What ever happened to the American "melting pot"? Now I think English should be the official language but our lack of skill at foreign languages and getting upset because someone is speaking something other than American accented English is getting out o hand.. I could link half a dozen articles about 'Muricans getting bent out of shape by some foreign influnce. Even European influences. News flash, that's where port of the population originated from. Persoanlly I think a foreign langauge should be complusory in primary education like it used to be.
Ok I'm done ranting.
Friday, August 28
Here it is at last, the first episode of a story about sister detectives. Think of it as a TV series in writing. I'd like to thank my altre ego, Mary McCoy for her creative input and suggestions. Enjoy!
Billie and Jackie
Billie and Jackie
It’s cool and dark in the Cornacopia, a restaurant and bar, where Billie sits watching the DJ set up for Karaoke night. She is waiting for her sister Jackie to show so they can go over the day’s business. They don’t have a formal office for their detective work, most clients know they can be found sitting at the corner table affording a view of the entrance. Jackie likes it because she can watch the singers and follow the lyrics on the widescreen TV overhead while Billie prefers to keep her back to the brick wall, a habit from her military police training.
The place is funky and comfortable like a family room with wood paneling and neon signs hung on the walls instead of pictures. The metal lamp shades keep the lighting mellow and the wooden straight back chairs complain with a growl as they are pushed across the blotchy concrete floor.
It’s still early as the fading light of day filters through a window. The crowd is small, a few late diners and a few early drinkers dressed causal in jeans and tee shirts, several women wear flowery summer dresses.
Billie shifts impatiently, propping a foot on the rung of the nearby chair and glances at her watch. Jackie arrives late and they spot each other immediately. Jackie plops down in the chair dropping her voluminous purse on the floor while her huge key ring clanks loudly on the table.
“ I can’t believe the traffic on the Beltline, is there a Duck game tonight?” she says. Her shoulders sag as she removes her stylish coat and hangs it over the chair.
“No, probably just the construction work on the I-5 on ramp,” Billie answers and sips her water.
“How would you know?” Jackie asks, as her sister does not drive.
“There’s this thing called the news on TV,” Billie retorts.
“At any rate Mrs. Audrey is fine, her daughter and granddaughter are fine and I’m tired of the three generations soap opera,” Jackie sighs as the waitress brings her a glass of water and refills Billie’s.
Detective work can be trying, looking out for an ex addict and her children isn’t glamorous but is part of the job.
“Better you deal with them then CSD or the Springfield cops,” Billie says as consolation to her sister’s thankless work. Jackie shakes her head but is grateful for the faint praise.
Billie smiles at her older sister as the petite woman tosses her long blonde hair over a shoulder and removes large horn rimmed glasses in order to touch up her make up, squinting in the tiny mirror.
She is an attractive woman at forty five and Billie can’t figure out why her sister has not snagged a husband. She looks out the window to hide her brooding. Oh yeah, that’s right, Jackie has bad luck with men. More like poor taste, Billie amends but does not want to judge her harshly because she is lucky enough to have a great partner like Wally.
Her attention is snagged by a man standing outside of a bar across the street.
“Good God, is that Kohler?” Billie blurts out and Jackie puts her glasses on to take a look herself. They watch the man sway unsteadily as he gestures wildly in animated conversation with another man.
“Yeah, well let’s get this over with while the night is still young,” Jackie says in mild irritation. Billie rises marginally faster than Jackie.
Kohler makes his way to a worn out black pick up truck, fishing in his pocket for the keys. When he looks up there is a woman in glasses, a long denim skirt and a flowery blouse leaning against it.
“Oh jeez, not now,” he groans, knowing what she wants.
“ Hi Fred, what’s up?” Jackie says with false sincerity.
“Come on, don’t be busting my balls again. I got no money to pay Grace this month.”
“Fred, if you can afford a new truck and go out drinking with your buddies, you can afford child support. Don’t be an asshole and we won’t have to do this anymore,” Jackie says with arms crossed.
Leaving your wife is one thing, leaving your kid is unforgiveable to Jackie and she tries to keep her fury in check.
“It’s a used truck and I deserve a beer after a long day’s work. Give me a break,” he explains as he tries very causally to unlock the truck.
“ You are behind on your payments Fred, just deal with it,” Jackie says, unimpressed with his pleas.
Fred is tired of the game his ex wife is playing and advances on Jackie who takes a defensive stance.
“You can tell that bitch I’m not giving her or that screaming brat another dime. She can go to hell,” he pulls himself up but Jackie knows he’s all bluster. She takes off her glasses and stashes them in her pocket. She is not afraid of confrontation but she can feel the adrenaline flowing. Fred misreads her body language and takes a threatening step toward her. The sound of the hood slamming stops him and turning around he sees another short but stockier woman holding his keys and the coil wire.
“ You really shouldn’t drink and drive,” Billie intones like a PSA.
He cringes, remembering the key in the door before he was deliberately distracted. Billie tosses the keys to Jackie.
“You drive when you pay up,” Jackie smiles as the two walk away leaving Fred dejected but too tired to argue.
Wednesday, August 19
I just went over what I've written of "Shop Talk" and like a drunk waking up the next morning, realized that I said some things prematurely. What I posted is literally a shitty first draft. Nothing wrong with that but I have decided to do some work on the story before posting an improved (?) version in a few weeks. If anyone is still interested or gives a shit that is. Feel free to read what I got, offer an opinion of where you think it's headed or whatever and we'll see what happens together. Thanks.
Friday, August 7
Shop Talk 2 Meet the Crew
I was lucky to get a job, an apartment and internet in one day. The shop was close by so I got my exercise walking there. Given the difference in gravity, it felt like a hike uphill in high altitude.
The biggest issue with all the species of aliens was dealing with everyone’s 1G: one’s native gravity, atmosphere and sunlight. Mark’s Station was slightly smaller than Earth and established by Terrans so the living conditions were adjusted to somewhere between Earth and the Pohl ,which was bigger and heavier.
The shop looked like an airplane hanger from the outside. One end was open to allow ships to park inside. The place had a grungy, dirt and oil stained odor to it I found comfortable and familiar. The crew took some getting used to.
Aside from Stan the other Terran was Temple, the chief mechanic, a lithe woman with café au lait complexion and an intense personality. She did not suffer fools easily as the “three amigos” found out.
They were Rogues, immigrants of mixed races from various worlds who were usually ex cons, mine workers or adventures running from the law. Chuck Berry, Johnny Begoode and Elvis were not very bright and I figured they wouldn’t last long. Chuck made the mistake of being an asshole- not uncommon with Rogues, their phony names gave them away.
“What is your problem?” Temple snapped at Chuck, who was constantly ogling her. He seemed pleased that she finally noticed him.
“When are we going out to party and have a good time?” he leered over the work table. She replied with a rude noise and promptly ignored him. His comrades laughed and continued to rib him as he sulked in rejection.
Chuck continued to harass Temple until she complained and Stan fired him. Stan, with his entrenched navy habits, would not tolerate dissension within the unit. The other two took the hint and kept their heads down, although Johnny didn’t keep his low enough.
When the McKinley engines are tested, they generate an intense magnetic field, too intense if you ask me. We had been warned about leaving steel tools anywhere near the testing cage- a large section of the garage separated by a thick mesh wall of aluminum. Too often a carelessly laid tool was sent flying and miss someone before crashing against the cage. Sure enough, Johnny was hit in the head by an airborne wrench and knocked out cold. We never saw him again. Elvis always wore a hardhat after that and was super friendly to everyone.
The second shift was reduced to me, Temple, Elvis, Thorg and the two Pohlian, who seemed to never sleep. The Chiron joined us for lunch, settling his large frame on a bench, the wood aching under the weight. Thorg scared the shit out of Elvis, I don’t know why, he was the sweetest being I ever met. He gave us a cheerful nod and a smile in greeting as he put on the table, a keg sized mug of root beer and a sub sandwich from a local deli big enough to feed everyone.
While he chatted amiably with Temple I watched the two Pohlians sit at another table across the crew lounge. Imbler and Fet spoke little but communicated with each other in a silent fashion I never deciphered.
“What’s this gee gaw?” Thorg asked holding up a green vegetable he fished out of the sandwich. He referred to everything that way.
“It’s a jalapeno pepper, very spicy.” Temple informed him. He gobbled the pepper with delight.
I was intrigued with the Pohl’s as they sat quietly eating small, jello like squares and drinking a foul smelling liquid from tall glasses. Their movements were slow and graceful but pointedly as artificial as their neat wigs and weirdly colored contact lens. Occasionally their movements would blur momentarily like a film fast forwarded then return to normal.
“Man, I just stand get used to that,” Elvis said, blinking several times and shaking his head. I nodded, their sporadic changes in tempo and stiff human appearance was unnerving.
When I arrived at the station I made it a point to find out everything I could about the Pohls but they remained elusive.
They were nice enough to let Mark Fruerstein establish a base on their largest moon and left the settlers alone as they were rather private. However, they insisted on having a few of their own around to make sure the Terrans behaved. There was a cordial but cool relationship between the two.
No human had ever been to Pohl, the heavy gee and toxic atmosphere was too hostile. The Pohl’s had colonized the moon long ago so they were used to the thinner air and low gee.
There were five “cities’’ on Mark’s Station, clustered around a convention sized “city hall” as the locals called it, where all interspecies business was conducted.
The Station was supposedly autonomous but the Pohls’ really called the shots. They were the sole species of Huxley, solar systems were referred to by their suns and the silly custom of using writers names persisted.
Sitting at the lunch table and watching the two alien mechanics piqued my interest once more. I wasn’t close pals with Temple but relied on her to fill me in on technical stuff and the crew. I nudged her with an elbow.
“What do the Pohl’s really look like?” I asked her under my breath.
“You don’t want to know,” she replied seriously.
“Really?” I pushed on. She gave me her patented “don’t go there” glare.
“This is one area you should leave your curiosity unsatisfied,” she answered with a mixture of parental scolding and odd discomfort. I glanced at the pair and wondered.
Thursday, July 23
It looked like an ordinary auto repair shop, except the vehicle in the bay was the size of a freight train engine. The owner of the shop looked just as ordinary sitting in a padded swivel chair in the cramped office regarding my resume. He was a stocky man with faded reddish blonde hair and a middle age gut.
Stan Mussel –if that was his real name- was a fellow Terran with an honest reputation, although one could never be sure on Mark’s Station, a large moon orbiting Pohl. It was a pretty wild place out on the frontier.
“So how does one go from a graphic designer to space ship detailing?” he asked as he tossed his reading glasses on the cluttered desk. I gave a small shrug and fidgeted slightly in the chair across from him.
Just then a loud “hey boss” interrupted us and a large blue creature that looked like a hairless ape shambled up to the doorway. He was over two meters tall, and had to duck his head slightly to see into the office. A massive torso filled out the faded denim overalls he wore and nicely accommodated his four arms, one of which rested against the doorframe.
“Hey boss the new gee-gaw for the Swanson is finally here. Where do you want it?” he asked in a surprisingly pleasant baritone in perfect American English.
“Leave it parked out back until I got room for it.” Stan dismissed. The creature nodded and ambled off.
“What was that? “ I asked in a manner I hoped wasn’t too stunned or ignorant.
“Oh that’s our grunt, Thorg.”
“Thorg?” that sounds ridiculous, I thought.
“Oh yeah, well, he has a long unpronounceable name like the Indians do. We call him that for short. He doesn’t mind. Do you have a problem working with a Chiron?” he asked.
“Not at all, I just never saw one up close.” I replied. We returned to the discussion of my career change.
“There’s not much work for a graphic artist here. I’ve always loved tinkering with designs and machines and figured this was a good place to rediscover that skill.” I informed him. It was true, I never saw furniture, a room layout or gadget that I couldn’t resist redesigning in my head. The owner nodded.
“You know what that is?” he nodded toward the behemoth in the shop beyond the office door.
“That’s a class one space tug with twin Boller V-5 engines used for docking transport barges. What’s wrong with it?” I tried to sound knowledgeable and causal at the same time, grateful for the late night cram session memorizing the different type of space crafts plying the interstellar trade routes.
“The tractor beam is on the fritz, keeps shorting out.” He explained with the same causal tone.
Ouch. You don’t want the beam to go out on one of these monsters while pushing a 100k transport into dock. That’s a messy crash.
“What do you know about McKinley’s?” he asked.
I dreaded this question. The McKinley Ion Drive was the top of the line propulsion system favored for their power, efficiency and design. It was the Rolls Royce of long range engines and propitiatory technology. This was only authorized repair shop for them. That was a big deal as nobody outside the company knew exactly how they worked. You might as well find out how the Klingon cloaking device worked first.
“Uh, high mechanics is not my specialty, I’m into maintenance and interior work.” I replied honestly. Jeesh, don’t blow this, I really need the work, I reminded myself and braced for his reaction. He seemed satisfied with my answer and turned to an obvious matter.
“You don’t seem stunned like other Terrans working off world.” He mentioned lightly, but scrutinized me closely.
I smiled at a private joke. Ah yes, my dear, fellow humans completely freaked, to put it mildly, when the aliens of a nearby solar system presented themselves to us at “The Awakening” as it was called. I found the whole thing highly amusing as our species collective, massive ego exploded at the realization that we really aren’t the center of the universe. A lot of religious people didn’t take it well.
This is exactly where I belonged. Far from crappy, dirty, depressing Earth and it’s mostly miserable inhabitants. Here on Mark’s Station, named for the entrepreneur who colonized the moon with the permission of the Pohls, natives of the nearby planet.
There was a fashion of naming the planets of the newly discovered system after famous science fiction writers. Hence the planets Asimov, Heinlein, LeGuin , Prachett and Pohl, for Fredrick Pohl. The inhabitants didn’t seem to care, they probably did the same sort of thing for our solar system.
Terrans we are called, more like refugees. Friends were baffled by my preference for an off world life but I loved every single, amazing, utterly different thing about it. It gave me a reason to get up every morning and explore.
“Yeah, well I have autism so i'm practically alien already.” I said proudly.
Ain’t that the truth.