Checks take about an hour, there’s only three pages to run through. I’m not taking off in an atmosphere, and the engine hasn’t been cool for too long. In fifteen minutes the drive is hot.
Solid fuel is fine. Water is fine. I went out and bought 25 lbs of food. Fresh vegetables and fruit (at an obscene markup), rice, bread, adventuresome pizza, beef, pork, rabbit, sausage, some whale, and gas station sushi. Gas station sushi is never a good idea, and for some reason I keep buying it. I throw out some noodles with a sense of vindication and relief.
I settle up with the maintenance crew while the seal checks are running, because seals take fifteen minutes all on its own, and makes a hell of a racket. Mitch is nowhere to be found, must be his day off.
We exchange from an escrow account, which is actually a Sector account. That’s on the books, but good luck finding it.
I should get a refund from D’Neesha, but I know I won’t see that money again. Requesting cash back at a brothel is a good idea, if you want your kidneys perforated.
I settle into the flight seat, get clearance from control, and I’m out through the hanger. Break into hyperspace with no fanfare. In a couple of days I’ll be back on course.
Then a get a ping I wasn’t expecting. I’ve been dreading it, but didn’t expect it.
My father is calling me. Private line.
I stare at the notification, breathing hard. Then I put it on a five minute hold and find something to do with my hair. If I were Eleven, I’d be putting on a jacket and tie. Probably not pants. In this case I settle for hair up, LBD on, makeup in nudes.
I sit down in front of the terminal, cross tuck my legs to the side in a way that feels natural now, and hit accept.
He’s alway older than I remember. He takes his retros, but they’re fighting a lifestyle of hedonistic drug use and rampant assholery. I don’t think all of the aging blockers, on every world, could make my father look like a pleasant person.
And he’s reading reports at his desk, a couple of lines on a mirror next to his wrist, while I wait patiently for him to pretend to notice me. It’s an old game. He loves to make me stew while he pretends to do something else.
“Boy. You look… good.” We’re off to a great start.
“Thanks father, so do you.”
“Don’t fucking lie Eleven. I look like shit. The latest divorce is playing hell with my blood pressure.” He also hasn’t shaved in a week. “Heard you assed off on a detour.”
“There was a technical issue. It’s fixed now.”
He grunts, unconvinced, “You’re costing me a fuckton of money out there.”
“Not as much as you might think.” And you know that.
“I’ve seen the numbers. Why don’t you use that pretty ass of yours to bring them down.” It’s not an 11 thing. Father has been suggesting I whore myself out for four decades. He brushes aside the drugs so that he can lay both his hands on the table. “No, I’m talking about that fucking body. Shitload of dough went in to that, and you manged to cock it straight up. Didn’t read up on the goddamn doctor. Didn’t fucking check the genetic profile. You would have seen it had two x chromes” Ah. I knew he’d find a way to make it my fault.
“He was your doctor, Father. I didn’t see a reason to look in to that.”
“Don’t give me your shit, Eleven, I’m up to fucking here with you.” He’s been ‘up to fucking here’ with me before, usually right before he broke some part of me. I’m not being trite, Eleven’s nose was broken a lot.
“Yes, Father.” Turns out 11 is a coward with her father too.
“We took care of the cunt doctor though. That one’s on the house.”
“So I hear.” I shift in my seat a little bit. He still makes me feel tiny and scared, even when he’s trying to be consoling. He’s consoling you with the fact that he had a man killed. That’s what he thinks of as support.
“Eleven,” he rubs a hand over his face, and drags his floppy skin around a bit, “We’ve got a lot of crap riding on this. The Chockan have a lot of capital to throw around. Those ladies are going to win, we’re going to insure the fuck out of that. When they do, we have a helluva prime position. We make the competition shit the floor and mop it up for years, while they gnaw on our scraps. Oh, the planet’ll never be a big player, but they got money to throw around. They’ll be a big market for all the shit we sell. T-shirts to fuck sticks, they’ll want everything the Earth SOI can offer them.”
At the end I feel like he’s asking a question and I don’t know what it could be.
“Can you finish the run?”
I feel the muscles in my face take a pause with shock. I never considered quitting to be an option. I never considered, that he would consider, quitting to be an option. After everything I’ve gone through the past four months, the prospect of turning around an going home is a huge relief.
And then I remember. Home to what? It’s a year or more until I’m back in my old body, even if we can find a doctor who will do it. I’ve been planet hopping for two decades, never putting down roots for longer than a year before a new job came up. Am I going “home” to night after night of drunken stupor and hookers?
“I need to audit the mother fuck out of our shipping department, and you know all the routes. There a position…”
I finally make sense of it: he feels sorry for me. All of the miserable things in my life and this is the one that moves his heart. After everything he’s done to me, this makes me angrier than anything else. “The run is fine.” I repress the impulse the gesture angrily at myself, “I’m fine. Being 11 is fine.” The trembling anger makes it into my voice, and I almost don’t care.
Embarrassment flashes as briefly as possible over his face, before he resumes domineering. “Fucking glad to hear it. After this run we have pile of jobs for you, so get your ass in gear. Get it done, Eleven.” And he’s out.
I take a quick shower to try to wash away the shame of that conversation. My hair isn’t wet enough to use the hair dryer I got at Paint, but I do anyway.
I just defended my… womanhood. I guess. He gave me an out and instead of taking it, I threw it back at him in disgust. That’s gonna take some therapy to figure out.
Time to give 11 a media presence. I sit down in the bunkhouse with a cup of tea and open up my laptop.
First up, close down old profiles.
There’s Eleven. Looking at my face—his face—brings a strange sense of melancholy. I recognize the pictures, I know it’s me, but it’s a person I’ll never see again.
Lock the contacts list, it’s all superficial in any case. A hundred faces met in a bar, half remembered, posting minion memes all over my profile.
There’s my messenger. Most of those I can move over. Do that.
There’s my hookup app. Good for finding the shittiest lays you can pay for. Just delete the whole thing. Make a new account? Not ready. 11 hasn’t needed any help so far.
I make a new profile, on a picture’s only site. Call it 11. Post a picture I took from one of the monitors. I’m naked, but you can only tell if you’re interested in looking.
Everyone will be interested in looking. I feel a little excited about that.
I add Marcus, because I have his details. That’s pretty much it. I’m one of those profiles with only a single contact. I add some more pictures and worry that I’m being vapid.
Within not even a second of the second picture posted I get a DM. It’s from an account that I neither recognize, nor is connected to anyone I know. I open the channel with perplexed curiosity.
The sender has carefully documented for me, every thing he wants to do to my ass. Most of it seems painful, if not downright impossible.
I decide not to answer. This does nothing to deter him. He adjust tactics slightly, and asks if I want to cyber.
I don’t. Nor do I answer.
He explains that he has a bunch of long range equipment. He goes on to tell me it’s specialized for my enjoyment.
That’s not the attractive offer he thinks it is. When I continue not to answer he calls me a fat bitch.
I block him.
During our “conversation” two new DMs have popped up. The words are different but the message is the same. “Hey, you look attractive to my penis, and this should be a reason for you to fuck it.” One of them has offered visual proof of how great his penis is. I look. He’s brave to show that to anyone.
In the time it takes me to block those two, four more have taken their place. One of them simply starts with “’Sup?” The other three are dick-pics.
I set my account to private. Only approved members will be able to message me. Then I go have some lunch.
I return to find 587 requests for approval.
I set my profile picture to a syphilis ridden vagina. I get thirty more requests.
I delete my profile.
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