Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A novel meeting in a pub, far, far away

I mentioned book writing a while ago didn't I ? The ideas have been bubbling away still. I thought I should probably let some of them out of my head. Because you know, there isn't that much room in my head and sometimes it rattles.

A "vomit draft" excerpt starts after :
"So, what are you having Charles ?"
"Thanks Matt. After that meeting, something really strong but .... just a soda please."
"Ahh. Yes. Ok !" said a slightly confused, rather worried looking Matt on his way over to the bar.
The two suited men made a curious counterpoint to the varied denizens of the Lonely Spaceman, a joint most people would describe as a den of despair, a pit of piracy, a lounge of larceny or a place where they sell drinks you can't get anywhere else on the planet. The spacers' bar was actually a central point for the various traders ... and smugglers ... filtering through the planet of Larson's Point. You could obtain almost anything in the Lonely Spaceman, an always temporary cure for loneliness in whichever form you chose, legal items and the occasional illegal item. But don't tell anyone about the latter.

Whatever happens in the Lonely Spaceman, stays in the Lonely Spaceman. Or in the various docks around the port. The spaceport was typical for a developed planet like Larson's Point. It could handle all sorts of ships, from the smaller hyperspace capable fighters, through shuttles, through orbital cargo lifters, up to the sub capital corvettes. Proper freighters, trade ships, naval warships stayed up in space. Once those came down to a planet, which was possible, they didn't tend to leave. Built in space, staying in space.

"Here you go Charles. It looks like you have something on your mind, out with it bro." As Matt made his way back through the smoke to the private booth Charles had taken up residence at.
"After that meeting ? After what's been on the news lately ? Tonnes. Booth, privacy screen activate." Charles had invoked a rather standard feature in the Lonely Spaceman, a system that isolated them from the rest of the lounge. No observation was possible, either by visual means or recordings. Now you see why this bar was so popular with those who didn't necessarily want to have the authorities knowing all about their business.
"Matt, I'm worried. Sooner or later, this planet is going to blow. We're seeing it already with intolerance, some very strange politics, hell there's a general breakdown in the behaviour of people around here."
"Sure Charles, we saw some of that today as well. The board were definitely looking to protect their own interests even ahead of the company. They've never done that before, the company has always come first. But now ? They'll happily drive the company into the ground if they can retire, fat and happy on what the asset strippers will pay them for the shell of the company."
Matt looked up at this point, the first dawnings of comprehension that his friend might well be about to suggest something radical. Dangerous even. But definitely out of character.
Matt asked, intrigued, "You have a plan don't you. Go on, out with it ! And you're right too, the board will tear down what we built together. How come you let them in anyway ?"
"Aww Matt, you know that we're the builders and the movers ... all that corporate stuff is just downright boring." And, hiding a smile behind the glass holding his untouched drink Charles whispered in a conspiratorial tone "I have a plan."
"You're going to make beat it out of you aren't you. Come on ! I'm damn curious now."
"The next colony mission, I want you", pointing a finger, "Matt on it. With me. And we stay this time instead of running at the first sign of authority starting up."
"Yep. Setting up is fun, running the show is boring. Are you sure though ? Being the Man in charge is a huge step."

The two directors of Larson's Point Colony Movers paused and looked at each other as if contemplating something so unpleasant, they would prefer a short spell in the New Snowdon Uranium mines. Nobody had long spells in the uranium mines. Even with the advent of biological prolong, which effectively ended ageing and 33rd century medicine which largely eliminated natural causes of ill health and death, there were occupations so dangerous that they were widely regarded as death sentences on a world where the death sentence had never been introduced.
However, Larson's Point was not a unified world, it had fractured shortly after establishment and some of the factions were, let's say, not as enlightened or forgiving as others. There was no death penalty but there were the mines where the unwanted might end up. Temporarily. And there were places around Larson's Star which were deadlier than the mines.

Charles broke the silence with a sentence laden with foreboding, "Something is coming Matt, I can feel it." And the drink disappeared in one gulp.
"Gosh Charles, you are spooked ! Ok. I'm in, your instincts are always spot on, although there was that incident on Obsidian Rift." Matt chuckled, that twinkle in his eye shining all the way into a half smile. And a wink.
"Oh Matt ! What happened on Obsidian Rift, has to stay on Obsidian Rift. How was I to know she was a nephew ! I mean, I got nothing against gender fluid ... except if it's in the family."
"Haha, ayeaye Captain Admiral Charles. They had me fooled too. Besides, I think they were trying to drag you back to the rest of the family on Earth. You would have had to follow if it had got serious. True Earthers treat family ties like iron chains. And the mess they made of our old home ! So crowded. Earth is a dead hulk of a planet now, a shadow of what it was. The only thing living there now are the people and with True Earth Unity in charge, I'm not sure if they count as living."
It was now Matt's turn to down the remnants of his drink, as Charles saw a pair of particularly noticeable individuals at the bar.
"Another one Matt ? My round."

Charles left his friend in the booth and made his own way through the scented atmosphere of the bar, stopping beside two figures, as conspicuous as the two men in suits. In their own way. One was short, with a clean crisp naval uniform. His eyes darted across the bar, simultaneously sizing up the denizens, evaluating whether they would be threats both in the bar and whether he would be facing them in space. The other was a very imposing figure. She also had the bearing that instantly identified her as military but in an effort to blend in had attempted to wear civilian dress. Clothing that apparently had been acquired in a rush, from a person 20 centimetres shorter and considerably less wide.
"Ken, Carrie, you had to murder anyone here yet ?"
The short man replied in a drawl that must have had its origins with the TexAm faction, "Hell Chuck, we've only been here 5 minutes ! I was getting worried about Hulk though. People round here are looking upwards at that outfit ..."
"Ken, one more word about this outfit and that pole you keep glancing at after looking at me ? I will bend that around your head." Commander Carrie "Hulk" Banso of the Naval Auxillary was not one to be taken lightly. Especially by tailors who were typically gripped with feelings of terror at seeing her walk into their shop in search of new dress uniforms.
"Chuck - two spacehoppers, whatever shortie is having and we're yours for an hour. Seriously, just an hour, we have to be back at Wellingrad before we're missed."
Charles passed the order onto the now very apprehensive barkeep. You see, if naval personnel entered the Lonely Spaceman, it usually ended with violence ... and breakages of furniture. Or violence and breaking of people. There was usually less fuss about the furniture and Carrie was starting to look at the people instead of the furniture. The party made their way back to Matt and the booth.

"Matt, I brought friends. I think it's time."
Matt responded with "Your plan ? Let's have it then. I sense these two are involved ? The typical colony set up with an Auxillary ship as base and a Destroyer having far too much fun running around the system ?"
"Aye. Commander Ken Warner here is in charge of the LNV Dauntless, which is due to pay off in a year. It'll be his last command. Commander Carrie",
Carrie interjected with a "Just call me Hulk, babe, I don't bite."
Matt laughed, said "No biting huh ... I'm guessing that with a nickname like Hulk, you smash instead ?"
"I like this one. He can stay. Do we have to keep the Navy Pygmy though ?" There was a light chuckle from the giant, plus an actual half smile towards Commander Ken.
"Hey ! That's Commander Pygmy to you ! Or I'll call you Stoopy again." The look of feigned indignation from Ken drew a giggle from Hulk and relieved laughter from the two men in suits. There was to be no violence today. Perhaps.
Charles gave a quite cough before continuing, "Yes, Hulk of the LNA Star Rider, which is, you guessed it, due to pay off in a year."
"It is so convenient for us when ex Larson Navy Vessels and Larson Navy Auxiliary ships are about to pay off isn't it ? Older ships, still capable", Matt had noticed the knuckles of the two military personnel whiten as they tightened their grip on their spacehoppers. Navy people don't like the suggestion that their vessels might not be useful any more. Matt continued, "Ideal for our purposes actually. Still used, still maintained, usually with good systems, much better than pirates at least and ...."
".... Yes. We use the Destroyer to run around the system scaring off the pirates and setting up the space side infrastructure, while we land the Auxiliary and make her the centre of the colony. And you two are happy to join us ? We're not planning to bail out at the first sign of impending responsibility this time, we're staying."
A chorus of nods, accompanied sips of spacehoppers.
Matt was curious, "Say, what's in those spacehoppers, I've never actually had one."
Ken explained, "It's a traditional Navy drink. It's related to old Navy Rum from the old days. Legend has it that press gangs would descend upon a bar, offer a free round of the rum to everyone and then the locals who couldn't handle it would be carted off to a sailing ship and wake up in the Bay of Biscay, next stop Australia."
Hulk continued, "And now all the young, smart spacers have left, the old spacers are looking at the exits instead of us and the young, dumb, drunk spacers have been left in the middle as a target. We don't do pressgangs any more but .... Well, Larson Navy doesn't. I wouldn't say the same of those nutters over at New Holyhead. Either a pressganging onto one of their hulks they call frigates or ... the New Snowdon mines."
Charles laughed, "You know New Snowdon might be on the list of places to grab people from ?"
Matt nudged his friend, "You should be aware, this one is a bit of a risk taker with who he takes on board."
"Ahh, you start with a strong core, people you trust for skills, motivation, persistence, loyalty. You need investors as well, we try and get skills and motivation with them too. This planet has tonnes of money, you can usually afford to be choosy although you do need a certain amount of muscle around too."
"And your Colony Movers company foots the big bills and does the negotiations for ships like ours that you need ?", an interested Hulk said.
"Yes. We still need the company to actually make it happen. Usually, we'd land the colony, stay for 6 months and then come back to start preparations for the next. There is so much population pressure here that the Larson government, at least, help subsidise fairly constant emigration. But that's typically for flearidden rat trap setups that can't fend off pirates, or set up with an infrastructure that can't sustain itself. We move someone in, they stay."
Ken looked at his watch, "Hulk, we better get back to Wellingrad. You have to be back for repairs, I'm shipping out for patrol tomorrow. Chuck, you got an idea of where we'll go ?"
"As you happen to mention it ... there is an interesting looking system on your next patrol route. Goldilocks zone planet, normal 0.9g gravity, Nitrogen Oxygen atmosphere. That's what spectrograph tells us anyway. It could do with a proper survey. If you happen to find yourself there. I'll send the coordinates."
"Haha, I think I could find an excuse to find a new home to bounce around for a while. Maybe even set foot there, scope out my house, pick the best beachfront spot before you two reprobates and Hulk get a chance. Hulk will need the whole beach. OW !" Ken started to rub the sore rib that Carrie had just tested.
Charles stood, turned off the privacy field and said "That's great. It was fantastic catching up with you two again. And you bro. I'll see if I can get the barkeeps here to lay in an ample supply of Space Hoppers for next time."
The older spacers remaining in the bar started shuffling towards the exits at this point.

And with this, the group of 4 departed the Lonely Spaceman and melted into the gathering gloom.
That's enough for now I think !

That would be an opening chapter perhaps after a prologue that saw these 4, plus assorted other characters actually departing. I'd see these meetings in the pub being interludes showing a tension gradually building before the leaving date happened. Perhaps even having a couple of elements of tension building in parallel. Danger before, danger after, with both dangers getting steadily getting more real as the story progresses.

There would be lots more to come, as well as what I've written above. That's essentially a Vomit Draft, where the words come out of your head unedited and unpolished. Names would change, although I'd like to keep Ken and Carrie in there as tributes to Kenny Baker and Carrie Fisher.

I'm curious as to what people think. Did you enjoy looking in on that meeting in the far off spacer bar ? Would you want to read more if I wrote the rest of the book ?

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