Fandom: Jupiter Ascending
Summary: If the choice is fly or fall, you spread your wings.
Disclaimer: The characters and situations in this story belong to the Wachowskis, Dune Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any. The opinions expressed by characters in this story may or may not be those of the author.
Still haven't got as far as the end of the film. *shrug*
Many thanks to Cincoflex for holding my hand and telling me I done good. Also, especial thanks to A.J., who advised me on Chicago and its environs. She's done a comprehensive guide to Chicago for the fic writer, too!
Production notes on some chapters can be found on my LiveJournal.
It was sunset, and from the way the house was lit up, Jupiter knew that the entire family was home. She'd kind of expected that, she'd been gone long enough that everyone would be worried about her, but it would make for a whole lot of drama.
At this point, I don’t really care.
She glanced over at Captain Tsing. With her uniform tunic missing, the captain's outfit was close enough to Earth business attire to pass, and she'd done something--Jupiter had missed exactly what--that made her facial implants disappear, or at least seem to. Two other Aegis officers in similar mufti were already taking up stations along the front walk.
"Are you ready for this?" Jupiter asked as they climbed the steps. "It's gonna be noisy."
Captain Tsing smiled a little. "In my experience, your Majesty, many sins can be forgiven by the fact of coming home alive."
"It's not my sins I'm worried about," Jupiter muttered, and unlocked the door. She could hear the raised voices already.
Everyone was gathered around the dining-room table, some of them on their feet and most of them shouting. In the three seconds it took them to notice her, Jupiter made out several different arguments concerning her disappearance, the "gas leak" that had made them all lose consciousness the day before (and bless the Aegis for coming up with that explanation), whether the house was safe to stay in, and whether they'd been rescued by angels or if that was purely Lyudmila's imagination.
Home. She felt the smile spreading and didn’t try to keep it back.
Then Nino saw her at the door, and the shouting really began.
Captain Tsing had courage under fire; she didn't retreat as the family descended on them. Aleksa reached them first, and Jupiter’s throat swelled as she returned her mother's hard embrace. "My baby, my baby, where have you been?" Aleksa exclaimed, and Jupiter didn't even try to answer; she just hung on tight, the memory of hovering knives and needles still too close and fresh.
Everyone was talking at once, crowding around them, babbling in joy and outrage, and Vassily was trying to shout them all down without success. Jupiter glanced back at Captain Tsing and saw her straighten her shoulders, and then a sharp whistle cut through the noise.
Silence fell, heads swiveled. Captain Tsing nodded formally. "Good evening, everyone."
Vassily bulled to the front. “Who are you?” he demanded.
Tsing gave him a formal nod. “My name is Captain Diomika Tsing. I’m here to escort Miss Jones back to her home.”
Jupiter turned in the circle of her mother’s arms, swiping quickly at her face. “Cousin, she’s with the police.” Which was...true, for a certain expanded definition of police.
This produced another explosion of shouting. Captain Tsing rode it out, then continued. “Miss Jones witnessed a shooting and we had to take her into protective custody. Unfortunately we were unable to allow her to contact you until the situation was under control.”
Which was also true. More or less.
Jupiter was snatched from Aleksa’s arms by Nino, who was muttering about curses. Vassily calmed a little. “She’s not under arrest?”
“No sir. She never was,” Captain Tsing said patiently. Jupiter had coached her ahead of time, and she was a good actor. “The situation has been resolved. Miss Jones may need to testify at some point in the future, but that hasn’t been determined.”
Which it wouldn’t, of course, but-- “Please don’t press her about her experience,” Tsing added firmly. “She’s been requested not to speak of it.”
Like that’ll last. But it would give her an excuse.
It took a lot more talk, many more hugs, and some suspicion, but eventually things settled down. Captain Tsing was showered with thanks and hustled out, and Jupiter was put promptly to bed with tea. It took almost an hour before various family members stopped tiptoeing down the stairs to make sure she was all right.
It felt like a dream down there in the dark, and Jupiter curled under her comforter, alternately covering and revealing the sigil on her wrist. With it hidden, she could almost believe in that story, that the wild terror and frustration and confusion and moments of brilliant joy had all been a dream.
When it shone softly in her pocket of darkness, she seemed to see a thousand tiny planets orbiting outside those rings of light, little sparks of life that she had to protect. She still heard Titus' smooth voice and Balem's scream of rage.
And she felt Caine's arms around her, his grip on her wrist (not letting her go, never letting her fall), the last kiss--hard and a little desperate--before parting.
She hastily pulled down her sleeve and flipped back the comforter's edge. "Mama."
Her mother, rangy and tough and alive. Jupiter bit back a surge of tears as Aleksa sat down on the edge of the bed and smoothed back her daughter's hair. "Are you all right, my baby?” she asked quietly.
Slowly, Jupiter shook her head, and her mother gathered her into her lap while she cried, rocking her and singing soft old lullabies.
She stayed in bed for a day--there was a certain novelty in being waited on hand and foot by family--but by midmorning on the second day she was climbing the stairs to make her own tea and try not to trip over Vladie’s Roomba.
It was nice to have time to herself to surf the Internet, paint her toenails, read--all the things that usually fell by the wayside--and while Jupiter knew she would soon have to bully her way back to work, she was willing to take the breather for a little while. The cramped space, the little rituals and spats and caresses--they were all newly significant. None of her family remembered what had happened, but Jupiter woke every night from dreams where she just couldn’t get through that fucking light-up floor, and Dragon-guy fed her family to Balem’s refinery one by one by one...
Lost sleep or not, by the end of the week she was ready to climb the walls. Not having Skyjacker boots to do it with, she settled for telling her guardians she was going for a walk. It worked, she judged, mostly because her guardians were Vladie and their grandmother--everyone else was out.
Chicago was itself--noisy, somewhat grimy, and wonderfully undamaged by space guns, explosions, flying lobster ships, or anything else that wasn't strictly Earth in origin. It did feel a little odd to be wandering around it by herself, but Jupiter figured it was not so much disorientation from her adventures as the fact that she usually spent all day cleaning houses. Being out in the open air, with nothing to do...now that was weird.
She visited her favorite bakery--raisin vatrushkas for the win--and sat on a park bench to eat, finding herself staring idly at the small bit of the Sears Tower she could see from her vantage point.
Not the falling and the firefight and all the stuff-that-came-next; those she tucked carefully away to look at later, when she felt a little less bruised and shaky. Instead she revisited waking up in a dusty, unfinished room, dry-mouthed and blurry, and seeing across the room only a hulking figure, unknown and dangerous.
He probably knew the second I opened my eyes. Jupiter felt a smile curl the corner of her mouth. Her memory of the clinic attack was fragmented, flashes of terror and distress, and she remembered Caine’s voice there more than his face; but waking with her clothes on and a gun within reach--
He’d been kind. She hadn’t really realized it at the time. So sue me, I was in shock.
But before he knew she was the heir to a galactic title and an unbelievable fortune, before she was anything but...but cattle--he’d left the gun near her head and told her how to take off the safety. He'd injected her with a translator implant, albeit while she was still out. He’d been patient with her semi-panic, her smart mouth; he’d made sure she wouldn’t wake half-naked and vulnerable. He’d explained things.
Up is hard. Down is easy.
The laugh that bubbled out of her was more than half tears, and Jupiter smothered the sob in her palm before wiping fiercely at her eyes.
“Get a grip, your Majesty,” she muttered.
She didn’t know where he was.
They hadn’t really had time to talk. First he was in sickbay, then she was passed out, and when they woke her the ship was already docked with a Legion transport and Caine and Stinger had to report for reinstatement. There was only time to claim one more kiss and peel her hands from his shoulders, and to run away before she broke and asked him to give it all up and stay with her.
Because let’s face it. This...thing...it’s all so fast, and insane, and even if he does keep rescuing me he’s got a whole life to get back to out there. He’s getting his wings back, and his commission. He’ll have Stinger too. And I bet there’s no way this Legion is going to let a tracking-genius Skyjacker off to come sit around on a “tercie” planet.
She shoved away the memory of his stricken eyes as she’d left him. If she went back out there, up and out of the fragile shell of Earth--and someday she’d have to--she might even see him one day.
She tried to picture it, a squad of winged soldiers all tall and fierce, but their faces wouldn’t come clear and they were all too far away.
It was tough to cry in public. Jupiter kept it as quiet as she could, hoping that no one stopped to ask what was wrong, because it would be deeply embarrassing to explain that she was missing the half-wolf space soldier who’d saved her from dying and kissed her like she was his key to heaven. But no one came near, and she blew her nose with a napkin from the bakery and wondered bleakly what to do next.
Caine and Stinger were gone, and Jupiter had no idea how to find Kiza. She had a little device--complicated enough to make her wonder what Apple could do with galactic tech--that could contact the Aegis cruiser in orbit overhead, but she knew if she contacted them they’d just be all “What can we do for you, your Majesty” and she didn’t know. She had no one to help her, and no idea where to begin. And for the first time in her life, she had a secret she couldn’t share with family.
A whole world full of people, and I’m totally alone.
The sun was edging down the sky before she found the energy to move. Jupiter reached for the bakery bag, and--
What the hell?
There was a box next to her on the bench. It was pretty big, about the size of a carry-on bag, and it definitely hadn’t been there when she sat down. And her bench sat against the park wall and some bushes; there was no way someone could have come up behind and dropped it off.
What. The. Hell.
Jupiter squinted at it. It looked perfectly ordinary, cardboard and squarish, with the corners folded under rather than taped, and if it had some kind of secret materialization circuit it didn’t show on the outside. But as she leaned forward to look at the other side, she spotted a symbol etched into the paper, as if someone really anal had punched it in with a sewing needle.
It was a copy of the sigil on her wrist.
Crap. I bet it was those Keeper things. Jupiter’s stomach lurched, and she couldn’t help a nervous sweep of her arm through the air in front of her, in case one of the creepy little aliens was still around. But she hit nothing, and there didn’t seem to be any odd gaps in her memory of the day. Maybe they’re just that sneaky.
Gingerly, Jupiter unfolded the top, wondering why Keepers were leaving her boxes. Was it another baffling piece of equipment? One of those ridiculous dresses? Balem’s head in a bag?
It was a pair of boots.
Jupiter stared at them, astonished. They weren’t just any boots; they were Skyjacker boots, she could see the control wristband poking out of the top of the left one, and judging from the tiny scratches here and there on both, they were used.
They’re Caine’s. She knew it; who else would send her something like this?
She choked a little, and smiled, eyes stinging. Of course he didn’t need them any more; he was getting his wings back.
Jupiter wondered suddenly exactly what a Skyjacker looked like with wings. Angelic? Or more like a bird or a bat or those dragon-people? It seemed like for Splices, anything went…
She lifted out the right one. It was lighter than it looked, and as she turned it over to look at the sole, something fell into her lap.
Blinking, Jupiter set down the boot and fished up the object. It turned out to be the smallest sheave she’d seen yet, about the size of her palm, and it took a little squeezing to get the button to work. Fortunately the translator was set on English and she didn’t have to struggle with the scroll; the tiny script hung in a net of light above the sheave’s surface, almost illegible until she figured out how to enlarge it.
Caine said you should have these, it read. I’d practice if I were you!
The sigil that signed it wasn’t something she’d seen before--it was much blockier than her own, for instance--but part of it was familiar; she’d seen it on the side of Stinger’s neck.
Jupiter said something very rude in Russian, hugged the boot, and started to laugh.
“How’s she doing?” The commlink was an excellent one, with no static, but Stinger expected no less from Legion equipment.
Captain Tsing’s face was as grave as usual; the lift of her brow bespoke some concern. “Integrating back into her old life.”
“But?” Stinger knew that hesitation.
“She seems...despondent.” Tsing grimaced a little, cheek implant flashing back a gleam of light.
Stinger shrugged, belying his own concern. “It’s a lot to assimilate. She probably just needs time.”
“Yes, but how long?” Tsing’s mouth tightened. “Whether she wants to acknowledge them or not, she has duties. The longer she waits, the more difficult things will be.”
“I know.” Stinger heaved a sigh. “Look, it’s only been a week. When the Legion guard arrives she’ll need an introduction, and that may stir her up.”
“True. We’ll continue the monitoring, though with the Z-class in orbit at least there’ll be no outside attempts on her life.”
“Better not,” Stinger growled, incensed at the idea. Funny how the little thing had gotten under his skin; he’d never expected to actually like a royal. Perhaps it’s because she’s not a snot like the rest of ‘em.
Tsing nodded. “How’s your daughter?” she asked, softer.
Stinger ducked his head in shame, mixed with incredible relief. “She’s well.” He couldn’t stop the smile. “She’s well.”
Tsing’s return smile was reluctant, but there. “He was right, you know,” she said enigmatically, and signed off.
Stinger sighed again, and--for the hundredth time--pulled out the medical sheave to reread the report.
He hated this part. It didn’t matter how sympathetic the medics were, it was still deeply unnerving to give up control and consciousness to people and machines he couldn’t see and didn’t trust.
But Caine was a Legionnaire again, and he didn’t have a choice.
“Roll over, please, Mr. Wise.” The medical android touched his bare shoulder with one artificial finger. Caine obeyed, rotating on the narrow pallet until his spine was uppermost. The scars on his back itched and ached with the memory of pain. “Yes, that’s good.”
There were footsteps all around him, and acrid medical scents that made him want to sneeze. The pallet was fitted with a chin rest so his head wouldn’t dangle, but it didn’t fit his jaw and poked uncomfortably.
“Please relax,” the android said calmly. “The scan will only take a moment.”
Hums, murmurs, the whine of machinery probably only audible to him. He felt goosebumps prickle up all along his skin; the room was chilly. Easy, he told himself. This is the first step to returning.
Back to the Skyjackers and his wings, back to a measure of respect, back to that sunny little planet.
Back to its Queen.
“We’re ready for the anesthesia,” someone said, and a hand brought the inhaler mask to his nose. He wanted to snarl and shove it away, but instead he pressed his face into it and breathed deeply.
The gas chilled his throat and made his tongue go numb. He closed his eyes and remembered rising up through the transport beam with Jupiter in his arms, her nervous laugh and her scent compelling him to turn his head and just breathe her in...breathe and breathe...
In his dream, they kept rising forever.
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10
Chapter 11 Chapter 12