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John and the space boat - The Arm, Part 2 Episode 4

AragmarJun 8, 2020, 11:47:58 PM

Space: Terran Minarchy

Star system: Cavora

Planet: Terraformed Asteroid FV-3134

Colony name: Cav

Population: 3508453...

Blaze Marson walked slowly, mag boots barely leaving the asteroid's surface. Small, precise steps, his feet nevertheless disturbed a random pile of asteroid dust, one of many which covered the old megasteel pathways he and John followed. Floating up and then following Blaze for a short while, the throng of glistening, dark-gray dust particles, found their way back on the surface – weak as it was, the far off floor plating still projected gravity even in these parts of the asteroid. The spacer's armored spacesuit was untarnished; Blaze had activated a weak, but strong enough personal shield generator. The near invisible field came into view and John's holo-cam picked its outlines only when something hit the tall spacer. It was struck by either a random micro meteorite, or the usual, all-too prevalent rays of cosmic radiation – the place they were aiming to reach was not covered by the colony's big deflector shields, nor did the first settlers ever employ a force field generator to protect it. Their destination was one of Cav's less-known landmarks which locals simply called the “Arm”.

“We are almost there, John.” - stated Blaze, pointing at something big and made of metal, sticking above one of nearby rocks.

“See? Those four grayish things are the 'Arm's' fingers. Maybe five minutes more and we will have cover from the elements.” - The man then scanned both the surrounding area and John, mumbling something unintelligible in spacer lingo.

“What was that, I couldn't pick what you just said, Mr. Marson.” - Aimed his holo-cam at the spacer, John, in an attempt to squeeze the meaning of yet another colorful word from Blaze. The obscure, strange ways these people morphed words or invented new ones was nothing else, but fascinating to him and his viewers.

“This? I was just blabbering... You really want to know, don't you?” - Instead of outright asking John nodded affirmatively since he knew spacers often loved to communicate with hand signs, even nods. He then pointed at his shoulder, where the slowly rotating, soon to aim at Blaze's faceplate holo-cam stood and asked:

“Our viewers would love to learn more. If it is something you are willing to share, of course.”

“Sure, why not.” - Blaze's faceplate was now transparent and John's holo-cam, the Nikon Slipstream 2000, capable of shooting True HD footage in full immersion 128K, caught the spacer's calm, thoughtful smile. The brand new stabilizer installed in his spacesuit had so far effortlessly adapted to John's constant change of pace, and Nikon's integrated filters obstructed any unwanted flashes of light from ruining the holo-footage. Recording or streaming top quality holo-vids, while walking on top of constantly orbited by hundreds of performing landing or take off maneuvers spaceships asteroid, was not an easy feat. It wasn't John's first time and he had both the much needed experience plus the proper gear to pull said feat off. While he waited for Blaze to find a smoother way and translate spacer lingo into easily understandable for the people unaccustomed to Fringe space dialects words, he took another set of spaceship holo-slides. Thanks to his masterful control of the light filters, John was able to capture a couple of tiny, colorfully painted shuttlecraft. How could one even record footage or take pictures without partially blocking the stars? He could only begin to imagine, how much work would've taken photo lab techs in the olden days just to develop one single picture.

“That was something related to an old spacer saying, the one which most Terrans know and cite: 'Kick any asteroid and pirates will scurry from the inside'.” - Blaze, with a fluid, lightning-quick move, pulled his heavy pistol, aimed at something in the near distance and fired a single projectile. In but a few seconds the railgun pellet struck something, most probably a larger meteorite or a piece of debris and blew it to pieces. The spacer holstered his gun and half-turned tapped the side of his faceplate while muttering the same word, but this time louder and slower, so the viewers could hear it clearly:

“Meteor-sniping... 'Twas what I said to myself earlier, when my scanning goggles picked up that tiny, basketball size piece of debris.” - He chuckled and then made an all-encompassing hand motion, before continuing:

“The space around Cav is basically littered with both new and old battle debris. Even though the private companies paid to keep the colony and ship traffic safe, I dare say, are doing an exceptionally good job, nobody's perfect, John. That is why we have shields and all spaceships can count on data-streams being relayed to their mainframes in real time from Cav navigation command. It's what keeps the number of accidents to a bare minimum.”

“I heard that in the old days, when this colony was young, spacers flew debris or meteor patrols, shooting down or towing bigger objects safely away from the asteroid. Is this something you were told stories about, Mr. Marson?”

“Please, Blaze is enough, I am a spacer and we are not great lovers of formalities... As for your question, yes, I do know many stories about the old 'duster' flights. After this trip is over, I will link you some of the best 'duster' tales my family told me. John, we should speed up our leisurely pace, I'd rather spend most of my time inside the 'Arm' than outside. Moreover, those personal shield generators of ours will not protect us forever – sooner rather than later, they will overheat and turn off.”

Both walked quickly around the rock and finally, the “Arm” stood before them extended upwards, its four clamps aimed into space. The docking arm's bulky, yet somehow still elegant-looking construction was littered with odd dents, scrapes and even showed signs of battle damage. Covered with dark-green, anti-radiation space paint, the five decade old structure was left here as a testament to Terran ingenuity, determination and engineering prowess. John's Nikon hungrily devoured the surroundings, he only had to focus its center holo-imager at one or another oddity and those, he had to agree with Blaze, were aplenty around here. First was the base of the “Arm”; probably more akin to a heavily-fortified bunker than a simple docking station, the oblong structure was almost invisible for the naked eye. Only after his guide pointed it out, did John notice how its builders managed to use the surrounding terrain and cammo paint to conceal the structure. According to Blaze, the insides of this building were only accessible either through some obscure deathtrap of a tunnel or the metal superstructure of the “Arm” itself. Of course the spacer knew how to find the service entrances and had the necessary security codes to open them. Second were the also concealed pillboxes, designed and built by the first settlers to protect this spot, prevent any star trooper from advancing and capturing this then single entrance to the colony. Each of the small nano-concrete installations looked like a random rock; one of the empty gun emplacements even resembled a crater. Last but not least were the odd pieces of slag and glassed asteroid dust, a clear indication that from the moment Terran settlers came here and attempted to build their homes, live long and prosper, they were forced to viciously defend themselves. Blaze was silent and the metal pathway avoided any of these damaged areas, which made John think the spacers built it long after the “Arm” had outlived its usefulness. It was a memorial now and yet, just by looking at its imposing size he had the feeling this was a very much intact, quite operational “monument”.

They had to temporary switch off their mag boots so that their long leap towards the Arm would be possible. The pathway's bent metal surface behind them, both created tiny clouds of asteroid dust which floated after them and then, after spreading over a greater area, disappeared from view. One could play with the light filters of their holo-cam and include or exclude the glow of specific stellar bodies. John had done so and since this was not his first visit to the Cavora system, he had all of the necessary data. Preprogrammed in his Nikon's memory, only light coming from the local star and engine exhausts of starships was visible. He, of course, made sure to dim the latter; plasma glow from one spaceship too many and the stream might turn into a constant, unnecessary battle with the settings of ones PDA.

Soon enough, with the aid of their grapplers, both men reached the Arm, boots quickly mag locking on its armored surface. Blaze walked slowly now, even though they weren't in any serious danger, a misstep could mean floating off, away from the asteroid's surface. That the colony was a big, always rotating around its center axis asteroid, many a tourist had to learn the hard way. After a rescue shuttle picked them up, the careless sentient was then charged with the fuel cost – simple and not that harsh a penalty. This way a lesson was learned, ensuring that person would never run and hop around without observing basic safety protocols. John's personal spacesuit was also fitted with engines, though the tiny plasma drives had a limited fuel reserve and were to be used only in a pinch. Both were Terrans and did receive plenty of space survival training during their childhood, Blaze even more so since he came from a spacer family. What people said here on the Fringe border was - spacers were born in a spacesuit, lived their entire lives in one and then were buried... still wearing it. John was unsure whether that was one hundred percent correct since he'd seen spacer suits or pieces of them on display in their homes. Much akin to how samurai armor and weapons had their special, honored place in a warrior's household, the mural covered, uniquely designed spacesuit told the story of one entire lifetime. Some spacer clans preserved a dozen or more of these relics inside one special hall, where only close friends or family members had access. He'd heard rumors of something called the last mural – painted on the postmen upon which lay the suit, it depicted how the spacer who wore it perished.

John already took detailed holo-slides of Blaze's spacesuit, everything was already uploaded on his G-net profile. No H-logger would ever miss an opportunity like this, moreover he was promised an interview. This time he was determined to avoid his past and somewhat spooky spacer interviewing experience; the mural he picked back then resulted in old Sonny sharing a grizzly tale about the thing he disliked in this universe the most – derelicts. Blaze Marson assured him that what he was about to tell him was not in any way, shape or form connected with ghost vessels, but the alien thugs, their “boss” and his oh-so-intimidating message. Therefore John kept taking holo-slides of his surroundings (obviously not when Blaze imputed his secret codes), carefully followed his guide when he opened the door leading to the dark insides of the “Arm”. The spacer used a disposable power pack to “juice” the service entrance keypad and internal mechanisms. After entering they deactivated the protective shield belts and Blaze led John towards the top of the monument. The insides of this docking arm, although not in use, were still kept clean and there was some power left in its grav plating. Passing through the sealed door of an airlock, they soon entered a small observation dome which had breathable air and the inside felt comfortably warm. To John this place looked exactly like the command room from which the “Arm” was operated. Now, after all the equipment was removed, the space was utilized by welding tables and chairs to the floor plating.

“A picnic area?!” - Exclaimed John with opened faceplate, pointing at a stasis box, bearing Blaze's spacer sign.

“Figured we can grab a couple of my grandmother's pelmeni, sip some kvas and while our shield belts cool down, I will tell you that tale.”

The spacer waved his hand over said stasis box and after it clicked open he reached inside, producing two plates of piping hot pelmeni. Next from inside the picnic stash he eagerly snatched a large bottle of kvas and two space cups fitted with lids and straws. Only after he placed all of this on the table, filled both cups with the dark, aromatic liquid did Blaze finally relax. John, like the good, respectable H-logger, that he was, had a clean spork in one of his pockets. After drinking one entire glass of kvas and cleaning his plate, he asked:

“You mentioned that story of yours was somehow related to those goons we had the joy of meeting with yesterday, in the Roundabout. Might I assume it has quite a lot to do with that 'property' they demanded you return to their boss?”

“You assumed correctly, John.” - Answered only after devouring the contents of his plate, Blaze. - “Now, I will tell you the story how we acquired the 'property' of one dishonest businessman. Imagine if you will one elaborately planned and executed grift, which culminated with me and my crew...”

What exactly was that “property” which Blaze and his buddies liberated? Spacers rarely mentioned nuclear arguments in a casual conversation, even as a mere means of intimidation. Who was this dishonest businessman and more importantly, who was he working for? For one to so brazenly present demands, order a free citizen of the Minarchy to do his bidding, all of this was unusual to say the least. Normal criminals avoided Terran space like a plagued ground from hell...

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.

You can find all of my books on Amazon.

John and the space boat Part 1

John and the space boat Part 2:

Episode 1, Vending rock

Episode 2, Lifeblood

Episode 3, The Roundabout

Episode 5, The Grift