Author : Morrow Brady
Pressure surge from the Reece tube flung slaters from the nozzle. I batted them away into space with a dirtied glove.
“While you’re there, get rid of them too!”said Captain Boscobel over comm.
I worked Dockmouth, the parking garage for a bastardised space station called the Dock.Built by orbital robots from spent rocket boosters, decommissioned satellites and frozen astronaut shit, it was at best shambolic. Dockers ranged from spacefaring cyber-hippies to pseudoscientists and FIFOs. All suckling at the intoxicating teat of a lawless frontier.
I moved here after EarthDay43, when an asteroid fractured our Moon. It changed Earth forever and turned the Dock into a budget staging post for humanities propagation into deep space.
Crab-bots teased slaters from micro-meteorite gashes in Boscobel’s hull. Storing them in operable faulds along their flanks. Creasey’s Galley would credit me handsomely for their tasty innards.
Through my scratched visor extended Dockmouth’s berthing deck. Like a frozen wave of debris, it gently arced for a mile into space. It was interrupted randomly by ships of various shapes and sizes attached like suckling pigs.
Facing away from Earth, Dockmouth’s solemn darkness changed as the moon broke Mouthside. Shadows shrouding locking clamps and airlocks became diluted with a clandestine hue. Witching hour had returned as we caught up with the moon.
Moonbeams reflecting off Dockmotes flickered as a ship of shadows appeared from nothing and approached the far berth. Refuel credits logged, so I left Boscobel to the crabbots and jetted for the strange ship.
Approaching cautiously, I rendezvoused with a Reese tube, escorting it aft to an inconspicuous point on the seamless hull. To my amazement, the nozzle disappeared below the shadowy skin and fuel flowed immediately.
“Sponge, you old juice pusher!”
I flinched as I pictured my frightful facial scars. Soolong’s tinny voice had reawakened horrible memories of our last SpaceCore posting on the moon when the asteroid hit. Soolong literally became half the man he was.
“Slug, you old juice burner! It’s been years. Nice ship! Is black the new black?” I said, struggling to control my anxiety.
“Sorbnets Sponge! and you can call her Betty”
Docktalk whispered of a new dark tech that thrived on enemy fire. Operating within the slip-field fissures born from battle energy. Soolong must have reenlisted.
“Sorbnets? Thats dark energy isn’t it Slug?”
Suddenly comms went down. A bright light, moving at rail speed, lit up Dockmouth like a guzzling fire eater. It slammed into Slug’s ship, turning the sorb-net near me transparent as power transferred to the impact site on the opposite side. Beneath the matt black hull was a glowing latticework supported on armour plating. Nauseous from my high-G escape manoeuvre, I braced for chaos.
Moonbeams shimmered again as another sorb-net ship appeared. I searched frantically for a survivable vector but I knew any ship to ship weapon exchange this close was terminal.
Comm reinstated and laughter bellowed from multiple sources.
“Should have seen your face Sponge!” Slug laughed.
The second ship slowed to approach speed and berthed.
“He took off like a rabbit!” Laughed the second ship’s Captain.
“Sorry Sponge, but out on Europa, I heard you were Dockside. I thought I might drop by
and see if you still had some Core left in you”
“You bastard Slug. I’ve popped my catheter and now I’m swimming in piss”
“Well I’ll buy you a coldie and we can call it even. And while we’re at it, I’ve got an offer that
involves a long journey, a Captain’s hat and a sorb-net ship called Barbara”