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54 - Hard to Port

The next day, I tried to hide from Mr. Cool as I went to the port to earn some credits, but I soon discovered he was waiting for me. Actually, I went to the slate racks and found them empty, and then came a tap on my shoulder. With a "shhinngg," my blade stopped at the skin of his throat, but his smile never wavered as he held out a slate for me. Two guards stepped out from behind a ship and pointed their rifles in my direction. "Excuse me? You want me to refuel ships? I am a -- "
"A little off lately?" he had to throw that in. "Actually, right now, I don't even want you in my port, but if you want to fuel up a ship, there are the hoses. Get to it. . . . Oh, and put that sword away before I have to hurt you."
It was only then that I noticed the pistol twirling around in his hand as he holstered it, turned around and put his shades on, all in his signature one-move pivot, and without breaking that cocky grin he knows I hate.
I had no sooner resheathed my sword than I noticed that the guards had vanished, gone, poof. No, no poof, just gone. But where? That might be useful information.
Would you believe it? I dropped the hose, making a huge mess. The assistant portmaster was right behind me, just standing there, leaning against a bulkhead, pointing to the mop and bucket he had ready next to him, grinning ear-to-ear in a way that would get him shot on most other stations.
It still might.
I'd had enough. I quit. I headed off to see Ser Brigs at the cloning center, and he said I'd be welcome to do some odd jobs for him, but I'd have to change careers to do it. Wasn't this the first guy I tried to kill? Trusting sort.
Three days of filling, testing, draining and cleaning clone tanks, hiding from customers and fielding question after question from Ser Briggs about my "progress," which, if you asked Mr. Cool, was woefully inadequate for what I had been paid . . . my remark about the 12-credit volunteer day was apparently enough that my 'generous' host put me in for promotion.
I thanked him and said I'd keep this place in mind for later . . . as I headed out to the port. Mr. Cool had gone to the jump gate to help with the rapidly-increasing workload there as a massive fleet gathered in anticipation of the long-awaited re-opening of the Barnard-Star wormhole.
Meanwhile, Kobenhavn Shipyards and even Taungoo's own portmaster had put out a desparate plea for extra help as many more ships were waiting there as well . . . including those of many of my friends from Tau Syndicate.
I bought a cheap-cheap ticket to Taungoo and stopped in to help fix a few ships while I waited. Captain Gaptooth and her exploration fleet were right there, of course. No surprise.
One fellow in a brown coat approached me about a ship design, and I was happy to oblige. I'd been developing a few ideas in that area. I took him off to a corner and showed him what I had in mind, and he seemed pleased by all the "wasted space" with discreet access hatches. I asked him if he could bring back a few goldfish, and he smiled.
"Why don't you come along?"
No, he did not invite me . . . well, yes, . . . yes he did.
"You might find a few takers for your blueprints."
"And goldfish?" I answered with a silly question.
"Never know," he said as he smirked and turned toward his ship, Briefly, he stopped to see if I was going to come aboard, but after I tipped my hat to him, he nodded with a smile, raised the gangplank and called in for departure.
Actually, you couldn't have paid me enough to ride in that thing. I may be a bit clumsy lately, but I know a deathtrap when I see one. Sure enough, Johan was here and had signed off on the inspection. I didn't have to guess.
"Going to Taungoo with me, Yo?"
"Nnnnnn . . . Yaah," he said half-heartedly as he shrugged, then held up a slate. I half-choked when I saw it. The portmaster must be on vacation.
We slipped aboard Gaptooth's ship while she was out to lunch (Well . . . for real), and together, we tested and changed the hull plating, installed a new star map, a navigation system and a brand new, fresh-off-the-line Star-Gazer Mk. 12, Hopkins Edition (a very, very, very, very expensive and fragile signal clarifier, data filter and image enhancing system for extreme deep space scanners - They apparently haven't made many of them since the Catastrophe, so this was a privilege), repaired her main drives, inspected her cargo, overlooked half her contraband, absconded with the rest, fueled the ship and helped ourselves to some of the items on our special shopping list. The only snag we had was three attempts at the diagnostic. We finished the pre-launch inspection and were done, off, checked and paid before she got back. She recognized me, stared at me and snarled in her gappy sneer as she boarded the ship she never deserved.
I tried (and failed) the Mr. Cool turnaround, narrowly missing a flat crate as I tripped along, stumbling over my own feet. Anything to get away from her.
"Yah," he laughingly agreed as he helped me back to my feet while that half-wit captain sauntered up her boarding ramp, shaking her nasty, indescribably-ugly head.
We got to the shuttle bay just in time to pick up the last cheapie fare for him, and we sat around in the waiting area, laughing at old times in a way that only silly friends could ever understand.
All I felt during the trip was a little discomfort. I didn't even use a single bag, much to the relief of the stewardess who had drawn the short string and gotten stuck in my area. I think it was the first time I actually looked through a shuttle's viewports, except at the jumpgates.
There were more ships flying here and there than I had ever seen in one place, and this was just the overflow. Yohan and I looked at each other, then both of us stared out the viewport in anticipation of all the easy jobs we were about to find.


  1. Ser Bob-Simpson,

    you MUST come and see Estación de Amazon. Your Goldfishs might find a home there.

    It is an absolute marvel. Forgive my gushing, but it is comparable to the images of vast waters that you were admiring in Kobenhavn station. Except that it is not. There is so much green here, it makes the Ghost of Mali look pale in comparison. You can feel the water in the air. So much water that, on occasion, it condenses into droplets and falls onto the ground.

    The water collects in small pools, and some of them stretch longer, and flow toward the lower ground.

    There are parts here where you cannot really go, because the ground is so soaked with water that it gives way under your boots.

    Spirit of Botswana proudly displays some of its mined and purified water in a fountain. Here, this precious good is in such an over-abundance that a goldfish could spend its life here without ever needing care from a human.

    There is no way you can miss this. If your career troubles you again, I can pay for the shuttles to get you here, to Barnard's Star.

    Oh, and you might want to try the Gym when you visit, it is much better than the famous Low-G Gym at Gadani -- something I never said I would say, after spending so much time there.

    Another worthy travel destination around here is Hopkin's Legacy, where they forge some really amazing blades.

    The only downside is the absence of any University here at Barnard's Star, which is why I'll be traveling back to Sol soon.