Thursday, July 19, 2018

Miami Pete 14:

I sat on the bridge, thinking of what my next move could possibly be.  While there, I started to check on the fueling I had ordered upon arrival at the station.  It was complete, so Hauley's reactor fuel tanks were nice and full.  The water tanks were likewise full.  As with most stations, part of the docking procedure included a hookup to the station water supply.  A station has a lot more room for water filtration and reclamation than a star ship.  Sure, Hauley has a water reclamation system, it just isn't as advanced as one designed for a station.  On a long haul when there are no stops, ship water can get a bit funky.  It's still safe to use, it's just not pleasant.  Before I came aboard, the water tanks were pretty much ignored.  They would dock with a station and just top the water tanks off, putting fresh water on top of what was there.  Not me man, as soon as I had a chance, I completely dumped the entire water system and gave it a good scrubbing inside and out.  Then refilled with fresh water.  After that, when we docked with a station, our system was set to dump everything into the station's waste water system, rinse, and refill from empty.  It costs a little bit more that way, but the alternative is funky water.  Pete complained about the cost at first, but after a couple hauls, he came around.

I could tell, by the way that I was checking on preparations, that my subconscious was leaning towards leaving.  I just hadn't admitted to myself yet. But where would I go?  The first thing that popped into my head was 'rus One, but that was ridiculous.  It was also going backwards rather than moving ahead. Where else?  Deltos?  What was Deltos to me?  I could go back and see if my parents still lived, if I had any idea what my name or their names were.  I did have some memories of Deltos, but none of them were specific.  Like I remember having friends, but I don't remember any of them specifically.  No, Deltos was also going backwards.

The Comm chimed, letting me know there was another incoming message.  "Thanks a lot kid.  Gregorious managed to spring me from lockup by doing his lawyer bit in case you care.  Glad you made it to your ship."  It was from Chance.  Why did I find myself smiling?  Chance was not a nice man, just ask him, he'll tell you.  I do NOT like Chance.  NO!

I'm such an idiot...



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Miami Pete 13:  (warning, not a lot of time for editing today.  Might be a bit rough)

As I walked back to where I had docked Hauley, it hit me. "I checked, there's money." the one called Chance had said.

There's money... the words bounced around in my head.  There's money...  "not one of your bounties"... "I checked, there's money."

I ran.

As I reached the station arm where Hauley was docked, I slowed to a walk. As I approached the ship I couldn't help but notice that a couple of the station guards, in thier rediculous orange and yellow uniforms, had stationed themselves on either side of the airlock leading to my ship.  The uniforms may have looked rediculous, but I knew the men in those uniforms were far from.  Station security on the many space stations and star ports that I had visited in my time on the Haul-o-caster varied wildly.  Some places, they were little more than criminals.  Other places they were practically shock troups.  Often, as we docked with a station, Pete would give me a run down of his impressions from the last time he was there.  With this station, he always warned that I should be polite to the station guard.  The station manager was passing strange, hence the uniforms, but he paid well enough to attract some very competent security personel.  Regardless of what they thought of the uniform.

I didn't know what to do.  If the Haul-o-caster was parked at one of the cargo docks, I might have been able to skirt around and sneak aboard using one of the other hatches. Every ship has a number of hatches so that there is usually one handy no matter how or where you are trying to dock.  As it was, Hauley was attached to the station by her nose hatch, and all the others were out there in space.  Without a survival suit, they were out of reach.  Sure, I was wearing a ship suit, and ship suits are designed to provide SOME protection in the case of a hull breach, but not enough to risk a space walk in one.

As I stood there looking at the two station security officers blocking my way to the only home I had ever known, I heard from behind me "You know, you might want to get out of sight.  Or at least stare at those staties a little less obviously."

It was Chance.  Great, just what I needed.

"Gregorious send you to make nice?" I asked as I looked for a less obvious place to watch from.

"Nope, he sent me to make sure you were Ok.  He would have asked someone else to come if what he wanted was to make nice.  Never make the mistake of thinking that I'm nice." he replied.

Well ok.  Chance is not nice.  He said so, right there, openly.  I'm inclined to take his word for it.

"Gracie, she's nice.  Al is too unless he thinks you are out to harm Gregorious or the Pride, then he can become a right bastard.  He hasn't decided about you yet, so for now watch your back around him." Chance said.

"Why are you telling me all this?  As far as I'm concerned, as soon as I can get back aboard Hauley, I'm out of here and don't plan on seeing any of you again."  I replied.  I wasn't about to take his word on Gracie or Al.  As far as I was concerned, I wasn't about to trust any of them.

"HAH!" he laughed.  "You don't understand. Gregorious isn't going to just let this go.  He thinks of you like you are family or something.  Been referring to you as his niece that layed the golden egg.  I don't get the reference, but he definitely isn't going to just watch you fly away."

I got the reference, and in the version of that story I remembered, the farmer got greedy and cut that goose open to see where all the golden eggs were coming from.

"Go away.  I have to figure out what I'm going to do."  I hissed.  Standing here talking to this guy was not getting me anywhere except further and further into paranoidsville.  I had to come up with a way to figure out what station security was doing guarding my hatch, preferably without getting arrested, and then figure out what to do from here. 

Then I saw Chance's blasters and the beginnings of an idea started to form.  Before Chance had a chance (ha!) to realize what I was doing, I snatched one of his blasters and held it up so he could see it.  I didn't point it at anyone, since I didn't want anyone to get hurt in case there was an accident.  Just as I expected, Chance tried to take it away from me...  So I started screaming bloody murder.

I have long known that men could be a little dumb at times.  Just as I hoped, hearing a female scream, got the attention of the station guards who came running to investigate.  That's when I let go of the blaster and fell, as if Chance had overpowered me.  My timing was a little off, but it was close enough.  When the guards arrived there was Chance, with one blaster in hand and the other in it's holster, looking for all the world like he was standing over me threateningly. 

"Drop the weapon!"  The guards both yelled, then one of them went for a flying tackle.  Poor Chance was slammed to the ground and cuffed before he knew what hit him.  I on the other hand, slipped past the guards who were focused on the "dangerous badguy" with the weapon instead of the poor victimized, helpless girl, and ran for home.

I made it.

To Chance's credit, I will say he struggled and cussed much longer than he needed to.  I think he was keeping the guard's attention on him to give me time.  Or, I could just be fooling myself since he's... you know... kinda cute.

I'm such an idiot.

Once I had Hauley's hatch sealed, I couldn't help but hear the comm system beeping that I had messages coming in.  Oh what a surprise!  yea... right.

The sheer number of messages was a surprise.  Who knew that many people wanted to talk to little ol' me? 

There was, of course, the expected message from Gregorious.  "I'm sorry for the miscommunication." "You need to come talk to me." "Pete was my best friend in the whole world, I think of you as my niece." yadda yadda yadda... I noticed he left off the "that laid a golden egg"  part.

There was a message from station command saying that Senator Sampton wanted to "make my aquaintence".  A quick look at the data net showed me that Senator Sampton was the for-mentioned station manager with the poor taste in guard uniform.  So the flowery speech in the message wasn't surprising.  It did, however explain why only two guards were at my hatch rather than an entire platoon.

There were a lot of messages for Pete.  Invitations to meet for drinks.  A couple inquiries as to rates for hauling cargo.  A couple indecent solicitations from station prostitutes.  Who knew Pete was so popular?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Miami Pete 12:

"Relax, she wasn't really IN your head, not like you're thinking anyway." The giant explained, "She can't read minds, she can just push emotions around. I find it puts people off balance, sometimes enough to make them slip up. I'm sorry I had to do that to you, but I needed to know if I could trust you.  It wouldn't be the first time someone used a cute young girl to make an old man let his guard down."

The giant smiled a big friendly smile, and it looked genuine.  I couldn't help liking him, but then again, he had already admitted to using a... something... to push around my emotions, so I wasn't going to start trusting him just yet.

"Who are you? And what do you want?" I asked.  It seemed like a reasonable request although I asked it a little harshly.

"How rude of me, I am Gregorious, Captain of the Pride of Rome." The giant, Gregorious replied. "And I'll refrain from asking your name, that is, unless you and Pete have managed to uncover who you are anyway. Last I spoke to him, Pete was just calling you kid."

"No, I still have no name." I had crossed my arms around myself and was acting sulky. A behavior that is very unlike me. Just what did that girl do to me?

"Very well!" the giant laughed, "In the mean time I shall call you Petra, the womanly form of the name Peter in rememberance of my friend.  It's a fine name derived from the latin word for Stone.  It was a name that suited Miami Pete, and I suspect it will suit you as well."

It seemed odd to receive a name from a strange giant, sitting in a pub on a space station so far from my birthplace.  Petra.  It felt right some how.  Like, boy: What's your name?  Me: I'm Petra. 

Man that... whatever she was... really did a number on my head.

"Well Captain Gregorious, I've said what I've come here to say.  Miami Pete is dead and gone and there isn't anything I can do about it.  Nice to make your aquaintence."  I didn't stick my hand out to shake, I just turned and walked away.  What else could I do?  It was stupid to show up here in the first place.  Gregorious was right, what could I do to him?  I was becoming well aware that he had the upper hand.  I hadn't even thought to bring a sidearm.  I'm sure HE brought a sidearm, along with a... whatever she was... and at least one crew member that I knew of.  Any other patron could likewise belong to Gregorious.  I felt outnumbered and surrounded.

"Aw, come now. Where are you going?  What are you going to do?" he called after me.  Not angry, which was a relief.  He actually sounded sad in a way.  Like me walking away had hurt him.  How could I trust him though?  I wanted to so bad, the time alone since 'rus One was wearing on me more than I had realized.  Gregorious was the first person I had talked to since then.  It almost hurt to walk away.

As I approached the exit, a young man slid into sight from behind a piece of the station structure.  He definitely didn't forget to bring sidearms.  He had them slung low on his hips like some vid cowboy.  He stood there, blocking my path and looked askance towards Captain Gregorious.

"Let her go Chance.  She's a friend, whether she relizes that or not, not one of your bounties."  Gregorious said.

"I checked, there's money." the young man replied.

The two stared at eachother for a few tense moments over my head.  I was stopped between them, not willing to go any closer to the dangerous newcomer, but not decided to turn and go the other way either.  Not that there was another way I could go.  The pub did have other exits, but I wasn't likely to make it to any of them if he was anywhere near as good with those blasters as his swagger said he was. 

Then he stepped aside.  "Good evening ma'am." He said as I walked through the hatchway.  As I walked away, I resisted the urge to look back, to run, to duck for cover.  The space between my shoulder blades itched like it never had before, and I found that I needed to find a bathroom soon or wet myself.

What had I gotten myself into?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Miami Pete 11:

There was no point in staying on 'rus One.  Pete was gone.  The monks were gone. It was time for me to be likewise gone. So much had happened on 'rus One, and it felt like I was leaving behind something that I would never get back.  In a way, I was.

The plan hadn't changed. I was still going to have to back-track to the station where we picked up the monks.  Hopefully, I would be able to use their names to get some info on them.  I would have to be careful though, since I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Liftoff was simple enough, I'd watched Pete do it a bunch of times.  Once I cleared the atmosphere, what little there was of it, and then the gravity well, I set course back to the jump point.

Running a freighter alone isn't usually recommended.  Technically, by-the-book, a ship the size of Hauley was supposed to have a crew compliment of at least seven.  A Captain, an XO, two engineers, two helmsmen, and a cargo master.  With each of those multi-tasking to fill in for anything else the freighter might need.  Crew members that were able to work a number of different jobs aboard a ship had a much better chance of getting hired, so most spacers cross-trained as much as they could. As long as I had been aboard, it had just been me and Pete. Pete played the part of Captain and helmsman, and I played the roll of engineer and cargo master. For everything else we just made due.

Now that I was alone, I would need to think about crew.  The very idea of it made my stomach twist. How was I going to be able to manage all this?  While I slept verry little, in hind sight probably due to my cyber device, even I couldn't stay awake forever.  If I wanted to keep flying Hauley I would need to find some crew members. There was no sense in crying about it, I was mostly all cried out anyway, there was only one way to go and that was forward.

Since the nav data was in the nav system, making my way back to the star port was relatively easy.  The days blurred together, and I set alarms on everything that might go wrong and caught cat-naps when I could. I finally made my way to the star system where the station was orbiting a gas giant.  Pete always preferred that arrangement, because with the gas giant close, reactor fuel tended to be less expensive. I checked the regulations for the station and found that cyborgs were allowed, which wasn't surprising since I carried Pete home from the bar on this one.  However, the rules said that cyborgs must either stay aboard their ship, or be supervised at all times.  There was nothing about registering at least, and my cyber device was pretty small compared to the ones I'd seen before, so maybe I could wear a hood and nobody would notice.  The only problem with that idea was that I'd been here with Pete not all that long ago. At the time I hadn't even known I was a cyborg, so it didn't occur to me to cover it up. We had attracted attention to ourselves, or at least Pete did, because Pete was celebrating.  Who was going to forget the slip of a girl... cyborg... that carried Miami Pete home after he drunk himself incoherent? If someone recognized me, I was caught.

Along with the laws, I checked on the docking fee.  My exploration of the Ship's Pact along with the other data that was stored with it had shown me that, right now at least, Hauley - and by extension me - had a pretty decent stash of credits.  Enough to keep me going for quite a while if I was frugal.  To that end, I paid for a docking spot at an air lock rather than a full cargo berth.  I wasn't planning on picking up cargo here, I was planning on getting the lay of the land, some fuel, and perhaps some information.

Docking with the space station was a bit hair raising.  I had never docked a ship by attaching to an airlock before.  For that matter, I had never docked a ship at all.  I'd seen Pete do it more times than I could count but he had never let me touch the controls, let alone actually do the docking, but how hard could it be?  I was familiar with the docking system on Hauley, I had repaired and calibrated it enough times.  Once the docking sensor was set to the right airlock hatch, all I had to do was make sure the little ball stayed in the middle of the little circle, and add in some gentle breaking thrust at the right time to keep from hitting the station too hard.  Hauley would do the rest.

To my surprise, as soon as I docked, the comms squacked an incoming transmission.

"Pete! You old dog! Thank the stars that I caught up with you!" exclaimed a voice on the comm when I opened the connection.

"This is..." I paniced, trying to figure out how to continue.  "Haul-o-caster.  Miami Pete is unavaliable."

"Unavailable huh?  Tell that piece of space rubbish not to go no where till he talks to me.  He's got some bad stuff coming his way...  Just tell him to meet me down at the Evaporator. We have business." came the reply. I wasn't sure if the person on the other end was upset or mad, or what, but he sure did talk fast.

"Whom shall I say the message is from?"  I asked.

"He'll know."  Said with the e in he drawn out into a long "heeeeeeel".  With that, the connection was closed from the other end.

The Leaky Evaporator was the pub that I carried a very inebreated Pete home from on our last visit.  That was good, at least it was close to the space docks and I knew where it was, although I had no idea what I was going to do.  It isn't likely short, skinny, quiet me was going to be able to pretend to be a loud, big-as-life Pete. I knew Pete had friendships amongst the the Captains and crews of other freighters, but I hadn't met very many of them over the years.  I always got the idea that he was trying to protect me in some way.  Now, I probably knew why.  What would Pete's friend do or say when a strange cyborg walked in and told him that his friend was dead.  If friend this person really was.  For all I know, it could be someone that Pete had crossed at some point looking for payback.  I had always known that Pete wasn't exactly what anyone would call an angel.  Or perhaps it could be someone sent by them Monks to tie up loose ends, not that I knew enough for them to bother, but that sort of thing always happened in the vids.  or...  or...  I really needed to work on my overactive imagination.  Before I knew it I would be imagining that it was a 'rus come to eat my liver.

Hey, I LIKE my liver, right where it is.  Un-masticated!  Thank you very much.  Or... you know... un-slerped through a probiscus if that's what the 'rus had.  Depended on which description of the 'rus you believed, and I believed them ALL.  Just to be on the safe side mind you.

Since I could think of nothing else to do, I decided to pull on my cloak and hood and take a peek at the Evaporator.  Maybe I would be able to...  I didn't know.  Scope things out?  Recognise the inner goodness of someone who would come and rescue me?

As if I'd ever be that lucky.  With my luck, whatever happened was going to be worse than even probiscus 'rus.

The Leaky Evaporator was quiet for once.  Someone was playing soft music through the music machine, and people were generally relaxing. I had only been to a few space station doc pubs, Pete usually left me on board when we were docked, but this one seemed more subdued than I would expect.  I quietly found a seat at a table along the wall and ordered some juice and some fresh food from the terminal at the table.  It was mostly engineered fungus and alge, along with some leafy greens, but after months aboard ship, just getting that much was incredible.  Most places would have an alge farm they would use to press out pre-formed ration bars, so this was special.

The food and drink was delivered by a rolling semi.  Rolling, obviously, because it had wheels as opposed to feet, semi because it had a limited AI that made it semi-intelligent.  Also called an SI.  People just called the semis to make it easy. They had no feelings to hurt or really enough intelligence to understand it was derogatory, so it didn't matter.  Where it would have mattered is if it was a full AI and someone called it a semi.  AI's get really bent out of shape - figuratively, not literally, although that would be something to see - if you refer to them as a semi.  I was never the kind of person who would do that of course, I've always tried to be a nice person.  I guess now I have even more reason.  You think AI's catch a lot of junk, people who would happily accept an AI or even an SI, would sometimes spit on a cyborg.

A few minutes later found me happily munching on a mushroom, with it's almsot crunchy, almost spoungy texture, and earthy flavor. And taking bites of an alge salad, this kind having some kind of peppery red fruits, no doubt invented and genetically engineered by some smart egg-head somewhere (stars bless the egg heads), and I found out just how bad I was at quietly watching a room.

"AH, so Pete sent his infamous kid to come parley with me." came a loud voice from right next to me.  I almost screamed, then choked one of those peppery fruits and ended up unceremoniously coughing myself silly as a giant of a man gently tried to help by patting me on the back.  Where did he come from?  How had he so thoroughly sneaked up on me?

When I finally managed to get myself under control and took a drink, the man sat across from me.

"So, Pete's gone is he?" he said more quietly.

"Yes" and I started to cry.  Damn I hate crying, but I couldn't help myself.  It all just came out.  I told him about the monks, how they were mean to me, how they tricked and overpowered Pete and tried to make him a cyborg and how the cyber device failed to connect, and how Pete died with it burrowing into his brain.  How I had left his body on 'rus one, even though it should have been called 'rus three, and...  I didn't even know this man.  He could be there to kill me for all I knew, but...  but what?  What was I doing?!  Why was I telling him all of this?

I got angry.

A small squeek came from an adjacent table, where a slim young girl in a shipsuit sat holding her head in both hands.

"That's enough Gracie."  the man said. "Al, get Gracie back to the ship and make sure she's ok."

"You sure boss?" a man got up from the bar and helped "Gracie", the girl from the table, to her feet.  "You sure you'll be ok here without backup?"

"What's she going to do Al, drown me?"  He laughed.

"That's a cyborg boss, and I've never seen a cyber device like that one before, she could be an assassin or somethin."

"Don't worry Al, I think I can handle things.  Just make sure Gracie is good, I think she got some back-splatter from the kid.  She'll probably have a headache for a few days.  Get her some rum from the cabinet if she wants it."

"Ok boss." With that, the man left, helping the girl along as best as he could. Treating her like he was worried that she might fall down and break at any moment.

"Sorry about that" said the giant, "I had to make sure you were ok.  Gracie is usually a lot more subtle than that."

"What is she?" I asked rubbing my forehead.  I was starting to develop a headache of my own.

"She just has some talents I find useful" he replied. "I picked her up from a dirt-hole similar to the one that Pete picked you up from.  You should get to know her, I think the two of you could be good friends."

"She was in my head!  You bastard, she was in my head!"  I was angry again.  How dare they get in my head like that.  HOW did they get in my head like that?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Miami Pete 10 (updated):

I had never imagined myself to be a retribution kind of person. Growing up on Deltos, I lost a lot of friends and family to the vaguarities of life there. The corporations often killed us street rats when they caught us... um... "appropriating supplies". But hey, it was their stuff we were taking and they have the right to protect what's theirs just like anyone else. Similarly, occasionally one of us would cross one of the Dons, real pieces of work those guys.  Cross a Don and you ended up hanging from an overpass, missing your bones. I think the removal of the person's bones was symbolic, but there was always the rumor that the Dons used them to make soup. Revenge on a Don?  The very idea was laughable. Still, as bad as the corporations and the Dons were, the Priests were the worst. You didn't have to do anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Priests would snap you up. There was always the whispered argument of who was worse off, the ones we saw again, or the ones we didn't. Friends who were taken by the priests and were seen again were changed. They would recognize you and smile, right before they snatched you too. We never knew what happened to the friends we didn't see again. We were too busy running and hiding to think about striking back.

Now, I was thinking about tracking down Pete's killers.

There weren't any authorities to help. Space, it's big man. Far too big for any government to even begin to police. That didn't stop various governments from trying once upon a time. Needless to say, it didn't work out well for them.  A government only has the amount of money it can manage to squeeze out of it's people. Even the most over-populated world has a finite number of people to tax and therefor the government has a finite amount of money to build ships with. Space, on the other hand, is infinite.

I had to be honest with myself. I had no idea where the monks had gone, and I had no contacts. Pete might have been able to call in favors from various people, he had contacts on nearly every station between here and the other side of the universe. Not always friendly contacts, but contacts none the less. I, on the other hand, wasn't even considered a person on many, if not most of those stations.

How had I not known all this time that I was a cyborg?

With no better ideas of what to do, I took the tray of data chips from Pete's safe back to my quarters and plugged the one marked "kid" into my console. A directory popped up and the first file I noticed was named "readme.first".  So I opened it. It was obviously Pete's writing, complete with Pete's horrible spelling and his less than accurite concept of puncuation. Pete was a  brilliant Captian, but he never had much in the way of patience for textual communication. The file filled in some of the gaps of what he had told me before he died.

Pete started out as a minor crew member on the Haul-o-caster under a Capitan Gothew. Gothew took a job with one of the Dons on Deltos to hit a Corporation that was rumored to have some incredible new technology. All the right people were bought off, it was supposed to be a walk in the park snatch and grab. Except, somehow the corperation got wind of the operation and they were met by cyborg shock troups, and the corp had lots of them, because they were the manufacturer. Pete and a few others managed to survive the initial ambush and ran for it. They quickly found themselves cut off and unable to escape. As they ran, they were picked off one by one. In a fit of desperation, Pete lost his persuers by jumping down a trash chute.

At the bottom of the chute, in addition to some more mundane garbage, Pete found a dead scientist and a failed experiment, me. I was out, but I was hurt pretty bad with a headwound where a bullet had grazed my skull.  With nothing else to do because we were basically locked in a dumpster, Pete bound my wound and managed to get the bleeding stopped.  Finally, the garbage collection service arrived to pick up the dumpster allowing us to escape. Not being able to figure out anything else to do with me, Pete took me back to the Haul-o-caster expecting to either meet up with what was left of the crew, or for it to be gone because they left without him.  To his surprise, the ship was still there, but none of the others had returned.

Hoping I would eventually wake up and be able to give him some answers, Pete shoved me into the ship's autodoc and settled in to wait and see if anyone else showed up.

A few days later, the auto doc signaled that it was done with me. When I came out of the auto doc, I was still pretty out of it and un-communicative. Pete was too busy trying to get the ship patched up enough to get out of there because a contact had sent Pete word that the corporation was zeroing in on the Haul-o-caster, and Pete didn't want to be there when they finally showed up.  So Pete ignored me and frantically tried to get the drives on line. At one point, Pete stopped working long enough to go find a bigger hammer, and while he was gone I just walked up and, without really thinking about it, figured out what was wrong and fixed it. I was still in lala land, and had no idea what I had done but when Pete returned and figured out what happened, he started pointing me towards damaged systems. Soon, we were lifting off, never to see Deltos again.

A few days later, I snapped out of the fuzz and started being... well... me again.

An additional note from Pete at the end of the doc explained that he had figured out that I didn't know about the cyber device, he didn't know how or what to tell me, so he just left it unsaid.  Gee thanks Pete.

The note also said to make sure to update the Ship's Pact.

"Ship's Pact? I didn't know that Hauley was covered by a Ship's Pact."

I knew what a Ship's Pact was.  Every kid on Deltos knew what a Ship's Pact was and dreamed of getting their name on one some day.

The idea of a Ship's Pact grew out of the problem that there is no real Authorities out in space.  So for instance, Jo-Bob owns a long haul freightor - and aren't they all since space, it's big man - and somewhere out there in the great beyond, a little piece of space debree penetrates the bulkhead right in Jo-Bob's cabin as he sleeps.  Whoosh, the air is gone, and so is Jo-Bob.  So what happens to the ship?  Perhaps Jo-Bob has a will, but who's going to enforce it?

Enter the idea of a Ship's Pact.  Nobody knows who came up with it, but for true spacers it's held as sacrosanct.  Each time a new crew member joins a ship that has a Ship's Pact, their name is added to the pact.  The order of the names on the pact typically reflects the rank hierarchy on the ship, but not always because the Capitan can alter the order if there is reason enough.  So, when our example Jo-Bob dies, number two on the list, traditionally the ship's XO, moves up and becomes Capitan and de-facto owner of the ship.  Then number three moves to number two and so on.

Using the hints from the note, it took me a few minutes to find the Ship's Pact in Hauley's data core.  When I opened it, unsurprisingly I saw "Miami Pete, Capitan" at the top of the list with a number one.  What surprised me was the next line that said "kid, Chief Engineer" with a number two. I never even knew there WAS a Ship's Pact, let alone that I was on it.  That it said Chief Engineer beside my name was nice though, and made me smile a little in spite of myself. The next two lines, numbers three and four, also held names and were both titled "passenger".  The monks.  I had their names.

I was so excited to have found a clue, that I almost forgot to update the Pact.  There was a column for a deceased date, so I solumnly updated Pete's record with the appropriate date, and his number updated to a zero.  My number updated to a one, and the name changed to read "kid, Capitan".  Oh look everyone, I'm Capitan Kid.  I really need to figure out a name for myself.

I also updated the disembarked date for the two Monks.  I didn't want them to be on the active Pact list.  I didn't think I would ever see them again, but it felt wrong to keep them there.  Their numbers likewise updated to zeros.

I'm coming for ya monks...

Friday, June 29, 2018

Miami Pete 9:

I don't know how long I sat there with, well, not really Pete anymore, just his body. My rescuer was dead, and it was my fault because I couldn't save him.

"Quit being stupid, when in doubt MOVE!" I heard Pete's voice say, yelling at me from my memories. He was right of course, it was time to go.

I hated leaving Pete's body there, but it was supposedly a 'rus shrine.  What better place to lay to rest than in a shrine. Better than ending up at the recyclers on Deltos.  I would have taken him with me and buried him... where? "In Space"? Maybe Pete would have liked that, maybe not. In the short term, it didn't matter. I wasn't any more able to drag a dead Pete's body out to the transport than I was a live Pete, and despite bringing extra air bottles, air was getting short enough that it couldn't be helped.

I decided to leave the tent. I don't know why. The idea of leaving Pete's body there without any protection felt wrong. I dragged the rest back to the transport and just dropped it in the back. In the back of my mind, I noticed that not securing equipment was so unlike me, but I didn't have the energy to care. What would I do without Pete?  How would I go on? Speaking of "go", just where did I think I would go anyway?

"One step in front of the other" I told myself. "One bite of the elephant" I heard Pete from my memories. He never could explain that one to me. Elepahnt? The heavy freighter built by Trans Planetary shipyard? Why? How would anyone eat one of those? They are huge and made out of metal, and not even remotely digestible. I remembered him trying to explain that an elepahnt was a large ancient earth animal with a long nose, and laughing at my confusion when I asked what they tasted like only to be told that people didn't really eat them. I found myself smiling at the memory, with tears streaking my face. I don't think I'll ever really understand the elephant thing, but it was so nice to see Pete's smiling and laughing face.

The drive back to Hauley took almost seven hours. I drove mechanically, taking risks without even noticing. I couldn't bring myself to care. It's a wonder that I survived the trip. By the time I reached Hauley, the radiation sensor on my suit was angry, red, almost black, and the alarm sound was a solid buzz rather than just the tic tic tic that would normally be the warning that things were becomming unsafe. I was weak, sick, and close to just laying there and dying. I crawled into the airlock, cycled, then dragged myself to Hauley's little sick bay and into the autodoc. The last sound I heard was the fizz of a hypo.

I awoke, feeling groggy and out of sorts. I couldn't seem to open my eyes. My nose was attacked by the scent of the worst dead thing smell ever. It took me a while to fully come awake. In that in-between groggy state I wondered where that smell was coming from with growing unease. At one point, I was convinced that zombie Pete was standing over me, breathing on me, just waiting for me to open my eyes.

When I was finally able to move, I reached up and found my eyes crusted shut with gunk. It took me a few minutes to get them open and to my horror, I found out the smell was ME!

"How long have I been out?" I asked, realizing I was alone, so no answer was coming. Then I just knew the answer by accessing my built in chronometer. Had I been accessing it all this time without realizing it? My cronometer told me that I had been out a littl over a month. The very idea opened the floodgates on another bout of crying. I thought about trying to control it, but why bother, I was alone. I was a cyborg, and would never be human again.

Hey, at least it was washing some of the crud out of my eyes.

Eventually, in spite of myself I stopped crying.  I guess it is impossible to cry forever after all. I had to start moving. I was never one to sit still for long. Realizing that a little over a month had passed with me in the autodoc was a shock. A check of the autodoc's logs showed that it had kept me in a medical coma the whole time while it purged the radiation from my system and replaced various organs that had shut down. I will admit to a few seconds of horror at the idea of having engineered artificial replacement parts, but yea... apparently I'm a cyborg. The very idea still feels wrong and alien to me, but whats the point of crying about it?  An entire month had passed, Pete had been gone for over a month.  At least that explained the smell. An autodoc is a wonderful thing. If you manage to get a sick or injured person into one, they usually have a pretty good chance of surviving, but apparently it didn't bother cleaning up after itself.

First things first, I headed for the shower. I'm usually a "but first, coffee" kind of person, yet another habit I picked up from Pete, but even at my worst on Deltos I had never gone a whole month without bathing. The water felt incredible and I was surprised that it didn't sluff of of my body in the redish brown of the 'rus world.

Then came cleanup duty in Hauley's little sick bay.  It took scrubbing everything for what seemed like hours to get the smell out.

Hauley was still in good condition.  The radiation didn't get past the outer hull, or more to the point, the gravitonic shielding built into her hull, and the diagnostic board was once again all green lights. After a few days of cleaning and maintenance, I realized what I was doing.  I was waiting for Pete to come back...  but he never would. It was time to face it.

The hatch to Pete's office never seemed like a scary thing before. I had been in and out of that doorway for years, with never a second thought, but it seemed so stark and final without the man. Don't get me wrong, Pete was a morose, hard man most of the time, but there were times, like cashing in on a particularly lucrative haul or pulling off something that someone said was impossible, that Pete would laugh heartily.  Those times usually involved mass quantities of alcohol, but hey, with a man like Pete, you take the good times when you could get them. Most importantly, he was never a cruel man. The doorway to Pete's office... that felt cruel.

"Move!" Pete's voice demanded from my memories.  He never had much patience for frailty.

The hatch was closed, which I thought was odd because Pete always liked to leave it open.  However, the hatches all close automatically in preparation for an atmospheric landing, so perhaps not too odd.  My hand print on the sensor only produced a sharp beep.  Locked then.

"Well, Pete told me to go in there, and it's not like he's going to show up and unlock it for me."  I told myself.

Out came my multi-tool, and within a few minutes the locking mechanism was in pieces. Trusting locks is for the gullable, especially when you have someone like me around. Yet, it felt like a betrayal, like I was messing with Pete's stuff as soon as his back was turned, but I pushed that aside and cranked the hatch open with the manual crank.  I would have to put it all back together later.

Pete's office was exactly as I remembered, complete with whiskey bottle with only the dregs of perhaps one last shot in the bottom.  The safe where he told me to look for paperwork was built into the floor behind his desk.  I pulled the cover away and found the safe to be locked as usual.  I sighed, what was one more thing I would have to break into? It's not like I had anywhere else to be.

My eyes landed on the whiskey bottle. Pete was big on the whole "take a shot, make a toast" thing, and since I couldn't give him a proper send off, perhaps he  would approve of a toast.  I found a shot glass, and up-ended the bottle and poured. "To Pete" I said quietly.  The shot went down rough.  As I was coughing, I imagined Pete standing there patting my back like he did the last time we took a shot together... or more like the last time Pete browbeat-ed me into taking a shot.  I've never been good at drinking hard liquor, although I found myself wishing there was more than one shot left in the bottle. Then I noticed a label on the bottom of the whiskey bottle. "639826"  the tag insisted.  How like Pete.

The safe opened with a hiss of air.  It was one of the models that depressurize a little to help keep the contents sealed in.  Inside was a large envelope, and a rack of chips. The chip in front was a holo chip that was marked "kid", which is what Pete had always called me.

It struck me then that I didn't have a name. What an odd thing to realize about oneself. I sat there for long minutes trying to remember what my name was, and came up with a blank. Pete called me "kid", but that wasn't my name. Other people had names. Pete for one, and Old Joe, Pete's friend from Alsetti had a name. I'm sure the boss monk and the other monk had names. I chided myself for not finding out what they were, tracking the monks down and killing them for betraying us was going to be awful hard if I didn't know their names.

Killing them? Where did that idea come from?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Miami Pete 8:

Our destination coordinates were a short way from the road, up a ravine.  We parked the wheeled transport off the side of the road at the mouth of the ravine. The area was as uneven and rocky as we expected from when we looked at the topigraphical scan.  I was surprised to see what appeared to be a path heading up the ravine the way we needed to go.

"Ok, we'll go ahead.  You two stay with the truck" Boss monk bossed, indicating that he intended to leave Pete and I behind.

"No doing" Pete replied. "We're going with you."

"You maybe, but that thing isn't allowed in the holy shrine." said the boss monk, pointing at me. If I hadn't gotten to the point that I seriously disliked the boss monk yet, that sure did the trick.  Thing?  He called me a THING?!

There was a dramatic few minutes of silence as Pete and the boss monk squared off. I was afraid that they would come to blows, which is not an advisable thing to do while in survival suits, especially when surrounded by such a thin, unbreathable atmosphere.  One crack or split of a suit, and the wearer would be quickly dead.  I mentally located where my tool kit was. Patch kit, third pocket from the end, right hand side, and held my breath ready to act in case something happened to Pete's suit.  The boss monk, I decided, was on his own.

"Fine," Pete finally spat, then he took a breath to calm himself and said to me "Stay with the transport."

"but..."

"Please... stay with the transport."

I was dissapointed, but surely now that we found what the monks were looking for our business arrangement with them wouldn't last too much longer.  I sure was looking forward to leaving those two behind.  Well, boss monk anyway. Other monk ignored me too, but he never seemed to put quite the same amount of disgust into it that the boss monk did.

Pete walked over to the transport waving at me to join him. "Help me make sure my pack is ready."

We went through his pack, which I thought was odd since I knew Pete had carefully packed before we left Hauley in such a way as to know what he had and where everything was. It was a trick he passed down to me shortly after I joined him on Hauley. Always know what is in your kit, and where it is in your kit, so you don't have to search for something if you need it to save your life.  Then Pete did an odd thing. He got my attention and looked me straight in the eyes through our masks, then looked down at his hand patting a locked metal container and with his other hand, pulled something out of a pocket on his suit and placed it in my hand.  Then held a finger up in front of his face mask in the universal shushing sign.  He had his back to the monks, so that they couldn't have seen what he was doing.

"Stay with the transport."

I nodded, although I didn't understand what it all meant.

Then Pete turned, donned his pack, and began the climb up the ravine path with the monks.

I waited till they climbed out of sight and looked down at what he had given me. It was a key.

I spent a couple minutes fretting over what I should do. Pete had shown me a box and then given me a key, so obviously I was intended to open it.  Also Pete had hidden the entire exchange from the monks. But why? All that time, Pete had been palling around with the monks.  Befriending them. Eating dinner with them. Why would he be keeping things from them now?

I decided I had to open the box.

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you knew you needed to do something, and that something seemed like such a simple thing, but the outcome ended up being so far outside what you expected that you just stood there like an idiot afterwards?

Inside the box was a gun.

I knew that Pete kept a small cache of weapons in his quarters on Hauley. I had even done repairs and upgrades to some of them over the years. Why did Pete have a gun here? And why had he shown it to me? Didn't he trust the monks?

I sat and waited and pondered. "Stay with the transport." Pete had said. So I did.  I stayed with the transport.

One hour.

Two hours.

Three.

That was bad. Even if Pete and the monks showed up right then we would be hard pressed to make it to the safety of Hauley before the radiation started making it's way past our surival suits. I rechecked my survival suit's indicators. Yep, it was bad.

As I was fretting and pacing back and forth, my comm finally crackled to life.

"...elp, me.... hel....eee" It was Pete. His voice was raspy and gasping. I knew it. I started running for the path, then turned around silently cursing myself and went back to grab a rescue kit that I had put together that included extra air tanks, first aid supplies, and a rescue tent. The survival suits should have had plenty of air for the complete trip, but you know me, I'm paranoid. On a quick second thought, I grabbed the gun also. I don't know what I would do with it. Those things had always made me uncomfortable. In my life before Pete and Hauley, I had seen quite a few friends gunned down by the gangs and criminals on Deltos IV.

As I climbed the path, half carrying, half dragging the rescue kit, a ways off to the side I heard, then saw as I turned, the side of one of the bigger rocky hills collapse revealing a hanger door.  Then the hanger door opened and with a roar, a 'rus ship emerged.  I had seen a few 'rus ships up to that point. Even been followed by one for a while on Hauley if you recall.  They all look a little different, but they are all unmistakably 'rus.  I stared stupidly as the 'rus ship flew over head and then blasted for space.

Then I recalled Pete. "Pete! Pete! Are you there?" I yelled into my comm unit. What I got back was static. Just background noise? Or maybe it's Pete trying to contact me? Logicly, I couldn't tell.  It was just static, but my heart told me it was Pete, and I better had better move it because he was in trouble.

Silently cursing myself for wasting time gawking, I ran on.

At the end of the path, I found a half open door.  Squeezing past, I entered a dark complex. There was a little light from the doorway, so I could see a path in the dust that Pete and the monks had come that way. I turned on my light and followed the path made by their passage.  The trail lead through an entryway, It must have been from before the planet lost it's atmosphere becuase I noticed the lack of an airlock.  The walls could only be described as 'rus-like. You know how I said that while all 'rus ships were different, there was no mistaking that a ship was 'rus? The walls, and doorways, and floor, basically everything I saw had that same 'rusy-ness to it.

The trail turned from the entryway to a grand hallway where it turned into and came out of various doorways. I peeked into some of the rooms. There were varying levels of rubbish strewn around in the rooms. Furnature, tables, and other things I couldn't identify, but it was all in pieces.  It all looked to be so old that it had just collapsed.

Just as I was about to move on after looking in a room, I saw movement. Shining my light in that direction, I saw Pete.  Lying in a pool of blood.  His suit had been torn from his head and... something... had been attached. Pete was desperately holding the mask of his survival suit to his face.

Not good.

I pulled the survival rescue tent out of the rescue kit, quickly kicked some debree out of the way to make space, and pulled the chord to activate it.  Whitin a second the tent was up.  I dragged Pete in with all my strength and sealed the door. In next to no time, we had atmosphere.

Pete didn't look so good. I pulled his survival suit away. He was barely concious, bleeding, and had a device, somewhat like a helment, on his head.  No, it was attached to his head. Mounted there. Pete didn't usually have a thing on his head, maybe he was balding a little and sometimes wore a hat, but never anything like this thing.

"kid... kid..."

"Don't talk Pete, we have to figure out how to stabilize you and get you back to Hauley and into the autodoc."  I was paniced and found myself crying.

"The monks double crossed us. They hit me from behind and tried to put this thing on me. They tried to make me like you." Pete said.  What was he talking about?

"What is this thing?" I asked crying as I tried to figure out how to get it off.  I couldn't even see out how it was attached.

"It's a cyber device. A primitive one compared to yours, but it didn't work. For some reason it didn't hook up to my brain. I don't think they knew what they were doing." Pete answered.

"Cyber device?  I don't have a cyber device! What are you talking about?" I reached up and touched my head as if to prove him wrong... but there it was.  Smaller and smoother than the clunky thing that was attached to Pete's head, but there none the less. 

Pete must have seen the confusion on my face. "I found you on a refuse pile behind one of the cyber factories on Deltos IV.  They must have thought you were defective so they threw you out.  We were there to do a job, but the whole thing went south.  I was the only one who survived, and the Haul-o-caster was in real bad shape, so I was stranded.  I found you while scrounging for parts.  Took you back to the Haul-o-caster, and you started fixing things.  When you got the ship repaird enough to leave, I took you with me."

"That's silly, I'm not a cyborg.  I can't be.  Those things are clones that had no life before.  I'm a girl. I had a family."  I replied. "besides, people hate cyborgs.  They freak people out.  That's why they don't make them anymore."

"Why do you think I kept you away from people?  Why do you think our pasangers didn't want to acknowledge you?"  I could tell that Pete was fading fast.  He'd lost a lot of blood. 

I was crushed. I didn't know what to say, or how to feel.  How could I be a cyborg and not know it all this time. There is this thing on my head!  How did I not notice this thing on my head? But logically it answered a lot of questions.  I fix things, but I have no memory of learning how to do that, except for the one or two shortcuts that Pete had taught me, and lets face it.  Most of those were death traps.  I didn't sleep.  I basically learned how to navigate and fly a ship in less than a week.

Soon, because I'm not a crybaby, my thoughts got back on the problem at hand.  A check of the sensors built into the rescue tent showed that we were far enough under ground that we weren't being bombarded by quite so much radiation.  It still wasn't perfectly safe, but we weren't in imminent danger of dying from it.  This was all helped by the rescue tent being resistant. I had packed a spare survival suit, and a backup to the spare for that matter, in the transport.  Hey, it's designed to haul cargo.  It wasn't like we didn't have the room.  So I could get Pete into a freash suit.  I thought I could get the suit over the big thing on his head, but I wasn't absolutely sure.  Then I could... what?  No way I could carry him down that rocky path without risking a tear in one of our suits.  Carrying Pete on a light grav space station was one thing.  Carrying him on a planet with just a bit more than standard gravity, not quite a heavy world, but more than earth normal.  Impossible. 

Pete coughed, and blood came out, which caused more coughing.  Once he was able to get air "This thing is killing me.  I can feel it still digging, I won't last much longer.  Get back to the ship, it's yours.  The paperwork is in the safe in my office, it's all nice and legal.  Go, have a nice life.  Don't let anyone give you any crap."  With that, Pete went into another coughing fit.  I tried and tried to get him more air.  I tried everything I could think of.  I cussed at him to stop, to breathe. 

Then he was gone.