Starlight Antiquities

by

Spacerin

Chapter 1 - The Best Beer in the Whole Quadrant

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A note from Spacerin

I'd like to say that this story is a work-in-progress. So, I apologize if placing the chapter before this one has inconvenienced anyone.

Decades later...

Planet Reinaxys - Quadrand 3FD50'

 

The ground came up fast, way too fast.

"Damn machine!" Timothy the Seventh cursed between his teeth as the engine coughed and belched, and his hoverbike dived down, taking him with it and closing dangerously the distance to the hard rocks underneath in less than a twitch of a gunfighter's hand.

He clenched his teeth and pounded the gas pedal a few times as hard as he could with his left foot, almost expecting his boot to break the rusted metal and go through. At the same time, he slammed the controls of his flyer with his gloved fist, twice and again, expecting the controls to crack and fall apart.

But the engine started to purr harder, the dive stopped, and he evened the flyer. He slammed the engine with the inside of his right knee and the engine purred harder still. Not a lot, but enough that he could breathe again.

Not ten minutes after taking off, the pressure in the main power pistons started to oscillate wildly, and there was not much he could do to stabilize it again. On top of that, the altimeter seemed to have gone berserk. It stated he was ten feet from the ground.

"Ten feet, my ass. I can taste the dust through my helmet. Ten inches probably," he grunted.


Still, it was probably a good idea he dived down. He was already close to the habitat and who knew what kind of sensors they had there. So, in reality, he needed to keep on flying as close to the ground he dared, but with the engine acting up, it was all a bit too close for his comfort.

"No room for even a single error here," he muttered to himself. With the stabilizers of the backup thruster burned a long time ago, any sudden engine failure practically guaranteed that he would meet the ground in the least desired fashion.

"Fuckin Rummy!" he cursed again. “I lived through five fuckin’ wars and ten years in RegTag’s army just to meet my end here? On a stupid flyer?!?” He was too much of a realist to kid himself he stood any chance if he hit the ground, not with the yellow stone below looking mighty hard, not with wearing an old run-down body armor that could offer him only a modest climate comfort and no real impact protection.

Reluctantly he lowered the power pressure to one-tenth and brought the speed down to a crawling ten meters per second. A rugged landscape of yellow rocks and only occasional shrubby low growth passed recognizable now under his feet, and he almost expected to meet them the helmet first any second now.

"It might be the air here," he growled bitterly to himself, realizing he was high in the mountains where oxygen was not plentiful at all.

Terra-forming the planet of Reinaxys was abandoned some decades ago when the mining companies realized their investment might never pay off, leaving the oxygen level at what it was. A small mining settlement some five miles away was one of the few still remaining.

At present speed way too long, he thought, thinking of cold beer running down his dry throat. He pressed the gas paddle just a bit harder and the engine burped up, then growled as if it was ready to fight him, but the speed still picked up slightly.

He flew over a small rushing stream and then found the trails of a dirt road, snaking around the hill.

A blinking red alert on his wrist-strapped com made him regret his last gambling adventure when in a drunken outburst he lost his whole communication equipment. So now, instead of getting the alert right into the screen of his helmet, he had moved his right hand of the flyer’s handle to swipe the com.

“Fucken Rummy!” he cursed his shipmate after seeing the message he dropped him. ‘You don’t have enough time. Hurry up!’ the message read.

“Of course I know I don’t have a fuckin’ time! If you fixed the flyer the way it should have been fixed, we would not have this trouble. And what the fuck is this with sending me messages? Why the fuck did I land the ship twenty miles away from the town if you’re gonna sent me messages now! I fuckin’ told you for a complete silence! You want to deal with security forces like it happened a week ago on Lorca?!?” Timothy was steaming mad as he made a sharp turn to the right and found himself looking in the eyes of a dumb-founded dump truck driver, heading at him in an earth-moving machine three stories high.

He jerked the flyer one-hundred degrees around and pressed the gas, then took a sharp turn to the left and felt the truck’s windshield scrap the side of his bike, making him spin around from the impact.

A rough boulder over twenty meters tall suddenly appeared out of nowhere in front of him, and he moved his whole body to the left off the flyer, twisting it into the sharp turn, the kind he stopped doing some decades ago when he realized the life was too dear to be risking it on flyer racing.

He closed his eyes, expecting the impact, but instead, he felt the scraping of the very soles of his boots against the hard stone below.

"The day is just getting better and better," he grumbled as he regained control over the flying bike and decided to get up another five meters, pushing the engine to the limit.

"Fucker, don't die on me now," he cursed again as the machine suddenly belched no power at all, taking the flying scooter down in a nosedive. He could already feel the impact of hard ground and the disappointing reality of broken bones and death, but then the engine decided to start again and he evened the machine up, just not before the soles of his boots got ripped just a bit more against the hard ground.

He sighed and took a few deep breaths, and then decided to lower the power of the machine again. Having enough time to enjoy cold beer was just not worth dying for no matter how young and stupid you want to be again.


The settlement was actually a pleasant surprise, nothing like a dump that he was visiting during most of the last year. Hundred or so homes made all of the same light-golden stone were neatly organized on a flattened mountain top plateau. The brightness of a huge neon sign in the middle of it attracted his eye right away, and he moved toward it.

“Some places have praying churches in the middle of them, but the good ones, have bars.”


He slowly took the flyer up and in a few minutes finally had a chance to steady it on the flat roof of Docker's Bar.

Counting five smaller single, four double flyers, and a pair of shiny black, heavy-armored Union’s planetary space transporters, he felt a bit disappointed as he was hoping that the place would not be so packed. Those transporters could carry twenty fully-armed troopers easily. It shows, a deserted planet with no soul in sight, but here, there is suddenly a crowd.

"Whatever," he shrugged, finishing any further contemplation of what he was to find inside. "I don't care. As long as their beer is ice cold. And at least half as good as everyone claims it is."

Getting of the flyer, he stretched his stiff back and shook both sides of his huge duster that concealed most of the body armor underneath, creating a small cloud of dust in the process.

As he walked to the top entrance, Timothy expected a security guard to get in his way. But there was nobody, and the door to the ill-famed establishment opened automatically wide as soon as it detected his presence.

He entered and took off his helmet. Smoke and chatter engulfed him instantly.

"Damn," he said half annoyed and stepped toward the spiraling stairs going down, checking the place out with each slow step he took.

In the center was an oval-shaped bar, shining with lights bouncing off mirrors and glasses. Only a few bar stools were taken. Just the opposite to the side-lined sitting tables that were mostly occupied.

On a way down, he held on one step, looking at his own reflection in the partially mirrored wall. Curly dark hair and charcoal eyes to match, with the sadness and sharpness laying there somewhere deep inside, the kind that only the horrors of Deep Space can give you. The face lines were too deep, his beard too unshaved, grayness showing.

"Too old, I'm looking too fucken old," he told himself and sighed, accepting that the next rejuvenation treatment he would get would be when the Deed Dark Space turn green and the Union reinstate his revoked citizenship.

"A middle of a day, don't people go to work here?" he asked the bartender as he approached the bar.

"It's a lunch break."

"Okay. That's good to know. And what's for lunch?"

The bartender smirked and throw him a card with a menu popping out it. He flipped through the 5d images of dishes that started to spin around.

The smells and sizzling noises they made as they were fried did not seem very appealing. Bugs, bugs, and more bugs.

“Is this one of those places that if you need to ask what this is, you are obviously not hungry enough?”

The bartender did not take an offense but gave him a challenging grin. “Try it. A bite is worth thousands of words.”

"Thousands… Huh? I'll take one of those," Timothy said pointing to what must have been a huge crystal liter-and-a-half beer mug that the bartender just finished pouring. “Actually, I think that is my preferred way of calorie intake.”

“You sure you can handle it?” the bartender asked him, still a small smirk on his face. “It’s extra loaded. Twenty proof strong. Our miners are all big boys, and they like it strong.”

“Twenty proof, huh?”

“Yes. A few of our Union customers usually end up being carried out. We even had a few fatalities. So, I ask again, are you sure you can handle it?”

“Probably not, but at least it will not bite me back. And there are worse ways to die. Besides, I hear it is the best-tasting one in the whole quadrant. It would be a shame not to see how true that rumor is. So, if it kills me, at least I won't have to hear about it. And, if it just knocks me out and you have to carry me away, be warned. I was told I fart a lot while I'm out."

The bartender chuckled as if he had never before heard any fart joke. "Good warning. Maybe I'll have someone else carry you. But, you have to pay for it first," the smirky bartender answered as he hassled two more mugs of beer. “And, yes, it is the best beer in the whole quadrant and beyond. Ever since the streams in Eisan Four started to flow, the brew we make here is without equal.”

"Well, no need to talk. Keep on pouring… Thousands of words right?” Timothy said, suddenly remembering his tight schedule. “With such a good beer, I wonder how many accidents you have here every day.”

"No, not many actually, at least not with the local crew. They don't let us serve beer to the miners during lunch. But, we got a whole team of space troopers here."

"Yeah, I thought those were their transporters, But I count only five sitting there," Timothy said and nodded his head in the direction of a table where they all set around.

"The rest are busy downstairs. Some really nice rooms there, and our ladies are as good as our beer."

“Oh, so that is where all the fun is," Timothy said, realizing just then that there were no women to be seen in the bar. "Is that why your beer is so extra strong? So, they do not leave even the ugly behind?"

"Well,” the bartender chuckled. “They do not need our beer for that. A few months isolated in space would make any woman a beauty."

“I know. But they did not even leave a robot behind.”

“Hey, we have the finest quality bots here! I take offense on that,” the bartender said in a tone that did not sound like being too offended.

Timothy was ready to say something really offensive just to show him what an insult sounds like, but then he remembered how it was for him when he was in the service and lived on the ship for months on end.

Besides, his throat was too damn dry to keep on useless talking, so he just shook his head and pressed his chipped glove against the menu card.

"Half a credit for a beer," he said being pleasantly surprised. "Then I'll take two. May I die twice."

As he waited for his beer, he sighed deeply and decided not to sit at a barstool but turned around and examined the crowd in a bit more detail.

Mostly humanoids, but there were three oversized Bulkerns that could lift a tone of rocks as if it was a pebble. He had no idea how they got through the door. Maybe there was a garage entrance behind. From far away, one could easily mistake them for the orcs, but their faces were more rounded and teeth blunt from being vegetarians.

Then, there was a pair of sleazy lizard-like Lorcars, a Stonian whose exposed skin was white as milk, and a single fury Liptar, his or hers dark eyes hidden by bushes of brown hair. There were half a dozen human miners mingled among them.

And then, there were those troopers, overly loud and obviously in a very good mood, drinking and laughing, behaving like this place belonged to them. All five humanoids, as dictated by the Grand Mastiz Vazir. But his eyes steadied on a boot right next to them where a large Mith stretched himself on a wide three-seat cushion, occupying most of it.

Most Miths have a more Neanderthal pronounced look to them than Elvish. But this one was one of the few who had more announced Elvish features, sharp pointed ears and eyebrows that curled up.

“Here are your beers,” the bartender's voice reminded him to pull his eyes away. But it was hard.

It must have been that the bartender read him right and did not like what he saw in Timothy’s eyes as he added in a suddenly stern and cold voice, “You don’t want any trouble here, mister. Whatever problem you have, keep it out of this place.”

Timothy sighed and his eyes blinked, and then he took a long gulp of the thick golden liquid, letting it wash away all the dryness in his mouth. The first taste of bitterness swiftly turned to sweetness, and he had a hard time letting go of the mug.

“You were right,” he said to the bartender who already moved toward a hooded person on the other side of the bar. “This truly is an awesome beer. Worth the reputation. Every sip of it.”

Timothy pulled a long one again, drinking it eagerly as if that might be the last beer he will ever drink.

It took a long moment for it to go down, but then he wiped his mouth and decided not to give it a rest. “But you know what? As much as I drink it, I just can’t seem to wash a bad taste in my mouth, you know, the kind of a taste you get when you have to breathe… filthy air!” Timothy’s raised voice made the bartender turn around to give him a warning stare.

But Timothy cared for those warnings none at all, so he continued in an elevated voice, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Just can’t seem to wash that stink out! And it’s this particular kind of stink you can never get used to. So, naturally, I look around and I wonder who is stinking up this place!” Timothy’s words echoed around, overpowering the suddenly hushed chatter.

Instantly all laughter, sounds stopped. The nervous silence. Hands went slowly off the tables, probably toward the weapons hidden underneath.

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Spacerin

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Telemetry ago

This is my first read and feedback. Hope it goes okay.

I liked the dropping into action right away. Some of the dialogue was pretty sharp, too. I think there are a couple spot-edits in there. Paddle to pedal, maybe. A quotation's needed at the end of "earth-moving machine three stories high." "Blink of an eye" can also just be "blink." Blink implies eyes, so you're good. Another quick one, "The bartender smirked and (threw)..." Those always sneak in there.

On a more subjective note, you don't have to be so specific with numbers. "Ten meters per second" can just be crawled or puttered or something. "The rock over twenty meters tall" can just be a massive boulder. Numbers can be rough with the flow of a story, but you may be going for that.

Great start. Good first chapter. It was pretty fun. I love the diverse species. I hope you can return the read and give one of my projects a look. We have three first installments to choose from, so you don't have to read arc one. It is the shortest, though. Two's my favorite. That dabbles with some new species like yours does. I get it if you're not doing read-for-reads. I'm catching your project pretty early after all. That's timing, I guess.

Good luck.

    Spacerin ago

    Thanks for taking time to read and comment. I am here to learn and improve and your isnights are highly valuable and appreciated. Since this is all first for me as well, with your comment, now I feel less lonely. Thanks again!

martinez ago

The very first sentance, change where you placed 'the'. Other than that, good job! Will enjoy following this.

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