This concludes the G-5 flash trilogy. If you’re just joining the free-range insane asylum, here are links to the first two parts:
Part 1: G-5
Part 2: G-5’s Blast from the Past
The ice run was profitable, but G-5 added what he called “gravy” by monitoring comms from Orbital Control and finding a cargo of iridium needing a ride. I had to look up “deadheading” — it means traveling without cargo — but I liked the word, and understood G-5’s distaste for the concept. But he had even more distaste for what was waiting for him at home.
“Do you have any idea how much I hate her?” he asked as we broke Mars orbit and burned for home.
“Since you’ve mentioned it at least eight times a day since you got her message, I have a pretty good idea.”
“Eh. No. Strangling her with my bare hands wouldn’t be good enough. I’d —”
“Hey. Remember, just saying things like that in public is a felony these days. You need to be careful.”
“This ain’t public.” G-5 grinned. “Yeah. I’m just blowing off steam before I make the call here.” He stretched, letting the tenth-gee pull his arms back. He looked nervous, even though he and gram and I had worked it all out over the last two weeks.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “If you swerve, we’ll just re-take. You won’t have to go real-time until we hit lunar orbit.”
“Yeah. You know this is a waste of time, right? Back before I — we went popsicle, she said she’d go to the ends of the earth to pay me back after I beat her in court.” He looked at his reflection in the dark monitor. “Whatever. Let’s do this.”
I adjusted the vid and nodded. He looked at the input and smiled. “Carolyn. I have to admit I was surprised you’d follow me, even through time, just to keep your petty little feud going. But I shouldn’t have expected anything less.
“I’ve been in touch with our great-great-great-granddaughter, Marla, who’s the current CEO. Actually, they call it Steering Prime now, same thing. Against my wishes and better judgement, Steering is making you a pretty generous counter-offer. You’ll get a trust fund that will let you live out the rest of your miserable life in comfort, as long as you stay clear of me and other ECF staff. You won’t be content — nothing ever satisfies you — but that’s the absolute best you can do.
“I know you won’t believe me, but that’ll just make it more fun to watch you go down in flames again. I didn’t need connections to beat you last time. And the legal system is entirely computerized now — you can make all the sad faces you want at an AI, and it won’t care.
“So there you have it. Take it or leave it, and I really hope you leave it — I’d love to see you cast loose without a penny. But I’m attaching contact details for Marla anyway.
“Oh… hey, I’m in a generous mood. I’ll be in cryo for six weeks, but I’ll give you one more shot at me when we’re closer to home and we can talk direct. Send me your timezone, so I’ll know when to wake you up.” He turned to me. “Well?”
“Looks good. You covered — oh, you forgot the last part —”
“Nope. I’m gonna spring that one real-time. Let’s go popsicle before she has a chance to respond. With any luck, I won’t dream of that leech.”
“Leeches are extinct.”
“All but one.”
As before, G-5 was out of cryo well before me, waiting with a sippy of warm coffee and a big grin. “The bait has attracted the fish,” he said, leaving me to figure out what that meant. “Lunar O.C. assigned us a slot, and You Know Who will be waking up in about an hour. Plenty of time to chow down.” If you’ve ever been in cryo, you know how hungry you are when you wake up. Something inside knows you haven’t eaten in months or years, and it wants to make up for lost time. Space chow isn’t great, but it’s food. Lots of fiber to keep the recyclers humming, good protein, and enough carbs and fat to give it some flavor. Some. We ate, G-5 with one eye on a chrono set for Standard minus 6 (which he called “Central Time”).
With our wake-up hunger dealt with, we slotted into lunar orbit and set up a relay to Earth. It took a few minutes, but Carolyn’s face glared at us across space. “Well,” she said, “I didn’t believe you, but you wouldn’t tell a lie so easily refuted. I checked it out, of course. It seems that I have no choice but to accept our descendant’s offer. I must say, you haven’t fared much better. Such a strange future we’ve woken up in… we’re not respected much.”
“Tell me about it. You know they call us throwbacks, right?”
The three-second delay stretched on. “Such an ugly word.”
“Yeah. And like you said… here I am. Second fiddle on a space truck.” He didn’t mention gram’s offer of a Steering seat. “At least they cured what ailed us. But you know, they don’t have popsicles now? I was thinking about starting a new business — introduce ’em to some good ol’ twenty-first century junk food.”
Her eyes brightened, a smile came to her face. “Ah. Well, I won’t trouble you further, Warren. This world has done enough to us both. Goodbye.” She cut off the call before he could respond.
G-5 grinned. “Hah! Hook, line, and sinker!” He ignored my puzzlement. “She’ll start the business herself, thinking she’s cutting me out, and I’m rid of her at last!”
That’s exactly how it went. We came home to find she’d already started 21st Century Treats, and was happy to ignore us. G-5 got his Steering seat. He promoted me to Head of Logistics, a fancy title for cultural assistant, but it beat long stretches in a tin can. I got married, had kids, and taught them to call him “G-6.”
He retaliated by teaching them his favorite words.