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 Outside - Wagers Won & Made

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TerishD


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PostSubject: Outside - Wagers Won & Made   October 22nd 2010, 7:53 am

Outside - Story Twenty
Wagers Won & Made

Part One

Castle here, and I was on duty when this story begins. It however was not my regular job of being point pilot, but I was flying scans for a star that Thor named Batchelor. He was a mechanic that worked with Thomas Edison. Since lives were not actually on the line, and whatever there was to see would only be correlated to computer data, I tended not to treat this period of time with any seriousness. I simply assured that my ship was flying along its proper course, and wished that the clock would spin faster.

I had something that did command my interest, and I had it showing on my front monitor. One needs to understand that we don’t look out windows. Well, most of us don’t look out windows. Still, even those of us that look out their windows cannot do so directly from their pilot’s seat. All boats and ships are designed so that the primary views are computer monitors that display vital ship data along with whatever view from outside the ship we desire. I had no such display showing on my primary monitor, but a view from outside somebody else’s ship.

My work on Jane continued. Others however knew about my efforts to create a faster-than-light engine that could head in any direction at any speed. They wanted the prize for themselves, and one person had built a working model of a Kert field that could incorporate the vectors from two sources. I had to give the man credit for getting the design to work, but I still had placed money against its success. I put the view upon my main monitor as I considered its flight through space more interesting than my own.

I did not even switch the view on my main monitor as I ended one scan run and began another. The computer did not need to ‘see’ where it needed to go. I really did not need to see either, although I had a view on a side monitor. With a confirmation of position and verification of the next route, I could easily direct my boat while keeping a watch on another craft light-years away.

I smiled upon seeing a bright line. The craft breaking up occurred almost immediately afterward. Gloating with pleasure, I quietly had my computer check certain complications.

The voice of Harley came over my speaker, “Hey, Castle, got a private message being bumped to you.”

“I am waiting for it, Harley. It doesn’t need to be private, because I want everyone to hear this.”

“Cool.”

The next voice was that of someone I knew as Belch. “Damn, Castle, how did you call it so precise?”

“Because you used a standard boat design. I knew the weak points.”

“I still got my engine to work.”

While I recognized a smug tone, I quickly worked to put Belch in his place. “There is really no new technology in your design. I give you credit for bringing the idea to a testable stage, but you have done nothing to deal with the actual faults in the concept.”

The man was not dejected, but still spoke with a strong positive cadence. “So, you admit that if I handle the structural problems, that I can get this to work?”

“You chose about the only destination where two vectors of about the same velocity would give you a direct path. Even such a relatively ‘safe’ test showed problems, so I believe that your design will be limited to certain routes. Do you believe that you will have enough traffic to justify the expense?”

“If the concept is good, I should be able to get investors.”

I had to allow that he did have some points in his favor. “You are obviously doing something right. I believe that Jane will make you obsolete, but I agree that the timeline on your design is much more dependable for the short term than mine. Make money while you can.”

“You thus will not put your earnings into an investment with me?”

“I told you that you did not want me wagering against you. I am here and watching, and you know that I now have some of your money. If you overcome some problems, but still have money problems, I might invest.”

The man now probed into my business. “When will Jane be open for testing?”

“I don’t have money problems, so not in any need to set up demonstrations. When I finally bring her out before the public, she will be a rather developed lady.”

“Must be nice having a friend like Clover.”

“It is nice having a job and not being a dead-beat worried about not having money to buy groceries.”

That got others talking. The signal had come as private, but I had told Harley that she could make it public. She had, so others heard. I switched my main monitor back to my work as I listened to the chatter.

As if he had been waiting for me to finish with one problem, the voice of Watson came over my speaker. “Is anyone else having fuel problems?”

Sandra replied, “I guess that you did not listen to my warning about your intakes picking up hydrogen? Check your regulators.”

I made my own comment. “Come on, Watson. You worked around Saturn. Surely you have a boat that can compensate for saturation.”

“Too much dust around Saturn. I have a catch and release intake system.”

“Okay, but what does your boat do if the allowable gases are not properly balanced?”

“There is enough fuel that minor disturbances should not overly affect the percentages. I mean, yeah, if I were going for about a week I might have problems like this.”

Sandra replied before I could. “There’s your problem, Watson. There is a lot of hydrogen out here. At the end of your run, stop and perform a fuel check. You will probably need to reblend.”

Diamond asked, “What type of intake system do I have, Castle?”

I answered, “My own design, Diamond. You should not be showing any problem.”

“I am getting something. Some panel will flash every now and then. It is not red, so I haven’t been worried, but I would like to know what it is.”

“The boards are Clover’s.”

The voice of the man now spoke. “Let me look at your boat, Diamond. I know the passwords, but I will still need you to authorize.”

Diamond replied, “You got it, Clover.”

It actually took less time than I expected for Clover to reply, “It is just your intakes letting you know that it is releasing certain chemicals. It was a patch that I wrote to work with Castle’s intake design. I did not want to bother you with needing to click the panel off, but I guess that I made the pause too short. Next time you dock with the Menlo Park, I will upload a better routine for it.”

“What does it do if things are bad?”

“You are flying Castle’s design, so it should not go bad.” I voiced an agreement before Clover could say more. “If you feel that you are having fuel problems, just call up that panel and look at the data.”

“What system do you have, Clover?”

“I have a modified catch and release. Neosalem is in a system already owned and worked by Avondale, so has a lot of fine debris from the work and traffic. My intake gases go into a cycling vat where the mix is concentrated and calibrated before being re-entered into the fuel tank.”

I added my own opinion. “An expensive and slightly complicated system. Clover can afford it, and he learned how to maintain it. I found it too much trouble.”

“You are probably going to need it for Jane. I believe she will have a rather delicate digestive system.”

Watson joined in on our little debate. He usually stays out of technical discussions, but his background as a tug captain actually had him slightly knowledgeable about mechanical issues. When he did voice an opinion, usually some military guys also joined the discussion. That happened this time as well. Before I knew it, a rather large group of voices were tossing out facts about various fuel intake systems and giving appraisals of their quality.

I guess that I was not the only one surprised when an electronic voice spoke, as the chatter hushed. “Uh, we have a system like Clover’s here. Ours is giving a strange message however.”

Thor had not joined in the discussion, but I guess he had been listening as he was the one that returned, “Bull. Those saucers were built as publicity vehicles. There was no wasted expense in their designs. You thus cannot have a system like Clover.”

Felix said, “And your saucers have no intakes. If they did, I would have carbon-coated them long ago.”

The electronic voice replied, “We have them, but due to the saucer design they are not like you have them, and they are not really efficient. Still, we did redo the internals, as we understood that we would be moving into deep space. We were not completely idiotic in making this trip, and did spend the money for one of the better reprocessing units.”

Not wanting to argue with stupid people, I worked to quickly end the conversation. “Before we voice our opinion about your lack of intelligence, what message is your boat giving?”

“Hydration error.”

“Water? Hey, anyone else here getting water?”

One of the reasons that no one else had visited this system was that it showed no signs of life or anything else of value. While hydrogen could be seen all through the system, the other major gas necessary for life as we knew it had not been detected. For the saucer people to claim water, they had to have found something that nobody else could locate. While most of those listening would discount any claim by our shadows, Indigo spoke a confirmation.

“I passed the Tornado on my scan, and I also picked up some water in my intakes. The computer however shows the water to be very light.” When a number questioned her use of the word ‘light,’ she replied, “Oxygen twelve.”

As a voice from the cosmos said, “I have heard of carbon twelve, but not oxygen twelve,” Thor declared, “We finish the scans first.”

While we all knew the routine, we also were present for the money. A number of us aboard the Menlo Park would call in stock trades hoping that our knowledge would give us a jump on how the market would be affected. It thus did not surprise me to hear Felix make a response.

“Indigo, sweetie, could you let me look at your readings.”

The two could have done their exchange on a private channel. I guess that their relationship was going well however, so had a desire to make the fact that they were a couple more public. What many of us felt in listening was that the two were going to get money that the rest of us would be locked out of. Still, that was a part of life in space, so I held back my emotions. It was a saucer that however caused my boards to activate defensive routines.

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PostSubject: Part Two   October 27th 2010, 7:58 am

Outside - Story Twenty
Wagers Won & Made

Part Two

The electronic voice that came over the speaker surprised me, because it did not make any threats. With the small saucer powering its weapons, I expected a declaration of intent. What I heard was however a rational voice from the large saucer.

“Tornado, power down and return to observing.”

A whiney tone could be detected in the electronic voice that spoke in response, “I mentioned the water first.”

“No, you didn’t. You mentioned an error on your board. The fact that others quickly realized what you had not is an error in your own judgment. Note that also Indigo should not have any information that you do not. Examine your own data.”

A pause, then the electronic voice from the Tornado said, “I see the reason for the error. The weight of the atoms matched carbon, but the properties matched oxygen.”

“Yes, and that should have alerted you that you had something possibly special. We have been following those of the Menlo Park for a long time now. You should thus know that upon finding something out of the ordinary, you go silent while you check the data.”

A voice from out of the ether declared, “That is not how the law reads.”

Even the saucer people ignored that statement. They went quiet. Felix and Indigo switched to a private channel. I put my flight path upon my front monitor, scan data on one side monitor with specs for Jane on the other side. I then tried to ignore the chatter on my speakers as I sought something that might give me a financial edge.

I was running another scan path when an electronic voice said, “Menlo Park, we have registered a bid on this system. Note that it has gas giants, and we are in need of fuel.”

Rachel returned, “That is a might hefty sum for just some raw gases.”

“Well, it is the same opening bid we made on the last system, and you did not respect it then.”

"I am looking at all the requests from chemical companies, and light oxygen does not match a single one. I am thus actually welcoming your bid.”

There was a pause, then the electronic voice said, “Well, clarify something for me. If we do gain this system, can we begin to claim ourselves as citizens of Batchelor?”

“It will be your system. If you want to call it home, there is no law against it.”

“So, we can ask to be referred to as Batchelorites instead of saucer people.”

“You can ask, but you are still flying those damn saucers.”

Clover made his own statement. “Most people claim to be from a planet. I would suggest that you pick the planet that you prefer, give it a name that you prefer, then claim to be from there.”

Rachel returned, “If you gain the system, you are free to name the planets whatever you want. You have to win the bid however.”

I suddenly received a text message from Thor telling me to argue with him. I could not imagine why he would send the command to me. I was not one of those that usually caused problems. Still, I knew what we had coming, so tried to think up some line of disagreement while I waited for Thor to make the opening statement.

“I know that this system has been avoided up to now. I still am willing to lay money down that somebody is going to outbid that offer.”

Clover returned, “How much are you wagering, Thor? I might feel required to place a bid just to have you win the bet.”

Malcolm returned, “And with his luck, something would be found after he gained the system.”

I did not know if Thor had sent his message to the others, but I still acted to obey my captain. “Oxygen twelve? Isn’t that stuff radioactive? Radioactive water is not something anyone wants. No, Thor, no one will want this system.”

Yes, I could have easily checked certain tables to determine some facts about what I said. The command was however not to rationally disagree, but to argue. One does not need hard facts to do that.

The speakers now erupted with people stating their own views about oxygen twelve. The reduced weight meant an absence of neutrons, so others asked about the isotope values of other elements that we found. Rachel generally used the chatter to work up bids, but I found her and Thor blandly replying with reports of normal values. As the voices faded, I began to gain the impression that Thor wanted the saucer people to gain the system.

The feeling was verified as soon as I returned to the ship. Thor was in the common room welcoming each of the pilots as we came back from duty. He told me to get some rest while the data was checked. Usually we discussed what oddities of a system had been found, but the captain strongly hinted that he did not want any talk of something others might find of value.

Naomi was in the kitchen speaking with Clover at the table. She mentioned having a meat sauce that could be used over pasta or simply put between buns, but then went back to whispering with her husband. I fixed myself a plate, then sat down to gain any juicy information.

“What are you two talking about?”

Clover replied, “Making a baby.”

“Oh.” The response did take me by surprise, so I checked on the usual topic after finishing a system scan. “Nothing else to talk about?”

He pressed some buttons on his computer, then spun it around to show me the present report from the system. A few things did show some promise. Clover’s words however did not give any impression of being pleased.

“If the saucer people are smart, they will check some things out after winning the bid and gaining our full report. Five hundred dollars however says that they follow us.”

Rachel spoke from the doorway to the bridge. “They need to stop and process some fuel. We make our exit then.”

I said, “I thought we could leave this system going in the direction of our next registered system.”

“We can, and will. We however need to be far enough ahead that they cannot track us. The vector we will switch to is registered.”

Felix and Indigo entered the kitchen with the man asking, “What are you guys talking about?”

Clover answered, “I am putting down five hundred saying that the saucer people do not stay and examine their claim, but that they follow us.”

“I want to cover that bet, as I know Thor will do everything he can to have them stay.”

Rachel replied, “The problem is that if we make it attractive enough to entice them to do that, we might also entice somebody else to place a bid.”

Indigo prepared some pasta as Felix said, “We don’t have to make our full reports public. I can help you write an attractive buyer’s disclosure.”

Clover grumbled, “Go ahead, but my wager stands.”

Speaking as another rich man, Felix returned, “Make it five thousand. Rachel, I will help you.”

She said, “Well, we are going to send you guys out on runs rather quickly. That is why Thor told you to get some rest. We cannot afford to wait long enough for our aliens to decide to go ahead and pay for fuel. We at least need them having to spend time sucking gases and processing fuel while we move on.”

As if in response to that, an electronic voice came over the speaker. “Menlo Park, how long will we need to wait until we will know that the system is ours?”

“We just finished our scans. The data is being compiled, then we discuss what is worth checking out. Most of the process, especially the bids, are public. Just wait.”

“We understand, as we have watched the process a few times now. However, the fear here is that you will prolong the process hoping for a better bid.”

“We do have that option.” Rachel tensed her jaw as she asked, “How bad are you hurting for fuel?”

“Well, let me just say that I hope you do not prolong the process.”

“Time is money with us, so we won’t just sit around. If we keep you waiting, you will be aware of us attempting to gain a better bid because of a certain discovery.”

“We will thus be listening as we wait. Thank you, Menlo Park.”

Our female captain moved to the helm I felt certain to check the status of the speakers. After trading some soft words with Malcolm, she came back to the doorway. Realizing who she had present, the lady asked a question of another lady.

“Indigo, I heard Clover say just a few minutes earlier that he and Naomi were thinking about making a baby. Are you and Felix thinking anything about that?”

“We were trying not to rush our relationship.”

“So the answer is ‘no.’”

Felix replied, “What are the odds on Terry actually proving his worth?”

Clover answered, “I thought you were working with him like I am.”

“I like what I see, but I still want to know how the rest of you rate our chances.”

“I have to put my money on Terry, as what he is doing matches what I feel he needs to do.”

Felix looked to Indigo as he said, “Rachel, if it works, tell Thor that he needs to perform a service. Other developments will be in the works afterwards.”

“Damn,” I exclaimed. “How can I join that wager? If Terry’s idea works, you and Indigo get a wedding present from me. If it fails, I get what? Indigo visiting my apartment?”

“Over my dead body.” He then put his hands on the table as he looked me in the eyes. “What about Jane? If she works, I get one of the first stock options in the company you create to build and market the engines. If she fails, I get what? Able to spend the evening with Jane?”

“We can trade ladies any time you want. Spend as much time with Jane as you desire. I promise not to waste the time with Indigo.”

I looked to the lady, and she smiled back at me. Felix saw my change of focus. He probably could have gotten angry, but he really was not that type of person.

“Tell you what, Castle. You and me are misery companions. Terry fails, and we share a bottle at my expense. You fail, and we share a bottle at your expense.”

I stuck out a hand to seal the deal. We then changed the subject as we ate. After the meal we retired to our rooms for just a couple of hours of rest. While I did get a short nap, time was spent with Jane as I assured the precision of certain parts. I really did not want to spend any time honoring the deal with Felix.

We had done enough system inspections that we easily knew what steps to make. Normally, our attitude was to make our claim as desirable as possible. Having found a couple of worthless systems on our first voyage, we however knew how a busted system would look. While we did our best to talk up the importance of certain checks, the hopeful chatter was not faked. Each routine result gave us cheer that things would pay off in the manner we desired.

Thor would have lost his bet, if anyone had taken him up on it. Felix lost his, even though he did work with Rachel to spice up the report to the saucer people. As he paid Clover, Felix grumbled about the aliens probably planning to check certain details on a future return trip. A bottle of wine was given in response, and he was told to take up Indigo on any offers she made to him.

We tried to appear normal as we told the saucer people bye. They stated that they would be following. Rachel spent some time talking about what she considered slightly interesting in their system, then asking them which planet they were going to claim to be from. The electronic voices showed no reluctance to speak to us as we left the system. While they mentioned that they would see us in the next system, we knew for certain that they would not.

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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Outside - Wagers Won & Made
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