Life sometimes feels like a heavy rock that I’m carrying around for no reason. After all, it’ll just roll down the hill again. In this state of mind, things like breathing and eating require all my focus and writing ends up taking a back seat. It’ll pass. Probably when the snow melts. Til it does, here’s episode thirteen and a pretty picture from https://stocksnap.io/. Just picture a hover craft zipping off into the sunset, only with less sun. The world I created has a tiny star. Hmmm….not going to psychoanalyze that right now.
It was time to give up on polling the masses. Japeth might know where Arch was. Persephone gave her a call.
“You heard from Arch at all?”
“Hi, Persephone. I’m well,” Japeth said with heavy emphasis on the word ‘I’ “ How are you?”
“Seriously, I tried to keep you guys safe. I mean they didn’t hold you for long, right?” Then Persephone remembered another reason why Japeth might be a bit frustrated. Giant tube fish ate her house. “You found a place to stay?”
Japeth was back out in the Floats staying with cousins. She said that she hadn’t heard from Arch, didn’t really expect it.
“Yeah. He’s a jerk.” But hopefully a jerk with resources that Persephone could use.
Japeth snorted. “I think the government has more to do with it. I shouldn’t even be talking to you. Arch has more sense.”
Persephone was sure she was being shadowed. She’d ditched her goggles in case they had some kind of tracking chip. That had been painful. The things had gotten her out of a lot of scrapes. Also, she couldn’t really afford a new pair. “Agent Hixton did tell me to go back to business as usual.” Persephone said that rather loudly in case the call happened to be tapped. “And we used to work together, so this is business as usual. Can we meet up for coffee?”
“Is this to talk about Arch?” Japeth said cautiously.
“Of course not,” Persephone lied. She told Japeth to meet her at a coffee shop on the east side of Shanty Town. It just happened to be the same one she used for surveillance of the eXime complex.
“Can you make me a new pair of multi-ware goggles?” Persephone asked as soon as Japeth got settled.
“Can you pay me?” The woman responded.
“Eventually,” Persephone said.
“You have a new job?”
“Well, no. Can’t really take on anything until I square away the equipment I lost on this last one.”
“Maybe it’s a good time to get out. Find a new line of work.”
Persephone thought about her mother. She had been an office admin. for Dete Industries. Never really happy, never really sad. The woman paid the bills, ignored her daughter and lived most of her life outside work sitting in front of the holo-vid projector. It wasn’t too surprising. A lot of people in the Colony retreated into that due to the climate. No one had thought to screen the original settlers for resistance to environmental depression. Ms. Roe found her escape in the Old Sol Romance and Action Adventure Flicks. Persephone had always suspected that her dad was someone at Dete who looked a lot like her mom’s favorite actor. She’d made his office her first target when she decided to start working as a technical spy.
“You get that look every time I bring up trying something new,” Japeth said.
“I like what I do. Even agent Hixton said it was socially valuable.” That was of course after he’d said that she was nothing.
“Fine. You have any scrap?” Japeth asked. “And it would be easier if I start with the shell of the previous goggles.”
“Nope. I pitched them. They had government cooties.”
“I could have used them. Maybe not for you, but the parts have resale value.”
“I still have some drones and cameras you could cannibalize.” And speaking of which her compad just beeped at her. One of her remote drones had spotted movement in the eXime compound. There’d been nobody there for days. Even the fountain had been turned off. She grabbed the pad and tried to zoom in. It was a person walking across the courtyard. Trench coat, hat, and a confident stride. It just had be Arch. The hat and coat reminded her of the outfit he’d worn to their meeting at the ruins of the old space port.
“What was that?” Japeth said. “I thought you said you didn’t have a job.”
Persephone barely heard the question. She was busy trying to steer the drone to get a better angle. The person was carrying something. A bucket? Why would Arch have a bucket? They reached the manufacturing wing, opened a door and disappeared inside.
“Just a call. Mind if I take this?” Persephone stood up and was about to move away. Her com pad warbled again. A tread car had pulled up outside the complex. The car had a flashing amber light and the New Regime logo. Agents came spilling out. Seriously, if it was Arch, he should have continued to lay low. The idiot was going to get arrested again.
“I’ll drop those parts off. Thanks for your help. Gotta run.”
Persephone stepped out of the shop and waved her arms to flag a water taxi. “East Side docks. Quick.” On her ride in she watched the Feds fan out to cover the gate. One of them must have had a key card. He swiped and the whole formation went running into the courtyard just in time for the factory doors to burst open disgorging one of the black, bulbous eXime craft. The things rear thrusters pulsed, briefly filling the courtyard with a pale blue light and sending the craft at the startled agents. They scattered and opened fire. The machine whipped past them, full throttle directly at the wall. The driver was crazy. There was no way to turn an H-craft quickly enough to avoid a collision. At least a normal one. This one just got within an inch of the wall and then popped straight up and over. Then without dropping a centimeter the thing soared out over Shanty Town, then the Floats. The last shot from the drone showed the craft, now just a small blue flash, streaking away over the mud flats. She turned the drone back to the courtyard where the agents were regrouping. One of them gestured towards the factory wing and the rest moved towards it in a ragged line. That meant they had their backs turned when the swarming black mass of tube fish came pouring out of the fountain. Persephone almost shouted a warning at the screen, but stopped herself and glanced at her driver.
“Scratch that. Can you take me to the Stellar Ark docks?” The guy shrugged and turned the boat. Perspehone watched a few of the agents get dragged down by the creatures before the rest did the smart thing and ran for the gates. By the time she reached the docks she was out of range of the drone. No matter. The thing would just run out of power and crash somewhere. Although if Japeth had been aware of Persephone’s decision, she’d probably nag her about it. She’d worry that the drone might hit a bystander and she’d be upset at the waste of recyclable metal. Persephone was rapidly running out of tech, but she wasn’t desperate enough to risk another tube-fish encounter just to retrieve the pieces of her drone. Besides, she had some more pressing work to do and it was something that she could accomplish back at her apartment where it was conveniently warm and dry. She nodded at Mr. Einhorn on the way in, settled down on her sofa and pulled up some maps on her comm pad. Colony city was the only inhabited portion of the planet. The rest was either liquid or frozen mud and since the city had been dropped on the equator, the frozen portion was a ways away. Where exactly had Arch escaped to?
He would have to come back. That was the only sane thing. H-craft, even H-craft with some kind of weird bio-drive still need fuel, right? Running out of fuel meant falling and falling meant sinking. There was nothing solid out there. Also, if your master plan was to pirate tech to establish a new space industry, you would need the industrial capability and resources that only the city could provide.
The library had archival footage of maps from the settlement period. The best pictures that Persephone could find were taken from the Old Sol space platform during a mapping survey of the colony world. One of those early maps appeared to show topological features, but on closer inspection those all just turned out to be submerged. In short, the map just showed different depths of silt covering features of a rocky substratum. Turns out that the slab where the city rested had been sunk down onto a fairly shallow ridge. There were historical maps that showed the building process. Several tentative sites had been marked, but it looked like only the equatorial site had been developed. There was even video footage of old Sol lift rockets lowering the city slab and steel framework down out of the sky. That kind of power was amazing. The colony had lost that, descended to the point where all new tech was just recycled old tech aimed at keeping the lights on and the phones working. That left the city the way it was now, with a population too big to live on the platform spreading out into the shanty towns and then the floats. Persephone had never thought of it before. It was life, normal, the way things were and Persephone had felt that at least she was somewhere near the top of the pecking order. She could (when things went well) afford two apartments in the best part of town. That one brief construction video made it seem perverse. No wonder Albion had offered so much money for her to grab those plans. That hover craft, the one that had executed a smooth right angle turn and popped straight into the air represented the first genuinely novel tech the colony had produced. She’d been too slow about stealing the thing. Someone else, maybe Arch himself ,had beat her to it and had vanished over the horizon. They had to come back. Or maybe not. She went back to the maps and sketched out the hover-craft trajectory as best she could from the video footage. If it kept on a straight line, it would intersect with the closest alternate building site. That was still 1000 km away and the old grainy satellite footage showed nothing but a blank swath of mud at the site.