March 21, 2130
Asari Mining Complex, Ceres, Sol
Almost clutching the papers in hand, he slowly left the local Asari office of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. As he stepped into the corridor, he still had the words of Mr. Davidson in his ears.
“Congratulations, Mr. Alberti. Your papers are all in order and we have processed your claim. Your claim has been recognized by us and the IAU.”
Davidson had smiled at that.
“A nice presentation, by the way. But something I’d expect from what is effectively your Masters thesis.”
Slowly a grin spread out over his face as he walked down the corridor of the UN compound in the Prime Torus towards the main concourse, a spring in his step.
Three years. Three years of working his ass off to get everything together for his thesis. Painstakingly planning the mission, designing the habitat, requesting every bit of information he could get his hands on. Three years of work that had payed off.
846 Lipperta was going to be his.
Okay, well… It was going to belong to the Lippstadt Asteroid Mining GmbH. But since he had founded that company…
Ahmed Alberti was in a good mood.
“I see you were much successful, Ahmed.”
His mood rose immediately and the grin only got wider as he turned to face the source of the, mostly faux, British accented voice.
“I was just about to go looking for you, Adam,” he told his friend and silent business partner.
“Riiiight,” Adam replied, rolling his eyes. “I bet you were about to head to the Atomic Rocket to grab a pint.”
“Well, my second goal for the day. Getting drunk on success before it’s back into the data mines for us.”
Adam gave him a toothy grin in return.
“Indeed, indeed, old chap. There’s still that decision to be made whether we go local, Chinese or Indian with the Habitat.”
“Eh,” Ahmed made and turned spinwards as they reached the concourse and headed to the next Torus spoke and the Multi transport hub there. “I’m still not sure why we should go for either the Chinese or the Indian hab contracts.”
He looked down at the papers in his hands and shuddered just a little.
“It seems I’ve beaten a Chinese application for Lipperta by just ten minutes,” he said as Adam called for a Multi capsule.
“Come on,” Adam said. “We’re not in the 20th century anymore. The Chinese aren’t going to hold a grudge just because they’ve been beaten to the claim of a single rock in the Belt.”
The capsule arrived and they both stepped in.
“Delta Torus, Spoke Five,” Adam ordered and the capsule began to move along its maglev tracks. “Besides, it seems they are mostly concentrating their efforts around the Greeks and grab a couple of Hildas to act as long term cyclers.”
Slowly the pull of the centripetal force lessened to zero and the capsule moved into the hub of the torus, following a path into the sub-cereran tunnel network that linked the habitat tori of Asari Mining Complex.
“Instead, they are going to take your money, give you a decent quality product and leave you alone.”
Ahmed eyed his friend.
“How do you know that?”
“Oh come on,” Adam said, rolling his eyes. “I’m a data mining, correlation, and analysis specialist. It’s something I do. Besides someone in this partnership had to keep out an eye on the political situation. Especially with the FSEAN is rattling their sabers again.”
Ahmed sighed and massaged his forehead. He could still remember the invasion six years ago.
“The MoD is offering to use their new Type 15 escorts to protect valuable cargo and other missions. I reckon we might get some protection there.”
Adam grinned again and the capsule came to a final halt, after descending into Delta Torus, the main commercial area of Asari. The doors opened and they stepped out into the air, which was filled with the scent of various food stands and some yelling and screaming from vendors. The city government was almost deliberately keeping the atmosphere of Delta Torus like a bazar on Earth, largely because it was a big attraction for tourists from other Districts as well as from other parts of the Solar System.
‘Visit the great Delta Torus! You can find everything here!’
The two companions slowly made their way through the Torus to the Atomic Rocket. For this time of day there was not much happening and the only somewhat strange passerby was an Europan walker. The massive brass, stainless steel and glass contraption moved along on its eight legs, each clacking across the floor, while steam hissed from pistons now and again. Four manipulator arms hung in their resting positions. Its Europan passenger was floating in its glass bubble, tentacles wrapped around brass leavers, pulling at them and punching buttons.
It was always a strange sight to see the steampunk contraptions move along so fluidly, almost animal like.
The shells of the octopoid Europan flashed in an explosion of colors and a translated voice came from a brass speaker grill.
“That good for nothing… If I ever get my tentacles on that slimy…”
Ahmed made sure to move out of the way of the apparently quire infuriated Europan, before spotting the entrance to the Rocket. A large neon sign that could have come straight from a 1950s movie hung over the entrance, which was flanked by a pair of glass boxes.
Adam groaned as he saw the posters in one of the boxes.
“Great… Frank is back.”
Ahmed in turn grinned.
“Oh, this is going to be fun,” he said and chuckled.
Just as they were about to enter the Rocket, a pair of burly men in the coveralls of the Torus Maintenance Staff walked out, the name tags on one man reading ‘Wazlav’, while the other read ‘Wilfried’, a struggling suited man between them. The suited man was cursing loudly in Italian and Ahmed winced. Wazlav in turn responded with several harsh sounding words in Polish, finishing with the unambiguous ‘Kurwa’, where both of them flung the man to the ground.
“Do you know who I am?” the suit screamed, his voice almost breaking in his rage.
“Do not know, do not care,” Wazlav replied in broken English. “Do not come back.”
The suit stuttered, before pulling himself up from his prone position.
“Fucking Janitors!” he screamed. “You will hear from my lawyer!”
Ahmed winced. Bad move. No one called a member of the Maintenance Staff a janitor. They were highly specialized workers with at least bachelor degree in their area of expertise. Not to mention they made sure that no one died a horrible death due to space. Spacers in general and Belters in particular held the Maintenance Staff in high regard for that fact alone.
As the man moved out of hearing distance, the man sighed.
“Fucking Earthers,” he said, his broken accent gone, it was just an affectation when he got angry. “Always trying to get into trouble.”
“Da sachse wat,”* Wilfried noted drily.
Next to Ahmed, Adam grinned again.
“Wazlav, my good chap,” he said jovially. “What good fortune to meet you on this hour.”
Wazlav eyed Adam in return.
“What do you want…”
“Oh, I just want you to explain a few things to my partner. We have a few problems concerning a habitat. Ahmed isn’t sure whether we should get local, Chinese or Indian. I personally say to go with the Chinese model.”
The two Maintenance technicians turned chuckled and walked back into the bar.
“We can do that over a drink. I take it your claim got through?”
They followed and entered the bar, to be greeted by a rendition of ‘Banned from Argo’ coming from the live band on the bars stage. Today it was ‘Captain Frank and the Crewmen’, even though the drummer was a woman. Frank was actually the owner of a tug craft, the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and the others of the band were his crew mates.
Adam groaned at the choice of music.
“Oh come on, Frank,” he yelled over the music.” Play something else.”
“Why?” he asked between verses of the song, a huge grin on his face. “The song fits perfectly.”
Then he continued singing.
Ahmed just chuckled and followed Wazlav and his friend into one of the booths, which was decorated posters of old SciFi magazines, like Amazing Stories. The bar itself looked like it was ripped straight from one of the novels itself, looking very much like a 1950s version of a science fiction spacer bar. A lot of polished metal, leather and glass.
“One of the usual for me, Thorsten,” Ahmed called out to the barkeeper, who nodded back at hi as he and Adam joined the others, who were nursing their own drinks.
“So, Wazlav,” Adam said as he had settled down with his usual problems. “Care to tell my friend why we should get a Chinese hab since we’re on a tight budget?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” the Maintenance man said and leaned back. “It’s cheap, it’s good quality and the Chinese almost come up to Russian standards when it comes to ruggedness. And you’d find a lot of Maintenance guys that know the Chinese stuff.”
He took a sip of his beer, as Ahmeds beer arrived.
“Sure you can go with the Indian stuff, but while they are cheaper than the Chinese, they have a worse MTB, Main Time Between Failures. It’s going to give your maintenance guys a workout. Not to mention the higher follow up costs for the manufacturing rights of the replacement parts. And since you are on a tight financial and mass budget, that’s going to eat into your stock.”
Wazlav then grinned.
“As for our local stuff,” he said with a sigh. “Might as well get a hab with solid gold toilets. Sure, there is to loyalty to Ceres to consider, but… while its solid construction, and the best available on the market, the quality has its costs. Not good for someone on a budget.”
He pointed at Adam.
“I have to agree with fluffy here. Go for the Chinese hab. It’s going to be cheaper in the long run. I’ve read your Masters thesis. If you actually pull this off, you can by a better hab later. And everyone else is going to buy themselves some Chinese habs…”
* translation: Indeed.