The Intergalactic Vending Machine Franchise
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by Peter Glassborow
Category: Science Fiction
Description: In the year 2221 Jack Rakai's family work in space. Jack, his wife, three children and sundry alien pets have a franchise to service the massive vending machines that are found in every refueling station and space port in the Galaxy. They restock the thousands of items that the hundreds of alien space travelers may need. Jack is directed to go to a mining planet where there is a sit-in because the spaceport's vending machine there has run out of something the miners enjoy. Once there Jack finds the sit in deteriorates into a full blown terrorist take over of the space port by humans and aliens. Desperate to keep his family alive Jack becomes involved in negotiations between terrorists and various officials, all of which have their own agenda. And the survival of Jack and his family seems low on those agenda. After a rescue attempt turns into a blood soaked disaster Jack has to turn to a needle gun to kill and keep his family alive.
eBook Publisher: Solstice Publishing/Solstice Publishing,
eBookwise Release Date: November 2010
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [262 KB]
Reading time: 168-235 min.
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The voice that came over the radio was from a translator. It had that odd electronically generated grate that only a translator can produce. "Inter-Galactic Vending Machine Company, ship number Nine-Zero-Zero-Seven, go to port seventeen."
"Dad, that's us," Will shouted while nudging me in the ribs. He is still excitable around refueling stations. I don't know why, maybe it's because they are invariably in deep space and have no planet to compare them to, just star fields. Now spaceports obviously all have a planet nearby otherwise they would not be there, and so there's something else to see and judge them by. Refueling stations on the other hand are sitting with perhaps just a few stars as a backdrop and always look more imposing. Of course it could be that they are almost the biggest artificial things you will see in space. There are only a few of the spaceports that are bigger, and for humans the Earth-One spaceport will be the most familiar of those. Anyway, Will finds refueling stations more exciting.
"Okay Will," I say dramatically, "I'm taking her in." As Will is the youngest I always let him sit up front in the bridge with me. The rest of the family sits in the bridge and watches as well, it's just that I let William sit in the co-pilots seat and the rest sit behind us. The regulations say there should always be someone in the co-pilot's seat for all docking and undocking, but it does not say it has to be a qualified co-pilot. It's one of those little anomalies about the regulations that we all learn about here in space, and ruthlessly exploit.
Now Pam, my wife, insists I have to explain everything as I write it down because most of you readers will never have left Earth and so a lot of what I write about will be foreign to you. Of course there are a few of the more knowledgeable who will probably find me telling you the obvious is being extremely tedious, but I have been told I have to cater for the majority. Anyway I doubt that those of the really knowledgeable of you will be reading the 'My Job' section of The Modern Earth Woman's Weekly.
My wife will no doubt want to alter that last paragraph as she will consider it potentially insulting to some of you. Particularly as most of the magazine's readers are females. If it was 'Galactic Men Only' the paragraph would go unaltered.
She is constantly reminding me that it was she who got the contract for me to write this journal for the 'My Job' section. She wanted to initially write it but the magazine was most insistent I be the author, as it is my name as the franchise holder. So it's me that has got to write it. They initially wanted a female franchisee, but none of those wanted to know, so I got the magazine's contract. Of course this is extremely frustrating for my wife as she is the one who wants to be the writer, not me. Not that I write the journal, I mean who actually uses their hands for that? I just talk into a mike and the computer turns it all into print.
"Well it's writing I suppose, Jack," she sniffed to show her disdain of computerized writing. "But at least it is writing. Though it's hardly what I call serious writing," Of course that's what she said after reading the fine print that showed that I had to write the journal, before that she was quite keen.
I initially said I would not do it. Then I looked at our bills and figured what percentage of them I could dispose of with the magazine's payments. So I said I would do it, but unaided by her. My wife looked at me with one of those looks that all men know. So I asked the magazine to agree that I would keep a journal of my thoughts and events and that she would edit this, rounding off the rough edges off my grammar before sending it in. I just know she's going to use that as an excuse to get rid of anything she does not like. Including that last line.
William sat alongside me with his hands resting lightly on the duplicate co-pilot's controls and flashing the occasional pleading look at me. He was just itching to hear me say, "Take her in, Will." But I didn't. Apart from being illegal and guaranteed to be caught on at least ten of the docking cameras to be used at my later trial, maneuvering a 127,000 tonne freighter into the port of a refueling station is no easy thing, even with all the automated controls.
For a start the port is only half a kilometer in diameter, which you must agree is a pretty tight squeeze. Then there's other craft coming and going not to mention the odd mistake by the control tower. It would not be the first time a control tower has accidentally directed a ship into a port to have it meet a ship leaving the same, or vice versa. I'm sure you've all seen the videos on "The Known Universe's Worst Space Accidents" and can readily see why it is not a job I would trust to a seven year old boy.
The thing I really hate about docking and undocking is the artificial gravity. Now I know there's plenty of you that have experience with space travel now, what with so many cheap holiday packages to the Rings-of-Saturn hotels and the Dark-Side-of-the-Moon theme park, but it is still not understood by many people that when we dock or undock in space there is a tricky second or two when the space craft's artificial gravity is still on or off the station's artificial gravity kicks in. For a fraction of a second, no matter how good a pilot you are or how automated your system, your body oscillates between weighing twice as much and being weightless. The first time for most humans the sensation is nothing because there is so much that's new happening to distract the mind. Even after a few times the experienced travelers get used to it and think little of it. I haven't got used to it and I hate it. I always have the feeling that my stomach contents are coming up through my throat and I am going to be violently sick. It is not a good time to be gently easing your craft in or out of the host.
When we finally reached locking-point and the magnetic clamps gripped the hull I breathed a sigh of relief and cut the engines. "Is this it?" comes from behind me. I look round at Pam, my wife, where she sits between my other son, Harley aged twelve, and my fifteen year old daughter, Carly. It is a 'complaint day' today. From the moment Pam opens her eyes until the time she shuts them everything she says, in one way or the other, will be a complaint.
"Yes, this is it," I answer as cheerfully as I can hoping to nudge her out of her mood. She sniffs pointedly and says nothing more. "Right," I continue, "Well everyone knows what to do. I'm off to the manager's office."
Being the franchisee I have to personally visit the area manager's office and sign an untold amount of paperwork plus review my financial situation. It is a pain to have to do it each time, what with all the loading to do as well, but it is a rule of the franchise.
When I signed the franchise agreement with the Inter-Galactic Vending Machine Company the agent made it quite clear that I would have to follow the agreement scrupulously or I could have it voided by the company. Now I know that the Inter-Galactic Vending Machine Company, or IGVMC as we usually call it, or the Company as we also call it, did not get where it is today by letting it's franchisees run willy-nilly through agreements. So I for my part have always attempted to be scrupulous in following the rules. I go to the area manager's office every time I visit a refueling station just like I am supposed to.
I had a few minutes wait before I could disembark while the monitors of the Customs, Immigration and Bio-Check ran through our ships log. Now those of you who have done the tourist thing into space probably do not know how careful these C, I and B-C checks are. One thing the Conglomerate can all agree on is that no one wants illegal things getting to planets where they do not belong.
The ship's log is stored in a section of the ship's computer that we have no access to. However the C, I and B-C can hook straight into the computer as soon as we dock and scan it to see if there is anything we are carrying that is illegal. This may only be a refueling station but if they can stop something here then it has less chance of getting to a planet. This is why you who have done the longer journeys will have found that your space-liner made several stops at the refueling stations on your journey. It is not just to stop and pick up fuel, food and allow passengers to transfer, it is a filter to stop something going where it should not. Whether that something is a virus, criminal or smuggling, the C, I and B-C monitors will probably detect it if you have it on board. If they don't then the scanners will get it when you disembark.
So you can see the refueling stations may have started off as just that when space exploration got started but they have now become a lot more. We have just stuck with the original name. Once the all clear had been given by the monitors I started to leave. "Wait for us, wait for us," came my wife's irritated voice behind me.