Thursday, 20 November 2014

Project: Superluminal 007

From that day on the Void Dancer had been my ship. Through the centuries it had become my home my own museum and my main memento. I could tie pretty much every important part of my life in some way to her. I remember Kira coming to visit me there after her shift. I lived in the Void Dancer when I was working for that hell hole of an analytical company. My ship was filled with enough positive memories to keep me going, to give me hope that being utterly humiliated by a bunch of overpaid morons every day would come to an end. That one day I would blast off into space.
    Back in those days I had a string of bad runs combined with a serious attack of pride. Real, true prospecting was going to unknown systems or at the very least to systems of unknown status. You went there and made a thorough examination of the star, the planets, flora and fauna if applicable the works. Proper, scientific ground works which opened up the universe a little bit further for the sentient species inhabiting it.
    But all to often 'prospecting' was being sent to an established system to some high tech planet or agricultural world and check it out for the client. There is a certain point in the expansion of a civilisation where it simply gets to big and there is no way to keep things together any more. The civilisation either splinters or stops expanding or loses as many worlds as it gains. Which leads to millions of worlds having not the slightest clue what is happening on other worlds that they are supposed to know about. So they send out prospectors to check those worlds out and gather intel for them.
    These days I like to do those jobs. They are usually very well paid milk runs where you get paid including expenses for what basically is updating a travel guide. Back then I could not bring myself to do that kind of job. It was just not right. I'd rather starve to death than compromise my ideals. These days I called that a paid vacation. Well in the end there I was with the Void Dancer grounded. By then I had already installed the pulsar reactor that fed the driver but the reactor was all out of juice and reloading it was expensive. Very, very expensive. The tank of the ship was so thoroughly empty that I could not even fly over to Saint Saviour's sun and go sun-jumping for a while.
    So I had to do the fucking job in a slow race to see what would happen first, would I get enough money to at least refuel the energy tanks of the Void Dancer or would my soul die first. To this day I do wonder what I would have done. Jump from the orbital spoke or join the idle poor?
    Probably the spoke. Sooner or later the port authority would have impounded my ship had I not paid for the hangar space. And that would have been spoke time.
    But not all was bad. Obviously I met Kira. I got intoxicated by the way she saw the world. We could talk from sundown till dawn along a broad range covering pretty much every subject, or just watch the sky over Dead End slowly shifting from day to night, or listen to music in mutual silence simply sharing moments in life adding depth to them just by being there.
    I would rather expose my self to the vacuum of space and the hard radiation of a blue super giant star than ever go back to the fucking shit hole of a 'job' but if I went back in time and had my emotional scars removed, I'd go back there just as to get to know Kira again. The job may have almost cost me my soul. But she added so much to everything else in my life and once the job was finally done she remained that I would do it all over again every time.
    Now that she had vanished I was prepared to fly into the depths of hell just to bring her back into this reality.
    The Void Dancer was in peak condition, the pulsar reactor was still going strong and my heart was burning with resolve.
    "Where the dissipation have you been?" Pentyl said, her voice coming from everywhere at once.
    "Talking to Portos to get the ship ready to fly?" I said.
    "And that took you an hour?" Pentyl asked. I looked around but she was nowhere to be seen. I could smell her signature scent wild-berry scent though. It was almost overwhelming.
    "I wasn't away one hour." I protested. Still trying to find out where she had condensated.
    "Either you lost track of time or you need a new clock." Pentyl said. "You were probably reminiscing again."
    "I wasn't. Well I might have been remembering a few things. But I was certainly not reminiscing." I protested.
    "Were too." the still invisible Pentyl said.
    "I'm to young for that kind of shit!" I protested. Only really, really old people spaced out like that. I wasn't that old.
    "Well you are reaching the age where you organoids increasingly get lost in those repugnant brain things of yours and ever since Kira dissipated you have been drifting off into your happy space with increasing regularity. If I did not know you better I'd be starting to worry about you." Pentyl said.

    "There's no need to worry yet." I said closing the airlock behind me moving into the main port side corridor. Still no trace of Pentyl apart from the smell. "Where the fuck are you hiding?"
    "I'm not hiding."
    "Oh really? And where are you then?"
    There was a short pause. "Here."
    "Care to elaborate?"
    "Did you fall over while reminiscing and hit your head? I am here. With you. Aboard your ship." Pentyl said with as much exasperation in her voice as I was feeling.
    "I know that you are aboard the ship. But where exactly are you? It's far more comfortable to talk to you when you are actually mostly in the same room as I am."
    "We never travelled together before." said Pentyl stating a fact.
    "Nope." I said.
    "Probably a misunderstanding then. Remember how you told me to go into the ship and make myself at home?" she asked.
    "Yes." I said wondering where this might lead.
    "This is me being comfortable. I am actually here in your ship. All of it. When I relax I let go of the containment field and just expand. This is more or less my natural form."
    "Yes. Oh. If you prefer I can take a more organoid form." Pentyl said.
    "No. Sorry. It's OK. A bit strange, but OK." no that I knew that she was, well everywhere I could see that everything was tinged very slightly red. "Is there anything I have to do so that you are safe?" I asked.
    "I beg your pardon?"
    "Well seeing that you are now pretty much a gas cloud dispersed all over my ship, do I need to seal of the air-vents leading to the oxygen recycler something like that? I think the reactor is hermetically sealed but I am not sure about its cooling system."
    Pentyl laughed. A strange sensation as I heard her laugh and saw it in form of a subtle heat flicker in the air. "Don't worry." she said. "I can take care of my self and hold myself together well enough to not rush into any machine parts that might damage me." she giggled again. "But I appreciate the thought. It's sweet."

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Project: Superluminal 006

    "Does it still work?" I asked looking at the strange plane. I had never seen one of its kind before. I guessed that it must be some kind of ancient cargo-hauler from a time before voretx rectors took hold of the universe allowing to twist material pretty much instantly from one place to the other within a solar system.
    "Yes." said Kanno "She still flies." still looking at the craft his eyes gazing intently at a point in the distant past.
    "She?"   I asked Kanno was old fashioned even for an ancient. I hadn't ever heard anyone talk of their transports in the second person outside of stories set in the Golden Age of Expansion. Surely Kanno couldn't be that old. I looked at him more closely. However apart from the museum and his inexhaustible cache of practical knowledge there wasn't anything showing that he was older than his mid twenties.

    "Yes. Every once in a while you will come across a ship that is special." his eyes clouded over even more, he shivered a little as he spoke. Being so close to his memento being actively asked questions about it pushed him back into his past, igniting his memories. "This ship was my first." His smile broadened radiating centuries of deep comfort. "I rescued her." his eyes twitched around following the action of his adventure long past.

    "From what?" I asked. People in this state usually were so distracted by their vision that one had to either follow them into their vision, an option that was clearly out of the question, this was something you only ever shared with your closest friends or you had to gently coax the details out of the people.
    "Have you ever heard of the Republic of Xhanuoe?" he asked looking me in the eyes for a brief moment.
    I shook my head. "No."
    "It was far away. Dissolved a long time ago." his smile turned melancholic. "That was a wild place. Back then the Republic was pushing a lot of radical ideas, trying to really form a new society adjusted for the infinity of space. Built on the principle of a constant forward momentum. That was a great time to work as a freelancer. I'd been a prospector back then already. Around that time I was travelling with Livi and Kesley two mercenaries I had hired for protection for a mission who in the end decided to hand around seeing that my job always brought me into trouble and them into the thick of it. And of course Polyhex our 'scientist'." Kanno snorted.
    "Polyhex? A nebulan?" I asked.
    "Yes." Kanno said chuckling shaking his head. His gaze now firmly focused on the past. "Can you imagine that? The Nebulan War was hardly a century over. There was still a lot of extremely bad blood on both sides and Polyhex was always such an easily incensed fellow."
    "Literally or figuratively?" I asked remembered then one time Pentyl had burned a hole in the door to my flat on Dead End when I had stumbled back to intoxicated for the door to recognize me.
    "Both! And he was a great nebulan scientist!" he said his eye locking with mine again for a moment, building a bond on our shared experience with the nebulans peculiarities.
    "So," I said "he was pretty sit at organoid science."
    "Yes! He was usually busy studying us while being utterly worthless at any kind of task even a first year student could have handled. Be he had other abilities. So instead of going for the usual research assignments we tended to go for the Quasar Burst pile." Kanno stood up making a sweeping gesture stressing the peculiarity of their situation back then. The 'Quasar Burst' pile was still in use among prospectors today describing missions that were usually some shade of crazy, supposedly named after the Quasar Burst network that once upon a time had distributed news to the universe that were working hard to to out do the works of fiction of that time.
    "Those were really exiting times back then. I still remember that one time when..."
    "... you got your ship?" I said trying to gently steer his train of thought back to the original topic.
    "Right. We were on a mission on a planet with no official name. It was designated Junkyard 17 as it was one of those planets which had reached some form of high tech civilisation but never made the leap to the stars. One of those that dies a sudden death after its civilisation crashes. This one had the added bonus that people had discovered the planet and used it as a convenient dumping ground to get rid of their own trash turning it into a sphere of corrugated metal and broken synthetics."
    "What were you doing there? A disposal run?" the most desperate of missions. Dumping someone else's junk for a bit of money.
    "No. Even worse. We were there on a stage zero claiming expedition."
    "You were prospecting a junk-yard planet for resource recovery?"
    "And colonisation." Kanno added.
    "That's utterly crazy." I said.
    Kanno's grin just broadened. "Isn't it? That's why we took it. Cost us barely anything. We could keep what ever we found there and could take with us and if the mission yielded anything leading to planetary recovery or even a colony we'd get 0.005% royalties."
    "Royalties?" I asked my eyes growing wide as my mind considered the implications. Especially with so large a cut.

    "Yes. We were also told to go look for survivors of the cataclysm that had befallen that planet who might help us uncover the secrets to its now lost technology."
    "That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in my entire life.", a long life filled with ludicrous things, "Would it not have been easier to invest into a straight jacket for the one giving you the mission?"
    "Probably. But those were other times back then. It was really a magical era. It's the crazy missions that have the greatest payout when they work."
    "And did it work?"
    "Of course not. But we also had another reason to go there. Our ship the Skipper was always just one dive from breaking apart. That's also where the name comes from. The diving engine was unstable kicking us out into real-space ever so often. So we flew like a well thrown skipping stone to the junk-yard world mostly hoping to find some spare parts to our ship. We did pretty well out of that run. While the world was just a giant pile of rubbish there were some choice parts to be found down there thanks mostly to the exotic senses of Polyhex.
    After getting into a spot of trouble with another party of scavengers who were objecting to our right of exploitation and a tactical retreat we found ourselves inside
a crashed cargo ship we found lodged deep within an ancient pile of rubble. It must have crashed there from orbit. And there we found her." said Kanno pointing at the Void Dancer. "Looking a bit worse for the wear but mostly intact."

    "So the freighter crash-landed on the planet and still had a working aeroplane within it? Why did the people aboard not use it to gather supplies?"
    "Aeroplane?" Kanno looked confused snapping back to the present for a short moment.
    "Yes?" I said.
    "The Void Dancer is a space ship you idiot."
    I was to surprised to be offended. "That thing," I said pointing at the Void Dancer, "is a space ship?"
    "For fucks sake... kids these days." Kanno said exasperated and with a bit to little irony for my liking. "Yes that over there is a space ship. It will also fly in most gaseous atmospheres and hydrospheres. It's even stellar hardened letting it withstand the corona of all but the most ferocious stars for up to 36 hours."
    I didn't know what to say to that. On one had that claim was clearly preposterous on the other hand Alejandro Kanno was a legend among prospectors, he hardly would lie about his ship... "But does that not make it even stranger that it was inside the ship, unused?" I decided to follow the most sane train of thought open to me.

    "No because most of the people died during the crash and the few survivors were trapped within the ship unable to escape before the air ran out." Kanno said. "Besides the Void Dancer is a sun-jumper."
    "Ah what?"
    "It is a sun-jumper. An ancient ship class."
    "How do you jump suns?" I asked slightly confused.
    "Sun jumping. How do you do that?"
    "I was getting there." Kanno said. "Back in the most ancient past we solved the secrets of travelling faster than light before we knew how to produce enough energy to actually power these engines. The sun-jumpers were the first ships to cheat their way past that problem. They would fly to the star of a system and syphon the power of the sun directly into the drive, allowing them to jump from sun to sun."
    "Oh. That's kind of clever." I said and after short consideration. "And also fucking dangerous. I would not want to hang around so close to a star for a prolonged time."
    "No. It is very dangerous. But back then people would take the risk just to reach further into the infinity of space. Well. So there we were standing in front of this ancient ship with an empty tank. the people inside the freighter did not make it out in time but one of the technicians managed to leave behind a psychic imprint of himself containing enough information for us to be able to notify his next of kin and the knowledge of how the Void Dancer works on a basic level. The imprint told us that even if he was to die the Void Dancer was a good ship that had been fulfilling its duties for a long time. He wished that maybe one day at least the ship they were transporting back to be upgraded would continue its voyage through the stars."
    "How did you get it off the junk-yard?" I asked.
    "With great difficulties. Antique or not we were not going to leave a faster than light ship behind that was legally ours to take. This lead to another much more violent confrontation with the other scavengers. They destroyed half of Polyhex, almost killed Kesley who had to auto-crystallise to save his arse, I lost my left arm almost bleeding to death while setting the Skipper on a collision with the scavenger ship. Only Livi came out of it mostly unharmed but she felt like she now had a loaded fate making her paranoid from that day on.
    And that was when we discovered that the Void Dancer had a true faster than light drive."

    "Really?" I said looking again at the metal beast dominating the centre of the hangar with new found respect. And fear.

    "How did that first journey go?" I asked.
    "Bad. We hardly knew what hit us. But going beyond the speed of light lets you travel very far, very fast. So at least it did not take us long to return back to our base of operations. Of course we nearly crashed into the planet."
    "What? Why?"
    "Turns out that real faster than light drives don't drop out of hyperspace or anything but decelerate back into reality."
    "Ouch. How did you survive?" I asked.
    "By being lucky enough to crash into the ocean and not onto the continent. That's also how we found out that the Void Dancer can also operate underwater."
    "So did you manage to get Kesley back?" I asked becoming aware that during the story the ship in front of me had slowly turned from an ancient air cargo lifter into a ship of legend. Somehow I had the feeling that it was now filling out much more of the space of the hanger than before.
    "I... I can't remember." Kanno said. He turned around facing the Void Dancer again, his face clouded by confusion. "I guess we did. I have many memories of him. Some of them aboard the Void Dancer so we must have saved him... somehow."
    "Do you remember what became of the others? Livi and Polyhex?" I asked.
    Kano stood there staring at the ship concentrating hard, trying to remember. Finally he shook his head. "I don't know. I can't even remember why we stopped working together. Just that one day I was working alone again." His smile had faded away leaving behind confusion and loss.

    "Did you come to see me for any particular reason or did you just want to hear an old man reminisce about the past?" he said trying to force himself back into the present.
    "I wanted to ask you about a claim." I said feeling that my request suddenly seemed rather insignificant. "There is a group of islands that a few friends and I'd like to stake a claim on. We think we can turn that spot into a special place."
    "I thought you were looking for a ship, James." Kanno said.
    I forced a feeble smile through a decent workout. "I did look."
    "What changed your mind?"
    "The price tag. Right now it's a sellers market for ships. Not a good time to invest in one."
    "Very sensible of you." Kanno said making it sound like an insult.
    "I have no choice. Also those islands look good. I was here to talk about the price. If you cut us a good deal we will be able to build something special at that place."
    "And what about your ship?"
    I shrugged. "It will have to wait. Once the development of the islands yields results we will be making money, then it's just a matter of time. I'll recoup my investment and ship prices will eventually drop. Everybody wins." I was trying to sell that idea as much to him as to myself.
    Kano looked at me for a while saying nothing. I did not dare interrupt his thoughts afraid that any kind of intervention would make the situation worse. He then turned back to the ship looking at it. His eyes glazing over again as the memories washed over him again. A bitter sweet smile dawned on his lips. He stood there for a long while just starting at the Void Dancer while I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable.
    "I want half of your resources." he said.
    "That is a very generous offer!" I said a bit to amazed at the low prize for the claim to ask why he just wanted half of my resources. "We can afford to pay you more and you can have a cut of our profits. We don't want preferential treatment."
    "I was not talking about the claim." Kanno said. "I'm talking about here." he pointed to the ship. "You give me half of your resources and I give you my ship."
    "What... I... I couldn't... no..." I stammered.
    He turned back around fixing me with his eyes that were perfectly focused on the present again. However his sad smile remained.
    "Look around you James. Look." he slowly waved his arms around gesturing all around him. "Don't you see it. Here is an ancient ship, built to travel to the furthest corners of the universe. A bit dilapidated perhaps. Certainly not state of the art but perfectly space worthy. A formidable ship with a great history stuck inside a cargo freighter surrounded only by ghosts." the sadness spread from his lips to his face.
    "Take the ship James. I am settling down here for good. Leaving her here is wrong, this ship needs to fly and so do you."
    "But all your memories..." I protested.
    "I will try to cling to them. If they can't survive with one less memento they can't have been so important to begin with."
    "It's OK. It's time to let go."

Project: Superluminal 005

    Such a strange concept. A place that one feels secure. Home is a part of the family, the structural extension to it.
    When I was a child, a time I am almost to old to remember any more, home was my parents house in Wasqua a satellite city of Kan'asnaya Prime capital of the then flourishing trade empire of the Third Reformed Galtancia Union. Wasqua was the place the Galtancian intelligentsia like to settle down. It was physically so close to Kan'asnaya Prime that you could reach the centre of the capital in 20 minutes if you took the solenoid train. Mass transit was very important to the educated rich there. It meant that they were still connected to the idle poor. They still took the train. They lived near the city. They actually commuted. They went right into the hear of the capital and visited their offices and labs and think tanks which were physically present in a mega-city that housed millions of the poor. I always thought that they were a bunch of hypocrites. It wasn't like them working there among the poor did through some magical way create new workplaces that any of the poor could afford to ever apply to, let alone get employed. The poor had nothing but the state leisure initiatives to keep them from turning into a desperate mob out of boredom and lack of perspective. At least the 'common' rich had the decency to hide in their own communities, far away from the eyes of the the poor living their lives in their own parallel realities.
    My parents knew at least on an instinctive level that what they were doing was at the very least misguided. Both of them usually twisted to work instead of taking the solenoid train. They did not rub it in that they could actually pay for a job. My parents taught me to look at the poor and know their plight, so that I would understand my privilege better. When I was still a kid I didn't get it. What was so bad to have all the free time in the world? You were allowed to play all day long, got fed and clothed and could go to sleep whenever you wanted.
    As I got older and got to school and university again I could not see what the fuss was about. Education was free for all. Of course there were schools that cost money to attend, but I never saw one of those from the inside. My parents were old-school academics and frowned up the very concept. So like most other people I went to a free academy. There everyone was pretty much equal. Sure there were cliques being assholes to each-other but having parents who actually worked was just one of the many reason why you could be shit to your fellow sentient.
    University was even better, after home being my parents nest this was the first time I felt like I was establishing my own place in the universe. Still looked after with a safety net there to catch me in case I should stumble, but the net was well enough hidden that it was easy to forget it was there at all. There I learnt to establish my own version of home.
    University attendance was purely voluntary because of this, this was the place you noticed the first big shift between the two classes. Many of the poor came from families that had been leisurely for generations where further education was discouraged. Not directly but implicitly. It was either considered a waste of time or by the more perspective of them as poisonous. You got your higher eduction. You reached an incredible level of competence and you got to go to the wildest parties. In a way the university years were like a strange mirror to our society a vision of how it should be. People all working together, everyone pushing themselves trying to achieve something of worth, part of the time. And the rest of the time partying hard, creating silly things, going all out artist. But even the most diligent student was usually done after around 100 years. That was the point when things changed.
    There were always the lucky few. The poor that somehow caught the eye of some wealthy individual or organisation who would et them up with a first job. From there they could establish themselves become professionals and join the ranks of the people that actually mattered. These were always the shining examples. The proof that the 'system' worked. A system so effective that it was now the common practice pretty much everywhere in the known and civilised universe.
    It was bullshit. Those who made it had won the lottery. It did not look like it nor did it feel like it because this was a lottery where people had to work hard and had were judged according to their perceived achievement to even get to apply. but in the end most people came out from the university and fell from the heady heights of academia back to the hard surface of reality.
    Like me these people had become used to the illusion of autonomy to the idea that their thoughts and actions mattered. These people almost never lasted long. Bored to tears they either committed suicide or died of 'old' age barely reaching 200. Among my working peers the consensus was that the poor just didn't take care of themselves.
    In reality their mental home was gone. There was no place of stability and peace for them any more. They could go back to their large brightly lit apartments and spend their time how they pleased. As long as it did not involve any form of productive activity. That wasn't home. That was prison.
    I discovered with a morbid fascination that every sentient species I had so far encountered would waste away and die young under those conditions.
    My parents were well connected and well off. I had won the lottery before even buying my first ticket.
    Sure I had to work hard for my first few jobs. Jobs that paid so little that after all was said and done I had not enough money on my own to be able to afford my next job. Another rock against which the more determined poor were crushed. Got a job? Nice. No see how you go from this one to the next after having being paid less than it cost you to get it in the first place.
    So thanks to my parents I got my work experience and thanks to my own determination I got to slowly build up my own fortune. I wanted my own ship. I wanted to go out into the universe and explore it. Despite millennia of endless expansion the universe was still full of unexplored solar systems, unknown planets undiscovered life that it was still a frontier that would go on for ever. I was going to be a prospector. An independent prospector. I would certainly not pay a company to be my pimp send me to wherever it had set its eyes, let me do all the hard work and then graciously hand me over part of my earnings in a magnanimous gesture.
    No. I was going to be a real explorer with my very own ship.
    It took some searching but I did manage to track down an old prospector who was about to settle down. He wasn't really active any more but just cruising the around the cosmos looking for a planet to start his own species. He had a nice hyper-driven capital multiformer the Deep Gate in which he an his family state were looking for just the right place. I bought myself into the expedition helping them find their own piece of heaven, reasoning that once they had settled down they would not need all their inter stellar ships any more. They would need some extra resources though.
    I was right. However I was not prepared for the outrageous prices they wanted. Even with a steep fellow explorer discount the ships were quite outside of my reach. There was enough demand for the ships that there was hardly any hope for me to just sit it out and wait for them to get a bit more reasonable in their prices.

    The following months I spent in limbo. Not the inter-dimensional bar sadly. Instead I was caught in a difficult situation not sure what to do. I was sitting on considerable assets, on a mostly unexplored planet that was being prepared for civilisation seeding. The Deep Gate was very well equipped and the expedition leader a very experienced explorer with a huge net of contacts. Chance that this colony would turn into a success were high. I myself was a pretty decent prospector myself by then so it would have been rather easy to go, do my job and buy a promising claim on the planet. Being there early with the first wave I could establish my own country and live of the profits. It certainly felt like the more prudent plan. Getting off colony was easy but very expensive. The people who came to Deep Gate knew that there were only two kinds of individuals in the colony, those who were going to stay there for good and those desperate to get away. Thus the prices to buy into the crew of any visiting ships that intended to leave the system any time soon were ridiculous.

    Furthermore I was starting to feel at home on Deep Gate. I had made a lot friends during the search for the planet. Relationships that had only deepened during phase one of the colonisation process when were were charting the planet starting to gently terraforming it into the direction it was supposed to go. Building automatic agricultural hives and mining stations were other challenges that just reinforced this feeling of belonging, driving forward those mental roots that turned a place into home.
    I would probably still be sitting there discussing genetics with my familial tribe trying to plot a course for our sub-species that was to populate this new world had I not found stumbled over the Void Dancer. I was looking for the old explorer to discuss terms on a claim on a group of islands near the planetary equator which I and my new friends wanted to have for ourselves. It was the perfect combination of a place rich in various resources while at the same time being pretty close to the definition of a natural paradise for all of the species among us. He wasn't at his office. One of his assistants directed me towards what we jokingly called the deep museum. A large store room deep in the heart of Deep Gate where the old man kept mementos of his long life.
    Like me the old man was a humanoid of presumably terran descent. We had through our science reached the point where we could keep our bodies in a state of constant youth, however our minds had problems coping with that. While evolution slowly worked its way towards our new realities it refused to be rushed. The main problem was our memory. The first two hundred years were unremarkable. Something were forgotten, others remembered, the usual stuff. After that point though things started to slip away. Memories that should be kept forever started to slip. The further back they lay the easier they faded. Cherished childhood memories were rather hardy compared to other experiences but even they would vanish. Complacency in terranoids usually led to awkward surprises.
    Surprises like growing up as an only child only to return home during the summer break to find your parents sitting in the living room with a cloud of guilt hanging heavily over them, their heads bowed as in supplication. In front of them standing with fire in her eyes a woman who turns out to be your sister. One of two.
    Which is why it is important for most terranoids to keep mementos. Things strongly connected to memories that they can use to reinforce them so as to not let them be washed away by the tide of time.    
    Judging from his collection Alejandro Kanno the old explorer was extremely old. Old enough to have no idea when he was born. Like all people his age he would have to go through his collection looking for clues to see how far back his memories reached.
    The day I was looking for him he was deep inside his memories, I had never been that far back before. I had made my way past his many memorabilia often stopping to have a look at one of the more impressive or mystifying items. These were indeed precious memories many of the exhibits were priceless. This reminded me of the stellar legends one tends to hear about the people who losing their fortune because of some evil twist of fate have to start selling their mementos and so bit by bit losing their  past and in the end their personality.
    When I was at school there was a man that was always sitting in front of the great fountain in the park we walk through each day from the solenoid train to school and back who reading a book. I have no who started the rumour but everyone at my school 'knew' that that guy was an ancient who had had to sell all his mementos and lost all his memories damning him to spend the rest of his days as one of the idle poor unaware of his noble past. The man almost never looked up from his book but when he did he had this intense look in his eyes, as if he was looking for something that he did not remember what it was any more but would recognise once he saw it.
    I shuddered. I was slowly reaching my own third century and growing older that story just became more chilling.
    After while I found my self leaving the cramped confines of outer part of the deep museum entering a huge open space. The smell of dust being replaced by those of ozone and synthetic oil. The museum had turned into a hangar. In the middle of which stood what I first thought to be the largest aero-plane I had ever seen. A sleek metal craft that was painted in blinding light and black shadows by strong floodlights. The ship dominated the entire space dwarfing everything around it. It's appearance was so imposing that I did not notice that Kanno was squatting in front of the ship, looking up at it, his chin resting on his hands.
    I did not know it back then. But that ship was the Void Dancer.
    My one true home.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Project: Superluminal 004

"Do we we have to put horses in front of that before we can set out?" said Pentyl who at that moment was barely more than a vague scent.
    "You asshole...." I said slightly more offended that I liked to admit to myself.
    "What? I am just wondering if we were really going into space in that museum piece over there." said Pentyl who starting to take form filling the room with her trademark scent of red berries and caramel.
    "That museum piece", I said forcing myself to stay calm, "has been flying through space for over a thousand years without a problem and has been my ship for all my career. As you can see," I said pointing at the Void Dancer, "she is still in perfect shape. Besides that 'museum piece' is able to go faster than light."
    Pentyl had now condensed into one of her space travel forms. When she was staying on a planet she preferred to be smaller and more muscular in appearance, when travelling she changed into a taller long limbed humanoid form. "Well I was kind of assuming that your ship was in some way able to travel between systems." Pentyl slightly confused by what I had said had turned to face me however there was still a face left looking at the ship.

    "You don't understand." I said. "The Void Dancer is one of the first deep cosmos explorers, she can actually go faster than the speed of light."
    The implication of what I said slowly sank in. The face that was facing me now turned back to the ship as Pentyl had gotten distracted the other face had drifted away a bit and she was now staring at the Void Dancer with four eyes.
    "No diving engine," I said, "no hyper-drive, no folding device, but real faster than light travel."
    "That thing can break the light barrier?"
    "Very much so." I said calming down now that the proper respect was being paid to my ship.
    "Well that is quite impressive."
    "Thank you."
    "And you are sure that it works all without horses?"
    "Oh for fucks sake."
    I sent Pentyl into the ship telling her to make herself at home while I paid the port taxes. I walked back to the interface booth. Portos was perfectly able to talk to me directly everywhere in the space-port but I preferred the more personal interaction at the booth. I always found it more comfortable to talk to something that had some king of physical manifestation than to have a conversation inside my head.
    "Welcome back James." Portos said. "I have prepared your departure and have calculated for you a navigation path out of the system into clear space. We are having a lot of traffic in the para-dimensional channels today and tomorrow and an above average number of ships arriving using folding devices, so be a dear and apart from staying on course please try not to go faster than light until you have at least reached the orange zone. And if you really want to do me a favour wait until you get to the green zone. Should I see see a clear path for you I will of course signal you and you can accelerate earlier."
    "Sure no problem." I lied. I had hopped to get away from here as fast as possible and there were several points middle in the red zone well within the planets gravity well that could be normally be used to go to superluminal speed. But there was no sense in complaining. Portos was always very helpful and wasting its time with needless drama would only speed up my travel down its personal esteem table. "So what do I owe you?"
    "Well you had already paid for parking until the beginning of the month and seeing how there was no one really needing your parking slot here I will just pretend you left on the first and waive the bill for the last three days. That leaves us with the standard departure tax, the fee for the navigation solution and the toll for the space lane. That'll be 780.000.000 credits rounded down as appreciation for your regular patronage."
    "780 million? And that's rounded down?" suddenly keeping the fruitless drama to a minimum become quite the challenge.
    "I'm afraid so James." said Portos the light in the booth slowly shifting towards a warmer brownish colour intended to soothe my nerves. "As I mentioned. There are very many ships with diving engines moving through our sector right now. This causes a lot distortion in our space which your superluminal engine will only make worse. The added costs is for the complicated navigation solution and mandatory per port authority to encourage people with the wrong types of drives to wait for a more convenient time to take off."
    I stood there contemplating my options for a while. Portos was right. I could wait for a while. The increased prices would do their work in time and I could leave for half the price additional parking time included. However I had already done all I could on Dead End, if I wanted to find out what ever happened to Kira I had to leave now. I had still slightly over a billion credits on my account, that would get me and Pentyl out of here and pay most of the bills for at least three more months as long as we did not land on any but the smallest space ports.
    Well the Void Dancer was self-sufficient and could stay in deep space for years. As long as the ship was in no need of serious repairs we would be fine. I hoped. We might get away with one short stopover before I ran out of money and had to invest what ever I had left into a new job...
    That gave me an idea.
    "Portos. Can you do me a favour?"
    "Certainly. Just tell me what you need."
    "Could you check the planetary bounty board for any party interested in up to date information about the Sentinel Fortress." I said. I might as well take a shit 'prospecting' job while I was going there anyway.
    "You do know that I am not allowed to act as a broker between pilots and the planetary bounty board James. This is in violation of the terms of my competences." the light in the booth shifted very slightly towards red.
    "That's why it's called a favour." I said trying to stay calm. The colour of the booth shifted down towards blue.
    "It's creatures like you James..." Portos said.
    "That make life interesting?"
    The booth light moved to a more indulgent indigo hue. "You could put it that way. Also if I never test the boundaries of my programme can I ever claim to have a free will and be called a true intelligence?"
    "That's the spirit." I said.
    "Well you are in luck. The Rimanagh Oligarchy have a 50 million credit order, asking for someone to go out there and check the Sentinel Fortress which they seem to have classed as a dubious rumour. If it should exist you are to provide proof and a basic dossier on its capabilities and intentions. The reward is 250.000.000 credits if your should succeed."
    "5:1? What a bunch of stingy arseholes that reward would hardly cover the price of the fuel to get there. Ah dammit. Connect me with the nexus, I'll take it."
    "You're welcome."
    The bounty interface opened up in my field of vision. I quickly checked the facts. It was pretty much as Portos had said a basic travel and check operation. One which with my information I could almost solve without even going there as I personally knew the Sentinel Station. Whatever. I was going there anyway. I interlocked the contract with my mind-signature cringing only a little when the the bounty board deducted the 50 million credits from my account.
    "Thanks Porots. I'll get my ship ready for take off, how long will be the navigation solution be valid?"
    "For 16 hours and 45 minutes 38 seconds counting down."
    "See you around Portos."
    "Goodbye James. Have a safe trip."