Sep 032012
 

Tubular space with reddish light and reflections, with pipes and round stanchion running down the center.

Three days before nearly half a billion people were wiped out in a few hours, and the priorities of the eight hundred thousand or so surviving Klarosians changed drastically, priorities were the last thing on the mind of Yalet Redal, civilian (class S) and about-to-be-former occupant of cubage K4-8G-1422 in the Six Under district of Pykalt. Although listed as Q/K4-8G-1422 in the records of the Insystem Office of Cubage, it was known as Ma Keller’s to its occupants, since Ma held the permlease on the premises.

Yalet decided she wouldn’t be sorry to bid farewell to the two cramped little rooms. They had once been dosses for employees of Pyvart Engineering, the company that had excavated the original habitat here on Reveille C’s larger moon, and consequently possessed environmental control facilities appropriate to temporary habitations—and dating from a bygone era, at that. In other words, they were stuffy, overheated, and both the lighting tubes and ‘fresher facilities were inadequate. The one mandatory “view” panel was a simple day/night relay from the Pykalt Municipal Park that was out of order half the time.

The furnishings were all battered built-ins, except for the little plaswood table Yalet had brought with her, that held her scroller and a decorative jewelry box. She scooped box and scroller into the smaller of her two hold-alls, and made one more check of the underbed storage drawers. Empty. She traveled light; since her costumes, makeup, and stage jewelry were stored in her dressing locker at the Pleasuredome resort hotel. Her only acquisitive vices were jewelry and storychips, neither of which took up much space.

That was a good thing, since the residential cubicle that had just come vacant at the Pleasuredome’s Transient Workers’ Complex was even smaller than her space at Ma Keller’s. She’d miss Ma, and a few of her fellow-tenants, but not having to commute nearly an hour each way was more than worth it. And the upgrade in status from Casual Worker to Temporary Worker carried other advantages, too. She might even be able to angle an upgrade to Employee-Probationary Grade by the end of the year. If she continued to funnel the generous rakeoffs from her unofficial “tips” income to Ild Devet, the assistant maiter in charge of the Dastek Dining Room.

A final look around—and one more check in the tiny ‘fresher, where she caught a glimpse of her grinning mug in the mirror and stuck her tongue out at herself. Ridiculous to be so excited about it, really, though excitement did things for her natural-blue eyes and lent an additional glow to her creamy skin. She waved a hand over the sensor to douse the lights, and thumbed the lock for the last time without regret.

Ma was in her office, adjacent to the subwarren’s main entry. The office also served as her living cubage, and was a comfortable clutter of furniture, endless racks of mylar wisps, at least four comstations in various states of disrepair, three coffeemakers, ditto, racks of cleaning supplies and countless other artifacts of nameless origin and purpose.

“I’m off, Ma.” She set the holdalls down just inside the door.

“Good thing, too,” her erstwhile landlady growled. “I got a new tenant hot an’ runnin’ to get in.” She sniffed, which might have been an effort to suppress emotion, but was more likely the aftereffects of a joyjuice hangover. “Y’ll be sorry one of these days, y’know… lettin’ premium cubage like this go…”

Yalet grinned. “I’m sorry already, but not about the cubage, Ma. You take care of yourself, huh?”

“Sure, sure, kiddo. OK, I gotcher deposit forya. Thumb here,” she held out the reader in one skinny claw. Yalet noted the ‘TX-Ready’ indicator, and her cash account receipt code, and thumbprinted the transaction receipt. Ma clicked the verification button, and collected the wisp of mylar that extruded from the reader’s slot. “Well, that’s that. Gonna miss ya, kiddo… you gave the place a little class, y’know?” She heaved a sigh.

“Yeah, well, you gotta be careful, Ma… too much class and they’ll be wanting to raise your cubage rating, and who needs the extra taxes?”

The older woman’s wheezy chuckle followed her out the door.

Six Under main corridors were crowded, noisy, and none too clean. Yalet kept a tight grip on her holdalls as she made her way to the transfer tube.

Sep 032012
 

Two long, curving tubes next to a metal walkway and handrail. Reflections from overhead lights highlight the long depth and distant vanishing point.On the fifth day before the world ended, Jamed Ursek, retired General-Hartman of Legion Intelligence, departed the surface of Reveille C for a family vacation at Birval Pleasurdome, adjacent to the Moonstation habitat complex on the planet’s larger satellite. This involved catching a gravprop tube at the central station in Port Andall, part of a habitat complex in the planet’s northern ring of settlements.

“Alright, Fa,” his son Kalven assured him, with only a touch of anxiety. “Demis and Francet will be at the station when you get to Centrum Bek, and Hostin and Orshel will be minding the kids at the shuttleport. Assuming they all coordinate on time, anyway. Silly idea, all meeting at Centrum Bek—why didn’t Hostin and Orshel just go direct to Pykalt from Mag Alpha, instead of traveling all the way north with three little kids?”

Kalven had always been a bit of a fusser, but it made him a formidably competent logistics officer. Jamed grinned at his son. “Sure you don’t want to ask for a little leave, and join us?”

Kal snorted. “What, to help you ride patrol on seven noisy kids at Pleasuredome? As you’re always reminding us, Fa, you didn’t raise any fools.” He glanced up at the departure board. “Capsule incoming.”

“Five minutes out. Plenty of time. And yes, I agree your brother-in-law is a stiff, but it wouldn’t hurt you to come along and congratulate him on his promotion.” Kalven had never cared much for Demis, and considered that his sister had married beneath her when she became the bride of a Home Legion Senior Lieutenant. It was a common prejudice among the First Legion officer class. And, if the truth be told, Jamed thought his son-in-law rather a dull dog, too. But he made Francet happy.

“It’s not just that, Fa. I’ve got duty this afternoon, and we’re… busy.” Kalven carefully said no more. His father was a General-Hartman, true, but he was a retired General-Hartman, and that didn’t give him the security clearance to know anything about his son’s current assignment.

Jamed glanced sideways at his son, and debated whether to discomfit him by a reference to the First Legion units being readied for deployment to Hecht. He still tracked plenty of Klaros’ many current military operations. But it wouldn’t do. More than thirty years in military intelligence made him constitutionally disinclined to reveal any information at all to anyone who didn’t already know, even to remind Kalven that “retired” did not equate to “vegetative.”

The tube capsule indicator changed from “approaching” to “arriving,” and Jamed picked up his small bag—the rest of the luggage had been sent on by freight carrier to the Treasuredome resort hotel—and gave his son a light tap on the upper arm. “All right, Ord-Colonel Ursek. Duty first, as always. Warrior inspire you, Bride protect you. See you in three weeks.”

Kalven smiled. “You too, Fa. My best to the girls. And Hostin. And Demis, and congratulations on his promotion.” He stepped back from the rush of air that signaled the capsule’s impending arrival.

Jamed gave him a wave, as he boarded. The capsule door slid closed, and a honeyed mechanical voice announced, “Please be seated, and strap in. Next stop, Centrum Bek Shuttle Port.”

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