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Old 10-14-2012, 01:45 AM   #13 (permalink)
Deus Machina
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Brandon, Florida

Well, since no one has posted one yet, I'll start.
Mundane Speculations.


"Ya hear they finally colonized a gas giant?"
"Hmm. Why?"
"Mining. Kinda." The darker of the two men set his drink onto the upturned crate to tap ponderously at his datapad. "Oxygen, hydrogen, helium, that kinda stuff. It's right in the middle of the whole 'Manifest Arc,' so they set up an orbital refueling station and a few planetside outposts to siphon it off."
The other frowned into his glass, gulped, and turned his head. "Planetside? How'd they manage that?"
"Gas bags, looks like. Put enough of 'em together, drop a platform on top, set up shop. You used to read stories about that sort of thing, Dev."
Devan lifted his glass back to his lips and heaved a sigh into it. "I used to read about places like this, too."
They fell silent, looking out across the water. The pink and orange from Kepler setting across the ocean flared blood-red off the arc of one moon barely visible above the horizon, streaked by the much smaller blue-green from its copper-rich sister high and center. A view straight out of the pamphlets delivered to the potential colony crews, and not the least of the reasons that Devan had jumped on the chance for that particular ship.
The two stared out to the horizon, sipping at the drinks made palatable only by the sweetened juices diluting them.
"Hey, Chance. Know what I miss? Potatoes."
The darker man furrowed his brow into his drink. He had been pondering the colony's latest attempt, lately, himself--the first cultivatable plant they had discovered was an algae and, finding it edible but far from palatable, they had turned it into alcohol as fast as they could ferment it. Just like on a hundred other planets. At least humanity had that constant. "Wait, potatoes?"
"Yeah. I mean, the Colonization Bureau recruits five thousand people a year, promises opportunities and riches and land on unsettled planets, and that's great and all... but what about the food? A dozen people died the first year because we couldn't even digest most of the stuff here, and what we can eat just tastes weird. Even the booze tastes like dirt and tin foil. I want a beer, dammit."
"Hey, the second wave brought some Earth-native foods with them..."
"Oh, yeah, and those are turning out great. The cows are the size of dogs and get addicted to those creeper vines, half the plants won't even grow in the dirt here, and that pink mold kills off everything but cauliflower and limes. And those things were alien enough before we left."
"I've had good luck growing strawberries. I just had to build planters on my roof to keep the locals off of 'em."
"Christ, those squealing four-armed little bastards? Chased me out of my own damned garden the last time I tried growing strawberries. Forty centimeters tall, and they're throwing rocks at me. Of course I can't run 'em out because they're semi-sentient and the Bureau would have my hide. I'm just glad they haven't figured out sharp sticks, with the balls they got. Or, y'know, whatever they have."
"No, they've got 'em. Five."
"Wow. How bored was the xenobiologist group that day, huh?"
"Mm-hmm."
The men faded back into their silent camaraderie, the way people that have spent long years on a ship are only whole with their shipmates but do not actually want to listen to them most of the time. Chance used the opportunity to dilute another swirl of the bitter local spirit into the heavily-sweetened fruit juice. He brushed a lock of sunbleached hair from an eye with one hand, swirled his glass with the other, and took a swig.
"Know what I miss, Dev?" He broke the silence with a grimace at his drink. Too much of the liquor.
"A better than one-to-one ratio of women to men?"
"Besides that. The moon."
"They've got a mine up there, Chance. You could take landfall there instead."
"No, I mean Earth's moon. Just one. This one has a circular orbit, and that one's tilted and elliptical," He pointed to the near red moon, then the smaller turquoise one in turn. "You try to run an offshore fishery with the tides those things give me."
Devan barked a short laugh, scratching at his stubble. "At least you're growing the Earth-native strains."
"No, we're not. We lucked out that most of the local species are edible, 'cause they got in the fences and ate all the ones we brought. You should see what you're eating now."
"Oh, man. You didn't have to tell me that."
"You think the stuff out of the deep oceans on Earth and Europa were weird?" Chance's teeth reflected the purples of the fading sunset as he reached for his datapad with a grin. "Hold on, I've got pictures."
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