2 Poems
by Dan Hoy

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Jane Is There No More Frontier

We were sailing toward Callisto. I was not looking forward
to looking out the window every night or day or whatever
it is out here at some disconcerting giant globe of purply flesh.
Our exile from the main belt was voluntary, but only because
we didn’t want to be sublimated with the rest of the astropolitical
remainders. The interstellar catastrophic incident on Ceres
was due to the aging instability of the thermonuclear reactors
and the fusion economy. Plus I’d had enough of hollowed-out
planetoids and the people who live in them. The last asteroid
lasted long enough for me to get sick of even its escape velocity,
and I hated Lanie even before she fucked up my umbilical
during routine outer hull maintenance. Hitching a ride
on the nearest comet would provide enough ice and organic
compounds and deuterium, tritium, and helium-3 to sustain us
for thousands of millions of years, but we wanted something
with more maneuverability and horsepower. As long as we stuck
to the Interplanetary Transport Network we could make the next
Lagrange point without burning any of the fuel we didn’t have.
The real problem is too many terraformers in a repurposed cargo
vessel and not enough hygiened or at least amicable bodies.
Last thing Rick said to me was “Don’t let the vacuum of space
hit your ass on the way out.” It’s always a good idea to load up
on Extravehicular Mobility Units, just in case. Commandeering
a freighter was really not an issue in this age of awkward transition
from centralized Empiric control to regional ad hoc mob rule. 
We pointed our handheld tactical nukes at our own heads and
asked them to ask themselves if we looked like we gave a shit.
Back in the days of the Artemis project my grandfathers’s
grandmother patented the ram accelerator technology used in
modern scram cannons, like the one I used to obliterate that traitor
Rick and his band of benedicts into a gazillion insignificant
micrometeoroids. He left me stranded on 4 Vesta to die,
which I did, until Dakota jump-started my back-up carbon
nanomotor and nursed me back to health with her own aqueous
androidal life force. I have never loved another human being,
not really. I knew Ceres was a bad place to be the moment
we crashed into it. These days revolution and terrorism and
manufactured air go hand in hand in hand. Later my grandfather
squandered the family fortune on a series of ill-advised
investments in oddly squarish liquid-cooling dome helmets.
I remember watching the fiery Apocalypse from the non-comfort
of my aunt’s run-down Martian shack in Nix Olympica during
the last real-time telecast from Earth, ever. I was four. I was
horrified. I only responded to Addison’s overtures after I found out
s/he was Rick’s sometimes courtesan. This was after I scrammed
Rick into oblivion. The Jovian system was too radioactive for serious
helium-3 mining so Callisto was just a place to rest and re-supply
before swinging by Jupiter for a gravitational boost
on our way to the outer, less irritable gas giants. We were looking
to whore and be whored. Lanie had nothing to do with Rick
but I threw her out the airlock anyway. The ideal everyone aspired to
was the ruining of a native landscape in the name of a brand
new Earth, but in the meantime we settled on pushing ourselves
further and further away from the point of origin. Jupiter was really
the most disturbing thing I could think of. That anticyclonic red storm
wandering its face forever haunted my dreams like a sentient, gaping
wound. Every night I clutched Dakota close as she monitored
my endocrine system and the space debris drifting aimlessly outside.
Protocol was to hibernate rather than think about what lay ahead
and waste all our food, but nobody trusted anybody after watching
Lanie float away into the Void. Waiting until she was strapped
into the EMU was an improvised ironic gesture on my part. After that
the rest of the crew left me out of their inside jokes. Addison
had it in for Dakota but Dakota could hold her own, just like she did
against the last unhinged enemy sex proxy. Granted Addison
was the most cybernetically savvy hermaphrodite I’d ever met
but Dakota was gendered and not human. Rick owed powerful entities
money and now those powers were looking to me to assume his debts—
as if his annihilation wasn’t a payment of sorts, or I wasn’t the one
with an unlicensed scram cannon and a killer V7 droid
with a gaze that literally and figuratively looks right through you.
Once we hit Callisto there was no going back. After that our reference
point would be the patron deity of the Roman state, now reincarnated
as a spherical blob floating in space like an unborn mutant fetus with one
demon eye. Jupiter. Failed star of the horrifying heavens. The thought
of it made my colon twitch. How long would we have to subsist
in its shadow before slingshotting past it on our way to blacker pastures?
Dakota calculated 113.8 TCB days. Plenty of time to insinuate
ourselves into the local hierarchies and inadvertently set off Armageddon
like we did on Ceres. The dwarf planet was the best time I’d had since
the day before that final Terrestrial telecast so long ago. I remember
the red skies of Mars, the smell of iron oxide in the morning.
The taste of regurgitated corn cakes and the sight of my aunt lying
in a pool of her own bloody vomit after the Void leaked in
through the cracks in the atmospheric dome and made everybody sick,
permanently. My body had no choice but to plug into Dakota
for negative feedback therapy every night after rolling over and
pushing aside Rick’s widowed courtesan like a plate of dry rations.
Addison would have to be jettisoned soon enough. It was only
a matter of time before I got tired of waiting for hir passive
aggressive carnal play to accelerate into suicidal sabotage. We had one
EMU left, and that was for me. If I couldn’t take Jupiter in the flesh.
Dakota listened for unfriendly curvatures in space as I trembled along
with the hijacked freighter, its hull vibrating from the low energy transfer
of one of the many predetermined, circuitous pathways of the ITN.

 

 

 

The End of the Line of Apsides

Our leaving Callisto was one of those unnecessarily protracted events
unfolding under the guise of a series of interlinking non-events.
First we filched a thermonuclear interstellar spacecraft by accident
but after several strategic if tactless technocarnal transactions
were able to downgrade to an atomic interplanetary juggernaut
(rechristened ‘Loggerhead’ along the carapace) by swapping
its sparkling new fusion Orion drive for some jerry-rigged fission
pulse units w/ a top cruise velocity under 5% the speed of light.
Though we pushed it to eight to make it out of the Jovian system
alive. Dakota’s chrome shoulders were still steaming from the fat
explosion of blood and guts whose previous incarnation was Addison
the courtesan-turned-turncoat. But s/he was just tracing the line
of hir former form-of-life so it was more return than turn. Heightening
of power then loss of consistency. Splattered by Pratt’s trusty V7 droid
named after a State in a state of forever civil war and a tribe of pre-
subjugated peoples subsisting on the buffalo. Both extinct,
along w/ Earth (long before it). So Pratt had just encountered
his very first real life xenomorph of non-Earth origin and naturally
sped back to the ship terrified beyond rational thought and here
was some spiteful hermaphroditic ex-hubby w/ a bone to pick
in the shape of a sonic handcannon. But that was nothing
compared to the relativistic kill vehicle approaching Callisto’s
local coordinates with a purpose beyond vengeance. Addison’s jealousy
knew no fear but neither did Dakota’s nuts and bolts. One second
and a twist of the wrist and the personal vendetta standing in the way
of us and escape from eminent global annihilation was obliterated
by a concentrated sonic blast at a range of 10 cm. Maybe less.
The first time I met Pratt he was slumped in a corner in a dive
on the northern tip of Asgard (Callisto) with a pair of consciously
retrograde legs (made of a sleek, lustrous, shape memory alloy)
draped over his. Dakota was hot as shit. I was marooned on
Jupiter’s moon and looking for work and ran into one his crew
at the bar bragging about their hand in the fall of Ceres and subsequent
flight across the solar system. An entire planetoid in ruins
and here under the blacklights was the man who orchestrated it all
because his breakfast disagreed with him. Or rather agreed w/ him
one too many times. We hit it off instantly after I spotted a local
bounty hunter zeroing in on Pratt’s locus of leisure and broke
her entire body in half w/ a bar stool before any bounty could even
be imagined. The women of the upper atmosphere of Venus
were known for not fucking around. Even those born there and
immediately deported to Mars, as I was, later shopped around
the main belt and its assortment of morally vacant robber barons.
Running guns and kids. It never occurred to me that I could destroy
my former masters in a spectacle of archetypal proportions
and with more poetic justice than even Catullus could imagine
until I heard about Pratt’s off-hand overturning of the fucks
running things on Ceres. The attraction was due to the mutual respect,
which was in turn due to the understanding and relation. ‘Relations’
came later, under the inhuman watchful eye of Dakota, plugged
into Pratt in his sleep so he could wake up in the morning without feeling
zombified or what the over-literate among us call a death-in-life.
Pratt the man of action and the man with the plan. The controlled
damaged look in his eyes, the ungainly grace of his reconstituted
stride. His scarred abdomen and arms like wires. The steel
at the center of his being. The carbon nanotubes pumping
the fear of God in and out of his veins. What happened on Callisto
was not our fault. Neither was what then happened to Callisto.
We never saw the relativistic kill vehicle break the outer air space
of Jupiter’s favorite moon. Didn’t hear the hush overtake
an entire surface of traders and terraformers and former citizens
of the former Aphelionic Empire as they dropped their heads
in acquiescence to The End. The kind of End the priests and scientists
and everybody else knew deep down was on its way and
here we were riding the crest of the blast wave tearing the Universe
a new asshole, the very beginning of the very End as it was
communicated to Pratt in cryptic specificity by the xenomorph
who singled him out as the bearer of this unbelievably bad news.
Pratt, who knew something else he wouldn’t tell us as he leveraged
the torque of this secret to keep us alive and push us toward
the Trojan asteroids harboring the self-exiled Gnomes and their
fabled post-Orion matter-antimatter engines, since even if
we never piecemealed off that fusion drive it still would’ve taken us
forty some-odd years to reach Proxima Centauri and we needed
to hit Sirius B, like, now, more than one and a half parsecs
past the popular P.C. and roughly the same diameter as Earth
(R.I.P.). The Gnomes claimed a velocity of 50-80% the speed of light
w/out ripping our bodies apart. I didn’t understand the import
of Sirius B but heard Pratt mumble something about a vacuum
metastability event and felt the twitch in his innards resting my head
on his stomach that night, not dead, curled around each other
and Dakota. Not even the monks of Astraea had been the same
since the genius of the prince of Pons Fuhgit discovered we were all living
in a false vacuum. That the use of ‘living’ was now forever tinged
with a nascent form of irony. Pratt also kept to himself whether or not
the xenomorph was in any way anthropomorphic. Also the make
and model of the relativistic kill vehicle that took out Callisto, if it even
was a make and model. All any of us knew was that he had an encounter
that changed everything. And that I didn’t know if Pratt was now trying
to save us or the Universe or both or neither. Just that the Universe
knew no obstacle that could impede his forward momentum and I had
no reason to disengage myself from it. Take the self-piloted Man O’ War
(apparently caught in our wake from Callisto) attempting to cripple us
with its electrotoxin nematocannon. Except Pratt had already positioned
the Loggerhead so that its reinforced carapace would absorb the blast
and even then I could tell by the angle and velocity he was planning
on ramming the Man O’ War anyway, rupturing its central bladder
and crushing its polyptic operating system without flinching or
looking back. I’d have done the same thing if I’d known what he knew,
but I could only guess: nothing was making it out of this existence
alive. There was only what was true and what was believed and acting
accordingly. Pratt bearing down on the binary star system rumored
to be hiding a third, tiny, unseen and unnamed star. Dakota glistening
in the starlight bending around Jupiter onto Callisto, indifferent
to the remains of Addison spattered across her thighs. Addison remaining
faithful to hir stupid fidelity to the very end. Or the very beginning
of the very End. The rest of the crew aware and unconcerned w/
this race against the inevitable we were, for the last time, going to lose.
The souls of the inhabitants of Callisto incinerated along w/ their
bowed heads and bodies. My first few breaths in the upper atmosphere
of Venus, the whips and chains and powdered abuse of the brothels
on Mars I would some day return to for some Prattian-scale payback,
if us hitting Sirius B could somehow reverse the voidish tear rippling
through the Universe. As if the Multiverse I’d heard about as a whorechild
was an unraveling thread of a fairytale that could be sewn back together.
So I could carry on w/ carrying out my own unfinished business, subsisting
on the tension of it remaining forever not finished, the manifestation
of nothing behind us and gaining, the mythic dogstar in the distance,
the Loggerhead plowing through space and the space in between
and the secret Pratt deflected from the rest of us, pushing us forward.