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.