woman.”

So I shoot his laptop.

Three round burst.* Br-rr-rrh.* The car smells like ozone, burnt plastic, and blown capacitors. Smirking guy is in shock, and the atmosphere of the train has changed. I blow smoke off the barrel tip, and look around the car. Flip the sunglasses down. Make eye contact with everyone.

Then the train comes to a stop, and I decide it’s in my best interests to leave now. I tuck the rod back into it’s holster and blow Smirk a kiss as I step through the doors.

#

Of course now I’m stuck on the wrong platform, and I’m going to be on time for my meeting. Never be on time for a smuggler meetup. Being on time shows you might care, and you do not want to seem like you care about anything. Show up early or late and it shows that you don’t give a fuck about their time table.

I manage to make sense of the train schedule on the board. That’s no mean feat, even when it’s in a language you understand. The next train isn’t coming for another half hour.

There’s a vending machine in the shade, along with an amale in cowboy chaps, and a ten gallon hat, and a naked girl with a chain around her neck. She is very pregnant.

I’m an intergalactic traveler, and I’ve seen the worst of the galaxy. Slavery is not new to me. It’s not illegal everywhere.

But my Earth values don’t jive with it, and I feel culture shock every time. Still, I avoid eye contact with both of them, just go over to the machine and try and find a Coca-Cola. Please tell me they have Coke in this heat.

They have Coca-Cola. The red and white icon is in Enochtic, but it’s still flowy little cursive lines.

I fumble with the bracelet, trying to figure out what would be intuitive to an alien. Before I can get that far, the amale steps in, scans his chip, and gestures that I go ahead and select. I choose the Coke button with the little green leaf next to the logo. The bottle thumps down, and he picks it up, opens it, and offers it to me.

After Smirk, I’m very wary, but I take the bottle, and swig. It’s glorious, and the cocaine takes the edge off of my heat headache.

He says, < Pretty thing, you must not be used to the heat. > and then, in terrible English, “Welcome to Chinochkan.” The k is a whistle from the back of his throat.

“Thank you.”

He tips his hat to me, and moves off, giving a savage yank on the chain as he goes. The girl makes eye contact as she ducks her head in the sun. I have no idea what to do.

So I wait for the train, hold the ice cold bottle to my neck, and practice my throat whistle.



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