Hello readers and other folks visiting! I have another chapter up from my upcoming novel, Mission: Lights of Langrenus. It's chapter two. Things are coming along well and I'm excited (as always) about this new book. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the sample here and happy reading.
Diamond Dog, aka James Jenkins, was a great pilot. A great teacher? Well, I don't know about that. Over the next few weeks, in the mornings if I didn't have work, I practiced on flight simulator software that I'd downloaded from the Dappa network, I would meet Diamond out in Burning Man's Field at night for real time lessons. I did a lot of vomiting and panicking while Diamond Dog did a lot of laughing and trash talking, which enraged me. He didn't seem to have much compassion for my predicament. I suppose he wouldn't, given his history but that didn't change the fact that I was mad as hell after each lesson. His lessons felt more like ridicule sessions and there were times when I wanted to tear his head off.
We used his fly-car that he usually had towed behind his own ship, or sometimes he only brought the fly-car. I could drive a fly-car just fine, if you were merely driving it as a hover car. He programmed it in ship-mode which meant that it could then serve as a low flying spaceship. Our last flight session ended in a huge shouting match in which I wanted to punch him in the face. He regarded me steadily for a few seconds after we landed.
“Look buddy! I've had it with you and this nonsense! This isn't a lesson, this is playing games with my life!” His expression had changed from irritation to slight sympathy.
“I apologize, Mr Astor. I realize that this is hard for anyone, especially for rank amateurs. But out in space there is no pity, nor mercy, nor quarter given whether you're talking about human enemies out there or Nature itself. And considering what we are all facing – yes, I know all about your travail to Mars 'cause I work for some of the same folks you work for - it would be best if you decided now if you can do this. You're being groomed for hero status by The Boss. In case you didn't know.”
“What are you talking about?”
“What do you mean what am I talking about? You flew all the way out there to Mars without any training or knowledge at all and took care of business and came back in one piece? Wake up, man! We need folks like you, but first you need training. Training is hard if you want to do things right. You did a grand thing but it won't happen a second time without knowledge. The next time you could end up stranded out there, which means death. Luck holds for only so long.”
“Alright. But why all the crazy manuevers?”
“I'll admit I'm a daredevil. I love stuff like that, but you never know when a difficult manuever will mean life or death. Being a dare devil saved my life on many occasions. But I guess we started out too advanced. I'll start at real basic for you.”
“Thank you.” I said, relieved. “But sometimes I really don't know if I'm cut out to do this. I don't think I have it in me to be a pilot.”
“It's a mental thing, you know. Most things are. If you don't have it in you it's because you've trained yourself to think so. I can't believe that considering what you've done.”
“I really think that was a fluke.”
“Nothing wrong with flukes. Doesn't mean it can't be done again, this time with intention.” I sighed.
“Diamond, your brother said that you used to be in the military. Is that true?” His expression darkened.
“It's true. It's a part of my life I prefer not to talk about. At all.”
“I see. Sorry.”
“You've said you've worked as a smuggler.”
“What sorts of things did you carry?” He frowned and took a long pause before speaking.
“Well, usually that's my business. I'm not proud of everything I've done and I've seen some frightening stuff out there. One memorable job was when I carried supplies for a company doing business with one of the mines out there on the moon. I have no idea what it was I was carrying. I don't ask questions and these folks don't volunteer information. Anyway, I saw the strangest stuff out there. I'm not even sure how to explain it.”
“What did you see?”
“Well, that's the thing. I don't know how to describe it. Words fail. But it was creepy as hell. The company that contracted me was NCO, I think.”
“NCO?” The name sounded vaguely familiar.
“Yeah. They were doing business with one of the worst mining companies out there, from what I've heard. They put some of the bad actors here on Earth to shame.”
“Why did you do it?” I asked. He shrugged.
“At the time, it paid the bills and I needed the money. I like to think I was rescued from going too deep into smuggling by The Boss. It can get ugly depending, on who you're dealing with. To be honest, I'd gotten myself into a bad situation with a smuggling group that wanted to boil me alive, claiming that I'd crossed them.”
“I sure didn't!” He said indignantly. “But when you're dealing with no good folks there's no telling what they'll try to cut you over. You can just give somebody the wrong look and they're ready to chop your head off. Literally. There's one smuggler out there who has a large collection of glass jars with heads in them. Heads of smugglers and dealers who've crossed him. I was a hot head and I was moving up, building my own smuggling crew and getting my people some of the most lucrative work in the business. My crew were trustworthy. We had a good rep among the various smuggling rings. Some of the old established crews felt threatened. They put a stop to it and even though I can be a bad ass in the ship, I'm no cold-blooded killer. If The Boss hadn't convinced me to leave the life, I'd be dead by now.”
“I'm glad you got out, James.”
“Just call me Diamond.”
“Alright, Diamond. I'm also glad you came over to the Light side. We need folks like you with us. Ah. Okay then.” I said, blowing my breath in and out to psyche myself up. I stretched my arms out, trying to get my mind in the right space for this, even though I still felt queasy. I was going to have to do this thing. Like Yoda once said: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Yeah, thanks Yoda.
“I'm ready to continue my lessons. . .Diamond.”
“Good. Let's get real basic from here on out. First, banish the word “can't” from your mind. It'll do you no good right now. You can ponder on your limitations later, once you can actually fly a ship.”
“And stop whining so much. It's pitiful, grown as you are. Like I said, outer space gives no quarter. Besides, in space, no one can hear you whine anyway.”
. . .
Work was going well and at a clipping pace. We were coming to the end of one more project, the building of pre-fabricated domiciles for another city that would be built in space in the near future. I looked over at the digital clock in the wall. It was 9:00 A.M. And who walked in but Fred, right on time. I smiled broadly.
“Hey, hey! How's it going? You and Bev have been gallivanting all over the world lately. Finally decided to come back to work?”
“Well, you know. I have to make money to do all that gallivanting.”
“I've noticed you've been coming in earlier and staying later this week, Fred.”
“Overtime. Bev wants to remodel the house. Again.” He frowned.
“I see.” Was the overbearing black and gold get up she had in her house not enough?
“Anyway. I didn't come here about all that. I came because I've got news.” He rubbed his hands together and had an excited look on his face.
“Don't keep a guy waiting, Fred.”
“I've heard that there's going to be a Green Room meeting tomorrow. A surprise one.” Rarely was anything like that a surprise around there. My grin disappeared. I raised an eyebrow.
“But this meeting is about the new city poised to be built north of Langrenus!”
“Really?” I perked up. Now that was news. “I thought that was just wisps of rumor, Fred. This has been rearing up its head every few years. The new city isn't poised to begin building until 2169.”
“Nope. I assure you that this issue will be brought up and expanded upon in the next meeting. Which will be happening next week. Besides, what do you think all these housing modules down there are being built for?” He grinned like a Cheshire cat. I knew better than to doubt Fred's ability to ferret out accurate information from the web of gossip.
“Hmmm. Good point.” A year ago we were building housing modules that could be used on Mars. Now, I'd heard talk of these particular modules being shipped off for building on Venus, considering the extreme heat and pressure proofing the materials had gone through before being assembled. But Fred was often right. I guess the human Martian city had been put on hold – probably a good thing, considering. . .
“Word is, they have a building plan. A model already made about how it's going to look. From what I've gathered, the terrain around this city will be near the highlands. North or northeast. Near the dark side of the moon.” I raised a brow.
“The highlands. If so, it'll be a beautiful city. And difficult to build.”
“And probably one of the richest cities on the moon. Besides Langrenus, this one will be near some of the richest sources of ore and minerals on the moon. If you need anything else or any information at all, let me know and I'll try to help,” he said. Fred made to leave and then turned back at my office door. “Oh, and I almost forgot. The new city will be named St. Anthony.” He shrugged and he was off.
I cocked my head to one side. I had inducted Fred into my little network that I was trying to build with Genevieve on Mars. So far, I wasn't sure how successful we were. It seemed as if things had turned back to the normal daily grind. Even though I knew things had changed the semblance of normality was deceptive and it had a lulling effect on me. However, my allowing Fred in on a bit of what I'd done had helped and I could see that he really was very important to me. Robin, of course was on another level here. She was the head of the operation here on Earth, though she didn't know about Genevieve. I don't think. I hadn't told her. In my opinion, I still had the right to have my own secrets until I got to know people better.
“St. Anthony.” I said quietly and went through my stretches for the morning before drinking down my coffee. Then I turned to my blinking and humming computer consoles, watching and sifting through the 3D image holograms of real time work being down on some of the assembly rooms on the other floors of section C-30. I grinned appreciatively about Fred's ability to fish useful information out of the vast Vartan drain and my reliance on him. Then I got to work.
By lunch time the green alarms went off throughout the campus. Then came the announcement through the Virtual Voice.
“Attention, all Vartan management employees of section C-30. Special required meeting in the Green Room, Friday, 9:00 am. Attention, all Vartan management employees of section C-30. Special required meeting in the Green Room Friday, 9:00 am.” We would also get this memo by company mail.
I was intrigued, for once, in a very long time about a company meeting. Usually I was exempt from company meetings, after the mess last year. Not from Green Room meetings, however. But I wanted very much to hear what they had to say about St. Anthony, the new moon city.
It was now lunch break. Fred, Chip and I took a gander up on the promenade above the fly-cars and roving cargo ships flying below.
As many tines as I've been up here it never stops amazing me how beautiful it is. And the sky! Bluer than blue.
“It's as beautiful as the lights on the moon. Heard they were having an unusually active amount of light showing up there.” Said Fred waving at a freighter ship whizzing buy a few meters out from the promenade.
'What do you mean?”
“TLP. You've been there. You should know about that stuff. Reminds me of the time my wife and I went to Alaska and saw the northern lights. Gorgeous sight!”
“I'll bet. Aren't those flycars supposed to be on the first air traffic level, like way below here?” Asked Chip giving a hard look at the freighter ships passing by.
“Things have been getting busier. More people moving here. Besides, if they're headed either from space or headed out to space their allowed to cross traffic levels. Chip, you're talking about flycars, not freighters.” Said Fred authoritatively, as if that ended the matter. It did, verbally, but Chip and I shared private looks full of misgivings about this. I think we were wondering where all that extra traffic was coming from lately. A worrisome thought.
“So what do you think?” Asked Chip.
“About?” I asked.
“The name and the meeting?”
“St Anthony is an interesting name. People invoke his name to recover things that are lost. If memory serves me right.” I said but this jostled uncomfortable and mournful memories of my time on Mars and what I'd learned there. Humanity and all its rich cultures and tapestries of history would be lost if we didn't act and I was learning over time that many preferred to believe a lie – that we were fine and things were getting better. That was always the way with Man. Nothing on that front had ever changed. I changed the subject. I didn't want my friends to see me brooding.
“I'm feeling like bratwurst and sauerkraut and a good hot pretzel and a soda. How about you guys?”
“Sounds good.” Said Fred. “Let us know a bit about what you learn there. My reputation's at stake Bob.” He added.
“Don't worry Fred. You've got my back, I've got yours.”
“I've got something else you might find interesting but I wanted to wait until we got outside. You know how many ears are plastered on walls in there.” He cast a glance around.
“What?” We both asked.
“The president of the company is suppose to be meeting with you guys at this meeting. Last minute change. You haven't heard about it from anyone but me yet. Don't say I told you.”
“The president of Vartan?” Asked Chip as we made our way to the company beer garden. “Who is the president now anyway?” We all glanced at each other and shrugged. Even Fred didn't know. I'd assumed it was Elias Vartan, the one who had always been here since I'd been working here. But a year ago that was put in doubt. Truth was, no one talked about it openly. No one knew.
“Let us know. Only you will find out before we do now.” Said Fred.
“I'll definitely let you know.” I said and moving in line, I ordered a weisswurst and a soda. I wondered whether any of this new information was somehow related in some way. How could I piece these things together? After work, which would end right after lunch for me, I was going to have more vomit inducing flyboy lessons from Diamond Dog.
All that while after lunch I wondered, why St. Anthony? My friends had seemed to find it interesting as well as a few other employees at the beer garden.
Why St. Anthony? And who was running the corporation now?