This is the 69th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
For the Good of the David, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 8th February 2013
Word count: 873
“Are the Russians with us on this?” Colonel John French asked the young man.
“They have concerns, there’s a lot of risk, we are on a space station,” Luke said.
“We all know the chuffing risks, but are they in?” French asked.
“They are, but they have a price,” the young man said.
“Vodka?” the retired colonel asked.
“Vodka,” Luke agreed, “But they’re fine with you being in charge of the operation. They’ll provide everything they can.”
“God love the Russians,” the colonel said.
The operation was not fast, and keeping it a secret in community as small as the David Space Station in L1 orbit, was increasingly difficult. However the participants pressed on.
It was a full time job for French, a retired colonel in Britain’s Royal Engineers, also known as Sappers, as he worked to keep the operation safe and discreet. The Colonel had retired to the space station for health reasons, but now his life was filled with purpose again.
A week and a half later stage one was completed.
“We’re just about done,” the Colonel reported to his young friend, “Location is the next issue, and storage.”
“I’ve got it covered,” Luke said as he handed over a card with a station address on it.
A week later, everything was set up, the Colonel looked around, “Going to be a hell of a day tomorrow Luke.”
“Yes Sir, it is,” Luke said casting his eye over everything again, it all had to be just so. “You remember how we’re to handle the station commander?”
“I do. You sure he’ll accept the up front honest approach?”
“The idea has already been planted,” Luke said, “He doesn’t think something like this can work, but it’s done. As long as we can do this responsibly, and won’t endanger the station, he should go for it.”
“If you say so,” the Colonel said.
The following afternoon the two men looked out the window of the address chosen for their small operation. Several people had gathered, word had spread throughout the day, and there were many volunteers for this mission, civilian, station staff and military personnel alike.
Luke pressed a button on a remote and the shutters over the door way raised up. The Colonel moved to his position, as chattering excited people entered.
When most were inside the modest storage unit the Colonel cleared his throat.
“Welcome everyone to the First Bar in Space!” he said loudly and with genuine warmth, “The bar is open.”
Luke pulled the strings on a cloth that covered the price list. The bar offered space made vodka and gin, and imported beers and wines at a much higher prices than local stuff.
“Colonel, my name’s Tess Mackintosh, I write for the station news site, mind if I ask a few questions?” a middle aged woman asked, electronic tablet in hand.
“Sure thing,” the Colonel said passing two vodkas to young men who’d paid. “Drink while we talk?” she nodded, so he poured two shots. “Luke, watch the bar.” I The Colonel lead the reporter to an empty table, which was in truth an over turned cargo box, but they’d made a bar on a budget.
“So, this quite the place,” the reporter started.
“Yeah, it was an idea me and Luke had,” Colonel Frenh said, “There’s plenty of recreational activities up here, but just not the same as a quiet evening in the bar. Now seemed the right time, and I’m an engineer, he’s a biochemist.”
“And where did you get the alcohol from?” she asked.
“We made it. As safely as I could make it to do so,” the Colonel said, “Everything’s covered, armoured, and easily ventable into space if a problem develops. The safety of this station is paramount to us.”
“But where did the ingredients come from? Fresh foods, even frozen foods cost a premium from Earth,” she pointed out, “It can’t be cheap, and it must deplete the resources of the station.”
“Not at all,” Luke said bringing two more glasses over, “Sixteen percent of the food that Earth ships up to us is not fit for human consumption, four percent of the frozen too. The majority of it is vegetable matter. Here’s the clincher, we send it back, but the station doesn’t get the money back. After the cost of shipping it.”
“So is this safe?” the reporter held up the drink.
“Without a doubt. I’m a biochemist, and I’ve tested it. Testing slowed us down, but it allowed us to experiment to get the best and safest results.”
“And the law?”
“We’re waiting on the Commander to give us a visit to get his say,” Luke said.
“But the law changed recently, a lot of laws were made local. There’s over a million people staying long term, or living permenantly in space. Each of the major stations has been given a degree of autonomy, with over sight from below. So, it’s the Commanders call, we’re just showing what can be achieved,” the Colonel added.
“Well I wish you both luck,” the reporter said sipping on her vodka.
“Thanks,” the Colonel said.
Just then the Commander of the David entered, looking round curiously.
“Time for the pitch of your life,” Luke said.