Saturday, July 5, 2014


The Traveler walks into camp—geodesic waystation carving out a lifefriendly exception in the universal cold of Earth, the Final Shithole. A stranger and afraid in a world he never made. It might as well be tattooed on his forehead. In fact, it is. He’s expected. By the losers, jobbers and workrelease indents stationed here.
Two days ago, his capsule hit, making a noticeable puff of snow and debris on the horizonline. Two days walk, they figured. Assuming that the gear inside the capsule put the Traveler back together and he started walking once it did.  
Fun fact. FTL travel isn’t the happy dream of the old sci-fi movies and TV shows. It’s expensive, dangerous shit—essentially, putting the victim, sorry, Traveler, in an induced coma in a high-tech bullet and firing him through underspace. 50% survival rate, 25% psychosis among the survivors. Evidently, Mr. Stranger-in-a-Strange-Land survived and didn't go nuts.
They give him a hero’s welcome. He isn’t carrying much—what looks like an axe.
“How you doing?” says the Camp Boss. 
“My heart is not cheerful,” he says.
“You’ll need help,” says the Camp Boss. He walks behind the bar and turns a tap. Miller Low Life doesn’t spill out. Instead, a gelatinous squirt of protoplasmic potential. Which rapidly congeals into the irritating form of the Universal Junior Sidekick. Let’s call him the Kid.
“Hi!” says the Kid, making a brisk salute. “Can I be your sidekick?”
The Traveler shrugs.
The Holographic Waitress asks him what he’ll have.
“Fried Eggs, over easy.”
In microseconds, the steaming plate appears.
The Traveler tries to eat the steaming mess in peace. But the Camp Boss sidles up, waddling like a toy walrus, then sits down on the stool right next to him. Smiling.
The Camp Boss gestures in the air. A map appears. Not stuff, this time. Just light. The Traveler’s stake. His land and his alone. A good chunk of what used to be the eastern seaboard of the USA.
“We’re here,” says the Camp Boss, pointing a stubby finger at the camp, helpfully labelled "You Are Here"a red dot in what used to be Arkansas. “Over here? That’s yours." The moving finger writes again. Ouija-like, his greasy digit points at what used to be New Jersey, slides down to Georgia. To make it all nice and crystal clear, the territory thus indicated glows. "All that? That's your territory. You want to get there?" The moving finger slides back to You Are Here, then moves again. “You gotta cross the big river. Mississippi—used to be a river, right? One of the fracture points. Get over that, it’s all downhill. You got three days to get there, claim your stake.”
The Traveler shrugs.
“What? You’re unhappy with this? It doesn’t meet your needs?”
“It meets my needs.”
“You don’t seem happy.”
The Traveler shrugs.
“Well,” says the Kid. “Let’s get going!”
The Traveler slaps him. The Kid flies across the dome, hits the wall, melts down to the floor in a puddle, then stands up and smiles.
It’s going to be a long night.

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