She expected to die by a gunshot, but it still came as a surprise as she felt the bullet impact mere seconds before her head turned off. Instead of everything turning dark, she saw bright, white light traveling at her, faster and faster—or perhaps she was traveling towards it. She didn’t have the brain capacity to tell the difference. Others might have been scared, but she wasn’t. This was the release she’d been waiting for, even if she hadn’t asked to die today. Truly, she had no idea they’d even be packing and actually have the guts to shoot someone like her.
Who shoots an seventy year old unarmed woman?
It wasn’t her fault they didn’t like being called a pussy.
What? They were.
Finally, the white tunnel ended and everything went stark black. Her hearing returned before everything else; before her vision, before her ability to feel or to truly think.
“Greetings, Prisoner 11384. You have served your sentence. You’re free to go,” the voice drone on, monotone and official.
The rest of her senses came back, hitting her body harder than the bullet that ripped a hole in her chest seconds earlier had. Except that wasn’t her chest that had been shot—well, not truly, even if it had been technically.
She pushed herself up off the stone floor. “Greeting, Prisoner 11384,” she mocked, making her voice go high pitched to mimic the deep monotone of the judge. Even so, she noticed distinctly that it was truly her voice again, with her own inflections, her own pitch, her old sultry sound. Not the sound of someone who’d lived and grown old, listening as their voice became nothing more than a raspy whisper of a sound.
Oh, how she’d missed it.
Turning, she glanced up at the judge, who lurched over a tall, circular table, looking down at her from his high perch with a scowl, though he wasn’t high enough that she couldn’t see the amusement in his eyes. “You guys need to work on your welcome home speech,” she told him.
“Eva March,” he drawled, though his voice still carried no personality to it. “I’ve read your file. Seems your sentence wasn’t quite long enough for you to learn anything.”
She pretended that remarked didn’t bite her. “I’m good, thanks.”
He smirked. “Follow the hallway and check out at the front desk.” A door slid open behind her. She walked towards it, high heeled boots clacking against the empty portal chamber with declaring emphasis. Eva made it to the opening before he called out, “And Eva? You’ve been gone a long time. Don’t be disappointed if our world doesn’t have a place for you anymore.”
She paused, a hitch catching her steps at his words, but she continued walking as if she’d never stumbled, her stride lengthening just a tad, needing to get out of there. She didn’t like the way he seemed to slip inside her head, guessing where her thoughts had been taking her. She knew the rumor that they watched you during your sentence down on Earth was more truth than hearsay, but she doubted they’d watched her own with such interest. If they had, though, they would have know how much she hated it there.
It had proved so…boring.
The entire time she lived there, in the life of Evaline Marshland—her human name—from childhood to the ripe of age of death, she could remember her time here, on Exo, her real home, in vivid detail. She could remember her real body, the way the alluring bits of her flesh she’d chosen to keep was complemented with the smooth strength of metal. Oh, what she could do in this body, unhindered by age and the mortal needs for food, for drink or sleep. But more than that, she missed the speed of life. In a world where sleep was never necessary, why shut down when day turned to night? There was too much to do, too much to see. But on Earth, everything moved too slow, was too quiet, everyone too timid, too bland.
Any place where better than there.
Even a place where she didn’t belonged.
But she knew the judge to be wrong. Every day, she itched to return to her old crew, her old haunts, get back into the swing of things. She had no fears that they moved on without her. She took this fall for them, after all. Nevermind that it was her con that started the entire thing, her slip up that almost sentenced them all. When it mattered, she’d pulled through and spent seventy years away as the price.
A blink in the eye, on Exo.
Finally, she reached the end of the barren hallway, the door shimmering as she neared it, vanishing entirely as she slipped through. She ran through all of her nervous ticks, hating that she felt such a weak emotion at all as she neared the check out desk, hating even more that she exhibited all the traditional tells for nerves: sweat, her legs slightly shaking, her right hand periodically running her fingers through her dyed red hair, feeling the smooth stumble where half of her head that was shaved against her fingertips. Her other hand, meanwhile, slipped down her clothes, tight against her body, a refreshing familiar feeling she’d missed. It ended at her waist, where an empty holster reminder her why she didn’t feel fully complete, not yet.
She inhaled sharply once, forcing herself to calm.
Stopping at the desk, she stuck her wrist out.
A bored looking guard flickered her eyes up from a monitor, meeting Eva’s. If this was any other time and any other place, she might have made a move on such a fine blend of features—she’d claim it was because of the upgraded, military augmentation, but truly, she just liked it when noses tweaked up like hers did—but today was no ordinary day.
When the guard didn’t say anything, Eva stuck her wrist further in her face. “You gonna scan me or what?”
Finally moving, she pulled out her equipment and wrapped it around Eva’s wrist, securing the final piece around her middle finger. “Wasn’t expecting any releases today,” she murmured. “What got you killed?”
The needle inserted itself into the top of her finger, in-between her flesh and nail. Eva didn’t flinch, even if it hurt like a bitch, instead watching as a small blood sample slipped through the needle and into the scanner. “Your typical fare. Bullet to the chest.”
The guard nodded. Eva didn’t lie, it was typical, both on Earth and on Exo. She swiveled her chair around and waited for Eva’s records to pop up. “What’d you do?”
“Called someone a pussy.”
Eva watched as her face—the one she wore as Evaline, not ten minutes earlier—populated the screen. “Looking like that?”
The guard actually smiled. “I’ll grab your things.”
Her things ended up being nothing more than her gun, but she didn’t want—or need—anything else. Eva checked the chamber, confirming it was still loaded and slipped it back into the holster hanging from her waist, sighing with obvious pleasure.
Now it was time to go home.
But first, back to the crew.
She sucked the blood off her finger after the guard unplugged her, aware of the guard’s stare as she did so. Eva needed to come back and pay this pretty thing a visit one more time, when she was off duty. “Care to beam me to Frank’s?”
The guard stared at her, before shaking her head.
“What? Look, I know I don’t have any credits, but you can do me this one solid, yeah? I’d rather not walk all the way across town after getting shot.”
She glanced back at her computer screen. “How long were you under for?”
“Seventy years, give or take a few months.” Eva cursed. “If Frank’s closed down—”
“Did they not debrief you in there?” The guard gave her a pitying look, which Eva hated. “Oh, honey. Perhaps you should turn back so—”
“Is this door open?” she asked, her voice iron. No one pitied her and definitely not twice in the span of once sentence.
The guard nodded. “Of course. But—”
“Am I free to go?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Yes, but I don’t think you should—”
“Thanks for the gun,” Eva said. “Don’t bother calling me.”
She turned, striding out of the precinct with renewed purpose. After the comment from the judge and then the oddities with the prison guard, Eva needed to get out of there and back into the world she knew, the life she loved, the place where she truly belonged and was meant to be.
Stepping out of the doors and into the harsh sunlight, Eva stared out into Prime, Exo’s capital, though they usually just called them the Streets.
Yet it wasn’t a world she knew.
“What the fuck?” she whispered.
For the past seventy years, she’d believed to be living her own personal hell, stuck on a planet she hated and in a life she didn’t belong to. Now, back home, being welcomed by broken buildings—half of which were on fire—it appeared she’d just walked into a literal one.
What was she supposed to do now?
Nicole Evans is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. She is currently unpublished and is working fervently to get the “un” removed from that statement. With eight completed drafts in various states of revision under her belt, she has no plans of stopping. And she really can’t wait for you to read these stories.
Considering she has run out of space for putting rejections letters up on her wall, Nicole now uses her spare time doing the typical things that nerds do: blogging, dying repeatedly during video games (which she believes is retribution for the characters she’s killed), wishing she was the character she is currently reading about and trying to fight off the real world by living in her own head, with varying degrees of success. Nicole has a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Film and Media Studies, and works as an evening librarian assistant. You can find her personal blog here. You can read all of her Muses stories here.