|Art by Alejandro Burdisio at|
A figure approaches you, dark and alluring, clad in nothing but the ocean spray and flecks of sand that cling to a perfect frame. The figure reaches out, and strokes your cheek, and invites you-
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God damnit, Miller thought. She’d been sure that this was a real dream and not one of the projected ads. The companies claimed that they only induced dreams when you wouldn’t otherwise have one, but she swore that she had fewer of her own dreams nowadays.
The sound of a voice from the real world crackling over the station radio shocked her to life and she flailed wildly to her feet, succeeding only in tipping over her chair and falling to the floor, landing painfully on her side.
“Uhhh...” She rolled onto her back, moaning and feeling the heavy vibration of the station’s engines through the dirty, ash-stained floor. She sat forward, blinking and rubbing her side.
Well, at least now I’m awake, she thought.
“Miller!” The radio crackled again, and she groaned. Not who she wanted to talk to. Especially not who she wanted to have catch her sleeping again. She pushed herself to her feet, wiped some marijuana ash from her hands and clothes, and clicked the radio on.
“I’m here Boris, cool your jets.”
“My jets are going to be far worse than cool if you don’t get me some god-damn fuel!” The Soviet accent dripped vitrol even through the hazy radio static. “What, were you sleeping again? Can’t even be bothered to turn on the auto-attendant?”
“Auto’s broken.” She said, swinging over to the control panel with its arcade-style control sticks. She moved one of the sticks with practiced ease, and outside the station, the manoeuvring rockets on the fuel arm piped to life, moving the boom out towards Boris’ bus. “We’ve put in an order with the Xr for some new parts but we’re pretty far down the waitlist.”
Dust sifted from the rafters as boom connected solidly with the bus and started pumping. “You need learn to bribe better,” Boris said over the radio.
“I’m not sure what I can bribe the Xr with.” Miller snorted. “We already gave ‘em the planet, what else could they want?”
“Dad, da, this is problem - now we have nothing to bribe them with. We already give biggest bribe. Perhaps you find Xr who enjoys human sex, you bribe with body. Always work for my sister when she need extra rations.”
Miller imagined those long, cold claws on her skin, those segmented mandibles kissing her, and gagged. “No thank you. I think we’ll do well enough without the auto attendant for now. I don’t think there’s anything that I would need desperately enough to fuck a Xr.”
“Bah! You just wait until your primary repulsor goes and you fall out of sky. Then you will have wished to listen to Boris and find some Xr to fuck and give you best things!”
The boom rattled again and a button lit up on her panel. “Alright Boris, you’re all full. Did you want a crate of churros before you left?”
“Bah, these things give me indigestion.”
Tell me about it, she thought. The station shook again as she retracted the boom from the beaten up bus. “Alright, we’ll see you next week.”
“Farewell, capitalist pig!”
As Miller watched Boris fly away, smoke pouring from the alien repulsors tacked underneath the human-made school bus, she wondered what had become of their world. Miles below, the earth swarmed with aliens from another world, while humanity puttered through the sky on borrowed wings.
It was a poignant and profoundly depressing thought.
Like Icarus, or some shit, she thought. Somewhere, there had to be a Greek myth that perfectly foretold this situation.
A Citroen lifted up to the station, repulsors burning blue, and honked three times.
Well, at least someone wants churros.
(this story also appeared on io9 as part of a writing prompt)