Starlight Antiquities

by

Spacerin

Chapter 9 - Morse Right, Part 3 - Zarcerie’s Starlight Antiquities

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It was not hard finding the Zarcerie’s Starlight Antiquities. Big shining neon lights announcing Summer’s Bar could have been seen from gates away, and the antiquities shop occupied an obscure corner on the other side of the Promenade. Jammie figured in a few weeks, she’ll get to know this station as if she spent her whole life here.


Even though the entrance to the place was very inconspicuous, the space inside was far bigger and longer than expected. It carried the profound smell of old things, all sorts of old things like ancient books that covered spattered shells with real wooden furniture in between, some carved with patterns of flowers and animals Jammie had never seen before.

The light was dim, but still, one quick glance was enough for Jammie to realize how overstuffed the whole place was and doubted how could anyone know their way around that whole mess. She caught the sight of many objects she did not have a clue what their purpose might have been. They looked so old it made her think if anyone else did.

Stepping over the creaking wooden floor, she tried to catch her breath.

All the way down on the far end of the room was a counter where two men stood on each side. Her eye fixated on the one standing on the other side of the counter, the one with too many years to his face, with the deepest face lines Jammie had ever seen, bald head and a long white goat beard. However, the most striking was his nose, huge and crooked, covering half of his face. And the ears with bushes of sprouting hair to match it.

He was a small figure, casting a big shadow while slouching over the counter, his one hand caressing the half-empty tea cup.

Jammie said, “Good morning,” and scurried toward them.

But they did not seem to notice her at all and continued with what seemed to be one very relaxed chat.

“I’m telling you, the Union is gone,” said the younger man, obviously the visitor.

“It’s not gone. It’s stronger than ever. Didn’t you see that cruiser?” the old bearded man said as his visitor shook the rhetorical question off with his hand gesture. The old man would not let him talk and continued.

“What can stand to that? That is the latest state-of-the-art thing. APax and Thirteen Planets have nothing compared to this. With one press of the bottom, they can fire their UC energy beam and practically destroy the whole planet. What can stand up against that? And their ship? They have so much money, they plate it in Palladium-13, just for the kicks off it. Didn’t you see their fancy shining cruiser?”

“Not everything that shines is Palladium.”

“Yeah, but you can bet your ass that shit is. And they’ve got thousands of them, even bigger ships, you know.”

“Oh, I know they have more military hardware than the rest of the human race combined, but…”

“Excuse me, Sir,” Jammie had made it to the counter, got tired of waiting for them to acknowledge her presence, and now she wanted their attention.

But she got none. The visitor and the old man had their eyes locked and would not look to anybody else.

“Yes they do, and they know it. That’s why they do what they do.”

“Yeah, but the question of the hour is, what do you think that ship is doing here to begin with? Why come here?”

“That’s another question. I bet it did not come here for resupply and maintenance.”

"I heard the ship came here as a scout, sort of."

"As a scout."

"Yes. I heard the whole battleship is supposed to come this way rather soon."

"You don't say, and how exactly did you hear this?"

Jammie realized there were actually four coffee-dirtied cups that stood empty on the counter. ‘For space spirits, how long have they been at this?’ she thought.

"Excuse me!"

“No. Probably not. Our deal with the Union expired years ago.”

“And I have not heard our high-ups talk about renewing it.”

“Me neither. But then, who knows what The Secret Seven have up their sleeve.”

“Oh, come on, you don’t believe our station being run with that group, do you?”

“I heard rumors, an awful lot of rumors. I know I have not been here long enough like you, but I’ve been here long enough to hear and see things.”

The old man didn’t even bother to answer to that and waved that off with his hand as if it was a pestering fly.

 

Talking about Union’s military. Jamme knew enough about it to fear it, and the chance that the station might blow up and destroy their ship would certainly imply her involvement. They would certainly consider her a terrorist, and her family, living in the Union space would certainly be targeted. It would be the end of them all.

Jammie tried to muzzle her impatience as her heart started to race and her eyes danced nervously, contemplating consequences.

“Can you two stop!” she said in the end in the raised voice, trying to sound as polite as possible but not ready to wait any longer. She even placed her hands on the counter, determined to bang one of those dirty cups against both of their heads if they try to ignore her any longer. They may even think of him as a terrorist. “I’m so sorry to interrupt you, but this is urgent!”

“All right, Bud. Talk to you later. Let me see what I can do for this young man here. He seems in so much hurry, doesn’t he? What happened to you boy, your pants got on fire?” The old man’s patronizing voice made Jammie’s eyes full of fire.

You blind as well as old? Jammie wanted to say so bad, but maybe her life depended on the outcome of this meeting...

“Yeah, I better let you deal with… your visitor,” the man said, obviously noting that Jammie was a young woman. “And see you around.”

How long do these people need to say goodbye to each other? Not like they are going to live more than ten miles from each other, even if they lived on the opposite sides of the station.

“So, what do you want, young man?”

“Fibs… Do you have any?”

“What?”

“Fibs.”

“Well, a proper, polite way would be first for you to tell me who you are. And why would your ship need fibs? Do not know of any big freighters that are docking here now.”

“No, no, no. I’m working for Mr. Lockmen down in Maintenance. Yes, for Mr. Lucky. The Old Beatzy is acting up and Mr. Lucky said that we need fibs. Now, I went to the Depo and they gave me this order to give it to you in case you have some fibs, or should we just continue to chat and let this station blow up?”

“Oh, why didn’t you say so right away?” said the old man and rubbed his beard. “A feisty young man, aren’t you?”

Jammie could do a lot, say a lot, but instead of shrieking, ‘And you’re a blind, old fool, an old goat like everyone calls you,’ she bit her tongue and let the fire in her eyes express her thoughts.

“So, you are the new guy, huh. The rumor was that old Lucky was finally going to get some help.”

“Yes, I am. I’m the new guy. Jammie.”

“Huh.” That ‘huh’ had a lot of meaning inside, but Jammie just did not care to find out what that meaning was. Images of her family being interrogated in one of the Union’s Security Centers override all her other thoughts.

“So, do you have fibs, Mr. Zarcary, I’m presuming because Mr. Lockmen told me…”

“I know. When the shit hits the fan, who do you people always turn to?” There was a lot of satisfaction in the old man’s voice.

Jammie knew she did not have to answer that, but she uttered, “I do not know. This is really only my first day on the job. ”

“A little bit fisty aren't you? Old Beatzy acting up, huh? Well, I did feel my step a bit heavier this morning. Well, at least we are not flowing around. But, now when I stop to think about it, at my age with my old bones, it might be actually better.”

The station collapsing and blowing up, the U’s cruiser with it, the hunt for his parents, U’s interrogation centers…

Jammie could not handle it anymore. “I’m sorry but can we do this fast? Mr. Lockman fears she may blow if I don’t get him the fibs soon.”

“All right, all right, young man. Hold your horses.”

“I’m not a young man. And you know perfectly well that I’m the Union citizen. so I might be older than you for all that you can tell!” Jammie, maybe for the first time in her life, was starting to be pissed off.

But the words did not get to the old man. “So impatient, so you must be young. I wonder if I was that impatient when I was your age. Okay, okay. I’m leaving. Let me see if I can find some old fibs for you. I think I saw some in the backroom two weeks ago when I looked for some ER 50 Optimizers,” he continued in his slow voice as he disappeared behind the dark side door Jammie had not noticed before.

Jammie thought she would wait till the station started to fall apart, but the old man came back rather quickly.

A moment later, he gave her a green carton box, worn out of old age by sitting on the shelf, with FIB written in big red letters on its side. Jammie could not help but to open the fist-sized box to look inside.

For a long moment, she stood there confused, so long that the old man had to say, “I promise you that these are functional. They may be old, but they are working just fine. So, just sign here, and you can take those fibs to Lucky now.”

“But these are just simple ion inductors?” Jammie muttered, not believing her eyes.

What the hell? It downed on her right away, FIBs - fuse inductor-blocker. What the hell is going on here?

 

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Spacerin

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