external image brown-paper-bag-hand-bag-jil-sander.jpg
Dragging myself up the ladder of my transport, I took one last glance around the mining colony to check for any stragglers. This habit of mine was normally just that, but this time I noticed one figure standing far off, nearly hidden behind a mining laser. He didn’t look like the next shift, so I checked on him. I dropped lightly back off the ladder, and practically skipped the hundred yards between us. I love walking, around on the asteroid. The low gravity allows me to float over the ground like I was never injured to begin with. People make fun of me when they meet me on the ship, in gravity like we had back home, but here no one gives me a second glance.
Nervously glancing back and forth between me and one of the secret tunnels leading out of the colony, the guy looked relieved that I’d waited. I waved a questioning hello, wondering what he was waiting for. He spoke first.
“Wait on the transport, I’ll be over soon.” His callousness surprised me a little, as I didn’t have to wait for him at all. I considered letting him wait for the next transport for a second, before digging a little deeper. I didn’t recognize him, but read Joseph Redguard on his nametag. I’d heard the name floating around the messhall before. I never expected to meet an introverted programmer on the surface of the asteroid.
“Are you waiting for something?” I questioned him, hardly expecting a straight answer.
I got a short glare, but no response. I had to try. I considered pressing a little harder when another group of miners passed by us.
“Hey Josh, thanks for waiting! Thought for sure we’d have to catch the next ride home.” One of them clapped me on the back, knocking me forward a couple yards, and breaking a smile across my face.
“No problem fellas, I’ll be over in a second.”
“Is this guy giving you any trouble?” One of my regulars asked. I knew they’d stick up for me if I needed it, even without any obvious reason. I shook my head and waved them back to the ship. It wasn’t really a lie, the only thing he’d done was not get on the transport with everyone else, and neither had they.
Joseph straightened up as they headed back towards the transport, I assumed because the miners couldn’t hear anymore, and he was preparing for more questions. Following his gaze, I saw a different reason for the sudden posture. Another soldier floated towards us, in a poorly fitted uniform. He moved a little oddly too. I liked the feeling of floating over the asteroid, but he seemed to really be floating. I’d seen this in really old videos from home, but they’d always called it a moonwalk, and that guy always did it backwards.
“I’ll get to you back on the ship!” Joseph tried one more time. Hell no, now I’m curious. He looked uncomfortable, but decided to try ignoring me to see what would happen. I guess he remembered the group of miners that had probably started watching out of the transport windows by now.
The other uniform finished gliding towards us, and stopped in a shadow. He stuck out a gloved hand holding a brown paper pag, and Joseph took it. Glancing at me, he quickly peeked inside the bag, and, satisfied, nodded curtly towards our silent companion, and started turning towards the transport.
Confused, the other guy turned towards me for a second, looking for some sort of guidance. I’d guess they hadn’t practiced this meeting before, and I noticed something funny as I stared back at him. I grabbed Joseph’s arm in surprised and pulled him back perhaps a little too roughly.
The arorem standing across from us jumped a bit at the sudden movement, evidently not having expected any problems.
“Get off me!” Joseph hissed, jerking away from my grip. Years of being called a cripple had strengthened my upper body enough to hold on to this feeble programmer.
“You better explain yourself pretty quickly,” I threatened, turning back towards the transport, and watchful miners.
As if on cue an, “everything all right out there?” drifted across the barren landscape. I stared pointedly at Joseph, tightening my grip.
“All right,” he muttered, “I’ll explain.” I called off the miner with a friendly smile and wave, and released my grip on Joseph’s arm.
“I don’t know if you know this,” he started, “but I have a thing for developing VR games.” He explained his passion for game development, and desire to grow his audience. Recently, he said, he’s become interested in connecting differently with his audience. “I’ve done all of the ‘fun mechanics’ games, I wanted to try interacting with people’s hearts.” Specifically, he said he wanted to see the effects his games had on the Domoring. An alien species that lives on the other side of the planet, Domoring react physically when they feel a strong emotion. Joseph told me that one of his goals was to witness a Domoring play a game that made their body actually change. Shape, color, viscosity, he didn’t care, just wanted his gamers to feel more heavily invested in what they did.
Still suspicious, I asked him about the bag. He meekly opened it for me to look. I stared until he closed it again. I’d heard about the Gracie flower before, but never expected to see one. “It’s for my next game,” he explained. “I want to borrow this flower’s power, but it has to be correct.” I nodded, awed, thinking of the possibilities. I didn’t know much about VR gaming, but this flower had allowed countless parents to have kids the way they dreamed. It carried emotional weight, that’s for sure.
I noticed the lonely arorem had already drifted back out of sight, towards his home, I’m sure. I let him go, what point would there be to chasing him. I didn’t need any more trouble today.
Joseph and I hustled back to the transport ship, knowing the miners were waiting. As he took up a seat in the back, I turned to a guy I knew was looking to have a kid soon. “You know who that was?” I asked him. He nodded. “You have to try his next game, it’s going to be great."