tagSci-Fi & FantasyGrayson Sontang in Space Ch. 04

Grayson Sontang in Space Ch. 04


When Grayson reached for the rest of the books on the shelf to throw all at once, Hendon wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back away from the potential missiles. "You're going to have to explain that one, preferably without throwing anything else," he said in his best calm-the-hysterical-woman voice.

"Don't you get it?" she yelled, struggling in his grip. "There's no decision to make! We're out of options. We deploy the net and then we live or die."

"Okay," he said calmly. "We're in space. That's the nature of the territory."

"Not for me. There's always supposed to be options." She paused in her struggles to try to catch her breath. "That's how I succeed. I always pick the best option."

"Then pick between doing nothing and deploying the net."

"You fucking idiot," she screamed, trying to stomp on his instep and twist out of his grip at the same time. Except she was barefoot and he had spacer boots on, not to mention his extensive training in physically detaining humans and Xenos. Grayson howled in frustration and suddenly found herself on her back on the bed, with Hendon sitting on her thighs and pinning her wrists beside her shoulders. Her hair was fanned across her face and she glared up at him through a veil of black strands.

"Here's an option for you," he said more harshly, leaning over her, obviously running out of patience. "Either you calm down and start talking, or I call Bogart to come and sedate you."

"Get off me, you fucking asshole," she screamed, writhing in a vain effort to push him off.

"Hal, open comm to Officer Bogart. Hank, I need sedation for female subject, approximately," he paused, "Fifty-five kilos."

"Fifty," she spat, and that grin spread across his face.

"Acknowledged," Bogart answered. "On my way."

Grayson glowered at him. "Wipe that grin off your face," she threatened.

"Or what?" When she didn't answer, he grinned even wider. "So why don't you start by telling me about this son you say is down in the hold."

"Let go of me," she said as calmly as she could while breathing hard.

"Not till it's all out there so you have nothing more to go nova about."

She scoffed. "Then I hope you've emptied your bladder recently."

"I can hold it as long as you can," he challenged with another grin. When she closed her eyes and groaned in irritation, he became thoughtful. "Okay, so if one of those kids is yours, we'd be looking for a boy that was fostered or adopted. Hal, male passengers under, say, twelve years of age. Parentage..."

"Stop it," she snapped. "Hal, ignore that request."

He leaned closer. "If Hal won't answer me, I can query Confed. You know I'm not going to let this go."

There was a long pause, then, "I was grounded off a freighter," she answered softly, so he had to remain close to hear her. "Broke my arm." Her voice faded softer and softer. He leaned closer. "I was healing, waiting for another hitch..." She lunged up, trying to smash her head into his, but he'd predicted the move and sat back, laughing at her.

"So clever," he chided. "Now the real story."

She seemed to visibly sag. "Please let go of me."

He studied her as Bogart entered the room with an infuse syringe. Bogart took in the scene and coughed to try to hide his snicker. Hendon sat further back and released one of her wrists to take the syringe from Bogart. "She actually prefers it from the back..." Bogart started, but when Hendon shot him a look, he raised his hands and backed out of the room. "Holler if you need any help," he called as the portal closed.

Hendon released her other hand and glanced quickly at the syringe before putting it into his shirt pocket, then he watched her closely as she rubbed her wrists. "Now, let's start over from the beginning," he suggested, resting his hands on his thighs and his weight on her legs. "A son?" he prompted as she brushed the hair from her face.

She turned her head to the side, away from his intense scrutiny. "I was telling you the truth."

"Look at me and tell me the truth, then."

She sighed and met his gaze. "I was working a freighter. A crate fell. My arm was broken. All three bones. I was dumped off on Sirius. I healed up. I was waiting for another hitch. I had an affair. End of story."

He pulled the syringe from his pocket and studied it, watching her face beyond the device. "Now fill in the blanks."

"I don't know what you mean," she said, but her eyes were on the syringe. She loved alcohol, but hated drugs, and he seemed to have guessed that.

"A crate fell. How?" When she didn't answer right away, he shrugged. "I've got lots of time. We won't deploy the net until Het and Sip are satisfied with the installation."

She sighed. "It was my hold, my responsibility. I was checking it before jump. A stack of crates wasn't secured. Then the pilot made a last minute course adjustment."

Hendon put the syringe back in his pocket. "That doesn't sound like you."

"It wasn't," she snapped with a touch of bitterness. He only cocked an eyebrow. "After the jump, they pulled the crate off me and splinted my arm. I went back and looked. The buckling on the strapping had been laser cut. The report said it was a bad weld."

He nodded sagely. "So two culprits. Someone with a pen laser to damage the buckle. And someone to file a careless, or flat-out false, report."

"So then I was dumped on Sirius to have the bones set."

"Back up," he commanded.


"It had to be at least five days from jump point to planetfall. Probably more." Grayson frowned. "Come on," he prodded. "You wouldn't let something like that slide."

"It's not relevant."

He smiled slyly. "Satisfy my curiosity."

She scowled. "Despite rumors to the contrary, I am choosy about who I let close to my privates." She gave a twist to her hips just to remind him how close he was. "Some men don't take rejection well."

He frowned. "To the point of endangering your life?"

"Let's just leave it that when saying no doesn't suffice, I tended to follow up with more physical - and public - expressions of my displeasure. It turns out that humiliation is an even stronger motivator than rejection."

"So," he concluded. "Revenge against the cutter and the liar?" She shrugged. "And did they survive?"

"Do you really think I would tell you if they didn't? Admit to murder?"

"I don't see you committing murder," he said thoughtfully. "More like those options you were talking about, picking an appropriate, untraceable consequence fitting the crime."

She smiled - finally - and shrugged. "I'm not sure I like the fact that you get me."

He smiled in return. "Leaving that lay, for the moment... So, you were on Sirius. Healing."

"And had an affair."

"Uh, uh. Back up. So. On Sirius. I wasn't born there, but I've spent more than enough time there to know that Siriuns do not mix with off-world spacers. Even for casual sex. You weren't hanging around healing in spacer town."

"Okay, I got bored. Sitting around waiting for bones to knit is not my style."

He squinted at her, then shook his head. "I don't see it."

"Don't see what?" she demanded. "And get off me!"

"Not till I understand. I figure you'd either have to pass as Siriun Sector native, or present yourself as someone of consequence from some other sector." He scanned her torso. "Most of the occupied planets in Siriun Sector are higher than one grav. Nothing personal, but you're too puny to pass for a native from a one plus planet."

"You have a peculiar notion of native," she remarked. "Sip and Het might want to talk to you about that some time."

"Oh, we've talked. Regardless, you may have changed your face, your breasts, your ass, who knows? But bone structure, muscle mass, that's a whole other thing. So that means you passed as someone not native, but still desirable to a Siriun. So, let's say we rule out your current facial features, skin, eye, and hair color. You know, the easy stuff to change."

"I have a ship to fly, Hendon," she protested.

"Oh, I must be getting close, because you were all too willing to abdicate that responsibility not two minutes ago. Where were we? Ah, yes. So, you led someone of some importance - else why would this child be on this ship in this predicament - to believe that an assignation with you would be to their benefit, somehow. Then you not only got pregnant, but carried the child to term, and then gave up said child? To what? To the father? To adoption? And yet you care about this child enough to be tormented by a life and death decision, not for yourself, but for the child?"

"You do not want to follow this road to where it leads, Hendon. Drop it and let my fly my ship."

He grinned malevolently. "I'm too much like you, Sontang. I can't let it go till I've sucked the marrow dry. See, there's too much at play here, too much that I don't understand, and until I understand, I can't risk the lives at stake. So give it all to me. Who is the child and who is the father? And while you're at it, why?"

Grayson flew up, reaching for his head, knowing even as she did that she had no hope of twisting him off her or even inflicting more than a bruise from her confined position. And he just kept grinning as he snapped his hands around her wrists and forced her back down on the bed. He leaned over so close to her, his face was only inches away. She strove not to turn her head away. "If I have to sedate you, someone else will be flying your ship. Think about that," he suggested.

"I won't tell you who," she hissed.

"Then tell me why and how," he bargained.

"How? You want to know how babies are made?"

He laughed an actual, natural laugh and she found herself relaxing ever so slightly. There was a human inside there somewhere, not just a robotic, manipulative law officer. He pushed away slightly, and loosened his hold on her wrists. She sighed. "If I tell you why and how, will you get off me?"

He pondered. "Yes," he finally agreed, and she knew it was because he was sure he could figure out the who.

She took a deep breath. "I was running out of money. Trade was bad. Ships weren't hiring."

"You didn't... You weren't..."

"No, I was not tricking," she snapped, her eyes shooting fire, but he just grinned and she realized he'd been baiting her for a change. She scowled at him. "I decided to take the money I had left and set up a con. Siriuns have a certain fascination with Denebs. God knows why. But I could pass, so I did." A brief puzzled frown flashed across his face as he tried to reconcile her current features with those of a Deneb. The settled worlds hadn't become the great melting pots that people had expected, as the human race flowed out into the galaxy. Rather, races, cultures and nationalities trended toward planets that felt home-like to each particular group, then in-breeding of sorts within the small populations of settlers tended to make the individuals look even more like each other. Add to that natural factors like diet, gravity, solar conditions, etc. and adaptations selected for even more commonality.

Grayson didn't notice Hendon's puzzlement. She was remembering. "I crashed a huge Deneb Embassy party, looking for a Siriun mark. And not for what you're thinking. I was looking for quick money, not a nine-month blackmail scheme."

"Go on," he nodded with encouragement.

She wriggled in discomfort, but he didn't take a hint from it, so she continued, hoping if she gave him way too much elaboration he would finally get tired of this game. "I got... distracted. I was chatting up men - and a few women - who looked like they had heavy wallets. One fellow took particular interest in me. I'd already ruled him out. He was..." she paused, choosing her words carefully. "Accompanied by others who seemed to be looking out for his welfare. Perhaps because he was imbibing over much of the Denebian whiskey. Anyway, he kept showing up, interrupting, stepping on my game. When I'd chosen my mark, I knew I had to get rid of this other guy before he ruined everything. I figured the easiest way was to give him what he wanted. I mean, he was married, his wife was right there at the party. I figured a quick suck or fuck and he'd be on his way and I could get back to work. It was after him when I swore off married men, by the way." She glanced at Hendon, but he showed no sign of losing interest.

"I'd already scoped out a nice quiet room in the back of the embassy, with a different purpose in mind, but I figured it would do for a quickie. I told him I'd wait there for ten minutes and if he could shed his wife and friends, to come meet me. So he shows up, even more drunk than I'd realized, and I'm wondering if he's even going to be able to get it up. Then he launches into this sob story about an arranged marriage and how he can't have kids, you know, trying to explain why he's picking up strange Deneb women. I'm thinking to myself that he's just drunk enough maybe I can 'help' him pass out and leave him convinced he had the best sex of his life if he could just remember it. But then he begs me to blow him, so I figure what the hell. I manage to kneel despite the ridiculous Denebian formal gown that I 'borrowed' for the event. I pull him out of his pants and he's hard as a steel rod."

Grayson peeked up at Hendon, hoping he'd ask for less detail, decide he wasn't really all that interested in what she'd done on Sirius years ago. No such luck. He was watching her intently, trying to judge her veracity, no doubt. "So I start to blow him, figuring I can get him shooting his rocks off in no time and send him on his way. Don't get me wrong, he was a young, good-looking guy, and well-endowed, if you know what I mean. If I hadn't had business to attend to... Anyway, then he decides he wants to do me. Wants to find out if Denebian women are really as wild as they say when they're fucked. Obviously, he'd led a pretty sheltered life. I wanted to school him, tell him a woman is as wild as a man makes her feel. You know, put it back in his lap, so maybe he'd start fucking his wife better and then he wouldn't need to go looking for wild women elsewhere."

She glanced at Hendon. "Back to the story," he drawled.

"Oh. Yeah," she conceded. "So he does me, I put on the act he's expecting, and then he goes his merry way with a big grin plastered on his face. I tidy up the room, then head back out to the party and my mark. Except one of the guy's buddies now seems to be watching me the whole time. I mean, I figure there's no way the guy's going to be up for seconds, but I'm giving him a wide berth, anyway, just in case. But this buddy, who was glued to him before, keeps showing up in the same room I'm in. I get paranoid, ditch my game and head for the hotel where most of the out-of-town Denebs were staying. Fucking room cost a small fortune, but it was the easiest way to mingle with the party-goers and slip into the party unnoticed. Anyway, I had the gown to return to its rightful owner."

The 'borrowed' gown," Hendon commented.

"Yeah, borrowed. She could only wear one at a time, after all." Grayson glared at him, defying him to argue the point. He simply made an impatient gesture for her to get back to the story. "So bright and early the next morning, I slip out of the hotel and I'm headed back to spacer town trying to think up a new scheme to get some money and some big Siriun dude grabs my arm and says either I come with him or he'll turn me over to the cops for impersonating a Deneb. I start to argue with him because I know damn well even the Siriuns don't give a fuck about impersonating Denebs, so then he says the guy from last night wants to see me about something. He sneers just like you, by the way."

"Thank you," Hendon replied. "Does this story have an end?"

"You're the one sitting on top of me demanding to hear it," she pointed out. He cocked his head. She sighed. "So partly out of curiosity and partly because he has hold of the arm that had been broken, I went along and we ended up in another hotel room. The guy is there waiting and the dude holding me pushes me forward and says something to the effect of 'turns out she's a spacer' except he didn't say it that nicely. And he sneered," she added.

"Do tell."

"But the other guy, he doesn't seem to care. He just kind of looks me up and down and says 'I want to spend more time with you.' So I say ''thanks and all but I'm a working girl and I need to hire out on the next freighter that will take me.' And he says 'hang around for a month and I'll guarantee you a place on a Siriun freighter. You can stay with them or move on from there.'"

"You don't need to give me the entire dialogue," Hendon finally said in exasperation.

"Sure?" she asked.


"So I stayed. I got pregnant because what he didn't tell me was that HE couldn't have children because his WIFE couldn't bear children. I was going to have an abortion, but he was desperate for an... For a son and offered me a bunch of money to carry the baby to term and let them claim it was his wife's. Enough money to buy my own ship. A junker, maybe, but no more freighters. So there you have it. I was a well-paid surrogate. Now get the hell off me."

"You're done throwing things?"

She shrugged. "I was almost out of stuff anyway."

"Back to the bridge? We need you. No one else knows this ship the way you do."

Grayson sighed. "I don't have a choice, do I?"


"So you'll get off me?" He cautiously lifted his leg and pulled away from her. She rolled, rubbing her back where she'd been laying on one of the books she'd thrown. He bent over to pick a book up from a puddle of coffee on the floor and in a flash, she had her back to the portal, arms crossed, trying to look threatening, which was hard even for her to do when she was more than a head shorter than him. She could actually see him trying to hide a smile.

She scowled. "Your turn for some truth. Why haven't you told anybody what you saw in the engine room?" she demanded.

"What did I see?" he asked patiently. When she only tried to look darker and more dangerous, he answered his own question. "I saw an empty cargo hold. Not against any law I know of."

"You can't blackmail me. It's been tried."

He put his hands on his hips. "Lady, you have nothing I want. I don't need you to fly this ship. Het and Sip are perfectly capable of overriding your computer, Evans is a skilled pilot. The ship is already mine, to all intents and purposes. The only think I'm interested in is doing things the easiest, most efficient way so we can get these people home and everybody can go back to their lives. Including you, though I'd thank you to stay out of my sector in the future. Save your antics for the Feds."

Grayson hesitated. "I have nothing you want?"

He gave her that wolfish grin. "Let's save that particular discussion for a later date when our situation isn't quite so critical." She was left again to wonder if he was bluffing or not.


Grayson was sitting in her command console, biting what was left of her fingernails. Evans had fired up the hydrogen engines again for yet another three hour burn. Het and Sip had approved the installation and the deployment mechanism of the net, and were back down in the holds with Bogart; readying the human cargo for what might be a bumpy ride as the net went into play. Hendon was sitting with his back to the wall, hardly a comfortable position, but he seemed to have learned his lesson after being thrown into that same wall during the last bumpy ride. He did have a cup of Hal's coffee in his hand, though. Grayson smiled to herself. The man was finally showing a weakness, even if it was just an addiction to Earth coffee.

"Your command, Grayson," he said, and she cocked an eyebrow at the use of her first name, but didn't turn toward him. Her eyes were glued to the screen showing a camera shot of the top, fore of the ship. "Will we be able to see it, Hal?" she asked.

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