The Real Sadie

A science fiction story in Red Scythe by Gary Bloom

Characters: Sadie North, Scott West

"You know my real name isn't even Sadie, right?"

Scott nearly dropped the bar on his neck. Dumping it to the side, weights crashing onto the floor, he sat up from the bench. Across the small workout facility, Sadie hadn't broken stride on the treadmill. He stared for a moment, waiting elaboration.

"Uh, are you playing me? I know you gamed that one Martian mayor because we needed the launch clearance, but this is me." He smiled. "I know you wouldn't try and mess with my head, right? Heh, right Sadie?"

North just kept on running for a while longer. She wasn't sure what made her blurt that out. The conversation hadn't really veered in that direction. The truth came down to trust and isolation. If Scott West was the only person on this asteroid she was really going to trust, she'd have to prove it. Letting him in, at least a little, would help forge the bond.

"No, I'm not kidding," she finally said.

Poking at the treadmill, she slowed it down, and finally stopped the belt. Hopping off, she walked the short distance to the bench and sat down next to him. They were both sweaty, and he was too surprised to be offended.

"So, then, what the hell's your real name?"

"My father named me Luna Arroya," she half-whispered. "Sadie was my mother's name. I happened to be standing near the North gate of town when my new identification cards were being forged. They asked me to write in a name, and that was it."

"So the whole bit about you growing up in the asteroid belt..."

"Not true. I'm a Martian girl, born and raised. Well, born, anyway." She shook her head. "Raising was a bit of the on-the-run stuff, after things went down."

"What kind of things? You on the run or something?"

"You can't tell anyone any of this, alright? Come on Scott, promise me. Promise or I'll have Tudor drop you on an undeveloped asteroid on his next delivery."

"Nah, come on, you know me. It's cool, I'll keep your secret. Does Hardbarger know?"

"No one else knows. I'm just hoping that they gave up on me, that's all. It's been five years, so I don't think I look all that much the same anymore anyway."

"What the hell happened Sadie? Or should I call you Luna? Who are you running from?"

"Don't ever call me Luna. See, my father used to bet on the races on Mars. Heavily. Didn't matter if it was the dessert bikes, drag ships, or even the hawks. He loved the long shot, and he was almost always wrong. Got in with the wrong group of people for a bit too much, I guess, and he made some promises that he shouldn't have."

"What," Scott chuckled, "did they break his legs or something?"

"No, not quite. See, what he did was. Well, I mean," she choked on the anger of the memory. "I was really just a kid. I mean, sure, puberty had hit, and the boys all used to think I was really pretty. Just never thought my dad would try and profit on it." She looked at him, hatred burning in her eyes. "In order to get even, he put up my virginity against his outstanding debt. Then he bet on some hawk that didn't even have implants newer than four years old! I mean, who does that? When they came for me," she shuddered, "it was awful."

"Damn," he shook his head, "no wonder you took off."

"Actually, I didn't take off right after that. I mean, I still loved my family. It was something that I needed to get my head through, and I was really lost after that, but I stuck around. For some stupid reason, I got this idea that I had to stay and help my dad. If I left, what would happen to him? And at least he was free and clear again, so maybe he'd stop. Maybe he'd feel so horrible after what he did to me, that it was like my sacrifice that saved him. That makes sense, right?"

"Only in movies. I know, not too sensitive, sorry, but it's true. Me, I would've beat the skata out of your dad and left him bleeding in a ditch."

"Yeah, well, that might have been a smarter move. All I can think now is that bastard never loved me. Not after what he put me through. Damned hawk races."

"Oh come on, no, really?"

"Yeah, really. I guess he was determined. Met up with one of the trainers who was giving him supposed inside information. This guy's hawk was getting some steel tips on his wings. Supposed to be totally cutting edge, and not everyone allowed it. The arena that this guy's hawk was flying in, I guess they were one of the places you can't do it. Thought he'd slip his bird in without anyone noticing, but they noticed. Dad already made a huge bet, figuring it'd set him up for life. When that stupid hawk got disqualified, they told him he had to bet on another one; they wouldn't give him his money back. He just sort of guessed, since he hadn't been prepared."

"So, heh, how'd he do?"

"Damned thing broke a wing hooking the turn too tight. Didn't even finish. It was a really, really bad thing. When they came to the house to collect, he immediately offered me up again. He didn't even give it a second thought. What kind of father does a thing like that?"

"Just like that?" Scott stood up and balled his fists. "He just offered you up to be raped to cover his bills? Where was your mom in all this?"

"Mom died in an accident a couple of years before." Sadie knew Scott would never judge her, but she fought back the tears anyway. Weakness wasn't something she intended to show anymore. "After this all went down, though, I started figuring she might have been a victim of dad's gambling too. He stopped betting for almost six months after that. Didn't matter, though. He started again, and now I had to pay up."

Scott screamed in rage at the thought. Taking five quick steps, he ran towards a heavy bag and delivered three fierce punches.

"I swear, I want to murder that piece of skata in his sleep!"

"Well, it's too late for that," she said with a shrug.

"Too late? How's that?"

"After my louse of a father sold my virginity, I decided that our family needed protection. The funny thing is," she chuckled, "I actually did it to protect him. See, despite dad screwing up the way he did, I had always managed to scrape together some money. Odd jobs and the like, although nothing like I do right now." She hesitated, then shrugged and continued. "You never knew when he wouldn't have enough money to feed us one week. So, I took that money out and found an energy weapon. Basically, a laser pistol. Pretty much illegal for me to have it, but what was above board on this one?"

"You killed him?"

"Well, yeah," she nodded. "I didn't have much of a choice. He called me out, and I refused to leave my room. Dad kicked the door in, with two of the scum bags behind him. He said that I might as well pull my pants off and let the two of them get it over with. I screamed at him, asked him how he could do that to me. He said that I just needed to listen to him, and if I didn't, they were going to kill him."

Sadie rubbed the bridge of her nose.

"I had the gun hidden under my pillow. Jumping back like I was going to cry, I pulled it out and shot him really quickly. Burned a hole right through his chest. Laser weapons are pretty amazing that way. The heat cauterizes the wound almost instantly. It was just long enough for him to look down where his heart used to be, and then he hit the ground. The two thugs started to leave, but I couldn't let them go. Racing after them, I managed to shoot another one through the back of the head, after I clipped his shoulder. Second guy got out the door, so I didn't want to risk it. Still, that was the night I packed up what I thought I needed, and I got the hell out of there."

"So you changed your name, left town, and some how wound up working for Hardbarger. Hey, how did you join the Red Scythe, anyway?"

"I think we've had enough story time for today." She sniffed. "I need a shower, and then a really stiff drink. Meet you at the mess in fifteen minutes?"

After scowling and raging throughout the story, Scott West finally offered her his trademarked grin.

"Yeah," he nodded, "I can do that."