by Alex Cunningham © 5030
As Union citizens the door to the Universe is wide open for us. We don’t think twice about placing a GalNet call clear to Andromeda to chat a few hours with our old College buddy or taking a Trans Matter trip from one planet to another just for dinner.
If we are angry about something the next library gives us access to the OOP and we know our problem is carried all the way to the Assembly if there is no answer or solution available.
A colleague of mine once lost his PDD along with his credit strip. The Citizen Office took care of everything. He received a room at the local Portel, the Union Bank sent him a new credit strip and informed the local police who took the seemingly unimportant case of a lost PDD seriously enough to check the local second hand and pawn shops and also ran a GalNet search on PDDs offered for sale in the region. And they actually located it!
All it took was a call to the Citizens Office.
This and many similar examples illustrate how serious our Union takes its citizens. No matter how trivial or major the issue might be.
Recently I returned from a long trip all the way from Tomb World (see: “The Chamber of the Seven Giants” Issue 5 / 5030) My line ship arrived after a voyage along the Spinward-Coreward HHW. Even busier than usual, our berth at Port I was still occupied so the ship was diverted to Port II Blue Moon System, Blue Moon.
From there I planned to jump to the BM Terminal, using a local TMT.
Crossing the spaceport terminal on foot rather than using a ride bot or slide way was a choice I frequently make after I arrive from a long assignment beyond Union Space. I love and greatly enjoy my work, visiting exotic, strange and often primitive worlds and societies, but whenever I return I feel the need to “absorb a bit of Union” as I call it. There is no better place to do that than a busy Class A port.
It always fills me with a little collective pride in our civilization. Oh, I had visited the busy and colorful markets at N’Ger and seen the throngs of pilgrims milling through the tent rows and stalls on Netlor but nothing in my opinion has the same feeling of orderly chaos as a Union Port. Well to be truthful, the word orderly does not apply to all Union Ports, and everyone who has ever been to Port 1 at Frank Elmore planet in the Ross 248 system on an Eightday after payday will agree. (Issue 2/ 5025 “Elmore’s Chaos “)
It was not just the fact that I could see Boloths interact with the recently added Mini Terrans, or see a line of excited Archas lining up at Baskin Robbins. It was perhaps the feeling of belonging and the realization that all these beings were, like me, Union Citizens. The Holdian over there was as confident and had the same rights as the Xiptin flowing through the crowd.
A fragile looking, almost translucent, beauty of the Delicates argued with a Pertharian, there could hardly be a greater contrast and yet both beings followed the same laws. A gorgeous Garbini with fire red fur squiggled a Terran (had to be, he wore Sunglasses) unashamed an in the open.
Treating myself to an Archa Special, a triple gob soft serve, dipped in white, dark and caramel chocolate from Arthur’s. I slowly made my way to the Trans Matter Tunnels, I was thinking about those big spiders who suddenly became synonymous with ice cream and decided that there might be a story worth telling. Halfway done with my Archa Special and not far from the local TMT, I noticed a group of individuals loitering in one of the rec and rest park islands. The ones featuring trees and grass. You know the kind you see on almost every larger port.
I had seen groups like them countless times, noticed them as I passed by and forgotten about them the next second. Sometimes they would ask for money or even shout insults - usually profanity laden rants against anything Union. Mostly however keeping quiet and out of sight.
Gal Drifts, non citizen parasites, infesting in usually small groups the passenger terminals of spaceports.
It was a colorful group, but except for a Jooltar sitting by a tree humanoid. About thirty scattered in smaller groups talking, drinking, pestering citizens passing by or simply sitting there.
As random sourced as their clothing was it had a common theme: Dirty, customized with patches, paint, crude made jewelry, shirts with anti Union slogans, and pieces and bits of Union military uniforms.
A tall Andorian was sitting on a concrete block a little to the side and by himself.
Here was an entire society right at the center of the Union with their own rules and customs! Instead of traveling to yet another exotic location, maybe here was a story to be told.
My wife still on Para Para, my new story already filed with my editor, I decided to take a closer look. There was a train to Sol Hub every hour, so I was not pressed for time.
I crossed the short distance and approached the Andorian.
He noticed me. “Citizen, can you spare a few creds?”
“Yes I can.” And I swiped ten into his worn looking Cred strip.”I am Alex Cunningham of the Galactographic Magazine. I am contemplating a feature on Gal Drifts. Would you be willing to help me with that?”
His name was Aljoss, he did not give me a second name and explained that, only some of the beings here were Gal Drifts. He was a Non Cit.
Right there and then I learned that not all Gal Drifts were Non Cits, and not all Non Cits were Gal Drifts.
He also told me that the Good Brothers would serve dinner in about an hour.
I was confused and asked him if he was hungry. The idea that there were beings within the Union who could not afford the food they needed never crossed my mind., I had seen hunger on Netlor and Kaliment, seen the deplorable conditions in the slums of N’Ger, but that was outside the Union., Not here on Blue Moon which was one of the most developed Core systems.
“I am lucky if I make 20 credits a day, panhandling. My Pod room at Chill towers sets me back 600 credits every standard month. Add the 150 credits Air Fee and I have 200-250 credits a month to live on. There are days I don’t eat, especially when I have a bad day panhandling.”
I was always under the impression Gal Drifts and Non Cits are in this situation by their own choice. Could you not take the test and become a Citizen?
“Some are, some are not. I was a citizen. Don’t want to talk about it.”
“The Good Brothers are they a charitable organization?”
“If you mean they do it for free, your wrong. Space Port Authority pays them for every head they feed.”
“Maybe the best way to understand more about this is If I experience it myself. Do you think it will work?”
“College kids do it all the time, drifting I mean. Most of them have enough of it after a day, but some do it for a while. A few even become real drifts. Non Cits are always real.”
Be my guide for a day or two and I’ll make sure you got enough to pay the rent for a few months.”
He looked me up and down.”You smell Cit for a light year. Go store your fancy gear and meet me here. After I eat we’ll go to Panjo and get you some stuff to wear. If you want to experience the whole thing you might wanna rough it for a night or two. Can get mighty cold on this moon.”
I agreed to all.
At one of the Portels, I rented a room, called my wife and my editor telling them what I was doing. My editor liked it, my wife was not so enthused, but I had been to Slave markets, Freespace planets and other very dangerous places. This was Blue Moon.
I left everything behind but wore the still dusty coverall I had worn while climbing and crawling through the caves and caverns of Tomb World and had my PDD in a pocket instead of on my wrist. Finally I made sure my eye recorder was working making a copy of all images my eyes sent to my brain. The Occu Cam hook up to my Motorola data brain was as usual working flawless. Of course the robo cam had much better quality and more options but a 200,000 credit Sony Robo Cam was perhaps not suitable for this little project.
I returned to the rec park just in time to see a boxy indoor floater descending. It had a logo of two human hands offering bread.A S-10 robot, a Quadi Ped and what appeared to be a Saran male started handing out prepacked dirt cheap Enroe Insta dinners. Sold all across the Union for about 2 credits. Green for lefties and red for righties. The Saran held a PDD in clipboard mode and seemed to tally what was handed out. The Robot and both beings wore brown robes.
The Quadi Ped said to the Saran, “There is a new Leech. Looks like a Green Carbon and NiOx for sure.”
“Perfect, an even forty tonight.”
The Quadi Ped took a green box from the robot and held it out to me.”There you go, Leech.”
“A parasite just like you. Now take the dinner or move on. We got two more stops to do.”
I took it and he paid no more attention to me. To the Saran he said, “Going to watch the game tonight?”
The two talked as if the beings weren’t there. After the last box was handed out they left.
The other non-cits and Gal Drifts paid little attention to me. Two of the Gal Drifts clearly displayed the outer symptoms of Califerm addiction.
A little concerned I found Aljoss who was sitting on a bench wolfing down the Syntho beef stew.”
“They let Califerm users wander around like that?”
“Those two? They’re clean. They are Shells. Force decon, 23 days quarantine and kicked out. One gram each, got caught. Getting decontaminated like that is the closest thing to torture but they won’t touch the stuff again.”
“Is it the pain or something that prevent them?”
Aljoss rolled his eyes and licked the plastic container clean. “No, they were caught with God smack. Death or Psycho. They got Psycho and since they are Non Cits, the P Surgeon didn’t bother to give them a new personality. All that’s left is a Persona Shell or something. They’re supposed to leave a Hypno Block to prevent them touching Califerm. But P-Surgeons are real assholes sometimes. Watch!”
Aljoss waved at the two, until they looked at him. I have seen dead bodies with more expression in their face, the Andorian said “Care for some Califerm?”
Like if someone cut their invisible strings, the two former drug users collapsed like lifeless puppets to the ground. I wanted to call for help, but Aljoss held me back, no worries they be up about in an hour or so.”
I sat down and gave him my dinner. “Care for one more?”
“Normally I would not say no, but since this is your lesson being a Non-Cit this dinner box will come in handy for you tonight.”
“Alright, I’ll hang onto it,”
“So what level of Non Cit you want to know about?”
“There are levels?”
“Oh yes there are, but since you are not a real Non-Cit and you pay me for this I think I’ll treat myself to a real coffee and an Andorian Spice Ball. I only do that three or four times a year. We can sit outside at Andor Treats and I tell you more about Non Cits and all that.”
“Sounds like a plan. Lead the way then.”
Aljoss went up and walked over to the Jooltar. “Wac, I am showing the new guy around a little. He just drifted in. Are you going to be around for a while?”
The Jooltar were a Non Union species that lived on the far end of Freespace. Galactic East of the Karthanians and wedged between the Shattered Kingdoms. Union scientist believe they are related to the Attikan and were part of the Ongloran Federation before it fell apart. They were classified as Union Neutral -2 as my Data Brain reminded me. Meaning the Foreign Affairs Council considered them not hostile to the Union, but not overly friendly.
The Jooltar had rust colored fur all over and the overall features were often described to resemble what a Werewolf of Old Terran faery tales and myths might have looked like.
The Jooltar was leaning against one of the park trees reading - to my secret delight - an old worn phys-copy of Galactographic Magazine. “Yes, Aljoss I stay here until maintenance shows up.”
“Can you keep an eye on my stuff till we’re back?”
Aljoss placed his sizable backpack next to the one of the Jooltar, who displayed only very mild curiosity about me.”Drifted in today?”
“Might be a while till you can drift on, Blue Moon is getting tighter every year.”
With that he appeared to lose interest and returned to reading.
The Andorian motioned me to follow him.”Wac drifted in about two or three years ago, overstayed his Visitor visa and hopes the Jooltar join the Union while he is still around.”
“Why did he not try to Immigrate? Individuals regardless of species are accepted.”
Aljoss who was nearly four meter tall when he stood upright looked down to me.”Union bureaucracy is the reason. He applied for a Visitors Visa first and stated he intended to return before it expired. He missed the deadline to return and thus committed a Visitor’s Offense. According to Union logic he potentially lied about the reason for his visit and first has to apply for a new Visitors Visa before he can ask for the Immigration process.”
“And why is he not doing that?”
“He can only file for a new one, if he leaves Union Space and applies for re-entry permission at one of the Union Checkpoints.”
“Alex, we are in the Blue Moon system. One of the Unions busiest traffic hubs but do you know what a Space Bus ticket to the nearest Checkpoint costs?”
“Not really, but you could travel by bus all the way to Distant Shores for no more than 300 credits.”
“A Union Citizen can, Proto Citizens can. We pay full price and in his case it’s about 8,000 creds.”
“Eight Thousand? For that you can get an A Deck cruise to Para Para.”
“Exactly. And even if he had the money He still needs to get a Travel ID which he can only get with a valid Visitor Visa. Now he could ask to be deported, but he would have to stay in a Deportation hold and wait till a transport leaves for N’Ger or Itheamh. There are no direct trade routes to any Jooltar world.”
While he talked he was walking but tried to slow his gait so I did not have to run keeping up.
“I see the difficulties.”
“No you don’t even begin to see his difficulties. There aren’t that many detention centers. So chances are he is sent to a real prison. If he is lucky they arrange for a transport to N’Ger or Itheamh in a year or so. Has to be a civilian ship too. So there is a good chance the Civilian sells him as a slave, Togar pay good coin for Jooltar or he is captured on N’Ger. If he goes to Itheamh it’s the Smelter Moons for sure.”
“That is really terrible.”
Aljoss stopped to give me time to catch my breath. “Now if after all this he really manages to reach a Jooltar world he is still screwed because he is wanted there for deserting.”
“What happens if the Police arrest him?”
“Well as long as he stays within the spaceport he is in a gray area. Technically he is leaving, just waiting for a connection to his destination. There are no limitations as to how long a traveler waits for a connection or travel documents to be completed. He and others like him use this loophole to stay. The Non Cit drifts use it all across the Union. That’s why you always run into them at Ports and very rarely outside.”
He stopped before a fast food place with a dozen tables outside. A blue project-a-sign identified it as Andor Treats.
Aljoss added, “Of course if he even so much as sneezes in a way the Authority doesn’t like, He’s arrested anyway. He lives in constant fear.”
“Are there many like him?”
“I have no way of knowing, but I’d guess there are about a hundred or maybe two hundred like him on the ports of Blue Moon and I could imagine there are similar numbers at every big port. But even the smallest things tend to be huge if you look at them on Union scale.”
According to my data brain, there were about 60 Billion Non Cits known to reside within the Union. He was right, seen as percentage compared to the Citizen population, a miniscule number. Seen on its own a huge problem.
I went with him inside.
The restaurant was staffed with robots and live beings. The decor typical for a fast food place with stylized elements of the Andorian culture. Despite it serving Andorian food, Aljoss was the only one in sight.
Most of the interior was on purpose non Vari form. Chairs counters and tables were built with Andorian height in mind. To me it always felt as if I had suddenly shrunk to dwarf size. Of course this effect was one of the restaurants attractions. Tiny lift platforms mechanical or field established allowed access to the tall chairs and tables.
At the counter, normal for him and with me standing on a lifter he ordered a cup of coffee and two Spice Balls.
Since I travel the Union for a living. I knew about Andorian cuisine, but then Andorian food is very popular all across the Union. While I love Andorian BBQ I am not a big fan of Spice Balls.
These Tennis Ball sized dough rolls have a gooey filling made of raisin like fruits and a very strong spice that is somewhere between cinnamon, cayenne pepper and anise, and fiery hot.
He ordered them extra spicy and asked me if I wanted some as well.
Not being brave enough, I settled for a dozen crisp meats, mild dip and a large green apple Guzzle.”
The lid sign advertised our menu choices and total of Nine credits.
I said to the Thauran order taker.”There must be a mistake. Our order can’t be more than five at most.”
The Thauran pointed to Aljoss Credit strip. “There is no mistake if he pays with that.”
Out of curiosity I pulled mine and the Thauran smiled.” That be 4.98 Sir.”
We took our food to one of the Andorian tower tables and after we sat down, he showed me his green colored credit strip.”Consolidated Credit Services is a private bank. They charge 2.50 per transaction. Many businesses add a service charge because they say it causes them extra work to deal with it. Union Bank accounts are only for Cits. CCS does sell Credit Boxes, starting at 1000 credits.”
He closed his eyes with an expression of bliss on his face as he took his first bite.
I started on my crisps and remembered why I liked them. Coarse fried, tender beef strips with a spicy note.
He had finished both Spice Balls and sipped on his coffee. Listened for a moment to the haunting Andorian flute music playing in the background and said.”Now let me tell you a little about the different kinds of Non Cits. First off are the Gal Drifts. The majority of them aren’t Non Cits. They are usually kids with very liberal, anti war and military views who find it romantic to live for a time unbound by rules of society. Ninety percent of them find out and usually within the first week or so that they are just as free as Union Citizens and that this lifestyle isn’t for them. About five percent are Union Citizens, living on the 500 credits they can get if they ask for it, don’t do much else but travel around, space bus tickets are cheap for them, they have virtually no restrictions.If they run out of money and they are hungry, they go to the Citizen Office, and get a pass to any of the canteens provided for Union service personnel.”
He pointed through the window, “That Saran over there, drifts for almost sixty years. He looks like a Non Cit bum but he eats at the Space Port Authority staff canteen, or sometimes even at the Fleet post. He served his 22 month with the fleet and never misses the Union Week Celebration dinners at the post. He has a Union Bank Account and he votes at least once a year on the Union Wide. Of course he always votes against everything, but he votes. If he wants to go home to Petra where he is from he gets a free ticket and Portel accommodations till his bus leaves.
If he decides to stay, the citizen office finds him a place. He only drifts because this is what he wants to do. Eccentric but not a Non Cit.
That Thauran who served us, is a Union Resident. He went to school and all that but did not want to serve. He claims his father was a Thauran noble and was hanged a few years back, during that big scandal when their Emperor was found guilty of dealing with the Worm.
He has no love for the Union and doesn’t want to serve it. He is registered,, has a Resident ID and as long as he doesn’t travel too much he’s almost as good as a Citizen. Of course he has to pay for whatever Union services that are free to Citizens.”
He looked at his ancient Apple PDD. “We better go to Panjo before he closes. We got lots of time before the Park closes for maintenance, but Panjo closes at twelve hour. It’s a good way from here so I tell you more on the way.”
I jumped the two meters to the ground, landed softly due to the safety cushion field the chair enabled as I jumped and said.”You’re my guide.”
Outside the restaurant he motioned me to join him on a slide belt.”This is the Main Connector. The North slide we are on takes us to Space Port I. The South slide can take you all the way to Port V. If you take the trip om the slide. It takes two days to get there.”
“Two days. Why even built a Slide that long?
“No one really takes the whole trip to V, but the belt connects all the ports and cities between. It is a convenient way to send low priority freight and of course it gives Ultras that are too big for TPMs a way to travel between ports. Boloths are usually to big for the Trans planet movers and large skimmers are not free. Besides its about as expensive to built interrupted segments than it is to make it one piece.”
The further we moved away from the main passenger terminal of Port II the fewer individuals were around us. This part of the port appeared to be for logistics and freight purposes, Robots and Cargo drones dropped small containers or boxes on the slide way. Beings in various work uniform left or hopped on. Clearly not passengers but employees and workers.
A robot vendor floated against the flow and offered snacks, beers and drinks.
Aljoss raised a seat column and sat down. “Might as well do the same, It’s a good 30 minutes to Port I.”
“Surely the TPMs are big enough for you, right?”
“Big enough yes, and free for you. I am charged a Credit each way,” Now if I would be in a real hurry, I take the TMT. Instant travel and instantly 10 credits poorer.”
“Local TMTs are only free at Sares Prime, Sol System. Pluribus and Ross Torus. I think they charge Citizens here as well. TMTs are not Union wide subsidized. But I know what you trying to tell me.”
“Alex, the Union does not want Non Cits or Residents and does everything to encourage them to become Citizens, but in order to claim to be a free society they can not force anyone. So they do it this way.”
I simply nodded as what he said made sense.
“Now I told you about Drifts at the restaurant. What I forgot to mention are the Real Drifts. Individuals who out of conviction, political reasons or by simply growing up as Drifts do not go to schools, refuse service or resident registration. They are Non Cits for life and mostly out of choice. The Drift movement is small but exists for thousands of years. They have their traditions and habits and all. A few decades ago, when militant drifts resorted to Terror attacks, like the fanatics of the Free Gore movement. There were Corporate sponsored Cleansing teams secretly killing any thousands. While it is of course against the law. I don’t think the Union Police even investigated one murder for real.
Just then a Pertharian hopped on the belt and grunted. “Non Cit scum.” His tone was threatening and being threatened by a Pertharian was unsettling to say the least.
The four armed giant however moved on to a different slide segment, but his comment earned us disapproving, openly hostile stares from a Spindlar and a Human female nearby.
Aljoss said.”It is as if they could smell it. Citizens for the most part dislike Drifts and Non Cits.”
“I never really gave it much thought. I never paid much attention to Drifts.”But I realized I too had a negative attitude towards Non Cits, if I was honest. The word alone had a definite negative meaning for me.
I was not sure but I had the feeling he knew what I was thinking. He sighed and then said.”Now let me tell you about the other Non Cits. Drifters that got stuck for a while at one place. Criminals with convictions that are not quite felonies, but with sentences that are not death or life, like me. Then there are druggies who became addicted before they became citizens, Criminals who are wanted locally somewhere and try to hide and finally the kids and offspring of these. Of course technically every visitor is a Non Cit as well, especially if they stay longer than intended.
Up until the Big One we called them Illegal Immigrants, but since the Union Citizen Act is not based on your place of birth or society association. We only have immigrants. The handful that fail the test three times are deported, or turn into Non Cits as well.”
He got up stowed his seat column and said. “We are almost there.”.
The slide belt had carried us through a featureless tunnel with occasional exits,. But now the Tunnel got wider and the walls were lined with small businesses.
He gestured to get off and he did a second after me. After I had crossed the deceleration belts, I looked around. The belt tunnel stretched in a long line to seemingly infinity from where we came fro and moved on into the widening regions of a sub surface city and Port 1 as a big sign confirmed.
Blue Moon was the first world settled in the system. The Star, originally had a different name, but because Blue Moon was at an almost equidistant position to the four founding civilizations, It was always referred to Blue Moon, the name stuck and became official.
The system consisted of Nine Planets, fourteen major Moons, 22 Planetoids, 1 Asteroid Belt and one matter cloud and every floating rock big enough to put a foot on was utilized or occupied.
Blue Moon was as the name suggested not a planet but a large moon around Blue Shepherd, a gas giant. Blue Moon was a frigid world but it had its own biosphere consisting of a few species of local lichen. I also had an almost pure oxygen atmosphere.
There were vast ice covered oceans with very salty water.
The moon first and over time the entire system became one of the most important traffic hubs of the Union.
The world had five Class A ports, but Port 1 was primarily a logistics port.
It was cold here, quite cold.
The businesses had names like :Gugor Salvage, Blue Moon Bio Solids, All Meats Inc and one painted sign identified the business below as ‘Panjo-Buy and Sell ‘
A jumble of Boxes, Crates and racks was spilled in a somewhat chaotic fashion before its open roll gate and part of a metal wall closing of the arched alcove cut into the rock of the moon.
One box was filled with bowls and pots. Several bundles of broken wood crate slats stacked next to the door., a crate held robot parts, including the head of a S-10 with active moving eyes.
A row of worn out Terran All Terrains none of them a matching pair.
Aljoss went straight to the gate.”Panjo buys and sells everything that might still be of value.”
the cave like shop behind the gate was a Universe by itself. Shelves to the ceiling stuffed with things, there was not a spot anywhere on the walls without something hanging from it.
Towards the back behind a almost completely buried counter stood stood an Oromal doing business with a chrome skinned Homo Stellaris, only his skin had lost its luster,.It was dull anywhere it showed trough the shoddy space suit, He had to be a Stellaris if he used this in space like environments.
Between them a Wilson Vaccu Baller.
I heard the Oromal say.”I give you 50 credits for it. The best I can do.
The Stellaris accepted received the creds and went past us.
The Oromal took the expensive launcher and placed it on top of a pile of other things.”Aljoss what can I do for you?”
“My friend here just drifted in, no warm pad so he’s roughing it.”
“Don’t look like he has much to trade. Got any credits?”
The Oromal with the unusual name sighed.”Alright, go to the pile, take what you need and I do what I can on the price.”
“Can I ask what Panjo stands for?”
“That was my grandfather’s name. Since Oromal names are a tad long for signs. He shortened Panajrriotitchi Petrubxtaso into Panjo and that’s what we call ourselves ever since.”
I thanked him and joined Aljoss who were digging through items as if he knew what he was looking for. Panjo paid no longer much interest to us. I saw he visited the Xchange Galnet site and checked Vaccu Ballers.
“What is it we are getting?”
“Warm things, a good bag, A sleeping bag with a working element and if you can afford it a good knife.”
The Oromal said.”I got a good moon bag, element is working and good for at least 100 nights”
Aljoss said.”Would be perfect. How much?”
“Science Corps quality it is. I could get 100 credits for it, but I have always been a softie when it comes to Non Cits, I let you have it for 50, that’s what I paid for.”
Aljoss looked at me.”Panjo is a cut throat for the most part, but he means what he said. Fifty is a good price. Can you afford it?”
“Just get me what you think I need. No worries about the price, but I since I came that far. I don’t want to be the best equipped Non Cit, if you know what I mean?”
“The moon bag means you survive the night. I will be with you to make sure. Smart Non Cits without a warm pad here on Blue Moon do anything to get a bag similar to it. So its all good.”
Panjo who listened but did not understand the meaning said.”I don’t want to hear you froze to death because you did not have the creds. You can have it, and pay me whenever you can hassle it up.”
Touched by it, I said.”Thank you Mr. Panjo.”
After another hour of digging, Aljoss had filled a sizable back pack with an assortment of clothing ... I wore an old Union Army coat, the patch of the Corps of engineers was torn of, but the distinctive shape had left a darker spot on the green Durafab. Panjo had traded my Nike executive travel shoes for a pair of color mismatched Terran All Terrain boots.
Panjo said.”Well if you ever come back, you can pay me in installments. For business reasons I say you owe me two hundred credits. But don’t spread the word or I am out of business giving my merchandise away.”
“Panjo, the Nike Executives you just got, are worth about 1000 credits new, I only say that so you know what to look for on GalNet. Most likely I won’t be back so I am of course pay you.”
I took my credit strip and swiped three hundred in his pay point.”
“You are not a Non Cit. Drifting for fun eh?”
“Something like that.”
Back on the Slide connector rolling back. Aljoss said. “Well you look the part now for sure, but be careful who you tell that you not a drift or a Non. Those Drifts that do it fun never go where we go next. Cits or Pretend Drifts are not welcome there.”
“Now comes your next lesson. Drifts and Nons sleep at places we all pads. Those who can afford it rent a Pod room at the Chill towers. Then there are those who belong to Drift clubs and port gangs.
The pretender Drifts actually have an association with membership fees and a news letter. They have a list of Drift patches for every port, but only members are allowed there.
Real Drifts who doing this thing for ages often belong to Drift Clubs and they know good warm pads, know where to get what, know freights where you can stow. Some smuggle drugs and are organized like syndicates. I know of ten or twelve of these Clubs and they don’t get along with each other too well. If you choose one of them, you sleep warm, relative safe, but you choose that for life. And no matter where you drift, you might run into one of your old buddies. You better not be member of another club. Those are all Non Cits and no one is going to miss one.Meaning murder is quite common.”
I was listening speechless, there was an entire world right below us, a world I didn’t know existed.
But I waved the floating vent bot over and he thankfully accepted a cup of coffee.
He held the cup between his hands. It was still very cold.
“Why is it so cold?”
“The tunnels between the ports aren’t heated. It’s still only about ten minus in the middle and gets warmer the closer you get to the ports. It’s below two hundred on the surface and warms to a balmy minus one thirty at the equator when we swing around to face Blue Moon star.” He ripped the disolver strip of the now empty cup, and watched it as the activated chemicals reduced the cup to dust.”Warm pads are places within the Space port or the city that stay warm and the Authority don’t mind, doesn’t care or isn’t looking. The Port gangs are usually smaller groups of Non Cits and the best pads are claimed by them. Getting into those gangs takes a while. They also want you to share what you have. Most of these gangs want you to steal, pick pockets and they never last. Security investigates and if their caught it’s bad news.”
We had reached the port again. He got up asked me to do the same and we left the belt. Not far from the Andorian restaurant.
He checked his PDD. “Still lots of time to kill, till they start maintenance.”
After he got his bag and thanked the Jooltar, who was half asleep’ he and I settled on the Concrete block.
“I guess you don’t want to hustle It’s not against the law if you do it passive. The aggressive way some of the gangs want you to do, is a good chance for the Authority to show and check Ids.”
“At least not for now. I would rather hear more.”
“Alright. I told you about those Port Gangs and why it is not a good idea to associate with them. About three month ago, a member of the Blue Vermin swiped the jacket of a Fleet Officer. Took the Federal Police two hours to find the thief. Rumors had it a Leedei of the PSI Corps did the checking. All thirty four Vermins were arrested,. The thief was sent to Brisbane so I heard, no one knows what happened to the others.”
“Never a good idea to mess with the Fleet.” I agreed.
“Even those Anti Union Drifts, know better. They heckle police and insult citizens. Nothing really happens, the moment one of these morons starts insulting the fleet. Citizens get real irate.”
“Where do others sleep then?”
“I am getting to that. Warm pads are rare and usually taken or claimed. What is left are the cold pads. Places in unheated areas.”
“The Slide belt tunnel?”
“The Authority does not permit it. There is no place to hide and they send sweep bots down the sides.
But long ago when they built this port, there are two old material elevators. Big mechanical platforms that still work. You’ll see.”
“Are you not going to your warm pad in that Chill Tower?”
“We swing by it for my old sleeping bag. I can’t let you do this on your own.”
Aljoss got up and talked to the Jooltar. Wac rose to his feet and seemed excited about whatever Aljoss said to him and left.
My new friend said.”Wac is afraid to panhandle and has no pad. He roughs it every night. Mostly by walking around till he can go back to the park, Since I don’t use my pod tonight. I told him he can use it.”
“He really got the short end of the stick.” I said.
“Yes even among the Non Cits.”
“Can I ask what you guys are doing all day long. Even drifting seems boring, I mean after you seen two or three space ports, you seen all the variety there is.”
“And that is the main reason those kid drifts quit. I get up at four hour every day and check if they have a day job listed at the Xchange. Two or three times a month the XChange receives and extra round tripper and then the regular staff and the robo resources are maxed out. I get a job for a day or two.
If not I go scavenging the first 4 days of the week and the rest of the week I am here”
“What is a round tripper?”
“You know almost every Union planet has an Xchange. Local products are offered to the Union market via the Xchange net. Individual items of value may also be offered.Each Xchange is visited on regular intervals by a freighter that picks up all the smaller items that have been collected in the warehouse of the Xchange. That freighter is called the round tripper. Now in some cases there is more volume than the regular round tripper can take on. A second extra ship is sent. Since Blue Moon System is this sectors Xchange hub and the Union Post Office main hub, it happens that more of these freighters arrive than the system can handle. Physical mail comes first and the Xchange sends robots and personnel to help. Non Cits are by law prohibited to touch Union Mail but allowed to help out on the XChange sorting lines. A days work earns me 40 creds.”
“For all day work?”
“Yes because if they had to pay more they could rent extra robots.”
“And what is there to scavenge?”
“Busted wood crates at the produce ware houses. Some planets ship their produce in real wood crates. Someone told me that customers think produce in wooden crates is more natural and traditional, thus gets better prices. Panjo gives me a credit for each five kilo bundle.
We also scavenge for Space Vermin.
“Not as common as it used to be, but for a bucket of rats. We can get 3-4 credits. Panjo pays us ten for a Bonglee.”
“I didn’t know we have a vermin problem on Union Space ports”
“It’s not really a problem. Union regulations and hygiene laws are strict and followed, but Blue Moon is a very busy traffic hub for a very long time. Things do get transferred.
There are robots and service companies doing nothing else but pest control, still there are cracks and corners not checked. Wac is very good at that.”
“There was an article on the Bonglee in our magazine a few years back. They aren’t harmless.”