I was surprised to find G-5 already moving, carrying sipper mugs, as I woke out of cryo. He handed me a mug.
“Up and at ’em, sleepyhead,” he grinned. “All systems are go, we’re in our decel burn, Mars O.C. has already assigned us a slot and cargo handlers. Thirsty bunch down there, huh?”
I paused a moment, parsing his archaic gabble — “all systems are go”? really? — while trying to clear my head. The coffee in the sipper mug helped.
“I’m still trying to figure out how you got out of cryo so quick,” I said. “Especially at your age.”
G-5 laughed. “The docs said I would bounce back pretty fast if I ever went popsicle again. I was in for so long, my system got used to it. That’s what they said, anyway.” As always, that’s mostly what he said. I edit out his profanity. No need for it, and it would only make a long story longer. And ruder.
Makes as much sense as anything else. Being cooped up in a tin can with someone for five years, even if it was only one year subjective, can be stressful. Especially if that someone is a throwback. On the other hand, you get to know that someone pretty well. G-5 turned out to be a good hand — well-suited for the work, quick to learn, and he had a chance to catch up on over a century of technical and social changes. He started toning down the profanity… a little. He was adjusting well overall, especially for his experiential age, and I said so.
“Eh. I made up my mind in my first life, I wouldn’t let my mind ossify. Helps you not get Alzheimer’s.”
“Another disease there’s a cure for now. But I’m not complaining.”
G-5 laughed again. “Yeah. So what now?”
I punched up the approach. “Looks like we have a week to kick back and enjoy the ride. Pull up a news capsule and catch up on what happened in the last five years, check messages, that kind of thing. It’ll take most of the week, I figure.”
“Tell me about it. You know how long it took to catch up after 135 years?”
“Yeah. You did a lot of it on this ride — hey, you have a message. Only a month old.”
“Huh. Who’d be pinging me?”
“Your grad student friend?”
“Doubt it. She’s done with me. Teaching, or more likely unemployed and married.” He punched up the message, and gasped.
The vid showed an elderly woman, well-preserved and even a little elegant in spite of her throwback dress and speech. “Hello, Warren,” she said. “Here’s a blast from your past. You didn’t think you could dodge your responsibilities that easily, could you?”
“You are not my responsibility!” G-5 screamed at the video image. He started screaming and ranting — and if I’d thought his language was rude before, he took it up at least an order of magnitude. After he used up every woman-specific insult he knew — I had to look up a few — he kept going. Of the things I feel comfortable transcribing, he called her undead (vampire, ghoul), parasite (leech, tick, maggot), and a greedy gold-digging blowfly. He was nearly incoherent by then, repeating himself and getting red-faced.
After ten minutes or so, long after the message had ended, G-5 quieted down. “Good thing you didn’t take back over, it sounds like,” I suggested.
“That won’t stop her.” He paused. “I think I need to get your gram caught up, if she hasn’t heard already.”
“Good idea. I’ll set up the vid to forward — oh. She protected it.”
“Just like her. Ah well, we used to have a saying: if you can play it, you can rip it.”
“Forget it. All the protection’s built into hardware. We can’t break it without breaking the system.”
“So we go low-tech.” G-5 kicked over to his locker and brought out his percomm. “Nice phones you got these days,” he said. “Go ahead and run that message again.”
He held his percomm up to the screen, recording the message. Clever idea — I guess you have to be a throwback to think that way. He kept his mouth clamped shut, but I could tell it took a lot of effort as she continued:
“You can imagine my surprise and utter delight to find out that you were still alive, here in the future. And even more delighted to find you’re not destitute!
“So we can do this the smart way or the stupid way. If you’re smart, you will turn over a third of your company to me. If you want to be greedy, I’ll take it all. You hear me, Warren? You don’t have the political connections here that you had back then, you know. I understand you’re in space right now, so you’ll need to get in touch with me ASAP. Good talking to you again, Warren.” The message ended.
G-5 — Warren — poked his percomm. “Yeah, that took,” he said, and docked it into the console. I helped him open a new message and attach the video he took.
“Marla, it’s Warren,” he said. “I almost feel like I should apologize, but if you haven’t heard from my ex by now, you will soon. I got a message from her already. We’re in decel, slotting into Mars orbit right now, so I guess it’ll be a few months before we get back home.
“Listen. I don’t want her getting one red cent. Don’t let her scare you about the political connections. I didn’t use them, I beat her fair and square. Offer her a job shoveling the docks in Antarctica, at most. She doesn’t deserve anything more. Anyway, let me know if she contacts you.”
It was about a standard day later when gram’s response came in. “Warren, Sal, we indeed seem to have a mutual problem here. Fortunately, our legalware indicates that she has no legal standing to claim any portion of ECF. But at the same time, why not accommodate her?”
“No!” G-5 yelled.
“It would cost very little to set her up with a trust fund, so she could live out her days comfortably and — above all — quietly. Think about it before you respond.
“Oh, by the way, a seat on the board of directors is coming open. If we can put this unpleasant woman behind us, I see no reason not to offer you the seat. If everyone wins, everyone is happy. Let me know when you two are on your way home.”
That was gram. Bribe your enemies and your friends, all at once.