WELCOME TO PORT CASPER, THE HUB OF CLADESPACE!
Large cities tend to spill outside their borders, and Port Casper, complete with its busy spaceport, was no exception. In thirty kilometers Grace observed the highway widen from two lanes to four, to six. Settlements and businesses began lining the highway as she passed Slater and Chugwater.
- BLOG -
Grace’s heart raced as she looked at the pulse gun. The metarm dove under the skin of her right forearm, presumably anchored to her bones. Another gleaming piece of metal encircled her wrist and provided a pivot for aiming.
Grace floated in darkness. Phantasms of wispy blues and greens moved beyond her reach. If she concentrated hard enough, she saw shapes. She watched a green frog, but it rippled and she realized she was looking at a clam through green water.
Hours later, Grace arrived at the main highway outside Cloister Eleven. She wore a bandage around her head with a widening spot of blood on her left temple. She limped, favoring her knee, lugging her duffel as she crossed to the east side of the road. A sign pointed the way to destinations north.
Grace had walked this road before. The twisted, leafless trees stabbed the dark clouds above with their pale, naked limbs. A gale shrieked agony from the sky.
Maud walked out onto the ITB sky bridge. It was a cool, calm Wyoming night. She reached into her safecase and activated a loafer. It had no mission, so its navigation and propulsion kept it stationary in mid-air. Maud checked its systems, then downloaded an assignment from her ptenda into the L-4R661. A moment later, the loafer sailed off into the haze of city lights.
Raj stopped in the alley and leaned against a wall. He let out several heavy, wheezing hacks and gulped air into his lungs. The fire in his chest burned and every breath afterwards stung a thousand pinpricks in his throat: a present from the sooty duct they had used to enter the last building. Their mimic clothes had kept them clean. Raj wished he could say the same for his lungs.
All too soon, they were at the spaceport entrance. Less than an hour ago, Grace had been waking up, pinching the skin of her arm like her graft had been a dream. Now she was going to Mars. Was she still dreaming?
Grace watched her father’s image vanish and the screen go red. It began to stream with white multilingual phrases and access codes. A blind bang.
Grace followed the signs for transports. She knew that somewhere nearby, six-seat autonomous transports arrived, scanned her destination broadcast, and allowed her to board if the route didn’t cause the arrival times of other passengers to deviate too much. A couple of dozen commuters from the Frawley piled out of other lifts and joined her. She wondered if any might work at ITB. She followed the crowd.
Bod Town. A roach that attached itself to a shining princess. The mechflesh junkies of Bod Town had a culture of competition. Upgrades were envied, copied, surpassed. Literally empowered by their lust for tech, the junkies worked for whatever contract would give them the means for more modification.