Space: Terran Minarchy
Star system: Cavora
Planet: Terraformed Asteroid FV-3134
Colony name: Cav
IMS Space boat slid out of hyperspace on a near perfect exit vector, in the outskirts of Cavora system. Even out of sensor reach, the giant asteroid colony Cav could be clearly seen on her optics. The hollowed out, terraformed asteroid was one of many; cavernous settlements of different sizes, those were dotted all over Fringe Space. It was far easier, quicker and best of all cheap to build yourself a home inside an asteroid. If Cav was any different than the other space rocks, it was its size and perhaps the peculiar, now famous all over Terran G-net shape that made it stick out from the rest. Hundreds of tiny, flickering lights, each representing a starship, orbited its pear-shaped surface. Some probably waited for docking clearance; others have just left its starport and were maneuvering away, their navigators plotted either direct hyperspace jumps or a course towards the nearest wormhole. Not everyone was willing or had the means to outfit their vessel with a hyperspace engine; most cargo or transport ships used the much cheaper FTL alternative – Gate drive. In the beginning, John explored many colonies and other locations throughout Terran space by hitchhiking. That was only after he'd traveled around most of the Solar system with his solar boat, while recording everything and then uploading it on G-net. Was that why the bulk of his subscribers voted the name of that new starship to be “space boat” and not something else?
Barely able to pull his eyes from the beauty that was Cav and the “fluttering” around it lights, John finally blinked, then looked around the bridge. No wonder he felt strange during the hyperspace jump – besides him and Eve the ship was empty. With only two cabins occupied, the mess hall silent and void of cheer, the longer this voyage lasted, the gloomier John felt. He needed to swim, immerse himself into a place full of other people to no longer feel isolated again. Hyperspace was a great way to move around, but some people were wrought by melancholia after one or another too long a trip. The best way to fight space sickness was having constant contact with other sentient beings. Since in most cases, while you traveled through hyperspace, access to G-net was impossible (unless the course of ones vessel perfectly followed a hyper comm line), most spaceships carried at least five crew or passengers. You could try and supplement people with VI software, but that... that was not nearly the same, not quite real. John swiped one of the old nav files from his PDA to the Space boat's navigational pit; its mainframe projected the enlarged map, pinpointing everything he'd just uploaded, projecting another course for him. Flying mostly by computer assist was not something he liked, but until John discovered a navigator that was how things were going to be.
“Hey, are we changing course?” - Chimed Eve, after she entered the bridge and quickly noted that the ship was veering slightly away from its preplanned destination.
“Oh, I was planning to show you one of my favorite spots, Eve, remember?” - John pointed at the holo-note projected on their main screen and stated after hungrily gulping - “The 'Vending Rock' is a place not nearly enough visited, yet I aim to change this with my latest streams.”
“What... you mean food or beverage vending machines? Is this small rock like a factory or something?” - Eve leapt behind the comm console, her faster than lightning paws danced over its controls, once more.
“There are very few mentions of this place on local and even Terran G-net. Even if you find something, it will probably be some boring forum post or a few grainy holo-slides, maybe a short vid.” - He sighed and then poked the holo, enlarging his four (or was it five) star-year old handwritten note.
“See here, the coordinates were given to me by another hitchhiker I befriended – an alien by the name of Zola.”
“Zola? It does not sound very Fringe space-like, John. Star Blood from one of the far away allied star states, maybe? I don't know...” - Eve did project her quick G-net search, yet true to John's words, it did uncover little in the way of more and newer, relevant information about the “Vending Asteroid”.
“He is from one of the star states which first allied with the Kil'ra empire – the Fel.” - John punched in the activation command after his ship's mainframe finalized its navigational calculations. Slowly, his vessel approached the tiny rock and after docking codes were exchanged between it and the Space boat, the obscure location conquered their main screen.
“Interesting, I've never met a Fel before, they are supposed to be quite rare. Is it true that they can see the spirits of those who still linger and never sleep? The eyes, are their eyes... ?” - Eve's many questions seemingly floated in the air, while the two mainframes carefully piloted the spaceship ever closer to one of the asteroid's landing arms. John smiled and seconds after the Space boat's airlock was successfully locked with the docking port, pointed his own, rolled up eyes, saying:
“Milky white and they do see even the spookiest of ghosts! Hey...” - his head suddenly turned around - “what's this?!”
“Where, what is it, what did you see?!” - Slightly startled, Eve's paw got ever closer to her sidearm.
“Over yonder... I can see a big... BOOOOOOOO!!!” - Burst out laughing John.
“Ha. Ha. Ha... Veeery funny, John!” - Ears somewhat drooped, sarcastically clapped her paws Eve. She then tapped the holster and made a gun with her paw, before stating:
“I gots a particle-beam pistol here, trophy from my militia service. Ghosties can get shot too you know, if we scan them with proper sensors or... see them.” - Grinning, Eve pointed at the asteroid and asked:
“You are sure this rock is like - apparition clean?”
“Pretty much, yeah. The owner is an old spacer; his grandkids probably play here and I sincerely doubt that anything bad could happen to us. There are probably a whole bunch of special sensors and alarms installed just in case, so...” - John pointed at her holster and his look darted from it to Eve's militia shoulder patch. - “Can I ask you about it?”
“Victorious F32, Taz'aran issue particle-beam pistol, one of their really good ones. Wanna see?” - The bunny pulled out her trophy weapon from its holster and after removing the power pack, offered it to John.
He held it for a while; examined the rough, yet ergonomic design and aimed through its glow sights. As all things made by the Taz'aran Imperium, this gun too carried an ominous air around. A civilian, John nevertheless had self-defense training and recognized some of its features. The sights were replaced, probably by its new owner, new heatsink installed and the gun fitted with an attachment which allowed it to accept longer power packs. To his own liking the gun was not – he very much preferred the Nambu for its light construction and durability. This thing, however, fired a different type of beam and although Terran lasers were superior, by way of energy consumption and heat management, particle guns had their uses. He gave Eve her weapon back and observed how quickly the ex-militia Ops specialist loaded, then holstered it. Not a word how she came into possession of said pistol left her snout, however. They walked slowly out through the bridge doors and after performing a mundane spacesuit check at the equipment room, entered the airlock.
Gravity plating was probably set to two thirds of Earth standard because they instantly felt significantly lighter. Walking down the corridor, which led deeper inside, John pointed to Eve the many, colorful murals and holo-art decorating its walls. Some were just spacer doodles, signs that one or another clan had visited the place. Others, copies of vintage advertisement from old Earth or Mars, Luna... even Mercury. The corridor ended before a gate on which, now smiling Eve read:
“Please, leave the place better than you found it! Leave some of your rations in place of what you ate – others might not be as lucky as you are.”
“This is a spacer vending machine food court.” - Said John while waving his PDA over a nearby sensor and after a click, the door gently slid into the walls.
Before them lay a commodious room, its six walls lined with all sorts of old spaceship ration cooking machines. Taken from the early days of space exploration vessels, these were built for large cargo or mining vessels, whose crew often had no time or lacked the space to cook meals. Space MRE or meals ready to eat type ration packs were self-heating, sealed and came with a straw. One you used to suck said meal from its polyplastic container or tube, since in those days spaceships had no floor plating. Often crews spent months, years in semi-to-zero-G environment, developed health issues or received high doses of radiation. In those old rations, there were certain medical additives, put there so that the precious lives of these hard-working people could be protected. Yet, after all the processing and adding meds, the “food” tasted like a medicine or outright rancid. Thankfully, soon after the first few years in space, new technologies were adopted – like artificial gravity or floor plating and energy shields. John picked one vending machine and pointed it to Eve:
“See this one, it was manufactured after new year of 1959 by the Bronko company. Super rare to find one anywhere these days. Best of all – the burgers you can buy from it are made following the original Bronko, Plasma burger recipe! Patties made from Martian buffalo, pickles grown in Luna's vast hydroponics and the bun is real Saharan rye.”
The machine looked like a big, hilariously grinning, triple-layered burger. After a second look, one could recognize its bulky, primitive stasis unit, sticking out from underneath the polyplastic outer shell. Eve's eyes had already scouted another vending machine and she hopped quickly, rummaging through her pockets, looking for one credit coins. She found one and with child-like glow in her eyes explored the vending machine's tall shapes; this big, tired gorilla-like construction was yet another rare sight these days. It was a root beer dispenser and not any mundane brand, but “Frothing Kong”, something almost any school kid drank by the case – if they could make enough money to buy them, of course! Both exchanged another look and John tossed her two coins.
“One Kong with extra space spice for me. Do you like Plasma burger with extra hot goo or the 'normie' stuff?” - After depositing the two crystalline, metal-etched credit coins the bunny punched two of the gorilla's teeth. The machine then sang one really catchy, sixteen bit melody, the second she made her selection and Eve snickered. One after another, two chilled to perfection bottles of Kong soda rolled from its dispenser and she snatched them with eager paws.
“Boss, do I look like a normie?! Super hot goo for this bunny! Is it one cred or...” - John had already poked the machine's control buttons, made his and Eve's selection, deposited the one coin per burger, plus one more for the special hot sauce. Just as all kids from his generation remembered it – virtually all treats, soda, candy, everything cost one credit coin. He just pointed at his holo-camera, which was not yet activated and asked:
“If you want, tell everyone the story how this beam gun fell into your paws.” - The machine comically burped and then whined about these burgers being too hot for it to vend. Yet another wacky sixteen bit sound, which satiated John's hunger for more nostalgic, pre 1969 invasion memorabilia and food. It bleeped and he carefully pulled out of its dispenser, a platter with their steaming hot burgers.
“In case it is something you want to keep to yourself, let us eat. I will set the camera, you prep the links, Ops officer.” - John sat on one of the nearby tables, which still had boot and food platter locks, leftovers from the olden, pre-artificial gravity days and reached for the Kong soda.
“Alrighty... I will tell you the story, but after we finish streaming.” - Eve's voice fluttered a bit and she unwrapped her burger – Immediately the aroma of really, really hot sauce hit John like a hammer in the nose.
“Universe... cough... Greetings... cough... everybody and welcome to... Cav's outskirts! We are right now visiting one of the best, secret vending machine spots I know of. Coordinates are in the stream's description, provided in real time by my new assistant, Evelyn. Mistress of G-net linking and computer specialist extraordinaire! Also... cough... apparently a lover of super spicy foods.”
He reached for his opened, aggressively fizzing Kong soda and placed it in the frame. Hand still holding the half-wrapped, piping-hot Plasma burger, after successfully defeating the urge to drink first, he smiled and took one big, juicy bite.
What will John find in this asteroid-filled star system? Maybe he visited it often, knows all nooks and crannies, the secret spots which only an H-logger like him is privy to? More and tastier, wholesome-er adventures in this new Part 2 of John and the spaceboat - expect new episodes soon!
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.
John and the space boat Part 2: