Space: Terran Minarchy
Star system: Omia
Planet: Omia Prime
Colony name: Applecrate
Population: 158581... and counting
John spent most of his evening answering some of the comments on Amy's interview. He'd expected an unusually large number of subscribers to watch the stream and to a certain degree – a lot of posts. What he hadn't anticipated – Amy's story was so riveting! Not only was the storyteller a genuine survivor of an ordeal most harrowing, unveiling this part of Applecrate's mysterious past caused quite a stir across the Terran part of G-net. He was sure that many would flock to Omia Prime and follow in his steps, thoroughly explore both the colony and the planet itself. H-loggers would come too, but he was the first to successfully locate and feel the data pulse of this awesome place. John was the first netsonality to even sit together at the same table with a First, let alone interview her. With this important H-logger duty now behind him, he could concentrate on what mattered to him the most – enjoying the local cuisine.
Eve arrived early in the morning and once more she carried gifts. After devouring the piping hot, spinach and cheese filled banitsi, they attempted to reach the road or at least gave it a good try. Applecrate was being “invaded” by hundreds of tourists; at least fifty starships landed and a dozen more were still idling in orbit, clearly visible on his sensors. He wondered how many of those sentients had hyper-lag? Only once in his early childhood, he had to take adjustment medicine which helped him weather the hyper-lag. Time zones were irrelevant in space; having the ability to travel FTL, sentients could reach any part of the galaxy - given they had a well-equipped starship and enough fuel. Each starship had a hyper clock and most were set to Galactic Universal Time, better known as star-hours. Once pre-warp civilizations discovered hyperspace and subspace they discarded the foolish notion that the universe was ever expanding. Indeed, once it did and certainly parts of it still moved, but generally, most things remained where they were, tethered by hyperspace. Early human scientists were no different and assumed the same, but that was before they could observe the Hyperspace Curvature with modern sensor technology.
“Eve, know a way to avoid the crowds? I know it is a small colony but...” - John asked almost expecting a negative answer and was pleasantly surprised when his aide pointed at something. It was one well-hidden service tunnel shaft, nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding landing pads. Since the main road was clogged with travelers many had chosen to trek straight through the countryside, and John saw more than a few small vehicles chasing after one another. It looked like the tourists had a full-blown car race down there!
“Amy linked late yesterday, mentioning that the special ride she promised you was already arranged, John.” - Eve beckoned him to follow, while looking around carefully - “We can reach the place quickly and then all those people will no longer hinder our movement.”
They waited until most of the visitors were out of sight and then Eve typed a code on her PDA. With a hard to detect hiss, a small door slid aside revealing the tunnel and they quickly dashed inside. John saw how the two meter thick, crafted from armor grade megasteel door silently closed behind and increased his pace. It was one of the many tunnels which Fringe space colonists dug in order to hide their movements from the enemy. The practice was commonplace; part and parcel of living on a border colony, people built concealed positions, specially designed bunkers to hide during alien invasions or slaver raids. The tunnels they dug were for ease of movement and allowed for improved guerrilla tactics; fighters of the colonial militia used them to sneak upon the unwitting invaders. They were not planning an ambush, he and Eve were only trying to get an advantage over the throng of tourists who'd arrived on Omia Prime far too early and in greater numbers than John had anticipated.
“Here, we are here, John! See this squiggle on the wall?” - Eve's gloved paw pointed at something which, if he'd come here alone, John never would've even imagined to look for. She pressed the sign and then rotated her paw counterclockwise, causing another hidden door to slide open before them.
“We are close to one certain intersection, closer perhaps to Kobo's bakery than the woodworker's shop. Quick, the pilot just sent me a link, they won't remain hidden for long!”
John followed after the bunny; Eve hopped ahead, pace significantly quicker than his own. Only after reaching the end of that second tunnel had her words finally reached him. Pilot? What was this ride exactly to require a pilot?! Climbing up and looking around, John's eyes focused on something big, colorfully painted and smiled. Eve frantically waved her paws, still running full speed; the mech's pilot gracefully lowered both arms, one of which was a reinforced metal basket fitted with a safety force field. Amy emerged from the nearby home, quickly followed by another machine, slowly striding out of the garage. Now standing beside the fifteen-foot-tall mech, John examined it in great detail. Indeed, the machine was nothing more than a brand new power loader; its frame very much indistinguishable from what local Loader Girls piloted every day. However the similarities ended there since this mech's owners had fitted it with a cleverly designed and masterfully crafted suit of “armor”. It looked like something stolen directly from one of those mecha holo-movies; wonderfully quirky, the armor plating was not designed for war but simply to look good. Covered from head to toe in glistening holo-paint, this machine cosplayed one very popular mecha series titled “Raydam”. What the pilot picked up with his free hand was a large fridge, proudly sporting the logo of Asashi Brewing Co. By the flip of a switch, his machine's elaborately painted cosplay armor suddenly projected holo-art in all directions; a dozen strong Asashi's mascots danced around the mech, warning anyone who approached it to be careful. Sun Chan looked exactly like an anthropomorphic animal with a smiling sun for a head and since everything was created by top-notch holo-artists, well-animated to boot. Amy strolled close, passing through one of the holograms and while the cute mascot waved its little hands, making warning signs, she chuckled:
“John, how do you like being on top of all things for a change? While you comfortably ride in the bucket, your pilot will stop on occasion and try selling the beer. That 'fridge' is actually a vending machine full of Asashi Super Moist - Blue ®, which my business associate and I will introduce to Applecrate's market. You can, of course, stream everything! I am sure that your subscribers will love to see the brand new cosplay armor, which is soon to be introduced in Raydam's next season.” - John wasted no time and climbed inside the metal basket, his holo-cam already on. He linked its feed with the mech's sensors and in a couple of seconds the device bleeped – it could record top quality holo-footage from all directions. The safety forcefield activated the instant Eve joined him and the mech's pilot then slowly raised his bucket holding arm.
“You will receive a fair percentage of all sales this machine makes today, John. You know, the typical G-net advertisement gig but with an added bonus - a complimentary container full of that new beer we are pushing today. This brew was created with my help and designed to promote our colony abroad. If all the work I did for my neighbors is a success, we should see immediate increase of business in a month or so.” - Amy stepped away from the mech and added:
“Just do what you H-loggers usually do and creds will run like a river. Universe is my witness, after those obnoxious aliens nearly wrecked our homes, Applecrate can use the business. Asashi execs were quite generous, the company invested a lot of money, time and other resources in this venture. Good luck!” - She pointed at a small crowd of tourists forming in the distance. The aliens then quickly began moving in this direction – colorful holograms projected by tall mechs were almost impossible to conceal.
“Get to the marketplace, avoid the tourists or they will slow you down so much that by the time you reach the Fair, all the food will be eaten!” - The mech did a couple of testing steps and John heard its pilot performing the usual safety drill.
It was a thing commonplace for all Japanese businesses whose employees operated heavy machinery. No matter where they were or what vehicle they operated, everyone's thought was safety fist. Eve waited until their machine was ready to move and reached inside one of her uniform's pockets. She then gave John a necklace; from its handcrafted leather lace, dangled a piece of wood shaped like a bunny's paw. As she reached and gifted another similar amulet to their pilot, he quickly placed the good luck charm around his neck.
“It is perhaps a little bit old-fashioned, but please rabbit with me. Those necklaces belonged to my grandmother, she was a construction engineer and never fell from anywhere but her own bed.” - Eve chuckled, while their pilot skillfully evaded the large mob of tourists with a long jump over someone's yard fence. Soon, the tall machine managed to squeeze between two buildings and they entered Applecrate's market. The place was packed to the limit, even with the additions and upgrades the locals had built before the event. On the marketplace's furthest edges, John caught a glimpse of a starship bearing Asashi's logo and instantly recognized one of their most famous ad jingles. Surrounded now on all sides by holograms, the Asashi mech moved slowly, its vending machine loaded with beer lowered. He already spotted one place which sold pirogi and another, whose owner, a large gorilla, was selling his piping-hot pastry with break-neck speed. The aroma of food, alcohol and spices was maddening and John's mouth had already began to water. Face adorned with the biggest of smiles he happily announced the beginning of his last stream on Applecrate, his holo-cam automatically turned away from the sight of tourists queuing to buy beer:
“Greetings everybody and welcome to Applecrate's Harvest Fair! Follow me and my new assistant, the Ops officer Evelyn, while we explore the local sights and taste the best street food this amazing colony has to offer! Imagine that, people here managed to build a Shotengai in just a couple of weeks and finished construction one day before their Harvest Fair started. Also,” - he turned the camera around and aimed it at the mech - “please do marvel at this never before seen set of mecha armor, to be introduced in the next season of Raydam! As always, brought exclusively to you by yours truly.” - John pointed directly at the camera, smiled and then stated:
“This is what you subscribed for!”
Applecrate's Harvest Fair was short but eventful and after spending the another pleasant day on this planet, John, together with his new assistant left. IMS Space Boat made a hyperspace jump but where was this famous H-logger going? You will find out in Part 2 of JATB!
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