Excerpt from "How She Got Her Name"

“I swear this one is true. Trust me.”

Trust you?” The girl raised a slantwise smile. “You don’t have a clue what’s true. We’ve already proven those damn…facts get in the way, don’t you think?”

“You’re not listening to me again, girl.” I said and knocked back the rest of my drink. “Those facts make everything a lot more interesting. Take your time to look deeper and always remember that it really happened to someone or something.”

She was a short, skinny blonde waif, not long unshackled from her adolescence, and she snickered under her breath. Quite obviously she was trying not to stay mad at me, even though we’d only met that morning; after weeks, she’d found the first pilot who could possibly give her a ride out to the Rim and I’d laughed in her face. Then she’d moped in my vicinity all day, like a kicked dog, hoping for a direct hit with those expressive green eyes too big for her face.

I’d let her hang because I was in the mood to play her like a tiring marlin; what singular fortune to be the first person I’d talked to after a hundred thirteen days benchmarking dark matter clusters! She was coy about asking me again for a hitch—and that explained why she was listening to my rants—but she was going to ask, that was clear, and I was still going to say no when Beats Working’s annual once-over was complete. I sure as hell didn’t need a tag-a-long because there’s no shittier duty on the Rim than taking out an active vivisection lab: a messy business: lots of guts and parts and blood. And screaming. Brother. Too bad for her I’d wanted to talk and be an ass, but when the Universe rat fucks you, it all flows downhill.

 “Do you want to hear the story or not?” I looked at my Movado. “Skann will have the ramstats finished in an hour or so, and I won’t be back this way for another year, if that.”

“Why not?” She didn’t say anything else for a while but looked up at me three or four times, gauging how best to pitch the deal. “OK…here’s the deal. If I don’t like it, take me as far as Masaq’ orbital. I’ll stand a better chance of getting out to the Rim anywhere other than here.”

 I held up two fingers under a nearby lighting cylinder; even though it was midafternoon, the bar had long since blacked all its transparencies against radiation from the system’s blue giant. Two cylinders of IPA appeared. “You’ll lose, you know, if you’re honest with yourself.”

“No, I won’t. Facts, y’know.” She looked around the deserted tilt-up barroom, sniffed her beer, and endorsed it with a shrug. Drank. It had to have been so much better than the sweet, fizzy, blood-orange shit she’d been drinking all day on my dime, but I also remembered Malibu Chill, Buzz Balls, hard lemonade: Earth’s crossover crap that greased the transition from pop to pops. Earthans were fucking philistines and even I, a card-carrying native, could cop to that.

Gods and dragons.