ohn’s first patron of the day was waiting at the door when he approached.
“Roger!” he said as he unlocked the door. “I haven’t seen you in years! Want a beer? My stuff is pretty damned good if I do say so myself, and it’s a lot cheaper than the imported stuff.”
“Sure,” Roger replied. John poured a beer and handed it to him. He took a sip. “Not bad, John. So you’re tending bar now? I heard the shipping company fired you for that thing on Vesta. They said you killed a couple of guys.”
John laughed. “Tending bar? It’s my bar! Fired me? The president and the CEO both tried to talk me out of retiring, but my wife’s building a telescope here. Time for me to settle down, I’m tired of pirates and all that other bullshit.”
“Yeah, I heard you married a scientist. There hasn’t been much pirate activity lately.”
“Great! So what have you been up to, Rog?”
Roger laughed. “Well, I’ve been waiting for you to open for an hour most lately, it’s been almost a year since I had a beer. I’ve had a bunch of Saturn runs and a Vesta assignment the last couple of years and haven’t been to Mars in a long time, but when I got back from Vesta they sent me here with a load of barley and hops and stuff like that. Did you buy all of that?”
“Yeah, that’s my shipment. I told you I’m making beer, didn’t you see the sign? I have a microbrewery here, that’s all beer ingredients. So how do you like it?”
“It’s good beer, you’re pretty good at it. So they begged you not to retire? When I was on Vesta unloading some food supplies they told me that you got fired for killing two passengers. Did that happen?”
John laughed. “No, not only did they not fire me, I got a raise. And yeah, two stupid rich tourists died but it was their own stupidity, arrogance, and sense of entitlement killed them, not me.”
“So what happened?”
“Well, I was taking scientific equipment to Vesta and a couple of the other asteroid stations in the belt, and I had two first class passengers. A couple of assholes from Austin who were born rich and got richer speculating on the stock market. Idiots who couldn’t learn because they thought they knew everything.”
“Yeah,” Roger said, “Texas is damned weird, I lived in Houston for a while when I was a kid. Everybody wore those stupid looking hats and acted like they were all ranchers or something. History class was filled with Sam Houston, the Alamo, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It’s been a museum for a couple hundred years now.”
“Yeah, that’s those two morons to a tee. Drug store cowboys, all hat and no cattle. Probably couldn’t tell a cow from a horse and thought milk came from factories.
“All they did was bitch and complain and break rules. They hated the coffee I made for them, and my coffee’s pretty good, lots better than robots did then. I’m glad they upgraded those robots, I always made coffee for passengers because the robot coffee was barely drinkable.
“They complained about the pork, too. What would I know about pork? Hell, I wasn’t rich, I was just a boat captain. I only ate pork a couple of times in my life before I met Destiny. There wasn’t anything I could have done about the pork but they bitched about it every damned day even though the cookbots did damned good on everything else but barbecue. Oh, they complained their asses off about the barbecue, too.”
“They’re crazy about barbecue in Texas,” Roger said. “Some folks there eat it every day. I’ve seen them barbecue eggs! They’re always bragging about how big everything is in Texas, too.”
“Yeah, they bitched about how ‘dinky’ their cabin was. Hell, my whole damned houseboat would probably have fit in their living room and it’s a big houseboat. Crappy trip, the only good thing was they were paying for full gravity so it didn’t take very long to get there.
“Anyway, these guys liked reading old science fiction, really ancient stuff. They’d run across a short story called Marooned Off Vesta, and when Vesta ordered supplies from one of their companies they decided to buy tickets and ride along.
“These dumbasses wanted to recreate the damned story!”
“What was the story about?”
“Well, it starts with...” Another patron entered. “Gus Harrison! How about that!” John said.
Roger grinned. “What are you doing in a bar this time of morning, old man? I haven’t seen you in years, either.”
Gus laughed. “You’re the one with a beer in front of you. I just got back from Europa and haven’t had a beer in months. What do you have, John?”
“Pretty much everything, but my best seller is my own stuff.”
“John makes some damned good beer,” Roger said. “I like it better than imported. Give me another one, John.”
“Yeah, I’ll try one,” said Gus. “So what have you guys been doing?”
“John’s been telling space stories. He was telling me about some morons off Vesta.”
“Yeah, like I was telling Roger, two annoying rich tourists wanted to recreate an ancient story some Russian guy wrote a few hundred years ago. It starts with three guys who have just survived a collision with an asteroid that destroyed most of the ship and killed everyone else.”
“I think I read that,” Gus said. “Marooned Off Vesta?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“He wasn’t Russian, he was American, Isaac Asimov. He emigrated to the United States with his parents from Russia when he was three. Rog, in the book one of the three guys puts on a space suit, crawls around the outside of the ship and blasts the ship’s water tank with a laser or something and the water shoots out and puts them on Vesta where they’re rescued by its science station. So what happened on your trip, John?”
“Well, these morons thought the guys in the story could have just jumped from orbit and landed on Vesta and decided to prove it.”
“What?” Gus and Roger exclaimed in unison.
“That’s just stupid,” Gus added.
“No shit,” John replied. “Well, they found out the hard way.”
“How did they get outside the boat?” Roger asked. “We keep everything like storage locked away from passengers.”
“They hacked the lock with some kind of gizmo they bought on the black market. It was really damned sophisticated, it kept the alarm quiet and the warning light dark.”
“Son of a bitch,” Gus said, “The stupid bastards dealt with pirates? They’re lucky they lived long enough to buy the tickets. So they suffocated out there after they ran out of air?”
“No, worse. It was bad. I discovered it half an hour after they were floating outside and the meteor alarm went off. Lucky they wasn’t able to unhook that alarm, or it really would have been like that story, only we’d all have died. There wasn’t time to rescue the morons so I got the hell out of the way of the rocks. When the storm passed I went back into orbit and retrieved what little of them that was left, and delivered the cargo and the dead morons to the landing boat from the station.”
“Almost wrecked your ship, did they?” Roger said.
“Yeah. I was moroned off Vesta.”