Make You See Stars, page 1
Make You See Stars
© 2013 by Jocelyn Han, Smashwords Edition
Cover design by Jocelyn Han & Clarissa Yeo
This book is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the prior permission of the author.
“Cheer up, babe.”
Tori grimaced at herself in the mirror as she adjusted her silky, red hair, gathering some stray hairs into the chignon in her neck. She didn’t like what she was seeing. The official navy-blue skirt suit she was wearing wasn’t doing much for her complexion. Then again, the poor overhead light wasn’t really helping either. Nor was the fact that she hated these kinds of clothes.
Soon, however, she’d face the bright flashes of multiple cameras pointed at her. Better practice her sweet-and-innocent, yet professional smile while she could.
Make sure you look presentable, darling, her mother’s voice trilled in her mind.
“Yes, mom,” she mumbled at her reflection in the mirror, pulling another face at herself before re-applying her make-up.
In a way, leaving Mars had been tough, but it had also been a relief. It was the start of a new life – a life she’d claim as her own. As soon as the cruiser had taken off and left the surface of Earth’s red neighboring planet behind, Tori had fled to her private quarters in the aft of the spacecraft to avoid the hordes of journalists traveling on the same space line toward Desida Two, the space station orbiting Saturn. The last thing she needed was news-hungry paparazzi chasing her up and down the ship, trying to get a few questions in with Victoria Weiss, daughter of the Great German ambassador on Mars.
By now, she was completely fed up with being an Elite icon. Why couldn’t she have had an older sibling to take the brunt of all the attention and be in the limelight? She’d have loved someone’s shadow to disappear into, invisible to the public eye, able to live her own life without having to be an upstanding example of whatever it was her parents expected of her.
Tori tentatively smiled, turning away from the mirror on her high heels. Even though she was leaving her entire life on Mars behind by taking up an internship in the Astrobiology Department on Desida Two, she’d still have some friends to welcome her on board when she got there. Anna and Shirley – the two American girls her mother had always tried to keep away from her, because they were ‘too different’. Like she was only supposed to befriend exact clones of herself.
Anna had just graduated from North Mars Uni with a degree in Geology. She was part of the Cartography team mapping all of Saturn’s moons for the first time in history. She’d arranged for their friend Shirley to do her internship there as well. If all went well, the three of them would be sent out on multiple missions doing assignments on the moon Enceladus together – Tori in her capacity of Astrobiology student, taking samples of the subterranean waters hiding below the surface, and her two friends as mapmakers. Desida Two was a multicultural station with many scientists from Canadian Greenland and the Ten States of America, so it was also a golden opportunity to practice her English and make new, international friends.
“Approaching Desida Two,” a tinny voice above her head announced. “First docking point: Saturn Boulevard. This cruiser will continue to Hydroponics and the Main Cargo Hold, where this service terminates.”
Tori walked over to her trolley bag to pack up, then stopped midway. The most convenient way to get to her quarters on Desida Two was by entering via Saturn Boulevard, but all the journalists probably knew that too. Maybe she should sit this one out. After all, nothing waiting for her in the Main Cargo Hold could possibly be worse than vulture-reporters circling her to get the latest scoop on why Ambassador Weiss’s only child had moved out at age twenty, wanting to finish college as far away from home as she could.
She whipped out her pad and typed out a message to Anna: ‘don’t wait 4 me @ the blvd. dodging journalists. will take cargo exit!!’ This was the most excellent idea she’d had all day.
Grinning a self-congratulatory smile, Tori sat back down in the chair next to the window showing her new home looming in space. The vision was breathtaking: Saturn was taking up most of the view from the porthole, but the object truly standing out was Desida Two, sunlight hitting the station floating silently in space glittering like a precious diamond, presently flanked by one of Saturn’s smaller moons – Prometheus.
There was no longer any need to keep wearing her skirt suit to ‘look presentable’ now, but Tori decided to get out of the prim outfit later. She had no idea how long it would take for the spacecraft to dock at the Main Cargo Hold, and she didn’t want to miss her opportunity to sneak out of this ship unnoticed.
Tori shot a look at her baggage containing lots of twentieth-century casual clothes that she’d previously only been allowed to wear at home – and even that had been a source of ongoing dispute with her parents. After all, Ambassador Weiss couldn’t have his servants blowing the gaff on his daughter dressing in anything else but standard issue Elitist attire. Having an idealist daughter with a penchant for nostalgia was highly inappropriate for a man who ruled the entire Northern Martian Hemisphere with iron fist and zero tolerance.
“Airlock closing. No more passengers are allowed to leave the spacecraft. The next docking point is Hydroponics,” the intercom droned on.
Tori sniggered softly. It was a true shame she wasn’t there to see the reporters milling around, looking for her all over the Boulevard, wondering what had happened to her. The reason most of them were here was actually completely unrelated to her – Commander Kelso, head of Desida Two, had recently discovered a small wormhole close to Saturn, and they were sending in a probe tonight. It was possible this would be a chance at first contact with intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Most journalists assumed her presence here meant that Ambassador Weiss wanted to keep an eye on everything by sending his daughter to the station to report back to him.
“Main Cargo Hold: final docking point,” the robotic voice declared. “All remaining passengers are requested to disembark. Please take your personal belongings with you.”
As Tori rolled her suitcase out of her room and down the hallway, she thought back to the few times she’d visited her maternal grandparents in Great Germany. Back then, the trains had still been safe to use for the Elite. She’d been on a long-distance train running between Barcelona and Kiel, and she had felt free and careless, despite the fact that she’d had to take her personal belongings with her every time she needed the bathroom due to petty theft running rampant on those trains. Nobody had been there to tell her what to do – she’d been her own person. And that’s what she intended to be once more on this station.
When the airlock opened with a hissing sound, Tori was the only one waiting there to get off the ship. She couldn’t help but smile at her own ingenuity – with a little luck, the swarm of pressmen wouldn’t even recognize her by the time she got to the Boulevard with her friends. She’d change as soon as she got to her quarters. Her hippie clothes would be her disguise.
The click-clack of her high heels leaped off the aluminum as her feet hit the floor, the wheels of her trolley bag following in their wake. The cargo bay was enormous. Tori looked around her, blinking against the cold fluorescent strip lights shining down from the ceiling. Where was she supposed to go? There were no signs or exits anywhere, as far as she could tell.
When she kept walking, she suddenly spotted three men in the left corner all the way to the end of the hangar. They were busy processing cargo containers that had probably arrived from one of Jupiter’s moons earlier that day. She could read the Russian labels on the sid
Tori squinted at the work crew. The tallest of the three men seemed to be their superior officer, judging from the fact that he was giving them orders – and doing the least menial labor, which usually went hand in hand in this kind of situation. She’d seen it so many times in her dad’s office: the most self-important and authoritarian people seemed to be most afraid of getting tired… or their hands dirty.
Tori veered off in the direction of the cargo crew. If nothing else, they’d be able to tell her where the nearest exit for cruiser passengers was. As she sashayed toward the three men, the commanding officer suddenly looked up and locked eyes with her for a few seconds. His dark gaze then slowly trailed down her immaculately clad body, one corner of his mouth pulling up disparagingly before he looked up again, shaking his blond head almost imperceptibly.
Okay – what the hell? Why was this guy looking at her with disdain written all over his face? Maybe she’d broken some unwritten rule by parading down his holy cargo hold in heels. Admittedly, she looked like she’d wandered off some chick-flick movie set and accidentally stumbled into the Star Trek studios, but still. It was none of his business what she looked like or what she was wearing.
At that moment, she spotted a set of elevator doors in the corner. Brilliant – she wouldn’t have to ask this unlikable man for the way to the living quarters on the station. Tori raised her hand to press the button next to the door when her gaze suddenly fell on the words ‘freight elevator’ painted across the exit in gray letters.
When she swiveled around, he was right behind her.
“Can I help you?” he asked, a look of amusement evident on his face. He spoke English like a Brit.
“Gee, I hope so,” Tori replied acrimoniously. She looked up to meet his eyes, only to realize they weren’t dark at all – they were blue as the sky on Earth, but his dark eyelashes and eyebrows had made them seem darker from a distance. “Actually, it would be really helpful if you could scrape the contempt off your face before we continue this conversation.”
The tiny smile playing around his mouth broke into a lopsided grin, which caused her to stare at him in fascination. He was gorgeous. And sexy. And he was obviously laughing in her face.
Cocking his head to one side, he observed her through narrowed eyes. “You know, for such a nicely-dressed Elite lady, you have an astonishing lack of manners,” he slowly replied. “I guess money can’t buy everything.”
Her mouth fell open. “Excuse me? What the hell is your problem? I don’t know what your job at this station is, but to me, you’re just a random guy showing me out of this stupid cargo bay before riding off into the Saturnian sunset. Okay?”
A brief quiver tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Thanks for proving my point. Why don’t you follow me, your Highness.” He gave her a mocking bow before leisurely strolling over to the other corner of the hangar, flipping a switch in the wall to open a sliding door revealing another elevator.
Tori strode past him, holding her head high as she nodded at him coolly and entered the elevator. When nothing happened and the annoying, good-looking guy in front of her remained where he was with the same disdainful, mocking look in his eyes, she rolled her eyes impatiently. “Am I supposed to put in a coin somewhere to make this thing go up?”
He shook his head disbelievingly. “Again with the money. You really think that’s the answer to everything, don’t you?”
She took a step forward. “Well, if this thing doesn’t go up anytime soon, I’ll just call a taxi to take me to my quarters. I’ve got enough money to burn, right?” From the corner of her eye, she suddenly spotted his finger still pressing down the switch in the wall, which was most likely keeping the elevator where it was. “What the…” she exploded. “Let go of that switch! Right now!”
He raised an eyebrow. “Or else?”
Tori clenched her fists. “Or else I’ll take off these ridiculously high heels that I can’t even properly walk on, and I’ll use them as weapons to give you beautiful black eyes instead of blue ones. How about that?”
She matched her words with deeds, bending down to remove her tight shoes while she was at it. When Tori stood up straight again, she realized how bad of an idea that had been. The obnoxious guy was now really towering over her. Her heart sped up when he slowly took a step forward.
Her breath faltered when he leaned down and mumbled close to her face: “You think I have beautiful eyes?”
Slowly, red heat crept up her cheeks. Before she even had time to come up with a retort, the elevator doors closed. Apparently, he’d had enough of his little game… or felt as if he’d won.
“Come in, please!” Tori shouted when the doorbell rang. It had to be Anna and Shirley – she’d sent the two of them another message, telling them she’d made it to her quarters safe and sound, without encountering a single reporter.
The doors swished open, spilling two beaming girls into her new living room. “Weiss Woman!” Anna yelled ebulliently before giving her friend a hug, her brown curls bouncing up and down. Shirley hugged the two of them in turn. “How are you?”
“Happy to be away from Mars,” Tori replied with a grin. “I can’t believe I’m really here! This is awesome.” She gestured around the room. She’d already unpacked some of her clothes and put up a few posters from her twentieth-century music collection – Jim Morrison, Alice Cooper and Nirvana graced the walls of the living area. She was wearing her favorite velvet burgundy pants, sneakers and a tight-fitting olive tie-dye T-shirt which brought out the green in her eyes, her hair spilling over her shoulders like a waterfall of red.
“You look rebellious,” Shirley commented with a spark in her kind, gray eyes. “If only your mother could see you now.”
“Yeah, well, she can’t. I thought I’d keep my neat blouses somewhere close in case my parents request a video call, but maybe I shouldn’t. What are they gonna do, fly out here to make me change into expensive clothes?” She shrugged.
Anna cracked a wicked smile. “You never know. The Great German ambassador has spies everywhere.”
Tori sighed. “Anna, why do you even like me?” she asked, only half-joking. She didn’t want to admit it, but she was still reeling from the encounter in the cargo hold. It had truly upset her. The tall commander guy had taken one look at her and apparently concluded she was some kind of spoilt, rich kid. Was she? She didn’t even particularly like her meddling parents, but maybe she was more stuck-up than she realized.
Anna snorted. “Why? Because you’re cool. You are a sweet and reliable friend, you have a great sense of humor, and you stand up for what you believe in. You’re my kind of person.” She playfully punched Tori on the shoulder.
“Amen to that,” Shirley chimed in. “Why are you asking?”
Tori bit her lip. “It’s nothing. I just... I guess I was raised in an ivory tower and I don’t know a lot about the world outside. Maybe I’m weird.”
“That’s why you’ve got us!” Anna exclaimed. “Before we moved to Mars, we were living in war-torn Florida, right? We told you all about it.”
“It’s still not the same as experiencing it.”
“No, it isn’t,” Shirley agreed. “But you haven’t missed anything, trust me. You should be grateful for moving to Mars when you were five years old. You didn’t have to live through all the wars on Earth.” She absently raked a hand through her blonde pixie cut, her eyes thoughtful.
Tori just silently nodded in agreement. Shirley had been through a lot. She hadn’t told her friends everything she’d lived through, but it was obvious she’d seen and suffered too much in Texas, before moving to Florida.
The three of them decided to unpack the rest of Tori’s stuff as they chatted about everything and nothing.
“You travel light,” Shi
“Because I wanted to start all over again,” Tori replied. “I actually brought just the clothes that I like – not the clothes I’m supposed to wear. It’s unbelievable, but my mom didn’t even check my bags.”
“Well, the only clothes you’re supposed to wear during missions are cryo-suits,” Anna commented dryly. “And the Astrobiology department will provide you with those.”
Tori giggled. “You have a point. Hey, could you two show me the rest of the station? I haven’t seen anything yet – I practically ran here to avoid those guys from the Martian Herald.”
“Oh, the probe people?” Shirley smirked. “I don’t know who told them what the Space Exploration team is planning, but Commander Kelso isn’t exactly happy. It wasn’t supposed to be made public just yet.”
When they left Tori’s quarters, Anna turned right. “Let’s take you to the lower decks first,” she said. “That’s where all the fun is. The upper decks are for the various scientific departments, and the middle two are what we call the Habitat Deck. They’re Levels Ten and Eleven.”
“Where do you live?”
“Same level as you – Level Eleven, Section Four,” Shirley replied. “You’re in Section Two.”
The elevator brought them down to Level Eight, where Saturn Boulevard was situated. Tori carried a floor plan to keep track of where they were going, feeling like a tourist visiting an old Earth city for the first time. All the cities on Mars were built according to the same grid layout – if you knew one, you knew them all. Desida Two was different: it was shaped like an enormous flying saucer with a protruding top crammed full of antennae and satellite dishes to service the Observatory on the upper deck. The wide hallways interconnecting the different areas on each deck looked like spokes on a wheel on her map, the smaller corridors between the spokes turning the floor plan into a giant spider web. They didn’t have numbers, but names – on Deck Eight, they were each named after Earth presidents from different countries.