An Extraordinary Vehicle

Pernicious pernicious-kss

Published on September 12th, 2012 | by Pernicious Kiss


4. You’ve Got Mail

“Letter for Pernicious Kiss,” the courier says again.
“Yeah yeah yeah.” I push aside the curtain and hold out my hand for what is certainly my mother’s birthday card. “That’s me, kid.”
“I know,” he squeaks, though I’ve never met this courier before. He’s new. They’re always new around here. Galactic Resource Sweepers Corp are notorious cheapskates, so they’re limited to hiring sixteen year olds, morons, and screw ups. (And attitude cases, like me, who just don’t get other job offers.) “Here you go.” He pushes the envelope in my hands and steps back as if from a snake. Normally his skittishness would annoy me. But today I’m feeling usually calm, and I have room for compassion. It’s probably his first month off-planet.
“Relax,” I reassure him. “I don’t bite. Well… not strangers. Not when I’m in a good mood.” Oddly enough, he’s looking less and less reassured, so I change the subject. “How do you like being a secretary in space?”
“Not too bad so far,” he says, flashing a desperate smile. “Better than flipping burgers in North Dakota.”
That’s a pitifully low bar. Then again, so was mine. “You’re terrified and lonely, aren’t you.” Not a question.
The boy blinks twice but doesn’t argue.
“You can’t fool me, kid. I was you once upon a time. The thing about space is, it’s empty. You know what empty feels like, don’t you? It’s like hunger. Space will eat up your soul if you let it. Don’t let it.”
He smirks and wrinkles his fresh face at me, like I’ve said something nutsville, but then he says quietly, “How do I not let it?”
“You have to have a few tricks up your sleeve to outsmart the emptiness. Someplace to go to in your mind. You can’t rely on the people around you for morale—too many of us are losers who’ll die on this stupid corporate ship. So get a subscription to the film library. Get a journal to write in. And here, you can borrow this until you buy your own.” I reach for the emergency spare e-reader I keep on my shelf in case my first one breaks mid-story. Hand it to him.
“Really? Hey, thanks, Pernicious.” You can see he’s thinking, Wow, she’s not a crazy as I thought she’d be.
Then I tear open the envelope and start shrieking like a banshee. The courier backs off hastily and skitters away, still clutching my e-reader.
I don’t care about him anymore, or anything else. All I can do is stare at the fussy, angular, type-A handwriting I never thought I’d see again. At the flourish of a signature, a name I never thought I’d hear again: Krash Sideways. The name of the most irritating, irritable, bossy man I’ve ever met in my life.
He’s offering me a job.

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