The gypsy comet, p.1

The Gypsy Comet, page 1

 part  #4 of  The Gypsy Pearl Series


The Gypsy Comet

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The Gypsy Comet

  The Gypsy Comet

  A Gypsy Pearl Prequel: Brita’s Story

  Lia London

  The Gypsy Comet is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

  No portion of this manuscript may be sold or otherwise distributed in printed or electronic form without written permission from the author.

  All rights reserved.

  © 2019 Lia London

  Table of Contents

  Table of Contents

  1 ~ The Medic

  2 ~ Identity

  3 ~ The Library

  4 ~ The Comet

  5 ~ Rough Landing

  6 ~ Rainy Night

  7 ~ Mittur and Biddy

  8 ~ The Other Gypsy

  9 ~ Special Treatment

  10 ~ The Diver

  11 ~ Extended Stay

  12 ~ An Associate

  13 ~ Training

  14 ~ The Drop

  15 ~ Camping

  16 ~ Identity

  17 ~ Mrs. Artemus

  18 ~ Ugly Truth

  19 ~ Good-byes

  20 ~ The Network

  21 ~ Training

  22 ~ A Deal and a Plan

  23 ~ A New Home

  24 ~ Prejudices

  25 ~ Felly

  26 ~ A Visitor

  27 ~ The Party

  28 ~ Jana’s Baby

  29 ~ Faneps

  30 ~ An Unexpected Home

  31 ~ Caz

  32 ~ Drops

  33 ~ Saloma

  34 ~ The Council Meeting

  Special Thanks…

  1 ~ The Medic

  “Name, please.”

  “Brita…” I faltered. As a gypsy, my father didn’t have a last name, but it behooved me to fit in with the stationaries, so I added my mother’s family name, hoping it wouldn’t arouse too much suspicion. “Glenn.”

  The man’s eyebrow ticked up, but he made no comment as he tapped in my response on his digi-pad. “Destination?”

  “Planet Tye, Ikekane North.”

  He nodded at this. Most people venturing into the skies traveled between Caren and Tye. Craggy, the third planet in the system, infamous for its inhospitable clime, attracted no one who didn’t have a high-paying mining job offer or a prison sentence.

  “Will you be taking one of the ferries down?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Be sure to make your drop reservations as soon as you clear Quarantine. You don’t want to get stuck here an extra rotation just because the ferry fills up.”

  “Yes, sir. I’ll be sure to do that.” Dulcea had always taught me about the exaggerated courtesy employed on the ICS system, so I put on my most demure expression. It may have been a little dusty with disuse, but he gave me a curt smile.

  “Quarantine Deck, Corridor 3, Room 6.”

  I swallowed my dread. The Arxon might be the largest and grandest of the Interplanetary City Stations in the Granbo System, but it was still a flying box in space, and the intake officer had just assigned me to my tiny box within that box until I cleared inspection.

  “How long?” I asked, trying to sound bored.

  He shrugged. “Your vaccinations are up to date, so probably not more than two hours. The lift is that way.” He pointed, and I accepted his dismissal.

  A few steps later, I stopped and called back. “And my personal cargo?” I owned some very valuable Rik leaf blends I hoped to sell for profit on Tye, but I wasn’t sure if they would pass whatever stringent rules these spaceys contrived about transporting plant life. They seemed to fear anything organic, and I half-jokingly wondered if the humanoids wandering these space stations were in fact cyborg.

  His sigh of disdain revealed how much he despised Surface dwellers, which made no sense given the ICS system existed specifically to service travelers between the three worlds of the Granbo Charter. “Once it clears customs, we’ll have it delivered. If there’s a disputed item, we’ll contact you directly in your room. Please don’t leave your assigned quarters until…”

  I nodded and raised a hand. “Yes, sir. I know the rules.”

  Hurrying to the lift, I secured a ride down to the Quarantine Deck alone. No point in sharing my claustrophobic discomfort with a stranger. The doors slid open and released me into a sterile intersection of two corridors, labeled in large beige digits: 1 to my left, 2 dead ahead, and 3 to my right. I moved quickly to my room, noting the first dorm door stood open. A male medic in a blue, footed coversuit and a lab coat entered it. Perhaps it wouldn’t take very long.

  I loved everything about traveling, except the journeys between planets. The confinement of life on an ICS made my skin crawl, and I couldn’t stand the filtered air and lack of full gravity. I constantly bumped into things because I had too much spring in my step.

  Still, on this, my maiden voyage in space alone, I felt more adventurous and free. Dulcea wasn’t around to coach me with every little social nuance, but maybe I had learned enough and could pass muster with the stationaries. That’s what gypsies called anyone who stayed in one place, whether on an interplanetary city-station or a Surface colony. It was a politer term than Dullards with No Curiosity.

  Pressing the release button, I stepped inside and startled at the pleasant surprise of a window directly opposite the door. Though small, it afforded a view of something bigger than the closet-like bunk of my temporary quarters. My shoulders relaxed a few centimeters, and I stepped over to the glass, marveling how something so transparent could keep out the vast, freezing vacuum of space.

  I began counting stars, my custom during flights to relieve boredom, and somewhere in the three hundreds, I saw the faintest movement.

  “Excuse me.” A soft rapping sounded, and I spun to see the medic, a handsome young man with a shock of wavy brown hair falling further down his forehead than ICS regulations usually allowed. His smiling eyes connected with mine. “Are you Brita Glenn?”

  “I am.” With my back to the wall, I felt a little trapped, especially since I’d forgotten to turn on the light. Enough spilled in from the corridor to illuminate his silhouette, and I could tell he was one of the rare spaceys who used the recreational rooms for more than socializing. I cleared my throat. “I’m Brita Glenn,” I reiterated, feeling stupid about stating the obvious.

  “Pleased to meet you. I’m Dag Artemus, the Quarantine Deck intake medic.” His gaze held mine for a second, before consulting his digi-pad. “You have all your vaccinations, so this will be brief. Age?”


  “Mind if I turn on the lights, or were you enjoying the dark?”

  “Oh. I…” I pointed vaguely out the window. “I thought maybe I saw a comet.”

  “Really?” His face lit up with interest, and he took the three steps required to join me at the window.

  Shaken by his nearness—most ICS residents didn’t get cozy with Surface dwellers—I turned back to the window and indicated where I’d seen the blur of light.

  “Oh yes.” He almost laughed. “I’ve been watching that spot myself.”

  When he didn’t move, my mouth dried up. His shoulder brushed mine with the faintest contact. Normally boisterous and brazen, I couldn’t understand why my body demanded stillness. My pulse apparently wanted to do all the rushing right now.

  He smiled. “We should check in with the star cartographers. I bet they’d tell us for sure.”

  We? Us? Did he plan to conduct an astronomy lesson instead of a wellness check?

  “Do I need to stay in Quarantine, or…” I didn’t really want to rush him, but the leisurely pace with which he conducted the interview didn’t fit the hyper-professional reputation of the Arxon.

  “Sorry. Yes, of course.” He chuckled. “I’m afraid I get distracted by shiny
things,” he said with a self-deprecating shrug. “Please, call me Dag.”

  The finest of laugh lines appeared at the corners of his eyes, and I guessed him to be about five years my senior. Young for a medic. Maybe that’s why he’d gotten the undesirable shift working with travelers.

  Dag set the digi-pad on the bunk and held up his hands. “May I?”

  “May you what?”

  “Check your hair. Some of the passengers have brought extra guests aboard.” He chuckled at his joke.

  I rolled my eyes and unfastened the clasp holding my elegant knot in place and shook my hair loose. Unless trapped, it flew wild about my shoulders.

  Dag’s eyes widened at the transformation, and his lips quirked. “Over here, please, directly under the light.”

  I bent my head into his chest and submitted to the inspection, feeling his fingers probe through my hair gently, parting it here and there. Touching a knuckle to my chin, he lifted my face upright and pulled a tiny exam light from his pocket. He brushed my hair back from my ear and peered inside.

  “You’re allowed to breathe, Miss Glenn.”

  I exhaled noisily.

  “Turn the other way, please.” He shone his little light into the recesses of my ear canal again. “All clean.” He snapped off the light and tucked it into his pocket. “You’re part gypsy.”

  My heart jumped, but then my brain questioned the response. “Part gypsy? Why do you say that?”

  Dag stepped back, folding his arms. “Your hair. It’s got the lovely gypsy curl to it, but not quite. And your skin has the olive tint.”

  Two thoughts assaulted me at once: he called the gypsy genetic characteristic of curly hair lovely, and he distinguished my skin tone from that of a Surface dweller’s exposure to the sun. Perceptive and peculiar for a spacey.

  I blinked.

  His voice dropped lower. “Am I right?”

  I nodded, aware that fraternizing with gypsies was frowned upon in anything but the most required circumstances.

  Dag waved his finger in a circular motion, indicating my hair. “You hide it well with that style.” He bit his lip. “Too bad you feel you have to.”

  My mouth fell open, but no words came out.

  With a broad smile, he backed out of the room, rapping his knuckles on the doorjamb. “You’re approved for a standard transit dorm. I’ll have the room number sent to you within the hour.”

  My heart lifted. “That was quick. Thanks!” When planet-hopping with Claus, I’d often stayed in Quarantine for the entire trip.

  He lifted his hand as if in salute and turned to go.

  I let myself drift after him as far as the door, so I caught the flustered expression on his face when he spun on his heel to double back. “I… um.” He pressed past me in the doorway and retrieved his digi-pad. “I might need this,” he whispered, holding a finger to his lips.

  I chuckled. “Did you get distracted by something shiny?”

  “Yes, I think it was a comet.” He swept his bangs from his forehead and winked before hurrying down the corridor to the next door.

  2 ~ Identity

  I grew up with the echoes of Queen Levia’s wisdom still ringing through the trees of Caren, even though she died two years before I was born. By the time I could appreciate her legacy, my family had squandered it. Despite everything Levia had done to unite the planetary colonies under one governing voice, despite how she had brought gypsies onto more equal footing with both Surface and Space dwellers, my cowardly aunt lost her spine when the danger closed in. She lacked Levia’s intelligence and grit.

  In fairness, Levia’s shocking and suspicious death struck fear into most of my living relatives at the time. My aunt, Princess Rora, was Levia’s heir. Too bad she happened to be the weakest of the lot and gave up the right to rule even before she began.

  My mother, Princess Dulcea, although married to a gypsy, could not see her perfect opportunity to squash old bigotries throughout the Granbo System and seize the reins. Instead, she abdicated as well. She and my father Claus went into hiding to escape mob violence, leaving the Carenian Empire to dissolve back into bickering colonists who wanted to shut the door against all we could have been together.

  Or so I see it. But as the princess who never will be, my opinion doesn’t matter.

  Obviously, Dulcea and Claus have a different view, and that’s why I approached adulthood with an urgent sense of dissatisfaction in the state of gypsy versus stationary affairs. Spaceys live in their boring canisters in the sky, and colonists live in their isolated regions on the Surface. Only gypsies venture beyond boundaries, and thus the source of conflict between them and the powers who wished them to “stay in their place”.

  As if gypsies could pick a single place.

  Dulcea adopted my father’s traveling lifestyle out of fear the assassins who took Levia might be after her descendants, but the wanderlust genes didn’t flow in her as they did me. As soon as I could toddle, I gained a reputation for straying farther from camp than children three times my age.

  I pondered all of this as I explored the Arxon’s guest deck, trying to fathom how anyone could be satisfied to wander the drab, lifeless corridors every day. Reaching a dead end with a window, I paused to get my bearings in the universe.

  “Well, hello there. Still looking for your comet?”

  I jerked around to see the medic, Dag, sauntering up.

  “Oh! Hello. How’d you recognize me from behind?”

  He smiled as if at a private joke. “I saw you bounding down the hall with the characteristic gait of someone used to more gravity, and you haven’t opted to use an Arxon coversuit.”

  “Yes, I can’t quite get excited about the fashion. They aren’t very practical.”

  He shrugged, and in the absence of the lab coat, I noted again the evidence of physical exercise. “Not practical for visits to the lavatory, no. But otherwise, very practical.”

  “In what way?”

  “If we all wear the same thing, then at laundry time, it doesn’t matter if it’s all jumbled together. As long as the right size is delivered to my quarters, I’m content.”

  “Content to look like everyone else?” I said it, but it wasn’t true. His demeanor set him apart. And his eyes. Very blue.

  Dag’s lip twitched, and he stood beside me, gazing out at the stars. “The stars all look the same from a distance, too, but the worlds they touch are filled with variety.”

  I hummed skeptically. “Have you done much space exploration outside the Granbo System?”

  He smiled sadly. “No, of course not. I had to settle for exploring the universe inside of people’s bodies.”

  I nodded, intrigued. “And what have you found?”

  “It’s much hotter and slimier than outer space.”

  “That’s… lovely,” I said, laughing.

  “Not very. But it’s a living.”

  I turned to study his profile, leaning against the window. “True. Do you like it?”

  “I do.”

  “Even quarantine duty, picking nits from people’s hair?”

  Dag glanced at me with a smile. “Especially that.” He jerked his chin at my head. “Speaking of which, you’ve gone back to hiding your hair.”

  My hand flew to smooth the tidy knot on my head. “It’s easier this way.”

  “Than letting it hang free?”

  “Easier to get around in ICS society,” I said flatly.

  He pursed his lips. “So, half-gypsy woman with a famous last name, do you often travel incognito as a colonist?”

  I swallowed. “Famous last name?” Did he pay attention to planetary politics?

  “Glenn. Yes. That’s quite a legacy.”

  My stomach churned. Years of hiding from potential assailants rushed through my mind in a montage. Careful to keep my voice level, I decided to check his sentiments about my grandmother’s death. “Legacy?”

  “Yes. John Glenn. He was one of the very first Earth dwellers to fly in space. He orbi
ted the home planet.”

  “Oh. Right.” I waved a hand at the fact as though I already knew it. “Him.”

  Dag’s eyes widened. “Without Mr. Glenn and others in his league, we’d never be here. One of his descendants captained the first ship that reached the Granbo System.

  “I thought gypsies…” I let the words die on my lips. A spacey would never acknowledge the first to reach the System were space gypsies, as I’d always been taught. History lessons obviously came with a bias.

  Still, I wondered how no one in my family had ever told me this morsel of history given I knew the line of Glenns stretched back to the beginning of civilization in the System. Could it be I came from literally hundreds of years of exploring stock?

  “Is that what you do when you’re not being a medic? Study ancient history?”

  He chuckled. “There’s quite a bit of time between intakes, you know. Unless there’s an unexpected epidemic on the Quarantine deck, I have plenty of time to study.”

  “And hot, slimy things can’t hold your interest all the time,” I teased.

  Dag tilted his head towards the window. “I appreciate shiny things, too. Remember?” He gestured down the hall. “Have you had a chance to visit the cafeteria?”

  I gaped at him. “Are you inviting me?”

  “Of course.”

  “Don’t Arxon residents eat on their own decks?”

  “Yes, but I prefer the transit decks.” His eyes twinkled. “More variety of face and fashion.”

  I glanced down at my dark blue, two-piece traveling suit. “Not very interesting.” After all, I’d aimed for non-descript and professional. No gypsy vests, skirts, leggings, or scarves today.

  Dag answered with a sweep of his hand in the direction of the corridor. “Only some of the ingredients are rehydrated space food. I’m sure we can find something you’ll enjoy.”

  “That would be a first.”

  He bobbed his head. “It’s not far. I’ll try to keep up with you.”

  I snickered. “Maybe you should weigh me down, attach a tether.” For a second, I wondered if he might grab my hand in compliance, but he didn’t. Disappointment tickled my throat, and I cleared it away. I couldn’t very well expect him to be as playful as Claus.

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