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Chapter 8

  In the last issue, Wort had convinced Jude to abandon Job, in case the regime’s tracker ship moved to destroy the colony.

  Reincorporated on A-B Celestial Services trade vessel, Wort and Jude watched the regime’s tracker eclipse the sun, then turn toward Job. The ship swung into position slowly, menacingly, raising its solar reinforcer. Then, miraculously, the weapon was lowered, and the tracker evaporated from sight. Jude looked at Wort, managing a triumphant but shaken smile.
  The trade ship’s captain arrived, his immaculate white uniform offset only by the red and golden eagle on the breast pocket. “I have a message from the regime,” he said. “We have been instructed to bring you to Earth.”
  Still shaken, Jude managed to nod. Taking a small capsule out of the video device around her neck, she gave it to the captain. “I would request that you send copies of this to all glintz producing colonies before we depart, It contains important information regarding supply contamination. Send a copy into Exile, also.”
  The captain nodded and took the capsule. “Prepare to disembark in one hour.”

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  Wort gazed out a porthole and the sight of the Earth below provoked such a tremendous longing in him that he moaned loudly.
  “It is beautiful,” Jude said, handing him a cerveza loca . “Here, I am told this will help you.” Wort drank deeply, finishing the bottle before the surprised eyes of his companion. “We have an immediate audience with Joshua,” she said. “Make yourself ready.”
  “I cannot go,” Wort said.
  “What do you mean?” Jude asked.
  “They will execute me.”
  “Nonsense,” Jude replied. “I have informed them that you will accompany me, as a witness. That is standard protocol.”
  “They will kill you also,” Wort said.
  “Do not worry,” Jude said, and smiled.
  Two Bureau agents awaited them in the starport. Wort sensed danger and immediately entered a restroom. One agent followed him, holding his flamegun ready. Two other occupants prevented him from shooting immediately, a mistake the agent wouldn’t get a chance to repeat.
  Wort delayed as long as possible, then crossed to the sinks. The agent kept him at arm’s length. As the second man exited, Wort washed his hands and face, filling his mouth with water. He turned, spitting the water as the agent pulled the flamegun trigger. The blast went awry, hitting the ceiling, which burst into flames. Wort grabbed the gun, twisted it out of the agent’s hands and slammed the barrel against his head. He dragged the agent into a stall and took off his shoes, replacing them with his own. Slipping under the wall to the next stall, he stood on the seat and waited.
  The noise in the restroom drew in the second agent, who spotted Wort’s shoes and fired, engulfing his partner’s legs in flames. Wort kicked open the stall door and flamed the remaining agent.     Dragging him into the second stall, he dismantled the toilet paper holder and used a metal piece to hack off the agent’s pointer finger, which he stuffed into his pocket. He started toward the door, then returned to the unconscious agent, rifling through his pockets until he found the man’s badge and ID. He stepped quickly into the starport. “Let’s go!”
  “Wait!” Jude began.
  “Let’s go! They were sent to kill us!” He grabbed Jude’s arm, but she wrested free.
  “What have you done?” she demanded.
  “Avery!” Wort froze at the sound of his name, then turned to face his wife.
  “What are you doing here?”
  “I thought...they said...I came to identify your body!” Virginia said, looking at him in disbelief.
  Wort turned to Jude. “Do you believe me now?” he snapped.
  “I do not understand...” Jude began.
  “This is my wife,” Wort said. “She was called to ID my dead body.”
  Jude turned to Virginia. “Is this true?” Virgina nodded.
  “I’m leaving,” Wort said. “If you want to come, do it now, because soon this port will be full of vengeful agents.” He took Virginia’s hand and pulled her after him. Jude followed.
  Outside, an empty Bureau car waited at the curb. Wort pressed the finger onto the ID pad and the door lock opened. He motioned the others to get in then reached for the start button. “How did I die?” he asked Virginia, hesitating.
  “A car explosion,” she replied. “They said there wasn’t much left but some personal belongings.”
  “Out!” Wort screamed, pushing open the door and pulling his wife across the seat and onto the pavement. “Run!”
  Jude acted quickly, too, and the three of them ran behind a nearby bus just as the explosion rent the busy starport traffic.

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  “You made the front page,” Wort’s uncle said, throwing the paper onto the small table in front of him. “They’re reporting you both as dead.”
  Jude picked up the paper, The headline read, “Colony Gorverness mysteriously killed, terrorists suspected. “I’m surprised they even mention the word terrorist. They supposedly did away with the last of us years ago.” Jude looked at the headline, stunned. “I must speak to Joshua at once,” she said, almost mechanically.
  “They’ll never let you live,” Wort said softly.
  “I think a visit is a good idea,” Wort’s uncle said. Wort looked at him, puzzled. “We can help you, but first, let me show you our new cellar.”
  Wort’s uncle led them down a set of stairs into a cellar dug into the earth. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling, illuminating rows of wooden casks. The casks each had dates chalked on their front, above spigots. The ceiling above the casks were sprinkled with cobwebs.
  “This is 12 months in the cask,” Wort’s uncle said proudly, opening a spigot and filling a glass.   “Here.” The lambic tasted funky, so much so that Jude spit it out.
  Wort laughed. “Her first lambic. It’s coming along nicely.”
  Wort’s uncle pointed at the ceiling “We also have several spiders that were thought to be extinct.”
  “Where did you get them?” Wort asked.
  ”Ah, a trade secret,” his uncle replied. “What have you been drinking?”
  “Whatever’s available,” Wort said.
  “Cerveza loca?”
  “Y   e   a   h.”
  ”That stuff’s poison,” his uncle said. “How long have you been on it?”
  “Not long,” Wort replied. “It’s necessary for space travel.”
  “The sooner we get you back on real stuff, the better. Let’s open a bottle.”
  “Of gueuze,” agreed Wort.
  His uncle walked to the back of the cellar and opened a door, then led them into a smaller room. Clicking on another overhead bulb, he motioned to a small table. “Let me get a bottle from the maturation cellar.” He disappeared through another door, then returned with a dusty bottle.
  “Do you still have that connection at the zealot’s house?” asked his uncle, opening the bottle with a corkscrew.
  “Who is that?” Wort asked.
  “The woman you talked about when I was still in the cavehouse,” his uncle said, carefully decanting the gueuze into three glasses.
  Wort struggled to remember. “I’m not sure who you’re talking about.”
  “Are you speaking of Virginia?” asked Jude.
  “No,” his uncle said. “It was lust and leave, as I thought.”
  “How long has it been since you have seen your wife?” Jude asked, abruptly.
  “Several months,” Wort replied.
  “It is strange that she is more concerned about not meeting her consumption quota than in your predicament,” Jude said. “She didn’t stop talking of it until you dropped her off.”
  “She will lose many of her privileges,” Wort said automatically, exchanging glances with his uncle. “That’s important to her.”
  “I think it’s time to contact Joshua,” Wort’s uncle said. “I think he will be interested in seeing you, Judith.”
  “He will kill her,” Wort said.
  “I think not,” his uncle replied. “We just need to secure certain guarantees. Judith, would you be so kind as to bring Wort in with you? He’s actually been waiting a decade to meet Joshua.” Wort remained silent. “The trick is getting you both past security,” his uncle continued.
  “I will allow Avery to accompany me. As a Governess I may pass security with a witness and both of us will be granted ecclesiatic immunity.”
  “And my identity?” Wort asked.
 “Your name shall be David,” Jude said.

Chapter 9

By Bill Metzger

Copyright 1994, Southwest Brewing News