Traditionally, a “town” is either a small city or a really big village, or even a settlement with delusions of grandeur. Streets mark where the cow paths to the water used to be, or where people did most of their walking in the areas left to them after the richer citizens marked off the bits they wanted. Towns often have a central location where residents gather to picnic or to celebrate or to pass out the torches and the hastily painted signs that say, more or less, “Down with the Richer Citizens.” Businesses radiate outward from there, leading to urban areas filled with determinately industrial industry and violent crime and to suburban areas filled with peaceful neighbors and friendly, domestic crime. Farther out you get small fiefdoms, often ending in “Hills” or “Estates” despite the absence of either, with strong identities and clearly designated perimeters where everyone knows everyone and, more importantly, knows who doesn’t belong. And at the outer ring of the town will be the rural spots where crops are grown, livestock is stocked, and folks can find a place to call home where the hustle and bustle of the town can’t be bothered to visit.
Venture was both a ship and a town, and like most combo devices it wasn’t a very good either. As a ship it lacked maneuverability and possessed what attacking forces, were they any, might call a “target surplus.” And as a town… as a town it made a great ship.
The good ship Venture wasn’t really as cramped as it could have been, it just seemed that way if you wanted to walk through it or wave your arms or anything. Once she got past most of the open areas and into the corridors Hy barely had to duck at all through most of the hatches as she sped through them at a dead run to get to the subway, which was waiting patiently for her thanks to Greta. A few early rising hydroponics farmers were sitting there and carefully not grumbling at the delay as their mayor stepped aboard and the doors closed. Hy watched the town’s streets whip by. It was possible to walk through the entire town to get to the ship’s functional areas, but it would take more time than she had. Today was a big day, new captain or no new captain.
By the time the farmers got off she had them laughing and sharing jokes with her. Farmer Zeke (Dr. Ezekial Anastene, B.E. [Agriculture]) and Farmer Joe (Dr. Joseph Milo Franz, M.Tech [Agriculture Biotechnology]) shook her hand, asked again about Hy joining them for dinner one of these nights, and stepped off into the carefully crafted morning sunlight. The subway sped on.
Fields and 2/3 scale barns gave way to a dense forest, followed by an intricate network of pipes that served as their water condensation system. Into each life, some rain must fall, usually on the half hour, every hour, between 3 and 6 p.m. And then those slid by and all that was left was countless rows of gray hallways and storage areas.
“Approaching the town airlock,” said the voice in her head.
“Thanks, Katy.” Hy stood up and walked quickly off the car to the waiting stairway. Two flights down, a last check to make sure her hair was pretending to be in order, and she pushed through the double doors just as something big clanked against the massive airlock door set into the far wall. There were two crewmembers waiting there, and on average they were at attention. One was a tall, cruel Nordic beauty carved of crystal ice and steel who was standing straight enough to be used as a tunnel support. The other was an old fat guy.
“Lt. Commander ParSec, Dr. Chavez,” Hy said, smoothing down her blouse.
“Mayor Alistair,” ParSec replied.
“Hey, Hy,” Chavez said. “Ready for the unveiling?”
“Of our new commanding officer, the captainareeno, he of noble brow and heart so true.”
ParSec grimaced. “A little decorum if you please, doctor.”
“You’re just testy because you won’t be in charge anymore. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll be just as tightassed as you are. Probably more so; you’ve been in lower gravity for the last few months. You’re losing some of your tone.”
Hy turned away so ParSec wouldn’t see her grin. Next to the hatch the lights on the control panel finished their sequence and went green. ParSec stepped forward smartly and, with a slight grunt the others pretended not to notice, spun the wheel. There was a hiss and a smell of ozone, and the door swung open to reveal a man. A tall, muscular man, Hy noticed. A very attractive man.