‘Ganymede Riots’, Victoria Feistner

Illustration © 2019 Miguel Santos

 [ Protestors, © 2019 Miguel Santos ] “Are you taking orders! Or are you taking over!” The protestors’ chants ricochet along the corridor.

Lemnie mouths along with them, her breath better saved for her exertions. We link arms along the uneven deck-plating outside the medina. She grins at me. Through the portholes God looks down, its red eye unblinking, and I feel its judgment. It knows I don’t want to be here.

Lemnie squeezes my hand, fear and excitement in each beat of her pulse. Ahead of us lie the walls of the wide-open domed medina and its qasbah: the great citadel carved from living moon, crowded with jostling protesters of both sides and the automata.

“Don’t go, pretty ones.” Someone grasps Lemnie, and her smile fades. His skin stained orange-red and his grip strong. Miner’s brat, him. “Don’t knock so loud if you don’t want trouble to answer!”

We ignore him. Three days of spilled-guts protests pulled all consciences from the middle to a side. I paced my cube, gnawing at my knuckles before I chirped Lemnie to go with me. Even miners popped out of their tunnels, two-legged rats running across decks. But we have history on our side, or so I tell myself.

There’s too many people and we push in. The crowd surges and swallows us and I don’t want to be here. Right side but wrong fear. The medina gulps us whole. An automaton slides by, scanning. “We’re with you,” I whisper, reaching out to its domed head, wishing it Jupiter’s protection against the shouting dockherders who want it—and me—and Lemnie—dead. Who would rather we all die short lives than accept new ones.

Then I notice him, brittle-boned and furious against the wrong side. The coming of automata means no child will ever suffer his deprivation again, but he doesn’t see that, only me raising fingertips in blessing; we’re not pretty any more. We’re enemies. He pulls out a blinking piece of tech from under his miner’s vest.

Shouting drowns out Lemnie’s last words to me.

The automata erupt into desperate movement, and I am flung away. Winded, tasting deck. All is legs and sirens as the qasba’s tower calves from the rock, rent down the middle, spewing fire and chunks of office.

Chants become screams. The dome of stars cracks.

Pinned under a fallen automaton, I watch my future come for me.

He grins at me with his broken teeth, mouthing words over the exiting air: what we chanted, recognizable and perverted, both. He leaps, arms spread to greet our red swirling god; he thinks he’s won.

But as I struggle to snatch breath, watching the crowd and the automata help each other, I know different. We who have seen the future will live on and rebuild our qasba and medina in our own way and stronger than before. His small and cruel-minded thinking handed us the very future he fought against.

God can have him; I choose Ganymede. I am not taking orders—I am taking over.

I am going forwards.

© 2019 Victoria Feistner

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