Continued from https://2e0mca.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/waila-limbo/
The Pacheco Bar was typical of bars on small stations – coloured lights above the counter and lots of gloom elsewhere. The gloom usually affected the mood of the clients too. In fact, Gloom was a great adjective for outpost bars! The corridor outside seemed bright to me when I walked in! A small group of miners were playing cards at one of the brighter tables – they gave a quick appraising glance as I walked in. The slaves I’d seen in the cafeteria were there too – a dark corner table offered them some form of security. I’d met the station security officer and he didn’t seem the type to pursue minor criminals, so I guessed they were safe enough for now but I suspected it wouldn’t protect them if the ISS had a purge.
The thing that threw me was the presence of Cartographer Millard at the bar. She’d ditched the check jacket as well as her glasses. Her brown hair was down, draped across her shoulders and she was wearing a grey jump-suit with pale blue flashes. A couple of young lads at the other end of the bar kept glancing at her but she could have had a force field around her – they were frightened to even say hello.
I targeted the open counter area between them and caught the bartender’s eye. “Malt and water please.” I asked. “Only got sim-Malt Pilot – that ok?” “Have you got anything non-sim?” I asked – “Just beer – brew it ourselves.” “Ok – gimme a beer for now.” I looked for a stool – there weren’t many of them and the only free one was next to her. “May I?” She nodded with half a smile.
So we sat in silence – a silence that drowned the music in its depth. One of us would have to speak and she cut through the ice… “Still here Commander?” “Waiting for the maintenance people.” I replied… “Can’t move ‘til then.” We both lapsed into silence while we pondered my words. I looked at my glass as I watched her in my peripheral vision. Then I pushed the barrier a bit – “Cartography busy here?” “It can be but it’s more quality than quantity.” She replied. We talked some more about business then she proffered her name – “I’m Amanda but my friends used to call me Mill’s”. I noted the ‘used to call’ bit – she was lonely here. “Your friends at college?” “Yes, it seems a long time ago now.” She looked me full in the eye and asked – “What’s your name then Commander?”
“You already know… It’s Anson.” She gave me a sideways look – “…and?” Then I knew I couldn’t phase this lady – only honesty was going to carry the day. “Ok – My name is Anson Twenty-Two or Anson Two-Two. Take your pick – I’m the 22nd Anson clone.” “You’re a clone?” She said it in a vaguely surprised rather than shock-horror manner! The evening temporarily descended into question time – had I ever met any of my brothers – “No”. “How many Anson’s are there?” she asked. “The law limits the number of any clone to 50 because of genetic degradation risks and most individual clones stop at 35 specimens. I think that was the limit for us.” “Are you all still alive?” “ I don’t know – we were all sent our separate ways several years apart.” She was intrigued but not overawed. “Are the others pilots too?” “Probably, but not necessarily…” I replied.
Conversation drifted away to where I’d been and what I’d done. After I told of the journey across the galaxy from LHS 3447 she expressed embarrassment that she was only a couple of systems from where she was born. Then she caught my eye – “There’s only miners here.” She said. It was the strangest come-on I’d ever experienced! I looked into those deep brown eyes and I was hooked. After that it was inevitable that we would go to bed. Lonely in the depths of unforgiving space, we both needed each other. Hers was a controlled warmth which put my lust to shame. But we found a loving balance at the second attempt.
The next day we moved my kit into her room – it was drier than mine! We met for the next three evenings in the bar and shared the nights together. I always thought we both understood that I would be moving on and she confirmed that when she asked “What will you do next – More exploring?” “I see there’s a smuggling operation going on – money to be made there but lots of risks involved. Then again…” I said – “I’d like to push on with my exploration – go down below the galactic plane again.” “If you do that – will you sell the data here?” she asked. “Yes” I said – though I don’t know that I really believed that at the time.
We parted the next morning. The other lady in my life – Humourist – wanted my attention. I wandered down to the Pilots Briefing Room and checked the space weather again – it looked fair and I was running out of excuses not to go flying. I was surprised to find the Security Officer standing by the gate as I walked down towards the ship. “You coming back here Commander?” He asked. “Possibly – depends on where the galaxy takes me.” I replied. “Give me your hand!” He grasped it before I had a chance to respond and pulled it towards him, baring my forearm. “This will hurt Commander…“he stabbed down with something that looked like a battery pack. I felt a sharp pain in my forearm and then I was free. “What the…?” He looked a little embarrassed but also in command of the situation. I looked at my arm and saw that there were 2 green dots above the wrist. “I’m sorry” he said “she needs to know it’s really you when you come back!” “Just who are you!?” I asked. “Her Father!”
So here I am a week later sitting out in 104 Aquarii looking at some of the beautiful sights and still seeing her deep brown eyes and that hair that flows like a waterfall. It’s feeling like decision time for me. Perhaps I can buy some time – 107 Aquarii would be a good detour!