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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 10: Kondor 4
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 9, Slade 3
Kondor stood at the top of the gangplank--it was the only word he had for the ramp which led down from the ship to the docks--and surveyed the city of Sardic. He was not certain whether he wanted to continue with the Mary Piper or look for work in the city, but for the moment he took everything with him. Once again dressed in his desert fatigues, he carried his duffel under his left arm and his M-16 over his right, and a wad of "diktar", the local currency, split between his pocket and his pack.
The city had a futuristic look to it. But it didn't look like any picture of futuristic cities he had ever seen. The unstable bulbous towers and aircar traffic were absent. When he tried to explain it later, he said that if you look at the old skyscrapers in New York like the Empire State Building and then at the newer ones built half a century later, it was like that. The same idea was there, but it had a different look.
Seeing Walters and another of the crewmen on the dock, he caught up with them. "So, this is the big city," he said. "Where can a sailor get a decent meal?"
Walters laughed. "Come have a drink with us. Oh--but I know you probably don't want to drink with strangers, so let me introduce Roberts."
"Yeah, I guess I'll be more careful about that." He shook the other's hand. "I'm Kondor."
"You're kidding, right? Everyone knows who you are."
"A drink sounds good. I'm not sure what I'm doing next, so I'll need a place to stay tonight."
"Not joining the next run?" Walters asked.
"I haven't decided. Anyway, I don't know if there are any openings. What do you do, Roberts?"
"I'm a pilot," he replied. "And no, we don't anticipate any openings in my department."
Despite the futuristic look of the city, the inside of the bar was quite familiar. He stopped to order from the bartender. "Look", he said, "I want something that will quench my thirst, but won't mess with my head. I don't know what you all serve here, but I don't want alcohol or stimulants or anything like that except maybe a little caffeine--do you do caffeine?--maybe fruit juice or soda or something. What have you got?"
The bartender pointed him to a plastic menu, and tapped on a section of soft drinks and fruit juices. Although he didn't know half of what was listed, he was satisfied, ordered something from that, and sat by the wall with his two companions from the ship.
The conversation drifted for a while. Neither of his companions knew more about Sardic than could be read in a travel guide. This bar was their primary point of interest.
"So," Kondor ventured, "you're both staying on for the next run?"
"I am," Walters said. "Cargo shipping pays well, with free room and board, and room for advancement if you stick to it."
"I'm hoping to make captain one day," Roberts said. "I've got experience in engineering and navigation, so my next step is into an officer slot."
"Yeah, right. You a captain," Walters teased.
"What? You don't think?"
"I'm just kidding. You could do it, maybe. But how many captains are there?"
While they were talking, a fight broke out. Kondor had no idea what it was about, but that somewhere on the other side of the room the shouting started, and soon several men had come to blows, and it began to spread. He gulped down the rest of his drink and, seeing no clear path to the exits, shifted his gun across his chest and slid his backpack down the wall until he was seated on the floor. Here he waited for the dust to settle.
The group that burst through the doors were either uniformed officers or some kind of gang. They all dressed nearly alike, held weapons, and began subduing and removing the combatants. After a few minutes of this, Kondor decided these were the police, and began to relax.
That is, he began to relax until the police rousted him, demanding that he surrender his weapons, and took him into custody. He was soon being questioned in a small room.
In general, Joseph Wade Kondor believed in telling the truth. He began to appreciate the simple convenience of that policy. He had to weave a story which explained who he was, how he got here, why there was no record of his identity anywhere, and where he got the equipment; and it had to fit with what he had already told the captain and crew of the Mary Piper. But he stuck to the truth as much as he could. He was from a small planet called Earth, and had never intended to leave; something happened, and he woke up in the cargo hold of the Mary Piper. He had no money, but he did have his other possessions. Captain Johnson was quite accommodating, and gave him a job; the job officially ended when they got into port this morning, and he hadn't decided whether to sign on for another tour. He didn't know how to find earth, and the people there hadn't yet gotten around to traveling farther than its own moon, and hadn't even bothered to go there since before he was born. As to the weapons, he was a medic in the army back home, and had them with him when he was abducted.
The police called the port, and talked to the captain, and were eventually satisfied with this story. He realized that he had just explained himself by claiming to have been abducted by aliens; but I suppose if you're telling this to the aliens, he thought, it starts to make more sense. But he'd had enough of Sardic for the day, and didn't wish to see what else could happen. So he went back to the ship.
"Captain," he said, "I'd like to sign on for another tour. Got any openings?"
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #20: Becoming Novel. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: