Starlight taxi, p.1
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Starlight Taxi
Copyright © 2014 by C. M. Lanning

  All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  *****

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1: A Drive to Europa

  Chapter 2: Fare is Fair

  Chapter 3: Time to Let it Go

  Chapter 4: She Wanted some Attention

  Chapter 5: A Peculiar Old Man

  Chapter 6: One Sick Dog

  Chapter 7: Pulling Strings

  Chapter 8: A Little Chat with God

  Chapter 9: A Visit from Mother

  Chapter 10: Stubborn

  Epilogue:

  About the Author:

  Chapter 1: A Drive to Europa

  Some static played in between stations as he struggled to tune in to a jazz station from Europa. He was on his way to pick up a passenger there, and he wasn’t quite in range to reach the intergalactic sounds of trumpets and saxophones.

  “Come on you piece of garba- . . . there we go. That’s all I wanted,” the driver said, as his right hand pulled away from the knob of his radio, jazz starting to fade in.

  He finished off his cigarette and put it out in the ashtray that folded out from underneath the radio.

  A saxophone bounced from note to note in a swingin’ beat as the driver’s yellow cab raced along Intergalactic Roadway 75 toward Europa.

  The driver reached up to scratch his shaggy brown hair and muttered something about needing to patch another hole in his brown pub hat.

  His right hand scraped along the blistered brown leather passenger seat feeling for his pack of cigarettes he’d only bought before leaving Earth.

  Feeling the softness of the package, he knew immediately he was out.

  “Dammit. Those smaller packs really do run out fast,” he muttered, as he came upon his exit.

  The yellow beams of the intergalactic roadway beneath the space taxi started to look a little less blurry as the driver slowed to exit the roadway and head down to Europa.

  His taxi shook a little as he entered the atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon, but ultimately, the old cab held up fine; it always did.

  As he came down onto the white tundra, he found the village he was looking for. Astara, population of 10,045, was where his future passenger sat in waiting. The town below looked worn; several older metal buildings of various heights lined the main road. Every other part of the town slept. . . except for the area with the bars.

  When humans had terraformed a number of the planets in the galaxy, they brought a number of different materials to each celestial body they made habitable for mankind as intergalactic roadways were first established. The one resource that every planet had in common? Booze.

  As the driver brought down the taxi, he cranked up the heater.

  “I hate the damn cold here. . . hope the girl I’m waiting on is quick,” the driver said.

  He stopped his vehicle, and he heard the ice crunch under him as the space cab came to rest. Europa was covered in ice, and underneath was a vast ocean. That meant there was money to make pulling water out of the moon, commencing the desalination process to purify the water, and shipping it to whomever could pay for it.

  The driver was a little antsy. He hated Europa. The moon was a little tougher than most inhabited worlds because most of the population consisted of roughnecks working drills to pull out water. Booze and roughnecks didn’t make a good combination in the driver’s mind.

  A knock at his back passenger door caused him to crank his neck toward the sound. He saw a rather petite woman with long straight purple hair blowing in the icy wind. She was wearing a thick brown coat and had no gloves on. All in all, he considered her a little punkish and out of sorts with the area.

  He rolled down his back window a little and asked, “Karmen?”

  “That’s me. Can you open the door? My ass is freezing out here, and I need to go,” Karmen said.

  “I’ll knock 30 units off your fare if you run back into the bar behind you and get me a pack of Redillo cigarettes,” the driver said.

  “Open the door, let me put my bag in, and you have a deal,” she said.

  He unlocked the door, and she tossed in a small black duffel bag with some kind of jungle cat pattern on it.

  “Shorts or longs?”

  “Longs,” he said.

  She closed the door and went back inside. Five minutes later, she had returned. She got into the cab and tossed them up at him. They hit his pub hat and bounced into the passenger seat.

  “Nice catch,” she said.

  “Nice throw,” he muttered back at her.

  He looked back at his client. She had a simple nose piercing and some kind of small Japanese marking tattooed above her right eyebrow.

  “Nice hat. I don’t think I’ve seen a single person wearing one like it,” she said.

  “It was my grandfather’s,” the driver said, taking it off and rubbing it a little before putting it back on his head and reaching for a cigarette.

  “Nice piece of history you got there. . . kind of like this cab,” she said, looking unimpressed with the interior.

  “Don’t you go insulting Starla like that,” the driver said, turning the radio up a little.

  “Starla?”

  “The cab you’re sitting in is named Starla. I’ve driven her for 25 years, and she hasn’t ever let me down. She’s a one-of-a-kind classy machine. The body of Starla is actually made from the leftover shell of a taxicab from over 200 years ago, before vehicles even really left the planet,” the driver said, clearly proud of his vehicle.

  “You named your taxi?”

  “Yeah, Starla. You know, like I work for Starlight Taxi? Is it really that hard to understand?”

  “Whatever. . . can we please just get to Mars? My sister’s birthday party is coming up,” Karmen said.

  “Sure thing,” the driver said, as the taxi slowly buzzed back to life, leading to a gradual, but altogether, successful takeoff.

  As the driver put Starla onto Intergalactic Roadway 32 to Mars, he heard his radio station go back to static.

  “Well crap. . . that was the one good thing about that moon was KKTP 91.4 jazz hits,” the driver sighed.

  “About time. Care if I plug in my music pod?”

  “Starla only has a ZM radio. Sorry about that,” the driver said.

  “This thing really doesn’t have-” Karmen was cut off by a flat stare in the rearview mirror from the driver.

  “I mean- Starla really doesn’t have anything but a radio?”

  “No, but the heater works, the oxygen filtration system works, and at least two of the four power windows work. Not to mention, she flies from planet to planet. I’d say that makes her a decent machine,” the driver said, rubbing the steering wheel.

  Karmen sighed, and Starla was silent for another hour before the driver finally asked if she was cool with some small talk.

  “Asking permission for small talk seems a little odd to me,” she said, raising an eyebrow.

  “You’d be surprised. I get two kinds of passengers, ones that want to chat and ones that don’t. Which are you?”

  “Chatting is fine,” Karmen said, leaning on the seat in front of her with her elbows.

  “You’re a bartender?”

  “I am. I’m considering a transfer to Mars to be closer to family, but the money on Europa is just too good since they have trouble getting workers,” Karmen said.

  They talked about the particulars of her
job for a while. The driver appeared to be generally interested in her career. He only stopped asking questions when she explained a particular part of her job or when he needed to grab another cigarette.

  As they approached Mars, Karmen was finishing up with yet another gripe about Europa.

  “So we’re constantly running out of supplies because shipments are so far and few inbetween,” she said.

  “You run out of booze?”

  “No, just the things you’d never think of.”

  “Like?”

  “Tiny straws and napkins. Right now we’re using these little bendy straws from the town’s only store. They’re pretty pathetic,” she said.

  Starla handled Mars’ atmosphere about as well as Europa’s. The vehicle came down into the small city of New Denver, population of 120,000.

  A few skyscrapers stood out in front of a small mountain range, just outside of which, New Denver sat.

  The driver maneuvered Starla through traffic and finally came down in front of a smaller red townhouse on a busy street. He pulled off to the side, and Karmen paid him before going to get out.

  “I have a question about being an intergalactic cab driver,” she said.

  “Shoot,” the driver said.

  “Don’t you ever get lonely?”

  “I’m an orphan with no family, not too many people to miss. I have a few friends here and there at the cab company,” the driver said.

  “You’re only friends are other cab drivers?”

  “And Starla,” he said, rubbing the dashboard.

  Karmen laughed and tapped her black nails on the hood of the cab.

  “Thanks for the ride, Starla, and you too. . .,” she trailed off, not knowing his name.

  “Do you really wanna know my name? Are you ever really going to see me again?”

  “I might invite you to my bar if you’re ever lonely,” she said.

  “I’ll keep that in mind. Have fun at your sister’s birthday,” the driver said, slowly lifting Starla off the ground.

  Karmen pouted for a moment and said, “Fine. Be that way. You know where my bar is.”

  “I do. . . on that stupid ice ball with all the roughnecks. . . great destination,” he said.

  She winked at him and then closed the door.

  The driver’s eyes getting heavy reminded him that he was in need of a good night’s sleep.

  He headed toward the nearest cheap motel, reaching for another cigarette, only to realize he was out again.

  “Dammit. . ..”

 
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