TW: Swearing, death, sexual references.
Mayko’s black hair tickled Arthas Jacques face, lit by a halo of white light. “You’re awake. Thank goodness.” That soothing mix of upper-class English and French accents from her at once wise and youthful face instantly brought to mind his ex-girlfriend, Konnie.
Even through the haze of his sedation, Arthas knew to keep that to himself. “Where am I?” He asked, looking around at a curtain which had once been white.
“You’re in the station’s medical bay. We were caught in a bomb blast. You saved my life. You’ve been unconscious for two days.”
“I saved your life? How?”
“Your body shielded me from most of the blast. I had a minor concussion from being thrown against a wall. You took the shrapnel and most of the impact.”
“How much painkiller do I have flowing through my veins right now? I can’t feel a thing.”
“It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that there’s still some blood in your sedative stream.” Concern took over from gratitude in her expression and tone.
“No side effects from the concussion?” He asked in the French-Arab accent of the Martian Capital. Dehydrated rasping added gravel to his studied voice.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m here for you. You’re being discharged today.” Manicured hands passed Detective Jacques what was left of the disguise he had been wearing during the explosion. “I hope you don’t mind, I bought you a new shirt, sweater and jacket. Yours are full of holes. I know that’s a bit presumptuous, but-” Her hazel eyes avoided his.
“Thank you. He didn’t mention the underwear either, sized to him perfectly. You seem to have taken my measure well.” Her flush caused his lip to curl up. “Should I avoid mirrors for the foreseeable future?” Tentative fingers brushed his face.
“No. Your droid took the shrapnel aimed at your face.”
“Spectrum?” Arthas raked the curtain around the bed. A familiar shadow lay across the fabric to his left.
“We’re here.” Said the Newcastle accented Purple. “Mostly.”
“Mostly?” Jerking upwards did his sedative no favours. Jacques felt the sting of minute lacerations across his torso.
A black metal hand drew back the curtain to reveal a scratched version of the obnoxiously expensive droid which had, in concert with his ship, bankrupted Arthas. “Good to see you awake, sir.”
“Thanks. Looks like you need a new paint job.”
“More than that. I’ve been experiencing functionality issues, random errors.” The droid’s body language, taken from human motion capture, was nervous. Purple was never nervous. It was a trigger-happy bodyguard.
“He had a seizure,” said Mayko, putting a hand on the droid’s pock marked shoulder. Silver showed through the black anodised armour. The purple light in the eyes flickered.
“Machines do not have seizures,” said the droid, “we have malfunctions.”
“And you can be fixed,” said Jacques.
“If you make yourself another small fortune, of course.” Purples’ sarcasm told Arthas that he was a long way from the funds to do so.
“Can I get dressed in private?” Arthas looked pleadingly between the two.
“Of course.” Mayko left his side and pulled the curtain behind her.
Arthas made the mistake of ripping the first life sign tab from his wrist. A circle of hair went with the adhesive. The tab on the other side was at his elbow, since there was no pulse to be read from his artificial hand. He flexed the digits of the replacement for the limb he’d donated to his brother. Everything twitched and curled as it was meant to.
New muscle ache jarred Arthas as his legs swung out from the bed. Bare feet twitched at the cold of the metal floor.
The musty hospital gown was as glad to be rid of the detective as he was to be done with it. Mayko’s gifted underwear was graciously warm, despite the chill of the ward. The fitted shirt required dexterity in both hands for the buttons. Sedated muscles of his real fingers struggled. The moment the sweater covered his chest he felt warm for the first time since the bomb had gone off.
When he was dressed in the sensible pine green jacket, he rejoined the world of the walking. Purple nodded, throwing him a salute. Mayko smiled, offering him her arm.
“I owe you a meal,” said the scientist with a demanding smile. “I’m cooking. No arguments.”
“None at all,” Arthas smiled.
“Shame you’re not in the best of health. I was really hoping for some mind-blowing sex. Now I think it would kill you.”
“I’m sure it would be worth it.” Arthas gave her the grin of a man whose wildest dreams were coming true.
“It would have. But you’ll need to recover.”
They walked down grubby steel corridors lit with flickering LED tubes.
There was only one hotel aboard the station. Cinnamon scent wafted through the air as Mayko opened the door to her room. A rich carpet that certainly hadn’t come with the room was rolled out over the floor. A flowering cactus sat on a shelf by the sink, keeping her toothbrush company.
“Have a seat on the bed. Lie down if you need to. I’ll start cooking.” Nimble hands pulled ingredients from the drawers. The gas cooker crackled into life with a blue flame. “This is what my expedition is here to look for; gasses, valuable minerals. Anything that will help this station turn more profit.”
“What’s your part in that?” Arthas asked, sitting slowly on her bed.
“Determining the likelihood of gas deposits using the rocks around them. I can tell from the composition if the company can drill for a good bang, or if it’ll just fizzle out.” She turned and smiled, looking to see if he got it.
“Is that science humour?”
“Yeah, worse than dad jokes because people don’t usually understand them.” Flicking hair behind her left ear, she revealed a tiny scar on her temple. It would have been a cut or a scab if it had anything to do with the bomb, Arthas knew. He’d seen her spinning an imaginary ring on her wedding finger. The detective wondered if the scar was part of the reason she’d stopped wearing the ring.
“What are you cooking?” he asked, to distract himself from prying into her life.
“Pho, it’s Vietnamese soup.”
“I know what pho is. Not too spicy, please.”
“That’s the best bit though, that’s the real flavour. Alright then. If the soup can’t be spicy.” Mayko threw her top at Arthas. Pulling it from his face revealed her trousers around her ankles. She kicked them at him, he caught her clothes and blushed.
“Trying to get a rise out of me?” he asked.
“Not trying. Clearly I’m succeeding though.” She winked, nodding to his crotch.
Arthas hastily pulled her discarded clothes over his trouser tent, feeling the heat cover his cheeks.
Mayko hummed a tune as she threw ingredients into the pot and stirred. The rich smell was unlike the generic olfactory attack he’d suffered the only other time he’d tried pho in a Vietnamese on Mars.
“That’s Knights of Cydonia, by Muse. I love that song.” Arthas’ enthusiasm brought pain as he sat forward on the bed.
“That what it’s called? You hummed it in your sleep before you woke up and it’s been going round in my head for hours. Play it for me. Be interesting to hear what the song is really meant to sound like.”
Arthas played the ancient guitar laden symphony. Mayko began swaying her hips to the beat. Her gyration did nothing to still calm his raging hormones. A primal urge was screaming at him to throw himself at her and to rip her underwear off. That voice born of reproductive instinct and a life of near celibacy did not account for his agony.
Contemplating his pain made every scratch vie for his attention. Pain finally turned back the tide of lust that had been drowning him.
“One more minute. It’s almost done.” Knights of Cydonia ended, the screeching guitar of Plug In Baby made Mayko turn to look at him sceptically. “Bit depressing,” she said. He changed the track to Supermassive Black Hole, another one of his favourites from Muse’s greatest hits. Shrugging, she danced to the beat.
“What does the tattoo say?” He asked of a series of symbols on her left shoulder. It was odd for him to not even recognise the language.
“It says love is dangerous,” she said in a tone that told him she didn’t want to tell him why.
“Why can’t I read it? I’ve never seen those symbols before.” They had the look of Thai mixed with Arabic and Nordic runes.
“My brother invented the language. He’s a philologist.”
“Doesn’t that just mean he’s a linguist?”
“Every half-assed writer calls themselves a linguist. My brother is fluent in about forty languages, written at least. He’s a philologist.” She poured the soup from the pot into two bowls. Spoons and chopsticks clinked into the bowls.
Only Arthas’ eyebrows had any kind of response, saluting her brother’s intellect. “It’s beautiful,” he said, feeling it a lame response the moment it left his lips.
“I’d hardly have tattooed it on myself if it wasn’t. Shut up and eat. Don’t want this getting cold.” Mayko handed him the bowl of steaming wonder. The scent alone cleared out his sinuses and woke him from the dull sluggishness of painkillers.
There was an out of body weirdness to eating food in the room of a woman he only knew by her first name. Strange that she sat by him on her bed in her underwear. “You know, I think this is the strangest first date I’ve ever had,” said Arthas. Smiling at the delicious soup, he inhaled the thrilling vapours.
“I think this is the most disappointing booty call I’ve ever had,” said Mayko. Eyes glittering with devilish humour, she kept eating.
Arthas sprayed a mouthful of pho across the room, brought to sudden laughter. He coughed. The pain from every wound demanded he stop. A fit of humour denied him the chance to be still.
“You made me a meal and now you’re telling jokes. What is that if not a date?” Shaking with mirth, he put the bowl down to avoid spilling the soup. Wiping tears away with his sleeve, he smiled.
“True.” Mayko put her bowl next to his and walked to the clothing locker non spacers would call a wardrobe. Out came a simple black dress. Elegant but not extravagant, it meant business more than pleasure. “Now I’m a lady meeting a gentleman for dinner. I hope you’re a gentleman?” Her tone said that was a lie.
“In my current condition being anything but a gentleman would be detrimental to my health. I hope, my lady, that you don’t take offence. Know that if I could, I’d rock this bed until the legs fell off.”
“The bed’s legs or yours?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
“By that point, I doubt I would mind either way.” Gasping as he bent to retrieve his soup, Arthas raised it as if it were a glass of sparkling wine. “To you, Makyo.”
“And to you Arthas Jacques. Tell me, what do you do for a living?” Her eyes were flirtatious and knowing, though her eyebrow rose.
“I’m a detective.” He let that be that, waiting for her reaction. Some people really didn’t like police, even when they were living on the right side of the law.
“Oh no, and you’ve caught me! I’m a bad girl. Will you put me in handcuffs?”
“Not unless you ask nicely.”
“Tease,” she nudged him. “Sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
He gave her a pained grin. “That’s alright. Thank you, Mayko. I should really be getting back to my ship. I need to report in before I’m declared missing. I should give a statement about the bombing.”
“There：s already a security team investigating it. Paid by the station’s investors and they have been turning away police, saying they have jurisdiction.”
“What?” Arthas sipped down the last of the pho. The welcome warmth burned his throat affectionately
“Bit weird.” Mayko shrugged. “Maybe they’re hiding something?” A conspiratorial grin spread across her face.
“I should talk to them. Want to come with me?”
“As long as you’re not walking out on me? Should I change into something more comfortable?” That was a test and he knew it.
“Is it still a gentlemanly gesture to offer you a jacket, even if you bought it for me?”
“More so than not offering at all.” She reached back into her locker. “But I have my own jacket.” It was a fake fur thing that stretched to her ankles. “Take my arm?”
“Gladly, though I’m not in much state to support you.”
“It’s not a man’s place to support a woman. It’s his place to pretend he knows what he’s doing so that a woman feels secure while she’s fixing everything he fucked up.” She laced up thick black boots that looked army issue if not for the thick soles and the flames.
Arm in arm, they perused Kells Station’s finest establishments. One notable restaurant advertised the hospitality of its regular clientele with samples of their blood splashed artfully across the hatch doorway.
“This station is really moving up in the world,” said Arthas’ droid. “AB negative is rare, it shows the variety of miscreants aboard.” With its eyes red, the droid had a Parisian accent.
“And all so generous with their fists,” said Detective Jacques, smiling to the black robot, eyes lingering on the scratches. “Thanks again for saving me.”
“You’re welcome, sir,” said the droid, eyes flashing back to purple, flickering.
They passed empty cargo containers and met a cordon of tape. Standing guard was a young man in a yellow Trotter’s Mining and Trading uniform. The logo was a black cartoon explosive plunger.
“Sorry, I can’t let you go any further. The site of the explosion is under investigation.” Despite a voice that suggested his balls were waiting to drop, he said it confidently. Chin raised to show the fluff of his first stubble, he stood firm.
“I’m Detective Arthas Jacques of Off-World Crime. Let me through.” The soldier turned investigator gave the boy an ‘I’ve shot scarier men than you’ look.
To his credit, the young man nodded, but said, “I have my orders. I’m sorry, sir.”
“Get your superior here so I can talk to someone with something between their ears. Now, or I’ll arrest you for obstruction of justice.”
“Sir, there’s a man here who says he’s a Detective.” He released the button on his radio. Arthas Jacques, he said. Yes, sir. I understand.” The young man stepped aside and lifted the tape. “You may go through. Unless she’s a detective as well, she’ll have to stay here.”
“She’s Detective Mayko-” Arthas paused, not knowing her name.
“Detective Mayko Belle,” she said.
“You don’t look like police,” the guard’s beady eyes looked her up and down.
“You don’t look like you want arrested,” said Arthas, sharply. “Appearances can be deceiving.”
“Is the droid a detective as well,” asked the boy with a mix of sarcasm and genuine curiosity.
“I’m his forensics unit, financial analyst, pathology specialist, behavioural profiler, technology analyst, crime scene documentary specialist, and pilot,” said the black droid. As it spoke, it’s eyes cycled through colours to mark each personality assigned to the tasks. Red was Parisian. When the eyes were orange, it spoke with a Washington DC accent. Yellow spoke with a Berlin twang. Green’s voice was that of a Dubliner. Blue sounded every bit a Glaswegian. Purple had a Newcastle accent.
“Far be it from me to do my job. Wander on through,” said the acne strewn guard. He waved them through. “Any more? Emotional support animals? Your nanas?”
“That’s everyone,” said Arthas, walking past other people in the same yellow uniforms.
“Mind if I make a call?” Mayko said, ducking into a doorway.
“Go ahead,” said the detective, his droid followed him. The spectrum unit’s eyes were twitching.
Mayko watched Arthas turn a corner then dialled her boss on the phone. “Hello, it’s Mayko. I’m good. Everything’s working out fine. No, he doesn’t suspect a thing. Has the grass been cut? Good. I’ll be with my new friend. We’ll see what he knows.” Mayko hung up the call and looked at the scorch marks on the walls. “Amateurs,” she sighed.
Arthas shook the hand of the head of security. “Thank you. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.” Jacques’ phone buzzed. “I should take this.”
The call was from Mars, he didn’t know the number. “Hello, Detective Arthas Jacques. Who is this?”
“Hello, detective. This is Warden Humphries. I wanted to let you know that inmate Mark Brigg was found dead in his cell an hour ago.”
“What!” Arthas slammed his hand over his mouth. Men and women in yellow uniforms were staring at him. “Sorry, warden. How?”
“He’d cut himself sir, we don’t know where he got the blade. An investigation is already underway.”
“Thank you for that, warden. I appreciate that.” Jacques ran his fingers through his hair.
“If you want to interview me, detective. I’ll be at the prison.”
“Thanks again, warden. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye.” The call ended with a beep.
“SHIT.” Arthas shook his head. “Someone’s cleaning house.” He walked back to where Mayko was waiting, looking with interest and disgust around the crime scene. “I’ve seen your place, want to see mine?”
“I’d love to.”
Arthas savoured the jealous look plastered across the young guard’s face as they ducked under the tape again. Around the corner, they walked arm in arm to his spaceship.
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Great atmosphere and banter, Graham. Feels a bit like a scene from Total Recall. Buzzing and full of intrigue. Doesn’t look like Mayko is all she appears to be which is as it should be.
Thank you. The setting is mostly inspired by The Expanse (tv show, I haven’t read the books yet) which I really liked. I wanted to write a detective in space story for a while but it never came together until recently. Thank you for reading and commenting.
I think you should write more of this. I really like the space theme.
Thank you very much. There are a few of this already. This is the fourth one. 1. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/jlat1o/ 2. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/qzzt4d/ 3. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/igrgl0/
Enjoyed it and hoping for at least a part 2 - some great banter, there, as well! One typo, I think: “There：s already a security team investigating it."
Thanks for pointing out the typo, I’ll fix that. I don’t have a sequel yet but this is the fourth in a series. I’ll put the link to the first below. Thanks for reading the story and giving me feedback, Wendy. Much appreciated. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/jlat1o/
And I think I saw Makyo, instead of Mayko at one point...
You crank out series like no other bona-fide Reedsy author. There is a drawback, however, which I'm sure readers experience when they read my own serial stories: they often require remembering significant plot and character details developed in previous episodes. It's difficult to write each one as a stand-alone, but it's what I may start doing even though it may require redundancies. I thinks it's the only chance we have as serial writers to ever get short-listed or win a prize.
I’ve given up on winning a prize. I’ll pay to enter on the off chance but mostly because it means more people read it. I can’t write as much now, definitely less at Christmas and New Year so if I can write one a week that will have to do. I have addictive tendencies so now that I have characters that I like writing I’ll keep going even though most people are bored of them. If people stick with it, bonus. Thank you very much for reading my work and sharing your thoughts Mike.
You're welcome, Graham. If I were you, I'd probably start stitching together a novel with the existing material. Have you written Deidra and Russell Norman about the possibility of getting one published with Blue Marble Storytellers press?
They contacted me and it started well but I did the usual and ruined it being socially awkward. I think I put her off.
It's nothing you couldn't remedy. She's pretty laid back and understanding. I had my socially awkward moment with her before I went on Read Lots Write Lots. Besides, I think the product your offering speaks eloquently in ways you, personally, may not be able too. My suggestion is keep trying until you get the desired results.
I was able to get the blue marble folks to put the first chapter of my series "Special Ingredient " on their podcast/show...
Love the intrigue, Graham. OG noir/mystery/romance/betrayal/detective story. Nicely done, Graham. I look forward to more of this story.
Thank you. I’ll let you know when I’ve written more.
Seems like a romance and then Mayko seems to be up to something. So do the investigators in yellow. Lots of mysteries. Like scooby doo.
Thanks. I’ve been working on something in the background of these stories from the start.
When will we learn more?
As soon as I have the time to continue it and the prompt to add it to reedsy.
The story is progressing nicely. I'm enjoying your dialog and the character interaction. Look forward to reading more
Very effective. You set a convincing scene and carry the reader effortlessly from scene to scene. The banter was fun and, overall, I found the whole thing intriguing - which leads me to want more. Vibrant.
Thank you. I’m hoping I can write the next one in this series before the deadline for this week.
Do it! I'll read it!
I'll put a link here for you when it's done.
Mars, space detectives, bombs going off and conspiracies - reminds me a bit of The Expanse. Frankly I found Mayko's behaviour a little unbelievable, since it seemed they were strangers just two days prior and she was really coming on strong. Indeed, things seemed to be going far too well for Arthas: "Arthas gave her the grin of a man whose wildest dreams were coming true." So, I'm *so* glad she made that clandestine phone call :) And that she didn't miss a beat in getting back to the crime scene. Maybe there is room for a romance there, ...
Arthas certainly doesn’t mind the attention, blissfully ignorant of how deep he’s in trouble. And he’s still distracted by his obsession with his ex. He didn’t realise there was never a chance of anything happening for him. The expanse was the main influence for a detective in space idea I’ve wanted to write for a while, with droids from Star Wars to fill it out. Thanks for reading and commenting , Michał.
Thank you for reading Banged Up. If you want to read the next story in this series then you can use the link below. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/qgvfud/