Herk Meets Jemini Starr

Here’s an excerpt from 20 Million Billion Leagues Past Detroit, wherein Herk Delacroix meets Jemini Starr for the first time.

Herk Delacroix

Five minutes later, Herk reached the door of his penthouse, apartment B-113 South, the number representing that he lived in the second of two towers on the south face of the 113th floor. One day soon, after he paid for his new, permanent, probably unlucky heart, he would move to the North face and awaken to the sight of sailing vessels every day. Herk set down one coffee and placed his left palm on the door. It glowed red to validate him and clicked open. Something felt wrong. He slid his four bags from his shoulder, set the other cup down, and pulled his stun pistol from his shoulder holster.

Quietly, softly, he swung the door open. There was a small glimmer of red light coming from a console on the far-left wall. The bank of windows that fronted his living room was exposed with the curtains wide open. A faint drone of music came from the right side of the dark room. It was jazz—Miles Davis, in fact, Bitches Brew to be precise. He hated that album. Miles had been on something when he cut that vinyl noise ring. Barely visible over the rounded arm of his nine-foot-long, enormously wide sofa, were two pretty, delicate, padded purple feet wiggling to Miles’s untempoed beat. They reminded him of a cat’s feet.

“You want to put that thing away before you hurt somebody with it?” said a female voice.

Whose voice is that? he asked Becky.

“Unknown intruder,” she answered aloud.

“This again,” said the woman. She sat up, the light above her switched on, and Herk was face-to-face with a lovely young woman with fuzzy purple skin, curly blonde hair, pointy ears, and the cutest little tail he’d ever seen. “My name’s Jemini Starr,” she said, “and you are in all kinds of trouble, mister.” She raised a glass to him, one of his glasses, filled with what he recognized as his best 1960s-era American Scotch. “Nice whiskey, by the way,” she said.

Jemini Starr

“Oh, do help yourself,” Herk replied. He slipped his gun back in its holster.

“I did. You’re almost out, sorry.”

“It’s okay, I brought more with me.”

She raised her glass, said, “Cheers,” and downed the rest. She stood, swayed a bit, held her head, and sat back down. “Ooh, I think I may have overdone it a little.”

Herk walked back to his door, brought in his bags, and picked up the two cups of still-hot coffee. He sipped one and approached Starr. “You’re gonna need this,” he said. “That whiskey is a lot stronger than Cetusian whisky.” He handed her the coffee, smiling. “Hope you like tall blacks.”

“You flirting with me, big guy?”

He gave her a confused look. The woman was weird, even if she was cute. Before he could ask her who she was and why she’d broken into his apartment, much less how she’d beaten his unbeatable security system, she took a sip of the coffee, opened her bag and pressed a device he couldn’t quite make out. The windowed wall at the south face of the room disappeared and a portal appeared opening to what looked like a beach house. It was vaguely familiar.

“Julip Seven?” he asked.

“Yep, that’s home, she said. “You wanna clean up or something before we head out?”

“Am I going someplace?”

She pointed to her house. “There. I have someone I want you to meet.”

“And if I choose not to come with you?”

She showed him her gun. It was much, much bigger than his. “Then I shoot you, dispose of the body, and no one ever sees you again.”

“Give me five minutes and I’ll be right with you,” he said.

“Take your time. You’re not really in that much trouble. I was just being dramatic.”

Herk gulped down the rest of his coffee and said, “It worked. You almost made me piss myself.” He set down his cup and went to pee. When he was done, he thought of pulling out his backup weapon in his medicine cupboard but thought better of it. Let’s see where this is leading. She might be worth a laugh or two.