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28 April 2016 @ 11:29 am
_Intergalactic Repair Depot_ part 1  
Have I snippeted this one before? It's exceeding old.

Intergalactic Repair Depot

Pam Uphoff


   The student swooped gleefully down on the crash site. What Luck! The vehicles were completely out of sight in an already remote area. She landed the shuttle on a nearby flat spot and scrambled down to the wreckage. To her delight, the first vehicle was still warm. She could hear the click of the bulky metal engine cooling. The accident must have happened within tic or two. The ugly creature strapped in behind the controls was quite dead, so the student prowled on toward the second vehicle…hmm, no power source. It was chained to the first vehicle, and there was a clunky metal device for attachment that had either come loose while the vehicles were airborne, or possibly it had come loose and caused the towing vehicle to careen down here? She studied the vegetation blowing above the ravine. Could a wind gust have pushed these heavy ground vehicles off the road? It seemed improbable, unless the alien had been a really bad driver. Well, enough questions, this was a unique opportunity to clandestinely seize an alien with all its belongings. She tapped quickly into her wrist cc and received permission to transport. This was going to enable her to just ace the ‘Emerging Alien Planets’ class.

  She hustled back into the shuttle as the tractor beam snagged both the vehicle and its tow, and tucked them in close to the shuttle so a single force field would cover everything and lifted her back to the lumbering Survey ship with her loot. She called up the class requirements list on her cc. Three days of electronic communications, check. Complete planetary map of urbanization, check. Biological samples, check. Example of common technology, check. That took care of the requirements. With this find, she had the makings of a primo thesis to really bring up her grades. She notified control of her project’s completed status. As soon as the other students in the class were done, and the official survey update finished, they would leave. In fact, the tale tells on her board showed that they were moving already. No wonder she’d gotten approval to transport the wreck so easily, she’d been the last to finish. As she climbed out of her shuttle, into the huge hanger, she felt the momentary weirdness of the translation field.

   The other students were waiting, and closed in on her prizes as she waved to them. “Wow, Ter, I should have thought to hold up the whole ship!” the hersa boy, Mis looked envious. “I can’t believe they lifted that much mass for a student project.”

   The rest of the class circled the two vehicles curiously. Nesti just sneered, “That’s going to keep you busy through the holiday for sure.”

   Ter jumped as a piercing scream came from the vehicle, “Some of the electronics seem to still be working.” She said, trying to track down the noise. It wasn’t coming from the instrument panel, it was under the drifts woven fabric clothing the accident had strewn all over the rear of the vehicle…”Oh Shata!” The others crowded around at her curse.

    “A grub! Ter, you are in big trouble now. You know you can’t have a pet in the dorm.”

    The alien grub looked up at her from its special seat, ceased the ghastly siren effect and gurgled at her. She clapped all four hands to her head.

    “SSSS! Wait, it’s almost an intelligent species, maybe, maybe I can adopt it? Single parents get all sorts of perks, this could work…”

    Nesti laughed nastily, “It’s cute now, but what are you going to do with it when it grows up?”

Chapter One

   “This is a stupid idea.” The girl scowled at her mother, well aware that it wouldn’t do any good this time, either. “I don’t want to go live on a primitive world. Dirt is not charming. Barely intelligent savages are boring.”

   “Now dear, speak English, you need the practice.” her mother blinked sympathetically, “These Earthers are fully intelligent, as you well know, otherwise you wouldn’t have been such an exemplary student. I know it will be hard for you, because you don’t feel like one of them, but we’ll only be here for four years.” She hissed a bit, “Then we’ll return to civilization. You really do need to know your foundations. It won’t be that bad if you try to fit in.” To Cat’s relief that seemed to exhaust her mother’s repertoire of platitudes.

   “You might have asked me before accepting this embassy position. Why would you even want to be a cook, for Shata’s sake! Not,” she added hastily, “that you’re not a great cook! But as a job? You’re a biochemist.”

   “Which is very important when you’re cooking for several different species.” Her mother told her. “Plus, I’ll be analyzing local materials for export possibilities. I jumped at this particular job because it is a very timely opportunity for you to see the world of your hatching and meet others of your own species while you are still a juvenile.”

   Cat scowled, “You are treating me like a pet being returned to the wild.” She tapped her cc and projected a street scene from the planet ahead. “Look at the clothes! Pathetic! Bundly things all patched together.”

   “And,” her mother continued remorselessly, “if you like it here you’ll be old enough to get a job at the embassy when my posting is over. It will be entirely your choice to stay or return.”

   Cat hissed, using her mouth to produce the nasal sigh. “Right, waste four years in this wilderness and then I get a choice.” She called up the forward imager and studied the blue and white world. “At least it’s pretty at this distance.” She admitted, sitting back as the restraint glow surrounded her. The holo image blinked out as they separated from the transporter. Now she could see without electronic aid. Earth. Nothing separated her from it but a force screen and a rapidly reducing distance. Their little floater had a façade like a local ground vehicle. One of the stodgy boring ugly kinds. Oh well. At least the equipment was to galactic standards, even if it was disguised. Maybe she could get the local manager to let them change the exterior to something neater, something sleek and fast looking. Maybe I’ll like it here she thought, or at least have fun for a short while. A wave of homesickness swept over her. She hadn’t ever been good at making friends, but at least at home she’d known people. Nobody laughed at her anymore when she tried to play tossup with them, or called her a two armed freak. She smiled a bit. That was one insult she wouldn’t have to bear here. Everyone would be a crip like her. Her shoulders slumped. No doubt they’d find something else to criticize her about. Even primitives had social rituals, and she’d only read about them. She’d be a social outcast from the start.

   They fell soundlessly through the atmosphere, the automatic homing and landing sequence taking them through clouds and ever closer to the surface. Now they were sliding into the night side, closing in on a widespread area of glittering lights. Cat told herself that the contrast with the dark patches was attractive, even if those unlit areas marked areas without power. It was an indication of the small population of the planet, that they didn’t even light everything. The densest patch of light slid off to the east as the floater turned, crossing an open, uncontrolled river, gliding silently down toward a smaller, less dense collection of lights. At the northern edge, Cat suddenly spotted the landing grid lighting up briefly for their arrival. It was at the unlit back of a large building. Squinting against the bright lights at the front of the building, she was horrified to see that it was just a marked area in an unkempt field of small herbage. It looked…wild. Not managed at all. How could the natives let wild areas flourish, so close to their homes? Didn’t they know wild animals were dangerous?

   As the floater neared ground, a square of it sank beneath them, revealing a concealed entrance. The floater eased through and grounded itself.

Ch2   Intro to Embassy

    Cat blinked in surprise at the person meeting them, then quickly saw through the façade of the disguise. “He can’t possibly fool people with that mask, can he?” she whispered to her mother.

    “No dear,” Ter hissed, “Didn’t you read the briefing on the Embassy cover?” She opened the door and stepped out without waiting for a reply.

    Cat followed reluctantly. Oh Goody! The dirt of my natal planet beneath my feet. All hail the returning two-arms. She bounced a little, testing the gravity, lighter than she was used to. I’ll be tripping and fumbling for the next week! With an effort, she shrugged off the black mood, and turned to meet the…Yes, there was a Regan under the mask. How clever, from a distance he could pass as human, and she had read the brief, it just had seemed a bit surreal at the time. What a ridiculous way to hide an Embassy!

    The tall Regan turned from greeting her mother and extended his glove covered pincher in what she recognized as the human greeting gesture. She completed it, grasping the pincer and moving their clasped limbs up and down a small amount. The false mask smiled at her. “I see you have studied the local customs, Cat. Welcome to Earth. I am Ambassador Rix Regal.” He stepped back to address both of them, “I apologize for meeting you in this costume, but the facility is open to the public upstairs and I have to be careful about my appearance. I have entered the two of you into the local information system as my widowed sister, Terry Dunagan and my niece, Catherine Dunagan. This is harmonious with the majority of Cat’s real documents, minimizing the number we have to forge and thus the probability that we’ve overlooked something. If you would, Cat, refer to me in public as ‘Uncle Rick’ it will satisfy local custom and curiosity as to why you have come here.” He waved them toward a small, primitive lift. “Come up and let me show you around, the main floor is quite a spectacle.”

   Cat inspected the lift nervously as it rattled a bit, but did get them up to the next floor. Note to self: find out if there is a ramp I can use instead.

    The door slid open on an unremarkable scene, a repair shop working floor with several different models of ships scattered around. A big insystem transporter dominated the center. Several small landers were off to the left and something she tentatively identified as an independent exploration ship to the right. Large enough for a translation drive, and small enough to land, there couldn’t be much actual living space inside, she’d bet. An odd rumbling noise, interspersed with hoots and dings, was coming from the far side, sort of a loud pervasive background roar.

   Trailing behind her mother and their guide as she rounded the transporter, she blinked as she had trouble making sense of the scene. There were several more ships beyond the railing, custom jobs of some sort, no sign of translation drives, they looked rather…impractical…to be landing craft, but they couldn’t possibly be atmospheric craft. Among them and beyond them were hundreds of machines. Mostly in upright cabinets, with swirling, flashing lights. She followed her mother through a gate in the railing and examined the nearest machine.

    The lights were primitive glass bulbs with an electric arc for a light source. The glass bulbs were in a rainbow of colors and blinking; across the top larger white bulbs were behind a plastic sheet with geometric patterns, and frowning, she dredged up the language lessons she’d downloaded. “Alien Invasion.” Baffled, she turned to ask, but the ambassador and her mother were halfway across the room.

   With a creeping horror, she realized that the room was full of humans. Getting a grip on her nerves, she told herself they were not really strange. They are like me. Except they really didn’t look much like her. Some of them were looking at her mother, she could hear one of them commenting.

   “That is the coolest costume I’ve ever seen!”

    Its, his, companion, also a male, was bobbing its head in a standard affirmative gesture. “Totally Rad.”

    Most of the natives were too engrossed with the machines to notice. Shifting to where she could see a machine as it was being operated, she was bemused to see that it was displaying a virtual battle between craft. Interactive, man against machine, apparently, the way the native was working the controls. They were rather imaginative looking spacecraft type pictures, but she could tell the simulated battle was in atmosphere because of the way the ships banked and the simulated atmospheric sound effects. Flight simulators? No, games. All these machines were games. She gawked a bit more, keeping one eye on her mother. The natives didn’t look much like her, really. She put a hand to her head uncertainly. She kept her hair cut short for convenience, but it appeared that mostly only the males did that here. The few females around had let theirs grow long and made displays of it. Curls or streams of long silky hair abound, braided or twisted in patterns, hanging down, looped or pinned tight to the skull. With relief, she spotted a female with short hair, but even short it was somehow sculpted into elegance. She touched her hair again, wishing suddenly for privacy and a mirror. What did these humans think of her?

    The ambassador was leading her mother up some stairs, and she followed silently, a bit unnerved by her first sight of humans. 
Zan Lynxzlynx on April 28th, 2016 06:35 pm (UTC)
I love the idea. A human raised by aliens and returning to Earth!

Is the embassy a real diplomatic thing, in disguise with the aid of Earth governments, or is it a secret embassy hiding from everyone? And doesn't that make it more of a spy outpost? :)
matapampamuphoff on April 28th, 2016 07:11 pm (UTC)
Secret. So far. It's more research than spying, and more to warn off speculators, smugglers, idiot tourists . . . there was an incident.

Even before this, I tried to write a horror story. Didn't work. Kept twisting into cute territory. But the results called for galactic intervention, and here it is.
matapampamuphoff on April 28th, 2016 07:37 pm (UTC)
This is, BTW, a mid-grades to YA level story. Do not expect blood, gore, or realistic explanations of space travel here.
Zan Lynxzlynx on April 28th, 2016 07:49 pm (UTC)
So like Heinlein's Star Beast story but sort of in reverse. :-)

I love YA stories. The only bad thing about them in my opinion is paying $12 for a trade paperback of only 200 pages. (Tamora Pierce and others).
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on April 28th, 2016 09:11 pm (UTC)
Tamora Pierce's books are getting longer and longer.

So it's All Your Fault, is it ?

__Melting Stones_ 312 pp

_Battle Magic_ 464 pp

_Mastiff_ 563 pp
Zan Lynxzlynx on April 28th, 2016 11:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah they are. I don't remember which exact ones it was but I was catching up on her series with Allana and others, and I couldn't get some of them in mass market paper, only trade, and they were priced at $12 or so. But I paid up anyway because I am a sucker. :-p
(Anonymous) on April 29th, 2016 01:18 am (UTC)
Aliens & Horses
Am I the only one who wants the alien version of Interpol or the Forest Rangers to try to hunt down Eldon for being a perceived illegal alien on a primitive nature preserve planet? Getting to watch the double mind-explosion would be epic. There was a possible semi-hint once with a very confused human martian girl on Embassy World.
matapampamuphoff on April 29th, 2016 02:30 am (UTC)
Re: Aliens & Horses
Filed under stories not yet written, in the rout of the gang at the end of _Embassy_ I have Prince Mirk and three witches marooned on one such world. All managed scientifically by a computer.

Of course when the Cyborgs attack, the first thing they do is destroy the computer . . .