The Pellegrine

Soul Lark

Book VI
Magi at Work

Chapter 4
Stranger in Uranus

© The author reserves all rights to this work.


This story is of an adult nature. It is not intended for minors nor for those whose law in their land forbids them to read this material.
This story is entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental and unintentional.

NB: Words found between asterisks (*) refer to words exchanged in psychic or telepathic communication.

Date: 12 February 2674, Thursday

One of the Greek Titans was called Uranus, I believe … or was that one of the Gods. Maybe it was one of the gods in Roman mythology. Anyway, ancient history was never my cup of tea. So here I am, standing on the entry point to the planet Uranus. The guard is checking my identification particulars right now.

The guard is pleasant looking, probably in his twenties, I’d say. He is quite slim with a nice chest, from what I can make out through his uniform. They did away with those tight fitting uniforms some years back when the Conservatives on Earth held the key vote in the global council. It was strange that when the Conservatives shrank in number, the Liberals did not push for a return to the good old days. I remember seeing those tight uniforms when I was growing up. It excited me to see tight uniforms, whether it was men or women. What a waste! A tight uniform would certainly help me to get a better picture of this fine specimen of the human male seated in front of me right now. Fortunately, my mind is still working perfectly and I can still imagine.

“Thank you Mr. Cole. You can pass through,” the guard spoke. Oh well, the check lasted so short. I glanced back at him as I walked towards the room he indicated. He was attending to the woman behind me.

Another guard pointed out the shuttle to me and I was asked to wait in the shuttle that would take me planet side. I took the last seat on the left because it was a single and it gave a chance to see everyone passing by. I looked out through the window and saw the planet to the left and a little below the shuttle’s window.

Uranus, the mining planet - that was after the scientists realised the dream of using silicates as a source of fuel. I wonder what it was like before, using fusion energy, or even earlier when there was solar energy and carbon based fuels. People are now so used to having ready energy that we don’t think at all about not having it. Our energy supply is so efficient such that we hardly have blackouts on Earth anymore. With a triple redundant backup system, or TREBS, the only time when there is a power failure is when some powerful and rich person wants to declare his or her territory independent from the Sol council. It happened a few times in my forty-two year life.

Once in 2649, one of the retired American generals wanted to reclaim American sovereignty over the United States. He failed when more than half of the residents in the territory rebelled against his decision. I was seventeen when it happened. I was one of his supporters. I admired his courage to be different. My family had lived in the States before my father and mother decided going their separate ways and I was stuck with my father on the planet Mars. The general was my idol until I discovered that he advocated reconditioning for homosexuals. That wasn’t my idea of a perfect world. My regard for the great general fell and crashed into a thousand pieces.

The second was in 2653 in Sijiang by a businesswoman who had decided that she had enough money to buy her own little kingdom. She was a tyrant and she died five years later penniless, spending all her money trying to run her piece of independence like a business. The other revolts did not last half as long.

The shuttle for the planet started and I saw that we were eight in the shuttle. I heard the attendant say that there was a huge group who wanted to go together and so the shuttle was instructed to move without anymore passengers. Sitting right in front was a newly wed couple. I recognised that glassy eyed look they had for each other. A mother and her young daughter sat a few seats ahead of me. They looked tired. They must have spent the day out. A lone woman sat on the right side. From the little briefcase she had, she must be going to Uranus on business. In front of her were two young men. They were laughing and joking. Its my guess that they’re a couple but my intuition has failed me before.

“Dear passengers, welcome on board the shuttle. We’ll arrive at Uranus main terminal in about three minutes. Please buckle yourselves in and place your arms on the armrests. Thank you.”

I buckled my seat belt and placed my arms where I was suppose to put them. Then I saw the shutters on the windows close. There was the usual vibration with shuttle travel. After about two minutes, I noticed my harness’ lights go on. The window shutters opened and I saw that I was no longer in space.

“Dear passengers, welcome to Uranus. In about thirty seconds, you will be allowed to disembark. Please leave the shuttle in an orderly manner. We hope you had a pleasant journey. Good bye.”

The two young men nodded to me and smiled at me.

“After you,” said the one with the dark brown hair.

“It’s okay,” I said.

“We’re the last and we’re not in a rush,” he said.

“Neither am I but thank you anyway,” I said as I stood up and moved out of my seat.

“Are you here on holiday?” he asked.

“You can say that,” I replied, hoping that he would not ask any more.

“We live here. We moved here three months ago,” he offered.

“I see.”

“Gentlemen, please,” asked the attendant. I was so glad that she called us. It gave me an excuse to move, and hopefully, away from the two men. I moved quickly out of the shuttle and onto the platform. I hurried towards the gate. Once out of the gate, I looked for the signs and made my way towards the main door of the terminal. I had not heard any of their voices. I thought I was rid of the two young men. I was wrong.

“Hey, wait up, won’t you? We’re just trying to be friendly,” said a familiar voice.

I turned around to see the blond haired one talking to his friend in hushed tones. He probably thought I could not hear him, but I managed to catch some of his words. “Leave the poor man alone. He’s probably trying to get some time alone. Earth is really crowded and he just wants a few days away from the hustle and bustle of a hectic life.”

“I’m not just one of the crowd,” his companion said, “Look at the way he is walking, it is evident that he’s new here. I think we should try to help him.”

If the blond haired one only knew. I was always alone. Earth was so impersonal. I came to Uranus because I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit this thing called life. On Earth, it was difficult to quit. The buildings had alarms if one breached the safety barriers. Medication was regulated by a sub dermal pump and overdosing is almost impossible. I could have cut my wrists, but I was afraid of the pain and it takes a while to die. I even thought of hanging myself, but the thought of choking myself scared me. I was strange that way, afraid to suffer and yet wanting to die. Perhaps that was reason why I wanted to go … Life was full of suffering.

I had decided to come to Uranus because it was almost at the periphery of the solar system. Earth was too organised. Uranus, on the other hand, was less controlled. I heard that there is a small resort that dealt contraband substances. It was there that I was hoping to get my hands on something called OCMA or “Oral Carbon Monoxide Alternative”. This was, of course, a controlled drug on earth. Once ingested into the body system, it does what carbon monoxide does to our blood. It is a painless way to go. The only medical use for it is euthanasia. It was developed three centuries ago before the partial cure for cancer was discovered. Now that almost all cancer can be treated, euthanasia is hardly ever administered.

“Mister! Wait up. We can give you a lift to wherever you want to go. We have a personal transport vehicle. One of the models that can carry six people at one go.”

I turned to face the brown haired guy. “Thanks, but I think I can manage with the public transport.”

He looked disappointed. I felt sorry for him. He was trying to be helpful and I rejected him … just as others have rejected me. Is this why it is called a vicious cycle? Does it end up with the rejected doing the rejecting?

“Jacques!” called the blond haired guy. “Stop being a busybody ninny. You’re interfering again!”

That was the trigger. When the people that hate me call me names, I can brush them aside. When friends call me names, they hurt me. I could never take that kind of hurt. I looked at Jacques. He was smiling but I saw the hurt in his eyes. I know he was interfering but his blond friend was just being mean. I smiled back and said, “I’m a little tired after all that travel. Perhaps you can help me out.”

The joy in Jacques’ eyes was precious and even more precious was the questioning look of his friend.

Jacques stretched out his hand, “Pleased to meet you. I’m sure you heard my friend call me Jacques. That’s me: Jacques Robinson.”

“I’m Max Cole. The pleasure’s mine.”

“My friend here is Heath Williams,” introduced Jacques as the blond guy came up to me and took the hand I offered.

“Pleased to meet you too,” I said.

“Likewise,” said Heath. It was then that I noticed he had dark blue eyes. If the two were lovers, Jacques must have been attracted to his eyes. If I were younger, I thought. I quickly forced myself back to reality. The two were probably in their early twenties. I was almost twice their age. It was not likely that any of them would fall for me. I was flabby and in middle age. Who would give me a second look?

“Come,” said Jacques, “our vehicle is this way.”

I followed them through a maze of corridors before reaching the vehicle parking area. I saw the familiar almost rectangular enclosures where the vehicles are parked. They were like huge metal cupboards, 3 metres tall and painted dark grey. Each had a yellow warning sign which said that the enclosures were not be used without vehicles. Every year, teenagers are found dead in these enclosures when a vehicle travels into them. Usually, the transport system will be alerted if there are people in the enclosures but when the teenagers pry open these enclosures, some of the detection systems are damaged. Teenagers often love a challenge and I wonder if the authorities have actually tried to find a way to prevent such accidents.

The vehicle token in Jacques’ hand flashed when we reached their vehicle. We entered and It was a little larger than most four-seaters I was familiar with. Heath took the driver’s seat whilst Jacques sat next to me.

“Where to Mr. Cole?” asked Heath.

“I was thinking of going to the newly opened resort near to the abandoned mines. I think it is called June resorts. I’d wanted to make reservations but my leave was a last minute decision.”

“Juno resort?” asked Jacques.

“Yes! That’s it. Juno resort. You look perturbed Jacques. Is there anything wrong?” I said when I noticed Jacques frowning.

“It’s just that you’ve just missed checking in time. You’ve to check in between eleven and one, especially if you don’t have a reservation. You’ll have to wait for room availability and pay a 50% service charge for the first day if you get in late,” Jacques explained.

“I didn’t see that in the brochure?” I said, feeling agitated. There went my plan to off myself that night. I didn’t think of bringing too much money since I was going to only stay one night. I did not have enough money for the service charge and acquire the pills. I was so sure that I had brought my credit chip. It was only upon boarding that I realised that I had left my credit chip at home.

“They implemented the system just a week ago to adjust to the high volume of guests. Many people doubted that the resort would survive but it seems that they’ll be up one star by the end of the year. They’ll have earned enough money to get better facilities,” said Jacques.

“How do you know so much of the resort?” I asked.

Heath stifled a laugh. “We’ve just entered the employ of Titan Tours here. We’re both brushing up on our practical knowledge of Uranus’ resorts. We’ll be taking our licence exams in five days time. I bet you didn’t realise that we were working for a tour company.”

I looked puzzled for a while and then burst out asking, “Is that why you didn’t want Jacques to be helping me? You were afraid that I might think you were touting for customers?”

“Yes,” Heath admitted. “Jacques has a naturally helpful demeanour but it could be misconstrued. I didn’t want to be unemployed just before we actually started work.”

“Thank God, you didn’t just jump up and ask us how much when Heath revealed our jobs,” said Jacques, giving a scowl to his friend.

“Well, I’d other things on my mind … like what’re we going to do now?” I asked.

“Well, the decision is yours. I could recommend a night at one of the hotels nearer the resort and then you could call from the hotel to make a reservation or to see if there are rooms available at the resort,” Heath offered.

“Now, you sound like a tour agent,” said Jacques. Turning to me, Jacques continued, “A better way would be to come back with us. We have more enough room for a guest. Then we’ll bring him to Juno tomorrow.”

This was working out very well. I was still able to get to Juno the next day and then try to look out for the woman I was told to look out for. She is one of the workers at the resort. I could now carry out my plan, even if it meant a delay of one day. If only all my plans had worked out this way, I would not be even considering this.

“I don’t want to be a bother,” I said. I had to give a semblance of reluctance even though I was very agreeable.

“You aren’t a bother, Max,” said Jacques. “Tell him, Heath.”

“Max, we welcome you to our humble home. I just hope you aren’t going to be disappointed with the less than one star accommodations,” grinned Heath.

“You’re ashamed of our place, aren’t you, Heath?” asked Jacques.

“Well, Max’s here on holiday and was going to a fancy resort. What’s our place compared to Juno. Furthermore, he’s going to be spending the night with two strangers …”

“Well, it’d be like free B and B,” I offered.

“There, you see Heath, he understands,” said Jacques, giving the last word.

Heath just grinned and got us to our destination within a minute.

“I’m sorry because I couldn’t find a parking space nearer. It’ll be a ten minute walk to our place.”

“Here,” said Jacques, handing me a breathing mask. You’ll need it to breathe outside. We live within a non-breathing dome.”

I stepped outside and saw what he meant. There was a dome but there were no plants anywhere. It was understandable because the sunlight was more like the moonlight on the earth. It was quite bare. Buildings were at the most four storeys high and the lack of plants made the place look really drab.

The two were silent during the walk. I found the silence very uncomfortable. We walked out from the parking area and up a single path. There were only buildings on the right of the path. The left side was empty land. I could not see past the buildings on the right and so did not know if there were buildings on the other side. As I walked past the first unit of the first building, I noticed that it was made of bricks. The first building seemed to have about seven units on the ground level. As I approached the end of the building, I deliberately looked into the well lit alley between it and the next building. I was rewarded with the sight of smaller lights in the distance, meaning that behind the building was a built up area.

The guys’ home was the sixth unit of the second building. The entrance employed the same identification system as what we had on Earth. Once in, Jacques removed his mask and said, “Give me your mask. We’ll have to recharge it.”

I gave him my mask. Heath also passed his to him. “We’ll need to use the lift. We’re on the third level.”

Their little apartment was very cosy. It was very evident to me now that they were a couple. No, they did not have His and His mugs on the kitchen counter nor did they have special matching towels on the rack. It was the feel of the apartment. When one enters the apartment of two bachelors, the impression of two individuals immediately comes to mind. They may have the same interests but there will be a sense of two different people living there. Their belongings will reflect their individualities. Even if one of them is the main decorator (and I use that term loosely), the homogeneity of the place will be in stark contrast to the personality of the other. If I go into a home of a couple and sense that kind of situation, I know that the relationship is doomed. Either they would break up or one party will suffer in silence. The guys’ apartment was different. There was a sense of two people and yet an attempt at harmony could be felt. From the behaviours of Jacques and Heath, I could tell that Heath was more introspective: the strong and silent type; Jacques was more extroverted: the fun loving type. One could see signs of a merging of the two in their furniture and the few decorative items they had. For example, the love seat they had. One could call it a couch, but I know that both would sit on it in each other’s arms. The love seat was in a light brown colour with chromed arm rests. The light brown colour was probably the choice of Jacques and the solid arm rests was the contribution made by Heath to the choice of the love seat.

“Here we are,” said Jacques. “I hope you won’t find our home too spartan.”

“I hope I’m not imposing,” I replied.

“Of course not!” said Heath. “Make yourself at home. Would you like a drink?”

“Thanks. Do you have cola?” I asked.

“Cola it is. Take a seat and I’ll get you one,” said Heath. Jacques had meanwhile disappeared into the back of the apartment with the masks.

I looked at the living room and decided to take the seat opposite the love seat. If these two were a couple, they would seat on it together naturally. If they were trying to hide the fact that they were a couple, they would avoid sitting together.

Heath came in with my drink and placed it on the short table in front of me.

“I hope you have no preferences for cola,” he said, “Earth’s brands have not set up shop here. All I have is the local Uranus cola.”

“No problem,” I muttered.

Heath sat on the love seat. He leaned back and started to ask me about the things happening on Earth at the moment. I made small talk with him, but all I could see was this very pleasant looking young man in front of me. He was charming and friendly. His hair flopped about his face. I never did like that kind of hair, it made a man look effeminate to a certain degree. Heath’s face suited the hair style and he was very masculine. His blond five o’clock shadow made him look more rugged and much more masculine. I found my heart fluttering a little. He started to joke and I fed him some suggestive lines.

When Jacques came in, he also took the love seat. Heath immediately sat upright and looked a little uncomfortable.

“What was all that giggling and laughter about?” Jacques asked innocently.

Heath gave an answer but I was not listening. It struck me that I was actually flirting with Heath! Woe to me! I’m breaking up a couple! Jacques was so kind to me and here I was, a middle aged man flirting with his lover. Woe to me!

“Is there anything wrong?” asked Heath.

“Yes, Max, you look a little pale,” said Jacques.

I was shaken out of my momentary bout with my conscience. “Oh … I guess I’m a little tired after the trip.”

“Why don’t you take a rest in your room. Come, I’ll take you there now,” said Jacques, patting my shoulder.

“All right, I little snooze may do me some good,” I replied.

“I’ll get you up for dinner,” said Heath.

“Yeah, he’s cooking tonight. Be brutally frank because then we might be able to eat out,” said Jacques with a straight face.

“Don’t listen to him!” groaned Heath.

I just chuckled, “I’ll be honest.”

We passed by four rooms. I was surprised. I thought they stayed in a two bedroom apartment.

“This is my study and that is Heath’s. Behind my study on your right there is my bedroom and the room on the left is Heath’s bedroom. Your room is the last room on the left. There’s a bathroom attached to your room.”

My look of wonder must have betrayed my thoughts because Jacques continued, “This is actually a three bedroom apartment. With the approval of the city council, we were able to convert the big master bedroom into two guest rooms and make two small studies out of part of the living room.”

“But your living room didn’t seem that small?” I remarked.

“Well, we converted part of the dining area into the living room. Since there’s just the two of us, we didn’t think we’d need all the space. Anyway, we have a special dining table folded up behind the kitchen just in case our parents come over and if we move the living room furniture just a little, we can squeeze in a eight person dining table.” I turned around to try to picture the dining table but Jacques said, “Get your rest now. You can see how the original house looked after your rest. The rooms aren’t going to change during your rest.”

After Jacques left my room, it struck me that Jacques and Heath weren’t staying in the same room. I was surprised. I was quite certain that they were a couple. Perhaps Jacques just said it for my benefit. After all, they would be careful about revealing themselves to a stranger.

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