Junker - Bloodline
She tightened her scarf, placed a foot in the indent in the wall and began to climb.
The rungs of her ladder were made of pipes and ladles, shower heads and lamp shades, welded and tied to the metal wall, up twenty feet above the mess hall.
She reached the wall’s summit and heaved her tiny body through the sheets that formed the walls to her room, what once was a balcony overlooking a former launch terminal. She walked to a nearby table, kicking pillows out of her way. She retrieved one of her many lanterns, and shook it hard so it sprung to life and emitted a soft orange glow. One by one, the others followed suit and bathed her fort in light.
Once her room was glowing, she sat down in front of her window with Mr. Maple and showed him the constellations. Her window took up the entire wall and looked out into space. Mr. Maple put his nose to the glass and she did the same. Together they looked at the stars. Each one looked so, so far away from her, but close enough to each other that she could reach out and squish them together. She jabbed her finger against the window, pointing out a cluster of seven stars, each a different colour.
“That one is called Friendosaurous,’ she told Mr. Maple. ‘It was made to celebrate the day that dinosaurs were allowed to join the Onion and fight in the war against the Ants.”
Mr. Maple nodded with silent interest and she pushed a little stuffing back into one of his open seams.
She rolled over, splayed out over her many, many pillows, head resting against the cool glass, looking up at the pitched ceiling of her room. When she had arrived,
Fletcher had insisted she stay with a family, but after biting the fifth person who tried to tuck her into bed, they let her stay on her own. They didn’t want to leave her by herself, but she was determined. She was the daughter of Lieutenant Mayer. She had independence in her blood.
Junker was a nice home. She got to explore the station all day long, meet all the interesting people, sing along when a ship wide harmony started, and sit and watch the stars for as long as she wanted. Plus, the mess hall had rigged the processors up to make mac ‘n’ cheese, which they served on Thursdays, and they always gave her an extra helping.
She put Mr. Maple across her shoulders and crawled over to her door, placing her head on her hands, gazing down at the people below. The mess hall was massive, with control rooms peering down whose glass was shattered long ago, and one giant column in the middle. People had assembled mismatched tables and every kind of chair she could imagine. Plastic chairs, wheely chairs, armchairs, sofas. Some people had removed control chairs from their ships and dragged them here. Part of the reason she picked the balcony to make her room was so when it was meal time, she always got first pick at chairs, and was always first in line for food.
A voice broke her from her thoughts and she spun around but only saw an empty room, soft lanterns flickering.
“Who’s there?” she shouted, pushing up against the railing, hugging Mr. Maple tight to her chest. “My name’s not Rorlan.”
She saw a shape move on the right of her vision, something wiggling beside a beaded pillow. Ad she let out a battle cry, she picked up her painted chair leg and smashed it down with a heavy thud. She flipped the pillow away to reveal empty ground. She breathed heavily and frowned.
“Monkey? Are you okay?” she heard a panicked voice coming from her ladder. Elliot poked their head in through the sheets, the pink threads around their head drifting softly with their movements.
“There’s someone in my room” she said, holding up her makeshift bat, scanning the floor, ready to strike again.
Elliot crawled into her small space and stood, head lowered as to not hit the sheets that made up her roof.
“You’re sure Mr. Maple wasn’t playing hide and seek?” they asked, looking around the room.
“I’m sure! He was so scared, look!’ she held him up for Elliot to see, ‘he’s still shaking.”
Elliot nodded and put their hands to their hips.
“Well, let’s have a look then.” Elliot opened their black eyes wide and then shut a second set of eyelids, bright green and shimmery, which closed like a camera. they peered around the room.
“Looks all clear to me, bean. The warmest thing in here are the lanterns and your silly noggin.” they booped her on the nose. “Nothing to fear, Monkey. You’re too brave anyway, Daughter of Lieutenant Mayer”.
She huffed and put her hands to her hips. “No! I know I heard someone!”
“Maybe it was your stomach telling you it’s time for desert.” Her eyes went wide.
“Crumble!” They said in unison, and she began to scramble down her ladder to the mismatched dining area, Mr. Maple stuffed into her overalls.
They gave her an extra helping. She sat upside down in the armchair, her legs hanging up over its back, head on the floor. She had already finished two bowls while everyone else was still on their first. Everyone said she only won because she’s a Wotham and they have two stomachs but she just reckoned they were sore losers.
She closed her eyes, letting the blood run to her head.
“Don’t ignore me Rorlan”
She sat up. That voice again. She rolled over in the chair, poised on her hands and knees, scanning the room. No one else reacted, they talked and laughed and ate their crumble.
She stood up in the armchair and looked out toward the main door.
“Woah, kiddo. What do we say about standing on chairs?” Syra called out across the table. Something wiggled by the door. Something dark and silver. Her eyes went wide. It was the thing she had seen in her room. She stood on her tippy toes to angle herself for a better look, then she felt someone pick her up from under the arms.
“Okey dokey, down we hop.” Syra lifted her off the chair and onto the ground, layered with dusty rugs.
“Hey! I was looking for a monster!” she huffed.
Syra crossed her arms and smiled.
“Yeah Syra, lighten up. She’s going to be a war hero like her father.” Mika called out from the other side of the table. He was seated on a wheelie chair, legs wrapped around its spine, and was pushing himself away from her with a broom.
“Care for a battle, Scarf Monkey?” he cooed.
“I’m afraid I will have to beat you later,’ she smirked, ‘I have some monster hunting to do.” She nodded and marched out of the room.
“Suit yourself” Mika said and propelled himself forward, catching on a rug and falling on his face.
She followed the voice out the door and down a hallway.
“Find me, Rorlan”
She followed it. Occasionally the voice would disappear and she’d instead see something moving in the corner of her vision, and she’d follow that instead. Mr. Maple bobbed up and down, held against her chest, his eyes covered by her scarf.
She passed doorways and windows looking into the apartments. She passed one that held three hammocks, one atop the other, packed with fairy lights. Another had multiple screens buzzing with a humming a noise that made her sleepy. One had no door and was full of bowls and blankets, a free for all for any stray animals.
The hallways were a twisted maze of mismatched metal sheets. They climbed over one another, twisted back and forth and ran in circles. She passed a large sign that had been scribbled out, rewritten, scribbled out again, and now read ‘Junker’ in big scrawled letters. Ramsey had told her the history of the ship. Years ago it had been a space station, but when people started to flee the war, it started taking on refugees. They would dock their ships and never leave, till eventually their ships were built into the hull of the station. And it was massive now, more ship than station. It was a massive patchwork of mismatched rooms, from all different parts of the universe.
She heard the voice echo a little ways down a hall to her right, emanating from a vent just by her knees. With a great deal of effort she heaved the grate from its place and crawled inside. She followed it, winding, down and down, into the heart of the station. Past the rooms and relics that were clinging to the outside until she got to the core of the ship, the original. It was cold, and empty. Every surface was caked with dust but it was clear to see that once upon a time, this was a magnificent ship.
Every detail was smooth and seamless, no patchworked walls made from five different materials, like the Junker she was used to. She wandered down a dark hallway, hugging Mr. Maple and telling him they’d be ok. She pulled her scarf up to her chin.
She wandered down the corridors till she came to a vast steel door, smooth and cold. There was a number cast into the wall beside it. 049. And she heard the voice behind it.
“About time, Rorlan.” It whispered.
“My name isn’t Rorlan.” She crossed her arms, shivering in the shadow of the metal hull.
“What is it then?” it cooed.
“Everyone calls me Scarf Monkey.” She heard a gurgle that made her stomach drop.
“Pathetic. You disgrace your father’s memory with a name like that.” She tilted her head and raised an eyebrow.
“You’re a fan of my fathers?”
It chuckled. “We were very close… Would you like to know more about him?”
She had heard many stories. Her father was a war hero. No one here had actually met him but they’d all heard tales. When she had arrived everyone was shocked, and excited. Someone related to Lieutenant Mayer? They were sure to be spectacular. She’d never met him of course. He’d died in the war’s later years.
“Uh, yes please.” She said.
“If you don’t mind opening the door, I want to see your face.” It said. She paused mid-step. “He was my friend after all, and you are his daughter.”
That’s true, she thought. This must be exciting for it as well.
“That panel over there,’ it said, and she looked up to the screen beside the door, with a big handprint on it, ‘I don’t have hands, so I cannot open it.”
“Well it’s your lucky day,’ she said and waddled over to it, ‘I have two hands.”
She slapped a hand up against the panel and it flashed blue. A whoosh of air escaped the room and a smell leaked from inside that reminded her of medicine and vinegar. It was dark inside. But not dark like space. The darkness writhed and smiled. It moved, not quite like the shapes she’d been following. They were just ghosts of what she saw now. It pooled out of the room, like living mercury. It oozed over itself and twisted out in tentacles of fluid metal. Before too long she was pressed up against a wall and this beast, a writhing wad, towered above her and began to fill the corridor.
It hummed. Not with the voice it had lured her with. It was innate, like breathing. It was deep and wet and though quiet, it smothered all other sound around them.
“I’ll tell you something about your father,’ it said, with a smile she could hear rather than see. ‘He was a traitor. He was ordered to guard me and instead he set me free, and now you have followed in his footsteps.”
“Do you remember it yet? When he set me free?” It snarled.
“No! He was a hero. He helped to end the war!” she yelled at it.
“Exactly. Why do you think you lost?”
She held onto Mr. Maple, digging in her fingernails. That’s not true.
“My father is a hero! He’s no traitor!”
She looked up at the beast that towered over her, tumbling over itself like magma. She felt its toxic warmth on her skin and felt its eyeless gaze bore into her. And she started to remember.