Miss Universe on Judgment Day

Disclaimers: Cowboy Bebop does not belong to me.

Warnings: Death, ghosts. Inspired by K. Link's short story.

Summary: This is what happens when you're alone and wandering around: Death is staring Faye in the face, nude and pasty. Well, actually, it's sort of hanging out.


Listen, because she's only going to tell you once. This is how you go home.

In the Bebop, Faye is lounging in the living room. She's reading.

The monitor is on and some old movie is playing, about politics and assassinations. A big white house looms on the monitor, with Doric columns. Not that she knows what Doric columns are. She's got a magazine, last month's chick magazine. There's a lot about sex and make-up and clothes in there. The thing is, Faye has used up the last of the cucumbers so there will be no facial for her today. She's waiting for Jet to get back with the groceries. Hopefully he'll come back with cucumbers today. Last time he got zucchinis for her facials and she threw a fit. He'll remember now.

The Doric columns fizzle away and the screen goes multicolored for a minute, vertical stripes of blue, pink, green, yellow, white, and black, its fuzzy lines sharp and defined. We interrupt this programming to bring you an urgent announcement. We interrupt this programming… due to unforeseen circumstances, static, static. Faye drops the magazine and reaches over, adjusting the knobs, trying to get rid of the static, trying to bring the picture into focus. We interrupt this programming…

A picture of the Hammerhead, collapsed into a distant satellite. Faye would know the yellow lining on the ship if she saw it from a mile away. Smoke is pouring from the engine. The damage is pretty bad, Faye brings a manicured hand up to her mouth to cut off a gasp. The damage is pretty bad. There's a crack in the cockpit glass, a dark streak of brown and red. The camera zooms closer. The Hammerhead is ridden with bullet holes, and the rudder is completely destroyed. The front of the head, like a mangled shark, engine oil slathered over the hood like blood. A crack in the cockpit glass and the unbearable feeling of non-pressure, like your head is getting sucked into a vacuum cleaner, leaving only a streak of dark brown and dark red behind. A few zucchinis float out from behind the shattered cockpit window. We interrupt this programming due to unforeseen circumstances… one of our broadcasting satellites has been…

Faye reaches over and turns off the monitor and realizes that her nail is chipped. She goes into the bathroom and sits on the toilet, filing her nails. She files for three hours, all twenty nails, until they're filed down to the base and thin and brittle. Then she files away at her elbows, there are calluses everywhere. Her knees, too, and the knuckles on her toes. She doesn't bother taking off the pantyhose.

Twelve hours later, Jet has not returned. Faye takes a shower, contemplates her next move. What would Jet do? He'd super-sleuth it, Faye knows. He'd put on his detective hat and go around detectiving, trying to find out the reason behind her death, if she were the one to die. But Faye is born with a woman's natural instincts, and she knows that this is the Red Dragon's way of eliminating the firstborn, the family, the close connections.

They are probably outside right now, waiting to ambush the last of what was once Spike's family. It's a mafia thing, isn't it? But it's not even as if Faye can carry on the Spiegel line; she's never slept with him, so there's not a chance that she could have been secretly incubating a baby. Like she could secretly incubate a baby for all those years. She wants to go outside with her hands raised up, surrender, say this to the Red Dragons. Motherfuckers, I don't have a baby. I'm not gonna make a successor. He's not gonna want revenge for his daddy's death. To the fuck with it.

Two weeks have passed. There's no more food on the Bebop, so Faye needs to leave. She needs to go outside, to buy groceries, zucchini and cucumbers. She has this ominous feeling that the plumbing is going to break down, too, and she doesn't want to be the one to touch that filth. She wonders if the Red Dragons are still outside. She wonders how she's going to sneak out of here, if there's some secret exit on the Bebop she never bothered to discover, once she became complacent.

It's empty space that killed Jet. Faye thinks that this empty space could kill her, too. It's everywhere she goes—on the Bebop, machinery dying with no maintenance, and Faye is too unresourceful, too much of a diva, to try and repair the thing herself.

Faye grabs her red jacket and the last of the shumai that Jet had bought from the dim sum place three weeks ago. She packs her clothes, pretty much takes everything she's got, stuffs it into a duffle bag.

She passes by Jet's bonsai room. Rows and rows of Jet's favorites, solemn and green. Faye grabs the hose off the wall and sets it on the top shelf. She cranks the faucet, turns it on. Water spills down the rows in waterfall rivulets. Jet would be appalled. She leaves the door open. She leaves all the doors open.

She hops in the ship in the garage—now the only, lonely ship—and sticks in the ignition key. Her own ship is quiet with the reverberations of excommunication, no communication. No familiar beep of her intercom receiving a signal. No warnings to duck, reload, or get the fuck out of the way, let the boys handle this. Her Glock 30 fits snugly by her waistband, and she's got a knife in her boot. Que sera, sera.

The garage door opens when she flips the switch. She wonders if she locked the door to the Bebop, then she realizes it doesn't matter. Hands gripping the console controls, she feels herself beginning to sweat. What if they're out there, her brain asks her. The tone: rhetorical, ironic. What if they're out there and they're going to kill you. What then.

Without waiting for it to fully open, Faye throws the ship into reverse and busts through the metal hangar door, making a beeline for the sky. She imagines, knows, thinks, there are ships behind her, she can hear their engines starting, humming, the sounds of dragons hissing and baring their teeth. She doesn't stop to look around, just pushes the pedal down as far as it'll go. The sky grows a deeper blue as Faye plunges upward.

Only when she is up in the troposphere does she chance a look back. To her relief, nothing has followed her. Mars is red all over, save for the pockets of terraformed terrain scattered here and there, little bubbles of green. Her mind wants to draw a comparison between green and hope, but Faye quashes the thought numbly. Faye asked herself, what do women want when they're old? Do they want to entertain grandchildren who only want toys and cash? Do they want peace? Maybe they want to play bingo in Florida. They want to gamble away their retirement funds in Vegas, don wide-brimmed sun hats in Tijuana. They want to wear gaudy floral prints and squish-squashy, old lady shoes and pantyhose that disguise the rogue melanin that blotches their skin, their Pollock-style hides.

She had a dream about that once, before Spike left. She had a dream about all of them growing old together, Jet getting fat, Spike losing his muscle and becoming a sickly sort of skinny. Faye's skin was saggy and orange in the dream. Edward was grown up, but she couldn't have been more than an A-cup, still looking as androgynous as ever. Ein was dead. Dogs didn't live long, not even the smart ones.

Faye wanders the solar system, popping out of gates here and there, somehow managing to scrape enough woolongs every time to pay for the tolls. She entertains the thought of visiting the Pluto Planet Penitentiary (now there was a mouthful) for the hell of it, free some of the bad guys so she can catch them again and net their bounties. It would have put some spending cash in her pockets. She's out of cash, like always. Faye doesn't know how long she's been playing this gig, vagabond style. It feels like years, sometimes. No, wait, it's only a couple of months. The fuck with it. Time is timeless now, now that she's on her own again. She's a gypsy all over again, a lovelorn Romani.

She's spending her last couple of legitimate woolongs at Neo Vegas, a strip of casino-resorts stationed in the Asteroid Belt somewhere. With her luck (and skill, of course… luck is all bullshit) at the blackjack table, maybe she'll win enough chips for a stay in the presidential suite. She shimmied into her burgundy designer piece for tonight and did her hair up in the pilot's seat of her ship, using the cockpit window as a mirror. Her makeup is a little off the mark, but that's what she got for parking the ship under a broken light.

So now she's at the blackjack table which is full of guys, and none of them have any clue that she's going on eighty years old. The cryogenic procedure seems to have frozen her body up till this day; no matter how much she eats or doesn't eat, Faye always looks the same. Curves right on the money, skin like plastic. She leans over and shows some cleavage to the dealer, who is trained to ignore this sort of thing. She's got a mind to let a nipple slip, just pop out of her dress for a few, but that would really be debasing herself; and it just wasn't right for this kind of classy establishment. Faye keeps her nipples on her own and focuses on dispersing fuck-me looks around the table.

Two hours and twenty million woolongs later, Faye retires to her bedroom. She didn't manage to get the presidential suite for tonight, but instead is settling for a more economical room on the fourth floor. She'll be able to afford a couple days here with the money she's won, if she doesn't lose it at the slots tomorrow. Turning on the water for the bath, Faye wonders where the Bebop is now. They must have towed it away and junked it at this point.

She lays in the bath, not putting the soap in. The steam fills up the bathroom and clouds the mirrors. The water becomes cold and Faye's skin is as wrinkled as it'll ever be. She gets up out of the water and towels off, feet padding around on the marble floor. She falls into bed nude, no point in dressing, nobody's coming in.

At four in the morning, Faye wakes up. There is a man lying on the floor next to the bed. He is naked as well. He lays on his back, staring up at the ceiling; his mouth is open, eyes wide, nostrils flared. He is bald on his head and has no eyelashes, eyebrows, no hair on his arms or legs or nether regions. He isn't fat or thin but is somewhere in between. It's hard to tell his age, but his skin is completely white, like he's been covered with flour. It's dark, so Faye can't make out his features, except that his eyes are completely black. "Who are you?" Faye yells loudly.

The man vanishes. Doesn't fizzle out like soda, or fade into the background, just a blink of an eye and it's like he was never there. Faye gets up and turns on the lights. She looks under the bed, in the closet, in the minibar refrigerator.

The ghost is in the bathroom, sitting in the bathtub, immersed in Faye's leftover water. His body seems to grow and shrink with the miniscule waves in the tub, the little tsunamis. He looks smaller now, girlish. "Oh, come on," Faye says. "What are doing?"

He gives no indication that he's heard her. "Are you Mao Yenrai?" She asks. His head is sort of shaped funny, square-ish, cube-looking, just like Mao's head. "I wasn't the one who killed you." Faye is not scared. Quite the opposite, she's livid with anger. Her fists are shaking at her sides and her knees are locked stiff. The ghost doesn't budge. "Oh, come on."

Faye gets the gun from her suitcase. She didn't think that she would have needed it. When she comes back, he's sitting on the toilet now. No water marks on the floor to indicate that he stepped out of the bathtub. "Hey!" She says, and points her Glock 30 at him. He's got such a sad, sad look on his face, and shrinks even more. Then he disappears.

Faye goes back to bed and pulls the covers all the way over her head, leaves all the lights on. She wakes up in the morning and thinks that it might have been a dream, except that she's still holding her Glock in hand.

This is Faye's last night in the hotel, and the ghost is still there. Maybe this is a haunted hotel room, she thinks. Maybe somebody died here and it has nothing to do with me.

This is what the ghost looks like. He could look like anybody. Faye knows that she's never seen him before, or anybody who looks like him, before. If Faye stuck him with a knife, would he disappear? If she shot him, maybe he would die and go to a deeper level of afterlife. Would the bullets go through him? No, no, he'd probably bleed glue, blood white and sticky like tree sap. Maybe he's that little Chinese man whose cigars she smoked back right before she met the Bebop gang. The one with the electric eels.

She's playing one last game with the dealer—it's ten in the morning, the tables have just opened. She plans on heading out after this, maybe to Miranda, Ganymede, or Io. The bounty-hunting deal just isn't the same, but Faye thinks she can do just fine without the other two.

"There's this ghost in my room," she tells the dealer. The dealer is a lady with dirty blonde hair and lots of blue makeup on her eyes. She's wearing a dealer's vest that looks like it's been put inside-out this morning, and she stifles a yawn behind a carded hand.

"Really," the dealer lady says.

"Yeah," Faye says.

"Ex-lover?" The dealer lady deals another card. Faye turns it over: an ace of spades. Why is Faye not surprised?

"Couldn't be. I haven't had one for a while."

"An ex?"

"A lover."

Twenty-one. They shuffle the deck anew, and Faye stakes out two thousand woolongs. "Hit me," she says.

Faye leaves the casino after two more games (she wins both of them). She heads back up to her room and start packing, since she has to be out of here by noon. There are lots of places she could go next. The world is sort of endless in that way.

The ghost is still lying there, this time it's on her bed. At least the bed is made. Faye wonders if the maids saw the ghost—they probably didn't, this ghost only seems to have one intended audience. Faye sighs and starts stuffing her duffle bag and heads to the bathroom. She turns on the faucet and begins washing her hands when the flow suddenly stops. She casts a wary eye outside and notices the ghost is gone. Wait, now it's puddling into her sink, forlorn and putty-like. It turns its face up at her before it begins to dribble away.

"Oh, for the love of God!" Faye spits into the sink. The ghost spirals down the drain.

She leaves as soon as she can, glad to be away from the damn thing. She decides that she's going to Miranda. It's Uranus's most popular moon, a sort of Aspen-like, icy getaway for families and couples. There are some ski lodges there. Faye figures she'll make like a snow bunny for a couple of days, pick some pockets, warm her toes by the fireplaces.

On Miranda, she gets caught picking the pocket of a wealthy, handsome, corporate ladder-climber type. He's young, in his thirties, has a head full of golden hair and the nicest-looking blue eyes she's ever seen. He tells her he'll solve the matter quietly, and she acquiesces coyly, pretending to be scared out of her mind. She cites excuses and the like but he won't be fazed, and leads her up to his room. It's a nice room, with a bearskin rug and a heavy quilt and a roaring fireplace, and has an adjoining living room and the bathroom has a Jacuzzi. They sleep together that night, the first lover Faye has had in a while. She's surprised she still knows how it all works. In the morning, he's gone. There's a wad of cash on the nightstand. Faye stuffs it into her purse and heads for the bathroom.

Lo and behold, the ghost is strapped to the ceiling, hands and legs plastered up against the wood. It's still nude, and its penis is hanging down forlornly, the only part of his body that seems to be obeying the laws of gravity. Faye almost has a heart attack, but decides against it. "Oh," she says. "You."

The ghost stares down vacantly. Faye curses again, then heads for the toilet. There's no door blocking the way, only a small wall partition—damn the modern architecture. The ghost seems to be looking at her from the corner of his eye. It probably has a pretty good vantage point, since it's up there on the ceiling.

She flicks it off, and proceeds to take a dump. She hopes the damn thing can smell.

Once she finishes in the bathroom, dump, shower, and all, she heads back outside, toweling her hair. It's about eleven thirty in the morning—she'll be able to make the continental brunch in the lobby restaurant. The ghost has switched places now—it's lying on the floor, a little bigger than usual. About Jet's size.

"You're not Jet, are you?" Faye slips out of her bathrobe and starts dressing. "Are you here to haunt me?"

No answer, as expected.

"Spike?" Her voice is tinged with hope. She quashes it. Spike wouldn't be following her around if he were a ghost. But maybe he'd had his fill of fucking that Julia chick in heaven or hell or wherever they were. Maybe he was bored. This seems like something he'd do. He'd masquerade as a naked ghost to piss her off for the hell of it.

Or maybe this is Jet's way of keeping an eye on her. Creepy, but she can't claim to know how the afterlife works. Maybe this is their way of keeping tabs. "They" being the departed.

And they aren't coming back.

Faye throws a hotel-issue pen at the ghost, blinking the tears out of her eyes. The pen hits the surface of his skin with a gentle plop and drowns in slowly, as if sinking in quicksand. The ghost gives no indication that it's noticed anything at all. Faye rubs a hand across her eyes, scrubbing at the tears, and when she looks again, he's gone. The pen is gone, too.

She's almost through staying with the corporate guy. He's heading back for Mars, soon. Some business. He asks if she would like to come along—he's being polite. She politely declines, says she's got some business to take care of before she can head back to Mars. That evening, she hugs him goodbye and says that she hopes to bump into him someday. Not really. He says she can stay in the room, but she'll have to check out before the next day ends.

Faye turns on the television, watches the latest version of Big Shot—Judy's gone and married her director, it's been over the tabloids, and Punch has been fueling his cocaine habit in the depths of his old room at his mother's house. The previously dynamic duo has been replaced by a trio of two girls and an old guy—the girls are leggy, tan, and pubescent, and they dance around in bikinis holding up million-woolong checks like the scorecard girls in the wrestling arenas. The old guy has a lot of white hair and wears a sports jacket with a pink tie and a ten-gallon cowboy hat. He puts his hands around the girls every time he goes to announce the kill. The latest bounty isAxel Baron Shim, last seen on Callisto, heading to Charon. He's a pretty sort of guy, some brand of Asian. Black hair, black eyes. His mugshot makes him look pallid, the dark circles under his eyes, sullen.

"Now it beats me why anyone would want to go and head out into the middle of nowhere," the old man says in a thick country accent. "You head out that far, shoot, you're already close enough to home!"

"Where's home, Jay?" One of the girls asks, her tits bouncing up and down in her cherry-patterned bikini.

"Why, little May, I mean the Pluto Planet Penitentiary, of course!" Jay sounds off a resounding bout of laughter, and the girls join in onscreen, as if this is the most hilarious thing in the world.

"Pluto Planet Penitentiary," the second bikini-clad girl squeals, "what a mouthful!"

"A mouthful it is, Kay," Jay says, and licks his lips.

Faye makes a face and turns off the television. Jay, Kay, and May? What maudlin names.

The next morning Faye has left again, jetsetting over the solar system. She passes through the last Gate built out here among the gas giants—it deposits her by Galatea, Neptune's fourth moon. From there on she travels for about three hours before she hits a privately-operated Gate, manned by a rather sad-looking, drag queen type.

"Where to, hon'?" The drag queen asks. Faye wants to ask what this washed out stage diva is doing here, but checks herself. Out here in the outer orbits, it's nobody's business what your business is.

"Charon," she says, sweetly. "I'm meeting my boyfriend."

"That's some honeymoon," the drag queen intones solemnly. "Let me tell you how to get there. Listen, because I'm only going to tell you once… once you head in, honey, you'll be out in no time."

Like a comet, she's in and out of hyperspace, and she lands inside a harbor dome on Charon's west hemisphere. The sun is now but a bright speck in the distance, and Pluto looms like a giant shadow in the distance, blocking out all the stars in the sky. Nix and Hydra, Pluto's lesser satellites, gleam dimly in orbit. It's cold out there, and before Faye disembarks, she seriously contemplates putting on some pants. It would make a change, for once.

The fuck with it, she thinks, and hops out, pantyhose and boots and all. Gravity doesn't work as well here, this place is tiny, after all, about 750 miles across and she feels lighter than air as she makes her way through the dismally-lit hallways of the harbor dome. Once upon a time, this place had been under development as the Solar System's premier red light district, a place for crime to flourish far away from the watchful, corrupt eyes of the ISSP. You wanted a piece of heaven in debauchery, you went to Pluto and beyond, the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Clouds. You went for the stars. That was the original design.

But not even crime can flourish here, Faye thinks. Charon is too sterile. Pluto, Charon, Nix, and Hydra, the most bereft celestial team of four in the Solar System. Oh god, she coughs, huddling her coat closer to her freezing body. What is this feeling. Her nose is cold. She wants to sneeze, and nobody will tell her to take care.

Her heels click obnoxiously on the metal grating. Charon is a sad, cold place, and the compound that houses whatever utilities is probably no bigger than a tenth of the planet itself. She heads to a saloon-style establishment, neon lights the only thing attracting her attention in this dismal place. There are a few guys scattered here and there, many of them sitting alone. Faye walks to the bar. It's deserted.

"Nobody there, missy," a voice grunts from somewhere. "He passed 'way the other night."

Faye pauses for a moment, then heads behind the bar herself. She fishes out some vodka and twenty-year old cranberry juice (disgusting). The vodka will probably kill anything that's been growing in the cranberry juice, she thinks. The fuck with it. Shakes it up a bit, a shaken cosmopolitan, describes her perfectly. It tastes like crap. She feels like crap.

Shim is sitting in a booth in the back, plain as day. He's drinking something orange-looking. He's got a glass and a bottle. God, he's young. He's wearing a black coat, there are some golden tassels hanging off the shoulder. There's some sort of crest on his lapel. God, he's stupid, showing off that shit in a shithole like this. Who the fuck is the kid trying to impress?

She saunters over, putting a deliberate wiggle in her hips. "Hey."

"Fuck off," he says.

"That's not very nice," Faye pouts, and sits down anyway. "What do they call you?"

"You know my name." Shim finishes off the rest of his orange stuff. "Fucking bounty hunter."

"I like that you're right to the point."

"No other way to live, lady."

"So then you must understand that I'm here for that nice thirty million on your ass."

"That's hilarious." Shim looks genuinely surprised. "They put that much on me?"

Faye bites her lip. "You coming with me, or do I have to haul you out of here?"

"I don't even know that much." Shim laughs. "I'm just a small fry. A rookie. I swear."

"Thirty million isn't small fry."

He gives her an inquisitive look. "Look, I'll give you the money I have on me. Just leave me alone."

"How much do you have?"

Shim exhales sharply. "About seven million."

"No chance, small fry."

"I didn't even do anything," Shim protests. "They're going to kill me if you take me back." He pours himself some more of the orange stuff, reconsiders, and swigs directly from the bottle.

"The fuck with it," Faye says. She feels her patience beginning to boil. "Come on, thirty."

"They're going to kill me," Shim rubs his eyes with his sleeve. "At least let me die close to home."

Faye makes a face, her eyes bug a little bit. Here? Here, in this shithole?

It's enough of a distraction. Shim breaks his bottle on the edge of the table, glass and alcohol flying everywhere. He swings the bottle at Faye, who ducks just in time. She reaches for her gun, but he's already halfway across the bar, and lightning quick, he throws his lighter back.

The booth, drenched in alcohol, catches on fire and Faye accidentally fires a shot off into the ceiling, triggering the rupture of an oxygen tank. The combustion roars in her ears and she's surrounded by flames. The bar's few patrons are all running away, none of them are doing anything to put out the fire. She can see the exit, but she can't get to it. There's a wall of flame, rising higher and higher, between her and the front exit.

Faye curses. She heads further back, looking for a second exit—there is none. There's a bathroom. She turns on the sink and splashes the water outside the door, trying to put out the fire, anything. The water putters to a stop. She hears the building starting to creak and collapse outside.

She heads to the stall in the bank, sits on the toilet and watches the flame lick at the entrance to the bathroom. There's no way the flame came get in here, anyway. It's all tile. There's nothing flammable. Faye feels her head getting heavy, her chest hurting. The fire is eating what oxygen there in this place, and Faye sinks down onto the grimy floor in a crouch, one hand at her throat, the other hand on her gun. She slams against the walls, trying to find a weak screw, anything. She's not going to burn, but she might asphyxiate. She doesn't want to be purple when she dies, no, she doesn't want to be a mottled shade of Pollock purple. Please.

Something white appears in the other stall. She pauses only for a moment before crawling out. It's familiar. Oh fuck, it's familiar.

"You're useless," Faye whispers, looking into the ghost's empty, black eyes, his mouth is still wide open like he's surprised. "I can't even get one last fuck, you flaccid son of a bitch." She stands up, and grabs him by the hands, she's going to haul him over to the entrance and hopefully his ghostly self is flame-retardant, maybe she can inch her way out behind him. But her hands sink into him. It's like reaching into a bowl of worms. Faye withdraws with a gasp.

"Oh." She grabs again, sweat on her brow. God, it's hot in here. Like hell.

Her hands sink in again when they try to grab. Cool and wet and dark, wriggling, like something's alive in there.

She wonders where that pen is. That pen from the hotel, the ski lodge on Miranda.

Something crashes outside. Faye takes a breath, smiles like a maniac for the hell of it. She sinks her arms into the ghost, where his belly is. Her hands should be touching the floor now, but they're not touching anything. There's still room in there, in that slimy, wriggling feeling. Her nerves on end, she closes her eyes and sticks her head in. The rest of her body follows.

It's like being engulfed in vomit. She can't see anything, she can only feel the tips of her fingers and toes, and her heart beating furiously, crazily, like it's going to rip itself out of her chest. It goes on and on…

Then suddenly, she's somewhere.

She lands on the floor, her head knocking back against the ground with a dull thud. It feels like velvet under her head. Her arms are sprawled out at her sides. It's completely pitch black. She feels around for her gun. It's not there. Faye's got a pen in her hands. She drops it as if she's been electrified.

"Hey?" She calls out, weakly. She doesn't know his name. He never had a name.

Faye stands up shakily. Her boots clank on metal, but it's wet. There are puddles here and there, and she steps into them, unable to avoid them in the darkness. It smells damp and green. She clanks around, the ground is on an incline. She reaches out like she's blind, trying to feel around for anything. She calls out, "hello?" Her voice echoes. Somewhere, a whistle answers her—wind, she tells herself. It's the wind.

She touches something. Thin and plasticky and dusty. Her heart beating faster, she continues. It's the top of the monitor. She moves on. It's the scratched and patched couch. She heads up the stairs, hands grasping the railing as she gropes her way through the Bebop. It's the Bebop. She keeps her eyes open in the dark. They feel like the air around her, wet and corroding.

The whistling becomes louder. Somebody didn't close the door. There's the sound of water running water, little waterfalls. A sliver of light shines through, silver and gold, and Faye tugs at the porthole door. It rolls open with a rusty clang.

The garage door is still wrecked from the day she left, the day she burst through it. The Bebop is still parked out on the harbor. This is Mars. The sun is setting in a bright orange blaze, and for a minute Faye is back there in the bathroom on Charon, flames all around her. The deck of the Bebop is swathed in dirt and dust and seagull shit. The ship is leaning off to its side, like it's going to tip over, gorged with water, glutton of the terrain. Ivy and algae and bonsai crawl up the walls outside from the sunken side of the ship, bark and green curling around the metal hull like so many fingers and hands, cradling this bloated baby, taking care of it in her absence.

There are flowers in bloom, on the ivy, in the bonsai, little buds of blossoms everywhere.