From “The Overview Disjunction” — Rough Draft –
Waiving the bartender off of a 4th beer she started to get ready to go back to her berth when a ghost from her past walked up to the bar. ‘Jayden!’ her heart missed a beat and then recovered as she realized it wasn’t him.
Damned close resemblance! She thought, smiling inwardly. It always surprised her that she had a type when it came to men but there was no denying it … something about the Pacific Islander look always stirred her. Not so much a sexual stirring but the evocation of the promise of adventures at exotic destinations.
Having grown up as a child in rural Upstate NY, the Pacific Islands were about as exotic as it got. The sunshine and the freedom of open oceanic expanses were a far cry from the snow laden mountains that held the horizon in like a box around her childhood home.
She tried to size up the newcomer through the mirror behind the bar but he caught her looking and gave her a nod. Figuring she was busted she turned and held out her hand to introduce herself.
“Caleb” he announced as he accepted her handshake. Cocky … not over the top but cocky none the less.
She could tell he was a veteran off-Worlder. It was not just the lankiness, thanks to extended time spent in low and micro-gravity environments. He had naturally brown skin but it just wasn’t as weathered as you’d expect from someone on Earth.
“Do I measure up?” He asked with a smile but somehow cold and distant at the same time.
“Sorry … I am just getting used to figuring out who’s from ‘out-here’ and who’s from Earth.”
“Does that matter?”
He was a little touchy too … “Not really, but obviously, I am new out here so I am still trying to get my bearings.”
“Off-Earthers … that’s how we usually describe ourselves … not ‘from out here’.”
“Oh … OK … what else should I know about?”
“You a tourist or you going to be off-world for a while?”
“Nine years … I’m thinking that means excludes me as a tourist …”
He gave her an appraising look. She knew that nine years was a long commitment for most people from Earth … most liked bragging they’d been in space but hurried back to the familiarity of the home world as fast as they could manage, usually.
She felt a little uncomfortable under his scrutiny but shrugged it aside. She’d be under scrutiny for the next few months as she attempted to make her place amongst the tight knit community on the comet.
“Why so long?”
“Well … Its complicated … but for one, the job I am taking deserves a serious commitment.”
“You’ve worked in space before?”
His eyebrows arched as he asked the question. Alex guessed it indicated incredulity.
‘Oh yeah … came out with my parents when I was twelve, went back to Earth for college then did my post-grad work on NEO asteroids.”
Comet 5370 Taranis … a six-kilometer-long dormant comet was to be her home over the next twelve years as it made its way from Near Earth Orbit past Mars and through the main asteroid belt crossing Jupiter’s orbit and then back again. Along the way they would dispatch and receive goods and raw materials from all over the main asteroid belt and inner solar system, producing things like graphene, water, and volatile hydrocarbons along the way. Every six years the comet completed an orbit that spanned close to ¼ of the inner solar system. It was basically a travelling mining/industrial complex and freight hauler.
Alex would be responsible for about 600 souls not counting the crew of occasional cargo ships putting in for repairs or to transfer goods. The docks on Taranis were not quite as massive as those on Eros or Ceres but they were busy around the clock.
She would be an outsider … an inexperienced new comer and an Earther to boot. Gaining acceptance and trust would not be easy. It was an important posting and if she could do well there, she figured it would go a long way towards establishing her place in the off-Earth community.
He broke the long silence “That’s an unusually long tour … if you stay that long you’ll never go back.”
“We’ll see …. You never know.”
He seemed to be a little less guarded than at first so she tried turning the tables on him. She asked, “How about you?”
“Off-Earther through and through, twenty-three years.”
“What’s your line of work, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I work the docks … on Taranis … it’s an – “
She jumped in interrupting “– extinct Comet, slash Amor asteroid, that’s where I’m headed!”
Alex had no idea what she had said wrong but whatever rapport she had been building with him disappeared instantly as she spoke. He turned cold and formal again. After some desultory conversation he excused himself.
“I’d best be turning in, we have a flight to catch in the morning.” He threw back the rest of his drink, gave her a perfunctory nod and walked out of the bar.
‘What was his deal?’ She thought as she searched the personnel files she had had download to her memory module … ‘There! Caleb Tavaga … Dock Master … I work the docks … my ass! You run the Docks.’
Alex wondered why the subterfuge. She expected to have to work to earn their trust but clearly he knew who she was, why play games? She was to be his boss so why would he take this approach with her? Mystery upon mystery.