“ George, this is Alisa, our new interior detailer. You’ll be working with her a lot.” Stan Mussel introduced me to a creature that looked like a large blue, hairless ape. Stan was owner of Montana Design, a space ship repair and customizing shop.
George was over two meters tall with four arms protruding from a massive torso. He wiped his lower hands on a rag and stuffed it in the pocket of his black overalls.
“Nice to meet you,” he said in perfect American English as he extended his lower right hand.
“Uh, nice to meet you too,” I managed as we shook, his grip was firm with just the right amount of pressure. I had never seen a Chiron up close so this was a new experience for me.
“Boss, that new gee-gaw for the Swanson is finally here, where do you want it?” George asked Stan.
“Leave it in the holding bay until I got room for it. Would you finish the tour of the shop while I find out what new crisis Gaga is having,” He was referring to a large black women waving at him frantically through the window of the front office. He took off before either of us responded.
George and I exchanged shrugs and we proceeded to the main floor.
It was an ordinary looking repair shop except it was the size of a airplane hanger. It had a grungy, dirt and oil stained odor to it I found comfortable and familiar. Powerful lights two stories above cast a strong glare on the three bays, several work stations and a huge metal cage off to one side. The place was noisy from the drone of tested engines, pneumatic tools and the industrial strength heating and air circulation systems.
“You’re not stunned by me like other Terrans working off world,” George mentioned lightly, noticing my nonchalant reaction.
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 ego exploded at the realization that we really aren’t the center of the universe. A lot of religious folks didn’t take it well.
“After traveling Beyond Light Speed, not much fazes me anymore,” I admitted and he understood. Until recently, Beyond Light Speed, was an intense experience for humans due to the twisting of space-time.
I stopped to stare at a ship the size of a train engine sitting in the far bay.
“What?” George noticed my reaction.
“That’s a class one space tug with twin Boller V-5 engines used for docking transport barges. What’s wrong with it?” I asked, trying to sound causal yet knowledgeable. I was grateful for the late night cram session memorizing the different types of spacecraft plying the interstellar trade routes.
“The tractor beam keeps shorting out,” He explained.
Ouch. You don’t want the beam to go out on one of these monsters while pushing a 10,000k transport into dock. That’s a messy crash.
“What do you know about McKinley’s?” he asked and I gave him the same honest answer I gave Stan during the job interview.
“Not a damn thing,”
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 which was a big deal as nobody outside the company knew exactly how they worked. You might as well know how the Klingon cloaking device worked.
He seemed pleased with my response and I was warming to George. Despite his intimidating size he struck me as gentle and genuinely curious about everything.
A few minutes later Stan caught up with us and George ambled back to work, giving me a fan like wave with all four of his hands.
“ George isn’t his real name right?” I asked Stan.
“Yeah, he has one of those long unpronounceable names like the Indians. We call him that for short. ” he said with a small chuckle.
“Just a head’s up, we got two Pohl’s working here,” he said causally as we finished the tour.
The Pohls were 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 care, they probably did the same sort of thing to us.
Stan told me to be at the shop tomorrow at 1500 hours at the start of the second shift. I nodded, eager and ready, glad that my part time work was finally paying off. I liked Stan, he was a fellow Terran with an honest reputation, although one could never be sure out here on the frontier, it was a wild place.
There was a momentary pause as we entered in the cluttered front office/reception area.
“How did you end up here?” Stan inquired. This is the single, most frequently asked question of everyone.
I intended to tell him I was bored as a graphic artist and after arriving, found ship detailing more interesting as it combined my love of machine tinkering with interior design. I never saw furniture, a room layout or gadget that I couldn’t resist redesigning in my head.
What he really was asking was how I ended up on Mark’s Station. I’m a short, single woman with no special training or experience with space travel and no connection to any of the corporations present on the moon colonized by Terrans. Friends and family 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.
“It seemed like a natural place to be, I have autism so I’m practically alien already.” I said proudly.
Ain’t that the truth.