Wu called up the stream of the local topography. “We are currently facing the eastern hemisphere of Ernutet. Where would you like me to set her down?”
Sifu joined Wu at the nav screen. “You’re looking for a settlement called ‘Carsontown’. It’s on the smallest continent.”
Wu waved his hand across the screen and the planet rotated until he found what he was looking for. “Alright, Carsontown. I’ll swing her around and we should make planetfall in two hours.”
Sifu leaned in a little more and enlarged the view around Carsontown. “Try to land somewhere just outside the settlement. Close enough to walk in, but we’ll need time to disappear before the authorities come to investigate.”
“Alright…” Wu said, taking back control of the nav screen. “Looks like there’s a valley not too far from the settlement. Stashing the pod there should cost them some time looking for it.”
Sifu nodded. “Take us in.”
Wu took the pod around the other side of the planet and broke atmosphere. Keeping the pod steady through the turbulence he held off on deploying the parachute until they were well past the cloud line and then hit the switch. The loud ‘pop’ above them punctuated the chute’s deployment.
Sifu turned to the sensors and examined the world outside.
“Hmmm.” Sifu nodded approvingly. “They’ve done well to terraform the environment so extensively in such a short period of time. It’s amazing to see lush greenery so far out from the settlement.”
Wu watched the rapidly falling altitude numbers slow down a little but continue steadily.
“Hope I didn’t hang on too long.” He muttered. The wind picked up and blew them a little off course. The nav screen showed a river running through the middle of the valley and Wu was not a fan of swimming through it. Just to be safe Wu feathered the manoeuvring jets and they calmly overshot the water.
Finally, with an unceremonious ‘whump’ the pod reached the ground. Followed swiftly by the parachute completely blanketing the entire pod.
“Hmmm.” Sifu began. “Looks like we’ll need that machete after all.”
The trek out of the valley and towards Carson town went without incident. The sun hung high overhead, like an oppressive god decreeing the inhabitants had not yet begun to sweat. Wu was glad the camel pack on his back was as good at keeping him cool as it was cushioning him from the ration packs in the main pouch.
After walking for an hour Wu turned to Sifu.
“I’m going to miss these shoes.”
Sifu glanced at Wu’s feet as they went. “What’s wrong with them?”
“They’re 200 credit Zero-Cools and now they’re covered in mud and the heel is digging into my skin. I was worried I’d have to replace them a week ago and now this walk has all but drug them out into the street and shot them.”
Sifu laughed. “I can top that. These are delicate and sophisticated city shoes trying to do the job of rugged and durable country boots. My toes are meeting in dusty cafe basements quietly plotting a coup.”
Another hour and they were walking through the outskirts of the settlements. The roads out here looked more well-worn than they did in Tang Xing. In most parts of colonised space ‘roads’ were little more than glorified speeder parking and natural divides between properties. In Tang Xing the average street was more likely to be an impromptu cricket pitch than a transport route between two places. In Carsontown it looked like some people actually drove on them.
“So where do we go from here?” Wu asked.
“We’re looking for an agricultural conglomerate called ‘Shining Sun’. Their headquarters is located somewhere in this town.”
“Somewhere?” Wu asked.
“Well I’m looking at the address that was listed for it but the satellite image shows it to be under construction.”
Wu glanced up at a street corner and noticed a small noodle-shop advertising a dim sum and iced tea combo meal.
“Hey look at that.” Wu pointed for Sifu. “Civilisation all the way out here. We can eat, give our feet a rest and ask for directions.”
“You had me at ‘Iced Tea’.” Sifu said and pushed on past Wu.
The little noodle shop was permeated by the small of chicken broth and fried rice, without the smell it could have been any take away food store or cafe in any small town across colonised space.
For a moment Sifu and Wu were worried this might be the only Chinese restaurant in town, seeing as it was trying to showcase every major Cantonese dish on the menu.
Things only seemed to get worse when they tried to order.
“Two plates of steamed pork buns and a pitcher of iced tea please.” Wu asked the man behind the counter while Sifu picked a table.
The proprietor, a rough, portly man with tanned skin and calloused hands, blanched. “Ummm, sorry, I no speak Mandarin.”
“Oh?” Wu was taken aback by that. He switched languages “Uhh, Do you speak any English?”
The proprietor visibly relaxed. “Yeah that’ll be fine. You had me worried for a minute there.”
“So you don’t speak any Mandarin, are you Cantonese? Hokkien?”
The propriety shot Wu an unimpressed look. “Korean actually.”
“Oh.” Wu said. His cheeks burned from the blood rushing to them.
The proprietor smiled at him and shrugged. “Don’t worry about it, people make that mistake all the time, sometimes I just play along.” He waggled a finger between Wu and Sifu behind him. “Where are you two from?”
“I’m from Ao Kuang originally. I met my Sifu in Yewan Huar.”
The proprietor folded his arms. “Ah, city-boy eh? What brings you all the way out here?”
“We’re looking for a place called ‘The Shining Sun’ but there’s nothing there anymore.”
“Ahhhh.” The man said. “Stick around here a moment, the owner’s son likes to go skateboarding with my twins, I’ll introduce you. Can I get you anything while you wait?”
Want to read the whole thing now? Buy it here