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28 February 2018 @ 09:10 am
_Space Marshal_ part 17  
 I'll need to foreshadow a bit of this.


“So, may I invite your family to dinner at the Just Desserts?”

***

The Just Desserts was a nice place. Not crystal-and-silver fine dining, but table cloths and fancy folded cloth napkins, an extensive menu, imported meat from Earth, fresh fruit and vegetables from the farm asteroids.

The waiters, on the other hand were a bit eccentric—old men, with limps, missing limbs, a few breathing masks.

“This is a bit . . . transitional. When miners get too old to go out, and no reason to go home. They work in stores, restaurants, sometimes open their own. Some go back to Earth, but very few of us have any roots there, anymore.” Spence grinned and ordered wine. “Upstairs we’ve got a skilled nursing home on two floors. All us old miners are . . . getting old.”

“Ha! Don’t listen to him.” The waiter stuck his nose in the air and presented the wine. At Spence’s nod he twirled his corkscrew and poured for Spence.

Spence played along, smelling and tasting.

“He’s a young punk, among us abandoned.”

Spence just held out his glass. “Fill’er up, Hask, if you must ruin my reputation.”

It was good wine.

Sarah sipped. “Umm, yes. What did he say about the abandoned?”

“That’s what we call ourselves. When the World Council quit building and abandoned the Stations project, abandoned the stations. Those of us who were out here then felt like we’d been abandoned too.” He shrugged. “We’d seen it coming. We had enough farms, enough manufacturing capacity to carry on. Meh. It’s old history. We moved into the stations, finished them ourselves in two cases, and made them home. The name stuck.”

“I thought that was seventy-five years ago?” Sarah eyed him. “You’re much to young for that.”

Spence shook his head. “That when they stopped the Station project. They kept up a show of being available, of being in control, shipped out supplies, ferried people. I started out in orbital construction, then came out . . . oh, just a few years before they admitted that the fleet wasn’t ever coming back. There was a period of pretty tight supplies, the pirate raids switched from grabbing incoming tech shipment to raiding the farms. We had to guard them, while still doing enough mining to afford shipments of things we couldn’t grow or build ourselves.”

“What about Gany?” Cody broke his silence.

“It was one of the first large asteroids mined. With poor results. It’s just a big ordinary rock. It was private from the start, and never completely abandoned. They just kept tunneling through it, digging out their equatorial city. One huge supply run every 4.35 years. In between, we had to be very close to self sufficient.”

You’re getting too chatty, too trusting, Spence. The abandonment was at the desperate level seventy-five years ago . . . twenty-one years before your papers say you were born.

Hask is too young to have been out here, seventy-five years ago.

So how does this fit with what I’ve been told?

A couple of hundred soldiers with experimental treatments to repair radiation damage and not lose calcium from the bones? Imprisoned for war crimes. The perfect construction crew. And I can believe they were abandoned to stave or asphyxiate when the fleet left.

Did those experimental treatments extended their lives?

Maybe. But they aren’t immortal.

Or . . . not all of them.

***

“Mrs. Johnson wants me to read up on the history of the asteroid belt.”

Gerald looked over as Cody set his little comp on their new dining room table.

“Me too.” Fawn slid into a seat. “Did you know the old United States, like fifty years before they joined with Canada and Mexico to for the Federated States, was exploring the asteroids? And they did some experimental stuff out here, way back then.”

“Mrs. Johnson says it’s just a myth that the USA was testing a Faster Than Light Spaceship out here.” Cody looked glum.

“A hundred years ago?” Gerald shook his head. “Nope. If there’d been any such thing, it would have been improved and be working by now.” Surely those early explorers weren’t . . . General Murphy’s enhanced troops.

Maybe I’d better study some history myself.

He started the next morning, with a skeleton outline.

Then started adding dates from his information packet.


2089- John “Jack” Murphy born.

2111- First manned asteroid mission, sample returns and a hands on survey of Ceres, with deep drilling.

2119- The five year long Asteroid Survey by the USSS Deep Explorer. Crew of 10 space marines led by Captain J.G. Murphy. 20 civilian scientists.

2134- Rumors of USSS secret projects in the belt.

2140- Mining expedition to Ganymed is a commercial failure, but the crew is committed to a 4.35 year mission. At the far end of its orbit, they capture numerous small asteroids that contain extremely valuable ores. The Rush is on. And short lived, as the expense, and isolation send the survivors back to Earth.

2142- USA, Canada, Mexico join in a Federation.

2149- The World Council ratifies a plan to place a space station every 15° around the whole belt.

2160- General Murphy and his specialist company found guilty of war crimes on Earth.

2179- World Council officially defunds the Asteroid Belt ring of 24 Stations, with only six built and none occupied.
 
2203- Harold John Spencer born

2257- The first federal Marshal to the Asteroid Belt turns into a gibbering wreck and tries to hide under his bed.


“At least I know that last is true.” Gerald growled. “And I know Spence has to be a lot older than he looks. So . . . is he The Old Man himself, or is he the youngest of Murphy’s company?”

 
 
 
mbarkermbarker on March 1st, 2018 12:41 am (UTC)
Why am I thinking Merlin and a young King Arthur... are there knights of the round table, too?
matapampamuphoff on March 1st, 2018 03:02 am (UTC)
The Sliders?

As in crew of ten Space Marines led by Captain Murphy? Who just might have gotten some experimental treatments before they left on a five year mission?

Will, Perez, Phil, Robert, Gonzo and Pete. Spike'll be turning up RSN with a report on what's going on in Ceres. few fatalities to his core group, these seven are left.

"Improved" treatments later didn't have as many "unwanted" side effects. The third gen did just what they wanted and no more.

Now the question is, what about those 20 scientists on the same 5 year trip? I haven't decided yet.
mbarkermbarker on March 2nd, 2018 01:28 am (UTC)
Well, kind of. I think it just falls into that mythos, the young leader, the old (or immortal) mentor, and then there's a gang of followers, all out to make the frontier a good place to live, slaying dragons, fighting off bandits... Usually the young leader has the followers, not the mentor, but in this case, it does make more sense for the Old Man to have them. Oh, well, maybe they'll pledge to follow the Marshal... gotta have a deputized bunch to help out the Marshal when he makes his desperate stand against the bad guys, you know? I'm just feeling a lot of resonance with the English Merlin and Arthur, or maybe ... oh, Robin Hood and his gang? Plus all the westerns, of course. This is good! Maybe we can have a face-off with the bad guys at high noon, and the Marshal waving around at the deputies with shotguns who have surrounded the bad guys?
matapampamuphoff on March 2nd, 2018 03:19 am (UTC)
Of course, traditionally, the mentor goes away--killed or fallen into the depths beneath Moria or whatever. I think Spence needs to go mine some asteroids and leave the marshal to deal with the next crisis himself.
mbarkermbarker on March 2nd, 2018 06:44 am (UTC)
Oh, don't kill him! I like Spence! Sure, he could go somewhere, or... he seems to like sitting back and letting people learn. What if he "dies" (goes into coma?) or something, but he's actually just letting the marshal learn that he can do it himself? And that the other good folk are going to help out, too? That could work...