“Don’t hold your breath. This may be the year everything falls apart . . . or it could be the year the Asteroid Belt begins to pull together and form a civilization out here.” Spence closed his eyes briefly. Please. Let us finesse our way through this. The upside potential has never been greater, and I don’t want it to slip away.
A snort from Spike. “Cities in space as opposed to forts in a wilderness with itinerant miners and pirates? And sometime later, when the politicians settle down and get sensible, we’ll do a reveal?”
“Ha ha. I know it won’t be so smooth, so easy. Especially if Little Tony . . . gets snotty. Go home and relax, but keep your eyes open.”
“Will do, General. I’ll slide a bit closer, so I can get to Zero tomorrow. And keep an eye on things.”
Chapter Boys will be Boys
Spike cut off the slide drive half a million kilometers from Zero, and turned on his location beacon and lights. Programmed the solar plates on the hull to lift and turn, settle back in place looking like ordinary white hull plates. The “usual” number and type of solar cells would get him into Station Zero with no one thinking anything except that Spike Peabody’d been running around with his running lights off, again.
Which gave him plenty of time to freshen up and get ready for a bit of a spree . . . well, at least a long hot soak at the Steamy Romance Spa, with feminine company, good whiskey . . . well, as close as they could come to good whiskey . . . and catch up on the gossip on this Marshal Fallon.
He got on the radio, aimed his antennae at Zero. Hit the send button. “Albatross coming in from 30 plus. ETA 1540. Requesting docking on tube A outer.”
He kicked back to wait out the delay, both the distance, and the human reaction time. Dinner before or after the spa? That Chinese restaurant on L3 . . . hmm, almost more tempting than women . . .
“Anything but my own cooking. Anything.” He glanced at the radio, no, he hadn’t broadcast that. Good.
“Albatross, you are cleared for A 59. Welcome home Spike.”
Spike grinned. And hit the transmit switch. “Romeo, what are you doing directing traffic?”
As if I don’t know. Damn Spence and his optimism. We need more people, young people, families, children. Right now we’re a dead end.
Not that I can talk, but having children take wives, not whores. And protection from radiation damage. Living on a station will take care of the rest of the problems. But . . . nice ordinary women . . . we’ve got a serious shortage.
“Nobody else wanted the stinking job after Bobby finally retired. So they got me drunk enough to sign the contract, and now I’m stuck here for a whole bloody year.”
Spike grinned. “Well someone has to do it. And who were they going to get? Takisha Mac D?”
Maybe we could advertise. “The Belt needs women!” Which sounds good, but what do we have to offer? Rich miners, who are never around to help raise the kids?
We’re screwed until . . . sometime when we have more habitats . . . faster transportation.
Which we could have now, except it’ll bring in the Fleet, and the non aligned nations will try to get out here.
And eventually someone will find something. Either what we hid, or something new.
It seemed so sensible at the time, what with the US merging with Canada and Mexico, and no one with a clue what the politics or policies might be. Funding for the program cut, rescheduled to five years before we’d expected.
So we hid them. Both to protect them—since we’d stripped them of their protective accumulation of dust and debris—and to hide them from anyone with . . . what? Bad intensions?
Christ. Little Tony with an Alien spaceship. The pirates with the slide drive. At least they only have what we thought must have been an inner system shuttle. Possibly even a life boat.
The second ship . . . the size of an aircraft carrier . . . armed to the teeth . . . and that . . . machinery in the center. We kidded about it being a warp drive.
Except that could well be what it was.