Chapter 4: Draco.763.3 Terminal

The Draco.763.3 Terminal slid smoothly into view on the screen in front of Cadmus. Soon he could see all the docked and docking ships. Some of the logos and colors he could identify but there were many that he couldn’t. He wondered where they’d dock his ship.

Cadmus saw the command feed start to display on his running log and the delayed auto-responses of his ship displayed, not that he understood anything because it was all encoded in Base-64.

The ship altered course and maneuvered widely around the orbiting terminal until an extended spoke came into view. The ship slowly approached an empty portal lock next to a very large hyper-drive passenger ship with many long rows of windows, each the size of his picture window. Cadmus could see people filing out of the large ship into the mostly transparent extension spoke toward the terminal hub. That couldn’t be the bully ship that almost ran him over a couple days ago, he said out loud to Lonesome who was gazing out the picture window. They’d probably docked and disembarked already a couple days ago. It still made him mad to think about it. Cadmus decided he’d have that pilot’s license on a platter.

Cadmus could feel a slight shiver as his massive solar sails folded themselves into the side pockets of the ship. The ship glided ever so slowly, turning clockwise to synch with the portal lock, and he felt a small jolt as the ship’s forward motion came to a complete stop. There was a slight relaxation of mechanical joints.

Cadmus took Lonesome for one more walk before disembarking. He went to his hammock to retrieve his backpack, set the controls to power off after he left the ship, and walked out into the passageway with Lonesome at his side and the pack on his back.

In a little while a tug would come by and release the ship from the portal lock. Then the tug would guide the powered-off ship to an orbiting long-term parking area. A tug would bring it back to a portal lock when it was time for Cadmus to leave 3.

Lonesome didn’t seem to know where to sniff first. There was so much new for him to discover. He tensed up when he saw other animals his size or bigger. People were pretty much friendly to him and he reciprocated in his own way, while others were afraid of him or disgusted. Some of the people were probably robots. Cadmus couldn’t tell the difference, not that it mattered, as long as they behaved themselves, but Lonesome could certainly tell the difference.

The passage tread moved at a decent clip toward the central hub. Cadmus could read and hear the signs with avatars speaking via directed sound waves to each passenger in his own language as he or she passed. This one told him the entry control was straight ahead, Sapiens to the left, Rationals to the right, and robots straight ahead. He saw tall blue humanoids veering to the right, normal looking people and abnormal looking objects moving straight ahead. Cadmus veered left. He hoped the terminal officials wouldn’t give him any trouble over Lonesome.

Cadmus arrived at an available screen. A pleasant looking female Rational avatar greeted him from a screen. “Welcome to the 3 system,” the avatar said.

“Thanks for letting me visit,” Cadmus answered.

“Do you have any baggage,” the avatar asked.

“Just my backpack,” Cadmus said pulling it off his back.

“Please hold it up for object and spectral analysis,” the avatar requested politely. There was a flash. “You may return the pack to your back,” which he did.

“I assume you will be shuttling down to 3a,” the avatar asked.

“Yes,” Cadmus confirmed, “my dagu and I will need shuttle space going down to 3a.” He thought it funny that the Rational avatars and screens speaking a Sapien dialect were programmed by robots.

“Please prepare yourself for the DNA spectral analysis flash,” the avatar warned gently. After the flash the avatar asked Cadmus to make sure his dagu remained calm while it was flashed. Cadmus kneeled down and held Lonesome’s head near his heart to calm him with his heartbeat. There was a brief flash. A second or two later Lonesome barked indignantly.

“Your dagu’s protest has been duly noted,” the avatar said joking pleasantly. The avatar’s image was replaced by a message on the screen saying that Lonesome and Cadmus could now proceed to the shuttle area.

Cadmus read the Destinations screen carefully, looking for Draco.763.3a Sector 225.60, and saw that it would depart in another 20 minutes from portal 72X. They walked into the open area and looked around for Gate 72X.

Cadmus and Lonesome walked through the portal and found two empty seats. Cadmus strapped himself in and then strapped Lonesome in.

Lonesome looked around the shuttle cabin and sniffed the passenger’s face next to him. The passenger unstrapped himself, got up, and found another seat. Cadmus felt embarrassed.

A few moments later a voice over the loudspeaker told the passengers and crew to prepare for departure. The shuttle shoved away from the portal lock gently and the planet below slid out of the window frame as the shuttle maneuvered into position for the short trip to the terraformed moon 3a.

After twenty minutes the blue and green moon came into view. You could see thin wisps of white clouds floating over parts of the moon. Cadmus had read that there was little evidence of industrialization on this moon. The inhabitants, mostly Rationals, left a very small footprint on their natural environment. When the Sapiens asked to build resort hotels and shops to encourage tourism, the native Rationals insisted in no uncertain terms that Sapiens follow Rational guidelines. Sapien businessmen felt that stubborn insistence would discourage investment and tourism, but the opposite turned out to be true. 3a was one of the most popular tourist spots in Draco.763. It was a lovely moon in spite of its popularity, inspiring poets and artists from all over the solar system.

Cadmus felt a slight bumpiness as the shuttle entered the first layers of atmosphere. When they came through the clouds they saw verdant rolling meadows, gentle hills, and valleys with sparkling streams meandering.

The shuttle came down in an open field near a strand of trees whose leaves shimmered in the gentle breeze.

The passengers disembarked. Lonesome relieved himself beside one of the metal ground supports and Cadmus looked around, turning 360 degrees very slowly.

“Where are we?” Cadmus asked one of the flight attendants who happened to be quite a bit taller than him and blue. “Where are the hotels?”

The attendant turned to him and said “you’ll see” smiling.

from Out of Time

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels, Uncategorized

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