Oct. 13th, 2011

Space Taxi

Oct. 13th, 2011 12:00 am
I waited on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral with Calcagnini bundled up in its foil cargo wrapper. Calcagnini was four and a half tons of deep space probe, destined to explore the innermost moons of Neptune. All it needed was a push in the right direction, and its Krypton drive would get it the rest of the way.

I looked at my watch. I had called the space taxi agency months ago and reserved this slot, but the launch operator was almost an hour late anyway. My window for intercept on Sagan Station was a little narrow, and I was getting nervous.

Just then a battered-looking blimp nosed over the mangroves, its twin-prop diesels growling angrily and spewing a great deal of black smoke. Slung below it was a crew gondola, heavily dented, and below that was the long finned-cigar shape of a Tsiolkov Spacewerks Heavy-Lift 9A. The rocket was a dingy orange with a dark checkered pattern along the top and base. A strobing neon sign along the side of the envelope read FOR HIRE.

The airship swung around and began lowering the butt-end of the rocket towards the paving. The neon sign turned off, and a man stuck his head out of the side window of the gondola. He had a turban.

"Hey!" the man shouted. "Hurry up and get loaded! The meter's running!"

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The Artist

Oct. 13th, 2011 10:59 pm
Presented for your consideration:


Ootoo dropped down to the ocean floor with her meal in tow. She had caught a big fish, the kind that needed to breathe air. The air-breathing fish lived up high, where the light was almost too impossibly bright to bear, but that worked to a hunter's advantage. Fish-creatures that breathed air were used to lots of light, which meant they weren't good at seeing something coming up out of the darkness.

Ootoo gripped her meal tightly in four of her arms and walked along the sea bottom with the rest of her limbs. She was huge, with an armspan fifty feet across, and an elongated mantle the size of a station wagon. But she was also young, and small for her kind. The great kraken never stopped growing, and they lived for a very long time.

Ootoo retreated to her cave and methodically devoured the air-breather. The lung tissue she found disgusting and discarded, and the muscles were delicious but difficult to pick off the hard bones. The organ meats were the best, of course, and those she savored. When she was done, she had a pile of bones and a full inner cavity. That was the life of a kraken, for food was plentiful in those parts; with a full belly easy to achieve, Ootoo had plenty of leisure time. And given enough unstructured time, an active mind will find tasks to keep itself occupied.

Ootoo's thoughts turned to mating. It was time to attract a mate, she knew, but she was small and drab, and unskilled in the graceful dances that seemed to come so naturally to her sisters. There was a male she liked – Great Ussuss, four times her size and ten times her age, who Ootoo found to be ruggedly handsome when he emerged from his rift, which was infrequent. But Ootoo despaired of finding a way to draw his attention.

Ootoo idly played with the bones of her lunch as she pondered. The neck bones of the ichthyosaur made an attractive clacking noise when clapped together. Ootoo looked at one closely. It was almost perfectly round, but hollowed in the middle; it looked quite a bit like an oversized arm-sucker.

Ootoo picked up another, and another. She began to have an idea.

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