Saturday, December 27, 2008

Prologue : Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

*this chapter isn't done


New Avalon Spaceport

New Avalon, Prefecture III

Republic of the Sphere

December 14, 3127

"Mueller, J!" the voice announced in a strictly business fashion.

He stood up, struggling to shift the perceived maladjusted set of silk robes in order to look what he considered to be presentable. As he made the necessary precautions not to step on the robe, the garment to which he took no pleasure in wearing, the distance between his hand and the outstretched, pasty mandible of the New Avalon Institute of Science dean shrunk. A twinkle that belied her considerably disproportionate joy at his graduation above all else in his class shone in the old woman's hazel eyes, and from her unusually genuine smile, he could tell she was only too glad to get rid of him.

With a firm exchange of handshakes and a quick grab with his left hand, he made off with his loot in the speedy fashion accustomed to commencement ceremonies. The vacant seat awaiting him afforded not only an excellent view of the gathered spectators but not too shabby of an acoustic sweet spot either, from which he gazed upon the audience. He basked in the nearly overwhelming consortium of sounds that attacked his ears, and ultimately, with the look of a subservient puppy, ceased with dissatisfaction his scan of the audience. Immediately he scolded himself – there was no reason to be disappointed. As of this moment he had completed within four years the requirements, at the age of 21, for his Masters of Applied Science in Advanced Military Technology Applications, an impressive enough feat in his own opinion.

As effective as his attempts at self-esteem building might have turned out, he was interrupted by a squeeze on the shoulder. It was none other than his classmate Alex Visser, empirically the only best friend he possessed on this foreign world. Her grip was surprisingly firm for such a petite person, even though he knew it was all an act. She was certifiably the strongest person he had ever met, whether or not she made a habit of showing it. He offered a socially expected smile up at her as she plopped down next to him. He was trying to pretend with his facial expressions that the paramount question in his mind was how of all the master's candidates, the next graduates surname skipped ten letters in the alphabet. In reality, she knew better than to think he would jog his mind over something irrelevant, and he could see out of his periphery that she was staring at him, the same look she always had on her face when she knew he was full of it.

It made no difference to him. He was billions of kilometers from home, and he stared hopelessly into the crowd, looking for some relative. There was no one there for him. All Hans saw were bright lights and strangers. Not one comforting face.

He let out a groan, snapping back into reality as a heavy duffel bag encroached on his torso and into his stomach.

"Hey! What the hell!?" Hans shouted. He shoved the bag off, depositing it halfway into the empty seat next to him. The gate's seating was surprisingly luxurious; reducing what could have been a remotely painful experience of hard plastic digging into his back. After he finished, he gave her a transparent smile.

"You're doing it again." Alex scolded him, though the sternness of her voice and brown eyes was devoid of commitment.

"You're taking what was supposed to be a good memory and you're doing what you can to ruin it. You always do this." She continued to lecture him.

It didn't bother him in the slightest. He had palled around with her for almost a decade, and after four years of a committed relationship, the reciprocity of their pep talks and lectures had become a welcome part of his daily life. He never liked her more than when she was adamant.

"I'm trying. I am." He pleaded with her.

It was apparently enough, although he could tell easily that she wasn't harboring the slightest motivation to argue in public, or at all, over something minute. She placed a sandwich into his hand, returning from her foraging trip and cuddling against him in the adjacent seat. "Danke schön" he smiled the German to her, draping an arm around her shoulders and voraciously biting into his toasted sub sandwich.

They had waited one day and night after graduation to participate in the campus "ceremonies" and get their things ready, but finally they were at the New Avalon Spaceport awaiting their pending vacation to Solaris VII. Both had preferred to take a trip to Terra after their time at the institute had ended, but despite their efforts, two anonymous NAIS graduates did not have enough influence to change interplanetary ship schedules, and they really had no intent of hanging around a few more weeks until a core-ward traveling ship was in the system.

The desire to go to Terra was mostly hers, though Hans found no qualms with visiting the cradle of humanity. It was truly a beautiful vacation spot, and he believed every human in space held some ambition to return to their origin. Over the centuries, with the population shifting to other planets, Terra had regained some of its former splendor, and was touted as the highest quality of vacation options in the Inner Sphere. He felt that the appeal of the home-world wasn't entirely attributable in her case to it's history and beauty, however, as he suspected she had more than an academic interest in Terra's other feature: ComStar, and the Republic of the Sphere, whose nerve centers were both on the planet.

It was more than a suspicion, as she had made her interest well-known to him. Her curiosity didn't worry him terribly about the two organizations, not yet at least. She was a social scientist, interested in archaeology and books and facts. He discounted the possibility that she would ever find any place in the military aspects of either organization, although he acknowledged that she would easily fit in with their more public and bureaucratic sectors. Either way, whatever would happen was exactly that: in the future.

They were headed to Solaris, what might as well be more of a giant spinning casino in space rather than a planet. It was the home of the Solaris 'mech championships, and certainly the largest panoply of gaming and entertainment in the known stars. It was the modern day representation almost of Sodom and Gomorra., if there were one. He knew she was appeasing him and was only interested in the experience of going, as her interest In 'mechs and technology paled in comparison to his. Furthermore, her enjoyment of the trivialization of war and murder and destruction was, as a woman, stereotypically lower than his, he was sure..

No comments:

Post a Comment