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John and the space boat - Revelations, Episode 9

AragmarFeb 23, 2020, 6:11:25 PM

Space: Terran Minarchy

Star system: Omia

Planet: Omia Prime

Colony name: Applecrate

Population: 158579... and counting

John and Eve sat on a wide table inside this well lit by colorful holo-art restaurant. 'Under the bridge' was a big place and he could count more than a few dozen people having lunch right now. It was the spot where Amy First promised to come and finally give John the interview she owed him. Also there was the whole free lunch thing and he had to agree, it was a most pleasant, unexpected bonus. He now looked at the large, pumpkin sized blue apple, which the server had just placed on their table.

“Eve, is this a local dish? I don't remember hearing about meat stuffed apples anywhere else I traveled. What did the server call it?”

“Appleocalypse!” - Chuckled Eve and snatched a piece of meat from the sliced open apple with her fork.

John examined the peculiar dish and remembered that there were a couple of places on Earth and some Fringe colonies, where people ate soup served inside well baked loaf of bread. Then they ate the soup soaked bread with a vegetable side dish or just as is. This Appleocalypse was inspired by those dishes, but the similarities end there; inside the hollowed out large apple, the cook layered many kinds of already barbecued, fried or steamed meat. Then the apple was glazed with a local sauce which the restaurant's menu mentioned more than a couple of times. It seemed that the glazing meat sauce's main ingredient was local whiskey and Amy was the top brewer around here. John swiped through the menu's pages, finally enlarging the hologram when he found her name in the section – Top Patrons.

“John, the apple will soak too much of the sauce! You gotta eat the meat quickly.” - Eve's warning pulled him away from the colorful holo-menu.

He reached with his fork and skewered a random piece of smothered in sauce, meat. It was a thinly sliced piece of beef, so tender that it practically melted the second he attempted to chew. The sauce - it perfectly accentuated the meat's natural flavor! Moreover, this heavenly juice somehow unlocked an entire new layer of taste and he instantly remembered Matsusaka beef. John reached for the complimentary bottle of sauce and looked at it, instantly noticing the letters printed on its label which said – “Not for sale” and “For restaurants only”. The sound of ill-concealed munching caught his ear and he looked up. The juicy, meaty contents of this apple were being devoured with alarming speed. Eve was the main culprit; after the Uplift bunnies had to change their diet and became omnivores by necessity. Their now much bigger brains needed the meat and since they had quick metabolism, oftentimes everything they ate vanished, burned by their muscles. The cool thing was – bunnies could never get fat. The not so cool thing, at least for him now was – them rabbits ate with the same speed they ran! Eve eventually stopped; no matter how much she wanted to continue eating, there were limits to everything. So far he'd been picking the sliced beef but now, with plenty of meat still left inside that apple, he tried a piece of sausage. Barbecued to perfection, the meaty, porky goodness was full of spices, garlic and he ate more than a few while waiting for their server to bring refreshments. Eve ordered some of the local beer, which Amy had specifically brewed for this restaurant. Not surprisingly, when the golden liquid came, John noticed the same red letters on its holo-label - “Not for sale.”

“Cut a piece of apple and drop it in your glass, John. 'Tis how locals drink the 'Blue Bridge' stout... trust me.” - Eve was having the meat sweats and after doing what she advised him, the bunny sipped from her glass.

John watched how she smiled, eyes closed; no one could mistake the expression of complete bliss on her face with anything else. It was a thing which always made him, made any Terran smile. Share every happy moment with your friends and loved ones, be happy when other people are. Smile together even if do not know them, shake hands, make an effort to know them and soon you will have an army of friends more numerous than the stars in this galaxy. It was what old Terrans often taught the young, a philosophy which most people across the colonies had long since adopted. Life was too short and the Universe full of extraordinary, interesting stuff to explore. For a Terran to not live his or her life to the fullest was considered a waste...

He followed Eve's example and tried the beer after that piece of apple he sliced had some time to release its flavor. Without knowing it, John drank half the glass and blinked slightly confused – this 'Blue bridge' was too smooth for its own good. After tasting the pork sausage, John looked inside the stuffed apple for more, different cuts of meat. He noticed that there were still some fried meatballs left and tried one. The things were full of sweet onion and cheese, their outer, fried shells were basically soaked in sauce. Even on its own, those vegetable and cheese filled meatballs were a perfect beer food! The very last thing he ate, before Eve helped him with what was left of the stuffed apple itself, were the steamed meatrolls. Made from thinly sliced chicken, the wraps were full of something which resembled tofu. Perhaps it was tofu? John used the option to “ask the cook” and pressed a small, chef's hat resembling button on their table. Before their server brought deserts, the holo of one Terran hamster popped up. The program showered them with excuses, stated that their main chef was away on a business trip and then answered John's question. Yes, it was tofu but made from a local, similar to soy plant. As the server placed a cup full of blue apple ice cream before them, he attempted to memorize this new, tofu-like taste. Different alien plants and animals were always carefully studied before anyone even entertained the thought of eating them. Indeed, this local product tasted quite peculiar; both incredibly soft and yet still firm, tofu made from the beans of Roja was now definitely on his radar.

The ice cream with pieces of blue apples was marvelous and completely stuffed, John checked the comment section of his channel. His subscribers did enjoy those quick food streams in which he mostly ate the food and let other people comment. Sometimes when the dishes were too tasty he became quiet, finished the food first and then gave his opinion. This one in particular felt almost like an ASMR experience and he tapped on his PDA holo-keyboard - “Facing the Appleocalypse!” Amy chose this moment to enter the venue; she was a tall, Martian born human with long, jet-black hair and olive shaped, green eyes. Of course, her skin was golden and irises, blood red – all Martians from her generation were given the same gene-augments. Some never reversed them and chose to look like this, decades after the terraformation of their homeworld was complete. She sat on their table with the expression of a person who had way too much work and was basically begging for a beer. Eve linked their server and ordered one glass of 'Blue bridge' for Amy, then shook her friend's hand.

“I feel so relieved that you can finally get a breather, Amy!” - The bunny pointed at the holo-menu still floating above their table - “We can order more food if you want, perhaps another stuffed apple?”

“No, thank you, Eve. I've had a very filling breakfast this morning and then ate one banitsa while we were waiting for the ship to land.” - She basically grabbed the glass from the server's hands and took a sip, wiping her beerstache after.

“What ship?” - John switched his holo-cam on, after Amy gave him a sign that she was ready to speak.

“One small cargo vessel full of goodies... which you will both see tomorrow!” - John raised a finger but before he could ask a follow up question, Amy continued - “I and my new business partner kept the secret since our first meeting last month and we aim to keep it a secret. Well... at least till tomorrow, when the Harvest Fair will start in earnest. Now,” - she took a big gulp from her glass - “what is it that you wanted me to tell you and your subscribers, John?”

“We would very much like to hear that riveting story of yours, Amy. Please, if you don't mind, we'd love to know more about the mysterious fish.”

“The blind fishies... yes.” - Amy sighed, finished her beer and ordered another one. Then she looked through the restaurant's large, panoramic window and pointed at the water below. 'Under the bridge''s exact location was described in its name; the restaurant was literally under the only bridge Applecrate had so far built across the 'Blind waters' river. It was shaped like a pod and its sides were transparent, allowing its patrons to enjoy one of the most beautiful views John had ever seen here on Applecrate. The waters reflected sunlight and each foamy wave created thousands of sparkles, which from this distance looked very much like precious stones. He could only imagine what it was during the night, when said waters reflected the million strong army of flickering stars. Moments after the second rounds of beer were brought to their table, Amy cleared her throat:

“While most locals will only tell you the basics of what happened back then, I will share everything I know with you. You see, our small colony ship was loaded with everything a fledgling village needed. We had plenty of food too, because the initial surveys proved there were no animals on this planet, none. Or so we thought... I have no idea who ordered our third cargo drop to be food supplies, but he or she saved us all. We had agreed to deploy the construction equipment first, therefore our shuttlecraft unloaded crates full of parts on its initial flight. Then came the tools, a portable fusion core and the nano-printer, followed up by two power loaders. The third and last cargo flight was instead loaded with stasis crates full of food rations, fruits and vegetables. It was then when we saw how our starship got blown to bits. What we later learned was that the wanna-be pirates who attacked it, attempted to disarm it but hit its main reactor instead. Every Terran knows than not everyone who labels themselves space pirates is supremely capable, but I digress. Nevermind who they were and what happened to these criminals, we were stranded on Omia Prime.”

“You had a shuttlecraft.” - Interrupted her John, to ask a question suggested by many of his subscribers - “Couldn't you use the ship and look for help?”

“We did have that old cargo shuttle, but she was a cheap deal – no FTL to speak of. Even if we tried what you mentioned, for example send two people to look for help, they still had to eat. Without FTL reaching the nearest settlement or at least one of the frequently traveled cargo routes would take at least four months. We barely had food for one... That and there was the fuel problem too; the shuttlecraft had already dropped three cargo runs planetside – it had enough to go back and dock with the ship in orbit.” - John nodded and swiped a couple of links on his PDA before asking another question:

“What about long-range comms?”

“Our colony ship did send an SOS signal and that was how we were eventually discovered. The shuttlecraft had a standard comms system, not powerful enough to reach the nearby star system. We did have our nano-printer though and, with enough time our engineers could have constructed a long-range, hyperspace capable transceiver. Time equals food and that we did not have; as a matter of fact, the more we exerted ourselves, the hungrier we got. After the first two weeks had passed, some of us became disillusioned, spent their time sleeping to waste less calories.”

“Then, what about exploration?” - Asked another question John and Amy nodded.

“Indeed, there were some of us, the trained scouts in particular, who attempted to scour the forest, look for edible plants. Few roots, leaves and tiny plants were actually edible – certainly not nearly enough to feed three hundred grown men and women. It was the scouts who proposed we plant the apple seeds; this way, at least those who followed us would have something to eat.”

“When did you discover that the river was full of fish?” - John was happy he got a more realistic retelling of the Applecratean story. Most people who told it, mentioned that the colonists had only apples, no rations and certainly no one knew about the edible local plants.

“We could realistically sustain ourselves only for one month. By foraging for those wild plants, cooking and then eating them, we could extend this period up to month and a half. Proper farming would realistically take many more months therefore that wasn't an option. Our engineers started another project; they calculated how many stasis pods could be built in the time we had left. Between the portable fusion core and our shuttlecraft we could provide enough energy for fifty. After scrapping everything we could spare, the engineers said they could fashion no more than thirty.” - Amy stopped talking and looked at John, then his holo-camera, her eyes oozing sadness. She sighed again before continuing the story:

“Everyone drew straws or tossed creds and we chose thirty people. Space colonization is oftentimes viewed as glamorous, exciting, even thrilling. For the colonizers, it is often a deadly dangerous affair – a one way trip. As luck would have it, I was one of the chosen but before entering the pod I went to the river. There I sat on its banks, my feet in the water, tears running down my cheeks. I love my friends and wanted everyone to be safe! Waking up months or maybe even a year after they died and visiting their graves, was not something I wanted to happen. Therefore, there on the banks of this very river, I decided to give up my stasis pod to someone else.” - Amy wiped her tears and again pointed at the river.

“There, do you see the spot? I was sat exactly there! Mr. Malcolm later built his 'fishing' shack there to commemorate the occasion, John. After crying for Universe knows how long, I decided to go back, tell them I reconsidered, tell them they had to draw another lot, pick someone else. I splashed some water on my face and then, just when I was about to walk away, something moved. Long, scaly and dark-blue, the fish swam right between my legs and then... stopped. I kid you not, John, the thing stopped dead in the water! Hands shaking, I reached down and grabbed the fish, then walked back on dry land. It wasn't like any other fish I'd seen, but you already know that, John. I won't lie, holding a fish that came to me and never moved a muscle as I held it, was kind of creepy. Don't know why, but I hugged it, held it tight, close to my chest and then... I ran.”

“Wow, the fish came to you?! That is extraordinary! What happened then, Amy?”

“People were stunned when they saw me hugging that fish, but after I told them what happened, some of them went to the river. Not everyone had a fish come to them, only certain people... like Malcolm for example. We had food, we were saved and the stasis pod lottery, discontinued. Those who won a place, they still have them stashed somewhere and we call ourselves, First. Did we ran scans of the river and everything around our settlement? Yes, yes we did and many times even. Nobody can explain what happened and where the fish came from. I always felt like we haven't even scratched the surface of this place, not yet.” - Amy slowly stood up, waved to the server and finished her second beer.

“Now, I do think that you and your subscribers have plenty to talk about, John. Me?, I think I'll go home and have a long nap.” - She shook his hand and hugged Eve, who got all teary while her friend spoke of those hard to forget times.

“Terrans are taught from a very tender age to treat the planets they colonize as if they were living beings.” - Said Amy, before she walked away from the table - “I believe that all those years ago, this planet did the same for us, John.”

John had finally delivered on his promise to interview Amy First and she, shared a story most riveting indeed! What exactly is this planet's mysterious secret? Is it even a planet or something else, something sentient?! Tomorrow was when Applecrate's Harvest Fair would finally kick off. John still wondered what was that special ride he was promised? There was no point pondering about it now, because as wise people often said - morning was wiser than evening!

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!

Links to all episodes:

Part 0 - Introduction - The Walkabout

Episode 1 - Applecrate

Episode 2 - Outskirts

Episode 3 - The little bear

Episode 4 - The tumbling apple

Episode 5 - Derelict

Episode 6 - The fish whisperer

Episode 7 - Stargazers

Episode 8 - Wheels

Episode 10 - Harvest fair