Pandemonium's Wake
Chapter 1

Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa,

Desc: Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - #2 Thirty years after their release from the Temperdis, the Families cruise the lanes of human space. They are not integrating well into the rest of human civilization. When a young engineer on a backwater station meets one of the Family, human civilization encounters the first wake of the pandemonium to come.

Ferro tried not to roll his eyes as his bar mate blathered on without any sign of stopping soon. As if struck by an induced spell, Ferro couldn't move from his seat even though he blocked out the words. Sitting at a table in the well-lit bar with its expensive drinks, Ferro realized that the establishment had lost its appeal some time ago. The tables were clean and the seats were comfortable, but the entire room had acquired a veneer of cloying sameness. The place hadn't changed nor had most of the people in the bar changed in several years. He was bored with this place and these people.

The real reason he didn't move was the medicinal, numbing stability in the sameness of it all. He was panicked over nearly every other aspect in his life at the moment, most of which he had no control. No matter what, the bar stayed the same.

Sitting on his right, Bernhardt continued preaching to the five of them about how the Callisto Council had a sound idea of how to solve the budget crisis and how their cost cutting measures were a sure bet. Ferro looked at the man who had little eyes and thin lips, wondering if the fool had ever had an original thought in that egg shaped head of his. Ferro hid his distain by taking another sip of the drink that he really didn't want. The man's vanity was almost intolerable these days. Bernhardt thought he was so smart because he had a higher position in the office, an 06 grade, when really all it meant was that he was older than most of the other people at the table, most of whom were 04 or 05 grade. The man designed repairs for conveyors. He didn't design conveyors or even upgrade them. He just decided which nuts and bolts to swap out.

Ferro wasn't impressed. Ferro wasn't impressed with his own job, which was mapping out repairs on the station skin from micro-dust and mini-asteroid collisions. After the years of sweat poured into an advanced degree in structural engineering and ship design, Ferro worked for hours today on the awe inspiring task of signing in and signing out plate molding machinery and registering timesheets for the work crews. A secretary could do it with the same finesse. He was feeling cynical and a bit maudlin at the moment, which he knew was not a good place to be.

Tuning out Bernhardt's recitation of the Space Station Callisto Council's PR press releases, Ferro scanned the nearby tables for interesting faces. He laughed because he knew what he really wanted to do was check out the female clientele, seeking new faces, new conquests. He also knew looking was nearly futile.

"That's me," Ferro said to himself under his breath. "I'm the metal-buffing hunk of burning love that makes all the other engineers jealous. Women are just lining up to fall at the feet of the glorified chief window washer."

He downed the rest of his drink in one swallow hoping to wash away the taste of pathetic whining with it.

Dahyena was two tables down and one over talking to a woman Ferro had not seen before. Dahyena was alright, a fellow engineer who had no doubt as to her place in the station bureaucracy. She was a straight-shooter with a good marriage. Damn the unfairness of it all. Ferro liked her husband and was envious of his pre-imperial music collection. Her husband was a genuinely nice guy and interesting too, which only confirmed life's unfairness.

He looked over again. Whatever the strange woman was asking, Dahyena kept shaking her head in the negative. Ferro made a note to ask her about it tomorrow in the office. In the meantime, he turned away from their table before he got caught staring.

He scratched his scalp underneath his brown, clipped hair. Ferro had to keep his hair cut short to fit comfortably in the evac suit that he had to don twice a week. His job required on-site inspection of damage and repairs, which had been a lot of fun for the first five years or so, but now the task was getting really old and annoying. He had to pass a yearly strength and agility physical because he was outside on a regular basis. That meant he had to go to the gym daily and keep up a proper diet. If he failed the exam, he lost his position, which is why no one else wanted his job.

Ferro glanced over at Bernhardt whose stomach paunch threatened to pop the button on his pants. The man was still extolling the political wisdom of the governing body while stuffing his face with fried sticks of some sort of starchy vegetable. The greasy patches left on the waxy paper looked unappetizing. Maybe it was better that Bernhardt never offered to share.

Catching a waitress's eye, Ferro signaled for another drink. The alcohol would help him sleep tonight. Then he realized that he had to evac tomorrow and with a scowl of discontent, he got up to chase down the waitress to cancel his order. A second drink would have been a big no-no with an evac the next day. When he returned, he looked over to Dahyena's table and saw that both women had left. He had had half a notion of walking over and introducing himself to the unknown woman just for a change of scenery. Damn.

Having missed out on that opportunity, he made his goodbyes and strode off to his hole, as he called his apartment. When he had first arrived on Callisto Station, he had been assigned a studio slot in the single men's area. Even though he had secured a job and been promoted to 05 grade, Ferro hadn't bothered to upgrade his dwelling, deciding instead to bank the savings for things that were more important to him.

There were no messages waiting for him when he returned to his home and he turned in the for the night, offering a brief prayer that tomorrow would be a little more exciting than today had been.

The alarm went off as it always did. The no-frills, low-cost breakfast tasted the way it always did and the java was the same as well. Ferro slipped into his cubicle without disturbing anyone else nearby. That was just the way he liked it. By missing the early morning roundup of office gossip, he got a well-sifted synopsis in the midmorning, which only required about five minutes of listening with "um-hm's" and exclamations of "you don't say." Besides, he had to evac today and the walk plan had to be posted with flight control at least two hours before he hit the airlock.

Inspectors with high-level jobs got personal vehicles to fly across the surface of the station. Lowly engineers got evac suits and isolated airlocks. Having had enough of the public service evac suits, Ferro had saved his credits and ordered a custom made suit built for him with the bells and whistles that he wanted. An engineer always wanted more clips and pockets on the outside but also more padding at the knees on the inside and a comfort lock on his "personal equipment" to keep it in place and avoid certain embarrassing injuries. One small crease on the inside of the suit could mean days of pain afterwards.

His evac suit hung on its rolling stand behind his chair, a constant reminder of his duties. At least he got out of the office and away from all the petty politics of the office. He didn't understand people who worried about the pecking order and who was the boss's favorite. Did he really care who got the seat closest to the java spout? Such machinations were transient as far as Ferro could see because they were all grunts to the powers above. He was just an educated grunt with manners. All of them could be swept away by an imperial edict from above.

Would be swept away, Ferro reminded himself as he filled in the blanks on walk release plan form WRFLT-3020. Bernhardt hadn't been completely wrong last night. The entire conversation last night had been precipitated by an announcement of budget cuts throughout the station. Commerce was down, interstellar travel was on a downward trend, and at least two nearby mining sites were having difficulties finding buyers for their ores.

Ferro filed his plan and waited five minutes for confirmation. When the confirmation beeped on his screen, he turned his focus to planning his excursion. Every surveyed plate had to be plotted on a graph and every graph had to conform to the actual size and contour of the panel being examined. When he had finally settled on becoming a structural engineer, Ferro had been ignorant of the job prospects. He had dreamed of designing ships and stations, not plugging holes in pitted walls. Six years later, he was grateful to have a paying job in a crappy economy — grateful but not necessarily happy.

After two hours, Ferro had his computer loaded with his graphs and clipped to his suit. He rolled out his suit and made his way towards the front door.

"Hey, Ferret!" a female voice called out.

"That is Mr. Ferret to you," Ferro said, stopping to stick his head in Dahyena's office. "What's going on?"

"Bernhardt got called to the big boss's office a few minutes ago," Dahyena said. "What do you think is going on?"

"He was all pro-Council last night. Maybe he's getting a personal briefing on their next PR statement in order to get a jumpstart on butt kissing," Ferro said with a guileless smile.

"Be serious for once," Dahyena said. "The budget cuts are on the big bosses' desks. The axe has to fall soon."

Ferro sighed. "Yeah, I figured as much myself. Svegen Bernhardt is a grade higher than us and has more years. Isn't it usually last hired, first fired?"

"If it is, then you're screwed," Dahyena said. "I wonder if they are filling dear Svegen in on the cuts in order to get buy-in and cooperation."

"Why worry about what I can't control?" Ferro said with faked blandness. "They already have Bernhardt's cooperation. If they asked him to bite off the heads of live animals in the Main Corridor market he would do it to show how loyal he is."

"Eww! I believe you but why do you always have to use such graphic images?" Dahyena asked.

Ferro looked at his chronometer. "Gotta go. I've got a registered walk plan and I don't want to be late and get dinged by flight control. See ya!"

He was already down two levels and halfway across the station before Ferro remembered that he wanted to ask Dahyena about the woman from last night. He smacked his forehead with frustration.

"Too much cynicism is bad for you," he admonished himself aloud, drawing a few stares from the people around him. He pressed on with a red face.

After double-checking the status of his evac suit, Ferro stepped into the small airlock. This corridor ran under one of the spindles of the station and was not a desirable place for domiciles. Instead, the corridor was dotted with entrances to obscure workshops and deep storage areas for major pieces of equipment. The empty corridor had felt eerie as Ferro rolled his suit down its length. He was used to having people around when inside the station and the lack of anyone nearby was disconcerting.

The inner hatch closed and sealed itself. Ferro hit the suction pump to draw out the atmosphere from the small space. When the pump cut out and the indicator read zero, he pulled the manual handle to open the airlock. He had to shove hard to push the door out and to the side of the doorway. The effort was another confirmation that few people ever used this hatch.

Setting his marker downward, Ferro tromped in his magboots down below the spindle arm to his pre-assigned destination. There were a few ships docked at the outer ring but not as many as Ferro usually saw. Maybe he was on the wrong side of the station today and most of the ships were out of his view, but somehow he doubted he would find that many more elsewhere. He bent his head to the task and set another flag marker. He walked a kilometer and a half downward until he reached the plate seam he had chosen.

Pressing with his boot, he was surprised at the little bit of give the plate offered at the corner. He made a note and continued on.

"Pitting nominal at 24.56.07 by 103.44.65. Pitting nominal at 24.56.08 by 103.44.65," Ferro said into his recorder with dull recitation. He droned on for at least ninety minutes until peripheral movement caught his eye.

He turned spinward to get a head-on look at the movement. There was person in a personalized evac suit running like an idiot across the plates. The idiot suddenly went down face first, rolled himself into somersault and stood back up to run again. Then the fool actually took a running leap into the vacuum like he was diving, hit a small spurt of thrust off his back pack and arced back to the plates making a three-point landing with two feet and one hand. The guy kept running upward until he disappeared from Ferro's view, which was blocked by the spindle arm.

"You don't see that every day," Ferro said with a shrug. He went back to his pitting plot with a touch of sadness. Whatever that guy had been doing, it looked like fun.

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