Space: Terran Minarchy
Star system: Omia
Planet: Omia Prime
Colony name: Applecrate
Population: 158560... and counting
John now merrily strolled down the megasteel road, which led straight to Applecrate's outskirts. After that long chat with the bunny Evelyn, Daria's coworkers offered him the three meals which won the poll and he had to eat... a lot. It was supremely delicious and the women all had special lunch boxes, handcrafted by their husbands or sons. Made from local wood, odd pieces of vacfoam or plastic, each box was painted with all manner of cool pictures. There were also some quite interesting pieces of folk wisdom, old sayings, some of which he'd never read before and John made sure to record all of it. These boxes were considered family heirlooms and, he got to take holo-slides of the oldest. Each box, after their owners had finished decorating it, was covered with industrial grade protective polymer, therefore making said item near invincible to the passage of time. This colony... John could've sworn that this info-bit, about them having traditional, handcrafted lunch boxes, was never posted on G-net. Meaning he, once again, found something new and unique, while visiting a far off, border colony or simply flying around Fringe space. After the G-net stream was over, Daria assured him, that if he stayed for the entire duration of their Harvest Fair, they'd craft him a box. When he asked how much would it cost, the women behind and around her chuckled, and she responded that gifts from the heart are always priceless. John smiled; just by breathing Applecratean air in and out, he almost felt compelled to smile. He tapped his stomach and whistled a well-known to him melody, suddenly hearing someone behind him hum along. Stopping abruptly, he remembered that Evelyn, that veteran ops officer was currently accompanying him. Eve was to act as his guide while on Applecrate, just like Amy First said in one of her latest links. For the rest of his first day here, the bunny would show him around the town outskirts. He must've looked slightly off to her, because she stopped next to him and asked:
“Patron, how are you feeling? I know they meant well, but anyone consuming that much food would be sluggish afterwards. That is my opinion as all...” - Eve's low, melodic voice acted as a jolt of energy and John smiled, before answering:
“Sluggish, indeed! Though, after a two mile long stroll down this gentle slope, said food should be gone and turned into loads of energy, I gather!” - He pointed at the nearest building, a small woodwork shop stood next to its south wall, both seemed recently built.
“Do you know whose home is this? Moreover, I see they have a woodwork shop...”
“And you are asking yourself, why would even one make stuff from wood in this space age, I gather?” - Hummed Eve back, anticipating John's next question. He chuckled, aimed his shoulder holo-cam and took a couple of panoramic snaps of Applecrate, before speaking again.
“I assume they make furniture, souvenirs, maybe even table and kitchenware.” - Instead of outright answering, the bunny raised her paw, smiled and then quickly produced one elaborately crafted wooden set of spoon & fork. Both were handcrafted and, of course, sealed with that polymer, making them heat resistant to a certain degree.
“Once I spotted the woodwork shop, my curiosity got the better of me. Now, after you showed me this piece of art, Eve, you have my undivided attention! Lead the way, but slowly... I am still feeling kind of sluggish.” - And he again tapped his stomach, where the delicious, baked with local herbs pork, steamed black salmon, and the venison pie rested still.
* * *
John was told that this artisan was against him being recorded and any holo-slides of his person uploaded on G-net. Something about the war, Eve said, and not the old, Earth one but a recent thing. Perhaps this man and his family had a bad experience, they might even be on the run – John was respectful of their privacy. Fringe space was a vast expanse, there were plenty of dangerous persons and organizations, and Terrans were more often than not, targeted. A criminal did not produce anything, he or she took what others made, in essence they lived off the work of others. No, that wasn't entirely right, John thought to himself, while examining the beautifully arranged, handcrafted items inside the small shop, criminals did produce something. Misery, sentients who preyed upon others, they created nothing but misery. It is why Terrans had long since decided that they would never allow anyone to exploit them, why even peaceful people like him carried a weapon for self-defense. Looking around the shop again, John saw six little heads; their eyes peeking through the half-open, leading inside the house proper, two doors. He waved and the children ran away laughing, soon to clash with their mother, whose voice gently scolded them. John wasn't sure how many, but from the sound of it, the older kids were helping their mother with chores. Just as it had to be, he thought to himself, and concentrated on choosing something nice to purchase. He picked up two, covered with elaborate carvings bowls, paired them with sets of kitchenware, paid a total of twenty creds, and then, after one short talk with the owner, left. The woodcarver had one cyber arm, his eyes were too cybernetic; this man fitted perfectly the profile of an escaped slave. John felt that this craftsman and his family, they've finally discovered their small measure of peace. He could sense joy permeating the entire shop, saw the master's hands moving with calm, collective purpose, working on yet another piece of local dead wood. Eve explained that on Applecrate, people only used wood from already dead trees. They collected the fallen branches, picked up trees who fell during a storm or were killed by lightning. Nobody, except certain restaurants, needed firewood in this modern age, but it seemed that locals used wood as a crafting material and quite often so. After they left the woodworker's shop, and John placed his wife's well-packaged gift inside his backpack, he looked around. Catching him exploring the nearby houses, Eve pointed at another one, this time much bigger home. It was at least half a mile away, but John, being so well-fed and rested, thought nothing of the distance – H-loggers were, if not all of them, experienced hikers.
“You will love this place, Patron! I know the family who built it and they are in the bread baking business. They've just opened the bakery, by the way, and are working on their own grain field. See?” - She pointed at one strange-looking, and obviously shaped by intelligent, skillful hands, hill in the far distance. To John it looked exactly like a terrace farm, and since the Harvest Fair was about to begin, it was logical to assume that the farmers had already harvested their crop.
“John, call me John, please.” - While they walked with increasingly quicker pace towards their new destination, asked he. John knew that Terran client races greatly respected their creators, the humans and liked to show said respect. Sometimes, however, the clients forgot that humans were not vain but humble and most, if not all of them, were simply happy to have gifted others with intelligence. They sought not creating serfs or peons but friends and unlike the old, degenerate core races, humans gave their clients with the same freedoms they enjoyed from the get go. Who'd wish to shackle others and force them into indebted servitude for thousands of years? Aliens, even those who remotely knew a human, they could instantly gather that Terrans were of a different breed than most of the elder races. That got them in quite a lot of trouble, but John and the rest of humanity wouldn't have it any other way. He saw Eve's ears moving, she nodded affirmatively and then asked:
“John, what do you think about my offer? You know, my contract with the local militia is over, which makes me, one highly-skilled with computer systems and greatly experienced Ops officer, available for hire! Amy did mention that you might be looking for assistants and I hoped...” - The bunny mumbled her last words.
“Hmmm... What type of test would you like me to put you through, Eve? I know you were in the thick of it for most of your service in the colonial militia but, I am an H-logger as you know.” - John tapped the Nambu and then made a gun with his hand, aiming down the road - “We don't go looking for trouble, my type. It is more like a constant search for good, wholesome places and people, that entire peaceful traveling experience, you know.” - Eve's left ear slightly twitched and she sniggered, one paw covering her adorable snout. Then, as if she suddenly remembered something from her military past, Eve's voice sounded quite serious when she spoke again:
“This is the main reason I offered my services to you. Fighting in defense of others is a just thing, the right thing to do but... I am tired, John. What you do is exactly what I need to be doing. As far as testing goes – I can demonstrate quick, efficient speed-linking, holo-vid editing and the best ever G-net search algorithms you've probably seen!” - Her right paw reached for the holster strapped on her hip and then, after catching herself doing that, Eve sighed:
“Not suffering from war dreams or anything, I simply want to apply what I learned in the militia, put my computer skills to a good use. If, in the mean time I can help you make others happy by speedily editing holo-vids and sending better coded links, all the better!”
“That is an excellent goal, Eve and very much the reason why I became an H-logger in the first place. Well then, shall we see if this bread is as delicious as my nose tells me it is? Even if I don't eat it now, I'd grab a loaf for the stasis bag and bring it back as a gift for my wife, Kanae. She loves when I unpack my luggage – tells me that its like traveling together with me.”
“The two first standard weeks are often a trial period.” - Eve clapped with her paws, smiled mischievously, as if she'd planned something sneaky and then continued negotiating - “Colonial common law says every perspective employee gets full pay for the period. I am willing to wave off first week's payment... How does that sound to you, boss?”
Slightly startled, John slowed his pace, looked at the bunny's smiling snout, and noticed the two twinkling lights in her red eyes. She almost radiated joy, perceived the happy days to come. It was the same look he had in his eyes, the very first time he saw a spaceship flying over his head, as a child. John sniffed the air again; it was loaded with smoke from a wood oven, and the aroma of freshly baked bread. The thought of him doing odd treks around Terran space together with Kanae, bought some of his old memories back. He sighed and hastened his pace; somehow, and only after a few short miles of walking, John felt hungry again. Due to the fact that his nose was under constant assault, John's imagination was overflowing with pictures, scents and sounds. He very much felt a loaf of freshly baked, piping hot bread in his hands, almost burning his fingers. What was this place, and why did everything people made here taste so amazingly good?!
This was the second episode of John and the space boat! John's exploration of the colony town of Applecrate has just started and he has a lot more to find. Who is that acquaintance Amy First is meeting with? What are the locals building over at their marketplace? Is Sonny the spacer going to share some of his people's riveting stories with John? That and more, in the next installment of JATB!
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