This Shoal of Space:
Zoë Calla & the Dark Starship
(World's First E-BookPublished On the Web in 1996 For Digital Download)
a Dark SF novel originally titled Heartbreaker
by John Argo
Part I-Chapter 2
Part II-Chapter 66
"Are you guys sick?" ZoŽ asked over breakfast.
Elisa shook her head.
Max shook his head.
Rudy shook his head.
"This is a first," Roger said as he joined them with his own plate. "Usually they wolf down everything in sight."
"I think we're all getting the flu," Elisa said dejectedly. Her glance flickered toward Max, who glanced up briefly, and What secret were they sharing? Something was going on.
"Do you feel that you need to stay in bed?" Roger asked. "This on a Saturday morning?"
"The boys could lie in the living room and watch cartoons," Elisa said.
"And you?" Roger asked.
"I have a very important project to do on my computer," Elisa said with gleaming eyes. ZoŽ felt a tingle up and down her back. Computer?
The kids ended up going out on the rear lawn to wash the dogs. ZoŽ checked out Roger's computer system but found nothing wrong.
"What are you doing?" he asked, carrying a coffee mug and the paper.
"Nothing," she said, joining him in the living room. She turned on the expensive German clock radio just softly enough that she could barely hear it. The sound had that comforting, calm sound of a baseball game in a far room on a lazy summer day. KCST anchor Chuck Elder was just reading the ten a.m. news: "...Seismologists at UCST have counted over a hundred small aftershocks after the temblors that have rocked San Tomas and indeed this part of California in the past few days. City inspectors are combing public buildings for cracks, but no significant threats have been unveiled, thanks to California's history of strong quake-proofing laws. Coast Guard officials have confirmed that there is a huge iceberg off the coast of San Tomas, only this ice berg is not made of ice, it's made of, you guessed it, White Stuff. Coast Guard and Marine Fishery boats are on their way to the area. Reports say that a solid block of White Stuff is floating or anchored in the water, rising as high as fifty feet in some spots; the depth of the phenomenon is not known yet. An unmanned camera-bearing submarine called the Underwater Photo Reconnaissance Submersible Robot, or U-Pho, is being airlifted from Scripps Laboratories in San Diego. U-Pho, you may remember, has filmed such sea wrecks as the Titanic, the Lusitania, and a lost Russian space capsule. Scientists at UC San Tomas's Burtongale Biology Laboratories have announced some preliminary conclusions about the mysterious White Stuff that has been plaguing this seaside resort for over a week now. Professor Vernon LeGrier, speaking with KCST's Angela Moorehead, had this to say: '...um, the so-called White Stuff appears to be a rather simple set of compounds. It has a light, papery quality, but it's fire resistant. It's got a crystalline composition in parts, which leads us to believe that it is actually manufactured somehow like common sand and then blown or stretched or threaded by some unknown process into this papery glassy plastic. It's not foamed plastic either. The most surprising thing is that it's not uniform. In some parts of town it contains large amounts of cellulose, which is the stuff of which tree trunks and plants are made. In other places there is hardly a trace of cellulose. It appears to me that someone, something, some force buried in the earth or hidden in the sea is manufacturing this stuff in different places and just simply using whatever materials are at hand..."
ZoŽ nuzzled comfortably, back against Roger's strong, warm body, and fell fast asleep. She dreamt an innocent childhood dream about Daddy. How she had loved him! How she would run down the garden path to the gate when he was getting out of his car after a long business trip! What a beautiful dream.
Then dogs licked her face, kids jumped on the bed, disrupting her dream. Roger chased them all out, and ZoŽ fell into a deep much-needed dreamless sleep.
The Herald came out in the morning with a huge black border on the first page. The headline, in thick black letters, cried out: HEIRESS DEEDS MANSE TO NUNS. The accompanying story was written by Jules. Smaller headlines on the page read:
POLICE WRAP MURDER SERIES. ZoŽ had written this one, using a lengthy interview with Vic Lara. She kept it straight, mentioning Satanism but glossing over the last moments with Gilbert; who would believe it? She left off with Vic's shooting of Gilbert, and Vic's theory that Gilbert had been responsible for a lot of the killings around San Tomas.
BISHOP MUM ON EXORCISMS. Jules had written this one. Bishop Mulcahy said he might make a statement after a 'reasonable period of sober reflection and prayer' and after consulting with the Vatican.
FEDS VOW CONTINUED QUAKE AID, SNOW PROBE. This one, written by ZoŽ, had quotes from Dr. Stanislaus as well as Drs. Black and White. Vernon LeGrier had promised an interview.
POLLY BURTONGALE, 88, HEIRESS, TOWN BENEFACTOR. This was Spike's piece, with a jump to the obit page after a few opening grafs at upper right of the first page.
Jules declared from his office door: "This paper is out of the dock and running on the open sea for the first time ever."
Privately, when ZoŽ showed him her first two pages, which he liked, he told her: "I've already had two calls from major newspaper chains that might be interested in buying the Herald. I had to beg off, of course, saying Martina Strather was appointed executrix and we'll have to see how the whole thing shakes out of Probate. If ever, given all that the Burtongales own."
About mid-morning, ten twenty to be exact, ZoŽ had a call from St. Andrew's. Sister Sincere's voice was low and direct. "Miss Calla, I don't want to scare you now, and I think everything will be okay, but I must tell you that Max took a fall just now."
"Oh?" She sat bolt upright. "How is he?"
"He is going to be taken to the hospital. His leg may be broken."
"I'll be right there," she said dropping the phone.
Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.