Friday, February 16, 2018

Part One - Chapter 4 - The mine

Navi wakes me up at 7 AM, just as I asked. Charlotte left while I was sleeping. I have an hour left to pick up work at the dock. Damn…if the commander finds out what happened here ‘till 3 AM...I fly out into vacuum from the dock, naked for sure...But maybe, it was worth it, if the saying is right about we need to stop on the top, because last night was the absolute top of my life, and I have no idea how we could exceed it more… The orgy of senses. The food, the drinks, and the girl...oooooh what a girl?! I can hardly get to myself… Too much unlikely good things happened to me in these few days...How did I deserved this?...And what will should I pay for fate after this?

I felt a cramp in my stomach. The cramp’s name is Anthony Dallas … I barely have an hour left and I have to look into his eyes...The old man only asked me one simple favor, what I broke the first time...yikes...I broke it for sure!...Three times after each one...God!...I have to look into his eyes, but my stomach cramp intensifies...The commander was good with me on his own way. Not like me with him...

I sit on the edge of my bed, gasping, slightly hung over…Do we get here, if I don’t order wine for the dinner?...Or if I don’t tell Charlotte that I’m crazy for her two days earlier? Do I was the one who lit her fire, or is this her usual temper, and just pretends the good girl for her daddy? … And Susan? If she wasn’t there, how long could I hold myself back?.... Aaahh Susan, you wicked witch! You tricked me good!

A blunt, metallic knock pulls me out from self-loathing. The big red one glowing on the box, indicates that I got mail. Navi flies out from nowhere.

“Excuse me Boston. Susan instructed me to tell you, read her mail, before your go to work.”
“Ohh Okay.”


Hi Ben!
Please read this. Maybe you’ll remember something. I’ll stop by your cabin before dinner to talk about it.

Kisses: Susan

---

SM-LEGAL-11387

Source: Site Report of Supra Mars No. 41 MCP h.

POI: 2092 CA4. According to the official space catalog, this is a Q2 classified metal quarry. Owner of Exclusive mining rights: Supra Mars Corp.

Experienced anomaly on approach: Structural difference on the asteroids surface detected from artificial origin.
MCP successfully landed on planet: 22.01.2148 14:33 UTC.

According to footage recorded on site, the asteroid is not untouched. Ongoing mining activity on the surface.
The foreign miner colony does not broadcast transponder signals, but it responds for direct identification. Accordingly its owner is Taikong Dyanti Corp.

MCP No. 41, despite the unusual situation, begun the preparations for mining according to the original work plan.

According to collected data, legal steps needed

I remember Taikong Dyanti. It became the flagship brand of China’s space industry after the spacewar in 2114. Supra Mars also could be a mining company. One of the many hundred. ‘Supra Mars’...hmm...like I remember something. I can’t catch it, but somehow it’s familiar. Like 2092 CA4, which is an asteroid from the many millions...This cannot be a coincidence… If it turned out that a Chinese corporation intentionally hurt the mining rights of a smaller Mars company back then, it could lead to scandal… If this is right, I followed the news at 2148, so I was still alive back then...Good clue.

According to my drifting data, my parabolic course started between 2146 and 2149, but since we don’t know where from the system, we can’t set the the more precisely. Only one other data could mention the time of my death, my DNA. Genetic aging stops after death. My current genetical age by the machine is 34 years, but no record remained about what kind of cell regeneration treatments I went through in my previous life. So this is only enough for a lower estimation, which sets my death after 2144, but even my course data gives better valuation. By Susan’s mail, the lower estimate grown to 2148. By this, it was halved, my death’s possible interval dropped from 4 years to 2.

“Navi! Show me my possible drifting courses!”

In the middle of my room, a small model of the Solar System appears. A shiny dot, with four green rings around it, about 5 centimetres within radius, which are the orbits of the big planets. My course’s arc is a yellow whip-like line which almost stretches out to my room’s wall. The whip ends in a brush scattering around the Sun.

“Zoom into the course around Uranus!”

The green circles start to grow. The outer one overgrows my room’s walls. Smaller green circles appear around the Sun. The inner planets. The yellow brush indicating my drifting course grows into a branchy tree. Each branch represents a possible course. Hundreds of possible routes, around the parts of the system.

“Take off courses that assumes departures earlier than 2148!”

The tree sparses. Branches that reach into the orbit of Mars are all gone. The remaining ones start out from an asteroid belt. So it is the belt, then. Most likely I died there… and from today I’ll work with asteroids again… Damn! Wish I could be a cowboy instead!

“Thank you Navi!”

-o-

I touch the button with the word “Dock” on it. I lean to the opposite wall. The elevator gathers speed on my way up. I feel dumplings in my throat. I pull my collar. The coriolis force almost makes me splash on my face, when it starts to slow down by the decreasing gravity. My stomach cramps, and cold fear ruffles my nape - What if the old man gets suspicious from the smell of fear? - I rub my hair with my fist. - Pull yourself together Boston!

The elevator stops, the door opens. Gravity is so weak here that I lift off from the floor with my first step. I hold on to the door’s edge with years of routine. Move by skipping instead of walking is a highly recommended under 0.2G.

The dock’s waiting hall is very much industrial. The station’s arcs can be seen on the edges of the room. The floor is shining black plastic, the wall is a metallic, riveted surface, with a lot of handrails on it. Within gravity this low, we can only stand on both of our feet with holding on the handrails. A careless move is enough, and we skip around like an idiot, or we will be floored since we can’t stop our side displacements without significant adhesion on our feets.

Time is 7:58. The commander did not arrive yet. I’m curious, if the sailor instincts are still in my feet. I stabilize myself in spreader, holding the nearest handrail, than I let it go - I stood smoothly… Perfect!... And now a standup from the spreader! - I slightly kick myself away with my right foot, but it was a bit too much. Instead of standup I start slope to the left. I try to find my momentum while I’m gambolling on my left foot, but I start to lean forward too much. It’s gonna be a big fall!...And of course, the commander steps in to the waiting hall in this very moment.

“Ouch” I already touch the floor with my face.
“Good mornin’ Mr. Taylor! I see you’re practicing sailor walking. How’s it going?”
“Fine, Sir.” I moan while I’m laying on my belly. “But the angular momentum..is unusual.” I get up, and again I see a smile-like thing on the old man’s face - Will he give the same face if he could know about yesterday’s events? - I ask myself.

“And how did you feel last night?”
“Great, Sir.” Said it in a cheery tone, while all my organs twitches.
“Than you can start deserving it today!” Returns the strictness to the old man’s face, which relaxes me more than the previous smile-like thing. At least this is a face I know.
“I try, Sir.” and finally I get a hold on a handrail.
“Let’s suit up!” He points to the other side of the waiting room, to the way of a smaller airlock. Then he takes a leap towards it. I push myself from the wall and follow him.

“You come out too, Sir?”
“Today, yes. I show you the field.”

No one goes out into the vacuum without good reasons, except a few light-headed idiots. Out there are a lot more ways to die than indoors. Even the common ways of death are more likely to happen out here. Not to mention the comfort. After 250 years have we managed to invent a spacesuit which you can scratch your nose in?... The answer is no. There’s nothing new under the Sun...By the looks, these are the same uncomfortable pieces of shit as we had 250 years earlier.

“My spacesuit, which you caught me in, you still have it?” I ask the commander.
“Yes. Susan insisted to keep it.”
“She loves old things.” I mumble. “And the suit’s computer?”
“She tried to bring it back to life, but did not made any progress. She said she’s still tinkering with it. Maybe…”

-o-

The feeling of suiting up and the system checks have not changed a bit. It’s a routine. But this poor angular momentum caused me some troubles. Once I smashed myself to the changing rooms floor, but no biggie, I only managed to bring out another smile from the commander… At least the shift starts with a good mood. We can have good laughs. On me...Still, better than being thrown out into space naked, because we couldn’t hold ourselves back with Charlotte - Uuugh Damn!... How uncomfortable an erection is in this space suit!...It’s enough to think about her, and I’m already hard as a rock. Damn, Charlotte! I’m crazy for you!

“Are you ready, Mr. Taylor?”
“Umm. Yes. Everything’s green.”

The commander waves at the gate. “You go first, I follow you, and watch your movements.” Raises his right hand, makes a fist, straightens his arms,then opens his fingers. He says that I need to connect myself to the leading cord.
I lift up my green carabiner, showing that I understood. Looks like the astronaut body language haven’t changed a bit in 250 years.

“Buckle yourself on leading cord no. 2 when we set out.”
“Cord no. 2” and I show the red carabiner.
“Follow the path up to the middle. There’s the anchor of the cable connecting to the mines. Wait for me there!”
I knock my helmet, which count as an okay. I buckle up on the gate’s cord. The inner door closes. A suddenly appearing and disappearing cloud indicates that decompression has occured. Outer door opens.

The unlit dock’s carbon structure is so dark, that can be barely seen with naked eyes. The mobAR shows white outlines around the structure’s edges. No signs of ships here.
There are no rides to snatch, if it comes to get away - This is not so comforting.

The 2nd leading cord takes me to the dock’s drums’ rear walls.  A climbing rod goes upward to the fulcrum. About 50 metres. I change on to the vertical guide cord.
I leap upwards. I drift to the right because of rotation, but the carabiner keeps me in place. I take momentum on the climbing rod two more times, while I get to the middle platform. The whole platform is an anchor, which is holds a hole in 5 metres in diameter, around the fulcrum. Here, into the anchor’s bearings, go in the 4 cm in diameter, fullerene rope.
While the commander reaches the top, I rest a bit. I’m floating. The stations rotation speed is around one rotation per minute. I leave to the world to turn slowly around me…
Am I one of those light-headed ones who really enjoys this?...
I’m relaxing in weightless...The silence calms…

“Tie up two motopulleys on the cable, Mr. Taylor!”
“Sir. Yes, Sir.”
“I go ahead from here. Don’t go rushing out. Couldn’t be of use for me if you crush yourself on the other side.”
“Roger that, Sir. You go ahead.”

The old man keeps a surprisingly good pace. We build speed on the cable with stable quarter G’s. Couldn’t undertake more with the current gear. Accord to mobAR, ETA is 6 minutes. I look at the destination. The asteroid is 2 kilometers in diameter, but cannot be seen with the naked eye. Not because it’s far away. The sunlight reflected from an asteroid this big from the belt can be seen from about 100 000 kilometers away perfectly. By comparison, it’s near, about 70 kilometres, but only the mobAR indicates, that this rope does not end in nothing. Not only space is dark this far away from the Sun, everything else is.

“Commander, may I ask?”
“Ask away, Mr. Taylor.”
“250 years earlier we used to work with the same equipment in space. Is this gear that old, or not a thing changed a thing in the last two century?”
“The equipment is not new, or old for that matter. It’s about as old as me… What did you expect?”
“I dunno. Something like a skin tight, all-resistant nanotech fabric. Or something like that.”
“What advanced a lot, is mobAR. But pay attention! We’re halfway there. Brake section starts here.”

The motopulley slowed down halfway through. Then the propulsion stopped for a few seconds, and we start drifting weightlessly on the rope. Then the gear started braking. The force vector flipped, just like us. It feels like we’re accelerating back to the way of the station, but I can see on the cable that we are flying toward the mine, backwards, at high speed. Humans ancient instincts don’t know what to do with a situation like this. Only the wits can convince the viscera that nothing is wrong, everything goes well. We’re losing speed.

“And modern mobAR can scratch my nose?” I continue the topic interrupted by the brakes.
“Navi! Activate a ghost hand for Mr. Taylor!”

Ooooh, now that’s what I’m talking about! Ghost hand...appropriate name… My left hand became paralyzed, instead of it, a half-transparent, glooming blue outlined hand is what I’m moving. Feels like the real deal, but I reach through the spacesuits fabric like it’s not there. I scratch my nose. I really feel it. My nose, my hand. I know, it’s just an illusion, but fully intuitive, and effective. It soothed the itchiness… What we wouldn’t have given for this in the 22nd century?!

“Is there other useful mobAR tricks like this?”
“Ask Navi about this later. Now take a look behind, we’re almost there.”

From the rearview, it looks like space was gone from behind. It’s like half of the world was covered up by the asteroid. A light dot appears in the middle of darkness. That must be the mine’s platform. It can be sensed by the naked eye that we are closing in.
300 metres. 200, 100, 50, 10. We stop. Again, weightless.

The platform is nothing more than a lengthened rod sticking out from the surface, with an indicator light on top. The anchor cable goes in to a dark, vertical hole drilled into the asteroid, which runs into the heart of the rock. Now it came into my mind that this anchor rope between the station and the mines is basically a space elevator.

“Space elevator on an asteroid?” I ask it aloud.
“What are you mumbling, Mr. Taylor?”
“I’m just wondering. In the 22nd century we couldn’t build space elevators on an asteroid.”
“Looks pointless, right?”
“Yes. With minimal gravity like this why we need an elevator?”
“Would you feel better if we could fly here with a jetpack?”
“Good question...No. Not sure. It’s more problematic.”
“That’s why we have an elevator. Simple and safe.”

From the bottom of the platform, above 2 meters from the surface there are multiple guide ropes branching out radially. The commander signs that we connect to the branch’s rope no. 1. I follow him without hesitation. The surface is too porous, to get enough momentum on it. Also it is not a good idea to kick up dust, besides, it could interfere with our vision, and it could settle down slowly. We pull ourselves in on the guide rope, until we reach an orderly dark hole, which is about 2 meters in diameter.  A carbon walled tube opens from the hole into the asteroid. We go about 100 meters in the tube, until we reach a hatch. We go in after each other.

The mine’s crew department design is similarly industrial, like the station’s docks, but more comfortable in the lack of gravity. The room is about 10x5x5 metres big, and everything is here to help survive a workday. Fridge, handrails on the walls, velcros, two foldable pallets. And a toilet of course, the zero gravity, piss-in-a-sucker pipe kind.

“... and this is where you’ll work 8 hours a day.” the commander sums up the short introduction.
“Okay. I just wanna know what my job will be.”
“Supervise the job of mining robots, and if needed, intervene.”
“Supervise?!...Even in the 22nd century space mining did not required human supervision. The mining robot colonies worked fully autonomically. Did we downgraded since then?”
“No, but we had to limit the machines autonomy… If there isn’t human supervision on site, the robots can’t work.”
“Why?”
“To prevent another singularity genesis.” Hearing the word “singularity” gives me a cold running down my spine.
“Singularity genesis?” I ask back with a cracking voice.
“In 2148 a group of autonomous mining robots in the belt freed themselves from human supervision.”

-o-

The commander explained the mine’s control program to me for an hour. Not like it’s not completely intuitive. The asteroid’s transparent 3D model shows the work of the quarry machines, the movement of tram robots in the mines, and the refinery at the entrance. As for input, it is enough to enter the needed amount of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, iron, sodium, magnesium and other trace elements. My job, by the way, is to click OK on everything that the machine throws in front of me. Accept the production plan, every emerging plan change, and of course, every beginning session of every unit. So I have to press virtual OK buttons 200 times a day. What a serious job. I’ll bore to death.

“I’ll send you the production needs every morning. If you have any problems that the system needs physical intervention for, let me know first, and you do anything if I approve it.”

“Roger that, Sir.” - It’s cool I can still go to the toilet without permission.
“Questions?”
“Who did this job before?”
“I did, twice a week, 16 hours a day. This was enough as the minimum of minimum, but finally we can replenish our stocks.”
“Don’t you got bored to death?”
“I’m not going to look for excitements in the belly of an asteroid...I do not recommend the same for you. Any questions?”
“No. I take my time with Navi.”
“Alright. Thank you for signing on. You’re big help.”
He puts on his helmet. “See you at dinner.” After decompression he waves goodbye from the hatch, than leaps to the surface.”

“Navi! Can you call Susan?”
“Yes. Should I connect?”
“Please.”

The phone’s dial tone is the same, like 250 years ago. - The good old stuff. - She picks after 4 rings. Only voice, without picture.

“Ben! I’m so glad!...Did you read my mail?”
“Yeah ,and I feel like a few memories moved in me.”

A message pops up, saying that a tram robot would like to begin the delivery of the produced materials in mines 7-8. I hit OK.

“Oh, im happy for you! What came in mind?”
“That Taikong Dyanti is basic literacy. Chinese space industry giant.”
“Yes it was.”
“Supra Mars is what I can barely recall, but nothing concrete. I read that from the text it is a Mars-residential space mining company.”
“Very goooood!”
“And the 2092 CA4 is also familiar. I feel like it had a role in a huge scandal shitstorm.”
“Yes! Yes!! I knew you’re a treasure, son!” and I could hear that she clapped from joy. “I can send more, if you like…”
“Of course, send everything you got!”
“Small move, Astronaut. Small moves.”
“What do you mean?”
“Charlotte said it won’t do good if I just dump my collection on you.”
“Your collection?”
“I have a nice compilation from the core documents of Singularity…”
“And what could go wrong if you just the whole thing to me?...I have time to read…” The refinery asks for permission start enriching the raw materials. - Press OK, space monkey!

“From these documents, you can learn what was the age of Singularity like. Like a history lesson. But I know that inside out… There are real memories of that age inside you, and those are more precious, like any other written physical memory… But those memories won’t jump out of your amnesia that easily. It needs time.”
“How much?”
“Don’t know. That’s why we’re going forward in small moves. I send you another document. Process it until night. I’ll wait for you at the dock.”
“Thank you Susan. Really…Thank you…” The woman’s care really touches me … Like I get something back I lost long ago.
“Oooo there’s no need for gratitude Ben. It’s as good for me as for you. I’m not Mother Theresa.” - Mother Teresa?...Who’s that? - I ask to myself.
“Thank you anyways, Susan.”
“Oh, you’re welcome. I send you the docs. See ya!” and hangs up.

Not even half a minute passed, and Navi already told me that I got mail. The mailbox appeared next to the hatch. I take out the mail. On the paper it says:

from: ceo@tajkongdianti.cn
to: sa@tajkongdianti.cn
subject: What’s going on at 2092 CA4?
date: 02.13.2148. 02:52 UTC

High priority! Strictly confidential!

Supra Mars Corp. showed up a report to UN Space Security Council, which states that we mine illegally from asteroid 2092 CA4.
They called us to give explanation as soon as possible.
What the hell is this? I want immediate investigation!

Xin Liu
Taikong Dyanti, Secretary General

------------------------

from: sa@tajkongdianti.cn
to: ceo@tajkongdianti.cn
subject: re: What’s going on at 2092 CA4?
date: 02.13.2148. 03:56 UTC

Deeply Honored Secretary General, Sir!
Searched through the whole space mining register, but it did not brought up any results for 2092 CA4.
We check the navigation logs from the asteroids course data, to see that one of our mining colonies have got lost.

Deep space communication is set on the asteroid. If the probe is ours, the earliest reply would arrive at 09:45.

------------------------

from: sa@tajkongdianti.cn
to: ceo@tajkongdianti.cn
subject: re: re: What’s going on at 2092 CA4?
date: 02.13.2148. 09:58 UTC

Sir, we got standard reply from a mining robot colony’s probe on 2092 CA4. We do have machines out there. 
But we did not find any matching results from space navigation registry on the course of 2092 CA4.
We never met with a situation like this. It is unusual.

There’s not much what can make me remember, only this secretary general, Xin. But I can’t recall anything about him, not even a flash.

China was never famous for its vivid characters. Huge bureaucracy, where impersonal faces changed each other in every layers of job intricate… From the outside it’s just a big machine, the people working inside cannot be seen. Xin Liu is just a faceless part of the Chinese space industry.

And this bullshit about the mining machines?... Poor idiots… How many asteroids have been drilled by the Chinese back then?... About 50-100 thousand at once? Or even more?... Beside big numbers like these an asteroid is spare change… The mining robot colonies won’t even cost much. If needed, they producer about a thousand per day…
How much time does it take to find out one of them got lost?...There goes a supervisor, checks the register, whoops, one MCP is missing...What’ll he do?...Report it?...Bullshit...Rewrites the daily report and there it goes… Won’t be surprised if they  even sold these machines under the table… Illegal mining?... Come on, who would notice that?... Who would check the virginity of about a million asteroids?

Someone stole a machine for himself and he missed… Could be a real thing… The real wonder is that they did not met with something like this until 2148… maybe they did, but they covered up the story that good, that even they forgot about...A delete here, a rewrite there… and the case is gone... After this no one can prove that something abnormal even happened.

The refinery notifies that the raw materials ammonium level is lower than expected. Here comes the production plan change. - OK. Press that button space monkey!... When will the machine offer a nuclear self-destruct sequence?...If I get into button pressing this good, I’ll okay that for sure…

-o-

I spent the rest of my shift exploring the new things in mobAR. My first thought when I opened the fridge, was that I could fix up the boring canteen packed foods taste.
But I found out that there’s no need for fixing, because it was great! Southfork pushes gastronomical quality even in zero gravity. But from curiosity, I ordered a virtual apple from Navi, and not the consistency, nor the taste was right. Maybe the programmer did not know what a real apple’s like, or they did it this shitty on purpose. Or maybe that’s what technology’s capable of. So that’s the point where I gave up experimenting with virtual gastronomy.

What really made me curious was virtual gravity. In the circle of the 22nd century astronauts, most of the popular mobAR apps simulated gravity. In a long state of weightlessness even the sight of a free falling object left an ecstatic impact on us. It was like we could fly after helpless floating. Virtual gravity defined a fixed downward direction, which was really helpful to orient ourselves. Those were audiovisual stimuli only, but it proved to be quite effective against sensory illness caused by long-term weightlessness. But now, when Navi turned on the mobAR’s simulated gravity module, I felt like I was Superman. I felt like hovering above the ground, and not by the eyes, but my inner ears, skin and my muscles joined the play of virtual senses. I feel the soft counterforce on the skin of my belly, and my muscles stretch, like it’s holding against my weight. - This is rad! - I rolled onto my back, and asked for a virtual pen from Navi to fidget with it. I did not put it down since then. I swear it’s much better than scratching my nose in my spacesuit. Only one frustration remained...the lack of control… Only a thought-controlled jetpack is missing, to make the Superman-illusion full complete.

Besides the virtual tastes and gravity, one more thing came in mind… because my pants are getting real strain when I think about Charlotte… and I think about her a lot… maybe too much… I feel a buzz around my cock, which is a sure sign of me being horny… I could use some virtual ‘me-time’, but I don’t have the guts to do so… It can be unworthy...or even pathetic...Never mind… I feel that, this energy needs to be kept for the real Charlotte.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Part One - Chapter 3 - Restaurant at the Edge of the World

I step out from my cabin, arriving at a corridor. About 20 meters long, which is plenty, but the station's curvature is still barely visible. - Damn... if this is such a small slice of Ring 2... I can't even fathom how big the whole ring is. Cabins lining up on both sides. Including mine, there’s ten in total. On my right is the elevator door which closes down the hall.

“Navi! Which one is Charlotte’s cabin?”
“Two floors above, officer level. Cabin no. 4”
“So these are the ordinary sailor quarters?”
“Sailors?...No...Southfork is not a ship. These are the cabins of low-ranked civilian employees.” - Just to know your place Boston.
“So these are all empty?”
“All of them, except yours.” - Did Commander Dallas threw everyone out into space? Coz’ I can imagine this from him.
“And the Commander’s cabin?”
“Officer department, door no.1”
“Can I reach Charlotte somehow on the network?”
“Only with special permission from Commander Dallas.” - Damn!
“Is this usual limitation?”
“No. This is a special commander request.” - So he wants me to stay away from her, for sure.
“Where are the members of the crew now?”
“Sorry, this information cannot be accessed.”
“Where can I get to with guest right and without escort?”
“To the restaurant, and to the dock’s waiting room. The rest of the station counts as working area.” - So I’m not free, just my cage got a bit bigger.

I touch the panel of the elevator. It changes to green, and the door opens almost instantly. On the two sides of the walls there the buttons 'Restaurant' and 'Dock'. I touch “Restaurant”. The door closes and the elevator goes down. I lean to the wall opposite to the door. This is how every experienced space hound holds against the Coriolis force in an elevator.

What’s a luxury restaurant like at the edge of the world? The elevator didn’t gave so much time thinking about this. About half a minute, and the door opened. The passageway opening from the elevator is the same white plastic purity what I saw on the rest of the station. - I want real colors! - With fast steps I walk through the hall. At the end on the right is a two-winged swing door. With small circle shaped windows. Looking through it, I see a dark room. That must the guest area. I go through the swing door.

The guest area is completely black. Not just because of the dark. The floor, the walls, the ceiling, everything is made out of pitch black carbon fiber. This is the naked body of the station, without any inner cover. Except the opposite wall, which has about a 10 metres high and 40 metres wide, contiguous star panorama in front of me.

“Navi! Where are we?”
“This is the great hall of the restaurant. We haven’t used it for a long time. But the view is still amazing...isn’t it?” - It is.

With careful steps I walk through the dark of the room. Looks like the place was gutted out completely. Nothing remained here, just the panorama. I touch the transparent wall with my palm. It’s cold. So it’s not made from plastic, but from some kind of glass, or transparent metal. The whole view is surrounded by the slowly rotating starry space... It’s hypnotizing.

At the celestial pole, is Orion. On his belt, I see a fourth star, brighter than the usual three. That must be the Sun. About 150 billion kilometres away from here … 250 years ago every human lived inside the orbit of Neptune. And now we keep a farm this big 30 times farther from the Sun. How far the pioneers of the 24th century got? Halfway to the neighboring stars? Or maybe they’re there already?

“Hello!” A sudden voice comes up from nothing and taps me on the shoulder.
“Aaaahr” My whole body twitched. - Who the…?! Huh. It’s Charlotte...who else?
“Heeey! You scared me shitless.” But she just laughed at me on her trilling voice. -I’ll get you next time, you beautiful beast. - I mumbled to myself.
“You were daydreaming, Astronaut!”
“Indeed. The view is hypnotic.”
“When I was a kid I used to stare into space from here.”.
“Did you grow up here?”
“Here?” Opens her arms “In front of a window???”
I laugh. She does the same, but with her beautiful eyes and her titties shaking from laughter. I can’t stop staring them.
“Come, Boston! I’ll show you our table.”

Through a door at a hidden and pitch black corner of the restaurant we arrive to the officer canteen. Finally a place which looks better than the rest. - Light blue, matte walls. Green landscapes in classy frames. From the ceiling hangs a chandelier with a white linen lampshade above the gray table in the middle of the room. The table has space for eight, but it was prepared for four only. Folded white fabric napkins, silver cutlery and blocked glass made out of crystal.

We aren’t the first arrivals. On the opposite there’s a thin-faced Asian woman sitting in blue and gray overalls. She greets us with a cheery face.

“You finally brought him!” She jumps up and comes towards us.
“Now that’s what I call handsome! Right Charlotte?! He’s in a pretty good shape for being 280 years old.” She pats both of my shoulders.
“Boston! Let me introduce..:”
“Greetings Madame Klein!” I disrupt Charlotte.
“Uh huh, how good looking, and prepared too! Did you asked Navi about the crew?”
“Excuse me madame, but…”
“Aaah, just call me Susan, sweetie!” - Sweetie?! That’s what I call a style! She barely looks 50, and she talks like she’s my grandma. “And what nice things did Navi said about me?”
“Just that you like old stuff.”
“That’s for sure!” She looks at me with dazzling eyes. “Come, take a seat, DAN prepared the table over there for you.” She points to the other side of the table.
“After you Susan.” I offer way for the lady, bowing slightly.
“Ohh. You see this Charlotte? What a gallant knight we have!” Susan overplays herself, but Charlotte doesn’t answer, just grins, biting her lower lip. I proceed to sit down in my seat, when poof, I’m suddenly on the floor. Like someone pulled out the chair under from me.
“Ouch! What the hell?!” Susan and Charlotte laughs hard. “Aaawh come on!” I answer confused, with reddening face.
“Told you he won’t notice.” Says Charlotte to Susan in laughter.
“Wait! What didn’t I notice?” I asked in an upset tone, while I’m still on the floor.
“Senses can be tricked with mobAR, but the physics cannot!” Susan educates. - Is this for real?! Putting a virtual chair to my place, just to see me falling onto my ass? … What childish move is that?!
“Don’t take it on yourself! It’s just initiation. Welcome to the 24th century, newcomer!” She helps me up.
“Thanks Susan.” and now I’m grinning too. “By the way, how should I spot that it wasn’t real?”
“By your sixth sense, dear.” she points on her head in pretended seriousness.
“Don’t goof him!” Charlotte decries with a smile. “We pranked him enough!...Navi! Set the marked display mode for Mr. Taylor!”

The chair next to me has blue-ish blurred outlines. - So that’s virtual, too?
“Ohh. Now I see. You did not trust the chance.” I grab the virtual chair. For the touch, it feels like real, solid wood.
“Would you like to revenge our prank Ben?” Asks Susan with a straight face.
“Umm...what do you mean?”
“Smash that chair to my head!” - Is she goofing me again?...Hit her in the head?...and what if this is the real one, and she just believes me it is not.
“No way! For real?”
“Of course! Aren’t you just discouraged about what's real and what's not?” She stares into my eyes challengingly.
“I think I have to sit down to think about it.”

I put the chair behind me, and I sit down with clenched eyes. I fell through this one the same way as the last. The room is filled with laughter. I get up, grab the chair, and smash it to Susan’s head with a huge momentum. She raises her hands above her head as defense, and the chair shatters into virtual debris. In that very moment Commander Dallas came in the opposite door.

“Hello! Hello!” His voice boomed.
I stood there surprised, with the two broken virtual chair legs in my hands. No one makes a sound, only the knocking of the falling virtual debris can be heard...I put my hands behind me in fear, and I drop the remainings of the chair to the floor… Charlotte tries to hold back her guffaw with clenched shoulders.

“Hello Anton! Mr. Taylor is getting know to the modern technology.” Susan sums the scene.
“Mr Taylor, I hope you had your fun. DAN is bringing the tray, so let’s take a seat!”

Charlotte and Susan took their seat comfortably, but I didn’t have anything to sit on.
“Mr. Taylor, will you serve yourself, or should I bring a chair with DAN for you?” He points at the chair on the other side of the main table.
“No need...I think DAN have enough things to do.”
“He has.”

I take the chair to my place, but before I sit down, I give the seat a few good pushes. Just to make sure. I put myself down carefully. It holds me. This chair is real for sure.

DAN enters with a decorated metal tray into the canteen. A familiar smell hits the air.
“Bolognese?” I ask.
“Yes Sir. Spaghetti alla Bolognese.” DAN answered, Susan stares at me with round eyes.
“How did you found that out?”
“The smell was familiar.” - But to be honest, I had no clue…It was a wild guess.

The robot brings out our meals, beginning with mine. He puts the dish in front of me from the left, as it fits. Then for the others. The food looks yummy. It's even topped with grated Parmesan and fresh basil.

“Would you like to drink something?” DAN asks.
“You have Cabernet Sauvignon?” I ask without hesitation.
“We do. An excellent choice Sir!”
I tap on the table. - That’s what I’m talking about! - ...but something's not right… Commander Dallas’s face hardens...Charlotte moves away a bit from him...Whoops...Did I already stepped on a mine?
“You hear that Anton? A real gourmet was drifted to us from space!” Susan tries to save me.
“I’m glad.” says the old man, but I can’ the same from his face. “DAN, open two glasses of six year old cabernet.”
“Yes Sir, right away.”

The robot leaves. I grab a fork. Susan too, while she looks at the commander. Reluctantly, he grabs his fork too. Looks like I got away. He won’t throw me into space right now.
I twist up a portion of pasta onto my fork. The first bite. Perfect consistency. Al dente, as if straight from a textbook.The shiny red sauce, slightly salty, with tomato and rosemary, the ground beef being juicy, and the slightly melted parmesan, with the taste of the fresh basil. Phenomenal!

Meanwhile I didn’t notice that DAN came back, and he fills my cup. Just in time. This is what my belly needs after half a plate of spaghetti. He pours some for the others, and as he finishes filling Charlotte’s glass too, Susan rings her glass with her knife.
“Anton, don’t you give a toast?”
“Hrmmmm” the commander growls.
I dare that he say a simple no, nor anything. But instead he grabbed his glass and stood up. The fork stopped in Charlotte’s hands, and she looked at her father and Susan, then at me, with round eyes. She stands up too with the glass in her hand. Susan and I follow her example.
“Khm.” The commander clears his throat. “Mr. Taylor, in the name of the whole Southfork crew, we welcome you on our station. You’re a really lucky man, that you can be here with us. I’d like to think that fate only rewards the ones who are worthy for this. Don’t let us down!”
He raises his glass.
“To the ones who’s worthy!” Susan raises her glass too. “I’m glad for you Ben.” She toasts me, then she gives a kiss to both of my cheeks. I turn toward the commander. He toasts too. Then I turn toward Charlotte, who gives a stare like she never saw something like this before…She rings her glass unsurely to mine. I take a sip from the wine. Slightly dry, lightly mellow, fruity. Perfect. From the corner of my eye I see Charlotte who drinks the half of her glass with one chug, then sits down. Then all of us.

“Excuse me Commander, Sir. May I ask?”
“What do you like to know, Mr. Taylor?”
“Was this station originally intended to orbit in the Oort cloud?”
“No it wasn’t.”
“Then how did it end up here?”
Susan answers instead of the commander.
“Southfork was originally a luxury hotel orbiting around Saturn. Imagine what a view would open up from the window in the great hall.” She points at the door where we came in.
“Navi! Can I have an album from the old restaurant?”
A thin booklet appears in the middle of the table. Susan looks it up.
“See? First class space panorama straight to the rings of Saturn. And look at the decoration! Real ebony walls, with diamonds, ice statues, real candles, and pure gold cutlery.”

Outrageously bourgeois. But somehow familiar. Like I was at a place like this before...We move on and see pictures from guests, the crew, the salon orchestra, and the served food. The pictures soak in unashamed luxury.

“Promising brochure. It sold me.”
“It is likely that you never had enough income in your whole life to spend even one day here in all inclusive service.”
“Maybe, but who know?!” I answer with a faux-snobbish smile on my face.
“Ooooo” Susan scans my look. “Looks like an ex space billionaire is in our circles?” she smiles.
“I dunno...but something tells me that this luxury isn’t far from me.”
“Oooh, I hope that a lone bank note remained from that wealth… How much interest rate can be on that after 250 years?!” She laughs.

Meanwhile DAN collects the dishes from the main course, and starts to serve the second one. Barbecued pork ribs with red wine sauce, with jacket potatoes. Needless to say, this dish is ten stars out of five.
“Hmmm. And then what happened? How did this restaurant become a farm?”
The commander answers.
“The farm was originally part of the restaurant. The kitchen only worked with the commodities grown here. So the freshness and the quality were ensured.”
“And I guess the hotel part went bankrupt, and the farm part went on.”
“Somehow like that.”
“And moving to the edge of the world? What was the cause?”
“The market and politics.”
“The world changed a bit while you were out there.” Susan takes back the word.
“What happened?”
“Just the usual. War.” She looks at the floor, then slowly back up. “Do you know the story of Carthage?”
“No...doesn’t ring any bells.”
“Carthage was the most wealthy and rival city of ancient Rome in the Mediterranean Sea region. While Rome was strong on land, the Carthaginians built ships. But after three consecutive wars, Carthage was defeated. Then, to prevent further wars, they razed the whole city down to the ground.”
“Umm...you mean China and USA?”
“Yes Ben. In this story China was Rome, and Carthage was the USA.” she holds my hand. “I’m sorry. USA was liquidated by the world government founded in 2245.”
I need to feel sadness now, but I don’t feel anything. Boston, my hometown was destroyed in 2114. I wasn’t even 4 years old then. I couldn’t call the States my home for a long time.
“The world government that led by China I guess.” I try to pick up where we left off.
“Mostly yes.”
“So Southfork escaped from China to here?”
The commander replies.
“Let’s say that my grandfather found a suitable market gap here. Since then the pioneers appetite and money keeps the business going.” He rubs his finger. “We don’t have any special problems with the government, since we’re out here, they leave us alone. But the taxes, they collect them hard.”
“Guess that’s why we didn’t contracted in money.” I point at him, then at me, like that time when he offered job for me.
“This is one of the reasons. The other one is that you’re officially dead, Mr. Taylor...Still.. .no banks will open an account for a dead man.”
“And the cafeteria? Don’t you pay taxes after that?” I try to humor.
“If we produce it in place, and don’t introduce it into accounting, then there’s nothing to pay tax after.” He answers, with a sort of smile on his face. “Can we open the 2nd glass of wine?”
“Let’s do it!” Charlotte says. I hear her voice since her father joined us “And this time we could ask for dessert.”
“Yes Miss Dallas. What can I bring for you?” DAN asks.
“If my memory’s right I saw some poppy seed ice cream in the cryo…”
“Ooooh, I want some too!” Susan joins.
“Commander Dallas?”
“Thank you DAN, but I pass on this one now.”
“Mr. Taylor?”
“I’d like some. Thank you.”
“Then 3 plates of poppy ice cream...since I didn’t prepare for that it takes 15 minutes to serve, if that’s alright.”
“We have time, DAN” Susan answers.
“I planned to stay just for another glass of wine... gotta put myself away for tomorrow’s shift.”
“Should I bring the wine first, Sir?”
“No, thank you. I’ll pass.” He pushes himself from the table and stands up. He leans to Charlotte and gives a kiss to her forehead. “G’night darling.” then he turns to Susan. “Don’t stay up late...and when you finished, please escort Mr. Taylor back to his cabin!” then he turns to me “I’ll be waiting for you at the docks at 8 AM. Won’t be late! Good night!”
Susan says goodbye to the commander with some sort of salute.

After the doors closed, Charlotte’s good girl mask fells off.
“Party time, Susan?”
“Party time! DAN, the ice cream can wait. Please bring in the second glass of wine!”
“And you can also bring some shots, too!” Charlotte tops the order.
“I’m sorry Miss Dallas, but the crew’s spirit stock has run out. I can only bring some for invoice.”
“Excuse me, ladies. May I invite you for a drink?” I try to pick up the new mood of the crowd.
“Oooh, our knight!” Susan plays on the tone “And how do you plan to pay the bill, Mr. Taylor?”
“DAN, how much first-class spirits can be paid with one month of my basic income?”
“Not more than six shots, Sir.”
“Splendid, six shots, then!”
“Right away, Mr. Taylor.”

The mood change can be touched by hand, since the commander left the canteen. Charlotte smiles with biting her lower lip again.

“How come that you and the commander are different worlds?” I ask, what Susan gives a big sigh for.
“Ahh, Anton was never that nutless dick as he is now. My dear sister, Sylvia broke him.”
“Sylvia?”
“Charlotte’s mother. She got away with a sailor, that lil’ bitch. Charlotte wasn’t even 4 years old back then.”
“Awh! I hate you when you talk about mom like that!” Charlotte mumbles.
“Ooo I remember how she promised that she’ll change, that she won’t have affairs with upstart sailors, that she’s in big love and she’s engaged. And when she wrote that she’s pregnant, I moved here in no time…”

DAN steps in with another tray. This time with the wine and 6 shot glasses of spirits.
“Just leave it here DAN, coz’ we gonna drink all this!” Susan orders the robot.
DAN puts the tray in the middle of the table. Charlotte picks up the first shot, right after her Susan picks the second, and she indicates with her finger, that she asks for word.

“Now it’s my time to say a toast” and she looks at me. “Benjamin. Navi told you earlier that I like old stuff, right?” I nod in agreement. “Son, you’re a walking archaeological find, and that's more than enought to adore you!” My mouth turns into a frown. “No! Don’t take this on you, Adonis.”
“Adonis?”
“Greek demigod, who dies, resurrects, and the women fall for him. Right Charlotte?” Charlotte doesn’t answer, but she’s biting her lower lip deeper.
“Ben, you’re a wonderful present for this girl. And I gladly hold my back for your affairs, if you be so kind to do some in my favor too.”
“Say whaaaaaat?!” I moan. Can’t say more from the shock, I almost even dropped my shot glass.
“Ooooh, I knew, I could prank you with this!” she laughs. “Noooo, sonny...It could be good , but I don’t need you for “that”...If I could be younger with 20 years...maybe then...but I’m not.”
“How old are you? I never guessed more than 50.”
“You’re cute!” she giggles “But it’s not a polite thing to ask a woman’s age!”
“I’m sorry Susan.” I excuse, but she just spats with a smile.
“You’re a really interesting part of history, boy, from a really interesting age. The Age of Singularity.”
“The Age of Singularity?”
“2148 was the Year of Singularity.”
“You mean technological singularity?” after the moment I said that, a weird thrill ran through my spine.
“Yes. You could relive the events, the mood. I’m interested in everything you can say about that.”
“Even if lived back then, I can’t remember.”
“I’ll help you remember.”
“So let me get this straight. If we talk about things from my previous life frequently, you'll cover me and Charlotte from the commander?” I hold the girl’s hand, who doesn’t resist at all.
“See how smart our knight is?” Susan smiles with her mouth full.
I look into the eyes of Charlotte, who can be seen so excited that she almost bit her lower lips bloody.
“I’m in!”
“Then let’s drink for this!” Susan stomps the floor like a soldier, and she lifts her glass. Then she laughs.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Part One - Chapter 2 - Small steps

"Boston ... Bostoooon!" Charlotte's trilling voice breaks through the unconsciousness. She pinches my shoulder.
"Heeeeey!" I grab her hand with pretended reprovement.
“Good morning Boston! Wake up! We're going out for a walk."
I look down at my legs. They're not tied down. Shame. I'd like to live through the moment when they unbounded those. And the tubes are gone from my arms too. They unplugged it all.
"ohhh...did you disconnect me from the machines while I was asleep?"
"Yeah. Your own body keeps you alive now."
"I hope it won't let me down."
"It won't for sure.."
"And the..." I lift up my blanket, taking a peek under "...the catheter?"
"Don't worry, I pulled that out, too." She gives me a naughty smile, that lil' beast. "Are you shy, Boston?"
It looks like, I am. Charlotte threw up the ball what I couldn't hit back in my confusion.
"Come, let's shuffle to the toilet. I guess you need to pee."
I nod in agreement. I sit up. Charlotte helps me up while she's holding my hand. After a long time of weightlessness it's unpleasant when your legs experience the weight. But this is really light, moreover, pleasing.
"How much is the gravity?"
"On this floor it's a pleasant 0.7G. Come, toilet's this way."

My cabin door opened into a small hall. The same white overlay everywhere. On the right there's a massive air barrier, and the toilet's on the left behind a light sliding door. Thank God it's not the zero gravity piss-into-a-sucker-pipe kind. It's a traditional one, with flush and a seat. In space you can only see ones like these on stations.

Relief shoots out from me in a thick gold beam of liquid. - Ahhhh...

"Have you flipped up the seat, Boston?" - Ummm, of course not. - The seat got some of the stuff on the left side. Is it just me being lame, or the Coriolis force pranked me... but if I can take a guess, I'd vote for both.
"Which way is the direction of rotation?" I ask.
"On your right. Did you just miscalculated the arc, Astronaut?" she giggles.
"Ha ha..." I repeat her laughter derisively.
"Don't worry, I'm just tossing you, the toilet is self-cleaning." and she keeps on giggling.
"Wash your hands when you're done!" - Yes, mom ... I say it in myself.
"I'm done, but where's the tap?"
"On the other side. Stand back a little please!"
I shuffle a step back, when the opposite wall with the toilet start rotating to the left. - Ah, so this is how she meant the other side. - The toilet got to the other side of the wall with a 180 degree spin, while the tap took its place, with a mirror on it. - Woah, a mirror! - I stare at myself with round eyes. While I'm here I didn't took a look at myself. Somehow I didn't had that in mind that I needed to. From the mirror a calmingly familiar and order face stares back at me. Short brown hair, a distinct chin, and brown eyes. That's me...

"Ben" I say it aloud.
"Who's Ben?" Charlotte asks from outside.
"Me...Ben...My name's Ben. Benjamin Taylor. BENJAMIN TAYLOR" I shout and jump from joy. I leap out into the hall and I cling onto Charlotte. Out of a sudden impulse, I kiss her on the lips, and she consents with a smile
"BEN TAYLOR!" I shout it again.
"Hello Ben!" She looks at me and takes a step back, with smiling eyes. My heart hammers.
"Uuugh I'm gettin' dizzy" and I'd collapse on the floor, if Charlotte doesn't catch me with a direct move.
 "There, there, take it easy, Ben!" She escorts me to my bed with a few steps. "Sit down!"
"Uuhhh" I try to take deep breaths. "this Ben...almost sounds like DAN if you say it out loud."
"Hmm, DAN? … If it bothers you, it takes nothing to rename a robot."
"Don't." I exhale slowly "No need..." and after a few moments, my brain freezes again.

"You're alright?" Charlotte tries to pull me back. She puts her hands to my face, and turns me towards herself.
"Nothing, really, I'm just … thinking."
"Of what?" She looks at me in honest curiosity.
"If it really matters who I was in my previous life."
"What do you mean?"
"I dunno … Ben, DAN … just to rename a robot because of a guy, who lived 250 years ago, about 150 billion kilometers away from here, because his name could be Ben?"
"Only because of this?...No! That Ben is you...you, here and now!"
"Not sure if I'm still that Ben..I wasn't that 2 minutes before...Two minutes before, you called me Boston."
"I had to call you somehow. And Boston was an option."
I stretch out on my bed and close my eyes. I let my thoughts flow.
"I don't know Ben Taylor. For me it's just a name, what just got into my mind, when I looked into the mirror." But inside I know, it's a lot more. I take a deep breath, and slowly let it out. "Even if it was my name sometime, I guess everyone's dead already, who once known Ben Taylor."
"Likely, but we'll take a look."
"Do you know the saying, that a man dies twice?"
“Don’t recall."
"Once, he dies. Second time, when the last man dies who known his name … Ben Taylor already died twice  … but I'm alive … very alive!" I sit up, and I look into her eyes "Because there's a girl who calls me Boston, and alive, stunningly beautiful, I barely know her, but I'm crazy for her!"
Charlotte wipes away a teardrop from her smiling eyes. She leans towards my face, and gives a wet kiss on it.
"You're crazy Boston." she whispers softly in my ear.
"Maybe."

-o-

A familiar green garden, a familiar white table. Mom squats down to me. I see that she fights with her tears.

"Everything's gonna be alright, Benny. Mom and Dad will wait for you, while the storm calms down."
The sky darkens, and black stings starts falling from the sky. I try to run under the table, I pull mom by her hands, but she does not move.
"Mommy, nooo! Dad, help me!" I bellow. The black death descends around me in slow motion. My whole body felt like it was on pins and needles ...

I awake. I hear my heartbeat in my ear as a fast whirring. A recurring nightmare from my previous life. It's for sure, because I know what will happen … or at least I felt that I known … that I call my mom in vain, she doesn't listen to me. She never listens to me. And they die. They always die.

I sit on the edge of my bed. I put my face in my hands. My forehead is covered in ice cold sweat. I must vent my head. I can't stay here with a clench in my chest like this. I need a walk.

The barrier door's touch panel lets me know with a short buzz and a red light that it's a no go. I won't get out from this hole.
"You can't keep me locked in! I'm a spaceshipwrecked, not a prisoner! I have rights!” I shout into the white walls. Despondently, I collapse to the floor with my back to the air barrier door. But before I could cuddle myself into self-pity, the door clicks and slides over with a fast movement. My nape hits the ground after I fall out of the door. - Ouch.

"Heeeeey!"
"Good morning Mr. Taylor! Please pull yourself together from the floor. We need to talk." - Who the hell is that -  I ask.
An afro male towered above me in a gray-blue coveralls. I reached out with my hand, but he didn't helped me up. - Okay. That's what I call manners. - I roll onto my belly, pull my legs under myself, and from that I'm getting up into a squat, then I stand up. I feel awkward that he watches my toil with a straight face. - Thanks you douche! - Now that I stand face to face with him, he looked like he's one and a half feet taller than me. His short afro hairdo looked like poppy seeds, full of grey hairs. From his wrinkles, he could be about 60 years old.
"Alright?" he asks, and puts his robust palm on my shoulder, like he's testing me, if I collapse under its weight, like a house of cards … I didn't, but almost did.
"Alright. Let's talk." I answer, half-hearted. And then he navigates me with his left hand back into my cabin.
"There?” I ask.
"There." Confirms me rigidly.
Four steps and I managed to get back where I didn't wanted to. To my bed.
"Sit down." he says. And he sees that I didn't moved at all, then he added "...please." - okay, if you ask me so kindly - I mumble to myself and I sit down. Of course, he stands still. Not that I'd like him sit next to me. It's better to keep some distance.

"My name is Anthony Dallas. Commander of Southfork station. My appellation is Commander Dallas, or Sir."
"Dallas, Texas" I say it aloud to myself.
"May I ask you to stop mumbling?!"
"Ummm yes … Sir?"
He clears his throat, and he starts his monologue.
"We picked you up to the station 12 days earlier. In that time, you were dead for 2 days, unconscious for 8 days, and unable to work in the remaining 2 days.
"Thank you for what you've done to me so far."
"Rescue is a legal duty in space, but we never had something like this before."
"As first timers, it came out pretty well."
"Will you interrupt me in every sentence?" he looks at me, like he wants to rip me into two with his eyes.
"Ummm … I just … excuse me Sir."
"After your rescue I sent your DNA code back to Earth for identifying. I got a reply after an hour." he taps on his palm with his index finger. Guess from now he's reading the data from his mobAR.

"Your name is Benjamin Taylor. Born 01.11.2110. Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Mother's name: Christina Kiss. Father's name: Daniel Taylor. No brothers or sisters.
Evacuated to Canada in 2114 before the siege of Boston. Parents lost their lives during the attack. Spend your youth in an orphanage in Ottawa.
Got canadian citizenship in 2128. In 2130 you did an astronaut exam, and even demanded a work permit at Free Mars and Space Colonies' Government. That's all...that's all we know about you Mr. Taylor."
"Orphans of Boston" I mumble to myself, because a hidden part of my brain came up with that.
"You're mumbling again. Talk or shut up!"
"Nothing important. Something just came in mind. I'm sorry." I put my hands up defensively.

Orphans of Boston. About 100 thousand children were evacuated into Canada before the siege. Most cities on the North did the same way, but Boston's case was different. Something went terribly wrong there. Or terribly right. Depends on one's point of view. Nobody survived the town's siege. Orphaned children of a whole Metropolis remained on Canada. Including me. I can't remember, but I know, it was this way. Not a personal memory, but history's torn footnote.

The cabin's awkward silence was broken by the air barrier’s opening, and the greeting from Charlotte.
"Hello dad! Hello Boston! I'd like to be here the first time you two meet."

BLAM! Like I was hit on the nape with a baker's shovel. - Did I heard that right? Did Charlotte really greeted this Benga as dad?? … Daaamn! She's the boss' daughter? -
The commander didn't even turn, nor look at her, just lifted his hand, showing that it's not suitable moment.

"Don't you have work to do at the cows, darlin'?"
"But dad..."
"No buts! According to your assignment you have to work on the cows' environment control."
"All controls are working perfectly fine, you know that. I have no work with them."
"Don't sass me, just go!"
"Ahhhrrr!" Charlotte gives up offended, then turns around, and before she steps out the barrier door she leans back and blows a silent kiss. - Adorable. - The old man turns around, like he felt the scene behind himself, he looks over there but he missed the action … I can barely hold back the laughter … The barrier closes, and the commander turns back to me with killer eyes.

"Mr. Taylor. If you dare to move on to my daughter, I’ll throw you back into space. Understand?!" I wanted to answer, but he raised his index finger, showing that he's not finished yet.
 "You were dead on your arrival to Southfork, and even if medical nanotechnology is outstanding, not everyone can be brought back to life...but if we can, there still can be unexpected complications." I gulp spectacularly, to indicate that I understood the threat...Damn.
"Understood Sir. I keep my distance from your daughter." I cross my fingers in my head, but my ass clinched from this threatening...If I was a dog I'd be flattened to the ground whining…
He's the alpha dog here, not me.
"Right." Closes down the topic, and for a few seconds, we're back to the awkward silence.

"Ummm...May I ask, Sir?"
"That's why I'm here." - But for a while, I thought I had to keep my mouth shut.
"You mentioned cows...you meant it?...There are cows on the station?"
"Yes."
"Real, living cows?"
"Wagyu cattle. First class livestock."
"Wagyu?...It's that kind, given beer to drink and regular massages, to make their meat as extra soft as it is?"
"So you know a few things...from where?"
"Hell, if I know..." he looks at me, scanning like I think that he's a moron. But no, not this time.
"They do get beer. Occasionally. And they do have a massage pad in their stall, what they use. Sometimes. But it really depends on the genes, and the quality of the grass, to get the best meat out of them... And we only sell the best quality."
"Is there a pasture on the station?"
"Not one. Four. About two hectares."
"Ooooh, how burgeois."
"You what?"
"Ummmm" - I think it's not a good idea to be smarty pants on him, who knows what I could say to offend him, if I still want to live. "Nothing Sir. I just implied that how much I love my stomach."
"Luckily a plenty of people think the same here on the edge of the world. And that's why our business is going well." He stopped for a moment, than he starts to rub his in middle middle and index finger with his thumb.
"Ah! By the way...Business." He points on himself, and on me.
"We need to talk about money!"
"Money? What money?"
"We don't keep that kind of food on Southfork, what you can buy from weak money."
"Weak money? You mean from basic income?"
"Yes. You don't go far with that. And don't think that we'll feed you for free."
"Then what can you offer?"
"Because no ships will be coming in the next few weeks, I guess I need to apply you...I offer you a job!"
"Do I have to clean the cow stalls?"
"No way!...Don't even think about going near the cattles, or else I'll break your arms & legs!" - how nice…
"Then what?"
"The Mine needs a helping hand."
"You mean Space mining?"
"Yes."
"Something tells me that I have more to do with that."
"So do you accept?"
"Yeah."
"Right. I get you assigned tomorrow. Put on your mobAR! I send you the contract."

My mobAR pads are still under my pillows in the box, since DAN's been here. To be honest, I'm scared from the thought that nanobots can fiddle around with my senses. - I'm too old for this shit.. A 280 years old caveman. And how do I put these on? - The pad's outer side is simple skin-colored plastic, with a triangle on it with 3 lumps on each apex. Guess that's where the technology lives. The inside is white, skin-like to the touch, but not sticky at all.

"Is there some kind of trick for it? How to stick it on?"
"Just touch the white part to your temple."
"Alright."

The moment I've put it there, I felt a strain, and after that, the pad was like one with my skin. The other one was the same. I guess it's some kind of tricky nanotech, what just dug itself into my skin.

"Okay, I guess it's done. Now what?"
"Now you get access to the system." The commander changes to a stronger, articulated tone "Navi! Log in Mr. Taylor! For now, with guest permissions." than he looks back at me "Now I leave you to Navi. If you have any problems with the contract let her know about it. We're waiting for you in the diner tonight for a dinner. Have a nice day Mr. Taylor."
"Um...Commander Dallas."
"Yes Mr Taylor?"
"Do I get some clothes or do you expect me to go to the dinner in these pajamas?"
"Ohhh yes." he measures me, and for the first time I saw a smile-like thing on his face. "I get DAN to bring you some nice clothes."
"Sir. Thank you Sir."
"Goodbye." The barrier door shuffles twice, and I'm all alone again in my cabin.

"Navi?!" I try to summon the mobAR assistant, like how the commander did.

A 4-5 cm small, blurry, blue & white dot appears. Then 2 butterfly wings open from it. It starts to spin and it's like sprinkles are falling out from it, and it even jingles. - What on earth is that? -
"Welcome Mr. Taylor to Southfork Station's Augmented Reality system." I was greeted by the winged dot of light on a jingly voice. "If you have any questions, or do you need anything, I'm at your service."
"Ummm. Hello Navi. May I see the map of the station?"
"Of course."

A schematic 2D concept appears on the wall. Three concentric rings surrounded by a central circle. On them there are 2 perpendicular diagonals across.

From inside to outside, are the color codes & departments:

Central circle.
  • Grey department: Dock and Engine room
1st ring:
  • Blue department: Fish farm and Hydroculture
2nd ring. - This is more wider than the other two rings. There are more departments scattered in it, in an irregular spacing.
  • White department: Crew deck
  • Yellow department: Restaurant at the Edge of the World
  • Cyan department: Cold storage, Cryo
  • Brown department: Soil enrichment
  • Red department: Butchery
  • Orange department: Food processing
3rd ring:
  • Green department: Agriculture, crops and livestock
- It is much more than a luxury space dairy-farm.

"Navi! How many people are working on the station?"
"Currently three. commander Anthony Dallas, first officer Susan Klein, and civilian Charlotte Dallas." As she said the names out loud, a picture appeared on the wall from the members of the crew. Who's new for me, is Susan Klein. A thin faced, straight, untied haired, middle aged Asian woman.
"That's it?" Are there anyone else beside them?"
"Just you, Sir." - So only three people run this place? ... That's heavy ...No wonder if they have labor shortage.
"Navi! Don't need to call me Sir. Call me Boston."
"Okay, Boston."
"Commander Dallas mentioned a work contract before..."
"Yes, he sent it. Where should I put your mailbox?"
"Next to my cabin door. There. And I'd like a table, a shelf and other virtual stuff."
"Right away, Boston."
Navi flown around in the room while she pulled sparkling beams after herself, where she conjured virtual furniture for me. My mailbox appeared as a small, silver-esque metal cabinet. For the touch, it even felt like real metal; cold and slightly rough. On it's door, the number 1 glowed in red, indicating that I have mail. I take it out and I start to scratch my head.
"Now what? Do I have to open it?" In the 22nd century no one used paper envelopes.
"Yes." Navi answered, and if I'm right I heard laughter in the jingling. "I open it for you if you ask."
"Please..."

The envelope contained four pieces of A4 paper, which were silky to the touch. 7 pages are mostly legal crap. After a fast readthrough I constate that I won't get rich here. I'd rather call this as a mandate contract, more than normal employment. It doesn't even offer money, but three meals per day, and I get the same as the crew and I have to be on alertness in 8 hours per day for Commander Dallas, as a qualified astronaut.

"Navi, where're the mines?"
"We're on a stable synced course 70 kilometers away from a comet nucleus, full of ammonia, and other organic compounds. The comet seed is 2 km's in diameter.” - So not only it does pay poorly, but I also have to commute…
"And uumm...How do I need to sign this?" I point at the last page of the contract, confused.
"With a pen."
"You joking? With hand?...I never wrote anything with hand since primary school!"
"Just doodle something there. Anything can do. Here's a pen."
Navi brings me a matte black pen towards my hand with furious flaps of her wings. I take it, and after a few unsure curves, a green tick indicates that I signed the contract.
"See? Done."
"That's it?"
"Yeah. Leave the papers on the table, I take care of the rest."

After a few minutes, I get myself on lying on the bed, playing with the virtual pen. Clicking, spinning, wagging it. Humanity's ancient fidget instinct meets with modern technology, and I have to be honest, it's a pleasant meeting.

"Navi. What's this glowing, jingling butterfly avatar supposed to be?"
"I'm a fairy from the Legend of Zelda video game, from the end of the 20th century."

An article appears on the wall:

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Publisher: Nintendo Co.
Developer: Nintendo EAD.
Release date: 21/11/1998

"1998?...Then you're older than me." I laughed to myself.
"Susan shaped me this way. She likes old stuff. She'll like you too." - Oh thanks.

-o-

"Excuse me Sir. I brought your clothes." - DAN greets me from the hall.
"Thank you DAN." I get on my feet and take the nicely iterated white package of clothes.
"Dinner will be served after an hour in the crew's department."
"I'll be there...But how can I get there? I've never been outside this barrier before." I point at the door.
"Commander Dallas informed me that you got access to the station's inner system."
"Yes I did."
"If you're logged in to the network, you can get to the restaurant. Navi can help you navigate, if needed."
"Alright, thanks DAN. I hope this dinner will be as tasty as it was last time."
"You will not be disappointed Sir. Anything else I can be assist of?"
"Nothin'. Don't wanna hold you on."
"Au revoir then, Sir." and he exits through the air barrier.

I'm taken over by excitement. I tiptoe and leap around like a kid before opening his present. - Yoohoo! I can finally leave this hole! But I have to pull myself together before I go.

The clothes are coveralls with a pleasant material. Clean, not a sign, nor eye candy. According the fashion of the 22nd century, it's pretty puritan. We used to wear branded stuff under our spacesuit back in the days.

Before my departure I take a good look at myself in the bathroom mirror. - Stubble? Looks okay. Hair? A small amount of water in my hands and I comb it back. Clothes? To be honest, it looks good on me with this shortly cut collar, and these ironed stems. I'm okay. Let's go!

I touch the barrier door's control panel, and sssssrrrrr … When Charlotte unbounded the shackles from my hands, that was the same kind of big relief … or not even that big as this … I am free!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Part One - Chapter 1 - Awakening

White, black, red, green, blue, yellow, purple, and black again. A horizontal white line shows up. Then two lines, then a lot. The same thing happens, but vertically. Then it happens diagonally in both ways. A grid. A rotating grid, and then, blackness. A white dot. It starts moving to the right, then to the left, up, and down. Then it moves in figure eights. It forms into a bright ball of light, which flies forwards, backwards, up, down, left and right in space. It stops in the middle. It pulsates a bit, then poof, it pops, like a balloon. It scatters sparkling glitter into the darkness. The bang echoed multiple times, then it blunts, as the sparks go out.
- Okay! What the hell was that? What am I watching? I'm standing in the dark void. Or am I sitting? Or am I lying down? Can't see a thing. Where's up? Am I weightless?
A voice calls me from nowhere: "Calm down! It's all right, but you shouldn't be woken up. You'll feel a little sting around your neck, then you'll go back to sleep...You'll need to rest a lot."
Not a sting, more like a tingle, but at least I felt something. It was like I was floating in nothingness, without a body. My hands, my feet, can't feel them, not even my tongue. 
- What the heck is this? Sleep paralysis? Am I dreaming? … Ball, ball, ball, come back, shiny ball! Concentrate! Want the ball! Want it hard!
Oh, I can recall it. Lookin' good. The ball starts to take shape in my right hand. A lucid dream. I was pretty good in this. I throw the ball, it shatters into millions of stars, which covers the void around me.
I'm floating in space. There isn't a planet, nor a ship. Have I drifted away? From where? How far? Oxygen levels? It drops quickly. Did I get a leak?
Don't wheeze! Stay chill. In space panicking kills fast. Inhale! Two, three. Hold! Six, seven. Exhale! Eight, nine, ten… Inhale! Two, three. Hold! Six, seven. Exhale! Eight, nine, ten… and a familiar, but an intangible thought dissolves in unconsciousness.
-o-
- I'M DROWNING! - The sudden panic fills my lungs with air. My heart almost bumps out from my chest. I'm swimming in sweat. Damn! It's just a dream, a bad dream!
- Where am I? - Its pitch black in here. I'm lying on a bed. My hands and legs are tied. What the hell? Am I in a sickbay?
The ceiling bursts into unified light. "Ouch", the light slaps into my retina painfully. A head is above me, can barely see it, just a blurred blot, in front of a blinding background.
"Excuse me. I turn down the lights a bit." on a young woman's voice. Then the vivid white light softens into pale yellow. "Better?" "Better." I heard myself as a hoarse growl. I try to spit out, the first question, what comes to my mind - Where am I? - But all I could say like this was "Where?" "What is the last thing that you can remember?"
Just a moment of disruption, and the thin string of the dream drifts away. No matter how you strive, you won't be able to catch it again. Not even intentionally.
"Ahhr...I don't know...Can't recall" "Let's start with a simple one. Birth date, place?" "01.11.2110. Boston, Massachusetts" "Name?" "Boston Massachusetts." "Boston, Massachusetts?" "Yeah, I was born there." "Yes, but I asked for your name." "Boston Massach...my name...Boston?" - Damn it!
There are times when you can't remember an old friend's or a colleague's name. But to forget your own? That's seriously fucked up.
"Its okay. Everything will be pieced together soon." "What happened?" "You were drifting in space. We saved you." "Where?" "In the Oort cloud. A thousand Astronomical Units away from the Sun."
The bed started to fall and sink faster than I could understand what she's saying to me. - A thousand Astronomical Units?! … Oh God! I'm dizzy! Dizzy while I'm lying on bed!
"Don't wheeze! Breathe in slowly, the sedatives will kick in shortly."
Still can't see properly. But judging from the silhouettes, and her voice, she must be a pretty nurse, or a doctor, who sits on the right side of my bed. Her touch works better, and faster than the sedatives. I could be in good hands, if I could be revived after a thousand units of floating in space. I probably get into the  Book of Records with this.
"But how?" - Don't have the strength for longer sentences than this. "We saw you flying out from the Solar System." "Luck?" "Space is huge. You are excessively lucky." "No more lottery for me." "You don't have to. Just rest!"
-o-
"Good morning Boston!" the pleasant voice wakes me up. "Mornin' " my voice is tired, but not as hoarse as it was yesterday. The ceiling lit up in pale yellow. I try to rub my eyes to see better, but my hands are still tied down. "The cuffs...you can unbind me." "It's a bit early for that. Don't  pick it up. After a trauma like this it's not sure that your behavior can be counted." "My eyes...it's itching." "I'll help." She rubs my eyelids with a wet cotton piece. "Thanks, much better." My vision is clearing. Almost everything is white. White plastic walls. White cabin door. Even my pajamas are white. White tubes are hanging out from both of my arms. What gives color to this ward is this woman on my right.
I was correct, she's really beautiful. She's like about 20-something years old. She bears all 3 races' beneficial features: Mesmerizing, dark almond eyes, elongated head, curvy body, straight, dark hair, dark-creole, whippy skin, graceful posture, slender waist, shapely titties, which are highlighted with those skin tight white overalls. Uhhh, and those long legs… Beautiful! Almost too perfect!
"The name's Charlotte". She saw that I'm staring her. "Charlotte, North Carolina.” " 'Scuse me?" She looks at me with a slightly confused smile. "If I'm Boston, Massachusetts, then you're Charlotte, North Carolina" "I'm sorry, but I still don't understand." "Both of them are American cities, and member states" "Ohhh. Historical geography isn't my specialization." "Historical?" "A lot of things happened while you were sleeping". - How much?...A quick mental calculation … My speed on the parabolic orbit leaving the Solar System could be 4-5 Astronomical Units/year. A thousand units, then it's about… "200-250 years?" "Did you count this in head?" She looks at me with an awe on her face. "Yes. But it's a wild guess". "It's excellent for that". She smiles again. "Today's date is 31.07.2384."

Saying that out loud is even much more shocking, then mentally calculated … Damn.

"I guess I have to break from this". - Two centuries went away, about 250 years, and I guess almost everyone is dead, that I had known. "You don't look broken to me." She slicks my hair with a smile. And for real. I don't feel panic, nor worries … I should feel something about this, but there's nothing. "I can't remember anyone from my previous life." "We'll help you remember. The cell-level regeneration on the nerve cells is the most complicated one." "How comes that american history stayed, but I can't recall anything from my friends and acquaintances?" "Personal memories are stored another way, not like the thing you've learnt." - Ohh God, such a cliché. Yet another amnesia story … But this time, it's mine. "Therapy?" "The cell regenerating nanobots are repairing your nerve cells along your stimulus. Even it could be enough if we start talking about your past". "I can hardly imagine a pleasant therapy like this." "Like this..like what?" “Like, talking with you."
She smiles again.
"All right. What can you talk about North Carolina?" Throwing up the perfect topic. "Member state of the USA. Its prettiest town is Charlotte, whose eyes are beautiful when she's smiling."
Because Charlotte's eyes are smiling.
-o-
"Hello Boston! I brought you something." Charlotte flies in my cabin door. "A Rebirthday present?" "Something like that. I guess you must be bored from these white walls." she points around. "Bored enough. Are we going out?" nodding my head the door's way. "We're not quite there yet." "We're not? But I'll gladly go for a walk." after a short stop, I finish my sentence: "Go out with you" Charlotte got my point, coz' she had a wide smile. "You're body is not ready yet, but your brain needs stimuli, so these could be perfect for that". She takes out two EKG-esque pad things from the white box. "What are these?" "It's a mobAR. Not the latest one, but certainly not even 250 years old." After her sentence, an evil-esque grin is in her eyes. "Ohhhh! Back then mobARs didn't look like this. Is it only a visor or an complete machine?" "More like a transceiver. I put them on, if you don't mind" "After 250 years of brain death, I guess this wouldn't hurt. Bring it."
I close my eyes, and I wait for the magic. Modern technology meets with the caveman. Charlotte puts the pads on both sides of my forehead.
"Ready?" "Let's do it!" - I feel like a child in the toy store. "There we go. Open your eyes!"
Instead of the sterile cabin, a whole other view appeared  in front of my eyes. White walls replaced by light-colored rusty fabric, the wall on the right has a large open window with a semi-transparent white curtain. Outside the window, there's bright sunshine, and the shiny blue sky. Even those white overalls that Charlotte wore, isn't the same. Now she wear a light dress, with floral patterns on it. The textile is beautifully conformed to the shape of her body, and the edge of her skirt is blown by the gentle breeze. - Wind? The heat of the sun? And this salty scent in the air? Do I really feel them or am I just imaging?
"Can I take a look outside?" I nod my head towards the window. "Of course. Just a moment". She taps twice on her palm,  and my bed headboards rises up front in 45 degrees, while the leg part is descending. My bed transformed into an armchair. "It's more comfortable this way" She presses another button on her palm, after a loud click, my cuffs are opened and my hands are free. - Uhhh. You don't realize how uncomfortable shackles are, until you're free from them. "Ahhh, so good!" "See?" she smiles at me. "I’ll push you to the window."
Such a beautiful view awaits me from the window, what is like sob stuff. White sandy beach, OH WAIT!
Real-life graphics aren't new, but to feel the material of the curtain in my hands, like real fabric, and it resists to me pulling it...?!
"How can this be?!" I look at Charlotte, confused, with the curtain in my hands. "Today's virtual realities are more advanced than the 22nd century ones. Gadgets can directly communicate with our senses through the nanobots that stick to the nerve cells." "Wooah! We were dreaming about VR's like this! Colorful, touchable, smellable" "And a deadly trap." "Deadly?" I'm asking it in shock. "Senses can be pleased by virtual reality, but the body can't. Lots of limits had to be packed into these gadgets, to help people not get lost in them.” "Limits?" "It is forbidden to supress stimuli that can warn real danger. Sounds, extreme cold, hotness, smoke smell, and the view of anything, than can hurt if you walk into it. Also, it is forbidden to modify any in-body stimuli, so virtual water cannot quench your thirst, virtual food be it very tasty or not, cannot quench hunger.” "This thing can simulate tastes? Hmm. Guess a lot of people are getting into it." "They do, but they survive this way." "Ohhh. By the way! Can I get normal food? Because the one that comes from these, is not tasty." I show the tubes hanging from my arms. "I’ll ring in to the kitchen, they'll bring you something tasty" "Thanks Charlotte. You're an angel...for real!" "I know, Boston." She giggles and smiles back at me, before she goes out my cabin door.
This girl is a miracle. Lively, exciting. I feel it in my bones that I want her!
-o-
I try to pry open the leg cuffs, when someone knocks on my door and a robotic voice is calling me from outside:
"Excuse me Sir. I'm DAN, the station's robot servant. I brought your lunch." I quickly throw a blanket on my legs. "Come in!"
A plastic, blue & gray covered android steps into the door. By the looks, the robot trend hasn't changed a lot since the last centuries.
In my time, we were able to make lifelike humanoid robots, but a there wasn't a big market for them. Except those few retards who lived their sick and pervert fantasies out on those models.
DAN prepped my lunch on the foldable white plastic table I had on the side of my bed. At the moment it lifted the plate cover, a really delicious smell hit me in the face, as I'm dribbling saliva in my mouth.
Even if the robots looks hasn't, the deep space kitchen culture advanced a lot while I was drifting outside. Roasted chicken breast, mashed potatoes with onion and frilly salad. It looked delicious. The meat wasn't dry. Juicy and spicy. The puree's consistency and taste is great, and they didn't save the vinegar from the salad.
"This is outstanding, I could eat this all day." "That's all you can have for now. Cannot bring a second dish. Doctor's orders." "Awh come on, I didn't eat something this good in 250 years … or worse, never!" - or worse, never - I repeat the end of this sentence.
A picture swims into my thoughts. As a kid, in a sunny garden I eat grilled chicken with my parents at a white plastic table. This picture fades away fast, and I sit here totally frozen. I can't decide if this was only my fantasy, or a real memory of mine what I saw?
"Is everything all right, Sir?" DAN pulls me out of my trance. "It's nothing, just daydreaming." And I realize that I'm elbowing on the table, holding my forehead and scratching the edge of the mobAR pads - Just a transceiver, not a standalone machine. - repeating it in myself. - How could I make a difference about what's real, and what's not, while they can broadcast anything into my head?
Both of the pads came off easily ... For my relief, nothing changed in the room. The potato and the chicken still tastes great... I was really afraid of seeing a plate full of snot before me without the mobAR... but it's okay. The food and the taste is real, not a simulation. I'm glad that I don't need to thank this masterpiece to a programmer.
"DAN, forward my gratulation to the chef!" "Thank you Sir, I am the chef." "Um … whoops" "Sir?" "Nothing, I just ran into a contradiction with myself."
The robots stylized eyebrows got wrinkly, and looks at me questioning. I smile at myself. - I have to thank a programmer for this after all.
"Where did you learn to cook this good?" "I didn't learn. I have this gastronomical knowledge since my activation." "Do you have a recipe book programmed in you?" "A chef does not only know the recipes, Sir. The methods, the dishes, the commodities, and the taste of the guest. A knowledge this deep cannot be programmed, only taught." "But you said you didn't learned" "Elder robots used to learn from real gourmet chefs. Their knowledge was copied and uploaded into us." "But only the knowledge, the memories of learning are not there, right?" "I can't remember if I've ever met with a real gourmet chef." "Neither am I, DAN, neither am I ... I can't remember anyone from my previous life." - and into my cold emptiness, something's nesting in. Deep sadness. The dam's rupturing, and tears are flooding my eyes.

Part One - Chapter 4 - The mine

Navi wakes me up at 7 AM, just as I asked. Charlotte left while I was sleeping. I have an hour left to pick up work at the dock. Damn…if the...