Just over 5 days later Gater landed on Sage. It was a warm, dusty day. Not one of those blistering hot days, but dry as dust
In the port city, after a meal, he found an information terminal and called up a map. He had the Gieorn’s address and found that they weren’t anywhere near a landing station. In fact their little town wasn’t anywhere near anything but a river. Jown selected travel and entered the address. Seemed the only way to get there was on foot, by privately chartered bush vehicles or by Rotor craft. This was going to be a little expensive. “How stupid is this. I can fly across known space almost for less than it’s going to cost to get a Rotor ride to their town.” If he hadn’t been worried about making a good impression Jown would have just flown his ship there and landed in a barren patch. The authorities seldom cared on planets like this as long as no one was hurt and nothing was damaged. But that would be poor form and he certainly didn’t want to start with a bad impression. So he paid his money and took the flight.
A few hours later it was getting dark when Jown stepped down onto the ground and followed the pilot into town. There was a slight cool, dry breeze in the air and Jown picked up the scent of food. There was a single tavern and Jown went in. The pilot ate quickly and left him alone with the proprietor.
“And Hi to you, where are you from son?”
“I’m an independent trader. I’m not from anywhere except my ship.”
“That doesn’t sound very healthy to me. Everyone needs someplace to call home. Any kin?”
“No, I was an only child, no cousins I ever knew of. Mom and Dad died about 10 years ago.” Jown didn’t really want to continue this line of conversation, it was bringing up deeply buried feelings that he didn’t want to deal with, but he didn’t want to be rude either under the circumstances.
“That’s mighty hard. Sorry, probably not what you want to talk about. So what could possibly bring you way out here? There’s nothing to trade. People have looked and looked for anything of value and never found anything. Farming’s hard, but next to the river you can scratch out a living. Still there isn’t enough for trading.”
“Well to tell the truth I came out to meet some folks. The Gieorns, do you know them? Pretty stupid question, huh. You all know everyone for probably a thousand kilometers.”
“Yup. They’re wonderful folks, both healthy as rocks (they never get sick you know, rocks I mean). What takes you to them?”
Jown didn’t have a story that would work so he decided to just tell the truth somewhat abbreviated, “I have a business proposition for them.”
“Business? I think you’ve come a long way for a cold drink, they’re both retired. I hardly think they would be interested in any work.”
“Well I know they are, but it has to do with linguistics and science. They just seemed like the perfect pair for it. It’s not hard work, stuff they could do at home and I’m sure it would be very interesting to them. I’ve heard sometimes folks who are healthy can get bored after being retired a while.”
“Well no harm in asking. They don’t get visitors so they’ll probably be glad just for the company even if they don’t take you up on your offer.”
“It’s pretty late and I don’t want to barge in on them this late, being a stranger and all. Is there some place in town I could get a room for the night?”
“A room? Out here? Son no one comes here that doesn’t know someone. You’re probably the first person asking for a room in a decade! I can give you a blanket and pillow. You can sleep on the sofa by the fire. It gets cold here at night so you’ll need to through a log on the fire now and again. That’ll save me the trouble so we’ll just call it even.”
“Thank you sir, I really appreciate it, and the conversation too. I don’t talk to anyone much anymore.”
Caleb finished cleaning things up and brought Jown the blanket and pillow. Caleb probably didn’t realize how wonderful that couch felt to Jown after sleeping literally for years in his pilot seat. Jown sure didn’t want to get up when Caleb’s wife started opening things up for breakfast customers. Jown had a wonderful country breakfast then got directions from Caleb to the Gieorn’s. Their homestead was 3 kilometers from town, but the walk was flat and the morning beautiful. About a kilometer out of town he hit the river, beautiful crystal clear blue in the rosy morning light. He followed it the rest of the way.
The Gieorn’s house was a small clay cottage with a porch faced east toward the river and the morning sun (actually though he couldn’t see it then they had a porch for the setting sun as well). It was a light pink with just a touch of purple darkening the trim. The roof was all thatch. As he approached he saw an elderly couple sitting on the porch eating breakfast. Johann looked to be about 175 centimeters, Grunhilda just a few shorter. Both were of a slight build, but not an unhealthy gauntness like some are. As expected they were light skinned with hair a mix of blondy and gray.
“Good morning, Mr. And Mrs. Gieorn?” Jown called out as he approached the porch.
“Good morning, come up and enjoy the sunrise with us. Hildy will fix you some breakfast.”
“Thanks, but I ate at the tavern.” Jown replied as he stepped up on the porch and took the vacant chair.
“The clouds sure make the sunrise pretty this morning dear.”
“Yes Hildi, and even better it means rain this afternoon.”
As they continued polite conversation about the weather, fishing and farming, Jown was wondering when they were going to get around to asking him who he was and why he was there, but it didn’t seem like they were going to. “Aren’t you curious about who I am and why I’m here?”
Johann laughed. “We saw you coming and decided to have a contest. We are trying to see who can guess and come the closest. So please don’t tell us just yet.”
“Johann you’re being rude! The young man’s come a long way to see us and we shouldn’t keep him waiting. You never liked being kept waiting when you were working, now did you?”
“No I suppose I didn’t. But here’s my guess, you’re a reporter or writer of some kind come out to get a story. You say some old news files and thought there might be some interest in hearing about how we’re doing. Now you Hildi.”
“Oh all right. You’re an assassin come to kill us both dead. They had to wait until everyone forgot about our story, but now they can do what they always really wanted. … Now I’m being the rude one. I don’t really believe that. I haven’t even a guess about why anyone would come to see us.”
“Well my name is Jown, Jown 43580129584. I am an independent trader and I found something interesting.”
“Numbers for a last name, poor worker family.” Johann acknowledged. “So what is it you found, and why tell us?”
“What I found I would like to keep private, just between us. But first let me warn you that I’m wanted by the police and have a corporate bounty on my head. Some time back I was picking up some stranded cargo pods, just out along a trade route not near any stations and no other ships in scanner range. Well while I was at it the corporate ships returned for it. They were hot when they saw me loading it up and sent their fighters after me before I had time to jettison the cargo or even protest. I ran and they called it theft and put out a contract on me. I tried several times to contact them to return it, but could never get past the answering services. So I just moved on to the outer systems until things quieted down. Well a bounty hunter found me and I didn’t see him until it was too late. I tried to run and evade, but he hurt the Gater too bad in the first round. So finally I just fired back blindly in a hail of everything I had just to get him to back off so I could get away. Well I guess he had all his energy going to his guns because my one volley destroyed his ship and killed him. They called it murder and now I’m wanted by the police.”
Johann replied, “Well we don’t like what the government did to us, it wasn’t right, but we can’t fight it. But we aren’t about to become lawbreakers or take up some kind of crusade against them. We’re perfectly content to simply collect my pension and keep our distance from them. It’s plenty for living out here and we like it out here. I appreciate your telling us the situation. Associating with you even though you’re wanted doesn’t bother me, we’d just have to be careful. So if what you have to say is legal, say on. If it’s revenge you’re after you need to find someone a bit younger.”
“I’m not suggesting anything illegal or even shady. Just secret.” Jown hesitated. “I kind of want to know if you’re willing to keep what I tell you secret, even if you don’t want to be a part of it.”
“Well I suppose that will be a rather easy thing for us way out here. It’s not like there’s anyone to tell. What is it you found?”
Jown settled back and told them the whole story except that he didn’t say where he found the alien base. Johann and Grunhilda sat in shocked silence for a long time. Grunhilda spoke at last “Not saying we don’t believe you, but did you bring any of it with you?”
“Yes, but it’s locked in my ship back at the station.”
“Back at the station?” Replied Johann in shock. “You shouldn’t have left it there. What if someone decides to inspect your ship while you’re gone?”
“Well it’s under a security lock that I don’t suppose anyone here could break, and it’s alarmed. If anyone did try and get in I would know instantly. Of course you’re right, I couldn’t do anything about it this far away (that wasn’t strictly true. He didn’t like to advertise his security measures, one of which was the ability to order the ship to lift off and fly to his location). But I didn’t want to break local laws by landing outside of the authorized landing zone.”
Grunhilda blustered “Authorized landing zone indeed! It’s just a trick to make some cash by getting a landing fee out of you. You can land anywhere so long as you don’t damage something or someone. You go back at once, you just have time to catch the noon flight, and get your ship here! I want to see that writing, even if Johann is too old to care about the science.”
Now it was Johann’s turn to bluster “I said nothing of the sort. I just have been lost in thought. There’s so many thing to consider, materials, energy projection and collection, gravity generation to name a few. But Hildi’s right you should go back at once. Hildi can you fix Jown some food for the trip before he has to leave?”
“Yes dear, I surely will.”
Posted by strailon Sunday, December 09, 2012 @ 00:00:00 UTC