Encounter with Darkness   1 comment

As promised, here is the short story I’ve been working on with Jem’s and Conan’s help. It’s long by blog standards (nearly 3,000 words), and thoroughly illustrated, so I’ll be breaking it up into pages. (Which also gives me a chance to experiment with some WordPress tweaks.) Just look for “Pages” beneath the Related Posts section at the bottom of each page, and click on the next page to continue.

If you have questions, such as Ariel and Adam’s backstory, contact me in world, or write harper.ganesvoort at gmail dot com, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Visits to Terra were an extremely rare thing for Ariel Sherman, despite her dual positions as a successful performer across multiple modes, and head of the interstellar corporation known as the Cyborg Condominium. Most questions of business could be taken care of in a holographic quadcomm conference call, after all. Considering how far the distance was between the ancient mother planet and the Videra Sector, which contained the star Eta Pegasi and its inhabited planet of Videra, that was just as well. The Limlight Republic was spread across well over two thousand systems, and the trip between the two sectors, even in hyperspace, took nearly a month one way.

But some companies insisted on face-to-face meetings, and real sign-manuals on plaspaper contracts instead of electronic signatures, and so Ariel found herself far removed from the comforts of her home on the pleasure planet Videra, and from her revue show at The Land of Fantasy Theatre. Not that her surroundings were uncomfortable at the moment. The hotel suite she and Adam Sandhara, her husband, occupied for their stay in Old Manhattan was sinfully luxurious; and it should be … after all, it was owned by the Condominium. Even if most of the trip could be written off the taxes as a business expense, the bean-counters preferred keeping those expenses to a minimum.

The cost of the meal could still be written off, though, because Ariel had chosen to make a virtue out of a necessity, and ply her preferred trade in a new sector of the Republic. Before leaving Videra, she had informed the hotel manager that she would be bringing her nightclub act to one of the clubs inside their hotel for a surprise appearance.

Curtain time was approaching, and the ’borgs were finishing their meal with a few glasses of champagne, and a cigarette on Ariel’s part.  Glancing across the floor where his wife would soon be performing, Adam grinned and said, “There are times, Ari, when I don’t know why I indulge you as I do.  Coming over 200 light-years from Eta Pegasi to perform at a nightclub is a bit of a jaunt, even in this day and age.”

“Oh, I think I can come up with a few reasons why you indulge me, darling,” Ariel laughed as she blew smoke toward the ceiling ventilation ducts.  Soft lights shimmered off the silk of the lehenga sari from New Karnataka that she wore.  “Reasons which I heartily return, by the way.  That’s the reason we stay married, even after twenty-something years.  Anyway, you should blame this on the company that insists on face-to-face negotiations in a board room and an actual signature on a physical contract, signed in person before a roomful of lawyers and notaries public.  We could have solved everything from Videra with a few teleconferences and a blockchain signature.  This company doesn’t do that kind of thing, though.” 

She tapped off her ash in the ashtray, and added, “And don’t tell me you’re not taking advantage of your little ‘vacation’ here to meet up with old clients for Micronan, and maybe hunt up a few new ones.  That’s the only real reason you needed to come along, other than spending time with me when my meetings break.”

“I admit you have me there, lady,” Adam smiled, the lights of the club glinting off his metallic “skin,” as golden as his wife’s.  “I still say you’re giving in a little to ego here, looking for some applause even when you’re technically away from the stage.”

“I may grant you that one, lord.  But I see it more like I’m drumming up fresh trade myself for the revue.  Even without us on board as the constant star artists anymore, the revue is still hugely popular; but keeping the name out there in fresh areas helps keep the business up.”

“Mmhmm … that’s what they all say, I’m sure,” Adam said with another grin … and then he laughed as he caught the napkin Ariel threw at him.  He tossed it back as Ariel took a final sip of wine; she patted her lips dry, then kissed her husband, and trotted back to the dressing room set aside for her, to do a last repair on her makeup before coming on.

Unsurprisingly, the hour-long concert set proved a hit; even two hundred-some light-years from Videra, the star quality of Ariel Sherman enthralled spectators.  She accepted the enthusiastic applause of the audience, none of whom had known that she would be singing for them; as she bowed, though, she glanced around the room, and noticed that Adam had vanished.  It wasn’t unusual for him to meet her in the dressing room, however, and so Ariel worked her way “backstage.”

When she made it inside the dressing room, there was no sign of Adam.  She noted, however, a “message waiting” advice on the wall commpanel, and tapped it on.  Adam’s face appeared, and said, “Darling, I’m sorry, but one of those old clients of mine called with an incredibly urgent consultation request.  I can’t put him off, so I’ve gone down to the comm lounge to handle it.  I’ll meet you in the bar after we’re both done.  Sorry.”

Ah, the joys of running insanely successful corporations ….  Ariel grinned as she shook her head, cleared the message, and returned up the halls to the bar area, passing by the transsteel door to the businesspersons’ communications lounge.  A glance inside showed Adam still there, pacing back and forth as he spoke to an image on his digicomm.  Seeing he was occupied, Ariel moved on.

The nightclub’s bar wasn’t a large one – most drinks were served at the tables – and was tended by a single ’droid.  Ariel ordered a small white wine and turned to gaze idly toward the club’s outside entrance; then she started as she focused on the door, her lips falling from their smile and her optics locking on the woman who was entering.

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One response to “Encounter with Darkness

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  1. I loved being part of this story, Harper! Thanks for inviting “Caja” into your world.

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