ARCHAEA: Start

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This is a prequel to the bestselling ARCHAEA series, written in radio serial format... Episode one begins in 3... 2...

"Gene, what are you doing this afternoon?"

"I have a nap scheduled, why?"

"You can sleep later, Gene. What would you say if I told you I found a ship?"

"Well, I'd say you have my attention... what kind of ship?"

"It's a panther class light frigate."

"Panther? Wasn't that a blockade runner sort of ship?"

"Yep... though there's something else about it that you have to see, to believe."

"Is it fast?"

"Well, it could be... though it's not very fast at the moment, I'd like to get your opinion on it."

"My opinion?"

"Well, all I know, is what you tell me."

"Where is it?"

"It's at Darkside Station, I've commandeered a gig from from Eagle, are you still in Novy?"

 

Novy, is Russian for ‘New’, and refers to New Novosibirsk, one of the older colonies on Luna. Originally colonized by the Russian Federation in the mid twenty-second century, it became the cultural and political center of the freeside movement that eventually wrested autonomy for Luna from the Terran Service.

 

[docking compartment opening]

 

"Welcome aboard Gene", sorry about the rough accommodations, I didn't exactly have my pick of the litter with this sled."

"That's okay, so long as we will have in-flight service."

 

[laughter]

 

"If by service, you mean 'water from your suit tank', then yes. We should have about two liters of inflight service. One moment while I haul mass out of here."

 

[burst of static, radio voice]

 

"Luna Control, echo golf three niner, requesting orbital track to Darkside Station."

"Echo golf three niner, you are cleared for launch to frozen 27 with a 117 kay-em  apolune."

"Copy 27 degrees, one-one-seven click apolune, out."

"I don't even want to know what all that means."

"That's good, Gene... because I am not sure I could explain it."

"I find that unlikely, skipper."

"Well, the frozen orbits are all tracks on the same four inclinations, 27, 50, 76 and 86 degrees"

"Frozen orbits?"

"That's correct. All low orbits of Luna are affected by mascons... hang on a moment. Are you ready for flight?"

"Ready for flight, aye"

"Very well. Stand by for launch in 3... 2... 1..."

 

[sound of booming thunder, fading quickly into a soft hiss, then nothing.]

 

"How are we looking back there, Gene?"

"Confused... what's a mascon?"

"Essentially, mascons are remnants from high-mass impacts. They create gravitational anomalies that will essentially de-orbit other tracks."

"How on earth do you keep all this stuff in your head?"

"Well, having a photographic memory helps, but the real answer is, flying is a bit of a hobby of mine. Did I ever tell you I was a captain?"

 

[laughter]

 

"Yes, I think you shared that with me a few hundred thousand times over the past twenty years."

 

[chuckles]

 

"I did? I must have forgotten..."

"Some memory you have..."

"What was?"

"Your memory?"

"Ah, right. Well, mascons warp low orbits, so they parked most of the orbitals either in high orbits, or these four lower locked orbits."

"I guess that makes sense. It sure is pretty down there..."

"Pretty? Pretty dusty... I can't wait to get out of here, personally."

"How was your exfil from the Service? I got a ribbon and a handshake, to go with my luxurious pension."

"You got a pension? No fair... you get all the fun. I got some sour looks."

"Was that before, or after you… ah... liberated this gig from the oppression and tyranny of the stationmaster?"

 

[laughs]

 

"Before, though I may be due for a few more when I return it."

"I'm amazed they're not hunting us down as we speak, to be honest."

"Maybe they are... all the more reason for us to put a serious wiggle in it."

"Aren't you locked into a specific course?"

"Just a figure of speech, though they'll never think to look through filed course plans to find us... if they're even looking, which is doubtful."

"You have a good point, Dak. The service is not really what I'd consider an efficient organization. They may never even realize this is missing."

 

[sound of tone, turning off with a click.]

 

"What was that?"

"Well, that there was a master warning. It looks like our ICS just... died."

"I see… and by that, I mean that I don’t. What's an eye-sea-ess? Do we need it?"

"Another pilot would, but not me. ICS stands for Inertial Control System, a sort of fly-by-wire process that manages thrusters."

"Oh, so that's not really necessary?"

"Without it, I just have to do more hands-on piloting, that’s all."

"Do you do any other kind?"

 

[laughs]

 

"No, not really, good point, Gene. This is no big, we'll hold this pipe just fine, and I'll get us to Darkside."

"Is it much farther?"

"Not really, in fact, it should be coming over the horizon any moment."

"What am I looking for?"

"Should be dead ahead... let's see... there it is, Darkside Station, in all its resplendent glory."

"I see what looks like an industrial disaster that someone decided to put in orbit."

"That's it. Good old Darkside Station. It's a bit of a low-rent area, but that's perfect when you're trying to buy a ship."

"Speaking of which, what sort of deal have you worked out?"

"Deal?"

"Yeah... I know you're not paying asking price."

"Do you think I am some sort of cheapskate?"

"Yes."

"Nice. Well... you're right. This is abandoned property, confiscated by the stationmaster, and about to be scrapped."

"Scrapped."

"To the highest bidder... of which, there is none. Except me."

"And me."

"Well, yeah... us. I will definitely need you on crew. Hang on, we're on final."

"Hanging, aye"

"Darkside Control, this is echo golf three niner on final, requesting clearance for dee-cee forty to fifty."

"Echo golf three nine, you're cleared for anything between 40 and 49, 50 is occupied."

"Copy, mooring at 49."

"Your lane is clear, echo golf three nine, welcome to Darkside."

"Copy Darkside Control, and thanks."

 

[a brief moment of silence allows a tick-tick-tick sound to be heard.]

 

"I take it 50 is our new bird?"

"Yep. We should be able to see it here in a minute once I have our vector matched. Without ICS this is a little bit of a trick."

"I can't imagine."

"Well today is your lucky day, Gene — you don't have to."

"Great. Try not to kill us... sir."

"I'll definitely think about it. Okay, coming around now."

"Oh Dak... is that it?"

"It sure is... beautiful, right?"

"Hmmm... it looks pretty sleek, I'll give it that. Like a sleek pile of garbage. Is that paint?"

"Probably a little bit of paint and a little bit of decayed ablative."

"So we'll need a new hull coating. Actually, that's not too bad."

"It's not?"

"Nope. You have friends at Duron, right?"

"Possibly... why Duron? Anamyte is better at vibration dampening."

"Pffft. Anamyte is fine for an ablative — but Duron has a pretty interesting property when it is over-energized."

"What do you mean?"

"In the service, I experimented with overcharged Duron as shielding for tokamac windings."

"What does it do?"

"It's... almost perfect at heat shielding. Actually, as best as I could tell, when over-charged, Duron enters an absolute state."

"How would it do that?"

"Well, the nice thing about Duron is it's regenerative--"

"Well, so is Anamyte..."

"True, but Anamyte will break down and fall apart unless you amp it precisely. Duron's formulation works differently."

"The service has been working on upgrading their ships for the past ten years to Anamyte.  Everything I’ve seen about it refers to Anamyte as the latest and greatest."

"So they want you to believe, but newer isn't always better, trust me. Duron is the way we need to go."

"Well, it will be cheaper... but you know me, Gene. I am all about perfection. I don't want second-best for anything."

"Dak, I promise you, Duron is the best — but we'll need to upgrade the powerplant in this a bit."

"Here we go... the gearhead I know and love, Gene Mitchell..."

 

[wry laughter]

 

"Guilty as charged. You remember the Ardent?"

"Was that the destroyer that had the Venus patrol?"

"It was, until it hit a rock a few years back in late watch."

"Ouch. Rocks... they're the enemy, I tell ya."

"Yep. The Ardent learned that lesson the hard way. The chief engineer on the scrap detail is a friend of mine."

"You have friends?"

"I have lots of friends."

"Actual, living people? Have they seen you scowl?"

"Yes, damn you, living people, and I don't scowl."

"So what is that on your face right now?"

"You're not even looking at my face!"

"I don't need to, Gene."

"Damn you. Fine. I scowl. It's my 'thinking face'."

 

[both laugh]

 

"Gene, I don't know what you have in mind, but I think it has to do with swapping parts from a million-ton destroyer..."

"That's it, Dak. We'll want to drop in the tokamak, and upgrade the cooling harness, maybe drop in the nexus core too."

"Don't you want to look inside first, before you make too many plans?"

"Do I have to? If I squint my eyes from here, and look sideways a bit, it almost looks like a ship."

"Might as well, since I flew us all the way out here by dead-reckoning and all. One moment while I line up the DC."

 

[sound of rythmic bang, like a wrench on a plate of steel, bang bang bang (these are the dock retractors)]

 

Okay, we're clamped. Let's go look at our new life."

 

[sound of movement, toggle switches being snapped, seatbelts being unclicked, etc. a grinding sound as the hatch opens.]

 

"It doesn't sound like anyone has used this hatch in a while, Dak."

"Nope... this is what you'd call the very lowest rent area. The south-end of a north-bound station, as it were."

"It smells like sadness and desperation... and feet."

"Yeah, it's a bit ripe. They probably have enviro in this section at nominal. Don't breathe too deep. Well, here we are."

 

[Loud electric hum. Repeats a few times.]

 

"Looks like she's frozen shut, Dak. I can either bang on it, or we can try the manual lever."

"Let's not get in a habit of beating on her. She's a good old girl. Let's try manual."

 

[panel opening, followed by a ratchet sound.]

 

"That's working, Dak. Crank like you mean it... sir"

"I don't know why I am working this lever... this is a job for a Chief Engineer, not a Captain."

"When you step on board, Dak... right now, we're just retired, old friends. This is your door to open, not mine."

"Fair enough, Gene."

 

[ratchet sound continues]

 

"Good grief, now that is a smell to be reckoned with."

 

[retching sounds]

 

"Skipper, I think you might be better off just shutting that door."

"No way, we're almost there. A few more cranks..."

 

[ratchet sound continues... fading away.]

[end]


 

© 2016 Dain White. All Rights Reserved.

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