Easy Listenin': Space Asshole, Chris Remo.
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Albert Price, more commonly known by the good folk of Miranda-22 as "Bertie" or "Good buddy, good pal, pass me another", is the de-facto leader of the station, based on two things: His possession of a silenced pistol and his possession of the station's sole bar. His enforcement of any rule of law is, admittedly, quite lacking, though his presence and his Deputies serve to keep the most violent crimes down, and to make sure that the station doesn't fall apart around them, a task somewhat more difficult than it needs to be.
Bertie is a self-admitted "jackass", having at several points in his life been forced to rethink his moral stance and perspective over the years as his experiences have steadily forced him outward from civilized space, starting at Enceladus Colony and a life as a dock-worker and pilot to crewman on a tramp freighter to ruler of a tiny keep at the edge of space. He has become disaffected with life, any moral code beyond "keep Miranda alive" having been shorn away from him by the trials of time, and he will tolerate no threat to the only thing keeping him grounded in life, the station and its continued operation.
Born in 2301 to Elise and Kamden Price, a marine biologist studying introduced bacteria and a low-level dock manager aboard Enceladus-LO-4 "Conrad" respectively, Albert- named for the husband of Queen Victoria, as Kamden was a bit of an Anglophile and Elise was a native of the Berlin State- grew up in as much of a middle-class life as the then-inner frontier could provide, educated at home by his mother, as she did not trust in the highly-technical school system put in place by the Enceledus CA to ensure her son was able to thrive in an educated role. However, she was a scientist, not a teacher, and his earliest schooling was best called imprecise, as more often than not Elise would rush him too fast on certain subjects while missing out on others entirely. As such, young Bertie was drawn to his father, a card-carrying Syndicalist and a dock manager, who spent his days navigating spacecraft through Enceladus' orbit and managing the busy lowport's docks rather than staring at test tubes, and would grow up emphasizing far more his father's actions and morals than his mother's, who expected more of him than he felt able to give.
As such, when he reached his sixteenth birthday- graduating two years early, thanks to his mother's constant pressuring for him to excel in his studies- he shocked her by enrolling at the Conrad-Chelsea School, the ECA's local trade school for spaceflight operation, EVA guilds, and the trade of the stars. Bertie was looking to strike out from home, a fact that did not strike his mother as a positive at all. She pressured his father to make him stand down. Kamden refused, having grown quite attached to his little hanger-on son, and would spend the rest of his life trying to reconcile himself with Elise for letting him go.
And so, off to Conrad-Chelsea young Bertie went, excited for the change of scenery from the drab walls of one spaceport to the drab walls of another. Joining the oncoming class of 2317, Bertie excelled in his first year in school, making good use of the skills his mother had taught him, though in the next years he would steadily decline in performance to merely an above-average student, graduating in 2321 with a certification in spaceflight operation and an intermediate EVA license. He also left with inroads made to the Enceladus System Operators' Union and the Saturnian Syndicalists, though his connection with the latter remained unofficial, given the group's poor standing with the local Colonial Authority. In fact, it was an ESOU rep who landed him his first job, a space traffic coordinator's assistant managing the launch of chemical-propelled tanker rockets from the surface below. He remained in good touch with his parents, particularly his father, who he sent a portion of his paycheck to every month, and grew more exposed to the social circles of the local syndicalists and to an extent their socialist friends, helping to plan and pay for protests, lobbyists, and meetings. It was through this network that he would be forced into the first radical moment of his life.
In 2330, in the face of mounting traffic and thus mounting workloads on dock workers, STCs, and all manner of personnel involved in greasing the wheels that make space travel run around Saturn, the Saturnian Syndicalists organized a massive rally, primarily centered around Enceladus, the ice-mining hub of the system. As such, it was decided that all traffic to and from the system would stop. No ships would be given clearance to dock. No pilots would be dispatched. No one would work the unloading systems. The ECA would be brought to a halt, and would only resume when the Authority itself delegated to the dockyard companies increases in pay to the dock workers and greater protections for the workers' unions. After all, they were skilled workers, the lot of them, and deserved to be treated as such. And so, on September 10th, 2330, Enceladus shut down. No green-lights were given to launch. Ships coming in to dock were put into perpetual holding patterns. And in response, the Colonial Authority considered- for the briefest moment- bending the knee.
And then they decided on a better course of action.
If Enceladus wanted to shut down the docks, then they'd shut down Enceladus. And so they did. The Colonial Authority turned off the life support systems on Conrad, Chelsea, and Schleiden Drifts, the three major habitats in Enceladus' SOI. In doing so, they put those drifts, home to thirty thousand people all totaled, on an inexorable timer. They had days, maybe hours, until all the oxygen was consumed, or before the carbon dioxide built up to lethal levels. The people of the drifts turned against the unions rather quickly after that. In the weeks that followed, the Saturnian Syndicalists were all but run out of the system, the other unions doing their best to distance themselves from the strikers. Dozens of organizers were offered up to the CA as sacrificial lambs, to be tried for endangering the populations of three drifts through "gross negligence". And Bertie, as a low-level organizer, was set to join them. So, he booked it, giving his parents as lengthy a farewell as he could manage before enlisting with a ship kept in dock by the strike and readying to make up lost time, no questions asked: the Iceman Sam, a tanker/freighter combination vessel captained by one Kami Aguilar.
Taken aboard the Iceman, Bertie found himself on an outbound trajectory from Enceladus and Saturn itself- a good thing, as there would have been nowhere in-system for him to hide- and well on his way towards the edge of the Solar system itself. The Iceman wasn't just any freighter, no dead-minded trawler drifting from place to place on lazy orbits, it was a Brachistocrone freighter, a nuclear ship geared for travelling long distances at fast speeds. It was an interstellar vehicle. That was somewhat less of a good thing. By nature, the process of traveling faster than light required... extensive investment. So much so that even in 2330, after over a hundred years of understanding the science behind creating FTL gateways, only three had been built around Sol, the Colonial Authority using the rest to exponentially expand the network rather than develop the home system. And so, travelling through one of these gates would represent a monumental step- there would be no easy return. Even if he could pay his part of the transfer fees, he would have to hitch a ride on another brachy freighter, then hope that freighter was heading to Saturn, then hope they wouldn't have it out for him at home when he returned. The odds were good that passing through the gate to Proxima, where Aguilar had informed him the Iceman was headed, would be a one-way trip. Nonetheless, he went through with it, on the logic that it wasn't as if he could float the AUs back home on his own even before separating himself from Sol by light-years in an instant- he would return home if the opportunity presented itself. In the meanwhile, he would go where space took him.
Aboard the Iceman, filling in the role of navigator's mate, Bertie came to what he felt was a most profound realization: There was no way for the power dynamic to ever be equal in space, if it started from an unequal footing. Everything he'd believed about the comparative success of collectives over individuals, the power of the people to affect change, the value of good living conditions, was all true, from a perspective where one could actually implement those changes. But in space, someone had to run the life-support and the atmospheric pumps, someone had to ship the CHNOPS, someone had to fund the launches, someone had to be behind everything- there was no way that a space-based infrastructure could be started on an equal footing, and once it had been started, trying to change the power dynamic would be like a patient in an ICU trying to beat down a man holding the power cord to their life support. Bertie wasn't sure if the realization was an epiphany or a rationalization for his failure, but either way, it explained a hell of a lot, and it gave him closure on his actions, if not hope for the future. It also led him down a radically different path than any he had even considered before- that the only goal in life was to acquire power, and if not possible, to deal as best as one could with the cards they'd been dealt. That that was just the way things were. Live life, don't bother none, and get the best outcome you can.
Such a policy, of course, didn't lend itself to much success. Bertie spent the next eight years working aboard the Iceman, first as the navigator's mate and then the navigator, his now-expired license and what information he could glean from currently-certified STCs over the bottle enabling him to remain connected to the traffic-control and system navigator's network without actually having to get back into the Colonial Authority's certification programs. To keep out of the CA's sights was a necessity for him, still paranoid as he was about the possibility of an outstanding warrant on his head. That was the stated reason, at least- in reality, communication between stellar systems was often so slow and poorly-regulated it was unlikely that his involvement in riots years ago was recorded anywhere outside the deepest dredges of the Enceladus computing network. His staying away from any chance of returning home was the result of a deeper feeling, a belief that he had betrayed his family, his ideals, and his expectations for life. That he had wasted years in spacer's bars across eight solar systems, dozens of drifts, and the same old cubicle on a spacecraft hauling ice and hydrogen slurry across the stars like an oversized delivery van. He came up with an idea then, most likely over drink, that would see him able to make up these years wasted on pointless nihilism. He would have a chance again. If only he could get the money. And so he turned to that universal, age-old get-rich-quick scheme, smuggling.
Though the irony of a man looking to get back on the straight and narrow trying to do so through smuggling illicit goods wasn't lost on Bertie, he nonetheless went through with his plan, and three days from the sixth anniversary of his commission with Aguilar, he took an under-the-table hauling contract to sell off six pounds of cigars at various ports of call along the Iceman's route, wiring a percentage of the profit back to his seller after leaving each one. He would repeat this arrangement as often as he could at every station the Iceman docked at, taking on what contraband there was and that wouldn't cut into the ship's mass allowance (and there was quite a lot, as the Colonial Authority's best efforts was hardly enough to prevent people from bringing Earthly creature comforts with them into the cold black), selling what he could, and storing the rest in a vacuum-sealed inflatable stowed in the Iceman's external utility space. He made quite the profit on the side this way, but it wasn't enough, not enough by far. Seven and a half years into his commission with Aguilar, the Iceman had reached the end of the Third Circuit, the gate route terminating at lonely 18 Scorpio, he'd fulfilled less than half of the goal he'd set for himself to return home. If he passed through Sol without all the money, he'd have to return home in shame. More importantly, though, he would've in his mind at least sold his soul for nothing. The only choice would be to ride out the other end of the home system and hope his parents were still living fourteen years later. Elise would be 57 when the eighth year of his commission rolled around, Kamden 60. Would they still be there in 2352? He couldn't take that chance. More importantly, he owed certain sums to a train of people across the Circuit, whose goods he hadn't entirely sold, and he had just enough money to break even- but paying off those debts put him back in the same hole as before, without any money to show for what would ultimately be fourteen years he'd left his family in the lurch. It was unacceptable.
But it didn't have to be. He was the ship's navigator, its sole link of communication to space traffic control, and he'd greased the palms of a dozen controllers in as many systems along the Third Circuit, almost as many as he owed debts to. It would be easy to extend the journey until he paid off his debts. He could do it. And since mama always said a doer was worth ten times a talker's weight in gold, he did. Of course, the whole scheme couldn't last. It fell apart around Phi Serpentis, at- ironically enough- the Miranda-59 surveying station, by then expanded into the system's secondary mining hub, when Aguilar, already suspicious at the detour to Phi rather than Lambda Serpentis, followed Bertie stationside while he was transferring, shall it be said, certain contraband items acquired at a previous port of call from his own storage to the station administrator's holds, and was found out in the process. Kami was less disturbed by the Bertie's illicit side hustle as she was by his deception, and confronted him in the airlock vestibule between the Iceman and the station. It is perhaps an understatement that this was the worst place to do such a thing, even worse considering the fact that they weren't alone- the station administrator wasn't at all pleased at the idea of a brachy freighter leaving port with the knowledge that he, an appointed agent of the Far Colonial Authority's will, was engaging in activities decisively not in line with that will. His credibility and more importantly his position were on the line if he let a ship that he'd have no control over take that information and spread it to the stars. The threat had to be nipped in the bud.
Fortunately, that task was an easy one to take care of. The airlocks on Miranda-type stations, especially the newer ones, had an... unfortunate reputation for slipping loose, a rare occurrence, but not unheard of, and at the moment the captain of the Iceman had intentionally locked herself in one of these unreliable devices. And so, when the lock behind her clicked shut and the stationside one slid open, Aguilar was well aware of the critical miscalculation she had made. She was presented with an ultimatum: turn herself in for indefinite detention or let herself and her navigator eat vacuum. She would never get a chance to decide, though, as a panicked Bertie made up her mind for her, with the aid of an M2102 Central silenced pistol acquired and never sold off five ports of call back, a turn of events that directly benefitted precisely no one but the station administrator, and which indirectly won Bertie the Iceman as a reward for keeping the administrator's secret. He was the second-in-command, after all, and with Aguilar out of the way, it was only natural for a more suitable figure to take up the helm shipside. Reluctantly, Bertie agreed, and after explaining to his twelve crewmates that an unfortunate accident had led to Kami being caught on the wrong side of a depressurized airlock- technically true, as her body was discreetly shuffled out of the cargo bay, and neither the Iceman or Miranda-59 had windows to see the bullet hole squarely centered on her sternum.
Easy Listenin': Spacer's Home, Leslie Fish, "Carmen Miranda's Ghost".
Easy Listenin': Hurt, cover by Johnny Cash.
This factbook takes hints from those by Kirislavia and Zitravgrad.
Price's Likeness: 123RF.