The Waltzing Mathilde Archives
August 10, 2007
Jim: Olly Olly Oxen Free
Jack Carr stepped out from his tenement in Singapore’s lower levels and squinted upward, admiring the few tiny patches of ruddy blue sky peeking through the press of the Lion City’s towering buildings.
Then he saw the splash of new graffiti sprayed over the old on the building across the street. It said, in plain English, They know you’re around here somewhere!
“Bless you, Haunh Xia,” he muttered. They’d chased him from city to city. How did they keep finding him?
The asteroids were the only safe place left to hide. Without looking back, Jack strode briskly toward the spaceport.
August 13, 2007
Jim: To The Belt
The flashing sign declared the next passenger ship to Ceres City would not leave for six weeks. Jack knew they’d find him long before then.
“There’s another way into the asteroids,” murmured a tall man at Jack’s shoulder.
Jack’s reply was curt. “Tell me.”
“They’re pressing a gang of rock hounds at pad sixteen,” the stranger answered before striding briskly away.
As he strapped into the cargo hold of the work transport, Jack knew it had been too damned convenient. But he’d had little choice. And after some hard gees, he’d be on his way to Asteroid 359.
August 14, 2007
Jim: At The Pallas Palace Bar & Grill
Bradley turned away from the bar and up into a pair of angry eyes framed by a broad, craggy face. “What do you mean by ‘people like me’?”
The man cracked thick knuckles “We mean freaks,” he growled. Several other thugs gathered around.
“I’m no mutant,” Bradley spat out the word. “Why would you think I was?”
“It’s the smell,” the man replied, stepping closer. “All freaks have that same stink.”
Bradley felt the hatred filling the mob. Reflexively, thousands of his tiny pores jetted a fine haze of ebony ink. He ducked under the cloud and out the door.
August 15, 2007
Jim: Love On The Rocks
“You can’t do this to me! I’m a Belt citizen.”
“Shut up, you! Here’s another one, Sarge.”
“What charge, Trooper?”
“Unlicensed brothel inside Sappho.”
“Hey! You can’t talk that way about my nieces! They’re all nice girls.”
“I said to shut up! Here’s my report.”
“Hmmm. Looks like there’s a lot of racial diversity in your family.”
“My uncles got around.”
“That wasn’t a question. But here’s one. How do you explain the sex androids?”
“Er… Personal use?”
“And the ones programmed for mutant physiques?”
“I want to talk to a lawyer.”
“I figured you would. Lock him up, Trooper.”
August 23, 2007
Jim: The Cholesteroid
“You must diet and exercise, Monsieur D’Aubigne,” his doctors had said. “If you get too large then your heart will give out.”
Gérard D’Aubigne did not care for this advice. His one love was food; and his vast inheritance permitted him to enjoy only the best culinary experiences. But he knew time was running out.
A special mesh-lined bed on the Belt Liner absorbed most of the gravitational and acceleration forces. His final destination was the hollow, zero-G core of (157) Dejanira.
Supply ships arrive monthly and there, in a rock of his own design, Gérard D’Aubigne eats.
August 24, 2007
Jim: There’s No Place Like Someone Else’s Home
By virtue of being both educated and intelligent, Jack Carr was promoted from Rock Hound to Mineral Surveyor and assigned to a two-man scouting ship.
During his first week, he was sent to survey (3124) Kansas. Just another hunk of rock, he thought. The chunk he drilled for assaying emitted an odd, purplish spray. Not liquid, he decided, but very small, globular creatures, now dead in the vacuum of space.
Jack didn’t want to be known as the man who discovered extra-terrestrial life. After all, he was in hiding.
“Nothing here,” he radioed and jetted away to intercept the ship.
August 27, 2007
Jim: From A Pale Ship
The pilot of Jack’s mining scout ship was a dark-eyed, narrow faced man appropriately nicknamed Weasel. “Know anything about vector calculus?” Weasel asked during their first shift.
“Not really,” Jack replied. “Why?”
“Watch this.” Weasel carefully pushed a twenty-meter asteroid with the nose of the ship. The rock’s trajectory shifted slightly.
“About a hundred years from now, astronomers will notice three hundred or so of these rocks are on a collision course with Earth. There’ll be too many to stop them all.”
“Think of it as weaning ourselves from Earth’s malevolent teat. Mankind’s future is out here.”
August 28, 2007
In Pallas’ outermost shell, barely shielded from cosmic radiation, lived the bulk of the Belt’s mutant class. There, in a café that was really more of a cave, Bradley told his fellow ‘freaks’ about his adventure down below.
“…She said that there’s an asteroid bar,” Bradley continued. “Called the Walking Mathilda or something, that welcomes anybody. Even people like us!”
“Who’s ‘She’?” asked Gilliam from inside his carapace.
“Some sapiens named Sara. She claimed she lives there. And they even serve real booze!”
“She lives in a bar?” Patrick scoffed, clicking his beak.
Bradley pouted. “Well, that’s what she said.”
August 29, 2007
JIm: A Whole Lot Of Nothing
Popular vids depicted the asteroid belt as a swirling mass of rocks that ships must swerve and veer through to avoid collisions. The fact is, Jack thought while Weasel piloted the scout ship to their next survey target, there’s hardly anything out here. If it weren’t for sensors, ships passing from Mars to the Jovian moons wouldn’t even know the Belt was there.
Weasel glanced at him. “Whatcha thinking about?”
“Emptiness,” Jack chuckled.
Weasel grunted. “Yeah, well, if we don’t get some ore in the cargo hold soon, the boss will think we spent the week in the Sappho brothels.”
October 1, 2007
Jim: A Dream Of Vengeance
On his bunk within the cavernous rock-hound dormitory carved deep within Asteroid Georgia, Jack Carr burrowed under his blanket to seal away the smells of unwashed men snoring all around him.
Drifting to sleep, Jack suddenly sensed an enormous claw reaching toward the asteroid. He gripped his bunk while the claw dug through reinforced walls and ripped the dormitory apart, exposing the unprotected men to the awful cold vacuum of space.
Jack was not the only man who woke up screaming. But he might have been the only one to see a tiny, purple globe float off into the darkness.
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