I hadn’t liked Aultmar Artos much when I’d worked for him in the past, and studying his flickering image now reminded me why. Something about those deep-set, hooded eyes in that long, lugubrious face resembled a serpent; and what I knew of his cold, calculating personality did not help much. Rumor said the Chairman of the StellarCast combine rarely smiled and never, ever laughed. I was fully inclined to believe it.
However, our business together had been mutually profitable despite my dislike–a sentiment I suspected was returned. I also suspected he did not care for the position in which he now found himself: supplicant to the Pantheon. But I could only guess at that, for I could read nothing in his expressionless face.
“It’s been a while, Chairman,” I said.
“The same, Athena.”
“I received a message from the Pantheon informing me you had requested my services.” A loose network for those of us who did black work and had risen to the top–the best of the best, and proud of it–the Pantheon gave those clients who could afford us an easy way to find us while preserving our own secrecy.
Those steely gray eyes blinked–eyes as gray as mine, and supposedly as artificial as they looked. Rumor had it that his eyes–along with almost every other part of his body, including his heart–had been replaced, modified, amplified, so that there was very little of him that was human.
Almost as little as there is of me. I buried the thought.
“I have a contract for you. If you will accept it, of course.” It must have cost Aultmar to ask that; he was not a man accustomed to asking if his will would be carried out.
“Details?” While I spoke, my mind accessed the starnet, pulling up background information on Aultmar: partners, associates, colleagues–not friends, for he had none. Info feeds scrolled directly through my mind, characters flashing in fully-formed, three-dimensional images, then dissipating.
His lips compressed. “There is a woman.”
That narrows it down. A little. Even cut in half, Aultmar Artos’ enemies list was truly impressive.
“Her name is Arakhne. She lives on Arcadia.”
Arcadia. Hmmm. I’d heard of the planet–a recent acquisition of the StellarCast combine–and after a moment I was able to call up some information on Arakhne. “An artist, is she not? A light-weaver?”
“Yes.” Those lips compressed further. “Find her. And kill her.”
“For a simple killing of a simple weaver, you don’t need me. Or my fee. What else?”
Those eyes flickered down toward my fingertips. “I want her memories.”
Now it starts to make sense. Perimortem memory capture was a skill very few possessed, and among those few, I would vouch with no false modesty that I was the best.
“That might be tricky. I’ve told you before, the process is not always precise or accurate.”
“I understand. Your standard fee if you simply kill her, double if you bring her memories back.”
My curiosity rose. The only reason Aultmar might want her memories would be if he suspected they contained something damaging. But what could a weaver know that would trouble him? I would dearly have loved to ask, but that would have been unprofessional.
“I’ll do it,” I said. “Usual conditions. I’ll inform you when it’s done.”
He nodded. “Thank you. And give my regards to the rest of the Pantheon.”
“I will. Zeus and Hera in particular have spoken of you with great regard.”
“That is pleasant to hear. Until next time.” He leaned forward and touched a control. Aultmar’s image winked out before me. And I was left with a mystery. Who is this Arakhne of Arcadia and why on earth does Altmar want her dead?
After the call ended, I set my research crawlers to gather and condense information on Arakhne, Arcadia, Aultmar Artos, and StellarCast, then booked transport under an alias for the next day. I had several aliases available at all times, never using the same one twice. This time I decided to be Mina Vantak, a clerical admin heading to Arcadia for a vacation in the wake of the StellarCast takeover.
There weren’t many transports to Arcadia; it wasn’t the kind of place too many people wanted to go. It would be at least a three-day journey from the central world Masque, so after boarding a battered old transport that looked as if it had once been a troop ship during the Expansion Phase over fifty years ago, I settled into my tiny cabin with my starnet interface and all the data my crawlers had collected.
At first glance, Arcadia seemed to be a quite ordinary habitable planet, much like any other save for the recent StellarCast takeover; yet after a moment, a name caught my eye: Seven Systems. The Seven Systems combine had been a precursor to StellarCast, broken up by the Astral Judiciary after losing a corporate war with IntraGalactic. Artos had been a minor officer in Seven Systems, and had through a series of lucky maneuvers and fortunate “accidents,” managed to secure headship of the rump corporation of StellarCast after the breakup. Yet, from what I knew about Artos, it was plain that he still carried a grudge for the loss of the former combine.
And Arcadia, I saw, had been a member of Seven Systems, briefly set free after the breakup until its recent reabsorption.
That explains a lot, I thought. For while Arcadia had by no means been the most important or the most vital of the worlds that Seven Systems had lost, Artos had never been one to let something go that had once been his.
The official reports on Arcadia’s takeover by Stellarcast had presented it as a stroke of good fortune, warmly welcomed by all Arcadians. My own sources, however, had it that the response to the takeover was less than enthusiastic, and that it had only come about after one or two of Arcadia’s ruling council suffered some very convenient accidents.
But what about Arakhne?
I turned to the report my crawlers had gathered on her and frowned.
At first glance, she seemed to be exactly what she appeared to be; an elderly artisan, born on Arcadia, who had never been off-world in her life. The crawlers had turned up no connection at all between her and Artos….
A maincast story flickered before my eyes about an art exhibition at the United Masque Planetary Friendship Museum. Like most combined homeworlds, Masque was a wholly-owned subsidiary of StellarCast Corporation; everything on the planet came from the combine’s generosity, and the United Masque museum was no different.
The story was headed: “United Masque Museum to host Exhibition of Arcadian Art.” Doubtless intended to showcase the benefit of StellarCast rule for the Arcadians, the piece was larded with passages such as: “the chance for some of the best among the rustic peoples of Arcadia to gain interstellar renown, and to bring the treasures of a simpler, more decent life to the eyes of people across the galaxy.” And there, on the list of featured artists, was Arakhne’s name.
The flickering picture showed an older woman with faded blue eyes in a lined face and a mass of white hair knotted up on top of her head in a bun. There was a strange distance to those eyes that I couldn’t quite place. The text read: “She looks like an ordinary grandmother–but Arakhne of Arcadia is a very talented weaver in one of the most demanding of the New Arts. She works with the light-loom, weaving strands of holographic light to make wonderful images, a craft she must have taught herself. In her works, the observer can discern a fascinating juxtaposition between the intricacy and sophistication of the highly technological medium, and the simple freshness of her untutored art.”
Could this be what caught Aultmar’s eye? Yet a quick perusal of Arakhne’s work showed nothing unusual: a shaggy black dog with large brown eyes; a small house framed by an overarching tree; a sled with chipped paint; a rose-patterned teapot with steam curling from its spout; a brightly striped ball.
A code, perhaps? I cross-checked “ball,” “dog,” “house,” “sled” and “teapot” in several thousand different languages but found nothing. Cryptology had never been my forte anyway; that was Theseus’ specialty.
What is in these works that convinced Artos she had to die?
Not that it mattered. Artos’ reasons were no concern of mine. Too much information on the target was nothing but a distraction. I need concern myself with nothing other than making the kill… and that should not be difficult.
Yet the image of the aged woman’s eyes stayed with me as the transport forged onward through the spaces between the stars.
Main spaceports are the same the galaxy over: bland, featureless, generic locations of too many bright lights, too many people, too much luggage, too much congestion. Arcadia’s was no different. I stepped from the transport to a teleport square that flickered me to a gate where a small shuttle waited; an older SubLight Systems model, probably reconditioned from something that had been none too flashy to begin with. Still, it would be good enough to take me to the capital city of the backwater province–rural even for this rural planet–in which Arakhne lived.
I watched the ground scroll by outside the window during the flight. Arcadia was mostly ocean broken up by archipelagos; there were a few larger landmasses, one or two with sizable urban areas, but by and large the planet looked as backward as I had expected. I saw little sign of any industry and except for a few relay nodes, not much in the way of telcom either. From what I’d read, Arcadia would not have been capable of industrialization or space flight for at least a thousand years without Seven Systems’ influence.
The shuttle was heading straight into the sunrise; green islands sparkled like jewels on a chain. The peaceful seascape seemed as far from the hypermetropolis of Masque as it was possible to get. On the Central Worlds, greenery was only found in parks and a few careful nature areas. Supposedly Aultmar possessed a private moon somewhere in Masque’s system that had been terraformed into a wilderness, but that was only a rumor. I myself had a virtual nature preserve–most elites did; the most popular model was the SpectraSense Safari 3000, accessible by neural link–but it had been a very, very long time since I had walked the wilderness in the flesh.
The little shuttle touched down on the far side of the world after three or four hours. As its steps unfolded, I stepped out onto the tarmac along with a few others, facing a shuttle port barely worthy of the name: a single prefab plascrete brick of a building across a modest expanse of more plascrete. The air was warm and rather humid; I felt my hair sticking damply to my head. The sky above was a very pale bluish green; somehow the green seemed to accentuate the blue, making it look hyper-blue, like the pictures I had seen of the sky on the old Terra or Sol-1, depending on how you counted it. Arcadia’s sun was bright, but distant enough that its warmth felt like a gentle caress; my ocular implants revealed levels of UV radiation within normal limits. It was a gentle sun, a mild sun; perfectly appropriate for this gentle, mild world.
I passed through the plascrete shuttleport, its recirculated air pleasantly cool; then proceeded down the stairs to the port’s main entrance. In the center of the lobby was a bronze statue of a bird-headed woman holding a tall tubular flower; probably a local deity.
The lobby walls showed moving light pictures immediately recognizable as the work of Arakhne. I moved closer, studying them. The images seemed perfectly innocuous: clouds over a waterfall; a strange insect on a leaf; two trees, their trunks twisted together. I pulled myself away from the weavings with a thin trace of regret, questions still nagging at me.
I stepped out onto a dusty road lined with lush green foliage studded with flowers; greenish gold fields drowsing beyond. A light haze was in the air, and I could hear the humming of insects. Above, clouds drifted through the sky. The fields were dotted with distant forms of people and animals; here, out on the very fringes of civilized space, draft animals were still used for plowing.
Several conveyances of various kinds were waiting; I approached a woman with a tired face under a wide-brimmed hat perched on the front end of a recycled hoversled hitched to a bored-looking horse. It was low to the ground, as if its lifters were in need of replacement. After a brief discussion in which she revealed she wouldn’t take creds–“Can’t spend them around here, y’see; no good;” I managed to dig up a few coins that I had picked up in the main spaceport, and she agreed to take me to town. When I said I was interested in some sightseeing, she snorted.
“Not many sights to see around here, that’s the Lady’s own truth.”
As the carriage lurched into motion, I sat silent, trying to take in the world around me, to attune myself to its tempo and vibrations. Between the drowsy heat, the rocking of the cart, the sounds of the horse’s feet clopping on the hard packed dirt road, I felt myself slipping into a light, trancelike, dozing state.
I could live like this, I mused, not really thinking. I did live like this, once…. There was something seductive about the slow tempo of life that I could sense all around me, a peace I hadn’t known for a very long time. I had almost stopped believing such peace, such gentleness, could exist…
What could possibly have come out of a place like this to draw Artos’ attention? I had hoped that once I had actually reached Arcadia, something about the planet would instantly explain the mystery, yet if anything I found myself even further at sea.
As the carriage drew closer to Arakhne’s village, a strange tension crept over me. The fields and trees gave way to hedges, then to fences, then to stone walls. The road became cobbled, and buildings came into sight on either side: one or two stories in an updated version of mud brick, in gentle colors–sand, beige, tan, cream. Flowering vines twined around fences and balconies, lines of green brightly splashed with red and pink and deep blue. My hands knotted.
The driver dropped me off in the town’s center, a large, circular cobbled area with a fountain in the middle. As I pressed the coins into her hands, I made sure the tips of my fingers touched her skin. A simple neural impulse, but I saw the moment of shock dawn in the woman’s eyes, then fade into incomprehension.
“Thanks,” I said, and she nodded vaguely, then turned away.
I knew what she would remember: almost nothing. She would have a vague memory of giving a ride to a tourist, but it wouldn’t seem very significant. After a few days, even that memory would fade and in a month she would remember nothing at all. I had done this hundreds–maybe thousands–of times before, leaving a trail of absence in my wake across the galaxy. Even now, when there was no trouble, it was the way I preferred to operate–unknown and forgotten.
The driver pulled away and I was left standing alone, in the crowded town center, as life bustled all around me.
For the first time, I confessed to myself that I didn’t know what I would do when I found this Arakhne.
I wound my way through the dust-laden streets, staying on the fringes of crowded venues where I could be just another face. I passed through the market and saw the farmers and crafters and their stalls set out; I filed along the banks of a stream, seeing men and women, boys and girls fishing; I wound my way through twisting, backwards lanes where wives and husbands shouted, called and quarreled to each other out of open windows. Even as these dusty scenes of village life that could have been hundreds of years ancient passed before my eyes, another image overlaid itself in my mind–a map, with a flashing point of light indicating my target.
I was surprised to find my heart beating almost as powerfully as the light flickered. And still I did not know what I would do when I got there.
I could see my goal ahead of me. It matched perfectly with the internal image I had called up: a low, one-story building, perhaps two or three rooms, with a large central dome surrounded by several bays. The door in the center of the dome stood open, but it was impossible to make out anything in the darkened interior. Yet a quick infrared scan of the building with my optics revealed that she was in there.
My heart was in my throat. I was suddenly aware that my blood pressure was rising. This was not the usual anticipation before a kill; this was something different, something frightening. I was about to come face to face with the person whose innocent-seeming light-loom weavings had drawn the attention of perhaps the most powerful man in the galaxy, had brought me, Athena of the Pantheon, halfway across the stars for the sole purpose of killing her. I hadn’t felt tension like this in decades, maybe even centuries. Can I do it?
My fingertips prickled as I activated the nodes and synapses for the neural net; with my other hand, I gripped the device I would use to store her pattern for delivery to Artos. Another target. Just another target. I repeated the words in my head as I readied my weapon. For this kill, I had one of my favorites. I called it the distaff; a small, spindle-shaped device emitting a pulse that would disrupt cardiac rhythm, causing instant heart stoppage. It was only good at close range, but it would work–and without excessive disruption to her precious neural patterns. I thumbed the distaff on. Just the touch of the device in my hand was reassuring; it brought me back. Focus. I felt my breathing slow; my heart rate drop. The cold precision of the hunter seeped into my mind. Another target. Another kill….
Silently, fading into the shadows, I drew nearer to the open door, intently scanning within. My target was kneeling on the floor, in front of a tall, faintly glowing contraption. Her light loom. It was a vertical open rectangle of metal and crystal, criss-crossed with glowing strands of light forming a pattern. The pattern was–
I froze in my tracks.
The pattern forming from the strands on her light-loom was exactly what I saw in front of me at that moment. Exactly. In the frame of the light loom was an open door, leading into a darkened interior; in the interior was the form of an old woman working at a glowing frame; the frame itself held a smaller image of another open door, with another woman, sitting at another frame…. Every detail was what I saw before me at that moment, reproduced in light, down to the very angle of the image.
It’s not possible….
I must have made some sort of noise because the old woman stopped and looked up from the loom. She turned toward me.
“So you made it then. Come in, Athena of the Pantheon. I’ve been expecting you.”
My heart seemed to stop.
“How do you know who I am?” Wild thoughts raced through my mind–Artos’ intentions had been discovered, someone had warned her ahead of time–Maybe–bright shock flashed into wild anger–maybe Artos set me up. Maybe he intended for her to kill me–My grip on my distaff tightened and I started to raise it, half unconsciously.
“Oh, I know all sorts of things,” the old woman–Arakhne–said. Her face was pale and lined, her bright blue eyes faded under a fringe of white hair; she looked exactly like her holoimages. “I suppose you might say, it’s a gift. I’ve always been able to know things, since I was a very little girl, and that was quite long ago. Aultmar Artos sent you to kill me, didn’t he?”
A gift. My eyes narrowed. Yet her manner was non-threatening enough I felt myself relax a little, though my grip on my distaff did not weaken.
“Yes,” I admitted, aware as I did so that I had just broken a rule of my own: never reveal the source of a contract. Yet if Aultmar had set me up, I had no particular interest in keeping his secrets. And if I’m planning to kill her, what does it matter?
“So, are you?”
“Am I what?” I asked, caught off guard.
“Are you planning to kill me? And for heaven’s sake, come in, child,” she said. “You look terribly uncomfortable standing there in the doorway.”
I slowly stepped over the threshold. The inside of the hut took shape around me: a hearth, pots and pans, large clay vessels against the wall; battered shelves, trunks and chests of drawers. A low archway led to an alcove mostly filled with a platform bed. Bunches of dried flowers and leaves dangled from the ceiling, and a braided rug was on the floor; leaning by the doorway was an old broom of twigs. A scent of dust and herbs hung in the air. I felt as if I were stepping back in time.
“Well, are you?” Arakhne asked again. She said it as casually as if she were asking whether I planned to attend a social function.
“I was when I came here, but now I’m not so sure.” Surely something must be wrong for me to be speaking so freely with a target.
Arakhne raised one thin eyebrow and shifted, groaning slightly as her knees creaked. “Forgive me; not as young as I used to be and these old bones ache. Why not? Isn’t that what Artos hired you to do?”
“He did,” I said, “but I don’t understand why. None of this makes any sense.”
“And you would like an explanation?”
“It would help.”
Of course it was absurd; I was asking my target for a justification that would help me allow myself to kill her. This is ridiculous. She owes me nothing, least of all an explanation. She has no reason in the world to help me. And yet somehow I sensed she would.
Arakhne settled onto her heels, straightening her back with another groan; she reached out and took a small battered teapot from the hearth. Somehow, without knowing how or why, I found myself moving to sit opposite her; we knelt together on either side of the inground hearth as if we were acquaintances–even friends. The sensation was so unfamiliar to me I almost could not recognize it.
“Here, won’t you have some tea?” The old woman proffered me a cup. I had seen her drink from the same pot, but that was no guarantee it wasn’t poisoned; as I took the cup, I activated sensors in my fingertips, scanning for toxic compounds. I found nothing and took a sip. It was strong, hot and sweet.
“Do you like it?”
“It’s good,” I said, taking another sip from the cup, which was not porcelain but solid-force, its surface flickering in ever-changing patterns. Solid-force objects had become quite popular back in the Central Worlds. I was surprised to see such a thing out here–and even more surprised at the sophisticated patterns flickering on the surface. A quick look at Arakhne, and I guessed that she had made it.
“Now,” Arakhne said with a smile, “what did you want to ask me?”
“What I want to know, old woman, is what have you done to make such an enemy of Aultmar Artos, one of the most powerful men in the galaxy? I’ve been trying to find the answer to that all the way from Masque.”
She offered a shrug. “I wove something, that’s all.”
“Yes, but what?”
“What I always do. The truth. As you can see.” And she gestured toward her loom, where the image of the doorway still flickered. With a quick wave of her hand, she blanked the web; the light retreated to the edges.
“The truth?” I mulled what sort of truth there could be in pictures of teapots and sleds and dogs to make Artos turn on her so. “But what truth?”
Arakhne shifted position, stretching her legs briefly and then curling them under her; her old bones creaked. “The truth about who Aultmar Artos is and where he comes from.”
Her answer told me no more than before, and I began to feel frustration rise. “And what is that truth?”
Arakhne raised one finger in reproof. “Now that would be telling.”
I glowered at her. “It must be dramatic for him to send me halfway across the galaxy to your little village just to kill you.”
She shrugged again, smiling slightly: a smile that could have meant anything or nothing. “Aultmar Artos is a strange man.”
“I won’t argue that.” I pondered, feeling the synapses of my neural net flicker against my fingers. “Where did you learn this truth? Did you know him before?”
“Not at all. I only weave what I see.”
“What do you mean?”
Now she sighed. “I see things, child. Things that were, things that are, things that will be. It’s the gift I was talking about. It happens when I weave.” She gestured toward the loom. “I believe the word that they use in the Central Worlds is ‘clairvoyance,’ or some such, but I’ve always just called it my little gift.”
“That’s an incredibly rare talent. If you were bonded and went corp, you could get off this planet, make a fortune–”
“And why would I want to do that?” Arakhne raised one brow. “Arcadia is where I was born. Arcadia is where I will die. This planet is my home, and no amount of money could ever induce me to leave it.”
I’d heard that before. Usually from people who have no chance of ever gaining the money needed to do so. Aloud, I said, “Well, this gift of yours isn’t doing you much good now. After all, you weren’t able to foresee that Artos would send me to kill you.”
She gave a small laugh. “Why do you think I wove my little pictures?”
Somehow that rocked me back on my heels. “You’re telling me–you knew?”
“Oh yes,” she said. She had turned again to her loom, and her hands were working, weaving, tracing threads of light against the darkness.
“I am old.” She shrugged. “I’ve reached the end of my life. And I am sick and tired,” she said with sudden feeling, “of Aultmar Artos and what he and his StellarCast have done to Arcadia. If I’m going to die, I’d rather go quickly. And if at the same time I can spit in Artos’ eye, and show him someone out there knows the truth about him, even if it’s just a dying old woman on one of his subject worlds, then that’s even better. Then my death will mean something.”
Those hands continued to dance the glowing strands back and forth in the open frame of the loom while I grappled with what she had said. I’d had my alterations done so long ago I scarcely remembered them, including life extension; like most of the galactic elite, I was now functionally immortal. Death was something that I brought to others, not something I thought of for myself.
“I have to admit, that’s a first for me. I can’t remember a target ever wanting to be killed before.”
“There are many more things in this lifetime than even you might experience, Athena of the Pantheon.” Arakhne’s hands were still dancing on the light-loom, ceaselessly weaving, though I could not make out the picture forming there. “So finish the job, child. Slay me.”
Yet I stood silent. Somehow it felt as if she and I had unfinished business. Arakhne turned and looked over her shoulder with one faded blue eye.
“I’m not accustomed to working for free.” It was a lame thing to say, but I could find no other words for the strange emotions she called up in me.
“You aren’t,” she said with a laugh. “Artos will pay you.”
“Yes,” I said, “but you want this too. That means you also must pay.”
I was stalling and I knew it. But why? It had been centuries since I had shrunk from killing anyone.
“You do not get something for nothing in this world,” I said more firmly. It was–had always been–one of my first principles.
“I see,” Arakhne said, smiling a little. She did not glance up from her loom; her hands continued, weaving, weaving, warp through weft and back again. “And what’s your standard fee?”
“You couldn’t afford it.”
“What if I have something that is valuable to you?”
“You cannot possibly have anything that would be worth that much.” As we were talking, I realized–and this was a relief–that I seemed to have made up my mind to let her live. It felt as if I had been searching for reasons not to kill the old woman almost since I had first seen her–since earlier, since I had landed on the planet.
She looked over her shoulder again, her face illuminated dimly by the light from her light loom. “What if I could tell you exactly what it was I wove to make Artos want me dead?”
That caught my attention as nothing else could. For that was a mystery I had not been able to solve–what was in pictures of a teapot, a black dog, a tree, a brook, to draw Artos’ ire?
How badly did I want to know?
Badly enough to take this old woman’s life?
Yes, I realized–part of me did. I told myself that I wanted to know because such information would be tremendously valuable, and might even give me leverage over Artos, and that was half the truth–but I also felt a powerful, almost overwhelming curiosity.
I nodded at last. “All right. Tell me.”
Arakhne smiled. “Look here.”
She pushed back from the light loom. I frowned in confusion, and leaned forward to see what she had woven there–
And in that one moment, I understood everything.
I don’t remember slaying the old woman. I don’t remember much of anything until I stood over her, my manual implants crackling with stored neural energy, and saw her body lying before me. All I remember is that image that no one, no one in the world except a little girl who was ages gone, should have seen, and no one except that little girl would have understood. An image the woman who had once been that little girl had spent all the ages since then trying to repress. A single, perfect rosebud.
The light loom lay shattered on the floor before me, its pieces fizzing and popping gently, that luminous, horrible image gone. I tried to grasp myself, to come to terms with where I was.
The contract is completed. The target is dead. As if on autopilot, I took out the neural storage unit I had prepared: a golden spider with glowing red eyes. Artos asked for her neural patterns, I remembered, and now I understood why. Because whatever it was–whatever image he’d seen, whatever he’d recognized in the published displays of her weavings–it would have been something that nobody but he should know. A message, sent from a humble weaver to one of the most powerful men in the galaxy, and one powerful enough to evoke a lethal response.
I closed my hands around the spider, thinking, and thinking….
Artos’ image danced and flickered before me; this far out, the data relays were spotty. However, even through the static, I could tell he was upset.
“I had asked for the old woman’s neural pattern–“
“I’m sorry,” I said calmly. “Transmission failed. I’ve told you before that recording and transferring neural patterns is a tricky business. The only pattern I managed to pull off the old woman was too degraded to be of any use.”
Those hooded eyes narrowed; but there was nothing he could say. I had offered no guarantees. At last, he nodded.
“Very well, then you will receive your standard fee. The funds will be transferred by morning Masque time.”
His image flickered out without another word–a strong indicator of his displeasure. Well–too bad.
I gathered my things; my transport was leaving in an hour, and the young clerical admin Mina Vantak would be heading home after a nice relaxing vacation on Arcadia, ready to start work when she returned to her homeworld.
Behind me, in the dim, one-room hut where I had slain the old woman, a golden spider hung from the ceiling by a single thread of light. Its ruby eyes glimmered in the darkness with a look that might be satisfaction–or revenge.
Dana hase a couple of degrees in Anthropology, and is currently working in real estate. She lives in Michigan with her husband, one cat, and one dog. Dana’s work has previously appeared in Bewildering Stories, Bards & Sages Quarterly, The Silver Blade, Kaleidotrope, Mythic Signals, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.