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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, '12, 7:12 am
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What is this?

This is a story set in the science fiction universe I'm still developing- essentially our solar system in the far future. There is no FTL- we are confined to our eight planets and five* dwarf planets. There are no aliens- just humans and genetically-engineered near-humans. Still, I hope that this will be something everyone can enjoy.

*Five as of 2012: Ceres, Pluto, Makemake, Haumea, and Eris. There's probably going to be a lot more over the next millennium.

No Experience Necessary

(May 8, 3094 - Kaiser Hotel, Armstrong City, Luna)

She hoped to hell she hadn't walked into some kind of trap.

The advertisement, she had noted, seemed simple enough as it displayed on her datalog-- "WANTED: Medical Doctor required for heavy freighter crew, per Militia requirements. Receive one share salary of each job with crew. No commitment period, opt out anytime. No experience necessary. Contact Kyle Surlent, owner/pilot, STS Passepartout. She had to admit that she was a bit offended at the "no experience necessary" part, but she decided to make contact anyway. A quick call led to a resume request, which begat an appointment for an interview, which she was eager to make.

As she sat in the conference room, the blue-haired woman glanced around, her equally blue eyes taking in every detail of the room-- the false wood grain lining the walls, the number of colored flecks in the granite table, the unpleasant hmmmmmmmmm of the light tiles in the acoustic ceiling. She leaned back slightly in her chair, resting her hands on the table's surface as she waited, drumming her blue-painted nails against the cool granite.

Where is he? she wondered. This captain sounded like a punctual man. I would hope a freighter captain would be timely about his appointments.

Before she could lend any more thought to where her potential employer was, the conference room's second door slid open. The woman wasn't impressed with the light-haired man who stepped through: He was tall, moderately built, wearing a pair of blue jeans and a gray T-shirt with the word "Phobos U" scrawled across its front in block letters. By contrast, the woman's dark blue business suit seemed more appropriate for the interview.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," the man said as he sat at the table, across from the woman. "Had a problem with some Saturnian wine."

"Captain Surlent?" the woman replied. "I hope you weren't drinking before our interview."

"No, no, not at all- we just delivered a whole crate of the stuff from Iapetus. The paperwork on that stuff's a pain to fill out. All this stuff about vintages, volume, fuel used to transport it... all kinds of logistical nightmares and legal BS to deal with." The man chuckled good-naturedly, then withdrew a handheld datalog from his pocket. "But yes, I'm Kyle Surlent- no rank, just 'Kyle.' And judging by your appearance and my 'log here... you must be Doctor Minanalta Varishtnee."

The blue-haired woman nodded. "Just 'Mina' will suffice," she said. "Your ad said you were looking for a doctor?"

"That's right- our last one... well, let's just say 'workman's comp' and leave it at that," Kyle replied. He left the unspoken implication hanging in the air: space pirates.

Mina knew immediately what he meant, and as they conversed, she was noting subtle details about the captain: Almost thirty. Friendly enough. Not too moved by their last doctor dying. Respected by his crew, shrewd businessman, would rather be doing something else. Is probably imagining what I look like in lingerie instead of this business suit. "I suppose I should start by asking you, Kyle, just how dangerous the jobs your vessel undertakes are," she said. "I'd imagine they're safest in the Core Worlds."

"Right. Everything up to Mars is pretty safe. The Belt itself is safe too, just so long as you stay close to Ceres or Pallas- the Militia has their base up there, and a couple of the Victorious-classes stick around to keep an eye on things." Kyle took a breath before he continued, "Hell, the Jovians and Saturnians are pretty safe, too. The Uranians and Neptunians, you're pushing your luck if you're hoping the Vigilance or the Virtuous are gonna pull your butt out of the sling. And once you're past Neptune..."

"No Man's Land," Mina finished. She was well aware of what people said of the planets past Neptune-- Pluto was a world of ice; nothing existed that far beyond Neptune except for a slow, tortuous death; pirates; ungodly abominations, the legacy of innumerable failed twenty-third century genetic experiments; aggressive microts awakened to sentience; things truly Not Of This Solar System. The rumors were myriad, as were the tales of great riches found within the Kuiper belt. "Have you been that far out?"

"A couple times," Kyle told her. "More than the Militia ever would. You know, for a government army, you'd think they'd be willing to lend a hand if you need help out there, but, nope, they keep quoting regulations. '35 AUs out and you're on your own.'"

"A shame, but if there's nothing out there, there's no real reason to set up a base and a patrol."

"I suppose you're right." Kyle leaned back in his chair, propping his feet up on the granite table. Battered boots clomped against the stone as he looked at the datalog in his hand. "So, we should get started. You are Minanalta Varishtnee, born in Lovell, Fra Mauro, Luna, on August 27, 3071, correct?"

"Correct."

"You graduated from Florence Nightingale Medical Academy... second in your class. What kind of doctor are you?"

"I am a general practitioner. First aid and some surgeries, I can perform, but you'll want a specialist for extreme cases."

"You have blue hair, and the way you speak and carry yourself... you're a samsar?"

Mina nodded. "I am."

"So, is it true what they say about samsar?"

She had heard it all growing up: All samsar could read minds. Samsar were capable of minor telekinetic thrusts. Genetic engineering centuries ago gave the samsar their distinctive blue hair, as well as psychometry. They were capable of receiving psychic visions. Mina had heard and endured the rumors, and said to Kyle the same thing she always did when anyone else asked about them: "It's not for me to speak for the samsar."

"Fair enough. I wouldn't ask a mantir if aggression was part of his being- he'd probably kill me with this table."

Mina managed a grim laugh at the thought. "If one did try to, I assure you, I'd be the one putting you back together," she replied.

"Good. So, have you ever operated on a non-samsar?"

"Humans, yes. Our biology is comparable. I don't have any experience operating on nekau, but they seem close enough to humans and samsar. The mantir..." Mina sighed. "I have never operated on one. I suspect I'd have a hard time cutting through that armored skin of theirs."

"Our last doctor was a mantir. He never had any problems doing it," Kyle replied.

"I would suppose not."

With a nod, Kyle continued, "I'm going to show you three things. Tell me if you know how to use them."

The first picture appeared on Mina's datalog, and she looked at it. It was all too familiar- a white messenger bag-like bundle, with a shoulder strap connecting two corners and the traditional red cross on its front flap. "That's a field surgery kit," she said. "A set of scalpels, aspirin, quinine tablets... everything you need for surgery almost anywhere."

"Good! Now I know you didn't lie on your resume! Here's the next picture..."

Once again, Mina was confronted with a messenger bag, this one gray in color. Unlike the medical kit, the tools with this one were a supply of wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers, with handfuls of nuts, bolts, screws, rivets, and solder wire. "Looks like a mechanic's tool set," the blue-haired woman said. "That's not the kind of surgery I'd know anything about. But I'd be willing to pick up the basics and help your engineer."

"Good answer. Last one."

The third picture was a ubiquitous sight around Luna: A black hand grip, at a right angle to a gray ellipsoid body, followed by a half-inch barrel. Two slim sights stuck out slightly from the top of the entire thing. "That's a laser pistol. STRiKER Security model D-44, according to the frame. Kyle, weapons like laser pistols and bolt guns are the main reason I'm a doctor," Mina said.

"Everyone these days has one, Mina, or at least one like it. I've got one, my engineer's got one... hell, if we have to board a pirate ship, we've got someone with two. And a laser rifle, and some grenades. She's got a monosword, too, for the hell of it," Kyle told her.

"I didn't think mantir would use guns."

"Oh, no. Ria's quite human. She's a hell of a lady," Kyle beamed. Mina made sure to add pervert to her appraisal of the captain.

"I'd imagine so."

"Do you know how to use a laser pistol?"

Her brow furrowed, and her cherry lips pursed into a frown. "I've only fired one once or twice, just to see what it was like," she said.

"At anyone living?"

"No. Never."

"Would you be willing to use one to defend yourself or your crew if need be?" Kyle asked her. He paused for a second before adding, "Before you answer, Mina, I need to say this. Space isn't a place for pacifists or idealists. There's pirates out there, trying to make a few creds. Mantir with a thing or two they want to prove to their skulks. Corporate raiders who won't hesitate to ensure you stay out of their business."

"I would be," Mina stated with some hesitation. "I know what's out there."

"There's a pretty good chance you might die in space, just like the rest of us could, Mina. Whether it's out in No Man's Land or at a pirate's lasers, the risk's still there, hanging over us like Damocles and his sword."

"I'm quite aware of the risks, Captain." Her eyes half-closed as she stressed the rank. "Are you trying to talk me out of this?"

"Not at all. Just making sure that you know what's in store for you. After all..." Kyle's grin returned to his face as he rose from his chair. "With the jobs we get, the risk's part of the reward. And just think- if the crew hits it big, you'll have something to tell your grandkids one fine day!"

"I'm too young to even be thinking about children." And certainly none of yours, she added mentally. "What kind of jobs does your ship perform?"

"Oh, the usual. Cargo delivery for corporates, like that Saturnian wine. Passengers, sometimes. Once or twice, the Militia deputizes us for a short time, or puts out a bounty on pirates. Good work, if you can find it. Hell, once or twice, we got crazy and went out into No Man's Land to go asteroid mining."

"And all of it sounds better than working in a hospital on Luna for the rest of my life," Mina said.

"You're acting as if you've already been hired."

"Well, I don't see anyone else lining up for interviews, Kyle." Mina's blue eyes were practically sparkling as she added, "Besides, Solar Militia regulations state that you require a ship's doctor. Wouldn't want to break system law right in front of the largest military base in the solar system, would we?"

Kyle chuckled, then walked around the table. The datalog returned to his pocket as he extended his hand. "Nope. Already spent two years at Her Imperatrix's leisure at Gradivus Mons," he said. "Wouldn't want more of that. Doctor Minanalta Varishtnee-"

"Just 'Mina,' Captain Surlent." Mina rose from her chair, extending her hand towards Kyle's.

"Fine. Mina, welcome aboard the STS Passepartout. Go get yourself some supplies and a gun... we're leaving noon tomorrow. The admin of Isotope VII's offering us forty-thousand credits to pick up some spare parts from a factory on Venus."

"Thank you! I'll be there bright and early!" Mina replied, turning to leave the conference room.

"Pad Eight. You're looking for the big red rocket."

"Yes! Thank you again, Ca- err, Kyle!"

"Any time, Doc. See you tomorrow."

Mina waited to leave the Kaiser Hotel entirely before she let out a cheer. People turned to look at her, but she didn't care-- she had a means of getting off Earth's moon at long last. And a well-paying job, too, she thought as she looked at the lunar sky. Perhaps I'll find you, Father. What will you think of your daughter?

That night, as the young woman prepared to leave the moon she spent her whole life on, she had no idea of the adventures that would soon befall her. In a few years, fate would see that the Passpartout would be instrumental in events that would shape humanity's future.

But that, as the samsar say, is a tale for another time.
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