Jun Yonezawa wadded his cassock in a corner and went home. The bishop was there, drinking tea with Jun’s father. Hiroki Yonezawa was nobody, just a night watchman. But on 11073 Galapagos, you didn’t have to be somebody to be important.
“What are you going to do now, Yonezawa-san?” the bishop said.
Out of his vestments, Bishop Okada was no less imposing. His belly spread like a sack of rice across his knees. He lifted his teacup with the delicacy of a girl picking a flower. The house was dark, as per curfew regulations, lit only by an electric candle burning behind the screen in the corner. The Yonezawas had the honor of keeping the Eucharist in their house, since Jun was a monk and two of his sisters were nuns.
“Call Kirin, I guess,” he answered. He went to the door and looked out. The street, a green tunnel smelling hotly of tomatoes, was still quiet. Coming along, he’d been awed by the silence. It reminded him of the great nanorot epidemic, when quarantine had been enforced over half the asteroid. Patrolling the deathly-silent streets with orders to shoot anyone he found outside, Jun had turned a corner and come face-to-face with an old schoolmate, two years his senior, busily raping a woman. Or a girl. Maybe even someone Jun knew. Couldn’t tell. Senpai had tied her own blouse over her head like a bag.
Jun had stared at senpai. Senpai had stared back at Jun. Then Jun had backed off and patrolled around the block. When he came back, senpai and the girl were both gone. Jun might have imagined the whole thing, down to the pimples on senpai’s wobbling rump. He had never said anything about it to anyone. The incident had entered into no record. But it remained in Jun’s memory. That was the day he’d first become aware of evil.
He was not going to repeat that mistake. Not going to look the other way this time.
He turned from the street door, brushing against his mother. The bishop, sitting in seiza at the low table, said, “Where is Shimada Yumiko?”
“I left her with Father Hirayanagi. I don’t think she’ll hurt him. She seems grateful to have been received into the Church.”
“Praised be the Lord,” the bishop said.
“Yup. In the end, she rolled right over,” Jun agreed. He wasn’t going to bother explaining to anyone else that the phavatar had multiple operators, possibly including at least one demon. A powerful demon, Jun speculated. They were close enough to Mars in this orbit, and what did distance mean to the princes of hell, anyway? But that might be going a bit far for the bishop, who for all his commitment to dogma, was not a very spiritual man.
“If she’s truly repentant,” the bishop said hopefully, “maybe she’ll put in a word for us with her employers.”
Then Jun knew what Bishop Okada was doing here at this hour, why he was acting as if nothing had ever gone wrong between him and the Yonezawas. He hoped that Yumiko could save the Galapajin.
“Put in a word for us with who? With Leviathan, or Beelzebub?” Jun said. He picked up the teacup his mother had set before him, drank.
“The UN isn’t all bad,” his mother said.
“I wasn’t talking about the UN,” Jun muttered, unheard.
“They’ve got ships,” his father said.
“They’ve got super-cool artillery systems that can blow up entire asteroids,” his youngest sister said.
Jun set down his teacup sharply. “They’ve got fancy algorithms that tell them where, when, and how much to risk against the PLAN. It all comes down to the money, and it’s cheaper to lose thirty thousand colonists than a single Starcruiser. But sure, I’ll ask her to put in a word for us. If she ever wakes up. She turned herself off before I left St. Peter’s; said she needed a break.”
He had not only locked her up, this time, but left his Kalashnikov with Takagi-san of the yado, instructing the confused hotelier to shoot her if she acted hostile. Not that he thought much of Takagi-san’s chances against those cutter lasers.
He stood up, pushing his nephew aside with a rough motion that made everyone twitch. “I’m going downstairs to talk to Kirin.”
Like every residence in the asteroid, the Yonezawas’ house had a deep basement that was supposed to function as a panic room. In fact, the airlock leading to the basement was so old it probably wouldn’t work, even if they cleared out all the stuff that had accumulated inside it over the decades. Jun swung himself over broken gardening tools, ping-pong bats, bundles of used packaging materials, and unused squeezebags of splart—Galapajin treasures.
The basement itself was even more crammed, but less chaotic. Stacks of oddly shaped shrinkfoam-wrapped items, each one precisely labeled, filled the cavern. This stuff had arrived more recently, via the tunnel in the corner of the basement that was not supposed to be there, which led ultimately, via a newer and better-maintained airlock, to the surface of the asteroid. It came in all at once and it went out little by little, via the Order of St. Benedict, to certain key families. But the basement of the Yonezawas’ house was the warehouse, and just now it was full. That was why Jun didn’t expect much from the call he was about to make.
He settled onto the floor in the corner behind the desk where he did stuff-related paperwork. He located the comms unit under a pile of requests from customers. The things they wrote on! Rags, pieces of cut-up waterbags, bits of green skin from the Parks and Gardens Service—all of it destined, eventually, for the recycling facility.
Beep, beep, beep.
The comms unit was hooked up to a high-gain antenna on the asteroid’s surface. It was now sending out a signal in search of a server. Jun had formerly used the one on Botticelli Station, his signals unnoticed in the eternal cataract of internet traffic. Now that that was no more, his signal had additional light-seconds to cover before it found one of the megaservers on Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, or Hygiea.
Beep, beep—“You have successfully established a connection with the net! You don’t seem to have an ID embedded in your signal. Please manually enter your ID so that we can take you where you want to go!”
“Fuck off and die,” Jun muttered in English. He keyed in his fake ID.
“Thank you very much, Communications Officer Alden! How can we help you today?”
Jun entered Kirin’s ID (also fake) and waited. The whole asteroid seemed to wait with him, breathing heavily, turning in its bed of stars like a man having a nightmare.
“Now connecting you to Captain James T. Kirk,” the server announced chirpily. “Have a nice day!”
“That you, Jun?” said the voice of his elder brother. Kirin sounded sleepy, as usual.
“Yeah. There’ve been developments. I guess you’ve seen the news, but here’s what you don’t know.” Jun started telling Kirin about the events involving Yumiko Shimada, got tangled up in the multiple-personalities thing, and decided to skip it. After all, she couldn’t help them, even if she was disposed to try, no matter what his family and Bishop Okada thought. “Never mind. Doesn’t matter. We’ve only got one to two sols before the PLAN gets here. So—”
Kirin interrupted, reacting to Jun’s first words. The time lag between them was roughly three minutes. “I’m coming back. It takes time to turn this thing around, goddammit. But I’ll be there within the week.”
Jun rested his forehead on the heel of his hand. Within the week was no better than next year. He had always been somewhat in awe of Kirin. That wasn’t his brother’s real name, but everyone called him Kirin [giraffe] because he looked like one, with his spindly height, long neck, and unlucky-in-love eyes. Jun still respected him, and would defend him against any accusations, even though Kirin was not the same person he had been. “That’s not the promise I want from you,” he said. “I want you to promise you won’t come back. Go away, Kirin. You can’t get here in time. Go away, far away, and if they get us, at least the memory of 11073 Galapagos will survive.”
“What’s this crap about a phavatar?” Kirin said, having finally heard Jun’s explanation of recent events. “Is this the same one you told me about? Listen. Get her to negotiate with the PLAN. Robot to robot.If nothing else, maybe she can stall them until I get there.”
At this point Kirin must have heard Jun telling him not to come back, for he interrupted himself.
“Oh, no, little brother. Don’t say that. Have faith! ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil …’”
Kirin talked on, quoting from the New Testament and the Psalms, as fiery and inspiring as he ever had been. The threat of the PLAN had snapped him out of his usual drug-induced snooze. He also had a couple of practical suggestions. Jun found himself accepting his brother’s message of hope. When he came down into the basement, he had been near despair; when he returned upstairs, he was in a different frame of mind.
“We might try to evacuate the asteroid,” he suggested to the bishop. “It could go hideously wrong. But my humble opinion is that we should try.”
Bishop Okada bowed his head. “We’re in your hands.”
Jun hid a disbelieving smile. So it had come to this. Former Public Enemy No. 1 Yonezawa Jun, second only to that notorious arch-sinner Yonezawa Kirin, was now to be in charge of saving their lives. The world really had changed. Or, maybe not. This way, everyone could blame him in the moments before they died.
“Pray for me.” He picked up his Kalashnikov and went out the door.