As with the other short stories on this blog the setting is the science-fiction computer game world Frontier:Elite. Knowledge of the game isn't important and the story can be read and understood without knowing anything about it. It's just an environment to experiment with different ideas, like a proverbial 'sandbox world'. A sandbox world is one that anyone can express themselves in without any consequences. It's what makes fiction and fantasy so valuable: that a world can be created without consequences.]
To Everything there is a Seasonby Largo Hurne
Location: Columbus Space Station (orbitting Io), the Sol system (The Federation)
"Ticket please!" the usher boomed out to me with unneccessary vigour in his voice.
I handed the small piece of ersatz paper to the rather, jolly, fleshy-faced young man.
"Thank you sir. Enjoy the movie!"
He handed back a small stub.
"Ticket please!" He bellowed out to the guy who was standing behind me. Evidently he got some kind of kick out of playing the role of usher, more than is normal for an usher anyway.
I pushed the door to the auditorium open. It was only small cinema, with a small auditorium, and yet still very, very empty. A dozen people, almost all male, sat dotted around in pairs or trios here and there. It wasn't going to be a money maker for the owners. But what do you expect for a late showing of an series of geeky, late twentieth century, sci-fi films on New Years eve?
Most of the inhabitants on the Columbus station who could afford it had flown down to London, Sol where all the 'fun' was to be had: lots of booze for the oldies, lots of blow for the yuppies, and lots of fireworks for the kiddies. Those who couldn't afford to leave the station or travel to Mars (where the 'real' fun was to be had) had remained on-board the station. There was a soiree that had been organised by the station management down in the main viewing gallery where they could sing, dance, get drunk and watch the volcanos on Io erupt. According to the Federation geologists studying the moon, a massive eruption was predicted to occur just as the minute hand struck twelve and signed in the new year. The 'Big Red One', as it was known locally, was usually a regular and common erupter, but hadn't erupted for quite some time, and the geologists were wondering just how big the next eruption would be. Most of the geologists were expecting something rather spectacular.
The eruption itself would be the result of a chain of events that had occurred over the last year. Like an old fashioned clockwork time piece, all the smaller gears and springs worked together to make the clock work, and once every hour the result would be that the bell chimed. Well, this was much like that. Like meteorological events on Earth, or coronal events on Sol, all were predictable given the right amount of information; like using data points to plotting a line on a graph and predict where it will go. Isaac Newton thought that the universe had a large element of predictability in it, much like that clockwork timepiece. I wondered if such a grand, climactic event would occur to me, ever. Pseudo-philosophers such as John Gray thought that humans lives were as determinable as the volcanos, weather systems, and sun storms. Even genuine philosophers, like Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee and John Glubb, had written so. Spengler believed that humanity was involved in large cycles, much like the cycles of the year on Earth, the seasons, that it had neither could foresee, nor control.
Peering around I saw that all of the back row seats were empty so I shuffled along to one in the middle of the back row put my drink down in one of the holders, the box of 'puffed-barley' (it was cheaper than the other, oft' consumed, processed grass seed, cinema-snack: popped-corn, aka pop-corn) on the seat beside me, and waited for the film, the forth of the nine films, to start.
After a few minutes of Federation propaganda/news items, the lights dimmed and the audience quietened down for the feature presentation.
The title music started up:
# duh duh, duh-duh-duh duh duh, duh-duh-duh duh duh, duh-duh-duh-duh #
After the title scene had finished, I grabbed a handful of puffed-barley, chomped it down and leant my head back on the headrest to rest my eyes for a few moments. I'd seen the movie a couple of times before over the years. I was only here for a change of scenery, to get out of my ships cabin for the first time in a month (I'd been flying back in my ship, solo, from Alioth. Which meant two months of non stop travelling and jumps through hyperspace). I quickly drifted off into a gentle sleep.
* * * * *
"Wow! I just love it when those laser-sword thingees make that noise. 'vwoohm, vwoohm'."
'Hmm? What's that? Must be my ears playing tricks on me. Was that a woman’s voice I heard just then? Can't be. It's new years eve, the key partying date in the calendar. All the women should be, erm, what's the word, socialising, with girlfriends and getting poached by top-dog Alpha men, not slumming it out in the Geeks domain.'
For those of you who don't know, interstellar traders, such as yours truly, are much like the geeks of yore, or the miners of frontier California back in the mid nineteenth century, in that we live in a predominantly male environment and so don't encounter the 'fairer sex' very often. Hence it's a shock to the senses, a perturbation to the personhood, to hear a woman’s voice.
'I'll just check with my eyes to be sure. Hmm, let's see. Long untamed red hair, delicate chin and nose, round cheekbones, close fitting sleeveless white top, equally close fitting stone washed blue jeans, slim build, slender arms and small hands, and big bulges in all the right places. Yup she's a woman.'
She was sat three seats away from me leaning on the chair in front of her, overtly engrossed in the film; ostentatiously you might say. Like she was trying to make a point of 'loving the film'.
"Yeah.." still slightly groggy after waking up, my brain couldn't find a quick witted response.
She turned her head to face me. "I just love these old Star Wars space flicks. Han Solo and Chewy-bacca taking on the evil Romulan Empire, rescuing Princess Leia and saving the day."
'So, as well as not knowing what a light sabre was, she was also getting her 'Star' franchises mixed up: Wars and Trek. Perhaps she's a neophyte to the sci-fi world.'
"Hey, erm, hi, I know it's a bit forward of me, but can I like have some of your pop-corn? I wont have much of it. It's just that I haven't had anything since breakfast, and I've been working all day, and I'm like super super hungry."
"Sure. But it's puffed barley, not pop-corn."
She shuffled over to the seat next to mine. I picked up the box from my right and held it out to her.
She looked into my eyes while she picked up a few pieces of puffed-barley.
Then leant back into the chair, and put one leg on the chair in front of her whilst she ate the barley.
A couple of minutes passed in quiet. Nothing much happened. She took another dozen pieces of puffed-barley, ran her fingers through her long red hair, and arched her back.
The silence was broken. "Why don't they have sheaths to put their swords into? wouldn't that be better than letting them hang around?" she asked, still watching the movie screen.
"They don't need to sheath their sabres. They can just flick a switch on the side and turn them off." I replied, not thinking anything of it.
"I think they'd be better if they had a sheath to slide them into."
'A sheath for a weapon that doesn't need it? What a silly remark.' I thought.
Leaning forward, I picked up my warm beer from the cup holder in front of me and quaffed a mouthful of it.
Turning her head to face me, she asked. "Do you know what the Latin word for sheath is?"
Continuing in a sultry voice without giving me any time to respond. "Vagina."
I spat half of my beer out onto the seat in front of me in shock.
She reposed from her former reclined position, leant close in toward me placing both hands on the armrest and leaving her cleavage on display. Like a cat ready to pounce on its prey. Looking into my eyes, she spoke in a slow arousing tone.
"Don't you think its better that every mans 'sword' should have a 'sheath' to go into?"
I was almost speechless for words, and slightly soggy from the beer that I had accidently sloshed over my left leg,
"I've spilt my beer." I responded, completely dumbfounded. My mind had taken a quick vacation to the planet Absent-Minded, in the Moron system.
"Do you know what happens to a mans 'sword' that doesn’t' have a 'sheath' to go into? It gets 'rusty' and it gets 'soft'."
"Hang on I've got a handkerchief somewhere." I said, my mind still getting a suntan on the beaches of 'Que?'.
"It's better that a sword stay 'hard'. I like a mans sword to be 'hard'."
Padding away at the beer stained trouser leg with a handkerchief that I had retrieved. "Hmm, this seems to be making it better." My mind was still in la-la-land.
"You know why I like hard swords? Because hard swords fit, 'tight', inside small sheaths." She said quietly, gently biting her lower bottom lip and closing her eyes afterward.
"Mmmm." she resonated.
That seemed to get my attention, for some reason or another.. ahem. It was now that my mind returned from its vacation, and took on a distinctly more possessed nature.
I turned and looked strongly into her glistening eyes. Her chest raised as she began breathing more deeply in anticipation of my actions.
Absent minded withering had given way to decisive mindful action.
"We need to leave. Now."
She started grinning with eyes wide open. I stood up walked past her, took her by the hand and lead her out of the auditorium.
* * * * *
The following morning I was sat at the main counter in the space stations cafe eating leftover mince pies and drinking coffee. Happy days.
Clearly there was something in my demeanour that impressed itself on the waiter. Or possibly it was some mixture of odours: oestrogen, testosterone, pheromones or what have you produced from last nights antics. Either way it was enough to draw a remark from the man behind the counter.
"You look like the cat that’s got the cream. Have an interesting night last night mate?"
"Yeah. Thanks. Not bad. Watched a few minutes of an old sci-fi film in the Odeon. Got hit on by a hot redhead. Went back to her place and.. well.." I grinned at the waiter and he grinned back in understanding "Mind you, if you'd have told me about it before hand then I probably wouldn't have believed you."
"Why's that then?"
"Scoring with a super hot chick at a new years eve run of Sci-fi films? Hardly seems like the place to be to get lucky. I didn't even have to do anything. She initiated the whole thing."
"You know how the saying goes: To every thing there's a season. This season the girls are after geeks. Just be glad that you were the in the right place at the right time mate."
"What d'ya mean to everything there's a season?"
"I'm saying that this week it's geeks that girls is after. Next week it's rugby players. The week after that musicians boys. And the week after that pretty boys. Just count your blessings that you were in the right place at the right time. It might never happen again mate."
"Yeah, I guess so."
He went off to serve a pair of customers who were standing a few feet away from me.
Once they had given their order to the waiter, one of the pair spoke to me. He was a rotund balding guy in his fifties. "So, did you see the Big Red One erupt last night?"
Grinning to myself slyly I replied. "Yes I did. Yes I did."
"It was pretty darn spectacular wasn't it."
"It certainly was. A once in a life time experience I would say."
I turned to him. "She looked even better from close up. You know, I could see all the contours of the landscape from where I was."
"Oh yes?" His eyebrows raised in surprise. "So you hired a private shuttle to get a good look at it did ya?"
I nodded. "I was right on top of it when she blew. A Fantastic sight. Close enough to feel the heat it put out when she erupted."
The other guy chuckled at the absurd remark. He thought I was jesting about the volcano: anthropomorphising it. "I'm sure it felt like you did buddy! Heh-heh."
He picked up his order that the waiter had brought him and walked off with his wife to one of the booths in the cafe.
I returned to the coffee and mince pies and thought about what the future, be it clockwork or not, might bring.