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Authors: Martin Wilsey

Tags: #mystery science fiction, #intelligence hard scifi high tech combat robot science military ai

Oklahoma Salvage (2 page)

BOOK: Oklahoma Salvage
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Harv watched in his HUD
the image of the truck as it slowed and entered the canyon of his
salvage yard, passing the sign: “Twenty Square Kilometers of
Junk.
Or
Treasure.” The number 20 had been sloppily
spray
painted to replace a crossed out number 10.

The truck was a modern
T-16 ground transport. No wheels. It had fixed position Grav-foils
for float and steering, with an open three-
meter
-long flatbed
with crates tied down in the back covered with a camo tarp. It was
the same desert-tan with camo as most military transports these
days. The cab could hold
four,
but there was only one inside.
His security system, with Hunters help, informed him it
was registered
as a civilian transport
registered
to a David
Keener.

Harv went back inside. Though it was
still sunny, the temp was dropping.

***

Noiselessly, the driver of
the truck parked in front of the shop. Even though it
had
Grav-plates and no wheels,
it kicked up a giant cloud of dust as it powered down and
settled to the ground.

Alex watched casually from
behind the diner’s dusty windows, knowing that the man behind the
wheel could not see her through the tinted, mirrored glass. He
hopped out and walked around the truck, checking the tie-downs on
the load. He was lean, fit and on the tall side. He wore jeans,
cowboy boots, an untucked flannel shirt and a straw cowboy hat that
had seen better days. The truck had a Texas ident code. But the man
didn’t need one. Unlike most of the people that came in here, none
of his mannerisms
were
an affectation.

He took off the hat and tossed it into
the cab of the truck. He ran both of his hands through his hair in
a futile attempt to eliminate the hat’s impression. Alex thought he
needed a haircut.

As he approached
the
door,
Alex suddenly felt like she needed a haircut as
well.

The bell rang as the door
opened.


Morning,” Alex said as
the door closed behind him and the bell rang
again.


Good morning, ma’am. May
I use your bathroom straight up?
Otherwise,
I’ll be
dancin
the whole time we talk.” He made a polite bow with his
greeting.

Alex smiled at him. “Only if you never
call me ‘ma’am’ again. It’s Alex.” Pointing down the hall, she
said, “All the way down there to the left.”


Thank you, m…
Alex.”

While he was in
there,
she looked out the window and studied his truck. The T-16s
were
old by
now,
but this one was in perfect
condition. She had always wanted one but had never had the spare
cash. And where would you find one these days? When parked, the bed
of the truck was only ten centimeters off the ground. Perfect for
use around here. And they had AI remote control capabilities. It
would make Hunter way more useful. Not to mention that a T-16 could
go anywhere. Well, anywhere she wanted to go.

She caught herself combing
her fingers through her
own black
hair. She combed
it
off
the side that she
kept
shaved so
that
the tattoo could
be seen on the side of her
head
. The tattoo was a fireball at her
temple, with trailing fire arcing over her ear. Up close, you could
see its amazingly subtle details, and recognize it as
an exploding Planet
Defense Force fighter.

A few minutes later the man came out.
His face was freshly scrubbed and his hair damp from a thorough
cleaning up.


Ahh. Much better.
Thanks,” he said as he rounded the counter
on
the far
end.


Thirsty?” Alex asked, as
she hopped down from the stool and hammered a fist on an ancient
vending machine button. A bottle of Orange Crush rolled out. Alex
held it up so he could see.


Oh,
my Maker. I haven’t seen one of
those since I was a kid. Thank you,” he said.

She opened it on the bottle opener and
handed it to him, then pounded the machine again for
herself.

She opened her
bottle
too,
and they enjoyed a moment of silence as they both
drank.


Harv keeps them extra
cold. These are his favorite,” she said, looking down at the label,
then setting the bottle down and sitting again. “How can I help you
today?”


Do you mean Harvey
Reardon? If so, I am in the right place. I have to say, the
directions I
was
given
were bad. Nothing in this
region
is
mapped
right anymore. I had to get close,
then zoom out with a self-
locater
hack in the truck.
Once I did that, the place was easy to spot from cams on Freedom
Station.” Alex raised an eyebrow. She had not thought of that angle
and made a mental note to look into it. The space station called
Freedom was taking a higher interest in the planet
recently.

The man paused a moment and looked
abashed. “Oh, I’m Dave. Dave Keener.” He held out his hand to
shake. She shook it firmly, even though the gesture was way out of
fashion because of irrational pandemic fears.


So what are you looking
for today?” Alex asked.


It’s a long shot.” It was
almost like a confession. “I’m looking for a shuttle. It doesn’t
have to be pretty. Just a good tight seal and big enough to fit my
T-16. Manual flight controls are fine, but if it has a standard AI
interface, that would be a plus.” He looked out the windows at the
assorted derelicts and sighed, “I know a shuttle is a long
shot.”

Smiling to herself she
thought,
I might have to close
early.


I need to get Harv to
help you. He doesn’t keep that kind of
inventory
on hand
. Just parts.” She
reached over to press a button on her console and said, “Hey, Harv.
Can you come
up
front
to help this customer?”

Harv’s disembodied voice
replied, “Let me finish taking a shit and I’ll be up.” She rolled
her
eyes,
and before she could
reply,
he said, “Yes,
I’ll wash my hands, dammit.”

Dave smiled and said
nothing.


Quite the place you have
here. How long have you been here?” he asked conversationally.
Everyone asked that.


My whole life. I was born
here. My dad too. The place has been in the family for generations.
My cousin Mark is the buyer, auctions mostly. Harv is my
great-
gramp
.” She smiled and leaned in,
“Don’t tell him I told you. He still thinks he’s
thirty.”

They heard a crash in the
back and a series of mumbled curses, followed by some smaller
crashes and more cursing. A
couple
moments of silence went
by as they both stared at the door smiling.

Harv came directly out
from behind the counter extending his hand. “Howdy. I’m Harv
Reardon.” The two men shook hands without a moment’s hesitation. “I
hope Alex hasn’t pissed you off already. That’s
usually
why I
get called up here.”

Alex hammered the soda machine again
and opened an Orange Crush for Harv. He took if from her with a nod
and took a long pull as Dave spoke.


Like I was telling Alex,
I am looking for a shuttle with a
good
seal.”

Harv
interrupted
him
before he could go any farther. “What’s your budget? Availability
is all about the budget.”

Dave coughed a little and averted his
eyes. “I was hoping we could keep this a cash
transaction.”

Harv raised an eyebrow and looked over
at Alex. She said, “He needs one big enough to hold the T-16 out
there. Manual flight controls, but future upgrade
capable.”


Gonna start private
hauling to Freedom Sstation? Luna maybe?” Harv asked.


Maybe even system-wide,
depending on what we can work
out,
” Dave said.


Cash only?” Alex
asked.


Look, I heard you were
straight up. Trustworthy.” He looked out the window again. “You
should know people out there kinda know your inventory. They are
making coin just trading on the info. They said cash and my
own
fuel
would
get me the best deal.”


Don’t tell people that,
boy.
A good
way to get yourself kilt,” Harv said as he
drained the bottle and set the empty on the counter, heading for
the door. “Let’s
go
have
a look.” Dave followed
suit.

Alex called after them, “Harv, your
hat!”

***

Harv kept an open channel with Alex as
he and Dave tooled around in an ancient golf cart. Hunter followed
with a small remote controlled drone.

Conventional fuel
shuttles
were quickly
eliminated as an option
. Keener wanted to
be able to traffic the whole system out to the asteroid belt. Harv
finally dragged the key bit of info out of him.


Yes, I have
reactor-based
shuttles, and priced cheap,
” Harv said,
“No one buys the damn things because of fuel shortages and handling
issues. I’ve got a few that fit the bill. One in that range might
be light speed capable. I don’t know for
sure
though. Never had
the plutonium to try it. Bloody hell, boy. You got cash
and
plutonium on that
rig?” Harv shook his head as they rolled up to the
shuttle.

It had seen better days. It had
front-end collision damage, and sand had drifted and buried one
whole side.


Isn’t this an MP-82 Tug?
Why the hell is it painted white?” Dave asked as he stepped out of
the golf cart.


Before you get all
excited, you gotta know a
couple
things, good and
bad,
” Harv spoke without leaving the cart. “I don’t know if it
still has good seals. The primary O2 tanks are gone. The
front
is fucked
and will not be un-fucked by me. It still has
grav-plates but they are gen one top-foil, gull-wing types, and if
one of them needs replacing it will cost you more than the rest of
the ship.”


OK so
far,
” Dave
said.


It has a Ball-Reactor but
no fuel. None. Bone dry.”


OK.”


Batteries are dead.
Deader than a doornail. All the comms gear is gone, but I’m sure
Alex has some around here that’ll meet regs for legit
use.”


The T-16 will fit if the
bay is
stock,
” Dave said.


It’s stock alright.
Mostly empty. Two of the four seats are gone. There are no living
quarters. None. I don’t know if the head is functional.”


Open her up and let’s
have a
look,
” Dave said.


And the worst news. I
will need $30,000 in cash. Price is firm. Plus whatever it costs to
get her flying.”


Do I get a discount for
gold? Is gold alright?” Dave said. “How is it white? I thought it
was impossible to paint these things.”

Harv’s eyes had widened
when he’d mentioned
gold,
but he didn’t miss a beat as he
got out of the cart. “After the
war
we had all these
scary-
lookin’
black ships made out of Polycarbon that the
chicken-shit public hated.” Harv was dragging cables from a
generator out of the back of the cart, and then opened a panel on
the side of the Tug. “The trick was they didn’t use paint. It’s a
kind of molten glass coating. They found out too late that it would
stick, but it would also melt off on
high-speed
atmo
re-entry.”

As
Harv plugged in the cable,
the panel lit
up. Harv’s fingers flashed over the keys, and in a
minute
the center back hatch swung inward. “The aft container
docking clamps are gone. Can’t tug nothing. Come on in quick
--
gotta
keep the goddam
dust out
. Wreaks havoc on the
CO2 scrubbers.”

Dave ducked his head and
stepped
in,
and Harv closed the hatch as the lights started
to come up.

Dave turned back and looked at the
hatch. It was in the center of the back wall of the bay and would
be part of the floor with the ramp lowered. The T-16 would fit in
here, but only sideways, and you’d have to climb over it to get
around it.

BOOK: Oklahoma Salvage
8.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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