seawasp (seawasp) wrote,
seawasp
seawasp

GRAND CENTRAL ARENA: Chapter 2


I'm doing three chapters this week, to get us past the initial intro stuff.



 

Chapter 2.

     Simon Sandrisson watched from a nearby observation window as the woman shot from the cockpit of her racing ship like a rocket herself, the pilot's suit automatically retracting the helmet and then unfastening as she flew through the weightless docking bay towards her racing crew. Deep blue hair cascaded around her and the two men that arrested her headlong flight with enthusiastic hugs. He could hear Ariane Austin's elated contralto shout, "We DID IT!"

     "You did it, you lunatic!" Carl Edlund, her crew chief and controls expert, answered as he guided them towards the entrance to the station interior which was nearest to Simon. "Were you and Hawke trying to get killed in there?"

     "Oh, stop it. It's not like you haven't seen worse."

     "True," Edlund said as they emerged from the lock, "But usually 'worse' means 'someone got killed', so I would rather compare it to 'sane', which doesn't get seen very often either."

     Simon was about to speak when another man whipped right past him and stopped directly between him and the racing crew. The sandy blond hair and emblem on his jacket – a  wolf-head between hawk wings – was immediately recognizable. "Austin." Hawke said.

     "Hawke."

     The other pilot flipped forward and grabbed her up in a bearhug. "That was fantastic!"

     Simon could see Ariane was startled but gratified. Now he became aware of more and more people making their way into the area. A victory party, Mio said. It's going to be noisy here for a while. Why not come back later?

     I suppose I could, he said to his AISage companion. Mio's avatar, currently visible only to him, showed the synthetic intelligence – friend, confidant, research partner, advisor, a part of him since he had the headware installed nearly 20 years ago – as a pretty, diminuitive Asian woman with long dark hair, wearing a white suit styled, as was his own, to echo the appearance of the ancient and venerable scientist's laboratory coat. But what better time to catch Dr. Carl Edlund and his partner in a good mood?

There is that, Mio said with a smile. And while she seems oblivious to risk, Dr. Edlund may not be.

Oh, hardly oblivious. Judging by her actions, I'd say she enjoys risk. He watched the dark-blue haired woman adjust without apparent conscious thought as the station "spun up" to provide about a third of a G for people to stand in. She was tall – just a few centimeters below his one hundred ninety – and aside from her hair showed no obvious biomods; her eyes appeared to be almost the same shade as her hair and her complexion was tanned but clear.

Hawke, as he turned, showed tiger-like facial striping; some of the others coming in sported mods ranging from full-size angelic wings (Kami, those have got to be a pain to live with! he thought) to catlike claws, fur, a couple of scaled individuals, and more. In a way, being without mods makes one stand out these days, he mused.

     True enough, Mio agreed. Of the over 200 people physically here, there appear to be no more than 10 with no visible modifications. And that ten does not include you.

Well, yes, my hair IS visible, but it could be natural. Just very unlikely to be so pure white at the age of 32 or to fall just so.  

Are you not going to approach Ms. Austin or Dr. Edlund?

     There is no great rush; I spent two weeks on a ship just to get here, no reason to get impatient now. I'm sure I can catch up with Dr. Edlund at some point, even if Ms. Austin is the constant focus of attention. You might ping her AISage and let her know I'm here physically to talk to her.

     A pause. She doesn't appear to have one.

     "What?" Simon was so startled that he realized he'd spoken aloud. It was rare enough to find someone who didn't keep their AISage head-resident (Simon, in fact, could only think of one person he'd ever met who didn't), but someone who didn't have one at all?

     Wait. She does have one, according to records… but he's only rarely on the Nets, at least visibly. There, that ovoid box. Mio's directives highlighted in red a slightly larger than hand-sized object something like a high-tech turtle shell clipped to Ariane Austin's belt. That's her AISage's resident housing.

     Simon shook his head. What was the point of having an AISage if you didn't even let it do its job? Perhaps he should be speaking with the other pilot, Hawke. But the reasons they'd focused on Austin remained valid; she had so many good connections that it would be a shame to waste them. That's a clumsy housing, too.

     Mio was uncharacteristically silent for a moment. Actually, it's about as small as it can be. Simon, her AISage is a T-5.

     That explained the casing. A Tayler-5 was the highest permitted AI rating outside of special research and even with modern equipment you weren't fitting a T-5 in ordinary headware. A T-1 was generally considered equal to an ordinary human, and Mio – just about top-of-the-line for a headware AISage – had a Tayler rating of 2.5.

     What a racing pilot needed, or wanted, with a T-5 AISage, now that was a mystery. Simon liked mysteries – it was part of what had drawn him into physics, unravelling the mysteries of how and why the universe worked the way it did – and now Ariane Austin wasn't just a daredevil in a totally anachronistic sport, she was a puzzle.

     Simon smiled. He was looking forward to meeting her after all!



Hopefully not TOO infodumpy and entertaining enough. :)


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