Sep. 19th, 2011


Sep. 19th, 2011 12:35 am
I take one last leak before putting on the grabsuit. It's a bulky affair, one hundred kilos of insulation and life support and reinforcing. With it on I look less like a human being and more like a big silver starfish, studded with hooks and fitted with the belay line. Jules and Scrubby check me out and give me the okay sign. They evacuate the hold, and I stand on the grabship's poop-chute. The door opens and I drop out into hard space, falling towards the surface of Jupiter.

I don't know how I let people talk me into doing these things. First it was deep sea diving in Europa, and I almost got sucked into a tidal votex through one of the holes in the rotten ice. Then it was free-boosting our way around the asteroid ring, jumping from planetoid to planetoid without a spaceship for protection. My suit got holed the very first week and I had to struggle along for the rest of the year hoping the patch would hold. Then this grabbling thing came along, and Jules was like, oh, this time'll be different, you're going to love it, it's the biggest rush ever. I should have said no, I'm going back to Mars and I'm going to get a job and raise a family and quit chasing the next big thrill.

But I didn't say no. Instead, here I am at the end of a belay cable, falling into the largest planet in the solar system. They let me drop for most of the distance, and the salmon and orange and brown swirls in the upper atmosphere rise up to greet me. The belay starts to apply some braking so that I won't bounce when I hit the cloud interface. Somewhere in there, in the roaring winds and the upwelling chromophores, is a whiskerer. And I'm supposed to catch it.

With my bare hands.

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The agents from the future always come on Tuesdays. I've asked them about it. Why Tuesdays? I've asked. Tuesdays don’t really work great for me; I sometimes have stuff going on that runs late. I can't always guarantee that I'll be at home on Tuesdays at 6PM, sharp. How about Thursdays?

And the agents always smile indulgently, and they do NOT tell me that Thursdays would be okay, and they do NOT explain to me why Tuesdays are so wonderfully important. They DO tell me that they will be by again in precisely one week, that would be TUESDAY, at 6PM, sharp, and they will expect me at home at that time. I nod. I don't know what else I can do.

It's not like I can just blow off the agents from the future. Times have been tough since the steel mill closed. Jobs don't just grow on trees any more. I've, ah, had a protracted period of weighing my employment options. Rent's due and the car isn't paid off yet. But the agents from the future help me make ends meet. Oh, they don't just hand me money. They tell me, oh, you might want to make an online trade for some Exxon-Mobil stock, good things might happen this week. Or they might tell me that there's a pawn shop that has a genuine vintage Tiffany lamp, selling it for $40 but you can probably argue 'em down to $25, and Soledad's Antiques will give you five large for it.

So, yeah, I'm on the hook with the agents from the future. I need that money, dammit, and they know it. So I put up with a lot of shit. I listen to what they tell me, commit their instructions to memory, and answer all their stupid questions. Questions about my daughter, Maria.

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