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Wednesday, 27 July 2005

Weakling

Okay, so I'm a bit of a weakling, and I should have left her long ago, and she probably only stays with me for the fringe benefits, but I can't exactly get away from her. The mission lasts six years and there's no jumping off in dead space.

That's what we call it, because it isn't the "space" we learned about in grade school. It isn't full of photo-perfect stars and planets and asteroids. That kinda stuff is for cheap science fiction magazines where ships can travel faster than the speed of light and we all know how impossible that is. We travel through the domain of the wormholes, jumping from one to the next through the junction boxes that the engineers maintain.

The walls of a wormhole, if you can call them walls, block out everything: light, sound, time, your own freakin' sanity. It's no wonder that Lissy and I are barely speaking to each other. We've both been starved of basic human needs for far too long.

Except for you know. We make time for that whenever we can. She's "fixed" so we don't have to worry about the future, and believe me, it could be a lot nicer with more affection blown into the mix. But a guy's gotta live, you know? And there isn't anything else to do. The ship flies itself. The wormholes direct it straight ahead. Whenever we come to a junction, there's a bit of work to do, o'course. Setting orthogonals and paying tolls and such, but at most we get a day's worth of entertainment out of a reroute.

This latest wormhole's been over two years long. Our relationship turned sour about eight months ago. I'd give anything to download intellishrink software. Have a session or two, or fifty, to get some animosity out into the open. But every day is the same. She sits in the co-pilot seat and hums to herself while she types random drivel into the computer. She says she's "writing" but she won't show me any of it. I bet she's typing: "I hate the bastard!" over and over again. I don't believe for a minute she could be thinking words as fast as she's typing them out.

"Wayne?"

"Yes, Lissy?"

"I'm finished."

"Finished what?"

"The novel. Wanna read it?"

Tuesday, 26 July 2005

Discovery

They labelled my discovery "miraculous". I thought it was pretty mundane. Slablits visit new worlds all the time, but apparently not Earth. How was I to know?

My warning censors have been off-line for years, decades really. So I didn't read the giant "stay clear of this planet" warning before I landed to rejuvenate. My mistake.

Now they're all over me. What do you eat? Where do you come from? What do you want from us? Plus all of the paranoid guys with their primitive projectile devices. I've keep my cool, haven't zidled them, not once. It would be so easy. They don't even suspect I'm wired for security. Their technology couldn't scan a pile of dung let alone a Slablit wired for intercepts.

On the positive side, I'm enjoying the food. So many varieties, though they all taste tarnished to me -- they've polluted their ecosystem without restraint. On the negative side, they don't have any contraband worth smuggling. Most of their "sinful" (that's what they call their intoxicants) offerings don't affect me at all. What I would give for a slider of bruunks right now. On the hot side, easy on the motion variants.

For now, I'm refuelling with whatever soil I can scrounge until I can extract some isotopes dirty enough for the blast drivers. In the meantime, I've heard the dessert is worth a trip. Plenty of granulares and dry, dry, dry. My ship could use a good abrasive. Recycled moisture gets downright rank after a generation or two.

I can't wait to run my feelers through the layers of warmth, descaling whatever I can. My dribs are curling just thinking about it.

Monday, 25 July 2005

Uranium

Thanks for the word, Mark. And thank you, oh gods of the internet, for giving me access to high speed internet once more!
*

Twenty packs of uranium in my hold were enough to get me killed. The Scranters scrounged this DMZ for hot ships. Twenty more hours and I'd be free and clear.

Then the warning siren started wailing. Two ships, intercept course, class seventeen Artrops with double armour--the perfect pillaging machines.

So I backed my engines, buying me about a second of time and purged my logs. They'd steal the packs but they couldn't report the incident. Whatever rumours they'd start about the origin of their windfall wouldn't have my ID plastered through them. And with any luck, they'd take the decoys and leave my cargo undisturbed.

Most smugglers have their tricks--secret compartments, shielding devices, or big ass guns. I'm a decoy woman, always have been. No matter how big a gun I get, they always have a bigger one. And secret compartments are old-school, besides most high end pirates have better scanners than the military, let alone freelance shippers. Whenever I trade in uranium, I shield the packs with multiple appliances, but radiation has a funny way of sneaking through the best of containment options.

So I crossed my fingers, bit my lip and waited for whoever would come aboard.

The ships clanked, startling me. Space is pretty quiet and I knew they were coming, but I covered my out-of-practice ears and shrieked.

They deactivated my hull safeties and stormed in, shockers at the ready. Three Umfels skittered along the deck, stopping in front of me. If they were wearing translators, they didn't use them. Two grunts and a gun up my nose and I can figure out what they want. They shifted their weight around in circles, from flange to flange, like spiders stuck in molasses. Gave me the creeps to watch them. Still we stared at each other.

Then boots clanked through the hatch. Not the smoother patter of Umfels, but the unmistakable steel-boots-on-a-steel-floor of a Pukq. The worst kind of malicious ass-riders in the galaxy. This one was a female; her third antennae stuck out of her shiv-suit like a scorpion's tail, arched above her head and ready to strike.