Space: Terran Minarchy
Star system: Cavora
Planet: Terraformed Asteroid FV-3134
Colony name: Cav
“Slum pizza! Tasty bacon and cheese slum pizzaaaaa... The freshest herbs, picked daily from our hydroponics, smothered with sauce made from real Italian tomatoes! Big size, larger than all the rest, this is the best deal you can find on the docks! Two slices for one cred!”
The child, no older than nine, loudly advertised her food with a squeaky, yet confident voice. You couldn't be showing any hesitance, unless you want your food cart business to fail. John chuckled and after rummaging through his pockets pulled two one credit coins. He then gave the appropriate sign in Trade lingo and in under a minute, his hands held a combo vacfoam package, four piping hot slices of pizza inside. Buying four slices was not only a good way to support the local economy; John wanted to stash more foods in the spaceship's stasis fridge and bring them as presents for his wife. That people called this slum pizza specifically – he had a general idea why. In the early days of space colonization there were tightly packed, slum-type districts sprawling across the bigger colonies. Indeed, to the uneducated observer, these did look like a mishmash of huddled, tiny buildings where people lived in extreme squalor. That couldn't be further from the truth, however and John often remembered pictures from early 19th century Earth, compared these modern “slums” with what real poverty looked like. Even a person who made no more than a few credits today lived like a king when compared to the paupers of the past. Earlier today he chatted with navigators and captains from the small line of ships waiting to land before him, gathering more up to date info. Most of the vessels were full of locals returning from their weekend trips; one half-filled passenger ship carrying Martian tourists being the most notable spacecraft of the bunch. Of course, from the moment he set foot on the docks, John started another stream. Eve bypassed all data through the Space boat's comm console and he had to agree – the ex-militia Ops specialist had paws of gold. Everything which he had to do by himself, she now did and significantly faster! He spent an hour and a half prowling the outer docks, spotting a couple of street food stalls from distance. Since he landed during the evening rush hour, most dock workers and others who'd just docked swarmed the area in their tens of thousands. A choir of voices all speaking in different Terran dialects and old Earth languages, with more than plenty of Star Blood aliens chattering with each other filled his ears. It was like a balm, a healing salve for his long since starved of social contact mind and he let himself soak up every sound. The otherwise short stream turned into a long one since no matter how much he hurried, the food stalls were completely sold out before he reached them. His last hope was that pizza kid; thankfully the girl was perhaps late to arrive, which meant there was still food in her cart. Good job this one did, she even had holo-fliers stamped all over his pizza package – the kid was part of a group called “The grub club”. He smiled, showing one of the fliers in front of his holo-cam:
“See, what did I tell you? This place is absolutely swarming with all kinds of street foods! You simply have to be quick or you'll stay hungry...” - John gave his viewers another full circle from the place he stood, almost at the dock's center.
Cheerful shouts came from a nearby starship; the vessel looked like a transport outfitted for war, its armored hull covered with colorful decals. Those meant that the vessel was most probably a spacer ship whose crew had volunteered for some CN mission. The rowdy bunch of spacesuit-wearing men and women exited their vessel and forming a small, hundred strong crowd, made their way through the large mass of people swarming the docks. John knew exactly where these space wolves were going – a bar called the “Roundabout”. He visited the place a few times, but only when most of its spacer patrons were missing; for some reason, every time he landed on Cav, despite the fact that the largest spacer community lived here, the bulk of them were always away. This time, however, luck was on his side and John aimed to capitalize; after the interview Sonny gave him, he hoped that spacers would be more open, willing to speak with him. Even if they did not answer questions in front of his camera, still, simply chatting with them was a unforgettable experience. Not to mention that every time you talked to a spacer, there was a chance of them dropping some juicy info.
“Wow, so many spacers and I know exactly where they are going!” - John checked the clock, his stream was getting close to the second hour mark. - “I guess we still have plenty of time before the heavy comm traffic lags the local G-net node. What do you think, Eve?”
“Yes, we have one full hour at least. I will keep you posted, boss!” - Chimed in his assistant, the color of her voice more or less recovered. One day had already passed since she told him the grizzly story of how that trophy particle gun got in her possession.
“Excellent! See now, this is exactly what you signed in for. Follow me and I will show you some secret, sneaky ways how to quickly reach that famous bar.”
The “Roundabout” was once an integral part of the colony's main dock, but since Cav's population grew to the impressive over three and a half million inhabitants, everything else also had to increase in size. Now, the largest spacer bar on the Fringe, could be most speedily reached via the station's old maintenance corridors. The Cavians called these claustrophobically tight passageways the “Veins”; they had built an entire hive of workshops and low-cost apartments around them. These corridors were no longer used to maintain anything since most big machines and station systems got relocated or upgraded, leaving a lot of unused space behind. On alien space stations similar areas were quickly sold to the highest bidder, who either rented it, built an apartment complex or something else. In Terran space, after the locals gathered enough funds to buy the space, they either constructed a hive-like living area, small workshops or a combination of both. On Cav the “Veins” was one such area, which locals built with the clear purpose to aid other, less fortunate Terrans. Many new colonists suffered attacks or hurdles of more mundane nature, en route to their original destinations. They needed cheap, affordable housing and temporary working arrangements – even a low-paying job was preferable. The “Veins” were such a place and John knew many who spent a year or more here, lived not in total comfort, but still comparably well, until they could fix their situation. Some fell in love with this place and settled here instead; despite the tight living conditions, it was probably the cheapest area to live and one could always rely on one's neighbor to help. The jobs you could get here were simple, nothing highly profitable, yet that community was perhaps one of the hardiest groups on the border. Mostly made up from industrious colonists, Terrans whose goal was to build a new life for themselves on another planet, truly the “veins” was a place like no other. John entered the closest passageway, sliding past a shopping drone repair shop and just now remembered to call Eve.
“Eve, would you be so kind and order one shopping drone to wait for me near the 'Roundabout'? I want to use its stasis fridge and store not only the pizza, but possibly more of the local street foods.” - Asked her John, barely able to sneak past one recently assembled grav car, a couple of junior would-be mechanics locked in a heating argument about why there were “extra” parts left.
“I am doing that now... You will have the drone there in a couple of minutes, boss. Anything else?”
“No, thank you, Eve. Did you read the comments by the way? It seems that our viewers love the excellent work you do.” - The bunny quietly laughed and he pointed at the end of the corridor.
“It will take me a dozen minutes or so to reach the exit, but before that, I will let you experience this hidden part of Cav's culture – the 'Veins'.”
John carefully pointed his camera forward and locked the shoulder mount from rotating since there were plenty of “windows” cut in the walls and open doors to his sides. Those were people's homes; sometimes other H-loggers forgot that the lives of others had to be respected. Instead of chattering, he chose to remain silent and just increased the sensitivity of his camera audio recording sensors. Soon the stream filled with comments, people were discussing one or another sound, what the residents were shouting at each other through the windows. Oftentimes in close, tight-knit neighborhoods like this one, people would simply walk around in their slippers and dressed in short pants, grab food from their neighbor's table. Of course, these food “bandits” did so while leaving foodstuffs or drink in place of what they took themselves. Near the end of the corridor, John's path was suddenly blocked by an outstretched hand holding a ladle. The unspeakably aromatic stew almost made him trip and after tracing the hand with his eyes, he soon scouted its owner. A powerfully built old woman was standing beside a grav-stove, one hand holding an ancient recipe book written on paper. She grumbled almost angrily at him and moved the ladle even closer to his face:
“Did'ya think ye can sneak past over our Vein ere and not get at least one bite of food?! My grandkids will never forgive me, if I miss ya, John.”
The ladle was full of golden soup, huge chunks of buffalo meat and vegetables merrily floating in it. Dark-red carrots, cabbage, yellow brownish potatoes and silvery slices of giant onion bumped off each other, fighting for dominance with the big pieces of meat. Freshly cut herbs unleashed wave after wave of aromatic scents, rapidly winning a battle most uneven with his brain and after finally surrendering, John heard himself say, mouth watering:
“No, of course not, Auntie... gulp..." - He rotated the holo-cam and grinned - "Now you see, THIS is exactly what you signed for!”
Would John catch that crowd of spacers in a good mood? Perhaps they, just like their elder, Sonny, could share a story or two, maybe even on holo-cam? That is, IF he could still walk after the Auntie is done feeding him! More and tastier, wholesome-er adventures in this new Part 2 of John and the spaceboat - expect new episodes soon!
JATB was inspired by a real world netsonality and his many adventures - John Daub hails from our humble dimension. You can find his new Youtube channel and his second one, here! If you like these short stories, have the means and wish to support the author, check my Patreon page - I have more, exclusive sci-fi stories posted there.
John and the spaceboat Part 2: