Authors: Stephen Arseneault
Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy
"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."
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Copyright 2014 Stephen Arseneault. All Rights Reserved
As I stepped into the hallway surrounding the portal gate, I took note of the haggard-looking walls and trash on the floors. The wall panels in every station I had ever been on were sparkling white and the floors sanitary. I looked around and also took note of the lack of travelers coming to Omega. Most gates had a small crowd gathered to move through them. I checked the time to see that it was 8:00 p.m. standard Earth time. A time when traveling would be at a peak. A single traveler walked past me carrying a duffel bag over his shoulder.
I had been directed to wait for someone from the security offices to pick me up. After two hours of waiting, I found myself walking the halls and asking questions of passersby. With another hour of search, I was given the direction I required.
As I walked down the hallway toward the security office, I had to stop at the entrance doors. There, clearly marked on one of the doors, was the standard New Alliance security emblem. The door itself was not on its hinges, but instead stood leaning against the hallway wall. The other door, which remained hung, had a crack in the glass that ran from the top left to the bottom right.
I walked into the offices and after asking for the Captain, I was pointed towards a far door that had stacks of paper lining either side. As I looked inside, I knocked on the door.
A five-hundred-kilogram Gragorian looked up from behind his desk. "What can I help you with?"
I replied, "I’m your new detective, Knog Beutcher."
Gragorians have four arms, and their large, blubbery torsos are topped with pointy, round heads that sank downward into their massive upper bodies.
The Captain nodded. "Yeah, Butcher. Have a seat. I’ll be with you in a minute."
The Captain had a stogie in his upper right hand as his upper left hand scratched the side of his head. His two lower arms were in use, going through paperwork on his desk.
I said, "What’s with all the papers, Captain?"
The Gragorian looked up with a scowl. "It’s my job, that’s what it is, a never-ending stream of processed pulp being shoved onto my desk. Every station in the galaxy has equipment for computerized records. We get whatever is left. And in the last ten years, even less. Baxter out there is the only one with a working computer, and that’s because he salvages his own parts."
The Captain stopped writing and placed his two lower hands palm down on the desktop. His upper left hand took the stogie while his upper right began to scratch the other side of his head.
The Captain nodded towards the outer office. "You're going to learn a couple of things quickly around here, Butcher: nobody is going to help you with your work, and this ain’t paradise. Hahahaha!"
The Captain continued, "My name is Rexigal Hollif. Nobody calls me Captain, just Rex. You will decide on your own assignments, and it’s your job to carry them out. I only care about one thing. If you bring in a report, I want to sign it and throw it on one of these stacks. If I have to read it, I’m going to be mad. If someone comes in here questioning it, I’m going to be mad. If anything at all comes up about that report that requires my attention, other than me signing it, I’m going to be mad."
The Captain switched stogie hands. "So, tell me what you have learned so far, Butcher."
I replied as I looked around the room at the stacks of papers. "That you are going to be mad."
The Captain hesitated and then bellowed out a laugh as he pointed at me with his non-stogie hand. "Why is it they keep sending me the smart-ass ones? Well, welcome to the garbage pit of the galaxy, Butcher. If you want to wait out there by that desk for a couple of hours, Meli will be in. She can set you up with a station. When you are settled at your desk, she can give you directions to your ship. When you get back from checking that out, you are ready for your first case."
I raised my hand. "First case? You don’t have any training for new officers? Something to show us the sector and what we can expect out there?"
The Captain again bellowed, "Training? Hahahaha! You are a riot, Butcher. Look, when you get your ship, it comes with a maintenance attendant. If you need your hand held, he or she can show you the ropes. Now, get out of my office before I get mad…hahahaha!"
I sat in the chair by Meli’s desk for three hours before she came strolling in. She looked like someone had taken a Human clown circus and fused it together with a Rappelon fashion show. Everything was shiny and sparkly. Her wide lips were painted a bright red, and her high heels were covered with flashing iridescent lights. She was a Magonia, a common species in the Omega sector. They were not the brightest of species on the intelligence scale, but they did like to be noticed.
Meli sat in her chair and turned my way. "You must be the new guy. I’ve got a sharp eye; I can tell these things. Let’s see here, it says you come all the way from Alpha! Wow! Who did you kill to get sent here?"
Meli began to laugh with a snicker that turned into an all-out snort. "OK. That desk over in the corner, it used to belong to Hal Boban. Hal won’t be needing it anymore, so that one will be yours. If you want to clean it up, that’s up to you. None of his reports were complete, so the Captain just says to pitch them. I figured I’d leave that for you if you are so inclined.
"After you get settled, come see me again, and I’ll take you down to Bay-68. That’s where the other four detectives can be found when they are here on station. Your maintenance guy is Gomelander; everyone calls him Go. Hal always had good things to say about him, other than always calling him a moron. Come to think about it, I don’t think Hal really liked anyone, so the kid must have done something right.
"If you need to know where anything is, just ask Go. Now, on to your quarters. Your housing is on level 99, hall F, room 17. That’s a bad draw there. Level 99 is not the best of crowds. I would not walk around with my credit store visible if I was you. I personally know several people who have been robbed down there. That's probably why most of the detectives just sleep on their ships.
"If you have any further questions, then don’t ask the Captain; he gets mad. And don’t ask me because I don’t care, and it’s not my job. You five detectives work out your own schedules. When you are done with an assignment and ready to give it to the Captain, make sure all he has to do is sign it. Go tend to your desk, and when you are ready, I will take you down to Bay-68."
The desk in the corner was stacked high with papers. I wondered if it was just the dumping ground for anyone’s trash who didn’t want to walk down the hall to the recycling chute. I scoured the office for a cart with wheels and was soon making repeated trips to the chute. Fifteen minutes into my effort, Meli stood and walked out of the office.
An hour passed before I had the top of the desk in order, a second hour before the drawers and surrounding shelves had been emptied and dusted. I was delighted to see that my desk came with a lock and a key. I again scoured the office, this time in search of supplies. After not finding a cabinet, I turned to the old tried-and-true office pilfering. When I was satisfied with my haul, I closed and locked my desk. Meli was nowhere to be found.
Under my own initiative, I wandered out into the hallway. After asking numerous personnel who were walking about, I received directions to Bay-68. The detective offices were on level 16. The elevator only made it down to level 54 before mechanical issues prevented it from going further. I walked the remaining fourteen flights on foot.
When I entered Bay-68, I was taken aback by the scattered ship parts and greasy floors. The blue arc from a welder sparked brightly as a maintainer worked on a ship. Three ships were in the bay. Two Human men sat in lounge chairs beside two of the ships while the maintainer worked on the third.
I walked over to the two men, who seemed disinterested.
As I stepped up beside one of the men, I spoke. "Can I guess you are a detective?"
The man looked up from the electronic magazine article he was reading. "What the? Hey, Gerald! Get a load of this guy! What are you supposed to be? I thought dinosaurs went extinct back on Earth millions of years ago. Hahahaha!"
Gerald looked up from his afternoon nap, grunted, and pulled his hat down over his eyes.
"I’m the new detective, Knog Beutcher. And if you were curious as to my species, I’m a Grunta."
The man looked up. "Grunta? Whatever. And I think that’s junior detective, isn’t it? You have to earn your rank around here if you want to be called a full detective."
I replied, "Is that ship over there mine? Is that Go?"
The man looked over at the maintainer and yelled, "Roger! Hey, Roger!"
When the maintainer turned to look back, the man I was standing over made a sawing motion with his hand under his chin. The maintainer turned to move away from the ship just as another maintainer came through the hallway door.
The second, younger maintainer yelled, "Hey! What are you doing! Thief! Get away from there!"
The man in the chair beside me snickered. "Yeah, that’s your ship over there. And that noobie carrying the bag with the squeaky voice, that’s Go, your maintainer. Good luck with that moron."
I walked over to Go as he looked over the damage the other maintainer had done. "Jerk was trying to steal our wing modulator!"
I replied, "Wing modulator?"
Go nodded. "Yeah, it’s a piece of gear I added that will absorb small blaster fire. There are a lot of illegal small arms out there and a lot of crews who will shoot at your ship if you get on their bad side. I don’t like patching blaster holes, so I came up with the modulator. That jerk Roger will rob us blind if we turn our backs."
I pointed back at the man in the chair. "Who is the detective I was talking with?"
Go sighed. "That’s Malcom Barber. He’s a waste of oxygen. He does nothing all day, rarely takes his ship out, and when he does, he always comes back flush with credits. I think he shakes down the legitimate captains out there. Most will give up a hundred credits without argument to avoid being harassed. The other one is Gerald. He leaves and comes back but never talks much. I don’t think he has turned in a report in two months. He mostly just sleeps.
"The other two that aren’t here are Carter and Boglio. Boglio is a Magonia. You met Meli. He is the male version of her. All flash and no dash. Carter seems to be about the only normal guy out here. He minds his own business and turns in at least one report a week, and his maintainer, Elissa, well, she’s kind of hot."
I replied, "Hot?"
Go nodded. "Yeah, well, you know, Human hot, cute, attractive. I don’t know what she is doing out here working on ships. I would have thought some rich guy would have grabbed her up. I think she comes from a rich family too. Whatever, I like having her around to look at. And she treats me nice, so, she’s hot."
Go walked over to the hatch on the side of the ship. "Want to see her? I call her
, but you can call her whatever you want, since she’s your ship."
Go popped open the hatch and pulled it to the side. "There you go!"
I stepped in and immediately noticed the low ceiling. It was a full meter shorter that the one on the Daunte and a half meter short of its new captain’s height. I bent over as I stepped up into the cabin.
Go followed. "This is your bunk on the left. Your galley is here on the right. Your restroom and holding cell are here in the back. I mounted this fold-down guest chair in case you ever wanted to take someone else along. And there is your captain’s chair. I’m told that seat is real Earth leather. I couldn’t say for sure, but it’s real comfortable to sit in."
I pointed to the console in front of the pilot’s chair. "Do you have an understanding of all the dials, gauges, and meters in this ship? I’m used to a consolidated view on a holo-display."
Go smiled. "Yep, I’m the maintainer; I have to know what everything is, if I want to be able to fix it. You said your last ship had holo-displays? Wow. I think we are about five hundred years behind Alpha sector out here. Alpha, that’s where you came from, right?"
I nodded. "My ship was about three times the size of this one. I could stand up fully inside her. You boarded her from a ramp-way beneath. She had two holding cells that were as big as this cabin. The restroom was separate. And there were two bunk rooms."
Malcom spoke up from behind us. "Kid, don’t let the dino jerk you around. Captain said this is what all the detectives in the Alliance fly. They may get newer parts in Alpha, but they aren’t any better than we are."
I turned toward Malcom with an irritated stare. He held up his hand as he backed out of the ship.
I looked to Go. "I think
suits her. If you like
, we’ll keep it."
Go’s eyes got big. "Really? You like it?"
I replied, "I think she looks like a
, and she feels like a
Go stuck his head out of the hatch as Malcom walked away. "Ha! It’s
! He likes
Malcom looked back as he walked. "That’s because he’s a dinosaur! Hahaha! I crack myself up."
As Go turned back, I spoke. "Is she ready to fly?"
Go nodded. "Absolutely. That’s my job, to keep her ready to go whenever you need her."
I leaned back in the pilot’s chair and reached over to unfold the extra seat Go had mounted to the wall. "Let’s go for a ride, then."
Go looked at the chair. "Really? I get to go?"
I replied, "Well, seeing as how I don’t yet know how to fly this thing, yes."
I looked at the controls that spanned from the near left to the far right across the console. The graphic display in front of me showed several lists. I had no idea of where to begin. Powering up and launching the Daunte was almost completely automated.
I looked down at the open floor space beside my chair. There were four bolt holes where I would have presumed a copilot’s chair would have been.
I pointed down at the floor. "Did that used to have a chair bolted down there?"
Go replied, "Yeah, Hal wanted it removed; he usually had a little refrigerator there instead. I think Roger broke in and stole it a few weeks ago. It’s probably on Malcom’s ship right now, but I can’t see in there to verify it."