Sunday, 16 February 2014



Universal Media Syndicate


TITAN – This moon orbits Saturn every 15 days and 22 hours. The proverbial morning after dawns hard and fast. Nick LeBlanc surveys the disorder in the now quiet mess hall. “Alicia (E.S. Champlain Commander Yuan) runs a tight ship,” he says dryly. Seven members of her crew are sleeping it off in LeBlanc’s brig.


LeBlanc is the head of security on Titan. He’s been proprietor Jimmy Singh’s major domo since their time together in New Mumbai. “I’m the fixer,” he says, “although today I feel more like a custodian. Look at this place, just look at it.” A cockroach works its way up the leg of an upturned bench. LeBlanc crushes it with the flat of his hand and then wipes the goo on the thigh of his trousers.


There are three weapons on Titan. LeBlanc possesses them all. Coincidently they are all modified pieces of sporting equipment: a sawed-off pool cue, a heavily taped baseball bat and a shortened hockey stick with a pointed blade. “Obviously anything can be a weapon, a utensil, a tool, even a piece of paper if you know what you’re doing.” He indicates the video screens, the Perspex portholes, the air conduits and the entire steel shell with a wave of his arm, “If you were to discharge any type of firearm in here… I mean unless you hit meat – havoc.”


Last Chance Gas is extreme private enterprise on the very edge of the human boundary, an outpost on the new frontier. “The law on Titan is whatever Mister Singh says it is,” LeBlanc admits. “And I enforce it.” There is no official presence of any sort. Indeed, the entire installation, worth billions in bitcoin, is defended from invaders by one man brandishing a cue, a bat and a stick. The main and ever-present threat is a hostile takeover.


“Pirates, raiders,” LeBlanc says. “Out here, obviously, you can charge a premium for fuel. Titan is the freest market ever, so it would be attractive. But we have natural defenses. We’re near the pole where atmosphere is dense and hazy, you can’t see us and you cannot land without a digital pilot. If you manage that, you’ve still got to disembark and for that you need our assistance too. If you were to get that far, well, I can tell you that the refinery rig-pigs are tough customers – I’ve got the scars to prove it.”


And what about non-human intervention? “You mean little green men? Non-human intervention? Is that the jargon now?” LeBlanc laughs. “Hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully they’d have bigger fish to fry than Last Chance Gas.” LeBlanc twirls his pool cue, his fingers nimble blurs. “I don’t care if they’re green or not, but I hope they’re little.”


Copyright UMS 2414.

Part four of a series.

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