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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Space Trucker Pilot {The Story I Kept for Myself (and You)}

A Space Truck driver is actually a spaceship pilot, but he doesn't get to drive the truck. Drowning his sorrows on Luna attracts unsavory characters, and unhilarity ensues, leading to one space truck pilot being sent away early and the would-be robbers obtaining new residences at the government's expense.

     Giles Folsom, Captain of the LunAstero Mining Company’s space-going ore transport vessel LAM Big Rock Mountain, sat at a small table against the front wall of a bar called Jack’s Place on Earth’s Moon. He was slowly, steadily, sipping expensive whiskey over ice ... drinking himself drunk. His AI had taken the Big Rock Mountain into parking orbit on the far side of Luna while Jack shuttled himself and a zero G grown watermelon to the Moon’s surface. There he delivered it to the professor who had commissioned the zero-G experiment. The reward for a few weeks of space gardening was sitting comfortably in his account.

“A truck driver,” he muttered. “However it’s dressed up, I’m just a truck driver. I used to be a combat pilot. We didn’t have any effin’ AIs. Hell, now I don’t even get to drive the damn truck.” Again, Giles rewarded himself with the finest blended Bourbon for not shooting his space truck. He took another sip, remembering the engagement that had sent him home to years of surgery, partial reconstruction, drug resistant bacteria, unremitting pain and no future.

Then LunAstero had advertised for pilots. Their ships had AIs, and the pilots were supercargo, but AIs had a habit of occasionally going insane, leaving the ship in the middle of nowhere, so pilots rode the ships. No one wanted the job. Giles wanted any job. They gave him a ship and a lot of money. Now, every time he made it back to Luna he spent his first night drinking.

Two hours later he swallowed the last of his final drink, and paid in cash. As he stood and shrugged into his uniform jacket he saw the waiter nod to two men standing at the bar, not watching him. “Uh-oh,” he muttered, “th’ game’s afoot. Big Rock, pay attention.”

“And do what, Captain Folsom?”

“Call th’ cops. Tell ‘em where to find me. Activate the emancipation clause. Hire a lawyer ... I don’t know. Just keep track for now.” He moved toward the door. The men at the bar didn’t move at all. But as he reached the door, the men moved away from the bar. Giles stepped through the door.

As he exited he turned right, and immediately right again down a side street. “Big Rock, where am I,” he asked.

“Not in a very good part of town,” the AI responded. “You should try to return to your hotel immediately. Your hotel is three blocks ahead and two to the left.”

“Can’t,” he responded. “Got two thugs right behind me. Tell the cops to come here.” The exchange with his AI caused him to miss hearing them until he was right on top of them. As he approached the alley that ran behind the bar, they stepped out in front of him. They hadn’t followed him out after all. Giles tried to run and leapt straight over them.

“Oh Hell, Earth legs,” said one.

“Nah,” Giles told them, “I spend a lot of time in zero G, so I’m absolutely religious about the exercises we have to use. You guys walk as if you live here.” But Giles had a problem. “I can’t outrun these guys,” he told the AI. “Every running step throws me six or eight feet straight up. They can just wait for me to drop. And I’m half drunk.” He back-pedaled down the alley.  

“Just empty your pockets,” said one man. “We’ll let you go.”

“Don’t believe you.” Giles’ smile had turned dangerous. “I won’t let you go.” As he passed the bar’s rear door, he saw the waiter peering out. Giles yanked him into the alley and leapt into the tavern, shuffling rapidly to the bar.

The bartender showed a long gun.

“You’re an idiot. The cops are coming.” Giles kept his voice low. “Bodies are harder to explain than broken bones.”

“You break up my bar I might be willin’ to give it a try.” This was not a high profit bar. Breaking the furniture would not likely improve profits.

Giles stopped and raised his left arm, showing terrible scars on the forearm. “I’m willing to hold truce.” He pointed to the scars. “I’m nearly fighting one handed anyway.”

Something hit him behind the right ear and he landed on his knees. Something long and round sped toward his face. He reached for it and stood up with it, slamming the heel of his hand upward into the point of someone’s nose. Giles recognized the AI’s augmentation of synapses.

He looked to the front door. Two cops were moving very slowly toward the bar. He looked around. The bartender lay on the floor, dead, but still clutching a broken long gun. He turned in time to see the two thieves and the waiter head for the rear door. In two strides, he tossed them back to the cops.

One cop wearing Sergeant’s stripes took in the Ship’s Captain Uniform, the bad arm and the general appearance. “Captain Folsom?” he asked.


“Tell me what happened.” Giles recounted the events of the past few minutes.

“They tried to rob you? You’re wearing a gun.”

“Still, they accosted me, demanded money and threatened me.” Maybe this had been a mistake.

“The only dead person is the bartender. What happened there?”

“You probably had a better view than I did. He swung that rifle at me and I killed him.”

“Yeah that’s what I saw. Why...?”

“Damifino Sergeant.”

“Yeah. How long ‘til you dump?”

“Eight or nine days.”

“If we can get you out of here tomorrow, will you go?”

“I’d shuttle up tonight.”

“You should do that.”

“What about...?”

“You should do that now.”

“Captain Folsom?” It was the AI. “The shuttle will be at your hotel in thirty minutes. There’s transport at the bar entrance for you.”

Captain Giles Folsom watched the Earth-Luna system recede in his viewers. There had been no further communication with the Company or the Luna City Government.

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