About The Laws of Space
The Laws of Space
Chapter 20 Continues
…It was a rare moment for Susa. She wished for time, frivolity, a feeling out process. But Alder deserved the why—the Spacer went straight for the heart of it. “I think you’re in danger. And I’m afraid I’m a big part of it.” She tried not to blink, to show her own fears. That would only make things worse.
Tate was still gazing at the ceiling. He started to laugh, first quietly, then with more fervor and frequency. It was both resounding and galling to Susa, who stood rigidly awaiting a reply. Has he lost his mind out here?
Still laughing, Alder stood back up, walking a short distance to the corner of the room. Without hesitation or ceremony, he unbuttoned his trousers and began to urinate in the rusty old toilet in the corner. He has lost his mind.
Finally, the laughter stopped. “I’m in danger,” he said. “Well that’s pretty obvious. Every Regular in the Five Cities is in danger.”
She had her head turned as he continued to relieve himself. “I know that part of it Alder, but there’s more. Clement specifically wants you dead. You’ve set something off in him, it would seem… are you ever going to finish? How long does that take for Space sake?”
“As long as it takes.” He was forced to talk loud over the sound of liquid piercing liquid. “And yeah Susa, I know you’re a big part of it. We could have had something together, friends, well, you don’t know that word but—you know, and all the rest. We’ve been through all this.” He finally finished, buttoning up and returning to his bed.
“Couldn’t you have done that later?” she asked.
“It may not be my Space anymore Susa, but it’s my hovel. I’ll do what I want when I want.” Tate’s tone was scathing, something Susa had never heard before.
“You know what Alder, stand up and look at me. You’re going to listen to what I say because there are things you need to know. After that, if your only desire is to go around like a buffoon well—no one can stop you.”
Alder stood and put his hands in his pockets. “Well?”
“I’m not talking about the Culling. That may or may not be about something else—I’m not sure, and to tell you the truth, that might be my fault as well.”
“What are you saying?” Alder could see she was fragile, not her normal assured self. He tried not to enjoy it.
“I told Clement that I couldn’t be with him, not around him, not in his Space, no Continuation, nothing. I told him that I wanted you… that I always had—I was just too dense to understand it at the time.” Her head was down, hiding flushed cheeks. It was no small thing she just said.
Alder was taken aback. Again, he struggled for the right thing to say. “So, you—eh, told him all that? To his face? I imagine he was none too pleased to be forsaken for a guy that doesn’t have a proper bathroom.” The comment forced a smile from Susa. Levity was rare from her, and it made it all the more precious when it came.
“Yes, you could say he wasn’t happy.”
“So I imagine he made some threats toward me?” Tate asked, beginning to pace and think about the bigger picture. “And that’s why you’re here. To warn me that the Administrator of the Five Cities wants me dead. No big deal.”
“In a nutshell,” she said, looking down at her feet. Talk about bearing glad tidings.
Alder continued moving, rubbing at his dirty brown hair. “What did you mean about the Culling?”
Susa stalled at the inquiry, taking the place on the bed once occupied by Tate. She watched him pacing, shirtless, dirty, nevertheless realizing it was indeed the man she knew. She could see the wheels turning in his brain and had no desire to throw another wrench in the works.
“I… might have presented him the information that precipitated this whole Culling thing.”
He stopped pacing. “What?”
“You don’t understand, I was just doing my job.” She stepped back defensively. “I noticed production levels down all over the Five Cities, especially City Five—I realized it was the workers. They weren’t performing within the margins. It was just an observation… or so I thought.”
“So you thought.”
“So somehow he thinks this whole productivity problem is related to your presence, your demeanor, I don’t know—you.”
“This is crazy. All of this is crazy. Pope and I never saw eye to eye, but I never knew him to be so irascible. Has he taken leave of his senses? Have you? What were you thinking?” She started to cry into her hands, turning her face from Alder and his inquisition. He did nothing to quell her pain. “Do you hear that? Listen. Stop thinking about yourself and listen. Stick an ear out that tiny excuse for a window and tell me how it strikes you.” Alder was outside himself—he ached for her to absorb the sounds of the destitute, the frightened. It was all around them. Those that still had hovelmates were bickering, trying to make sense of the senseless. Those who had lost hovelmates were talking to walls, trying to adjust to the supposed greatest of all gifts, loneliness.
While Susa continued to sob, Alder paced some more. How could she do this to me? Whenever there is misery in my life, whenever there is pain, Susa Burke, L9 is always the source. Damn her. Damn her… Damn me. The last thought hit Tate like a slap in the face. He put his hands on his head, standing in the center of the hovel. “This is my fault.”
She could hardly hear him through her own cries and the sad symphonies of the Regulars. She wanted so badly to go back to her estate, her Elysium, far from desolation and despair. Still, something told her it was right to be there. “What—what did you say?”