Starship Coda

Free Starship Coda by Eric Brown

Book: Starship Coda by Eric Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Eric Brown
 
     
    Ten years have passed since the events at Tamara Falls and our involvement with the Skeath. We kept a low profile in the aftermath—the last thing we wanted was for our quiet way of life to be interrupted by sensation-seeking tourists and scabrous media-hounds—but perhaps inevitably word leaked out that my friends and I had played a part in the opening of the giant pit on the site of the Falls, and the subsequent, if brief, appearance of another golden column in the vicinity.
    For a few months Magenta Bay was inundated by the curious from across the Expansion. The Mantis was the locus of their attention, and our watering hole the Fighting Jackeral was rendered out-of-bounds as hordes of tourists flocked to the bar. Reporters and film-makers were a more serious problem. They wanted our personal stories and would stop at nothing to get them. After a month of continual pressure from the agencies, we held a council of war and Matt Sommers called for drastic action. A few weeks later he purchased the remaining section of the headland he didn’t already own, and then fenced it off. The following day Hawk arrived at the Mantis with an engineer, severed all the service leads, and—to the amazement of the gathered crowd—piloted the ship across the bay and settled it at the very tip of the peninsula a hundred metres from Matt and Maddie’s low-slung dome. That night we celebrated with a meal on the veranda of the dome.
    As the months turned to years, interest in us and our story began to wane and our lives returned to normal. The idea had been, originally, that I should move the Mantis back to its original position across the bay—but Hannah and I rather liked its new location on the headland, looking out over the straits, and Matt and Maddie had no objections to our closer proximity. So we stayed.
    Hannah had one year to work before she retired from her post as the Deputy Commissioner for the Mackinley Police Department, and I spent my time looking after the Mantis , reading, taking long walks and dropping in on my friends from time to time. Our daughter Ella was in her final year at school, had a great group of friends, and hardly spent any time at home.
    Matt was putting the finishing touches to a series of emotion mobiles he’d been working on for the past two years, and Maddie was selling more and more of her distinctive pottery. Hawk spent his days repairing old starships while Kee extended her alien garden into the vacant lot behind his scrapyard. We met every Saturday for a drink and a meal at the Fighting Jackeral, and life was about as peaceful as it could be.
    Then I received a holo-cube from my ex-wife, Sally.
     
    * * *
     
    It was a brilliant summer afternoon and we were finishing lunch on the veranda of the Fighting Jackeral. Hawk and Kee had just returned from ferrying a business party through the golden column to Mars, and Matt was winding down after completing the last of his mobiles.
    “They’re quite unlike anything he’s done before,” Maddie was telling me and Hannah while Matt was at the bar.
    “Ah,” Hannah said. “So that’s the reason for all the secrecy?” For the past two years he’d hardly spoken about his ‘work in progress’.
    “For a long time he didn’t know if they were going to work or not, so he didn’t want to publicise what he was working on.”
    “But he’s happy with how they’ve turned out?” I asked.
    “I am,” Matt said, returning with a laden tray.
    We helped ourselves to beers. “They’ve exceeded my expectations,” Matt went on. “That said, they might disappoint some people.”
    “How’s that?” Hawk asked.
    Matt shrugged. “They’re…very light. Almost inconsequential. More…I’d call them entertainments. The way I looked at it,” he said, smiling, “was that after the last cycles of crystals, which frankly drained me, I wanted to have fun and do something less introspective—and damn the critics.”
    I raised my glass. “I’ll drink

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