The Prelude: Chapter 3
â€śHey, look who the diu it is. The golden grandpa has finally graced us with his presence,â€ť Rylan Caldwell said as Drake Ovchinnikov entered the space stationâ€™s restaurant. Drake waved sarcastically as he approached the table where Rylan and the six others in their space exploration crew sat.
â€śOkay, now that heâ€™s here we can figure this shit out,â€ť Bruce Chan said. â€śDrake, what the diu is going on? We keep hearing crazy things.â€ť
A burst of laughter erupted.
â€śNow Iâ€™m sure this lund knows whatâ€™s going on,â€ť Rylan said.
â€śDrake, we all know you met with the Marshal. Tell us whatâ€™s happening,â€ť Hanna Rocha said.
â€śLet me take a seat, first. You canâ€™t even ask me how my downtime was before you start asking for state secrets?â€ť
Smiles circled the table.
â€śWe know how you spent your downtime, slogging morlock chutias from the sewers,â€ť Rylan said.
â€śI heard theyâ€™re gonna halt all exploration for a year. Is that for real or what?â€ť Hanna asked.
â€śI’m sorry to disappoint you, but I have no idea.â€ť
â€śThe Marshal didn’t say anything?â€ť
â€śYou think the Marshal knows whatâ€™s going on? And even if he did, you think heâ€™d tell me?â€ť
The logic seemed to sufficiently halt their inquiry.
â€śIâ€™m telling you, weâ€™re gonna be fine. Itâ€™s been over a month. If he was gonna do something, heâ€™d have done it by now,â€ť Rylan said.
â€śWell, he did, but that sure backfired. Now itâ€™s total lawlessness out here,â€ť said Xavier Vale.
â€śItâ€™s always total lawlessness out here. We just picked out the cow weâ€™re gonna eat,â€ť Rylan said.
â€śYeah, sorry you missed out on that Drake, but you took forever,â€ť Bruce said. â€śThey got this whole diuing field over there with all sorts of animals. We picked out a real meaty bull.â€ť
â€śYeah,â€ť Rylan said. â€śSpeaking of lawlessness, me and Bruce went to Pleione for the break. And Iâ€™m telling you, this place is like another fucking world. You can do whatever you want, literally.â€ť
â€śThat’s what I’ve heard. So you were down on the planet?â€ť Drake asked.
â€śYeah, most of itâ€™s wild, but they have this capital city named Atlas, thatâ€™s where most everyone lives. And so the law there is that if you are on your own property, you can do whatever you want. So, you can murder someone, and no one can do a thing about it as long as both of you are standing on your property. Isnâ€™t that insane?â€ť
â€śThat won’t last much longer,â€ť Hanna said.
â€śPssh,â€ť Rylan sighed. â€śCrawford canâ€™t just go and kill everyone. Thereâ€™s only so much he can do. Those people out there, they donâ€™t give a fuck about what some lund a hundred light years away thinks.â€ť Rylan leaned over toward Drake. â€śYouâ€™d love it the most man. Thereâ€™s just no shitting around. And the people are intense. They want their liberty, and theyâ€™ll punch anyone that gets in their fucking way.â€ť
â€śThey got stupid kids running all over the streets back on Orbatron now too,â€ť Drake said dismissively. â€śFucking police and college kids chasing each other like cats and rats.â€ť
â€śThese arenâ€™t kut-ass welfare-babies,â€ť Rylan said. â€śThese people are making things happen. Theyâ€™re building a whole diuing society from the ground up. The attitude there is justâ€”you can feel the energy. â€ť
â€śYeah, we were feeling the energy, alright,â€ť Bruce said. He and Rylan laughed.
â€śOh! And the girls, they are so down. These chutias me and Bruce ran intoâ€”holy fuck.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t believe you didnâ€™t already mention this,â€ť Bruce said.
â€śSo we ended up finding this bar where itâ€™s nothing but genechangers. I mean, what a fucking freak show. But we started talking to these normal looking chutias and brought them back to the spotel. Turns out theyâ€™re twisters too, but they got real subtle changes. So, this girlâ€™s kut tasted like cherry. It was exactly as if you were licking a goddamn cherry popsicle. I shit you not. It even smelled like it.â€ť
â€śMy girl tasted like oranges,â€ť Bruce said with a huge smile.
â€śAnd they could purr, just like a cat,â€ť Rylan said. â€śAll Iâ€™d have to do was massage her for like five seconds and this kut starts buzzing like a bumblebee, making animal noises and shit.â€ť
â€śWhat a bunch of freaks,â€ť Drake said.
â€śI know, right? I love that fucking place. Iâ€™m telling you Drake, next break come with me. Fuck Orbatron. I donâ€™t know why you go back to that boring place.â€ť
Drake couldn’t disagree with that sentiment.
A team of servers brought large plates of food, bacon-wrapped filets accompanied by mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, bread, and butter.
â€śThey grow all this here on the space station,â€ť Bruce said to Drake.
â€śYou pick the pig too?â€ť
â€śSir, can I get you something to drink?â€ť a server asked Drake.
â€śYeah, you have any specials?â€ť
Rylan burst out laughing.
â€śHereâ€™s the beverage list,â€ť the server said, pointing.
â€śUh, how about this scotch,â€ť Drake answered. The servers whisked off.
â€śDaddydiuerâ€™s asking about specials,â€ť Rylan said laughing. â€śThis meal alone is over a thousand bucks.â€ť
â€śSeriously?â€ť Drake asked.
â€śYou gotta love government expense accounts,â€ť Xavier said.
Typically, Drake avoided soaking the taxpayerâ€™s coffers as much as he could, but because this would be his last hurrah, he tore into his meal.
â€śThis is delicious,â€ť Drake said aloud as the server returned with his scotch.
â€śIâ€™m telling you, thereâ€™s no synthetic food in the world that tastes this diuing good,â€ť Rylan said. â€śNo matter how hard they try, they just canâ€™t top the original. Itâ€™s ridiculous this shit got banned in the first place.â€ť
Forks stabbed and twisted. Jaws chewed.
â€śSo this one night me and Bruce were in this dive bar and we started buying drinks for these diuing chutias…â€ť
As Rylan continued to document and detail his embellished sexual exploits while on Pleione, Drake sipped his liquor and retreated into his mind. A sadness washed across him.
Here on the edge of the galaxy, enjoying conversations and dinner with his friends, preparing to travel to another new star system, maybe the last heâ€™ll ever discover, Drake sighed. This was his home. This was his world. And unfortunately, this would be his last time here.
Laughter again whirled around the table.
â€śThat was the worst story youâ€™ve ever told,â€ť Hanna said to Rylan.
â€śThose little kids must have been mortified,â€ť Xavier said.
â€śNah, they loved it.â€ť Rylan said.
Rylan took a respite from running his mouth to shovel down some food, and in that brief silence, Drake scanned around at his crew. A smile bubbled up. He’d not spend this last moment of his career lamenting its end. Instead, he do his best to cherish it.
â€śHey,â€ť Drake said extending his arm with drink in hand. â€śWhatever happens, I just want you to know it’s been a pleasure flying with you kuts. Here’s to the greatest explorers the world has ever known.â€ť
The rims of glasses knocked together.
Light conversation and heavy consumption carried on for hours until they maxed out their expense accounts and staggered off to bed.