About The Laws of Space
The Laws of Space
Chapter 20 Begins
Chapter 20: Talking and Peeing
Alder Tate closed the door of his hovel behind him and took a deep breath. His long overcoat was covered with grease—his gray scarf was almost black from sweat. The first day of the Culling had come and gone; he had worked himself almost to the point of passing out to insure his survival. The usually arduous labor of the mech plant where he labored was now intolerably hard—the psychology of it was beyond him, watching the very machines they were assembling snuff out lives not worthy of their fabrication.
At least I’m home, he thought, throwing his coat onto the concrete floor and undressing the top half of his body. Tate’s “bed” was nothing but a slab and a dirty blanket, but it looked a welcome site now. Since his descent into the world of the Regulars, it was the first time he was glad to be alone. Alder plopped down and curled his big body into a fetal position, too tired to think about tomorrow, another trial by fire. He was thankful for the exhaustion; on any other night he would have been kept up by the sounds of apoplectic neighbors railing against the Culling. His big eyes weighed heavy but the chance at sleep would not be afforded.
There was someone pounding on his door.
Tate did not move a muscle at first, praying he had simply dreamed the sound. Then again, more pounding. Has to be Lerner and Webb. Fine.
Still wearing his boots and pants, he rubbed his eyes clear and rose to open the door.
“Guys, I know you’ve got to be as tired as me—”
As the heavy door skidded ajar, he looked up and jumped in shock.
“Let me in, would you?” It was her. Susa Burke, L9. “Alder, close your mouth, let me in, and put a shirt on for Space sake.”
He still couldn’t speak—couldn’t move.
“Fine,” she said, walking into the hovel and yanking the door closed. “You just stand there like an idiot and I’ll do the talking. Jump in at any time.” She looked around his home: one room, nothing but dirty concrete, no table, no chairs, just a wretched cell. “Goodness, I can’t believe you live like this.” She stopped her assessment and walked up to him, inches from his face. They stood, silently staring, a powder keg of emotion and months of longing occupying the sliver of air between them. Finally he reeled back, not knowing what to do or how to feel.
“Susa. How are you here? Why are you here?” he asked, sitting gingerly on the side of his bed. He looked around the hovel, much the way she did, suddenly embarrassed. “A Spacer can’t just walk down into the Five Cities. It’s against the Laws. How did you not vaporize the entire neighborhood getting here? Susa, did you vaporize the entire neighborhood getting here?”
“Are you vaporized, Alder Tate? Use your brain man.” Her words were curt but there was a little life at the end of each one. I knew she cared.
“So you’re telling me you deactivated your Space and just came down into the Doms to see me?” As he asked she removed a hooded cloak, her idea of a good Regular disguise. Underneath was her usual skin-tight pants and shirt, white and immaculate as always. Alder coughed and obscured his face to hide an admiring gaze.
“Don’t get excited, Tate.” He was not sure what she was referring to—her body or her presence. “And yes, I deactivated. But you know it works, I’m still in the System, still being tracked. But I figured I could survive one night in the City.”
“Still, it’s dangerous. Deactivating means anyone can touch you. If anyone saw who you were…”
“They didn’t. Alder—they didn’t.” Her voice was more soothing now, sensing his concern for her.
He looked up at the moldy, stained ceiling of the hovel, trying to understand. “Okay, so that’s the how. What about the why?”