Space: Terran Minarchy
Star system: Omia
Planet: Omia Prime
Colony name: Applecrate
Population: 158565... and counting
“So this is 'The Tumbling Apple' then?” - asked John his Applecratean guide Evelyn, whose ears were once again flopping against the wind. Nodding, she smiled and pointed with her paw at the inn's domelike, elongated shape:
“Indeed it is, John. Come, it seems that certain someone is eagerly waiting for us inside. I assume you also got a link from Sonny?”
Smiling she nodded at John's blinking and softly bleeping PDA. He waved his hand above its sensor and saw that the spacer had just linked him; apparently the man was available for an interview. Talking about luck! Initially, John assumed that he'd have to trek beyond the borders of Applecrate and reach Sonny's home, just to get his interview. Not that he dreaded walking around this planet's surface, something about derelicts always rubbed him the wrong way. That old fossil was a Scrapper and his home, the downed colony ship, around which the sensors of John's Space Boat detected those salvager vehicles moving about earlier. From what little he knew of spacers, John was not surprised that this elder called Amy's establishment a “Dome”, after all, most of the buildings around here were crafted from recycled metal. This man's family held the salvage rights for most, if not all, easy to exploit scrap “deposits” and anyone willing to pay a modest fee, was free to explore “The Hulk” for some good bits. Just as many others, in his golden years, the old spacer managed some colony boosting business and offered either a unique service, or a valuable resource, all for a fair fee of course. John knew that without Spacers none of what he experienced today would've been at all possible. These committed to exploration, trade and constantly creating new businesses people were perhaps Terra's greatest treasure. As a matter of fact, many of the technologies he now had access to were either discovered on some spooky derelict starship or purchased from a neutral alien trader by spacers.
The wind suddenly changed its direction and their shopping drone backed away from the road. It wasn't that strong as to topple the sturdy vehicle, yet it wasn't weak either and John ordered his holo-cam snap another 360 shot of his current surroundings. Fan links, which the H-logger got long in advance of his IMS Space Boat's maiden voyage, spoke of this planet's freak weather patterns. Yet, the strong gust of wind vanished and just as quickly as it came; John suddenly realized that the local businesses had most of their signs secured by outright welding them to the buildings with plasma cutters. Applecrate was a border colony and most structures were either prefabs, made of easily assembled megasteel panels or bunkerlike homes. The inn standing tall before him and Eve was what a Fringe space Dome should look like; much wider than usual, its owner Amy First had commissioned the construction of some expansions in order to improve its functionality. The first and second “floors” were probably what the owner had initially built. It was the classic Dome this inn; a bar/restaurant on the first and then rooms for rent on its second floor. Just like all other Domes he'd visited already, this one too had a basement and from what Eve mentioned, Amy used it to store a vast assortment of alcoholic beverages. Perhaps in the beginning, she also brewed her now signature blue apple cider, the “Blue drop” there? Now, after the two new floors had been built, Amy's venue had a parking lot, double the room capacity and there was a small brewery attached at the back of the Dome. With the wind changing direction once more, John's nose detected the unmistakable smell of baked apples coming from its air ducts. Before entering 'The Tumbling Apple', he noticed that the Dome's “roof” was covered with heat collectors. Not an engineer himself, he decided to ask Eve first, before shooting a search command from his PDA to try his luck on the net.
“What do you know about the heat collectors, Eve? They look like starship heatsinks to me...” - Eve stopped her paw before pushing the door's open button and again scratched her snout. She sidestepped from the doorway and then pointed towards the starport, before answering:
“Not surprisingly the heat collectors are similar to what spaceships use, yes. That is, because most of what you see is actually repurposed from old heatsinks, John. You know how people on these border colonies love using and recycling instead of simply discarding old stuff.” - She laughed and then waved the shopping drone near, tapped its metallic frame, pointed at the plasma seams - “Local kids made these and if you like, I can show you around their marketplace stall tomorrow. What say you?”
“That is a wonderful idea! You know what, I have a parking slot inside my Space Boat's hangar for a ground vehicle and I am all for promoting local businesses. Can you please link them, Eve, and ask if they are able to craft something bigger than a simple wheeled drone? Tell them we'll meet tomorrow to iron out all the details.” - The bunny nodded, then without saying another word proceeded to type a holo-note, linked it and pressed the door's button - again with amazing speed.
“Done and done, John! We can go meet 'em on the morrow, see?” - Her PDA bleeped and she showed him the return link - “It says here they would love to slap something together from the salvage they've hauled themselves. If not, one of the boys knows Logan – his dad works as a fabrication engineer in that vehicle bay you may have already seen on your descent. Now, let us finally enter because I am so thirsty my snout is itchy 'gain.”
John let her walk inside the inn first and then followed, his holo-cam again taking as many slides as possible. Once inside and after the venue's door slid shut behind him, his eyes explored the Dome's bar floor. There were multiple tables and many had already been occupied by a gathering of off-duty spaceship crewmen, a sizable team of Blue Wall security girls and workers on their lunch breaks. Then there were more than the odd spacer wandering about. Colorful spacesuits adorned with all manner of murals, which depicted one near-impossible feat or another, their voices were the loudest. He fixed the sensors of his holo-cam; spacer tales were freely shared with everyone and most Terrans knew that even if some details were slightly embellished, these men and women never lied. All carried vicious-looking pistols in their mag-holsters but John knew that they'd never use those when testing each other's skill. Commonplace for all Domes, the dueling square was located in the back and well-shielded by an energy field. Nevermind that those who entered it would draw stunners instead of their deadly weapons – sometimes the square was used as a boxing ring and people valued their safety. Following Eve, who had already pointed at their reserved by Sonny table, he attempted to count the number of spacers around. John raised an eyebrow; indeed he expected that there'd be at least a dozen – it was a border colony after all. Instead, the number of brash-looking explorers was around twenty and those were the ones he saw here, loitering around the bar. He even recognized some of their family crests – in addition to the explorers, there was a group of six Haulers or deep space traders. To him they looked fresh from a successful trading expedition; the long table they feasted on was covered with all sorts of bottles and large plates full of sliced meats. That and there was a pile of credit chits in the center of it – as always, people like them loved to boast to other spacers of their own, hard-earned achievements. In another few seconds John and Evelyn reached their table and a grizzled old man, whose dinted spacesuit was covered with more and prettier murals than all spacers he'd so far seen, approached them:
“Hello there, youngsters! Sit, please, I already made dinner arrangements... John?” - The short, stocky and yet surprisingly athletic-looking for his age senior, shook his hand. Just as their custom dictated, Sonny's greatest accomplishment was painted on the chest of his spacesuit. His mural, portraying the feat he was most well-known for in these parts, depicted his small vessel towing some ancient derelict, while exchanging weapons fire with pirates. John winced and then looked at Sonny's face; the pirate starships bore a clan crest he knew nothing about. Catching his eyes, the old spacer smirked and then, after all three of them sat around the table, asked:
“I know that you wanna ask ol' Sonny about great many things and I did agree to give you an interview. A spacer's word does not split in two, then again” - the spacer made a strange-looking gesture with his glove and another spacesuit-wearing man brought a whole box of 'Blue Drop' cider - “one could talk only that long, John. You know, once a man in my line of work reaches this age, he should be thankful to still have all of his marbles.”
John looked at the old man's chest mural and then grabbed a bottle of cider – he had to decide. In the links he exchanged with Amy, the wizened woman mentioned that she too, knew quite a lot about this mysterious planet. Indeed, the fact that she was called First in it of itself meant that Amy was part of that group that had initially landed here. Being a good H-logger not only meant having a good set of eyes and ears or being a capable holo-cam operator – all of those were the basic requirements for the job. For one to become the best, be better than all the rest, they had to feel the story! Right now, John felt that this old spacer could tell him something great, something which he and his millions of subscribers would be the first to hear. He carefully examined all of the murals on Sonny's spacesuit and then, after noting another one, just as interesting as the chest piece, John popped open his cider. Only then he noticed that Eve had no bottle before her and, being the courteous fellow that he was, offered to give her his already opened cider. She respectfully declined, making the well-known crossed paws sign and muttered:
“I am on guide duty today and as much as I love to have some bubbly juice, I can't. This is hard cider and has 10% or more alcohol content! What good is a guide who staggers around, spouts incoherent prattle and sees two or more Johns? No, it’s one Asashi for me and that's it.”
The bunny sent a link with her order and only half-minute later, a server brought her chilled to absolute perfection Asashi Super Moist ®. John knew exactly what the name of this company meant – “Asa” was morning and “Shi” - master. Indeed the beer was of such great quality, so refined, that even after consuming copious amounts of it, one felt little to no hangover, henceforth – master of one’s mornings. It was one of the most well-known and consumed beers in Japan. Favored beverage for those who had to get up early the next day and go to work, attend to their daily routines without having to suffer from hangover. Grabbing the can, Even immediately took a hefty gulp, smacking with her lips afterwards and he smiled. Between hearing the story how Sonny managed to haul this alien starship and that other mural he noticed, John chose the latter. Even now, simply looking at the scene, his imagination ran wild; Sonny's small spaceship was depicted lurking, hiding inside the shadow of a gutted derelict, one giant, menacing-looking vessel on the prowl, looking for him. Without any hesitation the H-logger pointed at Sonny's right shoulder and the spacer smirked:
“Well then, what can I say, you did pick one of me best stories, son.” - The old-timer chuckled and made another one of his special signs - “How about we chat on a full belly, eh? I say a couple of pork and vegetable skewers, specialty of Amy's, plus a bottle of that hard cider will do the trick.” - John saw another server running, her hands holding each a platter full of steaming hot Shashliks. The staple Slavic bar food was arranged over freshly-steamed and barbecued vegetables – the aroma was maddening and once more, John felt his stomach rumbling.
“So, there was I, my starship's scanners had just pinpointed the location of this 'ere derelict,” - and Sonny's finger tapped the large ship painted on his chest - “when this thing, this 'uge thing popped out of hyperspace...”
Join us next time with John, Eve and Sonny. You will get to enjoy the never before told story of how he survived an encounter most dangerous. How he faced and survived this ancient traveler, this mysterious starship, which lurked on the edges of hyperspace, searching, looking for someone or... something.
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