Jumpsuits in SPACE

So, remember how I said I wanted to write a sci-fi story for this jumpsuit?

Here’s the first 993 words. 

When he came out of jump the colors were still ringing in his head, so clear and vivid that he thought he could sing them. His tongue was sluggish and swollen, but for a bare moment of waking he could still taste color on his lips, feel scent on his skin. Red called like trumpets. He reached out after it, and his hand snagged up short on the plastic restraints bolted into the wall by his bed. Red sang once more, fading, and was gone.  

He groaned. The flavor of violet and cerulean had curdled into a foul, sour taste that left a gritty film on his teeth. He could smell sweat again, not sound: his own unwashed body, crammed in close with too many others. Someone nearby was making a thin, reedy keening sound. At least it wasn’t him this time.

It took him a moment to sort his fingers out, to remember what belonged to his body and what was merely the lingering jumpdream; he still misplaced his thumb twice before he managed to reach across his body and fumble with the plastic cuff around his other wrist.   The lock was stiff. Jumpdream heard it sniggering at him, until his fingers remembered how to work together and press down on the catch. His wrist was sore. He rubbed it, gingerly, and sat up.

Around him men were beginning to move. They were bunked three in a tier and six tiers to a side, with only a few centimeters’ gap between one’s head and another’s feet and barely a meter and a half for the passageway between. A few men dropped heavily from their bunks, panting, to take advantage of the empty passageway while they still could. Others stretched, or swore thick-voiced and slurring at their restraints. Someone in the tier below retched and leaned over the edge of his bunk to vomit, spattering the plastic matting and the bare feet of a man too jump-drugged to evade. Half the room broke into laughter or curses, while the dark head hung, miserable, over the edge.

New conscript, probably. First jump. All of the men here remembered their own first jumps—and others, more recent; few of them hadn’t woken sick from the jumpdream at one time or another. That did not make them more disposed to be kind. They mocked the sick boy; they mocked the slimed man; they swore at the mess and the smell and the weakness of boys whose hair hadn’t even grown out yet from the conscript’s close shave. The slimed man, still half-dazed but growing angry, grabbed the collar of the boy’s jumpsuit and tried to haul him out of the bunk. Jump-stiffened muscles weren’t yet up to the weight. He slipped, and they both fell to the deck in a tangle of limbs and curses. 

"Gonna help him?" 

The voice came from above. A dark-skinned, broad-boned face, peering down; tight-curling dark hair cropped short as a conscript’s, though he’d been assigned to that bunk for more than six jumps. Gahtin, the jump-fogged brain supplied at last. Sanfi Gahtin. They were friends. 

"Help who?"

Gahtin snorted, and flicked his eyes down to the growling tangle on the matting. “Second System boy, looks like. One of yours, ain’t he?”

"Hadn’t noticed." He looked down again. The dark hair was too short to tell, but it looked thick and coarse enough, certainly not curly. The face was currently being rubbed into the mess on the matting. Skin indeterminate-pale, body slender, almost slight. Impossible to tell whether he was Shaktoun or Hansi or Banber; he might even be mixed blood, any or all. 

There were few enough Hansi aboard. Even a mixed-blood was better than nothing.

He sighed, and dropped out of his bunk, and waded in. 

Jumpdream was fading for all of them, but a little of its mind-fogging haze still lingered. The slimed man flailed, and tried to fight, when he pulled them apart; a fist grazed his cheekbone, might have blacked his eye if he hadn’t tipped his head. There was power behind that blow, beginning to return. The man was three centimeters taller and ten kilos heavier, but his hair was shaved-short too. Power, but no skill. The next blow went wide, and then a heel to the pit of his belly sent him crashing back into the next tier. He doubled over, retching in turn. The men above and around him jeered. 

The boy on the matting lay still, head tucked down, fists tucked up against his ears. He did not lift his face from the reeking mess. One lesson learned, if not the right one. 

"Get up." 

The boy didn’t move.

He worked his jaw, impatient, and prodded at the boy’s ribs with his toe. “Get up. Everybody pukes. Wouldn’t be jump if somebody didn’t wake up sick. He’ll learn, too. If he lives that long.” He scraped his tongue around the furry rim of his teeth, grimaced, and spat. “Not your concern now. Get up and clean up.”

Slowly the boy turned his head. One of his eyes was bruised, already swelling, but Gahtin was right; he was Hansi, full-blooded, or close enough to it that he’d inherited the sharp-fold eyes and high, flat cheekbones. His lips were cracked and bloody. He touched the back of his wrist to his mouth, smearing blood and slime, and stared at it. Then he rolled painfully to his side. 

"Give it up, Junsu," someone called from the tier above. "Boy’s had the sense knocked out of him."

"Assuming he had any to begin with," another man said in disgust. "The hell kind of conscripts are they sending us these days?"

"Same kind you were," he said, distractedly. Junsu. That was right. Sometimes it took longer to remember, when the sound of red sang on his tongue, but he had it now. He was Junsu, and this was the Seven Systems jumpship Hazard, and they were at war.

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