Desert of Man

Writing. Culture. Politics. Wandering.

Vultures – experimenting

From the current draft of Vultures, before editing, of course. A short science fiction story on travel between the stars. Monotony, boredom, the inability to capture it in timetables or other typical human expectations of clarity and clocks. A story of passengers, the crew, cut off from life out there, facing a chain of events outside of their little world.


Every day people.

Could be you or me.

Life goes by, until suddenly you see…

It is turning out to be quite an experiment, striking a balance between demonstrating the monotony on board and events they come to witness outside of their isolation.

Well, what are we having?” Diego asks a bridge full of people seemingly only kept awake by the flickering of instruments and screens, one even yawning. “The usual I suppose?” Nods and shrugs give an answer, “good thing I came prepared in that case” he continues, handing out the drinks. Quiet nods, at least from most. The Captain is busy working his logs. Diego grumbles a little inside, paperwork, yeah that’s something always with us.

“Your drink sir,” interrupting the Captain’s musings Diego finds himself wondering about the man. A Captain yes, but one who might have found a better career somewhere on a stage. Form over function, he shrugs, putting down the drink.

“Ah thank you, good man. Apologies, the paperwork, you know how it is. Tedious, but it has to be done.” Diego looks back at him, an even smile on his face. “But you know all about that, don’t you?” The Captain continues, still ignoring both his drink and Diego’s actual presence, “at least for you it’s over, once we dock.”

“Aye sir,” an acknowledgement of pure required courtesy only after which the Captain turns his head, “come on, old chap, don’t tell me you are not looking forward to your freedom? It’s not my fault this trip has taken far longer than we’d hoped, you know what it’s like out there, finding passages between systems.”

It’s something Diego has far more experience with than this pretense of an officer. You complete one transit, and scan for a next. Sometimes you’re lucky, most of the time finding one takes a while. After that the probes go out, to find out where it leads – and more importantly, whether it is stable enough to withstand the passage of the ship’s mass. No point in going there, he thinks.

“Aye sir, it is how it is. We got lucky most of the trip, had to end some time.”

Equally, I envy David Weber’s talent for info dumping. I’m having a harder time finding the proper points of inserting technicalities, concepts and event references throughout the story.

“Hey guys,” says an engineer coming in from behind, “not unexpected but we’ve got a few issues down below. The usual I suppose. Diego, any chance you can send someone down with a medical kit, just in case?”

Typical, always a few in need of early waking, Diego sighs, “yeah, I’ll link with Sarah to send one of the staff down. The easy types, or do you need a hand down there?” Recognising the look he’s getting from the engineer at that suggestion, he shrugs, “you never know, and some of the crew are pretty sturdy.” The engineer just grins. “Nobody walks right out of the ice man, and how much damage can even a crazy one do in his box.” It’s not a question, Diego recognises the attitude, just a way to shrug things off. Routine.

Privately he finds himself thinking back to much earlier days, when passenger liners were pretty much just caskets of frozen meat making their way. There’s stasis technology these days, a military perk though, one not without its own issues. The dice used to roll the same for the rich and the poor, he thinks, no distinctions there. It still rolls, though just for the unfit of human societies, travelling down below. These days advances in scanning and propulsion allow for faster travels. Still slow enough to be tedious though. At least the ships are nicer, proper ships now. Big too, almost like what used to be the class of cruise liners back in the day – now those were something even only the rich knew as rumours. But they existed, he knows, he watched one burn, long ago.

Enough, he thinks – almost hard enough to say it out loud – this looking back is getting to me. Righting his shoulders his ears pick up something he hasn’t heard in ages. “Captain, what’s that signal?” One of the operators answers instead, “just a system bulletin man, happens sometimes.”

“Right,” Diego says, “let me flash Sarah that message, and I’ll make my way back to the passenger section guys.” This time the Captain does nod, the rest are occupied with their routine. Nobody looks up.

By all means, feel free to share your thoughts 🙂

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