Dymond in the Rough
(© C.E. Gee)
"We blastoff in exactly 11 minutes. That is all. Namaste."
The flatscreen then delivered prerecorded instructions on the
procedures used to relieve oneself, get drinks of water, emergency
actions and the like.
A program outlining the ship's functions followed. Russ, decidedly
nontechnical, was fascinated by the ship's thruster. A tube encased in
powerful electromagnets ran the entire length of the ship.
Water molecules were stripped of their electrons. The resulting
positive ions were then shot down the length of the tube, reaching
relativistic speeds, thus acquiring much mass.
Ejecting the now heavy ions out the end of the tube provided tremendous thrust.
At the end of the program the screen displayed the logo of the ship's
parent company, played classic music from the 1960's and 1970's. Russ
told the viewscreen to switch off.
There came a slight jolt as the ship disengaged from the airlock. The
ship slowly drifted away from the station, aligned itself before
Initial acceleration was gentle as the ship cleared orbit. Once the
ship was far away from other stations and ships, full acceleration
Russ groaned as he was pushed down into the couch.
The trip was as uncomfortable as Russ had expected. The days passed
slowly. Russ was greatly relieved when the ship entered Mars orbit.
Transfer to a shuttle and the trip down to Bradbury was routine.
In the passenger's lounge, baggagebots rolled in on their casters, found their owners.
With his baggagebot trailing behind him, Russ strolled over to the
supply room. Walking in such light gravity was novel to him. A clerkbot
fitted Russ with a pressure suit.
Through the double airlock and outside Russ found a long line formed up
at the taxi stand. The line moved quickly, Russ climbed into a rover.
Though the rover pressurized the cabin, Russ kept his visor shut. A video screen read USE CHANNEL 327.
Russ switched channels, said to the rover, "Downtown Best Martian Hotel
please." The Best Martian Hotel chain had hotels all across Mars, were
relatively low-priced but comfortable, served free breakfasts.
There were no windows in the rover. Monitors were scattered throughout the passenger compartment. Russ enjoyed the sights.
At the hotel's taxi stand, before Russ exited the rover it said, "Your
iCard has been charged 38 point 21 credits. Do you consent?"
In his room, Russ showered, changed into a fresh jump suit, texted his
client. She texted back, asking Russ to meet her in the hotel's bar in
Just before the appointed time Russ slid into a booth in a remote corner of the bar, texted his booth location to the client.
She soon arrived, clad in her pressure suit and with its visor up.
Females often wore tight pressure suits. Most persons born on Mars were
tall, thin. This lady was no exception.
"Glad to finally meet you in person, Julie," politely said Russ as Julie slid into the opposite side of the booth.
Julie smiled, replied "Same here."
"Beer?" asked Russ. Julie nodded her affirmation.
Martian beer was renowned all through the Solarian System. Russ turned
towards the menu mounted on the wall to his left. Using its touchscreen
Russ ordered two drafts.
Julie leaned forward, rested her arms on the table. In a near whisper
she said, "The reason I asked to meet you in this bar is because it's
routinely swept for listening devices."
Russ nodded as Julie continued, "We should keep our voices low so no one sitting nearby can listen in. Got it?"
Again, Russ nodded.
A servingbot rolled up, placed the beers on the table. Russ held up his
iCard. The bot said, "You have been charged 3 point 84 credits
including tax. Do you consent?"
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