Space Witch

All the best hexes are specific, ya float me? And she gives the best. She can fill your ears with every scream ever sucked, unheard, into the void. She can leave your filters completely spic-n-span and you’ll still swear there’s some danger-musty won’t come out no matter how hard you scrub. If you really rust her grates, she can rot your hydroponics, and hooboy, will you be sorry then.

She don’t charge much. Mind you, she gets most what she needs for cheap, ‘specially after what happened to Lt. Mitchell.

He was running some side graff: harvesting ‘shrooms growing on condensers, the ones closest to the ion cannons. Folk said those were special. Something about the radiation unlocking your soul and opening you to the stars as if we don’t got stars enough other side a view screen. S’only reason I can figure she’d even approach ‘im, given his rep. Nothin’ you could pull up on the Link, mind you; for “sake of peace,” bunches don’t get written down. But civvies tried to draw his eye little as possible and more than one fresh faced lady recruit was…discouraged from joining his unit for health of their own body and soul. Just talk, as the higher ups might say.

Any case.

She came calling. Her fiber mesh cloak barely a rustle; face lost between filtration mask and solar shield cowl. All that was hers hanging from pouches and bags strung to her utility waistbelt.

I wasn’t there so can’t verify, mind, but most agree she asked all courtesy and offered fair exchange. But Lt. Mitchell didn’t approve of her or anyone like her,who didn’t fit their assigned bolt in the machine ship.

Had he just refused, that’d be that and barely count a tale worthy relaying on third-cycle vidfeeds. But Lt. Mitchell did more than just say no. He sneered and cajoled.

Threatened too, more like than not and sent her off with a cuff to the head for her troubles.

I doubt he thought much more of it after that, but sure as suns, weren’t but few weeks later, Lt. Mitchell had the misfortune of being in the third bay engine room: the one they always claimed was more than a little squiffy, on account of it being the only bay to home both specimens of the green that seem so exotic out here in the blank, as well as a few leftover automata that didn’t fit in the second bay pods.

Lt. Mitchell paid the rumors no mind. Just going through routine checks. I like to imagine him whistling, one of those happy tunes of sweet oblivion his kind always seem to know: those privileged with the surety that not only can all things be understood, they can be controlled. Specifically by themselves, of course.

Now I’m just a lowly maintenance monkey, no holder of high learning, nor secret wisdom of any stellar cults, so I can’t speak to what happened next. But then again, if you can find some gravslagged fool what can, I will fork over a week of astroturf vodka rations: the type still illegal in some quadrants as unacceptably toxic. You know: the good stuff.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the untimely and decidedly un-TIDY demise of Lt. Mitchell.

When they found him, the succulents usually harvested to treat sun-blindness had already started blooming out of his chest, apparently mistaking his lungs for fertilizer. His face was a contorted hologram of pain, though admittedly, that might have been the effect of the vines wrapping around his throat, the ones they call ‘Lovers Legs’ when the Linneans aren’t around. These lovers apparently craved a closer bond because they had reached into his screaming mouth as if to link up with the thorny flowers sprouting from his torso.

They still don’t know where his eyes are.

As near as anyone can tell, one of the bots malfunctioned. Sealed the door and knocked the carefully controlled stellariums to the floor, scattering soil and precious green. Told me there musta been some kind of accelerant, maybe something the Linneans were trying out.

Only way they coulda grown so much, so fast. They shrug with the carefully calculated indifference of those actively hoping to never find uncomfortably real answers.

Any event, there was no evidence of a struggle. Just a quick blow to the side of the head and he was sharing the floor with the rapidly expanding foliage. Sensors in the room indicate that the rogue machine knelt down and indeed, when they finally overrode the locks and entered, it was still straddling him, arms by the side of his head, waist joints bent in ways they’d never been designed for.

It took four doses of ATV before the electrician that jimmied the door open finally slurred that it looked to him like the bot had been leaning in to whisper to the planter box officer. He said it was the damndest thing because those models don’t have vocal capabilities, just a soundbox for an alarm. But when they opened it up, the box had completely melted, like electrical fire had burned it from inside out.

No surprise, they took no chances and jettisoned that heap with the scrap next day.

Now I doubt much I gotta tell you, but Lt. Mitchell was liked by few and missed by none so no real great shock when his death was quickly written off as ‘one of those things’ and we continued our crawl through the blank. Those that knew, knew better than to ask questions and the rest didn’t care.

No one ever said it was the witch, how could it be? But after that, folk what sell things not on the menuscreens, mind their manners and make sure she gets what she needs to do what she do.

Now the real challenge, friend, seeing as it ain’t scrip, is trying to find her…