Luna sat shuffling her tarot cards in the farthest and darkest corner of the bar. She watched the tourists coming in, with the traders and the shippers and the seekers. What were they seeking? Lots of things could be found that far out in space and lots of things couldn’t be. It tended to be the things that couldn’t be found that they were seeking.
The bartender, Gil, held up a teapot across the room and nodded to her, She shook her head. He kept a pot of hibiscus tea brewing just for her, as everyone else was drinking much stronger sedatives than the relaxing hibiscus.
Luna took a deep breath then closed her eyes, clearing her mind. She sat there like that undisturbed in the middle of the busy bar with people shouting over the obnoxious techno music but her serene face made it look like she was meditating on an empty deserted beach somewhere.
A child approached, and Luna opened her eyes to nod to her. “Good Morning to you, young Clara.”
“My mother still hasn’t come back.”
“Will you look for her again, please, I can’t pay you but I’ll do some work, does your room need cleaned?”
Luna had caught the eye of the bartender, and motioned for him to come over.
“I can, my dear, look but you know I can’t lie to you, just to make you feel better. It would be bad karma for me to give you false hope.”
“I know, but maybe things have changed since you last looked for me. You always say, things change and nothing is impossible.”
Luna shuffled her cards, drawing out the top and bottom cards to lay on either side of her crystal ball that she then peered into. She breathed deeply and focused quietly for three straight minutes. Only stopping as the bartender sat down her cup of tea, a glass of milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“Your lunch, Luna.” the bartender said.
“Oh I’m not hungry. I’ll just take the tea. Let the girl have the milk and sandwich.”
The bartender slid the plate and glass from in front of Luna to in front of Clara. The child looked at the sandwich happily and grabbed it to take a bite quickly then, with her mouth full, asked what Luna had seen in the crystal ball.
“Clara, your mom is still not able to come back to get you. I’m sorry.”
Clara managed to fight off tears and just pouted as she finished the sandwich in two bites, downed the milk, and asked how she could pay Luna.
Luna sipped her tea and said; “You could water the trees along the main corridor, the maintenance men are always so busy fixing things. They don’t tend to the plants enough.”
“But I owe you money for the fortune-telling and the lunch.”
“The trees and flowers in the corridor make me smile when I walk by them. They remind me of Mother Earth. They keep the air clean for us all. So helping them will repay me.”
Clara hopped down from the seat and went to the bartender to ask to borrow a pitcher to water the plants with. He gave her one and she went running off to the bathroom to fill it.
Luna ran a hand over her crystal ball, and waited. She didn’t have to wait long. A tall stout man with red hair and beard came over to her table, and sat down uninvited.
“You need some answers.” Luna stated, didn’t ask.
“My ship, my best friend and my girlfriend all disappeared, this morning.”
“Of course, you know the friend stole the ship and the girlfriend and they left the station.”
“You didn’t even look at your cards or the crystal ball.”
“Didn’t have to. It doesn’t take any magic to figure that one out. They left together in your ship.”
“Can you check with the cards to be sure?”
Luna shuffled the cards three times then spread them out in a fan shape on the table and asked him to pick one. He pulled the dead center one out and flipped it over. The card’s image was three swords impaling a human heart. He looked from the card up to Luna’s face.
“Betrayal, love triangle, a wounded heart.” Luna said.
He pulled out a silver coin from a little purse attached to his belt and placed it on the table in front of her. Then he got up and stomped away.
Luna was just about to return to her meditating when a young couple came running into the bar, and to her table. Both were huffing from running and couldn’t catch their breath to speak for a moment. Finally they explained they were being chased. They had escaped from the Void cult’s supply ship. Someone had told them to find the Witch in the bar, that she would help them.
Luna jumped up and motioned for them to follow her, she led them to the back room of the bar. The bartender had followed.
“They’ve escaped from the Void.” Luna explained to Gil, the bartender.
He looked over his shoulder. “Get them to the panic room and push the boxes and crates back in front of it. I will try to delay anyone looking for them.”
Luna had the couple pulling crates of beer away from a wall, then suddenly the tiny doorway appeared at the floor. Luna pulled an old fashioned key from a pocket in her dress and put it into a seam in the wall, that didn’t look like a lock at all. The door popped open though and Luna hurried them inside.
She shut and locked the door, then pushed all the beer crates back in front of the door. She got them all back in place and peeked out into the bar. Alas, as she had feared, there were five Void enforcers out in the bar talking to the bartender.
She didn’t want to draw attention to the back room by leaving. But she feared if they came to search in it, her presence would make them suspicious. She looked around, and found a bottle of rum. She opened it and poured some down the front of her purple star covered dress, then gargled with a mouthful before spitting it out onto her long red braid of hair hanging down her left side. She heard them coming. The bartender was loudly telling them no one was in his stockroom.
Luna laid down in the floor, rum bottle in hand and feigned being passed out.
The five Void enforcers and bartender came barging in. The first one almost tripping over Luna sprawled on the floor.
“You said no one was in here,” the first enforcer said to the bartender, once he caught himself from falling over Luna.
“Oh her…I mean…I forgot about her. She’s drunk, look at her. I threw her back here to sleep it off, so she wouldn’t bother my customers.”
The second and third enforcers hauled Luna up to her feet, she pretended to wake up and in slurred words demanded to know what the Void cult wanted with her. She shook off their arms and started to walk out the door but then fell into the last enforcer, throwing up on his chest. It was a rather good effect as she’d been drinking hibiscus tea all day so her stomach contents came up bright red all over his white uniform. He pushed her off him, and she fell to the floor. She cursed him literally and verbally with his never being able to have offspring.
The other enforcers were looking around the stockroom, poking at this or that but then followed the last one out to the bathroom to wash his uniform off. They poked around in the bathroom too. The Bartender had gone back to his post behind the bar, Luna went back to feigning sleep on the stock room floor. She stayed there very alert but not looking so for almost an hour.
Finally the bartender came back in, and told her the Void ship was still docked, and they had sent out more enforcers to find the runaways.
They moved all the crates and opened the tiny door, Luna leaned over and stuck her head in the door. “You two alright?”
“Yes, but they are chasing us, aren’t they?” The boy said.
“We had to leave. I am pregnant again, and…” the girl of no more than sixteen started crying.
“But we couldn’t get our first child onto the supply ship. They still have her.” The boy of maybe eighteen finished.
Luna signed. “That damn cult, it’s time I do something about them anyway. You, boy what’s your name?”
“I’m William, ma’am and this is Polly.”
“Those aren’t Void cult names.” Luna said.
“No, they call me Faithless and call her Soiled .”
“Yeah, those are Void cult names. Okay, Polly,” she made a point of saying the girl’s real name forcefully. “I want you to stay here, I’m going to send a little girl to stay with you, I know her, you can trust her. You and her are to stay here, in the room. Y’all have lots of food and water in there. Use the pail in the corner for a bathroom, and stay quiet, got it?”
“Yes, ma’am.” She didn’t sound too sure.
“William, you are coming with me, we are going to break your daughter outta that cult colony.”
“You can do that?” William asked in awe.
The bartender from outside the little door said “Son, Luna can do about anything.”
“About,” Luna agreed. “But, I’m going to need help this time.” She said, standing up and looking at the bartender. “It’ll be dangerous.”
“I’ve not gotten to do anything dangerous in months, Luna, I’ll go with you.”
“No, seriously, Gil, it’ll be dangerous.” She repeated.
“Yeah, I know. I’m still in.”
“Okay, you two,” she addressed the men. “Exchange clothing. Then Gil, get to your brother’s ship, tell him we are borrowing it for a day or two. You’ll get followed in the cult jumpsuit, let them catch you and just tell them you found it in a dumpster up on the observation deck. Hopefully that will send them upwards looking for William. William, you are going with me, we are taking a back way down to the port level to meet Gil at the ship, after I fetch Clara. Be right back.”
Luna left staggering, as if drunk. The men were exchanging clothing as directed. It only took Luna a couple minutes to find little Clara still watering trees in the main corridor. Luna told her she needed her help with a special job, taking care of a pregnant lady who bad men were looking for – she would stay in the hidden room with the lady for a day or two, and there was lots of food there. Clara was agreeing even before she heard about the food.
Luna asked Clara if she could cut a lock of her hair, for luck. Clara shrugged and Luna pulled an ornate little dagger from a dress pocket and cut a little bit of Clara’s hair, tied it in a knot, then shoved it back in one of her many pockets with the dagger.
Luna rushed back into the bar’s back room, and got Clara into the little door then piled the beer crates back in front of it. The men stood ready wearing each other’s clothing. Luna told the bartender to go and then she and William headed to the maintenance tunnel to get to the ship they were borrowing.
“Listen, I can’t really make you invisible but I can make you not noticeable. I want you to think of us rescuing your daughter…focus on that intent and walk just behind me, keeping your eyes on my feet.”
He nodded. She drew out a pipe from a pocket and stuffed some flower petals into it from another pocket. She told him to puff on it but not to deeply inhale the smoke, just keep blowing smoke out as he walked. He looked confused but nodded again. Then they set off.
They only had to make it about a hundred yards in the open corridor to get to the locked door leading to the closed maintenance tunnel. Luna stopped by the door and scanned the crowd in the corridor to see if anyone was looking at them. No one was, the magic smoke screen was working. So she pried open the door with some sort of tool she purposed from a dress pocket and ducked inside. William followed on her heels.
They crawled through the tunnels to an exit right above the docks where Gil’s brother’s ship was. Luna saw Gil there already, pretending to work on one of the ship’s external lights. She asked William for the pipe and once she had it, she dropped it from the exit where it fell a few feet away from Gil. He didn’t see it, even though it made a loud clunk when it hit. So Luna knew the spell was still working and motioned William to follow her.
They both dropped out of the tunnel with two larger clunks than the pipe had made but still Gil just a few steps away seemed unaware until Luna tapped him on the shoulder telling him to come on. She bent to grab the pipe as the three of them rushed into the ship and shut the door behind him.
“What’s the plan? How we getting into the Void cult colony?” Gil said, taking the pilot’s seat in the front of the ship. Luna took the co-pilot seat and William sat down behind them in one of the four passenger seats. The ship was loaded with cargo behind the seats. It was boxes and boxes of fruitcakes. The whole ship smelled like Christmas.
“I don’t know, Gil. Don’t you have a plan?” Luna said as they were pulling away from the dock into open space.
He just laughed and said he figured Luna would magic them in and then magic them all back out again. She sighed and said that was pretty much her plan too. William added from the back that no one came in except their own supply ships, crewed by cult members and people wanting to join the cult.
Luna giggled. “Well Gil, I bet you never thought you’d be joining a cult today when you got outta bed this morning.”
“Nope.” Gil said simply.
“I can’t drive these things worth a crap, so you hurry and change into some of your brother’s clothes while I try not to crash us here in the middle of nowhere.”
Gil returned in less than a minute pulling on a fisherman’s knit sweater, and buttoning the heavy work pants he had put on. He sat down and was putting on some boots as he checked the pilot’s screen. “You managed to miss that asteroid and it was only twenty seven kilometers away.”
“I know, right?” Luna said.
“What can I do?” William asked from behind them.
“Well, change back into your cult jumpsuit that Gil took off first…then let me think. I’ve got what… half an hour till we reach the colony to think of something?”
“Thereabouts.” Gil said.
Luna took out her tarot cards and shuffled them while thinking. “We could buy our way in and out…if we had a million silvers or so.”
Gil offered. “I have eight on me.”
“I have three so, that isn’t going to work.” Luna stopped shuffling and turned over the first card. “Lightning strikes the tower.” She said. “That might work, a huge distraction; not the fire ’cause I suck at fire magic and it’s dangerous but the lightning, now, I’m quite good at electromagnetic energy work. I might be able to do that.”
“Sure ya can do it,” Gil answered her even though she was talking to herself.
“William, how long will it take you to get your daughter and get back to the ship?”
“She’ll be in Contrition all day, I can grab her from there, and backtrack…ah…maybe seven or eight minutes, but they’ll be wanting to take me to Punishment soon as we land.”
“Take the pipe.” She handed the pipe back to him. “Use it the same way you did walking with me, just puff smoke all around you and her as you go.”
William took the pipe and nodded, looking frightened.
Luna said: “We are going to be the lightning.” She showed them the tarot card she had drawn.
“We’ll knock out their power, send some electrical shocks through the ground, trees and buildings, not strong enough to kill anyone, but enough to cause plenty of chaos we can use to escape. However, all three of us are going to get some shocks along with everyone else.” She turned to the men.
They both set their jaws and nodded to Luna in consent.
When they reached the Colony, Luna asked the control tower if they could dock and told them they had one of their people who wanted to come back home and that her pilot and her wanted to join up. There was a slight pause but then they were given the all clear to land.
“Gil, take us in. Make it look like you aren’t a good pilot…might make them less suspicious of us and catch them off guard. Then when we land, I want you to stay with the ship, patrolling around it. Go to the left, that’s important. Left and circle that way around and around till we return. William is going in to get his daughter, and I have an errand I need to run in there too.”
“Yes ma’am, one sloppy ass landing, coming up.” Gil said.
Luna had drawn out several things from her various pockets in the purple star print dress. She was fiddling with them as Gil bumped and shook their way to the ground. Luna held a copper dowsing rod in her left hand. She had put a bangle bracelet-shaped magnet on her right wrist and she held a small bottle of some silver colored liquid in that hand.
It all happened so fast. As soon as her foot touched the ground she bent and touched the rod to the ground and all the power went out instantly all over the colony. Luna had thrown down the jar, splattering the liquid all over the ground in front of her. In the pitch black, you could see lightning-like shocks start to emanate out from the spilled liquid. As warned, the first shocks hit Gil, William and her. They were expecting that though and with some instinctive screams they all three charged through.
Gil ran to the left, starting to circle the ship. William darted to the right into the nearest building. Luna ran to the middle of the courtyard. She again touched the copper rod to the ground, which gave her another shock. Lightning was darting up from the ground and down from the trees all over the yard. Several Void enforcers were running around and screaming as they were shocked. Everyone was moving except Luna, hunched at the ground. She had taken out the little knotted lock of Clara’s hair and was touching it to her magnet bracelet. She endured a second and third shock before she took the rod from the ground and started running to the small building behind the closest one that William had run to.
Luna ran in a zigzag line trying dodge the Cult’s enforcers chasing her. She noted Gil’s voice behind her – he was also fighting with one. She ran faster and shook off one guard who had got ahold of her, as they both were hit by an electrical shocks coming up from the ground.
When she got into the building, she found it was a kitchen and all the colonists working in there were climbing on top of counters trying to get away from the lightning coming up from the floor. Luna pulled out the knotted hair again and held it to her bracelet, touching the copper rod to the floor, bringing another huge bolt to her.
She quivered and shrieked uncontrollably till the lightning had gone through her then she jumped away, pulling the rod from the ground, and went to the freezer where three women were huddled hiding.
“Which one of y’all is Clara’s mother?” Luna shouted.
“Clara? You know Clara?” One woman came forward, getting shocked as she did. She screamed in pain but then again said “Clara?”
Luna grabbed her, and told her she was going to go see Clara, and they ran out the way Luna had come in. When they got to the ship, Gil was struggling with three enforcers by the ship’s door.
Luna pushed Clara’s mother into the ship then struck the copper rod to the back of one of the guards. Instantly he was hit by a bolt of electricity. Shocked unconscious, he fell to the ground. She did the same to the second guard but Gil knocked the third out with a right hook before Luna could get to him with the rod.
“William back?” Luna asked, resting against the ship’s doorway, panting for air.
“No.” Gil said, doing the same on the other side of the ship’s door.
“Ye Gods, I’m going after him…keep circling left and swinging with that right hook.” Luna winked at him and ran off after William.
She didn’t have to go far. She found William carrying his two year old daughter coming out of the building but there were five Void enforcers chasing him. Luna waited till William ran past her, then she rammed the copper rod into the ground and left it there, bringing lightning up from the ground like a wall in front of the guards while she ran after William.
Gil saw them coming and was waiting to pull them into the ship. The door closed and Gil got to the pilot’s seat and showed his real flying skills taking off in a hurry. There was one crazy enforcer who had grabbed onto the ship and was hanging on as they lifted off but a lightning bolt came up from a tree knocking him loose as they reached a few meters in altitude. He fell, Gil punched the accelerator and they soared upward.
With Luna off the ground the shocks were all dying away. She could see out the window the power coming back on and all the lightning disappearing. Several enforcers had regained their composure and were firing laser guns at them but Gil had his brother’s ship out of range already.
Every Void ship on the ground had been shorted out by the lightning. It would take the Void a week to get them back in the air. So no one would chase them. Luna breathed a huge sigh of relief and promptly fell over, passed out from the lost of energy she had used on all the magic.
When she woke up, Gil was carrying her. William was carrying his daughter into the bar’s back room with Clara’s mom hurrying behind. William tore the crates out of the way and opened the door, calling Polly out. Polly ran out to hug her daughter. Clara came out behind her and burst into tears when she saw her mother walking in behind Gil and Luna.
Gil sat Luna down on a crate and dropped to the floor himself in exhaustion.
“Mommy, mommy, you came back for me!” Clara said as she hugged her mother.
Polly was telling Luna that the Void cult had made them name their daughter ‘Unforgivable’ but she was changing it to Luna, in her honor.
Gil smiled in spite of a black eye and a bleeding cut across one temple. “My brother is going to take you all to Adventure Station, out of the Void’s reach.” He told the two families still hugging each other.
“Luna, you’re back,” a waitress said, leaning through the door to the bar’s back room. “You’ve got a customer waiting. She lost her cat, needs you to tell her where to find him.”
Luna laughed. “Another happy family reunion, coming right up.”
by Ginger Strivelli