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The Recollection Of Crankshaft

Chapter 2


Laya is a lovely young woman. Being such, she also has lovely hands, which are adorned with lovely knuckles. These knuckles, I have, from time to time, had momentary opportunities to study, as they bent, being the joints they are, to ball her lovely hand into a fist, which would then be thrust roughly toward my nose at an accelerating pace, as if she wanted me to get a really good look. These study sessions generally don't last very long, however, as they are generally terminated after those lovely knuckles have strayed too close to the body of my nose, and have caused nasal ruptures to appear in a logically random arrangement.

Don't get me wrong, I have no particular feelings for Laya, though I find that as a colleague, she is rather pleasant to be around. That and she's very intelligent. Even though, she still seems to take my compliments the wrong way. Many studies of her knuckles have begun with phrases being emit from my vocal cords, such as, "You have a very large hiney." And, "You smell very fragrant, today."

Nonetheless, it is because of these random studies that I generally like to carry tissues on me. Not that carrying a package of tissues has anything to do with anything; I just thought I'd throw that out there, because I would therefore have an opportunity to express the behavior Laya sometimes exhibits around me.

When I returned to my office, I was confronted by a glass of milk and a stale bologna sandwich, which wished to rival the hamburger and cola I had purchased at the cafe down the street. I placed my new food next to my old food, and sat down to watch the stare match occur between the two. My arms folded on my desk, my chin on my arms, I watched. The combat would be between a larger hamburger filled with ground meaty goodness and a variety of condiments, with its sidekick being a tall frosty glass of cola, and a hardened bologna sandwich with the stank of ages on its side, with its war companion, a glass of 7 year old milk.

It was a fierce competition, but fortunately for me, this battle was a beauty contest, and not a trial of sentiment. The milk was promptly dumped down the sink, and the sandwich disposed of in a wastebasket, which would hopefully be emptied before the mayonnaise on the sandwich developed its own self-awareness, and choose to eat me.

As I sat in my chair at my desk, leaning back, and displaying my really tall shoes to all the world that would happen to see into my office, I looked around. My desk is in the middle of the room, and it's more or less, a medium sized desk. Nothing fancy like they have in government offices. There's no sleek titanium or laconium edges, and my desktop does not have a computer console built into it. It's more old-fashioned, made out of wood, and naturally, there are papers scattered all about.

Most of the papers are tests or homework that have been graded, or are in the process of being graded. I tend to eat at my desk, which I would imagine, is why my students sometimes complain of having grease spots or ketchup stains on their returned homework. Since they started complaining about the ketchup stains, I try to compensate for the inconvenience, by smudging them into a smiley face before it dries.

There are three doors into my office. One enters from the hall, one enters from Laya's office, and the other enters from the restroom. If your point of entry is from the restroom, then my first question when I see you may very likely be, "How long were you in there?" Most considering that if you enter from the restroom and I never saw you enter, then I really have no idea how long you've been in there, and if I've been around for a while, then I may expect the answer to be truly absurd.

I have many shelves in my dusty office, all of which are cluttered with more papers, assorted junk, old mechanical experiments, and a variety of tools. The shelves are not an aesthetic type. They are purely for function. The frame is bare metal, and the shelves themselves are bare wood. The whole thing is adjustable. And they work. Though, I had to move one so that now the door out to the hallway doesn't open all the way, because Laya was complaining to me that she couldn't get to the restroom with the shelf right in front of the door to her office. That conversation, of course, broke out in an incident of me yelling, for everyone to hear, "No, I will not go on a date with you!" The conversation ended, of course, with a study of Laya's lovely knuckles. Which figures, I suppose. We were in the middle of the cafeteria at the time, during a lunch break, no less.

After the problem of having food to eat, that has not yet been eaten was finally solved, I developed a profound desire to examine what I had gotten stuffed into my hands. First came the section ID. The symbol itself was a bright shade of blue, while the background was a very dark black. The whole thing was made from some manner of polymer, so it had a very high-gloss finish to it, making it shiny and smooth and all high-glossy. The symbol was made of a polymer as well, and was semi transparent, while the black part it was embedded in was most definitely a finished and dyed metal of some variety. There were also four gold prongs lined up on the back, offset to one side from the center. They were spring loaded of course, so they could be pushed in, and they'd come back out. This is where this device plugs into an ID slot and can therefore be powered to light up the symbol, and also, to store data concerning gate passes and such. There was a name engraved on the side. "Fender Clutch", it said. I shrugged, having finished my analysis of that, and moved on to the disk.

The disk was small. Perhaps three and a half centimeters in diameter. The data area wasn't very large either, but it used a high-density storage format, and it was also re-writable. The evident storage size was considerably larger than what is publicly available, which leads me to believe that it probably came from a research facility of some sort, which I do suspect, that the crew of Pioneer 1 indeed did set up several research facilities on the surface. Well, one at least. Possibly two, I suppose.

It was while I was studying this, and just getting around to examining the label, that I noticed Laya looking over my shoulder. "What are these things?" she asked.

"They're homework papers. I hand them to students, they fill them out, then return them to me an--" I was interrupted from my glorious explanation, when Laya got annoyed at me.

She yelled in my pointy ear, "I mean the things on your desk, you blue-haired freak!"

"The homework papers?"

"No!"

"The... Papers with homework on them?"

She shook her head, as she crossed her arms and brought up her hand to rest her forehead on her fingers. A loud aggravated sigh came from her mouth.

"You're not talking about the computer terminal screen floating over the corner here, do you? Laya, I'm disappointed in you. You should know this stuff by now. How do you access your BEE messages and simple mail?"

Her eyes closed, and looking rather tense, she slowly iterated to me, "Why do I even bother asking you questions?"

"But isn't that another one?" I asked, then quickly turned to look thoughtful and continued, "But then, I suppose that you may not have been projecting the question at me; except that you referred to me as 'you' which indicates that you indeed were talking to me. So indeed, it would be another que--" I stopped only because she grabbed my face with one hand.

She then snatched the section ID with the other held it up and yelled to me, "What is this?? And the disc you were looking at, what is that??"

By now, I was more clear on what she was inferring about, and therefore able to answer her. Removing her hand from my face, I said, "Oh! If you wanted to know about THAT, you should've said, 'What's that section ID' and 'What is that super high-density data storage device mini-disc', instead of, 'What are those things on your desk', you see? Sometimes it helps to be more specific." My next thought was, "Oh, she's giving me another study of her knuckles." The rest was pretty foggy for the next couple of beats.

As I came to, I sat up, and checked my upper lip for blood. Evidently, she'd missed my nose, but successfully crammed her fist into my cheek bone. This explained rather effectively, why my cheek hurt so much. With my vision returning to me, I looked around, and saw that Laya was examining the section ID.

"So where did you get this? And who is this Fender guy?" she asked.

"Well, you see," I replied, "I took your advice and went out to get some food. After being mildly distracted by looking at windows, then briefly distracted by looking at the items behind them, most of which were clothes, as there are a lot of clothing stores in this city for some deranged reason..." I paused, trying to remember what I was talking about, but continued, "What was the point that I was making? Oh yeah! So, I got distracted on my way to get food, but then carried on by following the lead of a large android and a somewhat short, pointy-eared woman who was breastily gifted, and got to a cafe, but was distracted again when I got to the front of the cafe because another tall pointy eared guy, not unlike myself, came running through the crowd, chased by a couple or three mean looking guys, that made me think of an oddly oppressive group of aggravated individuals." Mind you, I left no affliction at the end of that sentence to indicate it was finished, not for the purpose of annoying Laya, but because I honestly couldn't think of where I was going with it, and I think it may well have been an incomplete sentence, but yet, with the properties of a run-on sentence.

"And?!?" Laya demanded of me.

"And uh... Hmm.... So... He smacked into me, then looked at me for a moment, shoved those in my hand, said something about finding me later, then took off."

"So he just gave you his section ID and a mini-disc?"

"Yeah. It gives me the notion, which I should probably ignore, that I should use it to go down to Ragol and have a look around. I hear they have cake down there."

In retrospect, I believe I was correct. I should've ignored that notion. Unfortunately, where ever I am involved, there is a new law of mechanical physics that must be applied to everything that I do. And that law can be summed up in one simple equation: Notion = Motion. This, of course, means that as soon as I finished the class I was teaching that afternoon, I headed for the lobbies on the Hunters' Deck.

The lobbies are a dramatic departure from the streets. Primarily because, wandering around in the lobbies, there are no shops, and I'm fairly confident that if I anger someone, they can, and probably won't hesitate to pound me into a gooey mush on the counter. As I entered the first lobby, I looked around. Fairly drab, but there was a nice view of Ragol out the window.

The usual variety of Hunters were wondering about. Some seemed intelligent, some didn't. One group of muscle-bound men seemed to be making a point of hitting on every pointy-eared woman that came through. The rest of their time seemed to be spent grunting at each other, and posing dramatically.

I was intimidated by these HUmars, as their dramatic posing skills far exceeded my own, so I quickly made my way to the counter, snapping the section ID into a proper receptacle, that I had purchased on the way.

Standing at the counter, I looked at the lady standing on the other side for a moment. With a blank stare on my face, she looked back at me, waiting for me to say something, naturally, with an absurd smile on her face, which looked mostly fake, but was obviously part of a job requirement. I really wasn't sure what to do here, but there was a console in front of me.

"Can I help you, Sir?" she finally asked.

My blank stare persisted, and after a moment, I finally figured out the most proper response I could make. I pointed at Ragol out the huge dome-ish window and said, "I want to go there."

"Sir... Do you have a party waiting, or are you planning to create a new team?" When I heard her ask this, I stared blankly again for a moment. "Sir?" she asked.

I pointed again. "There. Send me there."

"All right, Sir..." she said. "If you would just type a name on the console in front of you, I can send you to the Hunters' Guild, where you will be able to go to the surface."

"A name?"

"Yes. It can consist of anything."

"So, I can give it, say, some variety of curse words of great complexity?"

"We'd generally prefer that you keep it polite, Sir."

"So what if I just give it my own name?"

"That will be just fine."

"All right, now you're makin' sense!" With that, I promptly typed in, "Pencilneck", and let the woman behind the counter take care of the rest.

Before I knew it, I was standing in the Hunters' Guild. There was a large thing in the middle of the room, with some sort of hologram spinning around inside. On the other side of that, was another counter. There was also a large window with a view of the planet, and on the same wall as the teleporter back to the lobby, there was a door that lead out into the plaza. I didn't know that it lead out into the plaza at the time, of course. My natural inclination was to go to the counter.

Standing in front of the counter, I stared at the woman on the other side for a while. This time, I didn't see her face at first, though. This time, my attention was instead attuned to the strangely low-cut of her uniform. From my elevated position, I could've sworn that I was looking down upon a crevice large enough to hide some absurdly large vehicle in. I could've gone on staring at this, but she soon asked me, "Can I help you, Sir?" A perfectly generic phrase, indeed. This time, I didn't say anything. I just pointed out the window.

She looked out the window, then back at me and said, "Sir?"

Without changing the expression on my face, I continued to point and said, "I want to be there."

She looked again, then back at me and said, "Would you like to commission a quest, or would you like to take up a quest, Sir?"

I dropped my arm. "I don't need no stinking quest. I just want to go to the surface."

"Then all you need do, Sir, is go out that door, and take a right at the large door in the wall," she replied. I stared blankly at her again for a moment, then turned around, and started heading for the door that she mentioned.

The door opened as I approached it. Simple enough, seems like most doors on Pioneer 2 are automatic. As if it would kill someone to have to turn a knob every now and then. Just imagine all the cases of carpel tunnel syndrome that would be reported. Our medical centers would be flogged with people complaining of nasty door knob turning injuries. Then door knob companies would get sued for medical bills, and of course, pain and suffering. I suppose the principal would eventually have to step in, and tell someone to stop complaining. I think he should administer a big, disrespectful man-slap to one of those whiners. I hate those people.

Door knob injuries, indeed. In my day, we didn't HAVE door knobs! We had to open doors with our teeth! Well, we would've if I were really old. And it would explain why I wouldn't have any teeth at an old age. Except that I'm young now, and I have all my teeth, as far as I know. Can you imagine trying to open a solid titanium door with your teeth? The dental industry would be booming. People would be getting mechanical prosthetic teeth left and right, and it would probably be up to me, the university's Professor of Mechanical Physics, to design them, because I'm all smart like that, and I've got a reputation in mechanical matters, plus I've got a Ph.D. in chewing gum.

So I stepped through this automated automatic door, which automatically opened for me. Directly in front of me, a distance which I don't want to bother estimating, was the door into the local medical center. Very important for hunters, is a medical center. They use medical centers quite extensively, because they have very significant medical needs. They're even worse than Diabetics. Great Light forbid that there should be a diabetic hunter. Egad, that would be a bad thing. Poor diabetic hunter. I should buy him some insulin.

Off to my left, there was a bit of a corridor, or rather, maybe a bridge. It was a foot-street, if that's a valid descriptive word. There was a small shopping district over there, and a checkroom for hunters to put what they buy down there. At this point, I made the reasonable assumption that weapons could be purchased at this location, and being the logical, albeit easily distracted fellow that I am, I proceeded in that direction.

The shops themselves are a neon extravaganza, with big neon signs containing neon lights that cast neon light on everything around them. It's interesting what happens when a little bit of electricity is run through a sealed tube containing a gas consisting primarily of neon. The interesting thing here, is that the neon gas, even though it's a gas, and not solid matter, will conduct electricity just enough that it will travel through it. The result of this conductivity, is a light spectrum starting in the ultra-violet range, which is what causes the glowing effect. The exact color of the light is determined by the color of the glass the tube is constructed from. The neatest thing about a neon light tube though, is what happens when you put one lengthwise in a hydraulic press, and crush it. Glass flies all over the place. Looks even neater when there's an electrical current running through it.

So in any case, after a moment or two of standing around and grunting with the clerk behind the Weapons counter, I purchased a simple cane. More or less just a stick, but it had a fairly blunt photon surface on one end, which made me think it might be fun to go and smack something upside the head for no good reason. I fear this sort of thinking may be exactly why many hunters become hunters to begin with. Perhaps it's a hypnotic effect of the photons, that it just makes you want to go out and plague something with severe photon burns.

In an excited manner, using the most exaggerated movements I could scheme up, I dashed out the door, and narrowly maintained balance on my over-emphasized PLATFORM SHOES, only to leap halfway across the foot-street, and pose dramatically as I landed, facing the big door to the room with the teleporter to Ragol in it. I hummed some random tune as I pointed my shiny new cane toward the door, attempting to formulate something that would sound like the theme of some comic book super-hero, though the exact details of my success are sketchy at best. I think I more or less just ended up humming the theme from my personal favorite prime-time show, The Guild.

The Guild is an interesting show. It's a Hunter Drama about a group of Hunters' Guild members who go and solve mysteries down on Ragol. It stars Kelley Murphy as the HUmar known as Infurno. Great show. One time our hero, Infurno, cornered, with no way other way out, missing one mechgun, took a rolling dive and shot down the Barbarous Wolf that had him cornered. It was almost poetic. Most consider that episode to be a classic. Well, that and the episode when he had to confront his evil twin half-brother. That was quite dramatic, as well. Shoot, if I'd been there, I woulda gave him a mean punch, right in the nose, myself. There is not a curse word with the proper degree and variety of vulgarity to properly describe that individual.

Anyway, I was standing there posed dramatically, with the few civilians that were wandering around staring at me like I was some sort of deranged freak. At which point I broke my pose and yelled at everyone, "What?? Haven't you ever seen a dramatic pose before???" It was like they were sheltered or something. Gosh.

At this point, I remembered what I was here for, and I approached the large door at a jogging pace. As I got to the door, it started to open. I figured this was good. I believe that it had a motion detector, as well as an RF signal to read gate pass information from section ID storage devices, as well as a wearable computer terminal signal. I figure on the terminal signal, because a menu popped up on the terminal device I had hanging from a belt strap around my waist.

Given that, as I stepped into the teleporter pad, I observed the menu on my terminal. There was a list of four sites available to me. Forest, Caves, Mines, and Ruins. Knowing what I know now, evidently my good friend, who's not actually my friend, but is in a figure of speech, Fender Clutch, had really been around. Nonetheless, I chose the forest because it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I wanted to see what the Forest was really like. Plus, I figured it would be a pleasant place to start exploring. It's nice to see the sun every now and then.

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