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John and the space boat - Wheels, Episode 8

AragmarFeb 12, 2020, 5:41:54 PM

Space: Terran Minarchy

Star system: Omia

Planet: Omia Prime

Colony name: Applecrate

Population: 158573... and counting

John finished his morning workout and, with barely contained anticipation, walked down IMS Space Boat's landing ramp. This time it was far too early for any of those lovely loader girls to be roaming around the starport – they and their kids were probably still sleeping. Traditionally, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner was done together by all family members, inside the sanctity of their large kitchens. It was the greatly increased size of Terran families and this age-old tradition, which led to tripling the kitchen size in all homes. Those were built so incredibly cozy that sometimes John forgot what were his daily chores, sat for an hour or two, drinking tea with his wife. Moreover, there was food in the kitchen! Why would anyone not want to be there or learn how to cook delicious meals? Sometimes alien cultures who sternly advocated for full automation, claiming cooking machines “freed” people from their daily chores, made him laugh. The entire process of preparing your ingredients and then cooking the meal was a beloved Terran custom, an institution if you will. Kids learned this important survival skill from an early age; at first they helped with the easiest of tasks, like washing vegetables or setting the tableware. Then, as they grew older, children were taught how to carefully chop ingredients, studied various recipes and learned more about nutrition. Most doctors agreed – generational, family cooking culture had increased human life expectancy by fifteen years or more. Although there were certain sweet pleasures, he and many others were guilty of, the rule of thumb was no excessive sugar consumption. That and having plenty of physical exercises, like jogging for example, made the excess calories go “poof”. While he jogged alone around the Space Boat's empty corridors, the echo of his steps constantly reminded him that he needed a crew. Eve had already signed the contract and from this point on - his personal assistant. She was also the channel's new link coordinator; with her many years of experience with computer systems and comm data compression, Eve was the perfect bunny for this job. Her military background meant that whenever John needed to reach local militia or navy commanders or arrange for an interview, she could facilitate that with ease. Cyber security was always an issue for many a H-logger and by having someone with her skill set, he was sure to curb the advances of any ill-meaning individuals on G-net. He checked his PDA for messages and after going through all the important ones, entered his ship's equipment room.

John still had all of his standard gear with him; he'd replaced the already full data crystals with empty ones, again took the Nambu Z07 and did all the usual checks before he mag-locked the trusty self-defense gun to his thigh. It was down the beginning of the road which led to Applecrate, where Eve was waiting for him, both paws holding one steaming banitsa each. How or more importantly where, did she find those and so early in the morning? Nevermind that, he quickly approached with a hurried step and, after smiling at her, grabbed the banitsa she gave him. The bunny must've ran all the way up the hill, after she purchased the two freshly baked treats.

“You gotta eat them quickly, John. I made sure the baker had two banitsi in the oven, just for us. Kobo is one awesome person, yes he is!” - Mumbled the bunny after biting a hefty piece of her banitsa - “Esh... is fuwl of juicy meaf! Be wafefuf... its... hoth... Jowhn.” - Attempted to speak Eve while speedily eating the steaming hot goodness.

John need not wonder what was that banitsa filled with, he had to take only a whiff before the first bite. Full of minced pork, a little bit of sauerkraut and caramelized onions, this was the staple, comfort food which most spacers ate for breakfast every morning. Of course, just like most world famous foods, it came from Bulgaria and John knew that the original was full of white cheese. That and finely chopped leeks or just lots and lots of onions. He quickly devoured the filopastry treat and then made another note on his PDA to pick a couple of cheese and spinach filled banitsi. He still had plenty of spare space in the Space Boat's stasis food unit, besides - his wife absolutely loved Mediterranean cuisine!

It took them half an hour of casual walk on the straight megasteel road, until they finally reached the marketplace's outskirts. That was the place where most small artisan shops were constructed; John counted at least fifty and most of them were already open. The largest one was a pottery workshop and had a few hundred amphorae, vases or cooking clay pots arrayed in front of it. Another workshop had a sizable selection of wood-carved boxes; some were decorative, others clearly made for Bento. Each box was handcrafted, unique in design, covered with all sorts of ingenious holo-art. John almost stopped and reached for his wallet – these bento boxes were reasonably priced. The smaller ones cost ten and the biggest, only thirty creds! For an item of such craftsmanship and quality wood, protected by vacfoam lacquer, even fifty credits was basically a steal. However keen was he on acquiring one of these boxes, John reasonably assumed that there would be plenty of time for him to purchase it later today. First the car, then all other stuff like souvenirs or special street foods. It was a glorious thing that stasis tech; with it, one could buy regional, unique foods and then transport those back home, unspoilt. Of course, in most cases H-loggers ate whatever alien treats they found on the spot. Sometimes transporting strange food was not taken too kindly by local colonists – cases of bacterial and parasitic infections were something one had to be keenly aware of. Compared to the Terrans, most aliens cared little for food cleanliness and more often than not, street food was dangerous for the uninitiated. G-net foodies often paid hefty fees for gene-mods, which allowed them to consume even the most dangerous and even deadly for humans, foods. John smirked – there were borders he was clearly not willing to cross and stuffing himself full of gene-mods was one of those. Even if the “There are passengers for every starship” saying was mostly true, he had long since chosen his own path, the gastronomes did so too. It was totally safe for him to eat street food on Earth or the Fringe space colonies, even distant space stations boasted impeccable cleanliness and each had their own specialty. H-loggers like him, instead of wasting their money on gene-mods spent most of the hard-earned creds for holo-cams and other equipment. Like the new model Nikon Slipstream 2000 he got right when IMS Space Boat's hull was first assembled. One of John's first sponsors, Nikon's G-net holo-cam division was seeking to expand its market share and funding some of the first big netsonalities proved to be an excellent business move. Two decades later and he had purchased many tech shares in Nikon's advanced hyperspace communication research. Every time something new came out, some advanced gadget or new G-net streaming protocol, he was one of the few who gained access to it. John made a sign and his holo-cam took another 360, panoramic shot of Applecrate's artisan area.

The Harvest Fair would start in earnest tomorrow but many alien guests and traders had already set up their shops, in an attempt to garner some attention or even sell more. CCL or colonial common law stated that if one didn't sabotage their competition in any way, they were allowed to do whatever it was that they pleased. Of course, nasty corporation executives, who assumed they could waltz in and buy some officials, ruin local businesses by flooding the market with cheaply produced crap were in for the surprise of their lives. Such fools were usually banned for life from even entering Terran space, let alone any of their subsidiaries sell products here. John passed under one almost completed and very familiar for him construction – a Shotengai. The local shopkeepers had pooled their resources and even moved shops, so that typical of Japan shopping street can be constructed. It was different though, people here had the luxury of unlimited space and those who designed the roof went a little bit overboard with the holo-art and decorations. Following Eve, he entered through the main entrance of the shopping street, then turned right and walked between two closely built shops. The claustrophobically tight alleyway was surprisingly similar to some passageways John had explored in Japan's biggest, oldest cities. They did have space and could build wherever they wanted and, at first, he was somewhat puzzled; then he remembered that Applecrate was a Fringe colony and except that two-lane, megasteel road, they had no streets. Every home and every building they built with their colony's defense in mind. It was way easier to defend a small street, than a wide boulevard and even though they did have one long, wide road, John knew that it was all a clever trap. Said megasteel plates probably had remotely activated nano-thermite charges underneath, ready to turn the road into a small river of liquid metal.

Eve stopped and then knocked on the door of a small garage, then stood aside, a huge grin on her face. John heard rattle coming from inside then steps and finally the door slid open, revealing the figure of a yawning teenage boy. His assistant greeted the teen by shoving an energy bar into his opened hand:

“Rey, don't tell me you've been working all night on that thing – I promised to bring you a paying customer, remember?” - She pointed at John - “Meet John, he's an H-logger and my new boss.” - The teen shook John's hand and after yawning once more, took a bite from the energy bar Eve gave him.

“Sure, I remember. Please, come in, come in! I will turn on the kettle... Tea?” - Eve nodded and looked at John, who, after taking a few steps inside the orderly garage, noticed a big shelf full of tea boxes and smiled - “A cup of tea would be fine, Rey, thank you.”

“Pick the one you like.” - Nodded at the tea shelf Rey, scratched his freckled face and then attempted to fix one very much impossible to command, red, brushy hair.

“Mariner Valley Green, if you please.” - Pointed one brand new, reddish tea box, John.

Not surprisingly, Applecrate being a Terran colony, one could easily find the best and most widely known across this part of space, tea. The intrepid Martians were at the forefront of agricultural development in the Sol system; many Martian farmers and ranchers had banded together, formed new companies. One such firm was the Mariner Valley Company and the green tea which grew there was considered to be one, if not the best. While the kettle worked its magic, John looked around Rey's garage. The wide and surprisingly tall building had space for four vehicles and currently he could see three cars in various state of assembly. The last spot was recently cleaned and he noticed one moderately big pile of salvage standing beside it. Multiple plates of metal, odd parts and irregularly cut bits were arranged in an orderly, precise way. It was as if someone knew the exact order in which these pieces of metal would be used, molded into different parts. Just as he was turning around, looking for the nano-printer, Eve brought his tea. They sat on two folding chairs which Rey had conveniently set up and then the teen engineer-to-be pointed at one bulky device:

“This is my nano-printer, one of the best machines in its class around here. Eve told me that you are in need of something sturdy, an explorer's car perhaps?” - Rey pulled his PDA from a table littered with tools and swiped a couple of holographs.

“Those are just a few models I have the drafts for but, ultimately, the choice is yours.”

John examined the four models Rey showed him and after a couple of minutes, made his choice. The car he picked was a Toyota X 6000; designed for traversing extreme terrain, the car had four seats, a wheeled chassis and one small, emergency grav-drive. You could easily modify it and strap specialist equipment on the TX6, which is how most people called that slick vehicle. John had the privilege of driving one, when its prototype first came out for testing. He drove across the countryside of Japan; Toyota paid him a generous amount to put the vehicle through its paces and even asked if John was willing to enter a car race and climb mount Fuji. The car performed way beyond what he had read in its field manual and due to his driving skill (plus a lot of luck), John won second place - good times!

“Well, I can't say no to a brand new TX6. How soon can you and your team build it?”

“Depends on what extras you would like that TX6 to come with, John.” - smiled Ray and opened another holo-file - “Armored suspension; emergency descent engines; amphibious conversion; enhanced sensor module, nano-programmable tires etc, etc. You pick it and we build it, boss. Now let us talk money; the TX6 will cost you three hundred, we guarantee extra durability, top quality construction. We can install three extra systems and two upgrades on this model, one hundred fifty creds each.”

“You are sure it won't take your team more than two days to construct it?” - Scratched the back of his head John.

“TX6 is simple! We already built a dozen or so from scratch, I even modified one for my aunt last year. Eve, you did tell your boss here that we are a serious team!” - Eve raised her tea cup and smiled:

“Of course, this was the very first thing I told him.”

John looked again at the list of options and made his choice. He had money to spare and from what Eve shared with him earlier, these kids were skilled, moreover, the prices they offered were beyond reasonable. He pointed at the list and asked:

“Rey, can you open a holo and project how the car would look like with those new tires I chose?”

“Sure, boss, gimme a sec.” - Mumbled Rey and while he quickly linked one file after another, Eve received a link. Her ears twitched and with a slightly angered frown, she said:

“Amy just linked and guess what, John, she has another unplanned appointment today. She asked me to relay her apologies and tell you that the interview will be...”

“Postponed?” - Smiled John, after Rey showed him the modified TX6 in all her glory.

“Yes, she reserved a table for us in that new restaurant 'Under the bridge', lunch is on her. We are to wait for her there...” - Eve finished her tea and stood up; she then gave John another, almost repentant look. He smiled again and then said:

“Rey, I presume me giving you half the sum in advance, is acceptable?”

“Standard business practice, boss.” - Rey shook his hand and while John counted the credit chits, the teen began mumbling part numbers, measurements, even the tools which he was about to use. One look in his sparkling brown eyes and John realized that the teen already saw the vehicle he was about to build. They signed a contract, detailing all the items Ray was supposed to produce, the deadline and, of course, the sum John owed. After everything was checked, signed by an impartial witness in real time on G-net and archived, John left the garage. There was still plenty of time for a short shopping spree and he asked Eve to again call for a drone – he aimed to snatch more than a dozen of those unique, handcrafted wooden boxes!

What will this new day bring? Perhaps he'll find new, unique merchandise, like those wooden boxes or meet with alien tourists from races never before seen in Terran space? Whatever surprises the Universe had in store for him, John was determined to interview Amy First - it was today or never! This and more in the next installment of JATB!

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.

Links to all episodes:

Part 0 - Introduction - The Walkabout

Episode 1 - Applecrate

Episode 2 - Outskirts

Episode 3 - The little bear

Episode 4 - The tumbling apple

Episode 5 - Derelict

Episode 6 - The fish whisperer

Episode 7 - Stargazers

Episode 9 - Revelations

Episode 10 - Harvest fair