This is the first in a three-part series written by Brackstone, a member of the Star Citizen Organization: Republic of Lorell.
Once they are all published, you can read them at Where We Come From.
Theodore Brackstone ripped the dinner jacket from his arms. What was supposed to be a night of celebration had turned into a desperate fight for survival. Every moment his arms were held back because of the stiff fabric, more people died. Fire, torpedoes, and Retaliators fell from the sky. He stood alone in the control room for a weapons testing facility. He had been the director of the research and development team for fifty years. Tonight would have been celebrating the anniversary of when he had taken it over. He had recently been working with renewed purpose as he helped to bolster a people looking for independence. When the people of Lorell decided to cast off the imperial yoke of the Messers, He felt that finally his weapons would be used more in line with his terms. He mourned the Tevarin, and the many other atrocities that missiles, bearing his name, had done for the Empire. Many of the torpedoes now being launched at him, his family, his neighbors, were likely enhanced by the technology he had overseen. The Messers, as it turned out, were not forgiving.
An explosion rocked the facility. He had to keep focused. These controls were not meant for combat, they were meant for tests. They were designed to input precise commands so that discrepancies could be monitored and corrections made for the following test. It meant he could be incredibly accurate, and every shot counted, but it took him twice as long to input a firing solution into the computer. But he had to try. Every moment meant more people could live. As he moved on to the next target, he saw another console had logged in behind him, and the firing solution was now being done for him.
Brackstone cursed, “We won’t win here Wayland. Get your wife and children out of here.”
A soft, regal voice answered him. “Our son is gone. I came here after they launched.”
Brackstones head whipped around. A tall, slender woman stood at the console, wearing the blue and silver dress he had given her for the nights’ party. His wife of sixty-seven years didn’t raise her eyes to meet his, she just completed the firing solution and moved on to the next Retaliator, somehow managing to make it look graceful. Brackstone fought the impulse to run to her, to kiss her one more time and die in her arms, but if his children and grandchildren were in the air, then they needed him now more than ever. He turned back around, selecting the next targets and blinking the tears out of his eyes.
“Cassandra, I fear I’ve killed us all.” Brackstone tried to numb himself to it, terrified that if he let it out now, he would be completely useless.
“We knew what we were all getting into.” She sounded so calm compared to how he felt.
They fell into old rhythms, and worked together silently, with an unspoken efficiency that can only be achieved after working together for decades.
“Do you remember the day we got married?” He finally broke the silence.
“Yes.” He could have sworn he heard her voice catch.
“We were in that port, and I was convinced there was a fine adventure waiting for me somewhere.” He could see her in his mind’s eye from all those years ago.
“I pointed at the Bremen system, the planet Rytif, and joked about how awful being a farmer’s wife would be.” He could hear the smile in her voice.
“Then I pointed at Lorell, a blank slate where we could have been anything. I asked you if you’d be a wife there.”
“…And I said yes.”
“Then we jumped on the ship, said goodbye to earth, and had the captain do the ceremony on route.” Brackstone allowed himself to revel in the happy memory, almost oblivious of the bloody work his hands were doing. Behind him, his lovely wife laughed and laughed. He heard her approach and saw her place her hand on top of his.
“There are no more prototypes. There is nothing left to fire.” She sounded tired but content.
Brackstone shut his eyes and allowed Cassandra to fold into his arms.
“Would you have married me if we went to Rytif?” He looked down at her.
She looked up at him and kissed him passionately. The retaliators, unhindered, finally found their mark. The weapons facility erupted into cinders.
I laid beneath the thrasher, arms covered in grease, wheat, and muck. Automation had done so much for the farming industry, and there wasn’t a farm on Rytif that didn’t take advantage of it, but there were draw backs. For example, a man working a manual irrigation system would have noticed that a valve wasn’t closing when it was told to. A man driving a thrasher would have noticed that a 5-acre portion of his field had suddenly become a pond. But in this automated system, those men don’t exist, only me. The guy you call when your automatic farm suddenly submerges 2 million credits in state of the art farm equipment into a bog of rotten wheat. None the less, I have something of a reputation as a miracle worker in these neighborhoods, and one soggy thrasher wasn’t going to soil that reputation. Bypass this, refill that, and voila! The hydraulic pumps creaked to life.
Byorg stomped his considerable girth into his workshop. “Well, I’ll be! I thought I’d kiss a Messer on the mouth before I heard a noise come from that infernal machine again!”
“Don’t get your hopes up.” I cautioned, “I was able to bring back some of the subsystems, but the I.Q. box is fried. It seems the last guy to open her up didn’t seal it properly.”
A pitiful moan escaped Byorg’s lips. He spat on the ground as he massaged the bridge of his nose. “Don’t be kind boy, what’s it going to take to get this thing running this month.”
“Fortunately, the installation is easy enough; I can do it in less than a day. The part will be tricky to get, though. I’ll probably have to send for it from Stalford. Even if you find a used one, and that’s unlikely, it’ll run over 200k.” I genuinely felt sorry for the man. The amount of harvest this single unit would bring in may be worth as much as the part, but he was still going to lose money this season. “Then, of course, there are my labor fees.”
Another moan, then Byorg paused and looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “You know, I was talking to Jimmy Paulo about some work you had done for him, and he said you did it for some scrap he had stored.”
“That was a special circumstance, and I can’t eat scrap.” I was fond of my reputation, but not if it said I was willing to work for free.
Byorg almost looked hurt. “I’ve every intention of paying you, but I found something in one of the new lots. Just come have a look and see if it’s worth anything to you.”
Out of interest for repeat business and a continued friendly relationship, I humored him and followed him to a storage container outside the shop. He punched in a code, and the panel fell with a dull thud into the dusty ground. As the dust settled, I could not believe my eyes. I was staring at half of a very large power plant. It had been cut neatly in two, evidently for a foundry somewhere as the cut was made without any consideration for the components inside, only the metal. Nothing on this side of it was intact, however… With a heave, Byorg and I rolled the chunk of scrap onto its other side, exposing a large plate bolted on. That was a good sign. I ratcheted off the plate, exposing a row of old yet pristine coolant pumps. I gave Byorg a half smile and tried to hide my excitement.
“well, I suppose this is worth my time. I’ll call you when I find the part you need.”
One sleepless night later, I was staring at my newly installed coolant pumps on my now ‘technically’ functioning power plant. All I had to do was throw the switch. With a grunt and a silent prayer, power entered the Carrack-class starship I called home for the first time in a generation. Metal whined in protest and turbines screeched as though I had disturbed their sleep. Soon, it found it’s rhythm, though, and it all whirled about in time with each other. A soft, feminine, but computerized voice echoed out of the dusty P.A. system.
“……Anvil Aerospace….. System diagnostic required….”
I grinned, then giggled uncontrollably. I listened to the voice tick through the numerous system faults that it detected as though she were singing me a love song. My home had a long way to go before she would be airborne, but tonight proved that all the saving, haggling, and sleepless nights were going to amount to something. I was going to see something besides wheat fields. I was going to see other worlds, other systems. I was going to see things that human eyes have never seen before!
That’s when my mobiglass sprang to life. The Paulo farm had a faulty collector that needed immediate attention. I was going to see something new, but not before I got my hands dirty for a little longer.