Dukk found a suitable spot pretty easily. He went in, headed towards the far end of the bar, sat in a seat one in from the wall, and ordered a drink. He looked around whilst the drink was being poured.
The place was reasonably busy. A few rowdy groups at tables and a few solos seated along the bar. He wanted thinking space, so he chose the end of the bar. It was a good distance from anyone else. He glanced around. No one was paying him any attention. That was good.
When he turned back to the bar, a man was sitting in the seat next to him against the wall. He had a jacket on the bar between them.
“So much for finding my own thinking space,” thought Dukk.
“Hello,” Dukk said as he smiled at the man.
The man ignored him and ordered a drink.
When the man’s drink arrived, he looked around briefly, then reached into a pocket of the jacket and pulled out a bracelet. It looked like a typical supplement bracelet. The kind of bracelet they all wear from time to time. Most of the ones Dukk had worn were used to put proteins and nutrients into the body. They’d help with the challenges of diet and balance resulting from lots of galactic travel.
The man put the bracelet in front of him and held his hand over it. After a moment there was a slight green glow coming from inside of the bracelet. It was only just noticeable. That had Dukk’s interest.
“Supplement bracelets don’t do that. Perhaps it was some sort of fashion accessory?” Dukk thought to himself.
Then, while still looking blankly across the bar, the man held his drink near his mouth and said, “We only have a moment. Just listen and don't say anything. Don't look at me. Look around slowly, as if you are people watching. You must do exactly what I say, or you'll be dead within a week. Look away. Enjoy your drink, look about but say nothing until I tell you to.”
As Dukk looked away, he noticed the bracelets stop glowing green. Dukk was wary but interested. The man looked harmless. Dukk figured he could take him if needed. Besides, he was intrigued as to what was going on and the day couldn’t get any weirder, so he complied. Dukk sat in the chair, sipped his drink, and looked about.
After about 5 minutes the man spoke again. As the man started to speak, Dukk risked a quick glance over. He noticed the man’s hand over the bracelet, and it was glowing green once more. And as the man spoke, the drink was back up near his mouth.
Meanwhile, in the depths of the Citadel, an alarm went off on a console.
The operator pulled up the alarm. The algorithm had flagged an anomaly in a small pub in one of the dirtiest and poorest areas of the Citadel. The operator saw that the algorithm was complaining about somebody blocking their mouth repeatedly over the course of several minutes. The algorithm was not able to lip read what was being said.
The two people in question had been identified. One was a nobody. A general labourer. The other was only just short of a nobody. A crew member on a galactic freighter.
The operator checked the pub’s security footage. The sound was unusable owing to the background noise. And the video wasn’t great. The lenses were smudged, and the three angles showed little more than the heads and shoulders of the two people. The pictures were also further obscured by other people and furnishings.
The operator didn’t even have a clear view of one of the people’s hands owing to a jacket resting on the bar.
Whilst the operator reviewed the pub footage, the system was connecting to the implants in the heads of these two people. It now had connection. The operator listened in. Then the operator reviewed the recordings.
There wasn’t much on any of it. Just the same background noise as picked up by the pub cameras. No conversation. Just drinking.
The operator concluded it was just two wasters sitting at a bar, drinking, and looking about. It appeared they didn’t even know each other. It didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary. So, the operator cleared the flag and instructed the algorithm to ignore that scene for the rest of the evening.
Back in the pub, the man sitting next to Dukk said, “My name doesn’t matter. Don’t ask for it. In fact, don’t ask anything. Try not to speak, but if you need to speak, hold your drink near your mouth. I have a contract offer for you. Three loads of beef. Destination is a local system. Must be sequential. 750,000 EUs on top of costs. That’s the same Thumpol promised you for a whole year. It will go a long way to clearing your debts. And it will save your life.”
Dukk was gobsmacked for the 2nd time in less than an hour.
The amount was off the scales. A local system run meant he could turn around a load in just under three weeks.
“But,” he thought, “how does this man know what Thumpol is offering, and why does he keep saying my life is at risk.”
Before Dukk could respond, the man continued, “When I leave, look up the contracts job board. Search for urgent high value beef contracts. Locate the contract offered by Wallace in Utopiam. Get the meeting details off the notice. Tonight, go to dinner with your crew, have fun, enjoy yourself. Tell them you are exploring a contract and leave in time to get the midnight VG to Utopiam. Make the most of the five hours of rest during the flight. You’ll be on the ground at 7pm local time. Go to the meeting place at 9pm. Meet with Wallace. Make the deal. He will even sort out your crew shortage challenges. Eat. Be Merry. Get the midnight return. You’ll be back here at 3pm tomorrow. That will give you 2 hours to refreshen up ahead of the handover at 5pm. You’ll hardly be missed.”
With that the man finished his drink and stood up. Before leaving he said, “oh, don’t mention this conversation to anyone and take this bracelet with you. Wear it at all times. Wallace will explain.”
He then turned, pushed the bracelet in Dukk’s direction, collected his jacket and left.
(to be continued...)
[Uplift, Double Take, Chapter 3 - Grounding (Passage 4 of 5)]
All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2021 BJ Allen
Chapter 1 - A routine descent
Chapter 2 - Perspective
Chapter 3 - Grounding
Chapter 4 - Cause and effect
Chapter 5 - The first meeting
Chapter 6 - Staying goodbye
Chapter 7- Instability
Chapter 8 - Orientation
(Stay tuned for further chapters)
"Let's go Mentor, we've only got an hour to get everything we need ready for the next 3 weeks. The supplies are in the clearance hold with the load, but we’ve got to get them secure. The passengers will be here shortly and they’ll need briefing. Let's start with your travel lockers. We'll bring them through the nose door and to make light work of it, we'll use the vertical conveyor in the forward ladder shaft," Annee shared as she got up from the table.
"Show the way, and I am not afraid of hard work," replied Mentor as he followed her to the airlock door that lead back to the passenger accommodation.
"Don't worry, I have plenty of hard work in mind to satisfy that need."
"By the look of you, I am pretty sure you can satisfy my needs, bring it on, Annee," Mentor replied in a provocative tone.
Annee laughed briefly saying, “you’d be so lucky, old timer”, and smiled cheekily back at him and the others as she disappeared through the door.
Mentor laughed loudly as he headed into the corridor....
"Right, let me welcome you all and I hope this is the start of something real,” Dukk said as he sat down.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us and on top of that we don't know each other. And, some of you are new to this game. So, let me start with a few non negotiables. Number one, no heroes. Your own safety comes first. As they say, attend to your own air supply first before helping others with theirs. Second, everyone has the obligation to challenge things that you don't understand or that don’t look right. If I, or anyone else, overlooks something or makes a poor decision out there, we all may die. So we all must be prepared to be challenged. And we must all challenge. And, finally, we leave no one behind, no matter the designation, privilege or whatever. Clear?"
Nods and smiles all round.
“Great. So, on this rig we operate in pairs, or buddies. You’ll cover the same areas of responsibility. You’ll be on watch together. You’ll eat at the same time. You’ll sleep at ...
The convergence of two key events gave rise to this space. The first being frustration over the madness of the world and the cliff we are all charging towards. The second being the realisation that time was getting on and I’d better get the stuff out of my head before it was too late. So, I created this community on Locals.com. My plan is to experiment with this format as an alternative to the traditional book publishing path. My plan is to publish stories as they evolve, probably a chapter at a time. The first piece of writing that will unfold here is a story that I am calling Uplift, Double Take. This piece explores life 200 odd years from now, based on the trajectory of the current madness.
Your financial support would be greatly appreciated, but not needed to read the book.
This is because, I am publishing the book one passage at a time via normal posts within my Locals community.
You simply need to join the community and you’ll get book passages delivered directly to you as ...