CH. 35 «Birthday Break-In»

AIPTEK

03-18-2309

It began like any other day for me–sometime in the early afternoon.

I stepped out of my apartment used the KEY to seal the airlock behind me, then put a cigi between my lips. Heading down the cement stair, I was fumbling around in my worn shoulder bag for a lighter when I bumped into one of my neighbors, the Dionian woman who lives downstairs, and her son. I quickly snatched the cigi from my mouth as I waved to greet them and then continued on my way. I chuckled to myself as I lit it a moment later, I’m so used to not being able to smoke around Rei.

It was nice and pink out. Spring has always been a pleasant time of year anywhere I’ve been, and within the spherewalls of Villa Venusia was no exception. The gurgle and gabble of fountains lining up beside the walkway sparkled in the midday sun, and bowed as I passed. The stream ran under the path and along the other side where a breeze-borne regatta completed its last leg, the leaf boats quickly approached a waterfall finish line.

The unnaturally blue cascade emptied into the pool at the dead end of one of the complex’s many canals. The water was tranquil, hardly disturbed by this trickle. Its mirrored surface hid its true depth. When you look straight into it the water anywhere here it appears a hundred feet deep, impossible to see the murky bottom through its dark color, though it’s less than a foot.

My path takes me past this calm end first, and here there is a strange array of solid blocks that float above the water. About a square meter of space each, many of the blocks host planters with strange palms while the others make up a path to nowhere. Well, not nowhere–it’s a nice place to stand and feed the dacts; they come at you from all sides. But I had to time for that today, I continued along the path which parallels the canal. Down here is one of the main spots they like to congregate, this green grassy strip in between that slopes down to its edge is one of the few spots I see them sleeping at night. In the middle of the day they were playing in the water, bathing and chasing each other away from their mates.

My domed community is ripe with large habitat pods lined by our apartment units. Some lucky residents lease spaces with waterside patios and kayak moorings. The artificially azure river runs through every sector like blue arteries, pooling up in the center of the life supporting habipods. I’ve noticed each of the unique environments being simulated in these atriums is populated by its own distinguishable community of avian squamata. The gaggles of leatherback geese, pterodactyls and razorfoot coots all somehow disseminated the pods into distinct neighborhoods and come back home to familiar roostmates. I wonder if it’s something they all agreed to or if possession of the zones is contested.

Around the ugly side of a unit the next landing I passed looked almost identical to the last. This pod’s canal is a much larger vein though, breaking off into many smaller vessels, including the one I call my own. It’s also reigned over by two particularly disagreeable pteradons that appear to have claimed their sovereignty by force. Regardless of what concentration of scaled waterfowl species inhabit a pond there always seems to be a pair of bigger dacts running the flock. I don’t particularly enjoy walking through this sector when I know the bosses are around; I haven’t liked pteradons since I was a traumatizing childhood experience.

Aside from falling into a pecking order, these dacts don’t have it that weak. The environment is contained within the negatively ionized forcefield of the biosphere quite wonderfully here, making for a fertile and moist ecosystem that is indeed rare for Mars. They’re provided all the food and water and shelter they need here, and there are no natural predators or civilizations encroaching upon them. I’d say it’s a pretty astro deal.

The dacts don’t have to worry about debt or a failing economy threatening to take everything they have. This upscale community is truly free to them. Even if they don’t possess that concept this must still seem like a paradise to them. They are absolutely free.

The path led me over a wide artery by crossing a bridge that was not only mocked up to look like a boat dock, but actually acted as one for the little kick-tread paddle boats you could take out from a dock at the main office. This bridge serves as a buffer, preventing the boats from coming any further down into the residential side, keeping them on the larger, deeper segment of the body. When I reached that side I stepped off the path and paused to let a young Saturnian girl in jogging sweats running with her spiky lap-squog pass. I smiled and politely excused myself but didn’t get so much as “Thanks” or even “Hello”. Looking back I noticed headphones trailing from her earlobes, shrugged and continued on the path.

I see my crawler across the parking lot, closest spot to the front portal. As I approached my slumbering lump of plastic on treads my mind was still on dacts. Do they greet each other when they pass? Do they feel snubbed when another dact is too busy listening to their Tuni? My quandary was interrupted when I noticed something was off about my crawler. From where I was it looked like there was a portion of my driver’s window that wasn’t reflecting the pale red sky. When I got closer I figured out why.

A third of my window hung intact around the top corners of the hatch-frame. Rectangular shards of green safety glass lay splattered across the pavement and the interior. A promotional flyer for a dance club was wedged into one of the last bits of window still in place. I pulled it out and passively watched as the rest of the translucent pieces scattered on the driver seat.

I tossed away the flier without reading it and stuck my head in the opened hatch to examine the damage. Surprisingly, nothing was taken. They didn’t even look in the glove box, console or other compartments. My seat had been repositioned forward and it looked like someone had tried to grab one of the suitcases out of the back. They either failed to angle it out of the window, got scared off by my alarm or someone else coming. Perhaps they ran out of time before the portal closed and they lost their exit–whatever happened, they didn’t get away with anything…

Not that it would have mattered, the cases weren’t mine. When Lou bailed back to Earth she abandoned everything that didn’t fit into the bag she’d packed for her ‘vacation’. I’d lugged the rest of her belongings around with my stuff for too long. Then about a month ago I had to go retrieve another case she’d left in Novus Angelicas. The aunt she’d stayed in the city with was ready to disintegrate it. I was now stuck with two cases labeled Eon Buerot, each containing a different segment of her life. Two cases that were too large to fit in my closet, and took up too much room in the boot of my crawler, I had to leave them in my back seat. It reminded me to worry about finding a way get them back to her or just get rid of them.

Goosebumps tickled the back of my arms and my hair stood up. I suddenly became upset with the ordeal.

Not because my vehicle was broken into; I didn’t really care to worry about something that my insurance was specifically intended to cover. I didn’t really mind that it happened within the spherewall of my community, I wasn’t questioning the security since I had left my crawler so close to an exit, that’s kind of an obvious one now.

I was upset that they didn’t finish something they started. If you’re gonna break my hatch, you better be doing it to get something in return, otherwise you just broke it for no good reason. I guess they could have done it just to break my hatch, but if it was really malicious it figures they would have etched my doors with lasers or broken all the other hatches, too.

I sighed off the tension. It was really no matter to me, I shrugged if off and went about my way, trying to enjoy my birthday in spite of such inconveniences. I didn’t even bother to file a police report; I didn’t figure there was a point if nothing was taken, not that they would have actually helped to get it back.

After I cleared the happy bits of silicon off the seat, I drove back around and parked in a spot near my unit that hid the window from any looky-loos. Getting out, I thumbed my KEY to seal the crawler and chuckled to myself about the futility of it. I lit a new Martian Spirit and began to walk to the front portal of Villa Venusia again.

circularcrop-itlom055-chapter-birthdaybreakin copy

PREV: CH. 34 «Status Update»

PREV: CH. 34 «Status Update»

NEXT: CH. 36 «The Screen»

NEXT: CH. 36 «The Screen»

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