Stone Ales - Trader

First chapter of a EV story

I've been working on this for several years (actually, I worked on it several years ago!). I came across it recently and decided to work on it again. Here is the first chapter. Feedback is appreciated and desired.
Thanks
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“Hey Stone, when are we next heading home?”

“A trader has no home Alex.” Stone Ales didn’t even look up from the nav display, where he was computing out the jumps to Zaxted Station, their first refueling stop. “Besides, OreAg isn’t paying us top dollar to give that mining equipment a custom tour of the universe.”

Alex shrugged off the sarcasm and went back to the pre-jump checklist.

“So,... y’all ready?” Stone asked, if only retorically. Before Alex could reply, if he had tried, Stone had punched the ‘jump execute’ button.

The Lady Titania’s engines wound up. Though there was no sense of motion on the inside, the ship increased speed as it travelled outward from the center of Hera’s system.

High speed is not necessary to make a hyperspace jump, but like passing a finger through a flame, greater speed means greater safety. Less time spent in the flux of locational transistion increased the margin of safety to make intrastellar transportation a reality.

Benjamin “Stone” Ales could never describe the ‘sensation’ of making a jump, because there was not really anything to describe. The only sign that a jump had been made was a change in the position of stars, signifying movement of thousands, if not tens of thousands parsecs. Entry into another system was made far enough from the center that it may sometimes take most of a day’s time on impulse power to reach the planet of destination and enter orbit.

If multiple, successive jumps are made, it is next to impossible for the pilot to know what day it is in Galactic Standard notation. Therefore, the ships computer needs to recieve a syncronization signal from the nearest settled planet that it uses to displays the date somewhere on the control panel so that the pilot and crew may maintain some sense of continuity.

Once in orbit, the crew then contacts the port authority for planetside destination, co-ordinates and permissions. The time a crew remains on a planet is fully up to the captain in most cases. There are a few systems that limit time a crew may stay or where they may go, but it is rare. Generally, a captain will remain on planet for 18-24 hours and the crew is given 12 hours of shore liberty.

Stone had programmed the Lady Titania for 5 successive jumps to Zaxted Station, and while refueling, Alex had run to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. He was pre-setting the next series of jumps to Polaris when Alex came running up the boarding ramp.

“Stone! Check the news vid!” he explained breathlessly.

More annoyed than interested, Stone reached across the panel and flicked the vid screen on. He immediately forgot what he was working on.

”...after 20 years. Again, the Rigel Rover has been located in the NGC-6849 system and being taken to Spica for Personal Resuccitation and Orientation. Elsewhere, the Rebel Alliance has engaged the Confederation at...”

Stone turned the volume down. “They found her,....” he murmered softly.

“Yeah! And they’re going to Spica! Just 2 jumps off our path! Stone! We NEED to be there”

Stone thought a minute and said “No. We deliver first and then we’ll head to Spica.”

“But,...”

“Listen, it takes 5 days to prepare for Resuccitation, and then another 2 for conscienceness. Toss in travel time and we have long enough to deliver and make it with a night’s rest to spare.”

Alex thought for a moment while the reality of what Stone had said sank in, and resigned, “Yeah, you’re right.”

“Strap in and get settled. I wanna get out of here.” Stone snapped a bit brusquely.

Alex was already strapped in and looking over his section of the console. “Mm hmmm.” He grunted unpreturbed. He was accustomed to Stone’s moods.

The ship detached from the docking port and moved away from the station in preparation for their jumps.

“We’re just going to refuel at Polaris, so stay on-board while we’re there.”
Alex just shrugged.

The run to Turin V went without a hitch but Stone couldn‘t take his thoughts off of Spica. As they came near the planet, Alex performed a routine collision scan. This would let them know where other ships were located so that they could plot their approach. It was the usual mix of couriers and transports.

“Hey, wouldja look at that.” Alex exclaimed.

“Whatcha got Alex?” Stone asked as he leaned over to glance at the sensor screen in front of his partner.

“Ain’t never seen one of those before. It registers as a scout, but the size and mass doesn’t add up.”

“Inbound or outbound?”

“Looks like it’s comin’ in.”

“Maybe we’ll get a look at her at the port.” Stone turned back to his own console. “The mining representative will want to meet with us as soon as we land. Should get a bonus, we beat deadline by two days.”

“I’ll need a couple hours to work on the radial thrust regulators” Alex added.

“Fine. We’ll grab a bite to eat before we take off.”

After that there was silence as the two men concentrated on their respective tasks. Eventually a voice came over the intercom, “Lady Titania, you’re cleared to land at Port 64 NW. Coordinates are being transmitted now.”

“That’s not right.” Stone muttered as he smashed the transmit button, “We’re hauling mining equipment. Request clearance for Port 23 NE.”

“Port 23 NE is closed due to code 86D. All traffic is being diverted. Company representatives have been notified and are expecting you at Port 64NW.”

“Acknowledged”

Alex whistled, “Somebody cracked up on landing. Hmmmm. Wonder if it was anyone we know?”
“I’m sure we’ll find out if it was. Anyway, the traffic in and out of 64 NW looks dense. I’m taking it in manually.”

Not much more was said as Stone guided the Lady Titania towards the port. Turin V wasn’t the easiest planet to land on, but it was among Stone’s favorites. Being primarily an industrial planet, he didn’t have to contend with tourist liners, sightseers, or flitters (as private pilots were called in the business). Professional cargo pilots maintained a flying etiquette that kept hassles to a minimum. Flitter pilots considered themselves above such niceties and always expected preferential treatment.

“Welcome to port 64NW, Lady Titania, you’re signaled for dock 341”

Stone briefly pressed the transmit button as acknowledgement, and settled the ship into the designated berth. Alex ran through the shut down checklist. As he finished, he glanced out the viewport just as a ship passed overhead.

“Blessid mutha! That must be that scout ship!”

All Stone could catch was a flash of black, then it was gone. “Must be close by. I’m going to find the rep and get this equipment off. Get those regulators taken care of.”

Stone stepped off the ship and looked for the dock steward. Hearing a commotion down the corrior, he headed that direction. He could make out a female’s voice, and by the tone of it, she was highly aggravated. As he got closer, words became clear, if not shrill.

“I don’t care if the entire port is in flames! I’ve got things there in personal storage that I have to get to. Now when will it be open?”

“We’ve not been given that information yet Miss.” the flustered steward said. “Please be patient and we...”

“That is totally inexcusable! Get back to your comm and get me an answer NOW you moron!”

Stone, seeing that the steward was unaccustomed to this type of behavoir, stepped in. “There’s no need for name calling, I’m sure the steward has the latest information.”

The woman whirled and glared at Stone. “Blast off space boy. This ain’t your biz.”

“Listen missy,...” Stone felt his temper rising and caught it, took a breath and turned to the steward. “OresAg rep?”

The steward, grateful for the diversion, looked at his digipad, “He would be at the dock office, back up this corridor about 100 meters, on the left.”

“Thanks” Stone nodded to the steward. Turning, he saw the woman, still steaming. Smiling, he said “Chill!” and headed down the hall. Behind him, he distinctly heard a grunt, then smaller steps going the other way.

“Hey Stone, good timing! Once again you beat the deadline and will be duly compensated.” Byron was a long time business aquaintance. Stone had first met him while working on his Uncle Gerald’s ship. “You HAVE heard about the Rover?” Byron mentioned. When Stone nodded he asked “How’s Smokes takin the news?”

“You mean Uncle Gerald? Don’t know. Haven’t talked to him. By the way, have anything headed for Spica?”

“Sorry Stone. Not this round. As a matter of fact, until we get this new gear up and running, we can’t ship ANY product. That’s why we’re so anxious to get that equipment here. The crew should be here to unload it within the hour. Get some rest.”

“I plan on it. Just as soon as we get a bite to eat. Anything good near here?”

“Nothing much. There’s a place a couple clicks away called Lou’s that ain’t bad. Just avoid the meatloaf.”

“Thanks. We’ll check it out.”

A couple hours later, Stone and Alex had finished eating and were making their way back to the Titania. As they rounded a corner, Stone was practically knocked off his feet by a woman coming the other way.

“Blast it!” the woman snapped. Looking up, she recognized Stone, “Oh, space boy, I shoulda figured.”

“It’s Stone Ales if you don’t mind!”

“Yeah, as if I care.” she flipped, “You really ought to watch where you’re going.”

“Now just back up a...”

“Move it outta the way. I don’t have time for idiot talk.” She started to walk pass Stone, but then she noticed Alex, standing back stifling a smile. Though she would never figure out what it was, something about him caught her fancy. Even though she was still irritated at Stone, she could hardly suppress a smile herself.

“Now THAT becomes you!” Alex quipped. “Much more flattering than a scowl.”

“Well, aren’t you the smooth one?”

“Nah. Just appreciating the better things in life. I’m Alex.” He held out his hand.

She considered it for a minute, then shook it firmly “I’m Kirya” What was it about him? she wondered. “What are you doing with the likes of,...” she jerked her thumb back towards Ales.

“Kinda neccesary for the paycheck.” Alex winked. “Don’t mind him. You know, all bark....”

Stone showed no reaction to these comments. He didn’t know what he did wrong, but he had definately started on the wrong foot. For now he would let Alex lead.

“So, you’re his, uh, mechanic?”

“Mechanic, co-pilot, cook, you name it. We’ve been together a few years and it works out well. What’s your line?”

“Me? Well, mostly exotic foods. It tends to attract a higher class of clientel, but the deadlines are usually impossible to hit. Now with 23NW closed down, not only will I be late on my next delivery, half my inventory is probably well toasted.” A look of disgust came over Kirya.

“So you had storage there?” Stone prompted, but was met with an icy glare.

“Yeah, and now I have to find a ground runner. They’ll let me into my area, but it’s going to take a full day to get there and back. Sheesh, tomorrow’s shot to hell and I STILL have to get the ventral stabilizing fins readjusted.” As she stated this, Kirya was struck with a thought. She looked at Alex, “So, you’re a mechanic huh?”

“Well, yeah. I know my way around” Alex smiled.

“I don’t suppose you would be willing to help a damsel in distress, would you?” Kirya feinted a slight pout on her lips.

Alex glanced at Stone, who tapped his wristwatch.

“Hmmm, I guess I could take a quick look. Stabilizing fins aren’t difficult to set, should only take about an hour at most.” Glancing back at Stone, Alex saw him nod.

Kirya only had eyes for Alex, “Great! I’m in port 357” She turned to lead Alex off and then saw Stone. With a disgusted shake of her head she turned and walked off.

As they walked through the port, Alex and Kirya engaged in small talk while Stone followed a few paces back. After a short bit, they rounded the corner to dock 357. Alex stopped cold in his tracks. “Whoa,...”

Stone looked past him into the dock. The ship before them defied common sense. All black, it somehow appeared to float several feet above the dock floor. Looking closely, the landing gear could be seen, but only if specifically looked at. The ship had a long central cabin, swept delta wings on either side for atmospheric flight, all forming a general arrowhead shape. By Alex’s expression, this was the ship he had noticed as they landed.

“Where in galaxy did you buy THIS?!?” Alex gawked.

“I’m really not at liberty to say, but it didn’t come cheap.”

Stone immediately realized that Kirya wasn’t a simple cargo hauler, and the multitude of access panels on the ship weren’t for maintenance purposes. He knew that his presence was not welcomed, and he really didn’t want to inadvertently insult Kirya anymore than he had already.

“Uh, I need to catch up on a little paper work before we lift, Alex. Don’t take longer than you need.”

“Sure thing Stone, I’ll be along directly.”

Stone nodded politely to Kirya and headed back to the Lady Titania. As he walked along the corridor, he thought about the ship he had just seen. It had definately been a Scout at one time, but had been massively overhauled. How could she have gotton her hands on it? Abandoned? Possible, but claiming a Confederation ship by salvage rights always cost more than buying an equivalent private ship new. She was armed to the teeth in that thing, and to say the least it was more than enough to haul perishables between planets. Just what was she into? He knew that some of the modifications were not the type you could just fly into a general shipyard and have done. She had to have been to Pirates Cove at one time or another.

Pirates Cove,... the thought of if stopped Stone for a moment. The worst professional mistake he ever made was at Pirates Cove and he almost didn’t live to regret it. It cost him his Uncle Geralds ship and a half a dozen men’s lives. A cold shiver ran through Stone, then it was gone. Stone opened up the hatch of the Lady Titania and climbed inside.

Exactly one hour later, Alex bounded through the hatch.

“Get her all taken care of?”

“Oh yeah. No problem at all.” Alex grinned. “It REALLY is,.. or was, a Scout. Working on it reminded me of my navy days. I wasn’t able to get anything out of her about where she got it though.”

“Not surprised. She’s obviously had some interesting dealings with the Confederation,..” Stone paused a moment, “or someone else.”

Stone didn’t have to vocalize it, but ‘someone else’ could only have refered to pirates.

“For some reason, I have the feeling this won’t be the last time we see her.” Stone mused, shaking his head. “You ready?”

“Let’s do it!” Alex shot back.

As they lifted off and headed back to space, Stone thought back to an earlier time in his life.

(end part one) :unsure: :unsure: :unsure: :unsure:

Ooh...foreshadowing! 🙂

A very good read. You hinted at bits of the plot and fleeting glances of strange ships and returning heros. .

From a literary standpoint, my untrained eye says that your intro is a little delayed. The 3 paragraphs of hyperspace description don't need to be there - not yet anyway. Most of the details could be inserted later, where the information is needed to make sense of what was ahead (ie speed, safety, location, guidance). The only details you really need are about the dock leave, and perhaps the sensation of jumping just to provide some imagry.

Have someone say what Resuccitation is, while it is still on the reader's mind. And maybe an overheard comment about the significance of the Rigel Rover . ..

Keep writing. Try some character introductions/background, and include a little physics and technology (since probably anyone who reads it will be a techno - geek anyway)

Good luck

Thanks for the kind words roger. You actually make some good points, and I have already answered some with the second chapter. I was hoping to get more comments before I posted, but I guess they are not forth coming. Next up, Chapter 2 (History)
-alaric

Here is Chapter 2 of Stone Ales:
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15 year-old Benjamin and his father, William Ales sat waiting in the Levo space terminal for his mother, Connie Ales, to arrive home after a special trip to display her artwork on Hikeeba in the Gymkata system. Suddenly an announcement came over the public address asking that all those waiting for the Rigel Rover to please report to the terminal auditorium. Benjamin looked at his dad. William Ales was normally a composed and well controlled man, but he momentarily had a look of panic in his eyes, then it was gone. Benjamin knew at that moment that it was worst than just a delayed landing. The news vids were always talking about liners that had been lost, usually with no indication of why or how. Usually the liners were not found and the cases remained unsolved, therefore many people suspected pirates were the cause of most of the missing ships.
The spaceline representative informed the waiting family and friends that a search and rescue operation has already begun, and that the best thing everyone could do was go home and wait. In the positive tone that these messengers always used, he told the crowd that “as soon as the Rigel Rover is found, everyone will be notified when to pick up their friends and family members.”
Benjamin and his father did just that, they went home and waited. After several days, William went back to work and Benjamin went back to school. Weeks passed without word. Eventually, 8 months after it was first reported missing, the search was called off and the Rigel Rover was officially listed as LAS. an acronistic term whose origins had been forgotten, but now meant Lost and Presumed Destroyed. Shortly after that, the spaceline insurance companies sent compesation to the next of kin. This was usual and customary in this situation, acceptance was the equivalent of waiving the right to persue legal action against the spaceline.
Benjamin and William held a small memorial service with a few family members, including Uncle Gerald Osanna, his mother’s brother. Uncle Gerald was a space trader and Benjamin rarely saw him. When he was around, Gerald always told the most interesting stories from other systems.
After the service, William and Uncle Gerald had a long discussion, the subject of which Benjamin would not learn of for many years. Then everyone was gone and Benjamin and his father tried to carry on a normal life.
William was a mining foreman, working for a local company. The hours were long and the work was inheirently dangerous, but it was all William had done for his adult life. He continuously told Benjamin that he did not want him to follow in his footsteps and to find another occupation.
As Benjamin grew older, he learned to take care of himself and his father. At school, he was popular, yet reserved. He played on the AstroBall team, and exceled in individual sports such as wrestling. He was seldom alone, usually hanging with Alex Deringel, the class clown. Alex flirted with the girls more than Benjamin, and was usually the one responsible for arranging the occasional double date. Benjamin, on the other hand, had to ‘rescue’ his friend when his mouth had gone a little too far. One incident of this nature involved an opposing AstroBall team member, who was not really bright but made up for it in shere physical mass. Benjamin stepped in just as the bloke was about to knock out Alex’s teeth and quietly suggested that he drop the quarrel and just walk away. In response, the bully took a wild swing at Benjamin, who ducked under the big fist and moved aside. They started scuffling around, the big boy swinging and cursing, while Benjamin dodged and parried. “Whats the matter?” the bully taunted, “Afraid you might hurt your little hands? Come on and take a swing” Benjamin didn’t reply, but avoided another sloppy strike. “Not so big OFF the Astro court, eh? Must be some kinda momma’s boy!” That comment struck a nerve in Benjamin. Without a seconds hesitation, he cold-cocked the big oaf right under the chin. As he went down, one of the onlookers said “Damn, his fists must be made of STONE!” And from that day on he was called ‘Stone’ Ales.
3 years passed in this manner. Stone was approaching the end of his education and knew he didn’t want to stick around Levo all his life, but still wasn’t quite sure of where to go. He knew he wanted to find out what had happened to his mother’s ship, but didn’t have any notion of where to start. There had not been any other word since they had held the memorial service. Privately, Stone believed it had been a pirate attack. It was known that the pirates never left anyone alive after one of their raids. All they wanted was the raw materials, weapons, money or anything else they could get their hands on, but they were ruthless and didn’t want anyone around who could identify them. Stone desperately wanted to find those he believed were responsible and bring them to justice.
Then, the day before Stone’s graduation from school, he came home to find a couple men from his dad’s company waiting for him. There had been a cave-in and his father had been in the shaft. William had evacuated most of his crew, but had gotten cut off before he and three others could make their escape. He had been killed almost instantly.
Stone couldn’t believe it. First his mother, and now his father were gone. After the funeral, Uncle Gerald took Stone aside. “Your father and I had discussed this possibility several years ago, and he made me promise to take care of you if anything were to happen to him. Now you’re at an age where you can decide for yourself what you would like to do. I just want you to know that I’m here to help you.”
Alex had been trying to get Stone to enlist in the Confederation Navy with him, but Stone didn’t think he would like the strict dicipline the Navy would require.
“Would you be willing to take me on as an apprentice, Uncle Gerald?” Stone inquired.
Gerald considered this for a moment. “I can’t say I havn’t entertained the thought. A trader’s life isn’t easy, not much to call home.”
“Well, without mom or dad, I don’t really have a home anyway.” Stone shrugged.
Uncle Gerald looked at Stone for a long moment, considering what he had just said.
“Ok, then. I’ll take you on for a three year commitment. After that we can see how it’s working out.”

I'm rather enjoying this, Alaric. 🙂

I won't make any criticisms or suggestions until I fully understand exactly what you're doing with this. Good work so far.

Thanks for reading Hamster. I'll tweak on the next chapter during my week off next week and post it up too!

-Alaric

This is a pretty captivating story. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Not a bad bit of work. I should poke around this board more often.

I really like the story so far, great job. I've been waiting and checking this site for a while and no more of the story has come out, I was just wondering when it would?

OK, a year later, and chapter 3 is posted. Is anyone still paying attention?


Chapter 3

Stone rubbed his eyes. After leaving Turin V he had left Alex in control and tried to grab a modicum of sleep, with only moderate success. Sheer fatigue, both physical and mental, had allowed him to doze off for a time, but he still felt like a rubber-band without any elasticity left. He heard the bulkhead door close and made his way to the bridge. Alex had brought the Lady Titania into dock on Spica. It was a fairly sparse world on the edge of Confederation space, where the major industry was mining. The entire population was housed in a giant geodestic dome since the native atmosphere was rather lethal.

As Stone came onto the bridge Alex looked up. “Welcome to the land of the living, buddy. Dinner just arrived, here is the information on where the Personnel Resuscitation and Orientation (PRO) facility was located, and I’ve booked a couple rooms at the Layover Inn. It’s just a block away from PRO. How’d ya rest?” Alex served a helping of the steaming food onto a plate for Stone.

“Not too comfortably, but enough that I won’t be dozing off.” As Stone started to dig into the food in front of him, he marveled at his friend’s consideration. All that Alex did to take care of them and the ship made such a huge difference. Stone knew he could never manage without him. Taking a bite, Stone thought out loud,... “I’ll contact the PRO center and find out the procedure for...”

Alex handed him a paper with the desired information. “Oh,... thanks.”

“They’re expecting you at the initial orientation. That’s in about 4 hours. I’ll get us checked into the Inn. Is there anything else you need?”

“You tell me,” Stone laughed, “You’ve got everything else covered.”

“You need to contact them personally, they will only release passenger information to next of kin.”

“So we’re not even sure she’s among those being revived, huh?” Stone had only assumed his mother would be one of those recovered from the Rigal Rover, but the truth of the situation was that it was entirely possible that not all the passengers would have survived whatever calamity had overcome the ship.

“Oh, and there is a message on the ‘puter from Smokes.” Alex remembered.

Stone went over to the comm control center and pulled up the recorded message.

“Benjamin, I heard the news and understand you are already on your way to Spica. I’m not able to get away from Hunter for another week, and will follow on then. Contact me directly as soon as you know the specifics. Gerald out.”

Stone pondered a moment. “Al,...”

“Yes boss” Stone only used that version of his name when he needed ‘special’ work done.

“Make the contacts. See if you can score a copy of the discovery report for the Rover.”

Of course, thought Alex. The Confederation would fully document every dent, scratch and nick on the hull of a space derelict. “Kay, will do.”

Stone then contacted the PRO Center.

“Spica Personnel Resuscitation and Orientation Center. Are you calling for information on the Rigal Rover?”

“Yes, I would like to know...”

“I’m sorry sir, but no information may be given over comm. Please be at orientation with positive proof of relation to survivor. I’m sorry, but this is for security reasons.”

“I understand. Thank you”

Stone hung up. “Ok Alex, lets head to the Inn and get settled.”

Several hours later, Stone was in a large auditorium with a couple hundred other people. In his hands he held a document packet that had been with him ever since he had left Levo with his Uncle Gerald so many years ago. It had been, what,... twenty years now? Stone hadn’t considered the time before this moment. If she was indeed one of the survivors, she would have been in stasis for all this time and would not have aged more than a year or two in that condition. It suddenly dawned on Stone that he would only be about five years younger than his mother.

A momentary desire to flee Spica flashed through Stone’s mind. He paused, took a deep breath, and recomposed himself.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats.” The speaker was a middle aged man standing at the podium, wearing some sort of official uniform. Once the room quieted down, he continued on. “Thank you. My name is Herman Stafforman. I am a Resuscitation technician. I will give you some preliminary instructions and then each of you will meet with an advisor who will process your inquiries. I can tell you that all passengers and crew members of the Rigel Rover have been accounted for, and over 80% have been successfully resuscitated.” The speaker had to pause at this time, for the room had erupted into a mass of whispers, crying and a few women overcome by tension to the point of fainting. Someone yelled from the back of the room “Where is my son now!?”

“Please,” continued Mr. Stafforman holding up his hands, “I understand you are anxious to be reunited with your loved ones, but for security reasons you must be patient. If you follow my instructions, you should be able to be with your relation within 3 to 4 hours. First of all, you will file through the door on my right, provide one of the men with your relations manifest code and your DNA proof of relation, they will direct you to your personal advisor who will answer all your questions and arrange your reunion.”

Or provide final funeral arrangements,... thought Stone. 80% resuscitated still left 20% that didn’t make it. Out of 837 there were going to be 160 odd counselors with their hands full.

He walked toward the door even before the talking head had shut up. About 15 minutes later he handed the clipboard jockey the ident strip and manifest number.

“Thank you Mr. Ales. Marjory Barnett will assist you. Room 214, down this hall on the right. NEXT!”

Stone walked down the hall, suppressing the conflicting urges to run forward or run away. Since he had been 18, his personal goal had been to find those responsible for the Rover’s disappearance, but he had never really given any consideration that he might ever see his mother again. He wasn’t mentally prepared for this, but it was something he couldn’t put off until later.

The door plaque said 214, yet Stone hesitated. “No,” he said to himself, “You have to do this. Regardless.”

The door opened and he walked in.

The lady stood up and extended her hand. “Mr. William Ales? No, you must be Benjamin.”

“Benjamin, yes. My father, William, died 20 years ago.”

“Oh.” she paused, “Please forgive me. Make yourself comfortable, would you like coffee or something else to drink?”

“Uh,...”

“This will take awhile, but I will try to move it along.”

“Huh?” Stone was confused. He sat down in an available chair and tried to clear his head. “Yeah, coffee. Sounds good.”

Marjory smiled. “Your mother is recovering nicely, you should be able to see her in an hour or so. Meanwhile, there is some paperwork and information we need to process.” She handed Stone a steaming mug. Stone, once reassured of his mothers well being, relaxed.

For the next hour the two of them discussed particulars of resuscitation, mental and physical side effects, psychological issues and cultural re-adjustments. Marjory also asked Stone many questions concerning family issues over the last twenty three years. “This information will be slowly given to her over the next few days so she can adjust.”

Finally, Marjory gathered all the papers and asked Stone. “So, are you ready?”

“No.” Stone said flatly as he stood up, “But I’ll manage.”

“Then let’s go to her room.”

Marjory led Stone out of the office and through a series of halls and elevators, eventually walking down a fairly ornate hallway.

“This doesn’t resemble a hospital.”

“We’ve learned that a sterile, institutionalized room is not the best environment for reacquainting stasis subjects to, well,... life.” She opened a door and Stone’s jaw dropped. “A nice hotel room was found to be a better setting.”

The room did resemble a really posh hotel suite. A couch and love-seat, a kitchenette, the necessary, and of course, a king size bed. In the bed lay a sleeping woman. Long brown hair, golden cream skin, a beautiful face only starting to bear the inevitable marks of age. Stone could almost haved believed he was looking at a picture. It was his mother, just as he recalled last seeing her as she boarded the liner for Hikeeba,... 23 years ago. Stone felt faint.

Marjory guided him to the sofa and eased him down. “Mr. Ales, before she is awakened, I would like to remind you of a few things.” Stone nodded. “We have found that there is significant difference in the acceptance of the time passed if there is a close family member present at awakening. She knew she was being prepared for stasis when she entered the lifeboat, but her perception will be that she just climbed into the lifeboat a couple hours ago and fell asleep. She most likely will think you are William. Address her as ‘Kanna,’ not ‘Mom’ and let her know how many years have passed and then tell her who you are. If she asked for William, just say that he couldn’t be here. The news of his death may have to wait for awhile.

“A resuscitation technician and I will be monitoring the situation via closed circuit comm and will come in after about 10 minutes. You will not be asked to leave, but as a group we will begin updating her. She will be weak and hungry. Can you cook?”

“I can make her favorite noodles with my eyes closed”

“Thats nice, keep them open and make it in the kitchenette when she asks to have a bite to eat. OK, she will be coming around in the next few minutes. Take a seat by the bed and be there for her.”

Marjory stood up and softly left the room. Stone moved to a chair next to the bed. Gingerly he reached out and took his mothers hand and waited.

This post has been edited by Alaric : 15 September 2006 - 10:17 PM

Chapter 4 Stone Ales - Space Trader (it's a short flash-back)
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“Benjamin! Come inside now.”

Benjamin Ales stopped in his tracks. That was his mother calling him.

“Benjamin, it’s time” ‘Connie’ Ales reminded him.

Benjamin turned back towards the house. “But mom, Al and the guys are forming up an Astroball game. They want me to pitch!”

“Tell them you’ll join them in an hour. Right now it’s tea time.”

Benjamin knew there would be no arguing his way out. He has never been able to forego tea with his mother. Turning, he yelled “Al! Start without me, I’ll be out for the 4th serveround!”

Connie smiled, “I know it’s annoying for you, but it’s important for me. Now come inside.” Benjamin stepped inside, removed his shoes and they walked together to the tea room. Kneeling on the tatami mats they faced each other across a small, low table. Connie proceeded to perform the steps they had repeated weekly since Benjamin could remember. She called it “Sad?”, or “the way of tea.” She would quiz him on names and steps of the ancient ceremony as they went through it. He knew it all by heart. He also knew that the other guys didn’t do anything like this at their homes. Why must his mother force him to do this?

“Gouin” Connie said, raising her cup.

“Gouin” replied Benjamin also raising his.

They drank, slowly and quietly. When they finished and had set their cups down, Benjamin started to stand, but his mother lightly grasped his hand to keep him kneeling.

“Benjamin, I will be gone for quite a while you know.”

“Yes ma’am. You leave tomorrow for three months on Hikeeba. School will be wrapping up when you come home.”

“That’s right. But then we’re all going to Capella for vacation.” Connie reminded him. “This show on Hikeeba is very prestigious. Your mother has made quite a name for herself, but it’s nothing compared to being with you and your father.”

Inside, Benjamin rejoiced at the thought of three months without the tea ceremony, but he would never dare express that to his mother. For her, the ceremony was in-volatile. Tradition that must never be forgot.

“Next week, I must have tea with someone else who won’t understand, but I WILL have tea. I hope you will, too.”

Benjamin nodded absently and Connie released his hand. “Go now, enjoy your game. You will pitch most excellently, I am sure.”

Benjamin stood, bowed and forced himself to walk to the door, as much as he wanted to run. Connie did not move from her kneeling position as he left the house. “You may have tea, but I think I’ll take a break” he said to himself as he ran to the field.

This is a quite impressive work. Good grammar and spelling, and the plot is rather obviously thickening. 🙂 I think the tea service was a bit rushed. I'm very curious what happened to the lost ship. Very good work so far!

Cheers,
Guapo

This really is nice work... well done and keep writing! Don't let the gradual falling-away in EV-related interest stop you from writing a cracking piece of science fiction.

@elguapo7, on Sep 16 2006, 03:50 AM, said in Stone Ales - Trader:

This is a quite impressive work. Good grammar and spelling, and the plot is rather obviously thickening. 🙂
I think the tea service was a bit rushed. I'm very curious what happened to the lost ship. Very good work so far!

Cheers,
Guapo

Thank you for the kind words. I realized the tea ceremony was abreviated, but the point was more of the fact that this was a tradition between the two of them rather than the details of it.

To be honest, I'm kinda curious as to what happened to the ship too. I think I'll be gettingto a little of that in the next couple chapters.

-Randall

Stone's Throw

Hey, a new title for the same story. Here is Chapter 5

-------------------------------------------------------------

Stone stood up. He quickly walked over to the kitchenette and rummaged in the cabinets. He found a small box of Oolong tea leaves and sniffed them. “Hmmm, kinda stale. I’ll have Al bring up some fresh leaves tonight.” He fashioned a quick steeping bag, set it in a mug, poured some hot water over it and walked back to the bed. He set the mug down on the small table next to it and sat back down.

Connie started to stir, first breathing in a deep breath and slowly stretching out her arms. Without opening her eyes she murmured “Hmmmmm, tea.” Stone didn’t reply. It was just like a Saturday morning 20 odd years ago. He was mesmerized. Connie gently stroked his hand as she lay there waking up. Still not opening her eyes she asked gently, “How long has it been, Ben-kun?”

The old word for son shocked Ales back to full conscientiousness. “Uh... 23 years,... haha-san” Connie didn’t show any reaction, she just continued stroking his hand.

A very long couple minutes passed. “Your father is not here, is he.”

“No” Stone worked hard to steady his voice, “He was not able to join me”

A tear formed a the corner of Connie’s closed eye. She turned her head away and sobbed quietly. Her grief escalated slowly as her shoulders shook, and then subsided gradually. Stone lost all sense of time. He always felt helpless when tears started to flow on a woman’s face, and now that woman was his mother. Again the urge to leave struggled to rise from the pit of his stomach and again he beat the urge down. Stone was never one to avoid conflict and he wondered why this urge would not go away.

He placed a tissue in her free hand and she wiped her still closed eyes. Slowly, her breathing calmed down and she pushed herself up. Stone handed her the mug and she took it with both hands and sipped. Her face grimaced slightly, “Ohhh, this is lousy.” she laughed. “Yeah,” Stone chuckled “It smelled old, but it’s all I have here. I’ll get some fresher stock later.”

For the first time, Connie opened her eyes. She focused on the mug in her hands. Slowly she shifted her gaze to Stone’s hand, and in turn worked her way up his arm finally settling on his face. “Oh my...” she whispered. “I see William and I see Benjamin. I know you, yet I don’t.” She looked intently at his features, stopping and peering deep into his blue eyes. “You’re a grown man now, and I am sure you are not a duplicate of your father. I see something else....,” She searched, “No, someONE else.”

Stone felt puzzled. What, who was she seeing? This woman sitting in the bed, who just lost 23 years of her life, her husband and in a way, her child in what she experienced as a long nights sleep, seemed to be trying to place him into a familiar framework. All of a sudden she smiled, but it was a sad smile. No, not a sad smile, more like a cosigned emotion. It was as if she had just accepted something she didn’t like but knew she couldn’t change. “You’ve been with Gerald” she stated.

Stone felt his face flush. He didn’t know how to respond. “Uh, yeah. I worked for him for quite a long while.”

“Worked?” her eyes grew wide in alarm.

“Oh, no he’s okay. He retired about 5 years ago. Lives on Hunter, runs a stopover for traders.”

“Oh, thats a relief.”

“He will be coming along in a few days.”

Connie sat there quietly for awhile. “There are so many questions I have right now, yet I have no idea where to start.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Now that you ask..., yes. Some rice noodles would be great right now.”

Stone smiled, “I thought so. I’ll make some up” He stood up. Connie threw off the covers and swung her legs off the side of the bed. Once again, Stone’s face began to feel hot. He quickly turned away and saw a robe hanging on the wall. He grabbed it an held it back for his mother without turning. What he had seen was not his mother, but a strikingly beautiful lady in nothing more than an almost sheer camisole.

“So,...” Connie stiffled a chuckle. “Stasis hasn’t hurt my figure then.”

“Just put it on please.” Stone mumbled.

Connie took his hand, “Okay, but I will need your help. I don’t think I can stand yet.”

Nervously, Stone fumbled with the robe. He tried to help her put it on without actually looking at her. He had never felt so clumsy, but he couldn’t figure out whether he should be attracted or ashamed. “Ok, I think I’m sufficiently covered now” Connie smirked. “Help me into the wheelchair there.”

Connie grasped Stone’s hand, but immediately collapsed as she tried to stand. Stone caught her and lifted her fully and gently placed her in the chair. “They told me it will take you awhile to build your strength back. Therapy will start tomorrow.” He pushed her over to the kitchenette and started assembling the ingredients for rice noodles. “Do you mind if I ask what stasis was like?”

Connie didn’t respond right away. She looked as Stone prepare the noodles, but really didn’t watch. “I remember reporting to the lifeboat. People were frantic, but not really panicky. The rumors were that there was a fire in the engine room, but nobody knew for sure what was up.

“The purser explained that the Rover was disabled and a distressed call had been sent, but without full communications they were unsure how long it would take for assistance to arrive. The lifeboats were not going to be launched, but they would be secured and we were to asked to volunteer for stasis conditioning since there was very limited provisions. I wasn’t sure I wanted to volunteer, but there was really no point in putting it off. Ultimately, all but 4 volunteered.

“We were all given a something like a nutricube, but it had a more intense flavor. We were told it was a slow dissolving variety that would nourish us as long as we were in stasis. I expected special beds and injections and such, but we were just given a air mask and instructed to put it on and breath deeply. The purser double checked each of us and said he would ensure we had all successfully entered physical stasis before entering it himself. The air I breathed in was just slightly sweet, like the smell of cherry blossoms and then I began to get drowsy. I thought of you and your dad and our eventual reunion,...”

Connie paused. Her face showed a struggle for composure, which she achieved after only a couple tears. “I guess I just dozed off. No dreams or sensation of sleeping, just the smell of the tea, and your hand. Other than the weakness in my legs and the different surroundings, it was just like a deep nights sleep.”

Stone stirred the pot of noodles. He wanted to ask about the ship, but now was definitely not the right time. He watched as his mother shook herself out of memories and really looked at him now. “So, what’s her name?”

“Huh?” Stone was caught off guard. “Whose?”

“Well, your ichu-chan, of course.”

Stone rolled his eyes. Why did his mother bring up THIS topic? “There is no one, mother. You know the life of a trader”

“ A ruggedly handsome man like you? I find that hard to believe.”

“Mom, I’m not in any one place long enough to establish any kind of relationship. My only ‘girl’ would be Titania.”

“Titania? That’s quite an exotic name. Where is she from? Hera?”

“Mom, Titania is my ship!” Stone threw the noodles in the strainer. “And she was built at the Palshif docks.” He finished seasoning the dish and served a plate to his mother. “Sorry, no sticks. You’ll have to use a fork”

Connie sighed “A mother always has hopes.” She picked up the fork and took a bite. “Mmmmmm.” She chewed and swallowed. “These are quite good, where did you ever learn to make noodles like this?”

Stone leaned over the counter and looked her in the eyes, “You.”

At that moment there was a knock on the door. Stone walked over and opened it to see Marjorie. “Hi Miss Barnett, come on in.”

Stone led Marjorie over to his mother. “Mom, this is Marjorie Barnett. She will be working with us over the next couple weeks.”

“Hello Marjorie,” Connie looked her over, “Stone, she’s quite pretty.”

“MOM!”

@alaric, on Dec 3 2006, 05:13 PM, said in Stone Ales - Trader:

“Hello Marjorie,” Connie looked her over, “Stone, she’s quite pretty.”

“MOM!”

Heh... I can so relate...

The best part about it is parents are usually persistent...

Nice so when's the next chapter comming out?

@hypochondriac, on Dec 9 2006, 08:25 PM, said in Stone Ales - Trader:

Nice so when's the next chapter comming out?

Thanks for reading so far. Due to the nature of the next chapter, I'm having to write a couple back stories so I keep the details right. I hope to have it finished by Christmas, but since this is totally done in my spare time, we'll have to see.

-Randall

Its too bad this story is here, and not in a place more people will see it.

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