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John and the space boat - The Roundabout, Part 2 Episode 3

AragmarMay 29, 2020, 4:07:39 PM

Space: Terran Minarchy

Star system: Cavora

Planet: Terraformed Asteroid FV-3134

Colony name: Cav

Population: 3508391...

“Streaming our beautiful docks on G-net, are we?” - Smiling asked one of the two, heavily-armed security women, stationed in front of the spacer bar.

He was told that after one particularly dangerous altercation two years ago, Cav’s local security service beefed up their patrols and placed extra guards on certain locations throughout the colony. Both women gave off the look of seasoned veterans; their armored, exoskeleton outfitted spacesuits kept immaculate, each holding a stun rifle at the ready. For certain the two packed enough weaponry to discourage most would-be troublemakers. In addition to their powerful stun rifles they also carried belts with a handful of shock grenades, which disoriented or disabled most people and, if that wasn’t enough, both had large caliber railgun pistols maglocked to their belts. If only they could be everywhere and every time a crime occurred... He, just as any other Terran with a brain knew that was virtually impossible; at best colonial security was conveniently close, at worst, you had to deal with felons on your own, stall them and hope security forces arrived quickly. Preventing crime and defending oneself was ultimately the sole responsibility of the armed, trained in self-defense citizen. Generally, those criminals who wished to keep on breathing, they avoided Terran space like the plague. Most, if not all Terrans, kept a loaded stunner or laser pistol on their person; it was far safer to rob and burglarize the unarmed, incapable to defend itself populace of other star states.

“Finally I got them spacers exactly where I want them. They can’t hyperspace away from being interviewed forever!” - Said John chuckling, returned the guard’s smile and pointed at the door behind them. Both women clearly recognized him and one even produced an older holo-print of his “you found me” H-logger cards from her spacesuit’s front pocket.

“The girls on dock patrol, John. It was one of them who betrayed your movements to Auntie for a portion of her stew. Hope you are not angry...” - Confirmed his nagging suspicions the card holding woman.

“I am yet to taste orbital stew better than hers.” - John threw one look behind him, noting the fact that there were many locals still watching in his direction. Someone waved, hand holding one of his newly printed cards and he smiled again.

“Just don’t disclose my presence to those spacers inside and we are golden.” - He gave the second security woman his last “you found me” cards and slowly turned around, only after she winked conspiratorially.

He then aimed his holo-camera and kept stuffing all that extra food which Auntie gave him inside the shopping drone’s mini stasis unit. It was now completely full; that prolific home cook did not let him go with empty hands. When he finally exited the “Veins”, John was lugging one large blueberry custard pie and a big polyplastic container, fulled to the brim with that amazing stew. On top all of this, he still carried the three pieces of pizza in their vacfoam bag. In hindsight, John shouldn’t have eaten that piece – together with all of that hearty stew he had earlier, his stomach was full. Now, even if the Roundabout had something exclusive or new in their menu, he could not try it! At best only look from the side, ask others how it tasted, maybe even get a gentle whiff, nothing more. There was one good thing about this overabundance of food; his beloved wife greatly appreciated homemade baked goods, he was sure that she would love every bite of the blueberry pie. John aimed to indulge himself and gobble half of it long before the landing struts of IMS Space boat touched Earth soil; the aroma which hit his nose when Auntie pulled the pie out of her grav-oven... he could swear it still lingered around him.

After leaving the shopping drone outside and in Eve’s control, John entered the Roundabout – this place hadn’t changed much after his last visit. It was part of human nature, his people highly disliked fidgeting with things which worked and were successful. Therefore, constantly changing an already established image of a famous venue was greatly frowned upon. The heart of a place was most important and one thing people could say for certain about spacers was – theirs was just as large and colorful as their spaceships. The Roundabout was one of Cav’s oldest hangar bays; it has long since been completely refurbished and turned into a big, two storey entertainment hot-spot. During his previous visits John spent many hours exploring it – the venue had more than one hundred tables, dozens of old-school arcade game systems, excellent bar food and patrons were served only the best beverages imported from all over Terran space. On its second floor the owners furnished a dozen or so spare rooms, readily available to fellow spacers who were either low on funds or too drunk to safely fly back home. John looked around, the holo-cam was set to follow his head; thousands of holo lights illuminated the floor, while the venue’s many, sturdy tables and chairs gently reflected some of them. He was told that the Roundabout’s internal decorator was an old alien, a Fel, who insisted on crafting all of this beauty before his Last Hour ebbed. The whole place was definitely graced by the spirit of this sentient – even those reflected off the chairs holo lights formed tiny, delicate stars, which slowly danced around the tables. John looked for a free table, conveniently close to that large crowd of spacers and thankfully, there was one. Half a minute after he sat down, he was approached by one of the servers; the Roundabout’s internal decorator’s skill was such that, spots where people sat and partially blocked the reflective properties of the chairs and tables, formed a soft glow around them. That gave the nearest waiter a clear indication which table was occupied and which wasn’t – instead of spending extra creds on some internal comms system and wasting power, holo-art did the same. There were even special holo-images above the reserved tables, which the servers created by shifting some of the chairs around. John gave the entire venue another good, long look, allowing his viewers to enjoy all of its marvelous features.

The glistening holo-lights flickered; people danced on the floor by the soft, rhythmic tunes of a slow, life-metal ballade. It would seem that there were plenty of youngsters who spent their dates here – at least four dozen strong, the couples probably occupied a third of the venue. The Roundabout was a place famed for its many special offers; each day of the week was planned to best accommodate different groups. Today was Lovely Thursday, therefore a third of the venue was reserved for young couples. Of course, the menu was populated with the appropriate selection of romantically named specials, cocktails and other goodies. All other menu items were still available and even though certain areas were corralled by localized sound dampener fields, the music selection different, patrons still filled the venue’s other tables. These spacers for example; he was sure they did not come here for the soft ballads or strawberry ice cream cocktails. Their tables were covered with plates full of baked meats, sliced hams, salads and other comfort foods. With enough alcohol to last them two evenings, these men and women were just now “getting into gear”, glasses already filled to the brim.

“I sure hope this is a good time for a celebration.” - John pointed the heavily drinking crowd of spacers to his server and swiped through a couple of menu pages. He finally picked the obvious choice in such situations – an Asashi Super Moist, plus a plate of freshly baked orbital potatoes.

“Oh, it is, it most definitely is! Thank you for visiting and streaming again from the Roundabout, John! You have enough G-net cred,” - the server waved his hand when John attempted to pay - “it’s on the house.”

“Mighty generous that boss of yours! Send her my thanks and tell the Golden Lady – next time I am making a special stream, just for her and you guys.” - John and the server both waved their hands at the cam together, the holo-file was soon tagged and reminded by a few million subscribers.

“I’ll go and scratch the hull-paint, see if I can get you and your people somebody to interview, John. If my big bro is in the zone, he’d be more than happy to answer a few questions. Beer and ‘tatoes comin’ soon!” - The server then skillfully slid away on his grav-skids, navigating the crowded floor plating of the Roundabout with ease.

The Golden Lady was how everyone called the owner of this establishment. John knew, just as any other human, that most elderly female hamsters were not too keen on making themselves the center of attention. She was old-school this matron; one of the first Terran clients to colonize this place, the gun toting, mecha piloting great-great-great-great grandma, she was called golden and not because her fur was orange in color. John hoped that he could speak with her at least once, before this venerable elder became one with the Universe. There was at least one of her many progenies serving on most of the local spaceships, either navigating the vessel or fixing its many, finely tuned systems. The Golden Lady was, for all intents and purposes, the grandmother of all Cavian hamsters. Because all of the uplifted Terran races were born free, certain old and quite obnoxious galactic civilizations often used the term barbarians, when referring to humans. John had only look into their happy eyes; hamsters, bunnies or gorillas, they all had every right to live their lives free. Left to their own devices and given the fact that humans led them by way of personal, positive example, the client races prospered. He would gladly embrace being called a “barbarian”, he’d even stamp the word with glowing holo-paint on his suit, written in Galactic Core lingo nonetheless.

After getting his order two minutes later, he quietly drank for another five, reluctantly eating some of the perfectly baked potatoes. The special sauces his waiter brought included spicy Japanese mayo, Martian ketchup and Applecratean honey mustard. Slowly but surely, after another five minutes or so, John finished his Asashi and ate all potatoes – those were way too tasty for him to leave even a single slice on his plate. He stood up and slowly walked towards the nearest full of merrily drinking spacers table, only after his server gave him the OK sign. John greeted the spacer who had a newly-painted mural on his suit first; such was their custom and he, a well-mannered H-logger. Proper etiquette had to be followed and spacers loved more than everything, when their daring deeds were acknowledged. All Terrans knew that these people never lied, embellished or downplayed the perils they faced – to do so was a heretical thought. What if someone else attempted to follow in their steps and then stumbled upon mortal danger? However truthful and honorable the spacers were between each other or with their allies, they could viciously lie, bamboozle anyone whom they knew for certain was preying upon others. John had heard of many stories, some told by his subscribers, about spacers who swindled some cheating merchant or dishonest businessman. Then they either gave most of the money back to those people who were originally taken advantage of, or if said victims were nowhere to be found, invested in research bonds.

There was a wide, brash smile on the spacer’s cleanly shaven face, his olive green eyes studied John’s Nambu for a few short seconds. The brunet then gently scratched his well pronounced chin, nodding approvingly even though the laser pistol was a stock model, fitted with three mods only. John had absolutely no idea what this starship crew were celebrating, yet before he could start a conversation, another group entered the bar. These five aliens had hulkish figures, protected by armored spacesuits and all of them had heavy particle-beam pistols. The spacer John was about to address, pulled one chair and after the H-logger sat next to him, the man spoke:

“John, what my kid brother over there tells me is – we keep missing each other. Every time you visit Cav, our crew is somewhere; either hauling stuff or blasting some pirate to bits.” - He casually waved in the direction of the five bulky aliens, who, after giving the floor one good, thorough look, walked towards their table. One of them, most probably their leader, compared the face of John’s host with a holo-slide projected from his PDA and then stated:

“Blaze Marson, our employer demands the immediate return of his property.” - Blaze, of whom John never heard any tales being told before, calmly sipped from his beer glass and then, one full minute after he was asked, answered with a question of his own:

“What if I tell your wonderful employer to hop in the nearest reactor?” - He reached for a pickle and after biting half of it, proceeded to chew, very, very slowly. The bulky aliens exchanged angry looks, one even made a brash step forward, reaching for his gun. Their boss immediately stopped his underlings; before every spacer had suddenly materialized a pistol, conveniently close to their shooting hand and with its safety off. The profusely sweating alien gulped nervously and after he and his minions watched how all nearby patrons casually reached for their sidearms, the alien said:

“We are not looking for trouble, Mr. Marson. You have to understand the implications of what you and your crew did...”

“You’ve successfully shared with us your ‘employer’s’ plight, Mr. Thug. Now, how much would it cost to send him a message, will one credit suffice?” - The spacer had already pulled a credit chit from one of his pockets and was playing with it.

“My name is...” - Attempted to argue the alien, but Blaze threw the coin he held with blinding speed. Perfectly aimed, it lodged itself between the messenger’s fingers and then, after unleashing a gleeful smile, the spacer continued:

“Mr. Thug, hop in your little shippy and go back to whence you came. Kindly inform your employer, that his ‘property’ no longer belongs to him, but to themselves. Of course, if your boss is willing to contest my word, stand against my family and friends, well... Then we’ll be more than happy to provide all of the nuclear arguments needed and gently tip this dispute in our favor.” - The alien looked at the brand new credit chit in his hand, then Blaze’s pistol, which also rested on the table next to the spacer’s beer glass and sighed angrily. Soon he and his now patently terrified goons quickly left the Roundabout followed by the looks of its two hundred strong, armed patrons. Blaze Marson’s calm chuckle quickly spread and soon all spacers laughed with gusto. Meanwhile, John looked around, reached for, snatched a pickle and bit from it, while his host sipped more beer.

“Now, where were we? Yes, you and us, we never bumped into each other, John. I have a feeling that you and your subscribers are owed an exclusive interview!”

Who exactly were those goons working for? What was the “property” which Blaze Marson repossessed? All that and more in the next episode of John and the spaceboat!

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 spaceboat Part 1

John and the spaceboat Part 2:

Episode 1, Vending rock

Episode 2, Lifeblood

Episode 4, The Arm