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Dymond in the Rough
(© C.E. Gee)

Page 1

Russ floated across the lobby to the orbiting spaceport's ticket counter.

Using a handrail, Russ pulled himself over to an available ticketbot. Fishing his iCard from a thigh pocket, he said, "I've reserved an express ticket to Mars."

The ticketbot held up its RF scanner, replied, "I've scanned your iCard. It shows you've passed the necessary physical, made your payment. The Solarian government has approved your journey. You leave from Gate Three in 47 minutes. Have a good trip Russell."

Russ handed his luggagebot to the ticketbot while saying, "I prefer Russ. Please enter my nickname into the port's registry."

"As you wish. It's now done."

Bots have no need of recognition. Nonetheless, Russ replied "Thanks."

With plenty of time before departure, Russ floated over to the spaceport's main canteen, strapped himself in at the counter, ordered a light lunch.

Lunch quickly arrived beneath the transparent, sliding panel set into the counter at Russ's position.

Russ slid open the panel, grabbed half of his lettuce, tomato sandwich. He then took a quick sip of his apple juice before closing the panel.

The lady strapped in to Russ's right turned to him, asked "Where you headed?"

"Mars."

"Interesting," said the lady. "Business or pleasure?"

Around a sly grin Russ replied, "My business is one of my pleasures."

Using a badly out of date practice that Russ believed was good for his detective agency, he fished a business card out of one of his jumpsuit's side pockets, handed it to the lady.

She seemed surprised at receiving an old-fashioned business card. She looked at the card, mused out loud to herself, "Dymond Detective Agency."

The lady pocketed the card, said "On a case?"

Russ replied, "Sorry I can't tell you. Client confidentiality you know."

Truth was, Russ himself had no idea. His client had made a large transfer of credits to his agency. That was enough for Russ to take the assignment.

After a nod the lady turned back to her meal.

Russ quickly finished his meal, said to the lady, "Nice to talk to you," pushed off towards Gate Three.

Russ stopped at one of the airlock's grab handles before boarding the ship.

Using other grab handles to pull himself through the airlock, Russ paused a moment as an audio transducer, flush-mounted in the overhead said, "Welcome aboard, Russ. You're assigned to acceleration couch seven."

Russ was pleased that his request to use his nickname had been transmitted on to other bots connected to the station's net.

The ship, designed for express trips, was equipped with bulkhead mounted acceleration couches, their undersides facing the ship's stern. Using a handrail to push off, Russ floated toward his assigned couch. The side of the couch flashed Russ's name and couch number, then went dark as Russ strapped himself in.

The underside of the couch directly in front of his was too close to have a 3D-array. Instead there was a flat screen monitor.

Russ watched other passengers strap in. After several minutes his monitor came on.

A human female announced, "This is your copilot speaking. Though this ship is totally autonomous, Solarian Space Agency regulations require a human copilot to cover unanticipated emergencies not programmed into the autopilot's software or firmware."

The copilot continued with, "Should you require aid during acceleration or deceleration or while in orbit or coasting you are being monitored via audio and video, just say attendantbot. An attendantbot will then come to you."

After a short pause the copilot went on with, "At mealtimes we will shut down our thruster. The screen you are watching has touchscreen capabilities. Touch your menu choices. We hope you will not dawdle over your meal since doing such will disrupt our schedule."

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:Science Fiction
Type:Short story
Rating:5.66 / 10
Rated By:5 users
Comments: 2 users
Total Hits:2430

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