ASTON DERVISH, SPACE DETECTIVE
CHAPTER TWO: MoonPort New Portugal
The MoonPort was a mirror held up to the surface of Earth. A city as full of vibrant, swarming humanity as any other back on the face of the mother planet. Lit warmly by orange lamps spaced six feet apart across the ceiling of every main lounge, the Port made a good stab at cosy, but fell somewhat short, as the walls were made almost entirely of Plexiglas. The sheer immediacy of the void beyond encroached on the minds of new arrivals, even amidst the illusion of permanence within the sealed walls. It was hard to shake the thought of being sucked out, like a ruined doll, into the inky; even as you spoke to a colleague, breaking eye contact and glancing out over their shoulder into the glittering infinity of space. The fear fades, given time. The novelty wears off, and there had never been an accident. The lounge area was swarming, and Dervish had to weave slowly through the throng to reach the correct exits. Arrivals and departures information was conveyed via the intercoms overhead.
Humanties mastery of gravity was the principle reason why space travel had become eminently feasible in recent years. With the obvious aid of hindsight, the scientific community had hailed the discovery of "anti-grav" technology as the zenith of Man's intellect over nature, and mastering of the grand elements; though no-one truly knew the number of unfortunates that had been lost to the testing of the laboratory-enclosed fields over the decades. Science had 'matured' somewhat since the murky days of testing with animals for research; it was human criminals who now paid their debt to society on the slabs, and under the wrong end of vibrating needles, of Earth's whitecoats. Anti-grav had made space accessible to the masses. It was so simple, the scientists liked to mumble, so simple after all. Dervish wondered at the benefits again, shaking his head as he walked. The gloved hands of crime had just been liberated from the grip of a single planet, and given a new and more expansive habitat among the stars.
A huge female voice, like the sound of a goddess imparting holy law, vibrated about the bodies and shuffling of the Port. Departing ships. Last call. Dervish dodged as a teetering trolley of baggage and children came crashing down against a group of business men, swooping between bodies like they were all in slow motion, his long tan coat whipping out behind him as he went. Stepping neatly sideways as he saw an opening in the crowd, Dervish slipped down a slim exit tube, and made his way into the outer ring of dimly lit tunnels.
The ambient noise level subsided pleasingly as he put doors between his back and the busy arrivals area. The air was cooler here, though it still felt heavy in the lungs with the metallic taste of mechanically recycled breath, so recognisable as belonging to off-world environments. The Port hummed softly around him. Further messages assailed him from info-spots that bejewelled the sides of the tunnel, but they were quieter and infinitely more tolerable than those of the lounges, which assailed the senses, dumbing you into clutter-free obedience. Eventually, Dervish circumnavigated the main flow of human traffic coming in and out of the departure and arrival areas and led himself around to the edge of the complex city. He was to meet his colleagues in the bar at The Sapphire Hotel, a traditional rendezvous for his people. He raised his index finger in greeting to the stout Chinese doorman who stood outside the huge shimmering glass doors of the Sapphire, and stepped inside. Dervish adjusted his luggage about his shoulders and cleared his throat. He walked down the long corridor to the left of the reception and, just as he rounded the corner, a smile forced its way onto his face, as he heard the familiar voice of his old agent partner, Taylor, holding court.
"Humanity will weave its way about the stars, stumbling upon serene planets in great battleships and take whatever can be taken. It seems self-evident that the established pattern would continue. We will almost certainly not learn from our mistakes, for our mistakes are what led us to what we have today - and we believe that what we have is good - our values will most likely remain the same. As a species it's in our very nature to exploit the weak. A society is only strong whilst it is growing, the grand sweep of history teaches us this, and so we've grown beyond our petty nations into a united people, beyond our backyard of a solar system and out into the inky depths of the void. We will find some placid races, on strangely farmed worlds, and enslave them, run them to ruin, or eradicate them accidentally with our immune system-proof diseases; or else with our mighty weapons if they resist or try to wrench free of our influence. We will burn their cities from on high, and subdue them with our superior science. Rape them of their individuality, bring them into the fold as slaves in order to quench our insatiable thirst for new riches. Demoralise and debase, round up and enslave for our own ends - then move on, to the next planet the next system. Infecting like the very viruses our ancestors strived to eradicate for the good of Man on Earth. And what good will we be then? Masters of empty bloody fields, lords of decay and destruction. Where will it end? I'll tell you. When we meet our match, some far advanced civilisation coming the other way - on a similar path of gain-fuelled annihilation, what then?"
He shuffled forward, and raised an index finger.
"The question is, will we be flicked aside like those we have rubbed-out behind us? Most likely, for it would be arrogance to assume otherwise. We are but a shivering cell in a grand thorax of jumbled existence. An upstart cog in a superlative machine. We should recognise our place, as considered custodians of a certain museum of artefacts, and no more. Perhaps in time we will mature to greatness, but this does not come at the end of a blade; the blast of an explosive weapon or in the screams of the burning. It comes with knowledge tinged with regret; hindsight riddled with established error - and we should have enough store of this all ready, to last us several millennia of well-mannered exploration."
Taylor was leaning back in his couch, gesticulating widely with his arms as he explained his theory. The two agents opposite him, dressed in their uniform-like dark suits, seemed to be sitting in a stunned silence, almost pinned to their seats by the enthusiasm of his narrative. Scaring the rookies as usual. Dervish allowed himself a measured chuckle before walking to meet his colleagues.
All content © www.tinyhorsey.co.uk