Love and Poverty on Distant Worlds Ch. 01byAnotherWannabe©
Author's Note: Thank you for reading this story, the first of serial that I'll be submitting to this site. Keep in mind this is not a pornographic work. Rather than try and insert a poorly conceived sex scene, I have decided to focus mostly on story and character development. Any sex that occurs throughout the series will be "soft-core". I hope you enjoy it.
BALANCE: 344 kilocredits.
On Mavid, a planet orbiting a yellow star seventy lightyears from Sol, they speak English. The sort a 21st century American or Englishman might know. Niyan, a planet from a nearby system, speaks English, too. But Niyannese English, with the rhythm and phonemes old East Asian languages, and the pragmatism and playfulness of classical English.
The planets had been settled by different sets of people. Niyan was a blue-green world, colonized centuries previously by Asian and European scientists and entrepreneurs. Their cities became vibrant and people innovative, they made their buildings towers of mirrors that reflected their blue-white sky. After many generations, the distinction between races blurred, and the Niyanese became an attractive fair-haired people with slightly Asiatic eyes.
Mavid is in the system of close proximity to Niyan. It was colonized by Northern Europeans seeking to establish a cultural preserve. They were attracted by the dense metal deposits that gave Mavin its small size and ochre tint. They built their cities short and squat, all concrete and connected by a brackish canal system. Through this time the language did not change. The culture did not change. The technology did not change. And when younger, more vital worlds could move just as much rare metal at half the expense, the rest of humanity left them behind. They were left clinging to old dreams.
It had been about the thirteenth bombing that had occurred on the Waylon's street. The Waylons were down to two members now. A mother, Delilah Waylon and her son, John Waylon. John was becoming an ill fit for the elegant, grandmothery chairs, the flower print wallpapers and altogether too big for the cramped apartment. When the bomb struck, a massive shockwave caused dishes to jump from shelves and shatter, the kitchen table to smash into John's midsection, and his mother to fall over, buried beneath an avalanche of old pots and pans. John pushed the flimsy table aside and sifted desperately through the fallen kitchen potpourri. He found a withered hand and pulled up his mother, who skittered to her feet while pulling herself with her son's arm. He saw a gash on the side of her head that bled down her cheek.
"Mother..." he said in relief. He set her down on the chair, wetted a towel in the sink and began dabbing the old woman's head.
As he mopped the blood from her his mother blinked slowly, as if she was trying to recall something important. She finally croaked out, "It is time you left, John."
He knew exactly what she meant. Niyan. He had discussed going there for years. Getting a good job. Bringing her over, when he could afford it. Away from all this.
He started gathering up the pots and pans, but his mother shrugged and told him not to bother. She kicked a path to her armchair by the television. She noticed on the sidetable a small picture had fallen. She put back straight. It was an image of her husband and her son's father, portly, moustachioed, fishing pole in hand with a river running behind him. She breathed a yearning sigh and lit herself a cigarette that she had drawn from her pocket.
John sat across from her. She explained she had acquired a great sum of money – from where she would not explain – enough to pay for a shuttle to Niyan. It was a sullen conversation... on Mavid, Niyan had become a byword for never seeing someone again, and the weight on her voice made him feel she was discussing his last will and testament. John nodded.
"Do you have any friends you should say goodbye too?" she asked finally, plunging the cigarette into the ashtray.
John shook his head.
"Then you should leave tomorrow," she said, eyes cast toward the window. She still looked through the armored slats as if they were the same open curtains they had once been. "Next time, it could be you out on that street."
The last trails of smoke curled out from the cinders of the ashtray.
The day of the departure the spaceport became a swell of people. His mother patted him on the shoulder, smiled, then reached around for a hug. "Take care of yourself sweetie," she croaked.
"Don't fall in love with any Niyannese girls. They're out to break your heart," she said.
"I won't if you stop smoking," he answered back.
She rolled her eyes.
That was the last he ever saw of her. He stepped into the crowd and was pulled into their flow. The shuttle was the end of a large gate. As he was carried through, he saw Niyannese-looking men with flight uniforms loitering about. They were discussing something between themselves, but when they stopped to look at the line of Mavidians, they seemed to appraise them contemptuously. They whispered something to each other, pointing in John's direction, then laughed. John plunged his hands deep into his pockets and lowered his head.
It reminded him of the old Mavidian proverb, "There are only two destinations in life from which you can never return: Death, and Niyan."
John resisted the temptation to turn his head, to get one more look at his mother before he stepped through those doors. He knew she watched him every step of the way, those serious, hardened eyes. Eyes that could be on the verge of breaking – eyes that could already be broken. He could feel the weight of them, he knew she was following him with her gaze. He did not know if she cried – perhaps it was best that he should not see her cry... she would not want him to remember her like that.
There was no stopping now, the crowd behind him pushed him forward. Only moments after entering he could no longer resist, so he spun his head about to find shuttle doors had already sealed shut.
The shuttle had left the surface of Mavid not long after. John thought perhaps he could grab a vidphone booth and give his mother one last call, but he found a queue already clogging the booths. Dozens of sad, sulky looking men stood along the corridor. A Niyanese security guard grimly stood by a sign. 10 MINUTES MAXIMUM, it said with authoritative bold lettering.
In old English, not in Niyanese. It must be directed at the Mavidians.
They were serious about it too. John saw a blood-shot eyed young man like himself getting dragged from the booths by two toughs. The young man protested hysterically, his knees dragged against the ground, but they paid no heed. John shrunk away and avoided their gaze. Still, the line traveled so slowly, and he knew the longer he spent waiting in line, the further they were from Mavid and ever closer to being out of communication range. It left a lump in his throat. John loosened his collar to let himself breath a bit easier.
When the line finally eroded, John rushed the booth, pecked out his mother's number, and listened to a tone. It was the intermittent ring of a bad signal.
The screen came alive with static. "...Hello?" said a crackly voice.
"Mom!" cried John. "It's me!"
Only pieces of her voice came through. "Oh... are you... please... Niyan..."
John hit the side of the vidphone machine. "Mom!" He banged again, giving the machine a solid strike. "C'mon, work!"
"...John..." the voice said, before it died out.
He hit the machine a couple more times, but there was no point in continuing. John pressed the END CALL button and stomped out of the booth, hands in his pockets and his head down. He gave a deep sigh and, when he was sure no Niyanese was looking, he kicked the wall.
He cursed at already being homesick. At not thinking of something better to say. At forgetting to bring pictures of his former life of any sort. All his possessions now were confined to a single fake-leather folio and a plastic: a work visa, a change of clothes, and 344 kilocredits.
He made his way to the shuttle coffee shop and splurged on a chocolate brownie and a cappuccino. It cost him 22 kilocredits.
The shuttle itself was a model 89, Hercules-class frigate turned passenger ship. The vast cargo bays had been replaced luggage carriers and cubicles of passenger cabins. Its crew had to be desperate if it had resorted to shipping cheap labor from Mavid to Niyan.
John's cubicle was extraordinarily depressing, nothing more than a colorless shell with futons and a sick bag dispenser unceremoniously fixed to the wall. His bunkmate was at least not that bad. He was a man about twenty years his senior. He talked and talked about his time in the navy, as an engineer on a big capital ship. He signed up apparently so his children could have a better life than he did. But when he came back, he found that they were older than he was, and that he now had grandchildren his own age.
"So how old are you? Objectively?" asked John.
The navyman (John never bothered to learn his name) scratched his head and thought for a moment. "Well, fuck, I think I was born just about 200 years ago."
John lifted an eyebrow. "That's incredible. I've never met anyone like that."
"That's nothing," said the navyman. "One of the officers I knew was born year 1998. Boy, did he talk about old times!"
That was a tad difficult for John to believe. He dismissed it as the man's poor memory.
John for the most part spent the majority of his time sitting on the rec deck. There, a large holographic display showed the route through the stars. Currently, the ship was arcing on a dotted line toward Niyan, though it seemed in the few days that John had been on board that it hardly moved at all. It was supposed to be a month long trip, after all. He'd watch it serenely while sipping the black coffee that the crew gave out freely. He would add cream and sugar to hide the stale taste, and liked to stir it in the styrofoam cup until it became a light chocolate color.
There was not a whole lot to do in that period, and time passed slowly and uneventfully. Halfway on the trip he'd taken to carving out little patterns on the coffee cup with a spoon. He became quite adept, embossing landscapes of little swirling clouds and ocean scenes. One Niyanese officer even offered to buy one for 10 kilocredits. Mostly, though, the little artifacts were binned as quickly as they were made.
The last week of the trip the atmosphere became tense, and a sort of coppery stink newly festered throughout the ship. It was discontent, the sort men get when removed from women for a long time. Men began to eye each other suspiciously, they ground their teeth and began to act without regard to who was watching, scratching themselves, spitting, even urinating. There was a universal sense of being watched. John began to hear rumors of attacks on young men. Arms were strictly forbidden, so he took a plastic knife and sharpened it into a shiv, enough so that in a pinch he could plunge it into a throat. He hid it in his sleeve.
It almost came to that. One day John noticed a couple of Mavidian toughs with blonde hair and broad chests were following him. John quickened his pace while trying not to run. It was difficult, as his heart became jolted by fear. He turned a corner and felt for the shiv up his sleeve, pulled it out and clutched it within his fist. When the Mavidians turned, John flattened himself against the corridor, hoping that the gang would walk past. As they approached, they gave evil grins and seemed to reach inside their coats. What stopped them were a couple of distant voices in Niyanese accents. They froze and pushed the weapons back, with John making his escape by walking briskly towards the security staff.
He learned later there had been murders on the ship. The Niyanese, of course, didn't take any action, it being a "Mavidian" affair.
It had become almost intolerable by the time they reached Niyan. Even the navyman had finally clammed up, spending most of his time inside the cubicle. But announcements declared a final approach. Through the porthole Niyan seemed like a ray of sunshine, a softly glowing blue marble suspended in the black silkiness of space. A little crescent of darkness was carved from it, and visible there was a spiderweb of glittering lights. It would be his new home.
Announcements blared. In just a few hours they would be landing. Things seemed to calm considerably. John could barely wait for a natural atmosphere and solid earth beneath his feet. As they became closer Niyan could be seen in greater and greater detail: the white frostings of clouds and mountaintops, deep rich greens and browns of valleys, the oceans which sprang to life with the reflections of the sun. John gathered his few possessions (a bag with a change of clothes), bid some cordial farewells to the navyman, and waited patiently by the shuttle doors.
Another agonizing hour would pass. Many other men had also congregated as he did, just as anxious to be out of a spaceship. The shuttle shook violently as it entered atmosphere but it was not long before the landing gear hissed open like a sigh. The shuttle doors soon after.
Stepping outside was like emerging from a dark cave. The brightness of an entirely new sun shone down through the massive glass walls of the terminal and totally enveloped John. An overwhelming plethora of new sounds and faces greeted him, bright neon store signs and flashing advertisements, the smiles of elegant female employees, the laughing of children and the hustle of businessmen. Past the glass, trees and plants stretched out forever, blades of green like an endless formation of emerald crystals.
The crowd moved around him. He caught sight of his reflection in the terminal glass... he looked pale, unshaven, with dark purple crescents below the eyes and dirty-blonde hair in need of a cut. He had not eaten much, and must have been getting thin. He pulled his wallet out and flipped through what he had left. After the paltry meals aboard the ship he had about 12 kilocredits, less than what the fake leather of the wallet was worth. He gritted his teeth bitterly.
After passing through customs and collecting his paltry luggage (nothing but a plastic bag with a change of clothing) he passed through the gate. It was even brighter outside, blinding, in fact, but the earth below him felt good, a comforting weight that he'd almost forgotten. He enjoyed the sensation of a heavier gravity working through him, invigorating his muscles with pressure.
He looked out past the terminal and the workings of the spaceport. Far out in the distance was a gleaming Niyanese city, settled between the arms of two great, green mountains. The buildings seemed silvery and elegant, rising like bristles against the horizon and unlike anything on Mavid. He wanted desperately to get there. He saw a bus station which he immediately went for, barely dodging a solar-powered bus that screeched out. He was so eager he nearly slammed his head against the glass of the terminal. He put his head to the pane, and saw a sign.
BUS TICKET: 20 KILOCREDITS, it said.
John looked at the crumpled, sweaty wad of money, and cursed. He turned his head to the shining city, and the long, winding road towards it.