Welcome to Hades
A Darker Alternative
Guide To The Hades Satellite Community
Provided by the Hades Chambre of Commerce
Most people on Hades don't
shop in the middle of the night -- Earth night, that
is, Hades' night being more or less a dimming of the
station's artificial sunlight -- but that is about the
only time I can squeeze it in. In fact, most "normal"
people shy away from any night activity that starts
on the other side of their front door. It doesn't really
make much difference to the others.
particular Feeding Frenzy is my haunt. It's the closest
to my comb, though not the closest grocery store. The
Foo-o-ood For The Soul around the corner from my microscopic
apartment is a good ten minutes closer on foot. The
Fresh Kill is certainly cheaper. Neither, though, carries
a major staple of my diet.
per usual, I had to bury myself up to the floating ribs
in the pizza section of the freezer case and lean in
as waves of frigid air swirled out and down around my
ankles. The vast compressors attached to that bank of
freezers were kicking into high gear before I was able
to back out with the last three Tombstone vegetarian
specials in the store. Where I live, it's not really
smart to rely on the quality of anything labelled "meat."
ice crystals out of my hair, I dropped the precious
pizzas into the cart, atop the canned spaghetti and
frozen lasagna packages, and headed for the checkout
strategically beside the cashiers was a small rack of
magazine disks. Situated strategically beside that was
the store's security guard. Young, like most of them,
and convinced of his own obvious superiority in a world
of far less impressive creatures such as me, all of
whom shared no more worthy ambition than to be like
guard looked up over the edge of the magazine reader
with a humourless smile. It was a smile that would have
sent many of the store's clientele skittering out the
door, loaded as it was with overgrown, jagged teeth.
The guard pulled his black lips further back for maximum
effect and waited for the expected reaction.
a little something there..." The guard snarled
at my feigned attempt to point out the food particle.
He seemed even less pleased when I walked past without
acknowledging his mastery of the look that could kill.
the boss wants you to find out who's stealing all the
silver cleaner. Get right on it." Lonny was saved
from a nasty asskicking by the voice from behind the
the pizza, spaghetti, and other garlic-laden foods I
come here for several nights a week, I can now add to
the attractions Gina. I could get my necessaries at
other stores, although it would mean a longer trip,
but Gina I could not.
suddenly became my number one favourite item in this
are you tonight?" She passed my Tombstone Specials
over the scanner without cringing. A very good sign.
She cocked an eyebrow at my selection.
are aware that this is typical bachelor food."
would only be truly sad if I had a wife." No harm
in slipping that vital data in.
sobering to see someone slipping into that stereotype.
You must have missed the canned toast on aisle three."
she packed the last of the pre-fab food into my sack,
I studied her in that cool way men have perfected which
allows one to take in every detail while the unsuspecting
woman remains completely ignorant of our interest. And
she caught me. Just as well, there wasn't all that much
that was truly above average, taken feature by feature.
register hummed into payment mode with my card in its
mechanical maw. Crimson fingernails ticked out a samba
on the plastic carapace of the machine.
in hand, I prepared to re-enter that risky artificial
night. For good measure, I took an extra few seconds
to gird my loins for the walk home. It was, of course,
coincidence that this loin-girding took place at Gina's
register. It occurred to me to try another of those
cool, hidden glances, but as the last one had been spectacularly
was on the tip of my tongue to tell it worked perfectly
well, thanks. The lonely thing was straining on its
leash even as we spoke.
Oh. Good thing I kept the health report to myself. Lonny,
the lupine rent-a-cop, was somewhere nearby anyway.
Straining on his own leash for a chance to can my hash.
"Hey, it's just that I never get tired of Italian
food." I lowered my voice. "When I was growing
up my parents told me we were Italian. It was years
before I learned the ugly truth."
parents were demented?"
were closet Chinese."
is my destiny always to be part of a line. If I was
on a payphone on the dark side of Pluto, before I could
dial the number someone would show up behind me to wait.
Tonight it was an overweight nurse with a six-pack of
chilled beer and an attitude to match. I rescued my
fingers just millimeters from being crushed against
the counter by her massive hip. The invitation to move
on was unmistakable.
however, seemed not to notice the mammoth presence.
"You sound like you ought to talk to someone about
that burden of shame." Before I could frame the
witty reply that, unfailingly, I would think of ten
minutes later, she turned away to greet charming cellulite
woman. It was move on or get mowed down.
streets of Hades are really no different from any urban
area on Earth: poorly lit, under-patrolled, and the
workplace of the criminal element. Here, though, the
hapless stroller runs the somewhat unique risk of meeting
up with a nightcrawler for a friendly game of forget-your-money-just-give-me-your-life.
Highly frowned upon by the ruling party, but still a
factor to be considered if one is looking for a place
on the frontier. The stories of such encounters won't
make the newsfeed, neither will you see the immediate
jettison of anyone convicted of participating in those
night sports. Jettison without the comfort of an artificial
Hades is a place where any vampire, werewolf, or zombie
can live in peace. Let's keep it clean out there.
frozen pizza was barely defrosted when I reached the
safety of home and hearth, hearth being just a phrase
now, what with the need to conserve oxygen on the station.
I felt a pang, as always, at the thought of any of the
zillion and one touches of home that had yet to make
the journey into space -- successfully. A certain light
and fluffy peanut snack came to mind. But most people
still whine about the ban on tobacco.
was just as I was stowing the precious frozen discs
that I noticed the streak of ink scrawled on the side
of my bag. Another person might have been angry or made
straight for the dry cleanser to remove the offending
smear. I'm just too big a slob to worry about that.
And I might have just tossed it back on it's hook beside
the refrigerator if my misspent adulthood hadn't cursed
me with a suspicious nature.
enough, it really was ink, an item rarely seen on this
paperless planetoid. It really was ink and it really
wasn't a smear. It was a voice line number. And it was
Gina's. And one comfort of home, gravity, was having
no effect on one part of my body.
sometimes, not to take it feature by feature.
of impact. Rattling my teeth. Bouncing my balls off
the concrete. Scaly toes and ragged claws blocking what
remained of my vision. My head popping back out from
between my shoulders just in time to see a giant fist
heading my way on its return trip.
Godzilla knows my name!
Open the door."
forced one unwilling eye open. Oh, goddamnit. Not Godzilla,
worse than Godzilla. The one person who knows to avoid
that mat in front of the door.
your eyes and pray for a miracle if a zombie gang corners
you in a dark alley. Give it up and open the door if
you're hoping for Neil Persico to go away. No thickness
of quilts could protect me from the fate that awaited
me in the hall. Better just to let it in.
tossed a shoe at the control button, which did the job
on its way to wiping out two glasses on the stereo shelf.
Maybe he'd step on the pieces and bleed to death. Couldn't
remember the emergency number. Too bad, really.
where are you?"
enough, in bed. Stranger still, asleep."
Ok. Look at this."
I had my corneas done before leaving Earth, so no glasses
to clutter up my image, but I'll be goddamned if these
things will work without a warm up. Waking up is more
like a thirty minute journey through fog land than the
"crystal clear mornings" they promised me.
minutes of this was not an option. "Just read it
to me, asshole." Just a pet name, you understand.
3 for rent. G3 sector. Interior wall. Twelve month lease.
$2600/month. Contact #45897."
me see that!" He winced at my rough treatment of
the hand unit. "Solar flares! Thank God you brought
this to my attention, Percy. I've been waiting months
for the chance to move away from you."
Philly, be serious."
is one of the sad facts of life that there are some
people it is impossible to insult. They're few and far
between, but they exist. It would be a better universe
if Percy didn't exist in my corner of it.
Percy narrowed his eyes and leaned toward me. Too close.
I swatted him back with one still drowsing arm and paid
for it with a hand full of wasps. Yet another thing
to add to his lists of transgressions.
okay, Philly? Okay. You know what this is. It's another
one." Pause for ridiculous effect. "A missing
eased his considerable bulk back to allow plenty of
room for my explosive reaction. Good thing. Close enough
and I might have gone for a head butt. Sad, really,
how a hopeful puppy dog face can make you want to smash
it. Maybe that's just me. Something to think about.
I don't wake up well.
It's not illegal to move on Hades. They repealed that
law. Remember the parade?"
Philly, you're still kind of asleep."
do I never learn? Sarcasm, insults -- just wasted breath.
guy isn't moving. He's gone. Dead, right?" His
pasty face whitened. I know. Hard to picture, but it
happened. "Or maybe zombied?"
Maybe not so hard to picture a big galoot like one Neil
Persico losing his lunch at the thought. It's supposed
to be strictly outlawed, another jettisoning offense.
Right, and there are no weapons here on Hades, either.
to start a nest egg, put some credits aside for a rainy
day? Thinking of a comfy retirement? Sign up with your
local zombie megacorporation and take your pay in advance.
You'll spend years as unpaid labour, sweating away at
the jobs no one else will take. Well, not sweating,
I guess; you're dead, aren't you? That's the big draw.
You're not going to know what's happened to you. You're
dead. What do you care? Grab the cash now and stop looking
over your shoulder. They're not going to come for you
early. Your signed and notarized agreement guarantees
you the right to slip this mortal coil in your own good
time. Live for a hundred more years or flash your credits
card in the wrong place; it's all the same to the corporation.
People spin out every day, so there's no shortage for
the walking dead work force.
it doesn't always work that way, does it? We're safe
from the corporations, but it's not the corporations
who are out looking for unpaid labour; why lay out credits
when you don't have to. Be in the wrong place at the
wrong time and you might find yourself facing a zombie
gang. No contract, no advance to hole away, just a quick
death and a carcass full of chemicals to keep you shuffling
away in the shit jobs until you forget to wait for the
elevator to arrive or a shipping pallet lands on you
and you're too mangled to use anymore. That, or wait
for the zombie task force to snag the gang who has you.
They get a closed-doors trial and pfft! pop! another
jettison. Justice done.
Call us a frontier town, if you like, but we do things
our own way out here. Just don't remind Earth of that.
course, you're still dead. You don't get to be alive
again. You just get the satisfaction of knowing your
killers paid for their crimes. True, they paid for their
girlfriends's apartments with your shambling corpse,
but no system's perfect.
if it's zombie gangs?"
by the sweat breaking out on his face, Percy was close
to pissing his pants. Between the sweat and the threat
of something worse, I decided it was time to get up.
My shove moved him just barely enough to let me climb
out of bed without touching him again. He didn't even
have the sense to look embarrassed as I beat a hasty,
stark naked retreat into the closet for some clothes.
driving me ape sh-- Percy, get the hell out of my bedroom."
He plopped down on the everpresent upholstered block
of foam that passes for a couch in this neighbourhood.
"Listen, go back to numbers crunching and get off
this paranoia jag. There is nothing wrong with listing
an apartment for rent. People. move. around."
guy didn't move. He's gone. Look."
may have heard me starting a slow meltdown, but he overlooked
my rude behaviour and waved his palm computer in my
face. I pushed it back a foot to where I could actually
see the thing. I would have pushed it all the way back
into his pocket, but Percy does outweigh me almost two
to one. A rudenik, I may be, but a realistic rudenik.
Better to just take a look and then I could get rid
screen full of numbers.
is it?" I said through gritted teeth.
where Arnold Armstrong's -- that's the guy's name --
supposed to be. Okay, okay." He gave me a "calm
down" smile and poked at the palm unit. A rough
schedule popped up on the screen. "Armstrong's
been gone for two weeks. These are appointments he missed.
This is the last day he showed up on the job. This --"
I cut into his run-away discourse with a raised hand
and took the machine away from him.
how long our numbers trail stretches these days. Arnold
Armstrong, slotted for refurbishment at the spa, meeting
with an accountant, not showing up for work at Technical
Arm 3. I thought about pointing out the evils of snooping,
but why bother? Find a way to keep a systems monitor
from digging and you'll be in demand with every government
and computer firm in the galaxy. Besides, I'm hardly
above using the curious little button pushers myself.
was waiting silently, big eyes begging me to get excited
about the whole thing. Sigh.
budro. All you've got here're some missed connections.
This guy's not missing, he's probably having a good
time somewhere in the station and doesn't want to go
back to the real world. He'll show up."
out, Percy." No one I've ever met could be a bigger
power drain than Percy; ten minutes of exposure and
I was ready to go back to sleep. As always, he just
seemed to get more hyperactive. Kind of suspicious,
vampires may be allowed on the station, but they're
not welcome in my apartment.
this is the fourth one! I think you need to look into
it. You could find out what's going on. You're the only
one I know who used to be a--"
right. Stop right there." If I'd had the energy,
I might have punched him. No, I wouldn't have, but it
sounded good. Instead, I turned him around with a shove
toward the front door. "You know the rules. Out."
took two stumbling steps and planted his feet. Too bad
I wasn't faster with my own brakes. My jaw felt unhinged.
That must be what it feels like to run into a mountain
at top speed.
sorry, sorry. Come on, I'm sorry." He shrugged.
"You don't want to hear about it, that's okay."
about it seemed just a little too easy.
Okay?" Palm unit stowed in his pocket, he lifted
his hands in surrender.
go get breakfast, Philly?"
more talk about missing people?"
forgotten." He mimed turning a key in his temple.
"Not a word."
do I believe people?
hour and three cups of mocha later and Percy was well
and truly into his dissertation on the perils of life
on this monstrous satellite. He looked up from the flatsheet
for the thirtieth time to make sure I was paying attention.
The unhealthy gleam of paranoia was in his eye. Hit
me so hard I ordered a fourth cup.
appointments." A sausagelike finger came down hard
on the display. The image quivered slightly. "Apartments
up for rent." The sausage moved on to the next
column. "Days absent from work." His voice
deepened ominously. "Mail not retrieved."
ducked his big head to avoid my scowl. Mail is supposed
to be one the last vestiges of unassailable privacy
on Hades. Is nothing sacred?
mocha arrived on the tray of one scary female. Raven
hair and crimson lips played off against blue-white
skin and over-bright eyes. Your standard, cosmetic surgery
vampire. Nothing sacred? What an idiotic question.
waitress leaned over the table with a needle tooth smile,
flashing the usual yard-and-a-half of bare skin. With
a smile like that, you're never sure if they want your
number or your bodily fluids. My plan of action -- as
always -- pretend you don't really notice them. Smile
politely, then ignore them.
not every woman who smiles at me has been a Creep. But
it doesn't enhance my chances with them to ask for verification.
Either way, I'm probably the loneliest and horniest
man on Hades.
a horny warm body than a satisfied donor. Some things
you have to learn from experience.
do you think, Philly?" The tone in his voice made
me think that wasn't the first time I'd been asked the
question. I put on my best thoughtful expression to
cover the lapse. If he started the whole theory again,
I'd call the waitress back and offer my neck. A long,
slow sip of the hot, smoky chocolate gave me the strength
to forge on.
forget for a moment that you are snooping around in
ways that make my flesh crawl. There is nothing there.
Do you even have a missing person report?"
looked like a kid facing his first beer.
shit. You dig around in Joe Conspiracy's private life,
but you won't crack the security files?"
mumbled something incoherent that I think was connected
somehow with prison, expulsion, and landfills. Or anthills.
Like I said, I couldn't hear him very well.
has their little buggaboos, I suppose. With Percy, It
was an irrational respect for government. That and the
sanctity of carbohydrates. Let no doctor put asunder.
worry not, old friend. Missing person files are public
info. At least, the filing of one is." Time for
another eyeball steaming sip of mocha. The cup was almost