The last few weeks were a flurry. Ellipse’s arms ached from playing the drum beats of her solo song over and over, until she had a series of sounds she could actually synthesize from on the computer. Her throat hurt from singing her voice raw, and her lips buzzed unpleasantly from the trumpet. Now if she could just get into the recording studio without anyone noticing.
The opulent decor of the satellite surrounded her on all sides, still glittering with inlays and well-shined carvings. Ellipse strode confidently, her face set in the same stern frown she wore when inspiration hit for a new song. People walking around the satellite knew that face by now, and knew better than to bother her when she wore it.
It was best not to interrupt the genius while profiting off of her.
The lights were dimmed, glowing dark red to provide light without interfering with people’s sleep cycles. Ellipse felt sluggish, and her eyes kept threatening to droop, but she had a short window in which to do this, and she needed the element of surprise. If she was not expected in the recording studio, the monitoring on file exports and deletions from the servers would be lighter.
Not sparing a glance over her shoulder, Ellipse slipped into the studio. It was roomier than the music rooms, with a soundproof box for the computers and boards and a large, open space for bands and singers and microphones. The walls had been covered up with wood and spongy acoustic panels to help with the sound quality, since metal made everything sound tinny.
Ellipse darted into the computer room and locked the door behind her. She zeroed in on her usual computer, its screen black but its lights blinking rapidly, and raced to wake it up. Her fingers shook as she typed in her password, and as the welcome screen slid away, on came her still-open sound editor. The export to an mp3 had a tiny sliver of time left, and so she opened the obligatory word processor. She brought up her statement, read it over once, and let out a short breath.
The song finished exporting. Everything was ready.
In the black room, lit up only by the computers and their flickering lights, Ellipse opened the satellite-wide email server and attached her song and statement, then sent it to herself. It popped up on her watch a moment later, only milliseconds after she turned on the tiny watch screen.
A bright yellow warning notice lit up the computer screen, but Ellipse ignored it. She forwarded the email through Tejal and Focci’s pinpoint fold generator on the Ink and waited, breath held, as the tiny loading circle on her watch spun around and around.
And then it disappeared, and a tiny window confirmed that the message had sent. The deed was done. The information on Andra-Media’s treatment of her was out in the universe now, away from the satellite’s databases. In minutes, the boys would have her story on every inhabited planet and moon and man-made-space-place in the known universe.
As her eyes flicked up to the yellow warning screen, Ellipse considered the math. Her statement was to be leaked to news outlets in addition to its original postings, and the journalists needed time to write. Once the story was passed around on Earth, it could be another few hours, even a day or so, before someone arrived at the Andra-Media headquarters to investigate.
With a heavy exhale, Ellipse glanced around the dark computer room. She had no reason to play innocent here. In fact, the more torture she could undergo before someone from Earth showed up, the better. She needed every bit of evidence she could get her hands on.
Ellipse tapped the computer screen to make the warning go away and figured if she was going out, she might as well do it with a bang. She pressed play on the mp3 of her song and turned up the volume as loud as it would go.
Immediately, a low thrum echoed through the room as drum beats layered in one on top of the other. A quiet trumpet drifted in, and then came her own voice.
Sirens demonstrated sincerity through the clearness of their singing, with perfect jumps between notes and open, bell-like tones, and though earthling singers sometimes went for raggedness or breaks to get across their most powerful emotions, Ellipse went full siren for this one. Her voice, crystalline and airy, bellowed through the speakers in an undulating melody that rose and fell like waves.
Supposedly, this one was for her debut. It was supposed to be a powerful, soulful opener to a long and successful idol career, with the idea that Ellipse would cater to more solemn tastes while Andra continued to put out bops and bangers and cheerful dance tunes. And in truth, Ellipse did write something soulful; the lyrics in both English and Trade Siren told a story of breaking chains and the gift of freedom. But Ellipse had no desire to be crafted into a star. She would write music again, but not for Andra-Media.
She span in her chair just as the song entered the bridge, smiling as the trumpet descant she had struggled with fluttered above the drums. Then she blew a raspberry and imagined the looks on people’s faces when they walked in to find her. Her guard would probably be flustered, concerned about her whereabouts. The rest of security would remain emotionless behind dark glasses, but Ellipse would take pride in getting one or two mouths to drop open.
The lady in white would probably startle at first, and then settle into her normal threatening voice. That would be less fun.
Ellipse stopped the chair when she faced the door and slumped into the cushions like she owned the place. Spreading her knees to give the impression of confidence, she crossed her arms and took a few deep breaths. She would be fine.
The door burst open right as her song restarted, and Ellipse thought it quite fitting. The rumbling bass drums and timpani provided excellent accompaniment to stomping guards. They filtered in, two by two, and arced the room, leaving space for the lady in white to stand in the doorway.
As Ellipse had predicted, she stiffened when she spotted Ellipse.
“Elliott,” the lady said, her nasal voice cold, “what is going on?”
“Ahh, nothing,” Ellipse replied. She forced herself to sound airy and unconcerned. “I think you will find out in about six days? Give or take one or two, of course. It takes time to get across the solar system.”
The lady stepped forward, her slippers slapping on the ground. “Repeat that again for me.”
“It takes time to get across the solar system.” Ellipse gave the lady a pitying pout. “Everyone knows that… Penelope.” That was her name, right?
Ellipse arched an eyebrow and pulled her mouth into a straight line. “I leaked that song you wanted to use for my debut. Whoops. It was never for your use anyways.”
“You are under contract,” the woman hissed. “Any music you produce belongs to Andra-Media.”
Spinning the chair in a slow circle, Ellipse shrugged. “Oh, I do not mind facing a civil court case. Especially not if the Andra-Media corporation is going to international court for violating child labor agreements. By the way, I know Titan keeps track of the military spacecraft. Does anyone know if one of the UN ships is nearby?””
The guards shifted uneasily, their dark outfits just barely visible under the lights from the computers. The lady in white trembled, and the blue lights cast long shadows over her angry snarl.
“I know the Bellevue hangs around Titan, especially since the citizen database attacks,” Ellipse mused. “If she comes, that would mean, oh, maybe an hour for the story to go to the UN, and then maybe another hour to decide to send someone to check around, and then another hour and a half to send a transmission to the Bellevue, and then they would be here within the day.”
“So go ahead,” Ellipse finished, coming back to face the lady, “punish me.”
“It takes almost two hours for any signal from this satellite to reach Earth,” the lady said. She sounded confident again, except for the little quiver at the end of her sentence. Ellipse’s change in attitude must have thrown her off. “It has to travel from-
“Here to Titan to Earth,” Ellipse finished, “and be approved by the people manning the servers and transmissions. I know. Let us just call it my extensive, universe-altering, little secret, shall we?” She stood up and presented her wrists, pressed together and ready to be bound. “Do your worst. I will always be ahead of you.”
With a frustrated breath, the lady pivoted and rushed out the door. “Bring her to her room,” she ordered.
Ellipse allowed the guards to take her and kept her chin up high.