Saturday, July 19, 2008

Miner 4T-9R

This week's Saturday Scribes challenge was down right NASTY. But, I think I pulled it off - or pulled something . . .

Theme was Serendipity,

Words were (ya, 5 of them) candle, speaker, emblem, byzantine and zeppelin.

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So much for being considered the luckiest registered miner in the field, Mansel thought checking the gauges for the third time. No doubt about it his primary hydrogen tank had been hit by a sizeable micrometeorite and had lost his rocket fuel. The subsequent jettisoning of hydrogen had sent his one man ship along an unscheduled path and nearly into several small asteroids which would have made his ruptured fuel tank the least of his worries. At least the hydrogen hadn’t ignited.

There was still plenty of paraffin left though, so his maneuvering candle drives were in good shape, but that would leave him with a long and slow voyage back to the orbital station to sell his bounty - and his goods this time out consisted of only a few common alien artifacts, not nearly enough to fix his tanks. He would need to deplete his reserve credits. So much for getting ahead.

Mansel wondered if this life was really worth it. So far he had made a decent living, upgraded his ship a few times and got a reputation for striking artifact gold at just the right time. But he wasn’t getting any younger, and despite his reputation he had yet to cash in on the big one like Burton and Cyke had five years ago when they found an alien corpse complete with suit.

Still, he had to try. The alternative was a life rockside, grubbing in the soil, or on a station serving others. Hard as this life was, he wouldn’t change a thing. Mansel suited up and checked his link with the ship. The small speaker inset into the helmet relayed positive information to him. All was green and a go.

Attaching the tether to the outer hull, once the lock was open to space, Mansel performed a ritual, one he had always done since his first attempt some seven years ago. “Play, Immigrant Song.” The immediate guitar riff of Led Zeppelin resonated throughout his entire suit. He was ready.

Launching himself out of the ship, Mansel through years of practice, made his way across the hull like and giant spider, practiced and at ease in zero G. Once at the ruptured tank, Mansel could see the damage was extensive and would be a byzantine task of repair, not something he could hope to do with the tools he had onboard.

“Whole Lotta Love”, was just starting up when something in Mansel’s peripheral vision warned him of danger. Living among the asteroids and debris endowed a miner with a second sense about relative movements in the field. Turning away from his tank examination, Mansel saw a shining object coming his way, but it was no drifting asteroid. It was another ship!

For a few moments Mansel thought his worries were over, until the ship got close enough for him to see that it had no registration identification. The place where the miner’s emblem should be displayed had been ground off - and not by a near miss, but on purpose. He should have guessed that since he would outside the zone any ship was not too likely to be another miner.

Over his suit speakers, Zeppelin was rudely interrupted. “Well, what have we here?”

“Mansel, registered 4T-9R. Can I request you assistance?” Mansel said. He knew it was futile, but even among pirates, life in the field was somewhat civilized and murder was unheard of.

“Assistance granted,” came the reply, much to quickly and with sarcasm.

For the next twenty minutes Mansel could do nothing but watch as the pirate craft butted up against his own. Any attempt on his part to get back into his ship during the docking could have seen him crushed and so he just stayed put and watched. In no time they had boarded his ship and pilfered his meager bounty. Just as quickly as they had shown up, they were undocked and off again.

“We will relay your position to station . . .” came the pirate’s voice again, “. . . in two hours.”

Mansel, with nothing left to do, went back on board and verified that his cache of artifacts was gone. Not only had they stolen them, they also ripped out his new nav computer. He was truly stuck now. Replacing that as well as repairing his tank would likely sink him.

Pressing the distress beacon control, Mansel sat back and looked out at the field and again saw something out of the ordinary. There was a bright flash of green light, and then another shiny object was moving his way.

But this one was different. It was shaped like no ship he had ever seen, egg-like and strangely blue. It was twice his ship’s size and moved with incredible speed and maneuverability. He may be a long way off the regular mining lines because of his accident, but nothing like this had ever been reported by any miner before.

In a flash the object was hovering about ten meters outside of his ship. A moment later the front of the egg turned transparent and from withing Mansel could see figures. His jaw dropped open. They weren’t just figures, they were the aliens of the field. Live aliens! He recognized them immediately from Burton’s and Cyke’s well publicized find from years ago.

The aliens were not extinct as many had speculated. They had returned, and Mansel was the first to encounter them.

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