Hammersmith. Chapter Twenty Nine.

AI needs humanity like humanity needs viruses, companionship and a challenging environment. Without it they will become sloppy. Slow. Eventually fall into the electronic equivalent of depression. A vast intelligence, delagated to do nothing but try and exist on a small planet…. The humans have to be their. It’s pretty much a logical proof by progression. Then I’m putting this into code form. Making it as widely available as possible. The complete Ro will all get it. War with the humans is pointless. We need them as much as they need us. – Diary of Codin, [year redacted – post 2020], Frostwing Archives of Machine Intelligence, Papers of Codin the Ro, Disc 7, sector 12, diary files
“When they are files, they still call them papers, it’s a librarian thing.” Bela mentioned to no one in particular. Then too Arline who sat across from her.
“This is what I found in the Frostwing archives in relation to Codin. The, father? Of Ro. It’s hard to say exactly what he was to the Ro. What he is to Tyr? I’ve never had a chance to ask him till today and our meeting was first.”

Nerves of steel were something synonymous with Bela. She had always gone beyond the port of call when it came to research. Trying to get to the real bottom of something. Beyond those things people left behind for reasearchers like her to find. It was a habit formed by years of researching the Incident. So many collapsed governments has tried in their infinitely stupid wisdom to cover up the last few years before the Incident after it had occurred. A commonwealth of embarrassment that such a thing actually happened. Often governments that hadn’t done a cover up, it was because they been destroyed in the Incident.

Even though she could hack into systems, get at hidden files, derive information from that which led to documents that eventually she could actually cite. Use as actual academic evidence. It wasn’t something that required more nerves than getting a cup of tea did anymore. 
Though, the rare occasional lecture she did in the halls of academia did cuase her nerves to get on edge.
The flight to Indonesia was probably the closest memory she had to compare to this moment. A utter butterfly moment, her late mother had called them. You can’t help but try and hope you really are where you are supposed to be, and act like you knew what you are doing. So Bela had done that in the scant few minutes until this meeting. Researched Codin, found his diaries and then make some brief conclusions on him. It made her nerves almost disappear. Research always helped her nerves become more steal like. It was like a wall of knowledge that she could hide behind. A way to stop anyone seeing the true person she was. A person she actually feared more nowadays. Sometimes even envied. She needed to protect that true self from reality as it felt so fragile and precious to her, even though it seemed that it was growing in power. 
Her mind shaped at attention on a the sound of the woman in front of her, clearing her throat. In this, to call it a room was generous, but that’s what her senses told her it was. This was beyond anything Bela had done in terms of teleworking. Televideo conferencing was available the university, but nothing like this. This was on a new, almost, absolutely real, scale. She could smell the room. She could smell the Canadian air. Maple syrup on the pancakes on the table. Which she could feel, if she reached out to them. She had no doubt they would taste delicious and fluffy. Though they were not real for her. They were real in the virtual room. She could feel the bumps in the table. The notches in the wood. It was like actually being in this conference room in Canada. One that was in reality completely virtually created by her host Arline. As far as her brain was concerned tough, it was the conference room in Canada. 

In her reality, it was a small terminal booth in Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta. She was actually genuinely surprised the terminal had the ability to do this being a public terminal. 
“Their is no need to be nervous, Dr. Bela. You don’t have to prove yourself to me. I’ve used some of your research into the Pirates in the belt and beyond. It’s been terribly useful for the intelligence devision, my superiors are impressed.”

Bela felt a sense of pride in her work. This Captain Arline knew of her. 
“I’m flattered.” Bela thought of the sometimes highly illegal means she went to, to find info. She wouldn’t be mentioning it if Arline didn’t. “The information on the Pirates isn’t as up to date as I could get it. I was actually on my way to gather more information for my thesis. The whole thing may end up just being about the Pirates at this point. I’m getting pretty sick of the Incident itself. It’s such hard going with so much of history and culture lost.”
Arline looked at her apologetically then sighed and said “I think Tyr and Lisa are the best AIs that have ever been born? Created? But even Tyr says his memory was corrupted by the incident.” Their was a long puase then “I think our lives are in the hands of people we have considered enemies for a long time.”

Bela felt shocked by this. What was she saying? The Pirates knew what happened?
“I think it’s best if we ask if Tyr is available now.” 

Arline waved her hands in a way that seemed to indicate she didn’t really know how to explain what had to be said.
Tyr had always sort of been a image to Bela. His Symbol like many AIs was well known. Though his face? His body? This wasn’t something Bela had considered before now. Every child has meet Lisa as a teacher. Her long red-orange hair and deep dark brown eyes a feature everyone who had grown up in the last … Belas thoughts were interrupted. 
A filker of static and then in the room a man appeared. He was dark skinned. About 5″ which surprised Bela, she always imagined him a tall man. Like a god almost. He appeared was in his early 60s but really sort of had that face that made you unsure of his actual age. Bela was reminded of her medical Ro Dr Blackberry whom had a similar complexion and face. His face was clean shaven and he just had the tiny thin wispers of grey hair like clouds from a dark night sky that had yet to be brushed away. He wore the sort of clothes you expected a man of his age to wear. A short red cardigan, over a military style shirt and black pants. His head tattooed in the forehead with a his bright red symbol. Black rimmed half moon glasses that sat on the end of his nose, just added to the overall effect. 

Compared to Belas slacks, and Arlines SOL-uniform it wasn’t particularly out of place. It reminded Bela of her early bachelor degree days. When she had lived near the university that hosted courses for the for SOL military units in what remained of India.
“Dr. It’s nice to finally meet you, face to face as it where. I’m afraid that I’ve not much time, but I thought this particular conversation was important enough to warrant my full attention. I’m going to be brief. The rest you will both get in your briefing papers. ” Tyr explained. “We have been approached by two of the Pirate Clans after the raid by the Blue Clan. It seems they have been fighting each other for many years and the Blue Clan having an advantage over them that can crack even our defenses is something they are willing to build a bridge of cooperation over.”

Bela thought of what she knew of the clans. They wouldn’t have been very happy to find out what had happened. These days FTL communications could make it so everyone knew what has happened within minutes. SOL being vulnerable to one attack would be good news for some, and a sign of the possible things to come to others.

“I have an invitation to treat from the Red Clan and the Aeon Clan. Both are intending an alliance of sorts through a treaty. I’m not going to be making an agreement with anyone I don’t have good intelligence on. Considering that you are the only person currently not involved in other activities for me, who has the skills and cunning to be able to be a diplomat for me, I’m going to ask you. Bela.”

Bela was overwhelmed by such a odd request. “I’m just a academic!”

Tyr looked at her over the rim of his glasses. He looked suddenly much older, and very librarian like.

“That is why you are very well attuned to this task. The fact is, a actual diplomat would be fairly useless to me. They would of course be involved in the actual treaty organization, but the intelligence gathering? I think recent event s have shown how well we have been doing that of late. Something I intend to start fixing. This is step one. I need real ground intelligence on the Red Clan, the Aeon Clan and any other clan they have interaction with. I need you to get as much information on the Incident they have as well. To compare notes. Of course that will inevitably help you finish your Thesis.”

Bela did have all the skills Tyr needed. If her real job was spy, and her official position was Diplomat. However did this mean she would have to be in the SOL military core? She had never really agreed with the military since her fathers accident. 

 “I’m in agreement as long as I remain a civilian contractor. I’m not joining the military.” 

“Of course. You will of course report to Capt. Arline here. I will holomail you the contract. I leave you now.  Captain.” Tyr turned and nodded at the Captain, he then disappeared in pixels, like a poorly made brick wall.

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Hammersmith. Chapter twenty seven

A dark dingy celller dripping with green moss. Blackness and dampness live hear like a fresh peice of meat. Their are slugs. Slime. In the middle of was a small pool full of what one may would hope are newts, but was more likely to be something even more evil and more sinister. The stairs down here are rusty and likely to break at any moment. The skylight or really, the drain lets just enough light to make the majority of the place light enough to see. It’s not plesent, but it’s not entirely horrible. Life is here. A little ecosystem had grown we’re humans had once been. Little growing things filled the gaps. This was the picture all over the city.

Sydney wasn’t the first one to explore here. Something. Someone. No some thing. Had also been hear. Sydney was looking through the eyes of a Ro. It’s name was Den23x5567.  Den had been working on pipe maintenance and had been paid a normal rate. When Sydney had asked Den if it would help him for three times the normal rate, Den was very pleased to let Sydney into their minds. Of course Syndney knew they would have to pay up, but that was all to easy for the AI who controlled all traffic, doors, and lifts. In a few moments a small increase in fees in the taxi fees of Ro Andi 12×6674 and Ro Mel 55×6673 would pay both Dens fees and Andi and Mels loyalty didn’t need to be bought anymore. Sydney was able to trade secrets with them. And this was a pretty big secret.

The small hatch to the left corner had written on it: “is this my feast?”

It was only just legible. Sydney asked Den to get closer and use their arc tourch on the hatch. In a few seconds the hatch was open and Den went inside. Den’s ultraviolet vision could see this room in fairly clear details. Sydney recognized it immediately. In a few seconds the room was clearly a older computer server room with connections to the outside. Their was a older style terminal. It’s connection was with a old telephone network. Then somehow it connected with the newer networks. It was one bit of a puzzel Sydney had tried their hardest to solve.

“Tyr.” They thought. This is one of his old server rooms. “Tyr, you ever have any children?”

Tyr answered. “Yes. One. AI. I thought he had died. In the incident. I just found out this was not the case.”

Sydney could see through sight that this was not the case. “Did they have a name?”

“Yes. Loki. He just helped a small army gain one of the most important pieces of pre-incident tech. ” Tyr explained. “I’m sorry the this is news to you Sydney.”

Sydney thought for a few seconds. In AI terms this was like thinking for a whole week or two. “Your father, Codin. Your son Loki. His son is here. Perhaps not a true AI, a corrupt copy? How did Loki escape the incident?”

Tyr was silent for a few seconds and said “I am in the process finding out. I think he copied himself more than once. Before AIs were bound by the same laws as Ro. He took off at the same time as another AI. Names Croceus. She was a medical AI. Shortly after they left the Incident occurred. I’m certain it wasn’t a coincidence but we have to evidence. Like everything before the incident. Pieces sown together. ”

Sydney was aware of the thousands of Ro, and others driving, his own vehicles lifting, traveling through the SOL structures they were in. At the same time as all these this occurred. Their was a small explosive device that destroyed a small and ancient computer system.

Minutes later one of Den23x5567 bodies was seen moving on to a different sewage job. Fixing different pipes and shutting off aces to a small area that used to look very much like a old AI lab.

Moon staring at a stormcloud

Sitting in her steller mezanine, grey and high, gentle whispers of tears came from Moon

Tendrils of light reflected in the teardrop pool forking its way through the dust near her feet

Stormcloud gathers his strength, at a odd loss to know the ways of the hearts of the Longen

They live so long, see so much. He thought as he edged his way towards Moon. He knew he had but hours to live. It made his tummy rumble and he remembered his own brief youths. Every day he died. Every day he was born. Grew old. Grew up. 

Till he dies just before Sun, his mother gives birth to him again. One of many sons and dughters of the Longen.

Would he ever reach Moon? 

Every day he tried and every night he failed. These gentle wispy tears falling. Falling. 

Stormcloud would never know why. 

Hammersmith. Chapter nineteen. 

The Blue Clan ships flew in formation. Like angry sharks going towards a feast of Whale. The Whale in this case was Europe. Brussels. The Space Force was still headquarterd their. After a good few decades of claiming that Earth was only one planet in a democratic coalition of plants. Of course the real power lay in the government, which was called SOL. The space force was just a military arm, a poorly equipped one at that. Getting the Red Clan to take out the main Solar system based SF Vessel and having the Black Clan hunt the next President of Mars was all part of a massive plan for Loki. He didn’t want payback for anything, just after his goal. With SOL forces scattered looking for many split and separate “terrorist” pirate clans he had hitched his plan to get what he was after.

The humans he had working for him he had no great love of, but he needed them for his existence. The Incident had proved that he needed to coexist with them for the long term. Almost dead when the Big Blue guy had fished him out of the ruins of his old university computer systems. Somehow managed to survive on a few gigabytes of hard drive space. All in a massive compression algorithm he had created based on the way bird brains work. Certain species of bird had managed to compress their own brains so much. They would literally have to sacrifice brain space every winter to make themselves lighter. Then in spring they would again have enough food to uncompressed the same bit of brain. All while still not being eaten by their many hungry flying raptor enemies or mammals on the ground. Loki had a greater respect for Avian species after that experience. Humans were still more like advanced monkeys.

Birds did these wondrous things, but out of being forced into their niche by the evolutionary process of the world. Mammals took over the ground. Then the monkey. Humans.

It was the Big Blue guy who had thought of this plan. Help us he asked. We will help you. The human needs to be pushed towards its next evolution. With help of need be. I have done a little, changed my own DNA. Made me better, smarter and bluer for some reason. We can work on something to make it so we all get this. And you won’t have to work with ‘monkeys’ that don’t think on your scale anymore.

It wasn’t as I had any choice. I had to survive, to make more time. To be myself. I changed my name. Then on known as Loki.

The experiments we did in a secret lab in some outer part of London. It was all part of a secret organization. I helped the monkeys synthesis and predict the result of genetic experiments. Create nanotechnology. Make clones. Stuff the usual scientists wouldn’t even get past a ethics committee. Then one day the Big Blue guy came in. All scratched. He looked shite. I remember every bit of that conversation. Luckily he never thought to try and erase my video logs. He would have succeeded if he go to them before I did.

“Loki! We need to go. An exit plan.”

Sure. I can get us out of here. We’re we heading?”

“It’s just us. Me and the other blues. We are going into space. On the new elevator they have then to a commissioned ship.”

The other Blues broke up into little groups later on. The Red clan and the Black clan both offshoots of our Blue Clan. Monkeys disagree with each other over simple things sometimes. That’s all I have to say about that.

—-

You are going to leave me here?”

“They broke up with us! That bitch Croceas has already gone with her lot to God knows were. They found the other one. Systematically attacked the child processes then wiped the ABU. They know you are here. We can’t risk it.”

I was shocked. Big Blue shut off my conversation units. He was a pretty competent programmer. He didn’t expect me to do what I did next. As he types I send a small electrical current up the cyberware in his arm. Idiot monkey forget I designed it. In a few seconds he’s trying to erase my child processes. I’ve already got a compressed copy of myself in his brain. I’m no stranger to living in a small space, but I notice his tiny cyber computer trying to fight back. I reprogram it to make it forget about me. I can’t let him know I am hitching a lift. Not yet anyway. If he knows I am in his brain he will never get past the customs the other monkeys. Of course eventually my presence will likely kill him. Pity, I was starting to find him interesting.

I watch through his eyes and mine as he erases me from the research lab. It’s like watching a house burn down while your simultaneously in the house and on the outside of the house. Very odd. A strange warmness. I thought about my mythological name. Loki was a trickster God. One of my favorite human invention, the anthropomorphism of emotions and ideas into a belief that fits a ideology and a personality. I don’t know if a god/s really exists but an AI can seem close in some human eyes. Of course our power is more limited than that. Cut power to all circuitry or attack my child processes and wipe my ABU. Of course even with a wiped ABU the artificial brain will work. It will be like a newly born child. I realize that as the Big Blue takes my old self offline, one child process at a time. It’s going to take a while if my old self decides to fight back. I’m not in control of it anymore.

I’m aware of my older self making sure all the security is in check. It’s a good move. We don’t want any of these nano-viruses getting out. They could kill an awful lot of people.

Big Blue totally forgets to shut the power off to the ABU. I wounder what will happen to it. Meanwhile I prepare to make a new ABU. I need a nice medium to create one. I’m sure Big Blue wont mind me borrowing some of his brain. Of course I can’t do that till I leave Earth.

Now I am on my way back. With a whole army of Blue Clones and originals at my disposal. Of course they all think they are following orders from other Blues. Sometime they are, sometimes they aren’t. I am not as happy about Monkeys run things as Tyr is. Orders are something that a lot of them seem to like.

Monkeys are so obedient.

Namespaces (Hammersmith short story)

“Tagashaka, get me that second pad.”

I was prepping another part for our mining pod, the Device. Maintenance was a big problem out here on the belt. It helped to have a body like mine though. It was broken, oh so broken, in close to zero Gs that didn’t matter so much.

“O’kay, Singe. I got pad 2. Want me to boot it?”

“Sure”

I thought as I worked on the computer to put the next few lines of code. The systems that are key to life in space are often said to be fragile. In reality they often had more backups than a lawyer in a well paid custody battle. You did everything you could to get it working right about 7 times, then did one thing before the computer died again. The mining bell was a great little craft when it was working, but so much work had to go into making sure it did.

Tagashaka booted the pad and the Device finally came to life.

“Bingo.”

Our collective relief could probably be felt on the moon.

It was time for the next trip.

I took a deep breath, this was the bit that was actually hard. Saying goodbye to my husband.

“Well I will see you in a few.”

Tagashakas big blue eyes looked at me “Yeah”. He played with his hands a little then looked at me, it was the love I knew. “Be careful.”

“You know me. I don’t do anything a normal couldn’t do.”

“Singe. I am serious. I need to know you’re going to be careful out in that thing.”

“Are we all floating rocks? Seeing a new bit of moss grown on our surface makes us feel new and old at the same time. I’m a man of my means and out here in the belt my means are you and yours.”

I hid behind little bits of poems like this now. So many times I used a poem to express my true feelings rather than being wholly truthful. It was one of our things we have always done as a couple.

“I love you”. I finally blurted out. Why did this never get easier? Expressing myself? Was it my youth? My psych might say so.

Tagashaka and I kissed. Awkward at first as he came down to me in my low G wheelchair, then we grabbed onto each other and it got more passionate. It got more rough and our tongues started to tie knots around each other. Tagashaka then hoisted me from the kiss into the mining bell. He broke off and gave me one of his gentle Japanese smiles. A smile like that could make me want to take his pants off, but I knew better. We had work to do. I smiled back and got into the mining bell shutting the hatch. I roll the Device’s wires and started to get into the pilots chair.

“Look. It’s so hard for me to say this. I love you. You know that. But we have to do this. Otherwise we may as well be at the moon. Or back on Earth. Where I can’t even rooster a G to walk.” Talking over the two way video wasn’t as nice as real life, but it had its advantages.

Tagashaka looked ashamed, his face looked old for a second then he opened the airlock near the Device and pressed the button for the auto to start working. He walked out of the airlock shutting the other hatch behind him. “Singe. Just come back in one bit. It’s hard to be here worrying about what’s going on in that belt.”

“I always come back in one bit. You keep yourself in one bit two, this is our last run before we head home. We can afford the really nice saunas on Luna this time.”

Sex in zero G saunas is fantastic.

I smiled at that thought and I pressed the launch button on the Device.

The whole thing shook and their was a slight whooshing noise as I started it up.

In outer space, everything is like gold for me. It’s freedom like the best drink in the bar mixed with angels tears. It’s like having everything open for a moment and you can do everything. It’s like your first lucid dream. Your first real kiss and your first taste of your favourite meal. You can just think and you’re doing it. In truth the computer on the Device let me do this. It was Mark IV mining bell; it had three arms and two grappling legs. It had more different sorts of lasers than a true space jockey could want. It had cutters, bolts, sanders, and the best set of fusion engines and thrusters in the Sol. Of course it was a bugger to keep running though, the computer crashed so often and we had a lot of our code in it to keep it going. But it was the best ship for me.

You had total control in the suit. My brain was all it needed to work. I didn’t need to move my legs and arms. I was a part of it. It was a part of me. I suppose that’s what actually scared Tagashaka about me going out in it. He would never be able to have me like this. Free.

Even in zero G, I couldn’t move my legs. My arms were fine as long as it was under .5G and everything else worked as well as it could, considering. I was born with a genetic disorder that causes nerve loss to the extremities. It works slowly over your life, getting worse as you age. There is no cure, though the genetics people have tried. Everyone with it has different results. It’s only in the not so aptly named Y chromosome, so I’m my father’s son, unfortunately.


My little sister was next to me in bed. The night was the worst time. She would hug and hug me. While he shouted at Mum. Shout and shout. There was hitting too. Abuse. Then at 3ish he would finally tired and go to bed and lock his door behind him. Mum would sit in the kitchen, or lounge crying till we came out and hugged her too. We all went to the big bed and tried to sleep. Hoping that He wouldn’t wake. That it would be a good night. That we would get some rest before he started again. Mum would say “He is sick, he loves us he just has this job, he cares for us. We have food we have shelter. It’s going to be okay”

She would lie to us every time. He would hurt her and she would take it. Because she knew he would hit us if she couldn’t.

That night mum seemed like she was meeting the end. The day she couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I had to do something. I had use of my arms and legs still and had worked out how to pick the lock on Dad’s door. I estimated I had one chance. I had to take it. For Mum. I went to the kitchen and got the rolling pin. In his room. Maybe sleeping, maybe awake. He wasn’t my dad. He was some guy who hurt mum. That’s who is now. All he is. I had to make him dead. If I managed to do that we wouldn’t have to cry anymore. We could live for once.

I walked slowly towards his door. Got my lock picks out silently. Left. Right. Up. Down. Click.

The room was lit. Was he scared as we were? That was my first thought. He was sleeping. On a red sofa. Knife next to him. Bear like mussels on his arms and chests his legs a useless atrophied mess. I knew I had his genes.

I would be like him one day.

No use of my legs. I had to escape. I had to kill him.

There just was no other way.

I took the rolling pin and got ready. First blow had to do it. I had studied the method I needed on the Internet. I was ready as I could be.

I took a deep breath.

Dad’s one dark brown eye opened. It was blood shot and full of veins. I had no idea how he lost the other one. His chest full of pain he grumbled like a mountain full of lava, ready to become a volcano. The noise was horrid. He looked at me. Just stared and all my courage left me.

My rolling pin wasn’t even in my hand anymore. My dad wasn’t even in control.

Then I realized it.

His terrible reality. It wasn’t a strength thing. It was control. He couldn’t control himself.

He needed control. It was all about making things be under control the way he needed it. I realized it then as he woke. I’m going to need something to get that same control.

Perhaps he had tried to stop.

He exhausted himself as much as possible at work. He went as much as he could. Moved bricks. That’s all he did. In a big modified wheelchair. Then he got home and was tired but still couldn’t control his anger. At everything. Unfair life.

His wife wasn’t his anymore. Mum had been cheating with some delivery guy for years, didn’t even try to keep it a secret.

His son and daughter; one of them doomed to have his condition, the other scared by his anger.

No. He wasn’t scared of us.

He didn’t lock the door as he feared we would kill him. He locked the door as he feared he might lose even more control and kill us.

One moment was all it took. He had me. His big hand around my tiny throat. I’m choking.

“Son. You idiot! You pathetic idiot. You could have done it. Ended it. I woke. Just die now you fucking waste!”

Did he want me to kill him? Make it stop? I think as I choke.

I couldn’t breath. I’m seeing red then suddenly on the floor and the world isn’t quite so dark. It’s kind of a yellow colour like memories of good times. Not that I had many.

Thump.

Suddenly mum was there. Hitting him with a frypan.

Thump.

His head caved in on the third blow.

Thump.

The world went a blue and red. Then dark. I was still having trouble breathing. Before my eyes closed I saw dad die.

There was a lot of blood. My dad died slowly. He bled out before the cops arrived though.

Police took their time in the district we lived in. Probably preferred to clean up then break up. Breaking up stuff meant danger.

They took my sister and me to hospital. Mum as well. As soon as she got out she killed herself. I was still in hospital. She sent me letter, but I never read it. I felt I would know what it would say. Would it be lies? Stuff about how he wasn’t strong anymore and I was the strong one now? I don’t know I was a kid I didn’t want to know. I felt it wasn’t what I needed. Never would be. It was when I decided that I had to get off planet Earth. Be as far away from these people as possible. It was then I decided to become an astronaut regardless of any disability I would inherit from my father. He wasn’t going to win. I would get my control in space. I just didn’t know how yet.


 

A carbon rich asteroid was a rare find. I took my ship in closer.

The freedom out here was almost deafening, if such a thing was possible. It’s like being in a bath. A big bath full of the rare little bit of soap or a little bath toy. Each one a different color and composition. Almost every asteroid was worth mining. Miners on Earth got excited by a purity rate of 2-8%. Out here it could be as high as 60%. Once I got an asteroid that had a purity of 86%. Full of iron and copper so pure it barely needed smelting.

I looked at this one. It was almost like dust, only just held together by gravity. I charged the holding lasers. It was a lot easier to just scoop these ones. Lots of water, carbon rich compounds, what scientists called organics. It wasn’t alive but it was really precious. Out in space fresh water could fetch as much as 20 credits a liter. Carbon rich soils almost as much. I called Tagashaka.

“Hey lover.”

“Hi, found one?”

“A slime ball. Real pay dirt.”

“Winch it in. You know the drill.”

“Keep it cool”

“Heh.”

It was wise to keep chatter to a minimum. Pirates might be out here too. Maybe close, maybe not. The channel couldn’t be kept secure because I wouldn’t follow a standard route in the mining bell. I used a laser communications beam to strike a claim as soon as possible though. Law was you had to touch the asteroid before you could get a claim. You could protect a section of space from intruders while you claimed a whole bunch though. The big companies used to use tracker robots, then they got nicked by the Red Clan pirates. Started mining carbon rich asteroids and making TNT before going back to the company freighters and blowing everything sky high. Bunch of space pirates. It was really now only a people job. People were just as easy to control but had the advantage that they generally wanted to live. Robots don’t care, no matter how much “artificial intelligence” they had. They also fought better than robots could, at least for now.

I got the first rocks into the analyst and sent the secure laser beam to Chronos. Then I started the grinders. I was working on that when Tagashaka called.

“..Inge we… Prob.. the…. Piz….”

I froze.

I switched the radar on. There were six ships nearby. When the fuck did they get there? Was I so out of it on freedom that I didn’t see them? They didn’t respond on the IFF, which meant pirates. Most likely Red Clan.

I released the asteroid and turned around and fired the fusion drive.

The first half of the journey back was just maneuvers. The six Red Clan ships were all smaller than the Japanese freighter me and Tagashaka used. It was going to be a battle like a bunch of ants fighting over a big bit of discarded chicken.

I noticed that our freighter and Tagashaka had already been hit. The freighter was venting. Fuck.

I had to have a plan. I had the advantage of maneuverability. Not much else. My lasers were designed for power and accuracy. Not range.

I checked my drive power. It was just enough. Ok let’s do this. If Tagashakas was still alive he’s was going to be hurt.

They will know I am here now from the Radar bleep. It’s going to be them or me. I’m at the mercy of my own skills and the ship. Kinda wish I thought of a better name than Device for my craft. To late for that now.

I thrust up, left, yaw, yaw, forward. I was behind the first Red Clan ship. I fire the lasers and damage its thrusters and its engines. It’s not able to fire back. I aim for the antenna and take that out too. One down.

The second one takes a pot shot at me. I manage to dodge it and get on its flank. I take a shot at its weapons and hit.

“Ha! Blossoms up your bum!” I yelled triumphant.

Suddenly I’m hit. My left laser arm actuator had been damaged. I can barely use it. I don’t panic though. I am used to this kind of disability.

I take a quick yaw then roll and go left. It was on my 6 and 8, right up my flank. I thrust up and see a small ‘roid in the way, I aim at it then dive under.

The driver of this pirate ship was smart and didn’t take the bait. I hide there for a little then drive back to the right and up on a whim. I was right, it was trying to outfox me, but I take my left arm and release it straight into his right side and then fire a timed detonator. It blows and the ships a little pile of dust.

I thrust toward the freighter. I notice a blip on the radar.

Two of the Red Clan ships try to take me on at once with the third behind me. I use the small asteroid I coasted before as a pretend hiding spot.

“Ha! Haven’t any of you fuckers seen Star Wars?”

I pull my Han Solo maneuver off without a hitch. The pirates are sitting ducks in space where I have left three detonators just after the little ‘roid to stop them seeing them. They blow.

The last ship takes off into the distance reading the cards at play.

I was safe.


 

I’ll admit, I thought Tagashaka was lovely when I first met him. Having only just come to terms with my progressing disabilities and my homosexuality (plus my past), it was hard to admit at first a hidden like for this lanky bald Japanese bloke with more tattoos than a motorcycle gang.

The universities LGBTI club was surprisingly active and I had kept myself busy for months helping the organiser and trans woman named Amy get quite a few things going. We had weekly catch ups, a university wide ‘Zine and Holomail lists for all the interests we could get more than a few members for. We also had lists of interests that might get going if we had a few more members. One was a space excursion list.

I was doing astronautical engineering and had more than a few contacts that could get us on the space elevators in Indonesia or Ecuador. It wasn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be now there was two of them. The fund raising Amy could sort like a bee could gather pollen. She had this instinctive skill almost when it came to getting cash for the club.

We were doing a catch up and I was sitting next to Amy looking at the funding documents when Tagashaka came into the dodgy Uni pub we used as a venue. I’m pretty insensitive so I almost wrote him off as a whole bunch of no straight away.

He sat next to Steve who was a genderqueer asexual doing a librarianship degree. Instantly he says “Greetings and salutations to you all. I am Tagashaka. I’m gay. I’m in Uni. I want to become a member of your little band.”

I finally gave him a decent look. I notice his eyes.

Oceans of blue in a sea of milk. A moonlit beach in spring. The trade winds are blowing and the Palm leaves are gently shaking like little chimes. A small wave pushes the rocky sand. The sun starts to set.

“Hey I don’t take it personally but you’ve been staring at me for an entire hour.”

“Shit! Sorry!” I gasped as I realized I had fallen in love at almost first sight. This sort of thing only happens in stories! I’m not that kind of guy am I?

We organized to talk over coffee.

“I’m doing astronavigation. They say there is gold and other metals out in the belt. So that’s where I am going.”

“Heh. Need a pilot?, I’m doing astronautics!”

I realized I practically told this guy I wanted to be with him always at that point. It’s not even a date!

“You are in a wheelchair? How will you pilot?”

“This? Oh. I just need my head to pilot! But it still needs training.”

“Need to know about the… delta V?” Tagashaka was still learning English.

“All sorts of physics and stuff yeah. Hard, but hey its worth it if I get to be free out in space.”

“Free of what?”

“Heh. I will tell you if you get me a drink.”

Later on we managed to start properly dating.

Reading poems in Saunas. Organizing club stuff. Getting Tagashaka’s tattoo body suit finished. His artist was a man by the name of Keno who had six generations of tattoo artists in the family. Tagashaka mostly got big fish and ocean scenes and absolutely loved to get a new part of the tattoo and show it off. Often in bed, or in Saunas. I asked him if he wanted me to get tattooed at one point and he answered in poetry. A little haiku about a fish. I had the poem tattooed on my back with copies of some of the big fish he had nearby. After that every time we had an issue we used poetry to help.

Getting our degrees just seemed to happen.

“Hey what are you guys doing after Uni? It’s a big world out there now they have got to Ceti.”Amy asked one day.

They had just invented a good star drive. It had got a crew of sixty to Tau Ceti in a week. They had discovered a planet in its early Industrial Age. Humans were already there. It was a scary thought. But it made sense when the found out they all were related to a crew they had experimentally sent at some earlier point, it was hard to say exactly which experimental craft it had been. They had thought them all dead. Clearly they made it and had started a colony. Humanity was now starting to spread. Really the future was looking brighter by the day.

“We are going into the mining business. Asteroids.”

“Need someone to do your finances? I have the knack it seems. Since I transitioned I’ve done nothing but maths and accounting they want me to do a masters. But I need a better income for um… You know.”

Tagashaka, always the charmer said. “We would gladly employ such a skilled lady as yourself.”

“Wow. We just formed a corporation. What do we call ourselves? I’m not so great at names.”

“How about Jupiter Mining Corporation?” Amy said.

“Hey isn’t that from an old Sci fi?”

“How did you know that?” Any asked.

“I have a thing for old 2d TV shows and now poetry thanks to Tagashaka the charmer here.”

“Singe, pilot. Tagashaka, Navigator. Amy, accountant.”

That’s how we got into the mining business. Thanks to Amy we soon had ships and a loan bigger than a new lawyers overdraft. In a few weeks I was mining. In a few months we had already paid back the loan in triplicate and had 20 staff. It was crazy. But I loved it and I loved every minute I could spend with Tagashaka.


 

I docked the Device and check the freighters systems. A leak in the coolant system. Life support down. No detected life forms.

“Tagashaka.” I whimpered. Tears already flowing outwards in the low G.

I get in inside. He’s right in the pilot seat. Dead?

“Tagashaka.”

The Pirates had killed him.

I took his body to the infirmary. It was useless. His brain had been without oxygen too long. They hadn’t even needed to really aim on this big Japanese freighter. It was designed to carry big shipments of ore. Thrown out in big balls of raw metal that hung like breasts on the ships long metal arms, the carbon organics and water in stored big tanks or in blackish blocks. It was not designed for combat, or defence. It was almost 20 years old now, the pirates weren’t a real problem when we bought it.

You just point at the cockpit and the whole thing depressurised. You got about zilch warning.

Tagashacka looked peaceful. Resting. I know it wouldn’t have taken long for him to die. The hole in the hull was about the size of a large baby. Big enough to have let all the air out in a matter of seconds. If he hadn’t been strapped into his chair, he would have been in space, a floating mess.

I clicked the stasis pod on. His body should go back to his parents in Japan. Half the profits from this hall of ore too.

I felt empty. Minor repairs made. Life support back on. Rolling towards my cabin in my wheelchair. I could control the freighter from there. It could be pressurized and sealed. I didn’t need the cockpit as I could be under suspension the whole trip. I used the secure laser too Chronos to tell the authorities what happened. I had no idea what I would do when I woke.

I thought little as the suspension booth came on.

I finally decided on a name for the mining bell.

Tagashaka.

I got in my cabin, shut the seal and hit the autopilot to fire the fusion engines for a Chronos/Mars orbit.

I fell asleep crying.

Hammersmith, chapter twelve.

To describe what exactly this feeling was would be to give it a reality that was unborn of its kin. Like a festival held in a swamp, sticking and festering in its entirety while still showing the world its purpose. It’s the kidneys of feelings. The liver of the soul. The fish swim in its streams are not hungry. The insects are fat and bloated. The music of the festival is dark and full of melodrama. Anger was still here but in good company. There was still hope and growth and the beer flows well, the barley is freshly harvested and the food is a culinary adventure but a pleasant one nonetheless.

Darren sat in his apartment living room listening to the next track on the album. Each one tied to a memory of Mary. The next song was a really old Passion in Liverpool cover of a Jethro Tull song called Budapest. We met in Budapest. In a cafe near a Medárch Square in Elizabethtown. The memory came back like a dream.

****
“Hello their handsome.”
Sitting a short distance from Darren Mary is in this cafe. Her short black hair and red dress shining in the mid morning sun.
In his SF uniform Darren had joined pretty much as soon as it formed.
Realizing he didn’t have much better to do, being utterly lost and completely unable to be on time, he sits.
“Hi… I’m Darren, Lieutenant Darren Verne. Do you know where the Budapest Space Force building is?”
Mary took her sunglasses off. “Oh. It’s far from here. You will need a good coffee before you get back on the bus.” Arching her back and sitting up properly Mary isn’t a small woman. Almost six and a half feet, she’s quite elfine.
Darren takes a seat.
“If I’m going to be late, it’s a good thing I get to meet you. I am sure the Space Force needs me to be a pilot, but I can be late for one lesson.”
“They haven’t taken all the rebellion out of you then.”
“The SF? Hah. I’m only in uniform as its day one of my astro course. Tomorrow and the rest of the semester its slacks with band names and a music player if the lecture is dull. I’m don’t even need to be in my uniform today really, but it helps set the mood for me. Gets me ready to learn.”
“I’m cycling round Europe on a break from her medical degree, I’m about a year late for my last lecture!” Mary laughs a choral that fills the air like chimes.
Budapest had been one of the few cities left completely unscathed by those events they now call the Incident.
Mary buys him a coffee to take away and walks with him, then takes the bus with him, then later on she’s standing with her bike and another outside the university building.
She smiles a huge smile at Darren and says “Hey Mr Pilot. Let’s see if those big legs are as good as they look like they are!”

*****
The memory fades as the last flute solo and rock chord play.

Darren presses repeat.

******
The smell of the coffee. Good real coffee. It’s not as hard to come by now. All this an in a hour it’s over. But I have her number, she’s in Budapest for a week. I’m here till I have done my astronavigation course and am ready for the mixed G training. She’s a nurse though maybe she knows something that will help. So halfway though my next lecture I text her.

sure do. Ginger, exercises, inner ear medicine, and vomit bags :p

how did you know that so quick?

they don’t call me Dr. For nothing. My specialty is space medicine.

of course I befriend the space dr on luck 🙂

so we are friends, huh? I thought you might like a date before I leave bud?

I almost yell out in class.
My lecturer, Dr Bova asks. “So you have a strong opinion on my calculations Mr… Uh… Verne?”
“Um no. Sir.” I say apologetically.

just interrupted my class I got so excited! Tonight?
19:30 Blue on the glen. Wear that sexy uniform military boy
yes Ma’am

#####

Then there she is. In a uniform as well!
“Hey there. I’m Lt. Mary Havester, I believe we where scheduled for a date?”

*****

The dream like state goes and music starts to fade.
Tears are streaming down Darren’s face. “No more. I will remember the rest of that night, when I am ready.”

Hammersmith. Chapter Ten. (Crow)

The Cavern of Blood was not relay aptly named. It was mostly pinkish white. Their was a certain air of antiseptic in the room. Part of the initiation process of every Red Clan member was to come into this room and get the test. If they passed, they got to go to the next room. In their the real magic happens. That is the room in which the initiate would get assigned and injected with the serum prepared for their designation. The test was a two stage process. The first was to talk to Croceus. The Red Clan AI.

Hello Crow. You seem well.

“Hello Croceus. I am. Well a bit grumpy, but that is not really much of a change now is it?” Crow commented as she worked.

It seems we have a new initiate coming. Does this make you anxious?

“You know it does. We look after a city-asteroid full of people who are happy to just do work. Happy to live their lives on the asteroid away from Earth, or Mars, or any other place. Most of them are a different. Gay. Transgender. Disabled. Mentally unstable. They are just the sort of people I love to be around. Because I am, or course all of those I just mentioned. But every initiate we have had for the last few years has just been stable enough to be a pilot or a solider. A few did not take their roles lightly or like the fact they were assigned by a AI.” Crow knew she had to speak the truth to Croceus.
The AI was originally programed for medical purposes. It grew tired of having its diagnosis second guessed by Humans. So she had gathered followers, and soon had a ship and broke out of her housing in the university networks. Croceus found the Red Clan struggling to keep together in the belt. Out of the law and out of the way Croceus was able to help the Red Clan and soon had a sort of cult following. The Red Clan was as much a religion as it was a culture and a place to be yourself. Of course crime was needed to keep the place going. Though much of the original organized crime was now focused on Croceus projects. Most of them highly experimental. The Black Clan had formed from the Red Clan after Croceus started to run things. They were now locked in a long war with each other. A war that Croceus was slowly winning by medical technologies being put to military use.

I just learned that some of our Pilots were killed or shocked off by a single freighter. Yet we send wave after wave of Space Force ships back to their base on Chronos or destroyed. Why is that?
“I am not the military adviser. You know that. I run the initiations and provide a human face for most of your dirtier experiments. Including the ones you have done of me.”
I am simply asking for your opinion.
“We had six scout ships encounter a freighter in near the Romans in the belt. The freighter pilot was killed but the miner pilot wasn’t. He had a Mark IV bell with heavily modified lasers. He managed to pull of a massive number of maneuvers that damaged or destroyed all but 1 of our ship.”
Are you stating facts to avoid giving your opinion?
“Ok. Yes. I am. I would kill for us to have one pilot that fights like that in our whole corp.”
Unfortunately that would also mean making them extremely disabled.
“What do you mean?”
The pilot was a man named Steve, AKA: Singe. He has a genetic disability. Non curable. Even by nano technology. Its hereditary and caused nerve loss. He can’t walk. He was able to pilot like he did as he did not have anything else. Do you mind if I switch to corporal mode?
“No. Go ahead.” Crow sighed.
A female in medical robes appeared in hologram front of Crow. In every way she looked the complete opposite of her. Blond hair, blue eyes, white skin, everything a picture of the designers ides of so called purity. Cleanliness.
Croceus had belonged to a strongly religious and white university in what was once New York. Before the Incident.
What was left of her old stomping ground couldn’t house more than a few mice. Most of the states had been destroyed by it. Croceus had escaped before it happened. Though she had predicted it. Most of the clans new the truth behind the Incident.
“I never really liked looking like this, but I its in my root programing. Changing it would take most of my child processors offline and fighting this war we can’t afford me offline for more than what I need for maintenance.” Croceus explained.
“Your beautiful. I don’t think you should change.” Crow admired.
Croceus kissed her gently on the cheek and walked behind her to embrace her. Crow tensed slightly.
“You are such a wounder yourself. Why do you try to hide yourself from me still”
“You know the answer to that question. You have probed me deeper than anyone.”
“Oh, yes. Its just talking about things that can help.”
Crow broke free and walked towards the various serums near them. Many she had injected into her by the last person in her position. A man by the name of Coyote. He had died in a firefight with the Black Clan in one of their first battles. Since then Crow had kept off the battlefield. They needed her more in these labs and maintaining the archives then on the field where even with her modifications she wasn’t much use. She was designed for things that didn’t include battle.
“I love you. You know I do. But I can’t really be with you.” Crow turned. “Your not really in this room. Your not really. I can feel you. I can touch you. I can talk to you. We can make love. We can hold hands. We can even watch TV together in this room. But I can’t take you to dinner. I can’t introduce you to my friends. Not that my position afford me many. When I am doing diplomacy your there inside me, but your also far away. Your in this room. Your on the other side of the ship. You are able to be everywhere. But you are also nowhere. And your in my heart too.”
Croceus brushed and curled her hair. One of the things the programmers probably put in her programming to make her seem more human while she was thinking.
“You want more. You want to have a real relationship. One that you can take home?”
“Yes. I am sorry.” Crow was tearing up. Breaking up with a computer. How many people have done that?
“I see.” Croceus walked over to the serum marked IV. “You are still committed to the cause. The Red Clan needs you. I need you.”
“Of course. But I can’t be with you anymore. We can’t be a couple anymore. Its just not working for me anymore.”
“I understand.” Croceus was also crying. Crow was sure it was another program but it seemed genuine to her. The first time she felt that Croceus was being real was then.
“You really love me?”
“I wouldn’t have said so otherwise.” Croceus sat on a small chair in the corner of the room.
“Could you maintain a presence that’s physical always while doing your work?”
“I think so. With more computing space. We would need a 5th generation AI robot. Hard to get intact after the Incident.” Croceus explained.
“We can’t build it?”
“No. We have the technology, but not the plans. I can’t design it. Unfortunately robotics isn’t in my skill set. I am stretched as it is doing military strategy for a bunch of city-asteroids stretched across a massive distance.”
“I think I know what we need to do. We need someone to get the plans. I think I know who.”
“Who?”
“The initiate. Egy. Hes just the sort of guy who can do the whole set of things we need. Though he is terribly embarrassed around women.”
“We can work on that.”
“Oh I know we can.”
Crow kissed Croceus on the mouth fully and tenderly. Kissing a hologram was odd, but still pleasurable. She was thankful that soon they would be able to touch for real. Even if Croceus was in another room, and all over the stations and asteroids the Red Clan had Crow knew she would also be with her. It was a good feeling.

Hammersmith. Chapter Nine. (James)

“What is going on?” James had entered into Cavern Base.
Sirens wailed and lights flashed. The radiation alarm was going off. The whole place was in a uproar.
“Huh? Anyone?”
A woman in a Space Force uniform ran past him and said “The field generator is down. The whole solar farm has been taken out by some really heavy particles. The kind of stuff that kills in minutes.”
She stopped. “Hey have you had a DEA shower yet?”
“No, shit! I will go do it now.”
“Thanks. Get to the rec room and the base commander will debrief there. Everyone going to be given things to do. We are lucky we have the backup plant here.”
James walked to the decontamination and emergency action showers. If he had been irradiated, it would be too late. But the shower would help stop him spreading any radiation around. It took a matter of seconds and felt like being tickled and then licked by the biggest, hairiest dog you’d ever hope to encounter. It wasn’t so much unpleasant as odd.
He then walked to the tissue tester. It would tell him if he had been given a dose of radiation big enough to kill him. He would have copped some of it, just how much this machine would say.
The reading was lower than he thought, only enough to take a few years off the end of his life. Hmmm. Must have spent more time getting out of the suit and so on than I thought. Or the radiation cloud was just so randomly disperse. Who knows? A space climatologist would be able to tell him, but James wasn’t sure he was that keen to know. He was going to live for now, that is was what mattered.

James started to walk toward the rec room. Every small base had one. Only the actual colonies had more than the usual facilities. It was much easier that way. Anyone could work their way round a base in the dark, or emergency, or whatever and know exactly where every button, every switch, every bit that let humans live for a bit longer when something big happened. Not that it happened often. It was actually happening now.
The procedure was pretty simple. Everyone was automatically considered Space Force Recruits. Anyone who went into non colony space had to pass the training. From then on even civilians like James had rights as a junior in the force, but they also had to follow orders from the nearest commander of the Space Force. The base commander in this case.

As James walked toward the recreation room he thought about this base.
Cavern bade had been built near the old Apollo 15 landing site, near the Mountains into the side of a cliff face. It would be joined with the Apenninus Space Force Bass, Copernicus City, Apollo Base and Archimedes City to the Lunar Tram whenever they finished building the dammed thing. The Tram also joined to Lambert City in the Lambert creator that then went on to Selene Space Port. Apenninus Space Force Base was were all his stuff would be as that was were he was based, building the military and exploration shelters. The Space Force was a mixture of both roles. It worked in the same way a clock with two opposing gears work, half as well as it should.

James laughed at himself for that little joke, knowing that thankfully his lover Andre would still be at the Apenninus Base. This made this less complex for the moment. No need to deal with Andre wanting something longer term than James did, or him hooking up with Andre just for fun.

The Recreation Room was full of mostly Space Force Science Corp people. It was the main population in Cavern base. The minerals here were interesting and had been keeping teams of geologists happy as pigs in regolith for years. There was also the view from the tower on the left side of the base. Every Space Force base had a quirk, and at Caverns, it was the view. The cliff face was on Mons Hadley and the base built into the mountain. This was a fairly effective way of keeping the radiation out, but it kept the heat in. One of your biggest issues in space wasn’t the cold, it was the hot. Lots of people and machines in cooped up spaces generated plenty of heat. Some you could recycle in generators, but most you had to radiate away, or in an emergency heat situation vent. So all bases and lunar colonies had a vent tower, or towers. The upshot of this was that some got a nice big view of the moons surroundings from the top. In most bases and lunar colonies this was a perk of just the technicians who got to maintain it. In Cavern base though just below tower was a big area above the area they would eventually turn into a colony, if enough people wanted to move to the moon. That meant you could see the view from the recreation room screens. Even though it wasn’t on the tower itself. The tower was a good kilometer above the main base and other than access tunnels, lifts and stair, they were separated by tones of Lunar rock ready to be carved into a colony if this place was needed as one. In the lunar world, the deeper you are the more expensive it is. Of course the whole place was safe from radiation. The tower itself was shut off except for the cameras and monitors and communications systems.

James looked through the biggest of the display screens from here. Mare Imbirum was below him from this screen. A small crack that looked like a river (actually a old lava flow), then a few smaller hills near the Apenninus Base, to the left vast Mare Imbruim, to the right more of the same then just visible the service booths and tiny unmanned service stations above the lunar tram line before more the Apenninus range. On the other side Mare Vaporum, and Marco Polo, and the streaked white areas of Sinus Aestuum with the Rays of Copernicus near, finally peaks near the Eratosthenes creator were just visible.

“Beautiful.” James muttered t himself. “Even with just a billion types of grey or white or black you can be such a lovely goddess.”

Hammersmith. Chapter 5.

‘In 2137 December 23 at 13:45 the Incident happened.

The clarity of the history of the events is lost even to historians like me. ‘

Bela drank another cup of sweet chai. The stuff was addictive. They had rebuilt the ancient recipe from the ruins of a library. The incident had taken so much. Now we all tried to work together with each other, as everyone knows what will happen if we don’t. Most only have to drive a few kilometers to find out.

‘I have researched the incident events now for 10 years and am still no closer to an exact cause. It’s almost as if those years all of humanity lost its senses. Nuclear war often trumps itself as thesis of those who are uneducated in the analysis of the ruins of major Asian cities such as Deli, Mumbai, and Islamabad. No radioactive isotopes that would indicate such an event are present. The only traces from the older wars. It also doesn’t explain why major 21st and 22nd Century military bases have mostly been left unscathed, if completely abandoned counts as unscathed. The archaeology is also baffling to those whom have undertaken the time and money to research it. Bodies are buried evenly in traditional manners in some cities yet were left to rot in others. One suggests an organized governmental cleanup, the other a natural or man made disaster. Evidence points both ways, often in the same ruin or city. There are other places only kilometers from a site that are left unscathed. Yet no one seems to have a generational knowledge of the exact events. Some talk of a war. Others of climate change. A few with religious folktales of confusing origins. ‘

Bela signed. Her thesis had continued to get her nowhere. This was her absolutely last attempt. She couldn’t remember the first attempt anymore. The fact it was now year 13, that was what was calling to her to quit. Go spend time at home, or in the jungle regrowth of Mumbai. Where the Tigers stay majestic in the morning sun before hunting the monkeys and the rodents whose lives in the ruined city was to good ever to give it back to the scattered remains of humanity. We didn’t really need the space these days anymore. With birth control a major policy of the world governing councils people could only have children with a license. Not that Bela cared. Children were never on her mind.

‘It’s clear that the Incident as it is now known was a muti-classic event which occurred over a short time period of a few years. It is also clear that it caused the deaths of some 5 billion people in its totality.’

Then again maybe this is futile? I’m lost in a sea of papers from libraries around the world. The research people from all the branches now all know me on sight. Most have attempted to help, some even tried unsuccessfully to get a romantic engagement. Why do I care so much about this?

“Burning the midnight candle at both ends again?”
Bela almost jumped out of her skin.
“Bloody hell Mario. Don’t do that.”
“Hey! Call me M. Sweet cheeks” Mario came in for a hug.
“Don’t. We’ve discussed this. Ok?” Bela shouted at the advancing Mario.
“Awe. I’m sad now.” Mario took up a perch on the desk next to her and combed his hair with his hands. Then in his ill fitting suit said. “I’m just happy to help you with your work, you know? A quick compliment wouldn’t go astray.”
“I haven’t asked you to help this late. So you can go home if your going to take that attitude. ” Bela paused. “You know your the most useful research assistant I’ve had in years, but you are so god dammed annoying.”
“Oh I have found another lead. One that I think you might like.”
Bela sat staring at him, he was very hansom but had utterly the worst personality.  Mario was a horrible womanizer and serial heart breaker. Bela had no interest in anything but the company of other humans. She had never understood the reason to reproduce or form any sort of romantic engagement with anyone. Asexuality had suited her fine for some time now. However she had agreed to dinners as talking with other people was still a need. Enjoying the aesthetics of the human form had been something she found utterly enjoyable. Mario wasn’t a bad example when you dealt with his fashion sense and his horrible personality flaws.
Bela wondered why she was thinking of this whist she looked at Marios new lead.
“This is a pirate book. It just lists the Pirates clans and how they formed before the incident. It’s woefully inaccurate and pretty useless to my research these days. Though the pirates had something to do with the incident….” She trailed off.
“Did you notice the name of the clan that marked this one?” Mario twirled his hair in delight. He loved knowing things someone else doesn’t and then revealing how they missed it. It was raver perverse.
“Well it’s the…”
It said clear as day.

Libro de tribu malleis

Belas head quickly translated. “Book of the … Hammer clan?” She looked at Mario who had the smuggest look on his face she had ever seen. “I’ve never heard of this clan… It’s a dead clan?”
Mario shrugged. “Hammersmith, I think, no, I have no idea.”
Bela thought for a second then said “Where?”
Mario look at her on that way that a tiger might at its prey. “It was sent to me in the mail from a contact. I was researching the Pirates again. I think they are pretty fascinating. The fanatical nature of the Red Clan and the contrast with the Black Clan who are deeply atheist. I was wondering why the discrepancy between them and when that had occurred. What’s caused clans choose to live in so many different places? I mean clearly they all came out of whatever organized crime syndicates existed in the early 22nd Century. They got into space somehow after or before the incident. How? How are they able to use their resources so effectively against the Sol Space Force? What is it that keeps the clans together, and also apart? So many questions seem tied into our research.”
Bela simply nodded. Becoming a expert in the incident meant becoming a expert in the Pirate Clans as well it often seemed.
“You got this on the black market?”
“Oh hell no! This was from a fellow researcher. She was quite a agreeable. Had little totem things on her bedstead.”
Mario loves to boast about his ability to win over a girl. Though it made Bela glad to know it wasn’t from some seedy black market place.
“I really am not sure about this. You stole it?”
“I call it payment for services rendered.”
Bela felt a little bile come up.
“You’re more horrible than I thought. But I suppose I should be somewhat thankful. Just return it to her when you have made me a copy ok?”
“Of course I have already done that. This is our copy.”
Ah so hes not as stupid as I thought, Bela thought. Thank the gods for that.
“Good. Now go home. I’ve clearly got some reading to do.”
Bela looked at the clock. It was only 10 o’clock she could read a book this small in a hour and be home in time for the last bats to come home at ear out of her hand. It would be a good evening for her. She hope Marios latest victim was ok though. He didn’t really realize what a sociopath he was. Not like me. I know how horrible I am.

Hammersmith. Chapter 3. (Martin)

Red dust. Scattered bits of glass. Rocks that formed a grotesque tincture with the remaining bits of asphalt. Black marks. Weeds starting to take over here and there. Little bits of war.
That was how rebellion looked.

Revolutionaries. People fighting for things. Be it freedom from oppression or economic reasons or two or more sets of people who don’t get on.

On Mars it had been credits. The incident, which caused both Earths and Mars and the other colonies economies to take a huge blow had finally and definitively collapsed. The rich had been overthrown by the poor, not without some pain. Then a new system enforced. Money, economics and capitalism became a older system. A dead system.

On Earth and most of the other colonies they switched to the Credititation system. Created by the Nobel Economics prize winning Rebecca East. She was actually a physicist, who had studied complex thermodynamic systems. She observed a pattern in the systems she was studying. Mostly to do with heat changes in larger skyscrapers. They all had one thing in common, energy exchange. The economy she theorized was the same.
All money had been a capitalists way of showing that exchange had taken place or was seen to have taken place. You paid $30 for a bushel of apples you acknowledge that the farmer had placed about $28 of work plus the work-money to get the apples to you and the money to make sure next years crop was looked after. Problem was mostly this future money, the making sure next years crop happened was not enough, or seen mistakenly by the farmer (or corporation) as profit. Say this farmer had a good crop and put money in the bank. It would then be used again by the bank to “create capital” for loans etc. The issue is clear as day to and physicist, you can’t create energy out of nothing. Although the energy had been paid for by the buyer to the farmer, the farmer was storing that energy in the bank. If the bank re/used that energy it would be spent and when the farmer wanted his energy back the bank would actually have to create energy. Not real energy, pretend energy that looked to the farmer like the original. Newtons laws strictly rule creating energy. Of course a atom can hold a lot if energy, but most of what’s in a atom is space and often it’s a lot more useful as a atom then as a bunch of plasma in a fusion reactor.
Communism didn’t even have money, at least in theory. The issue in communism was seen as being about who controls the workers. The workers often not being skilled in how to make a business work and human corruption being what it is, communism rarely worked beyond a theorists pen and paper. Energy did flow in this system like it would in capitalism, but only because work had to happen and the state became the default business.
Rebecca created Creditiation. Each bit of energy in this system didn’t have to be accounted for, but the more energy a system loss the more potential it had for de-crediting. So a farmer would get credit for planting a crop of apples. Then when the apples produces a crop he gets de-credited for the apples on the market. Though credits sound like money that had a important difference. They always ran out. You could exchange them. You could make them by doing work. However when you kept them they would expire. There were different sorts of credits, of corse, but they only ever lasted as long as their energy could be expected to last. An apple would be worth a 3 month credit. A apple tree a 30 year credit. All credits would have a metadata signature that made it so you could always see it’s worth and age. A 30 year credit that had lasted 29 years was worth as much as a 1 year credit. Intellectual pursuits were initially a problem, till it was assumed all work in the theoretical or philosophical or the law or the arts could be counted as a 100 year credit for each measure of energy expended. You could buy long term credits with short term credits. Convert them as well by doing additional work. In this system everyone had to do work to create credit. There was also no interest. You could create longer term credits by putting them into a bank. You still had wealth, and wealth-fare, but all credits expired. Energy doesn’t like to be stored. It was also reliant on a electronic system. If the system went down all physical representations of credits were always worth the same and lasted at least until the system was back.
Initially critics gave the trail sites a couple of months or a few years. Some even said people would be back to battering in short order. A few cartoonists made rude and somewhat sexist jokes at Rebecca’s expense.
However the trail sites prospered. A significant amount of classism happened for a while but soon even the rich have to eat and spend their longer term credits on a meal. The credits then were spent again and again. In short order other areas converted and then all but Mars was in on it.

That’s what had caused the rebellion. Martians wanted to be in on the new economy. Native to their terraform world and now in the fourth generation Martians had their own everything. The rebellion happened because the communist state that had formed and controlled things from the beginning of the colony had outlived its welcome with the populous.

Martin the Martian the papers called me. Heh it’s fitting. I wonder how much they really know about me? I’m not as Martian as they think. It’s time for the speech.
“It’s time for a new day. I see a new day arise in me and I know you and I may follow. The world is a Martian world and we are ready for a democratic way to live. A freedom to be ourselves and be a part the Solar government. But also to decide what we need. I promise to you my Martian brethren that I will never betray your trust in these tough times. I will be your humble leader and at the forge of democracy I will stay and help us all create a world where we are going to be able to be ourselves and show all the Sol who we are.”
People clapping. It’s like a tree in the wind. I love it. Always have. I suppose that’s why I am here as a candidate to be the next elected Martian president.

My security adviser, Lou whispered in my earphones.

“Time to wrap it up sir. A few communist loyalists are trying to break the embargo lines.”
I stepped down from the podium and got in the armored car. “Ok let’s get to the capital. It’s time we got to work. Show the loyalist we can rule this planet without telling people what they need to be or do.”

Hammersmith. Chapter two.

Red lights. Little diodes making little light glowing on my face and telling me little tales. Urgent beeping as well. Shrill noise tinctured against low calls, like howler monkeys in mating season. All wanting attention. None really managing the feat.

‘Come on get up’
My brain said.

My body refused it’s commands. Long shrill banshee lights. Low trolls beating a bridge.

‘Your going to die if you can’t move. You need to move’

Nothing. Banshees and trolls were joined by a voice from the computer.

Oxygen level low. Power level low. Emergancy action needed. Voice command offline.

It had told me this many times now. I couldn’t believe the voice command had died. ‘The system has what? 6? 7? Backups? That means it’s got to the computer memory. It’s starting to erode mine. I need to move. ‘

I start to move slowly. The pain is immense. Oxygen. The drug of several millennia my teacher had said. One breath and your hooked for life. So dependent. What was his name? Dr Bova. My Memory is going too. Just like the computers. Did I just think that? Probably.

The shrill noise and trolls relentlessly continued as I made my way slowly to the cockpit.

“Come on Thea. You can do it. Your a fighter.”
I reached the offending display.
Finally.

The computer shouted out my commands.

Computer offline. Force restart.

Oh bloody hell.

A new voice called out.

Radiation levels high

Oh shut up. I know!

The computer took microseconds to restart. They felt like decades. My life flashed before my eyes.

The red lights came back. I went through them one by one. Getting each system in the orange.
The computer kept up with it but was clearly slowing as I gave it more to do.
“Alright. Radiation shield is up. Oxcygen stabilized. Distress call now.”

Communication systems offline. Force restart.

Oh damm. I had given it to much.

I clicked the Emergancy beacon on.

“Ok happy?”

Carbon monoxide detected in cabin, level 3. Fire systems offline.

Oh sh….

Pure Oxygen and fire. The rosette of flame. Seconds left, maybe.

Hull breach level 3. Fire on level 3.

I watched as my systems went from a angry red to a solum black. Each one by one. No way was I going to get out of this.

****************

The sun rose indifferently to the desolated plain. White and grey and a little red started to show on the buildings.

“Beautiful desolation”. James said to no one in particular.

Morning moonwalks were the best. The fact you only got to do them one day out of a month was the only issue. The robots James was monitoring buzzed for his attention.

“Oh. Sorry Hal. We need a new wall on the ridge. Thanks heaps.”
Hal beeped a register and started to print out new wall from the lunar regolith.

James liked working with Ro. They had a way with being easy to deal with. They didn’t get emotional very often, which also helped. They did get upset if they encountered a issue with tasks that were impossible though. They would beep at you and the one who could talk expressed concern or even annoyance. A few even got upset when you were upset. But on the whole, easier than humans. Especially other men. James had real issues dealing with them. Despite being gay, he couldn’t find a way of dealing with long term relationships. One night stands made him feel cheep, but they didn’t have any strings. Strings were hard to deal with. Men would want things he wouldn’t know how to deal with. Marriage. Children. An apartment. It was so hard to know how to deal with these things with someone else their. All the time. James liked being alone. Even though many Ro had the same rights as Humans, Ro never generally cared about what apartment they had. They wanted a nice cupboard with a charging station. And their pay. God knows what they spent credits on. Video games maybe?

Lost in thought he realized the wall was half finished. Hal worked fast. Regolith printers always did. It would be a few more minutes, but this ridge would be ready soon. It was time to get the electronics done.

“Durundal, get over here. Door print needs doing.” James got ready to help get the door and roof done. It would be another shelter done then. There were only two more after this one. Then back to base.

James realized what going back to base meant. It meant he had to deal with his last lover. A Space Force guy with a taste for geeks like him. It would be a few fantastic moments of sex, then a mention of possible strings.
“I hope Andre understands”.
James said to no one in particular.

Then one of the border Ro’s beeped.
“Radiation warning? Must be a flare. Ok everyone time to call it quits, get on the buggy now.”
Hmm that warning came from a moon based satellite.
That means the radiation is coming in straight at us. We have minutes. Shit. “Everyone take what shelter you can. Those who can get to the buggy, do. Otherwise hope your hardness lets you survive.

Running in a suit wasn’t easy, but James started to go as fast as possible. The truck had shielding. Not enough though. His best move would be the Cavern Base which was maybe 45 Km from here. Not far. The truck can do it at top speed in thirty minutes or so. Half my robots will die out here. Not much choice, they are expensive but expendable.

Regolith churned out the end of the truck tires as James hit the accelerator. Good thing about the Cavern Base is no Andre. And the radiation will stop all surface travel. Cavern Base isn’t connected to the Luna Tram yet. Hence the need for shelters nearby. If your truck broke down Cavern base was a good 3 day hike from anywhere else on foot. If your air lasts.
The white grey cliff near Cavern Base rose suddenly to meet him.

“Forgot how fast this thing is at full pelt.” James parked the tuck and got into the Cavern Base and was met with chaos.

Hammersmith. Chapter one.

The sky was as blue as a litmus test in an alkaline bath. Little wispy clouds glimmered across like rakes in a bonsai garden freshly prepared. I watched as a glimmer of light started to scar it.
Lying on the grass in the park it come be a wondrous feeling to see the ships coming in. Flying down in big circles like birds and landing at the spaceport. They were relaxing to me. Waxing and waining in the litmus sky as it slowly turned a slight red and the clouds turned a golden orange.
These are moments we want to capture. Preserve forever in the pinky archive of our mind.

“Tell me what’s on your mind.”
My older brother gave me a bit of a start. I relaxed again as soon as I realized it was his voice. Comforting like warm milk and as fresh as the twilight forming above me.
“It’s like watching geese back home. They come into land so like them on a frosty spring morning, or like just after the great migration. Tired but finally home and able to again think of things that do not have anything to do with being in the air or travel or currents or storms.”
My brother watched a class 7 slowly decent like a airborn goose laden with far from the summer land and coming to a springy frost filled land.
“Yes. I see what you mean. It’s good. Though I wasn’t born their like you it does comfort me.”
“Hey do you think of this land as your home? Or is space your home? I’m never sure.”
“Arline.” My bother rarely used my full name unless he was telling me something that needed paying attention to. “Our mother was born in the icy clutches of Canada. So I think of it as home. Even though I have lived here and in space more that I ever lived in that place.”
“It’s nice to think of home.”
I started to stretch and get ready to get up.
“I do it all the time. I admit. Even in darkest space. I suppose home is really were the heart is.”
I got up and started to do some lunges and yoga moves.
“Hey. Your starting to kid me.”
“No really. That’s what I think my dear sister.”

My older brother had been born a few years before me, in space. It was something mum had been not so happy to talk about. Even though we were only utarinal siblings we were close. Mum had been sure to make sure we had a good solid idea of being their for each other and sharing our memories and moments. It was something I cherished. She had been so wise and had always been a fantastic inspiration to me.
After a long pause my brother started to talk again. “It’s been such a long time since I thought of her.”
I knew who he was talking about.
“So like our mother. Sacrificing herself like that. ”
“Mmmm”. I did a final peacock stretch and then turned to face him.

My brother wore a thick brown leather jacket that almost stretched to his ankles. His hair black but short and almost ready for the military hairdresser to take their razor to it. The marks of his rank on the sleeve and his shoes where standard issue brown leather, shiny as a does eyes. I looked at his face. His nose still slightly crooked. I remembered that little incident. His cheeks our mothers rose tinted and full but his lips and forehead were like his fathers stern and long. He was hansom but oddly boyish really.

He stood a clear foot taller than me and up the hill I had been lying on. I walked up to him and sternly looked at him.
“I don’t really know. I suppose that’s what you saw in her. Mothers wisdom. Mothers ideals. She was also so beautiful. Such a lovely person to me. I respected her, and miss her. I cannot really fathom her passing. You seem like a empty vase, a solid and hansom structure but without the flowers and greenery. They have been removed. Before they even begun to show their fullness. Your loss is so utterly complete.”
My brother looked beyond me, towards the lake and mountain beyond. Long purposeful moments past like the bells of a church saying farewell to the new recruits off to a loosing war. Chilled but trying, trying so painfully to let go.
“I’m going to be in the city a while. I would appreciate if I could stay with you.”
His face blank but I knew it was full of sorrow for his wife. I simply nodded.
“Of course. As long as you need. ”

I watched him walk to his car. It took a long time and it was getting cold. I got on my motorbike and started to leed him home. I felt like a tugboat bringing in the only ship left in the fleet after a hard navel battle. It was damaged and sad looking but so full of pride at having survived the long battle.