Author: D Mackey
I’m setting up as the Pleiades come on shift. Like a lighthouse, their beams cut through the dark and cast long shadows over the forecourt as they turn slowly towards the Sun. Orion cycles out, and switches off one by one until it’s just the galaxy on the belt left shining. The noise of construction barely lets up as hammers strike, drills drone and saws cut; building a star, piece by piece.
A klaxon blares out as the Moon announces the start of the night shift, and the forecourt is now properly illuminated as Polaris and the Ursae turn to us. It should be Cygnus this week, but they’re having trouble with production, I hear. I brush the rime off the counter and begin putting out cutlery and napkins; soon it’s the sounds of sizzling, chopping and frying that fill our hearing, pushing away the industrial cacophony going on over our heads. Takeda over there managed to get some fish, the lucky git, so he’s chopping and filleting with the precision reserved for drug dealers, inching out every square micrometre of ammonia-laden flesh onto a bed of rice and seaweed, bulking it out with whatever vegetables he could scrounge from the bank.
He’ll get the Dog Rush when Sirius comes online, I know it, so I stop rushing and set out a couple of plastic chairs to sit and drink my coffee while I run some numbers in my head. Little does he know, but I found pork. Proper pork, too – not enough for, like, a chop or anything, but I could make a proper broth. Eke It out. I look under the counter and see the mushrooms are coming in well, so scrape a couple of layers off into a box. Should add some flavour.
Right on cue, Sirius crew starts yapping and Takeda’s throwing rolls and rice as fast as he can make them. I’m back behind the screen, boiling the broth and coercing the last scraps of miso from the jar. I’ve barely got my first bowls out by the time a crewman’s come up to take a break. She almost forgets to put her matter back on, but all I need to do is glance at the sign. “No Mass, No Meal”. She fawns apologetically and exhales a cloud of phlogiston around her hair as she takes up the noodles. I pass her the sesame grinder.
More follow; I dish up the broth, swirling and fatty, steaming in the cold light. A handful of flash-boiled noodles. Mushrooms. Onions. My last eggs, marinated in soy for what seems like decades. A pinch of garlic and chilli. The number of bowls on the counter stays almost constant at four as empty dishes replace full ones. Workers slurp on their noodles, getting them tangled in their projectors or in their helmets, splashing broth on the tools and jumpsuits. One goads their colleague into trying the jar of pickled naga I keep at the edge of the counter, and they’re soon gasping for water. The chaotic hubbub of relaxation keeps out the cold better than the moth-encrusted heat lamps.
The hours pass, and my supplies dwindle. The careless lights of Scorpio begin to chase away the Ursae, the Moon turns to its side and the horn blares out again. I start packing up. Above me, another chunk of star is riveted in place and blazes into life as it comes online. Tomorrow night I’ll be back with pancakes.