Space: Terran Minarchy
Star system: Omia
Planet: Omia Prime
Colony name: Applecrate
Population: 158569... and counting
After Sonny departed 'The tumbling apple', John and his future assistant Eve spent an hour sitting on one of the benches outside. Watching various people coming and going, they both sat quietly and casually checked their PDAs from time to time. Many more, millions of links came from his subscribers; John spent most of this hour, reading, answering and basically reacting to the data ripples his stream made on the local G-net. Ripples... more like tidal waves and his PDA, no matter how advanced, was only capable of showing a third of it. One hour after the stream there were a few million of them still awake and chatting; those who formed the John Space Exploration Corps or JSEC, were in the majority. His face was again adorned by a huge, happy smile – the JSEC members vowed to never go look for this place. That and they made a commitment to inform others, warn them of the dangers associated with ill-prepared exploration trips. Just like anything else on the G-net, this group had started as a forum, a place where John's fans who owned FTL capable starships could gather. They exchanged information of various travel destinations, sweet, wholesome spots to visit - mostly following in John's footsteps. Soon this community grew rather quickly, since most Terrans were capable of navigating and piloting a starship. The fact that tiny spacecraft were easily accessible on the market; cheap, sturdy and easy to maintain vessels were a staple of Terran spaceship manufacturing companies. Just like the early 19th and 20th century, industrial revolutions made most amenities previously only available to the rich, accessible even to those people with a modest income, spacecraft became the automobile of the future. Tiny ships, like the winged shuttlecraft for example, were mass-produced and in large numbers. Moreover, the Terrans, being the independent people that they were, often crafted said ships by hand, modifying the already sturdy and dependable designs even further. Tinkering with the family shuttle became a favorite past time for many and some craft were passed from parents to children, well maintained, kept in pristine condition.
The JSEC were more like a big army of space campers; most of the time they organized special groups, each visiting a specific location, which John had streamed from earlier. Often these small groups turned into large formations; instead of a simple, tiny shuttlecraft, some JSEC members owned or had built themselves, dropship-sized vessels. Those could ferry up to thirty people or more and some even carried ground recreation vehicles inside their cargo holds. Well protected and armed with defensive armaments, these convoys had so far been attacked only once. The holo-footage still circulated on local Terran G-net channels and John had to admit – it was rather hilarious. Some wannabe pirates, keen on proving themselves and hopefully being accepted into a proper pirate clan, attempted to pounce on his subscribers. The inept ambush attempt soon turned into a “turkey shoot”; a prudent bunch, JSEC members were often accompanied by a system’s Colonial Navy patrols and this time, they even had a couple of guest C-loggers. Armed to the teeth, they blew the pirate craft to pieces and some even snagged part of the loot in the form of salvage. At first, soon after this fan group had been formed, John worried that something might happen, that he'd be somehow responsible if any JSEC members got hurt. This phase quickly passed though, Terrans were capable and everyone knew the risks of space travel, after all, even the shortest FTL jump could go wrong once in a while. Moreover, his subscribers always made sure that they were well-prepared and supplied for the journey ahead. The best thing was that John's trips were not in unsafe areas, but places with plenty of security forces and many other, friendly alien starships. That and they always made sure to gather plenty of information about what had been happening around these parts, in advance of their trip.
Calmed a bit, after his subscribers made sure to do the same after this stream, John addressed Eve:
“What do your rabbit ears say, is Amy coming soon or not.” - The bunny looked at him, scratched her nose and then chuckled.
“My ears say... nothing! But the link she sent me a minute earlier did – Amy is concluding a big deal with one of her Earth contacts. She said it was a secret and that you will get a special ride into the marketplace tomorrow. Her way of saying sorry, John. Amy always does stuff like this since like... forever. One time I was hired to guide another person around Applecrate and she vanished, five minutes before her set meeting with him!” - The bunny sighed, patted both her ears and then stood up:
“Come, there is one place I wanted to show you tomorrow but since Amy is unavailable...” - She cracked her paws and hopped on one place a couple of times. John quickly stood up too and looked around curiously, trying to discern where his guide would take him. He pointed at the holo-cam and asked her:
“The place you are taking me to, can I record there?” - Eve smiled and pointed her paw at the river. He could see and only after looking at the spot she showed him, one tiny peer came into his view.
“How was the river called, 'Blind waters', right?” - John remembered that the local waterway was deep and indeed full of tasty fish. Perhaps Eve knew someone who traveled these mysterious waters?
“Yep, blind, watery and full of wriggling fishies!” - She then skillfully led him around 'The tumbling apple' and between some homes.
The bunny knew where all of the tiny alleyways led and with ease navigated Applecrate's residential area. Soon they reached the colony's westernmost outskirts, traversed the small forest patch between them and the river. It took them no more than half an hour to reach the peer as Eve had linked its owner beforehand. The man was probably over one hundred years old; long, white-blond hair, a well-kept beard, his head covered with something resembling a fisherman's hat. A pair of curious light-green eyes studied John's face, before the elder offered his hand and greeted him:
“The name is Malcolm, Malcolm Bigsby the 3rd! Welcome to my peer, John. You are probably wondering what am I doing here?” - Introduced himself the man and then pointed at John's already set on recording mode holo-cam - “It is a place where locals and tourists can come, learn more about our blind fishies.”
“What can you tell me about them, Mr. Malcolm? I am sure that some of my subscribers know that your fishy friends are lacking ways to observe their surroundings, yet they seem quite capable of swimming around. Am I right?” - John aimed his camera at the nearby waters, where something big swam slowly, lazily even, against the river's stream.
“Eve was one of my best students! You have not forgotten how to prep the boat, have you, 'Smarteyes'?” - Malcolm snickered, while the bunny shook his hand with both paws, hugged him and then quickly ran across the peer. Eve certainly looked like she knew her way around and John smiled – exactly the person an H-logger needed as his or her guide. The more secretive, lesser known places he could discover and record for this subscribers to watch, the better.
“'Smarteyes'?” - He pointed at her, smiled and canted his head, expecting Mr. Malcolm to tell him how the bunny got such a colorful nickname. Instead what he got was a generic answer:
“Why yes, we all knew she'd be something big someday, like a starship bridge officer or maybe even a captain! One only need look into her curiosity-laden eyes... once. Thankfully, the Minarchy is not like any of them G.A. star states – we like our clients to have the freedom to choose.” - Some of the older humans weren't that chatty when it came to their own or their friends' past. John nodded understandingly, and then pointed at the river:
“I assume we are going fishing?”
“It depends, John.” - Beckoned him to follow the peer Malcolm, while tapping his pockets; it was obvious that the elder was looking for something. Before they reached the peer's end, Eve had already maneuvered a flatbed, river boat out of her small hangar. She loaded it with a portable stasis fish bag, a bucket full of breading and then a couple of long, ending with metal hoops, poles. Each had a lever on it and if John's guess was correct, those activated low-powered, force field emitters. One could catch a fish of moderate size using a fishing pole like this but only if they were skilled. Somewhat confused by Malcolm's answer, John inspected the river with somewhat perplexed look. Perhaps some of those fishies were out of season?
“It depends on what? I never saw any note restricting fishing in this river on the G-net. Could you elaborate Mr. Malcolm?”
“Well, it depends if our friends are willing and ready to be fished out of the waters.” - Calmly stated the old fisherman, fixed his hat and boarded the boat.
“What does that mean?” - Slightly confused, John nevertheless boarded the boat too and ordered his holo-cam to follow the big fish, which still swam nearby. Malcolm and Eve both caught what he was looking at and the bunny smiled:
“John, that's ol' Momo you are looking at. Wanna pet him?”
“Can... I?” - Hesitantly asked John, again inspecting the fish, trying to determine its length. His subscribers adamantly stated that none of this planet's creatures were even remotely dangerous.
“Of course you can! Scratch him under the jaw, but gently... Momo likes that.”
Stated Mr. Malcolm and piloted the boat near their fishy friend, who, far from being startled or swimming away, actually got closer. The fish was even longer than John thought it to be; slowly, Momo scratched his scaly body against their boat and John reached down. It would be his first time petting a fish and suddenly, the moment he placed his hand into the waters, a feeling of unbelievable, serene calm took over his very being. His hand touched the scaly fish and slowly, gently, just as he was advised, he scratched Momo's underjaw. The fish soon flapped with its tail and much akin to a dog, rolled over, so that the person who petted him could easily reach the good spot. Soon Eve joined him and began scrubbing Momo's scales with a small brush; her aim was to remove the silt which covered some of them.
“It seems that today, a couple of fishies are willing to be fished, John. Leave our lazy friend to soak up the evening sun and grab one of the poles. That the fish are willing is true, yet we must still be able to catch them.”
What is happening exactly on this colony? How does Mr. Malcolm know when to fish and which one of the scaly, blind river critters are “willing” to be fished?! That and more, in the next installment of JATB!
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