The PitMature

The door hissed open and Marcus came in, he was reading off a pad as he walked through the door. “Apparently you’re good to go there partner.” He looked up from the pad and stopped in his tracks. “Enora, wasn’t expecting you here.”
    Enora laughed, getting up from the chair. “You’re timing is perfect, Vincent just finished telling me about how you two met.”
    Marcus pointed at Vincent, “You’re telling lies again aren’t you boy.”
    Vincent took his turn to laugh. “Of course not. What’s on the pad.”
    “It’s the footage Optics recorded of us being cowboys.” Marcus said as his eyes returned to it.
    “Really, can I see?” Vincent said, his hand out.
    “Yeah, just hit this button right-”
    Vincent pulled the pad out of his hands, “I know how the damn thing works.”
    “Is he always like this” Enora asked Marcus.
    “Yeah, I bring out his bad side.” Marcus replied.
    Vincent looked at the footage. “Wow, they’ve got a lot of angles.”
    Marcus cocked an eyebrow, “Well we were flying between the towers and around the spire which has most of the optical membranes.
    “Honestly I didn’t think I was that close to the hull.” Vincent said, watching the footage.
    Enora pointed at him, “I told you it was impressive.”
    Marcus laughed. “If Impressive is synonymous to ridiculously stupid.”
    “Hey you weren’t complaining at the time.” Vincent replied.
    “No, but I remember you were.”
    Vincent looked up at him.“Shut up.”
    “Yeah, yeah I love you too. Anyway, you’re about to get kicked out of your comfy bed. I talked to the front desk on this level and you’re back on duty after tomorrow. They’re discharging you as we speak.”
    Enora frowned, “Only one day off?”
    “Yup.” Marcus said, “Same with me. So...” He looked at Enora. “... where’s the pub on this tin can?”
    Vincent looked over to him. “That’s a damn good idea.”
    Enora looked them both over. “So much for one day of rest.”
    Vincent got up out of the bed and buzzed the nurse.
    The nurse came into the room. “Yes?”
    Vincent nodded to her. “Can you bring me some clothes?”
    “But sir, you’re not-”
    “According to this I am.” Vincent cut her off, handing her the pad which he used to access his current status on the Zerachiel.
    “Oh I see. I’ll go check with the front desk, I’ll be right back.” She said, handing the pad back toward him.
    Marcus put his hand up to get her attention. “Actually that pad is yours, I took it from the front desk so you could keep it.”
    “Oh, I see. Very well.” she said as she turned and left the room.
    Vincent sat on the bed. “Hope she doesn’t take too long.”
    An hour passed before the threesome walked out of the hospital doors.
    “Ooh, Chilly.” Marcus said as they walked out onto the concourse floor. “You get used to it when you’re walking around but when you’ve been in a nice warm medical ward for three days it makes a difference doesn’t it.”
    Vincent blew to watch his breath bellow out into small white puffs of humidity. “Gotta love wide open spaces.”
    “Personally I like it better cold, at least you can think when it’s cold. It’s a lot harder to concentrate when you’ve got sweat rolling all over you. I was once a navigator for an old thermal fusion cargo transport. The core radiated a lot of heat. Even if the core wasn’t belting out more types of radiation than you could shake a stick at, it would still kill you if you got near simply by the fact that you’d be cooked inside out. Then again I was more worried about the nuclear radiation, a Geiger counter would sing four sectors from that reactor room.”
    Enora turned to him, “Imagine how hot it would be in out gunships if we used thermal fusion.”
    “Thank god for cold fusion.” Vincent said.
    “Are you spiritual?” Asked Enora.
    Vincent looked at her. “No, not particular. I just use the word interjectionally.”
    “I see.” Enora smiled. “Anyway, where to boys?”
    “Well, I wouldn’t mind getting a drink.” Vincent remarked.
    Marcus turned to Vincent “Ditto.”
    “Well our Squadron has a favorite, we’ll have to get a cart though, it’s on the other side of the concourse.”
    “Shotgun.” Marcus stated.
    “Driver chooses, and you’re sitting in the back.” Enora said.
    Marcus frowned.“Damnit, playing favorites already huh. At least this means we won’t have to scrape anymore.”
    Enora turned to him. “My personal life is completely different from my work. When on duty I will be exactly the same as I have always been regardless of what may be happening between Vincent and I. I’d appreciate it if you would keep it to yourself as well. I don’t need shit from Holeman.”
    Marcus dropped his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be a prick.”
    “You never do Marcus.” Vincent quipped. “But you still manage.”
    “Shut your face.” Marcus replied as they began following Enora who took the lead.
    Enora brought them to one of the many vehicle parkades were they got onto a magnetic levitation cart, the main mode of transportation for the concourse and the other massive levels that were found below. Enora drove while Vincent sat in the passenger seat and Marcus sat in the back seat which faced the rear of the vehicle. He sat back to back with Vincent as they drove across the concourse on the marked paths that were designated for these magnetically driven hovercraft.
    The concourse of the Zerachiel was the hub of the ship, it was the living space for over fifteen hundred people. This level  was set at the very top of where the Zerachiel was widest. With a diameter of one kilometer The concourse was very much the street level of the ship and spanned over 785 square kilometers. This made it the only level of the ship that gave access to all six tower structures, including the spire which housed the main shaft that lead from the bridge at the top of the ship to the docking rings, repair ring and engineering section at the very bottom. It was also the deck with the most head space aside from the bays, with a ceiling that hung about fifteen meters above the platform.
    It took several minutes to navigate between the base of the towers and around the base of the spire.  They passed through several intersections and had to stop for a few moments to let a medical craft pass them, it’s lights and sirens blazed as it made its way to some unknown emergency somewhere on the large ship. A few more moments passed before they stopped in a nondescript parkade. They left the maglev there and continued on foot. This particular section of the concourse housed several small shops that sold an assortment of goods ranging from combat apparel to cleaning products.
    Marcus frowned as they walked down the street. “Where’s this pub you were talking about?”
    Enora smiled, “This way.” She said as she turned abruptly to the right and entered a very narrow alleyway that seemed more like a maintenance corridor.
    Vincent and Marcus followed, their shoulders wide enough to touch either side of the narrow passageway. The passage opened to a small square which had one door on the right.
    Enora walked down a few steps to the door and opened it. “Coming?”
    “How many regulations does this pub violate?”, asked Marcus.
    “Put it this way, it’s the only place you’ll find booze while we’re in the red.” Enora answered.
    “Fine by me.” Vincent replied as he passed Marcus and descended into the doorway.
    The stairs continued past the door and they walked down for some time. Marcus counted two maintenance decks on the way which put them about twelve feet below the concourse ground level. Finally the stairs leveled and they found themselves before another door. Vincent opened it and walked in. Several people sat at round tables that spotted the small room, and a few more sat at the bar which was to the left of the entrance. The room was small and could probably fit fifty people maximum.
    Marcus passed Vincent who was contemplating the room and sat eagerly at a stool. He looked at the bartender who seemed the rough type. “So, how much is your beer?”
    The bartender leaned his large tattooed forearm on the counter and looked at Marcus with a neutral stare. “This is the pit newbie, you earn your service here.” The bartender then stood up and walked away.
    Marcus turned to Enora “What was that?”
    Enora smiled, “Sorry Marcus, I don’t make the rules here.”
    Marcus frowned, “Then who does?”
    Enora pointed to the bartender.
    “I was hoping against that.” Marcus replied.
    “Well, let’s find out what this game is all about.” Vincent said as he walked toward the bartender. “Exactly how does one earn his service here?” He asked.
    The bartender pointed to the corner of the room.
    Vincent turned and squinted in the low light of the pub. He could barely discern the unmistakable shape of the units. “Are those simulators?” He asked to which the bartender nodded. You don’t like talking much do you.
    “Only when I have to.” He said.
    “I could get used to that.” Vincent replied, looking at Marcus mockingly.
    “Hey!” Marcus said. “You want to go? I’ll challenge you to a game.”
    The bartender leaned in slightly as if interested in the notion.
    Vincent smiled, “Alright.” He turned to the bartender. “Those look old, like third generation V series sims am I right?”
    “They’re second generation V series actually, I’d love to get my hands on third gen.”
    “Second generation?” Marcus asked. “Jesus Christ, my grandfather trained on first generation V series, I don’t want to know how you got those things down here, or how you manage to stay in business.”
    The bartender laughed. “This isn’t a business. We get scanned every day, if my credit was higher or lower than normal they’d peg me for gambling or hoarding, that’s why I don’t charge credit for my services. Nevertheless I’m a man of respect and I wouldn’t give my services to someone I can’t admire in the least, and so that’s why you have to beat a minimum score on the simulator to get my attention.”
    “I’m guessing this is an old maintenance room that was used only during the construction of the ship, hence the lack of scanners.” Marcus stated.
    “Precisely, this pub has been running on the Zerachiel since it was built twenty five years ago, I inherited it from the previous fighter mechanics who founded it. It’s always been a free pub but we’ve always had the simulator gauge our patrons worth.”
    “So what if you fail to achieve in the simulator?” Vincent asked.
    The bartender turned to him. “Then you don’t get to drink.”
    “I have a more important question. Where the hell do you get the booze?” Marcus asked.
    “Enora.” The bartender stated. “Your friends ask an awful lot of questions.”
    Enora laughed. “Don’t worry, they’re both good pilots and I trust them.”
    “To answer your question.” He continued, turning back to Marcus. “The first mechanic to found the pub smuggled the booze aboard through an access tunnel that leads to a loading bay on deck one in Alpha ring. How it’s payed for is all about donation. When on shore leave a small committee organizes a gathering and we donate for the next launch and the goods are brought up before pre-launch scans are made. New members are pledged after they succeed their first gauntlet on the simulator, if you want to be a patron you pledge to donate for the next run, but there is only one mandatory donation. After that donation it’s up to you to donate, we don’t hound members who’ve pledged and payed. Those who pledge and don’t are banned.”
    “Don’t you fear they’d rat you out and get you all put in the brig?” Marcus asked.
    “No, the rules are strict and regardless of being honest they’d be punished along with us. No one we’ve banned has ever revealed our location, besides, if you weren’t with Enora who’s been a part of the committee and has donated on several occasions, I wouldn’t have let you through the first door.”
    “So the Zerachiel has it’s dirty little secrets.” Vincent said.
    “Don’t all ships have them?” Enora added.
    “I’d say so, but I can bet that the size of the Zerachiel is what makes all of this possible. There must be hundreds of these abandoned maintenance rooms.” Marcus added.
    The bartender nodded. “As a matter of fact there are, and there are some access tubes that we’ve cleared that can lead to most of them. We use them for storage. Most of them have no street level access however, and clearing the access tubes is a long and painstaking chore. It’s difficult to do because of all our schedules. If you don’t have credits to pay a debt you owe here we welcome you to clear a few feet of access tube and that settles the debt.”
    “Good to know.” Marcus said. “Not that I’m poor or anything.” He continued, shifting uneasily. “Why exactly did they fill them in the first place?” he said, obviously changing the subject.
    “Most of them pass by high security computer rooms in alpha ring and so when the Zerachiel was modernized and those areas were made off limits to ordinary personnel, the plans were revised and a lot of the tunnels were filled with hardening foam.”
    “How do you clear them without being detected?”
    “Enough with the questions Marcus let’s get to the simulator, I’m dying for a beer.”
    The bartender laughed, “To answer your question, the schematics of the ship were revised many times and now these access tunnels are no longer even marked on them, they’re so small that they barely show up in scans and so we basically have free reign down here.”
    “Thanks for answering that, and now watch as I school this poor excuse of a pilot.” Marcus said as he made his way to the simulators where Vincent was already waiting.
    “Alright so what exactly do we have to get?” Vincent said to the bartender.
    “I’ll revue your data after the simulation is over and I’ll decide if you pass or fail.”
    Marcus smiled and turned to Vincent, “You’re going down Alastair.”

The End

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