Ladies and Gentlemen and Scoundrels of all ages, it is the weekend once more. That means, among other things, that I get to post another story! Let’s see what I’ve got down in the bin this time….
Jumpgates of Our Star first appeared on the TeamDystopia.com boards in 2007-2008. More to follow.
As always, this is my own work and the usual rules apply. Link, don’t copy. Do not claim as your own. Enjoy!
Welcome to Diabolus Safari by Eutopian Transport Systems! We trust you will enjoy your offworld vacation on Geiger Seven, seventh moon of the planet Saknussem in the Rigel8701 system and site of the Battle in Doublenight where the Ghost-Water Uprising was nobly settled by the just work of the army and of the City’s own elite Drone Troop Corps. Take a moment now to pray to the souls of the brave Soldiers who gave willingly their Last Sacrifice…
Hazard remembered several of the brave soldiers of Doublenight and had just time to spit in the corner on the poor dupes’ memories before the idiotic voice started up again.
The native fauna of the moon called Geiger Seven are carbonaceous, oxygen-breathing, and bifurcate, or bipedal, whichever you prefer. The one Septogeigeran species that has been consistently domesticated is Reipus major, the Greater Reipus. It is a marsh-dwelling herbivore, sucking algae and water plants through its enlongated snout. It closely resembles the smaller, arboreal Reipus proboscis, to which it is a near cousin. Attempts to domesticate other species, including the Imperator tyrannus, a large and intelligent predator which has proven unruly in captivity, have largely failed. They remain a wily and elusive prey when hunted, a fierce and deadly foe when brought to bay. You may also see flocks of Mockerri flagrans, a wingless bird that nests in the hills beyond the settlement. Your tour and safari guide will meet you at the spaceport and take you to the inn, where you will be acco…mo…d—
Hazard turned the recording down and then off when he was bored with it. To his amusement and not-so-great surprise, nobody in the waiting room seemed to mind. Nobody seemed to notice it. Then an old man stood up in the back of the room and began to clap. He couldn’t see Kirk Hazard behind the one-way glass of the operator’s booth, so he clapped to the hologram lady that had just blipped out of her position by the door.
People were predictable. All of them, and almost all the time. It was his ‘Toon-Sarge’s motto, the first time he went to Geiger Seven. Good old Sarge. Hazard wondered briefly where Sarge was now and what he would think of the tourist version of themselves and their history.
“People are predictable, Private Hazard,” he mimicked to himself—as he almost always did when the Sarge came to mind. He had to smile in his dim little booth. “People are predictable, and therefore easy marks. Even you, and me.”
The hiss of the hydraulics at the other end of the corridor told Hazard that another passenger ferry was docking. This would probably be the last group before they let them board the rugged old Jumpship and pass through the gate. Unless they were going to Gate Alpha, or Gate Gamma or Epsilon. Beta Gate had only half a fare and would not be allowed to depart without at least twelve more: Geiger Seven was not the most popular destination in the Dy ‘verse. Three more came from the transport. Several returning travelers went to it from the other gates, but nobody went back from Geiger Seven. The ferry’s airlock released and it slid away, down the monitor toward the inbound-orbit lanes. Hazard watched it go. In twenty minutes it would reenter atmo and dock where it always did, at the EuTrans Spire Shuttleport. There Hazard’s interest in it ended. With a sudden, soft THUMP the station shuddered. Gate Alpha had fired, sending its thirty paying passengers, their luggage, and certain cargo through the Jumpgate to the station at Copernicus in the Polaris-March107 system. A jolt like that would smash buildings, planetside, but here in lunar-stable orbit the station righted itself without difficulty.
Jumpgates! They were the foundation of history. The WorldCity itself had been shot through the first jumpgate several hundred years ago, and it was by the black-hole technology that the City had been able to conquer stars and whole galaxies. Human settlement on every habitable moon and globe was within their grasp, even thirty years ago. Then the government lost interest, the uprisings started and were stopped, Hazard left his right hand in the Septogeigeran soil and the Supreme High Chancellor found another hobby. The settlements had grown wild and hard to manage, so their progress had been abandoned. Even the government was predictable. He flexed the bionodigital fingers and took a swallow of coffee. It, too, was predictable.
A light blinked on at Hazard’s elbow. Green. Something was coming through: either it was the Beta-Gate Jumpship or something was very wrong. The earpiece hummed.
“Geiger Jumpship 4AC3B05 to Eutrans One, Beta. Come in, Beta. Over.”
“EuTrans One, Beta. Over.” Hazard replied.
“Geiger 4AC3B05 requesting docking clearance, gate Beta, ETA thirty-seven seconds. Over.”
Hazard’s hands moved swiftly over the controls. Unseen machinery whistled and purred.
“Docking clearance approved, Geiger 4AC3B05. Gate Beta cleared for your arrival. Over.”
“Roger that, EuTrans One. Over.”
“ETA twenty-one seconds at mark: now, now, now, MARK! One Beta out.” Hazard closed coms and picked up his coffee cup. There was a brown spill around it from the last launch impact. He balanced it carefully.
That was not predicted. With the shock came a glaring white light and a sour burnt-metal tang in the air. Coffee spilled across the keyboard and the switch panel. Hazard’s chair rocketed on its casters against the far wall, and he collapsed on the floor. The room was dark. In the waiting room people were running and shouting and somebody was screaming, but that was far away. The last shreds of consciousness ripped away before the gale winds of the netherspace.
To Be Continued…
Love it? Hate it? Consigning it to netherspace? Let me know in the comments below!
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