archsys webification installation

Busman's Holiday

Another short-short I wrote a while back…

History is a cruel master. Too often those we most need to remember are those soonest forgotten, and those names that do roll off our tongue are the bringers of death and destruction. We are fascinated by infamy and choose to ignore those who have gifted us their heroism and courage. In this series we aim to rectify that mistake. Here you will meet great women, wonderful men, and others whose deeds have helped shape us into the great people we are today. We will bring these legends to life, if only for a few moments, so you too can marvel at their accomplishments. It is our fervent hope these stories will encourage you to take your own first steps, faltering though they may be, down the rarely trod path to greatness.

We start the Forgotten Heroes series with one of our favorite characters from times long gone, and one of the few non-humans to grace our pages, Roseann Goodlove.

The cheap and nasty alarm clock beside Roseann’s bed came alive with the caterwauling of Z-mung’s latest hit single, Be My Baby, Baby. The musical confection, one of the staples of free-to-air stations this last month, worked its magic. Roseann, moving as little as possible and keeping her eyes firmly closed, reached across and whacked the snooze button. Five more minutes. She needed five more minutes…

I love you for who you are My love reaches beyond the stars

Z-mung was back and Roseann slapped the clock again. Five more minutes. One more snooze ought to do it. Monday mornings weren’t made any easier after she’d let her hair down over the weekend. She deserved a few more minutes…

..and in local news, police patrolling the Lower PyronMux-sector have captured the ext…

Roseann whacked the clock one last time and began to disentangle herself from her coverings. The five o’clock news was her limit. No more lazing around, not if she was going to make her shift. Half-stumbling over her bedding, and again on the clothes scattered across the floor–she promised herself she’d get to those later–Roseann crossed the few meters to the bathroom and started her wake-up routine. Mondays were hard, they always had been.

We’ll interrupt our story here for a moment to clear up a few small details. First up, Roseann is not human, at least not in the narrow sense of being a member of the species Homo sapiens sapiens. Although a carbon-based life form, she was not even closely related to any earth-based biological family. In truth, human exobiologists still haven’t caught up with the main sentient races with the Federation, far less the more obscure species like the denizens of Roseann’s world.

However, it might help if you had a working image of Roseann (there are no surviving portraits of her–time can be very cruel in that respect–only vague eye-witness accounts from her time here on Earth). Roseann Goodlove was a somewhat amorphous blob weighing approximately fifty kilograms with a number of adaptable protrusions she used to manipulate the world around her; a fixed place on her body we might recognize as a face which, according to some reports, had features members of her species found moderately acceptable. And, while she wasn’t highly schooled, Roseann had enough natural curiosity and intelligence to make her a useful member of society.

Her most important characteristic was her courage. As an everyday hero, none of her species-specific attributes are relevant to our story, so we’re simply going to ignore them and use more meaningful analogues. If, at sometime in the future, you happen to meet a member of Roseann’s species and you see we have taken some liberties, please forgive us. You would be right in saying, “They don’t take showers!,” however to detail the morning ablutions of a species we know little about is not going advance our story, so we’ll stick with the simpler, if less factual version. This same argument holds true for alarm clocks, radio playlists, coffee, and much of the rest of the day-to-day paraphernalia of life. Except for Mondays. There does appear to be a universal detestation of Mondays.

Sorry for the interruption. Let’s get back to Roseann.

Roseann clocked into work at three minutes past the hour, eight minutes late to the weekly briefing. Mondays. She hated them and they were happy to reciprocate. First shift of the week, late, with the world’s worst supervisor, Gilda Hanque, handing out the assignments. If she had any luck at all she could sneak in the back and claim she’d been there all along, but Monday did its thing, and Roseann knew she was hooped as soon as she walked into the meeting room. Hanque noticed her as soon as she came in, stopped the briefing, looked down at her watch, then stared hard at Roseann, not saying a word. The room knew the drill. They all turned in their seats and glared at the late-arriving miscreant.

“Glad you could join us, Goodlove. I hope work isn’t keeping you from something important?” the supervisor said in her parchment-dry voice. “I’m so sorry, but work is rather inconvenient to maintaining a proper social life, isn’t it, Ms Goodlove?”

Roseann knew it was pointless to argue. Useless Gilda Hanque, called Ugh by all the drivers, was one of those petty martinets whose only joys in life came from tallying time sheets and docking workers for being a few minutes over (or under) their allocated hours. Still, Roseann found today’s criticism unwarranted and unfair.

“There was an accident on the cross-town tube, Supervisor Hanque, and…” Roseann began.

“Not interested, Goodlove,” her boss interrupted. “Just not interested. Now, if you’ve quite finished interrupting us, do take a seat so that I can get on with the briefing.” She stopped to glance at her watch, then back to Roseann. “You are finished, aren’t you?”

Roseann knew when she was beaten and arguing was only going to dig her deeper into the hole she was already in. A few co-workers caught her eyes before they turned back to the briefing, sympathy writ-large on their faces. Not a good sign, not at all. Without a doubt she was going to be assigned to the Tri-D school run, the suckiest, most degrading job a shift supervisor could hand out. Those kids–spoiled and privileged snots every last one of them–took delight in baiting their drivers and playing pranks that frequently did serious damage to Company property. When the Driver’s Report blamed a particular child, the perp complained to their super-rich, super-connected parents about how crappy the bus was, how they always got the worst drivers, adding any other lies they thought they could get away with. Then the obvious happened: The parents complained to their politician friends, who in turn pressured the Company, who then castigated the drivers.

However, it became a different story if the driver dared to do anything more than sit quietly and write a report. Raising her voice would land the driver with an official reprimand and suspension, both waiting for the driver when she returned to base. Tri-D was a kind of grief Roseann could do without right now. Her life was crappy enough without throwing a card reading “No Money, No Job” on top of her pile.

Up front, Supervisor Hanque was starting to get to the end of the briefing.

“And last up, we come to this morning’s late arrival: Goodlove.” Gilda said, a mirthless grin on her ugly face. As she often did, Supervisor Hanque paused for dramatic effect then intoned the words Roseann knew were coming: “You’re on Tri-D,” she paused again, “all this week.”

Every driver in the room let out a low groan. A whole week of Tri-D was more than any one driver could possibly be required to handle! The Union had tried to insert a clause into their recent award negotiations with the company to limit drivers’ exposure to high-pressure runs like Tri-D to a maximum of two a week, but the company had pushed back, refusing to concede the point. And now Roseann was stuck.

“Got anything smart to say, Goodlove?” Gilda said, knocking on her assignment slab. “No? I didn’t think so.” She stepped over and placed the slab on the clerk table. “Okay, people, let’s get out there and do a good job. Oh! And one last thing. Don’t forget it’s Double Demerits all this week. Keep your noses clean, especially you, Goodlove. I don’t want the company to get any grief from those Tri-D parents. Got it?”

Roseann quietly joined the queue and received a few furtive shoulder pats from her colleges along the way. The line slowly snaked its way forward as each driver picked up their assignment vouchers and headed out to their rides. As Roseann got closer to the front of the queue, Supervisor Hanque wandered over and removed a voucher from the pile. When Roseann reached the desk the clerk flicked her eyes toward the supervisor and gave a small shrug. Roseann stepped aside as Gilda made a pantomime of double checking the voucher details, ensuring Roseann waited until all the other drivers had left. Her checking done–for the record, the clerk had not once in the twenty-three standard years Roseann had worked for the company ever made a mistake on a dispatch voucher–Gilda handed the assignment voucher over.

“I’m watching you, Goodlove. The company is watching,” she added needlessly.

Roseann wasn’t new to the game, she’d seen this kind of petty tyrant many times over the years. Gilda Hanque was a young thing with a fire in her belly and a chip on her shoulder, all too happy to live whatever cliches she thought would impress the Company higher-ups, as if anything other than a two-for-one stock-split would get their attention. Roseann had learned the best way to deal with these lower management morons was to say nothing, do what needed doing, and ignore them until they went away. This approached worked faultlessly in the past, but she’d never been assigned the Tri-D run every day for a week before.

For the record, she managed to last four days.

To the east, as the sky began to lighten from a blackness deeper than my thoughts, I felt my body shrink into itself, pulling hard against the adamantine chains shackling me, vainly attempting to delay the inevitable. Even knowing what was coming–what had always come, what always would come–I couldn’t stop myself from looking at the sunrise. I have always enjoyed spectacular mountain vistas, and this one, I had to admit, was the grandest, most beautiful I had ever seen–new and savage, needle-tipped, snow-covered, storm-encased, distant, imperious, and majestic–in short, all I could ever want in a mountain range. But now, and I suspected forever more, the Tartarus Range had become, as they had always been, the center of my life, the focus of my world. Even though I knew what was coming, even as I recoiled from the thought, the beauty of the mountains in the pre-dawn took my breath away. I just couldn’t help myself, this place was worthy of a postcard. Shame I didn’t have a pen.

Roseann survived the first three days on the Tri-D run without too much personal or psychic damage, though the same couldn’t be said for 33T9, her assigned ride. Third day in, on the trip home, one of the “precocious junior citizens”–she suspected it was Mary trakJon, as clever and nasty a piece of self-obsessed richness as she’d ever had the displeasure of hauling to and from school–planted a delayed-action cyberbomb that took out 33T9’s trans-spatial haploid differential, leaving them both stranded thirty-eight light-years from home. The bomb had made a complete mess of the differential, plus a number of the other drive sub-systems, and by the time Roseann had recovered from her shock and worked out what happened, been on the radio to base to get a repair vehicle dispatched, and completed her paperwork, she found herself nine hours late getting back to the depot. And, despite her best intentions, she was angry.

And it really didn’t help Supervisor Hanque was waiting for her.

“You’re not getting overtime for this, Goodlove, you know that?” Roseann was too tired to argue. “In fact you’re lucky if we don’t dock you for repair and pickup. It’s one-oh-one for the Tri-D run, right up there on the checklist: Disable system interfaces from the main cabin. In fact, why don’t you and I take a few moments to go over the checklist right now?”

Roseann looked at her with dead, tired eyes.

“Happy to, boss, but before we do, I’m required to remind you of Company Regulation 113 dot B. If you want to go through the list right now, it means I’m on overtime, counted from the start of the shift. That’s fine by me but you’ll have to get someone else for tomorrow’s shift because I’ll be maxed out.” She paused for a moment. “So, where do you want to start?”

Supervisor Hanque turned mottled-red and quivered with rage.

“Get out of here, Goodlove,” she managed to hiss. “And I want to see you on-time for tomorrow’s shift otherwise there’s going to be real trouble. I’ve already marked your report Unacceptable and you’re going to have to answer to the Board for the damage done to 33T9. Now get out of here before I really lose my temper.”

Roseann was too tired to give her anything other than a cursory wave.

The first rays struck the rocks a few meters above my head. As I sank further into my chains, the dread and fear rose within me, like a sick version of the tide. I knew from bitter experience the sun was about to hit me with its full force and I was going to be bathed in light so strong I’d be effectively blind for the rest of the day. My skin was going to burn–I could already feel it trying to crawl off my bones and find somewhere safe to hide–until, in the midst of my agony, the blisters that had risen of their own accord would burst, exposing the sensitive dermal layer to their own dose of egg-frying UV.

But the burning wasn’t the worst. Oh no. Not by any stretch. I knew the worst was on its way now, flying on vast feathery wings from its rookery in the Tartarus Range. And I knew it was in no hurry, taking its leisurely time, conserving its energy for the important things in life, like eating. It knew where I was and how helpless I was. It knew the taste of me.

The worst torment of all was it knew my terror. I’m sure it was guided to me by the smell of my fear.

Day four, and Roseann arrived twenty minutes early for her shift. With her brain still fried from the day before, this small miracle happened all of its own accord. The one benefit of getting to work early, apart from getting to the communal coffee before it was burned to its usual undrinkable sludge, was annoying her supervisor. Childish? Sure, but isn’t life often made bearable by such petty victories? Personally, Roseann would have preferred the overtime and taken the day off but that was not to be.

The morning briefing went as Roseann had come to expect, with more tepid sarcasm and lame wit from Supervisor Hanque and nearly complete disinterest from the driving crew. The blah-blah over and half-asleep from fatigue, Roseann joined the voucher queue expecting some kind of antics from Useless Gilda. She wasn’t surprised when she was pulled her aside with the old hold-back-the-voucher trick. Honestly, today Roseann couldn’t care less.

“You’re going to love this, Goodlove,” her boss began. “Because your lack of vigilance, 33T9 is out of action, and I have to assign you a new transport.” She smiled one of those nasty smirks Roseann had become so used to over the last year. “But when I say new, I don’t mean new-new.” She paused a beat to try and maximize the drama running in her head, a show Roseann didn’t want a part in but had no choice to play. The supervisor handed over the voucher. “Circumstances being as they are,” she said, “I have the pleasure to assign you 19D4!”

Roseann looked at her blankly, took the voucher, and headed off to her ride, knowing any reaction she might make would only give Gilda more satisfaction than she already had. The 19-series of transports were old, slow, and uncomfortable. Basically they were museum pieces, which is a nice way of saying they were pieces of junk that should have been taken out of service decades ago. The Tri-D kids were going to hate it and make her life a living hell, but what choice did she have?

19D4 was a clunker, no doubt about that. Everything about the bus was antiquated and it took Roseann twice as long as normal to hook-up. However, once in harness, communicating with 19D4 reminded her of chatting to Great Aunt Marta, her mother’s mother’s sister, who was well-mannered, kind-hearted, and as deaf as a post. She and Marta usually got along well but nothing was straight forward. There were lots of broken phrases and waving arms, laughter and shrugs; frustrating, but also fun. That was when The Thought came: She was about to take her Great Aunt into the lion’s den. Like Marta, this 19D4 was a relic of a different, slower, age. This was a bus who had done its time and it didn’t deserve being torn apart by a group of mindless brats. The Thought sat in her belly like a dead weight.

When they were finally prepped and she’d been granted clearance to leave the depot, Roseann came to a decision. Enough of petty tyrants, enough of over-privileged kids, enough of work; those kids could look after themselves today. She and 19D4 were going to take a vacation, a road-trip to the edge of the galaxy. Roseann readjusted the co-ordinates, punched in the first leg parameters and, with a smile and a small whoop, told the old bus to jump.

A tuneful whistle told me the raptor had arrived. I couldn’t see it, the sun had fritzed my eyes by then and I had nothing but afterimages. My ears, though, were fine. As was my skin. In fact, it was working overtime. I could feel the change on my skin as the eagle–to tell the truth I couldn’t tell if the bird was an eagle or not–flew past me, occluding the sun. Then again when it spread its wings and began to hop across the ledge toward me. As far as I was concerned it could leave me to the sun, but I knew that wasn’t how this game was going to play out.

One hop. Two. A third, I could smell its sweet rancid breath and the slight dusty mustiness of its feathers. The smell surprised me. I would have thought all the time it had spent floating and drifting through space would have freshened the bird up but apparently not. Everyday I had the same thought, and every day it ended the same way, with a whistle and pain. So much pain.

A whistle, and then more pain.

Whistle. Pain.


All her life–from before she was hatched, she once told an interviewer–Roseann had wanted to go to the edge of the galaxy. Most people wanted to see the super-massive black holes lurking at the center of everything, but not her. Nope. Her desire was for the Inky Void. She wanted to see the sight of nothing at all; no stars, nothing but the haze of distant galaxies against the blackness of space. She really didn’t know why, but the thought of seeing all that emptiness with her own eyes filled her with wonder, and she really wanted some the universe’s stark beauty in her life right now.

There were, of course, a few small problems she had to contend with. The galaxy is a big place, a very big place, and deciding to impulsively take a vacation a long way from home left Roseann short some of the essentials of life: A change of clothes, some personal hygiene products, and her collection of self-improvement casts. Not that she was going to let such trivia stop her, certainly not when she had a company voucher to hand. Such a voucher was as good as gold until it timed out and, luckily for her, Gilda, in her desire to humiliate Roseann further, ensured this particular voucher was valid for the next few shifts. While she initially felt the indignity her supervisor was shooting for, she was now in a position to make the voucher work for her. 19D4, for all its quirks and foibles, was quite economical if it wasn’t asked to go too fast. That worked for Roseann. If she was frugal, eating transit-stop junk food for the trip, she’d have enough funds to get to the edge and back.

As it turned out, she didn’t quite make it to the edge. Close, but in the end the edge was simply too far for 19D4. Nine jumps into the trip the central core told her the jump module was in need of service. Warnings like this weren’t unusual for a transport of 19D4’s vintage–three sub-systems had started off in the yellow including secondary life-support–so Roseann did what any experienced professional would do when they had gone AWOL with company property, she ignored it figuring she’d know what to fix when it broke. She soon found out when part way through the tenth jump the differential failed, unceremoniously dumping her and 19D4 into the gravity well of the nearest star.

This could have been a disaster, but they were lucky. And not so lucky. On the upside, 19D4 managed to shut the failed module down in a graceful manner, then had enough time to analyze the star-system they were dropping into. This allowed the bus a chance to place them safely in-system, rather than too close to the star or any other large object (a lot better, and much less toasty, than often happened when a catastrophic jump module failure occurred). The down side was that the system they dropped into was classified Quarantine Two and, under Federation Law, it was absolutely forbidden for unauthorized personnel to enter such a system’s gravity well. Roseann hoped there was an exemption for breakdowns. Maybe. It was hard to keep up with all the rules and regulations.

From her perspective, the system seemed quite pleasant. It was isolated, sitting in its own tiny cul-de-sac, with a single small G-class sun surrounded by an orderly collection of planets. It was a classic system, well proportioned and harmonious, with the outer gas giants balancing the inner rocks in a way poets seemed to adore. Nice though it looked, Roseann was more interested in the EM-signals 19D4 was picking up from the inner system than she was in the aesthetics of the place. With little choice, she pointed 19D4’s nose down the gravity well and headed in-system.

There aren’t words I can find to describe the pain. All I can say, to give you an inkling, is that it became my world, my being. I was pain and it was me. Accompanied by a cheerful whistle. I could tell I was there because, even in the midst of my agony, the voice-inside would come out with a touching remark like, “At least someone is happy!” Sad to say but that someone was never me.

Night eventually came and the bird would leave. Then cold would arrive, and with the cold, I’d find my sanity returning. For a while. Eventually my skin would scream as the broken blisters froze and icicles formed in my blood. My suffering had changed but the pain had not. I would come to a twisted form of peace with the coming of a new dawn, just in time to be replaced by the dread of my new day beginning. Then I’d remember who would come with the dawn.

This life of mine really sucked.

The strongest electromagnetic signals came from the third planet out, a blue-green jewel surrounded by all manner of orbital junk. 19D4 picked up less intense signals coming from a number of the other planets and moons–some as far out as the first gas giant–but nothing matched the emanations coming from the jewel.

The ship’s initial analysis showed the planet was not only horribly over-crowded, but the locals were doing a good job of poisoning their home. No wonder Federation had placed them under Quarantine. The overcrowding and pollution were all in keeping with the Federation’s standard policy on species development: Keep them isolated until they learned to co-operate, pool their resources, and figure out how to get out their gravity well of their own accord. If they couldn’t do that, then they deserved their fate. The Federation Quarantine would stay in place until the EM signals died away and the research teams declared the planet virgin territory.

And this was where Roseann and 19D4 were headed. A quarantined backwater. Primitive wasn’t such a big deal–it looked like it had tech enough for her to carry out some running repairs and get 19D4 up and going again–but breaking the quarantine was not good. There were few things the Federation frowned on quite as much as an unauthorised landing on a Q2 planet, but she and 19D4 didn’t have a great deal of choice. With sub-space comms and jump offline, unless she could do some repairs they’d be stuck here forever, and she had no intention of that happening. Thankfully, while old, 19D4 was advanced enough, and clever enough, to hide from any of the tech these guys seemed to have to hand. Worst case, Roseann figured she’d get a slap on the wrist and maybe some community service time. Losing her job would be an issue, but she was already going there, so what was a little bit more drama?

Still, if they were going to land, she’d best to pick somewhere distant from any major population centers yet with enough tech to get her repairs done. 19D4 found a likely site in the middle of one of the smaller continents, a long way from everywhere but close to a large EM signal source. It seemed a place they could sit, do some repairs to the comms and jump, and, worst case, wait for a Company service crew to turn up. Nope. Not worst case. A more likely scenario was Sector Security would arrive and drag them away. 19D4 rated the odds fifty-fifty. Luckily for us their story didn’t work out that way.

Roseann’s real problems began when 19D4 hit the edge of the atmosphere. They encountered turbulence far worse than the bus had calculated and compensating for its effects blew out two more sub-systems. Roseann wasn’t happy when 19D4 informed her Secondary Life-support was gone for good, along with the Traffic module. That was not good news; the Traffic sub-system was going to keep them hidden from the locals. With Traffic down, they’d probably light up all kinds of local surveillance systems, however, ever optimistic, Roseann hoped they might be mistaken for some kind of falling space junk or a stray meteor. It was night where they were landing, so maybe all the locals would be asleep. But she knew that was a vain hope.

19D4 came down in a desert twenty-six kilometers south of a small town called Alice Springs, in Australia’s Northern Territory. They were ten kilometers from the Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap, one of the Western Alliance’s strategic surveillance listening posts and 19D4’s arrival lit their monitoring panels up like a Christmas tree. Heavily military personnel were at the landing site before the dark-red dust raised by their landing had settled.

The simulation seemed to last for years. Years and years of pain, all in the space of three days. Psych-punishment was a nightmare, and Roseann was glad when it was over.

The world’s assembled media arrived within minutes. Remote AV drones buzzed 19D4’s landing site beaming pictures live to studios around the globe, with satellites relaying the images to the remote outposts within the system. Initial reactions were sought from world leaders. The Australian Prime Minister categorically denied an alien ship had landed in the desert and, when shown live images, stated the ship was an experimental freighter being jointly developed by Alliance partners. The Head of the Western Alliance Security Agency, Anne-Marie Lefevre, claimed an unknown-unknown had entered earth’s atmosphere and had landed near JDF-Pine Gap, but no further information was available at this time. She advised everyone to remain calm, adding all necessary precautions were being taken to ensure the security of the people of Earth. The Network Talking Heads blathered, speculating on the origins and nature of 19D4 and whatever payload it might contain. The interweb commentariat were in a deep lather over the landing, equally split between alien invasion, a Chinese satellite failure, and the First Sign of Rapture.

Within 19D4, Roseann wondered what to do. They’d violated quarantine, there was nothing she could do about that, and probably tripped all kinds of Sector Security alarms. She knew the locals knew they were there–19D4 had little problem decoding the local signals and working their language through Auxiliary Communications–and, in a quick analysis, informed her she was safe enough within the protective confines of the hull. But sitting still waiting for Federation Sector Security to arrive and drag her away wasn’t Roseann’s style. Referring to some of the planet’s archives, she composed a short message and had 19D4 broadcast it on all channels. The message was simple:

“People of Earth, I come in peace.”

After repairing the sub-space comms module, it took the company’s repair crew three weeks to arrive, with most of that time was spent attempting to recover 19D4’s specifications from a deleted archive. When the repair crew did arrive, Sector Security was with them. In addition to breaching half-a-dozen major quarantine laws, Roseann had also violated a number of First Species acts and regulations, as faithfully recorded by local covert researchers. Federation justice was swift and the arriving Security Team, now freed from the constraints of having to operate in a clandestine manner, quickly had Roseann under protective custody, much to the shock of Earth’s denizens.

During her short sojourn on the planet, Roseann had become a celebrity. She was the darling of the news media, a ratings phenomenon, and the prized catch of breakfast TV the world over. It was during this time she, in consultation with 19D4, chose the name “Roseann Goodlove” as a suitable substitute for her own name, a form totally untranslatable into any human language. In return for the kindness and hospitality the People of Earth showed her, Roseann instructed 19D4 to share its technical archives (suitably translated, of course) with the appropriate people at the Global Space Agency. Included within the dump were a collection of basic maintenance and repair manuals for the ship’s sub-systems, most importantly for the trans-spatial differential, plus a directory covering the major jump routes within this galactic sector. Simply put, Roseann had given Humanity the how and where of getting out of their own gravity well. She was hailed by commentators, especially once word of the technical archive got out, as the “Savior of Mankind” and “The New Prometheus.”

For all of this adulation, Roseann found Earth hot, uncomfortable, and far too crowded for liking. Plus there was nothing to eat (she wasn’t going to starve, 19D4 could produce emergency nutrient paste for another couple of hundred years if needed) and she missed her own bed. She was almost relieved when the Security Team took her into custody.

For its part, 19D4 enjoyed interacting with the lesser AIs on the planet. They were a lot like naive children and it had been a long long time since 19D4 had felt this superior to anyone. Liking Roseann, and knowing who was going to accompany the repair crew, 19D4 taught the local AIs a modicum of Federation Law, particularly as it related to First Species and the Rights of Salvage (basically the locals were not allowed to keep any hardware they recovered from crash, but they could keep any know-how they gleaned from that technology), and gave them primers on a number of jurisdictional matters related to the landing. While they might be tech primitive, the locals were excellent lawyers and bureaucrats, and quickly grasped how to game the system.

The arrival of the Security Team sent the local lawyers into a flurry of activity and, with the information 19D4 provided, quickly petitioned the Local Sector Magistrates to have the attending Security Team release Roseann on jurisdictional grounds, pending further investigation. Mayhem ensued, but the Rule of Law held. It was another two weeks before Local Sector appointed an Investigating Magistrate and had them on-site, dealing with the thorny problem of getting 19D4 out of the hands of the Earth scientists without further trampling over the innate rights humans had under the Lesser Lifeforms Administration and Quarantine Act.

In another week the maintenance crew had 19D4 back up and running, and the Investigating Magistrate had settled the initial formalities related to first contact, placing Roseann back in custody. It was only as the alien contingent were preparing to depart did anyone realise, owing to interface sub-system issue, Roseann was the only one who could pilot 19D4. She laughed at the irony and thought about saying “No” out of spite, but she was tired and wanted to go home. This planet was nice enough but home was better, and she really did missed her bed.

Back home, nothing was quite as she thought it might be. Her story–the story of a veteran bus driver going on a frolic–caught the public’s imagination and Roseann appeared, once more, on all the fashionable talk-shows. Everyone loved her. Her adventure touched the zeitgeist, and most of the Federation wished they too could leave their cares and worries behind them and head off to look into the void of intergalactic space. The Sector Court, swayed for the first time in a long age by public opinion, decided to show a sense of humor they were not normally known for, and chose to charge Roseann with the misdemeanor of leaving the Tri-D kid’s stranded, and ordered her punishment: three days of public psych-incarceration. In order to make the punishment unique and viewable, the Court Punisher, who happened to be an amateur xeno-anthropologist, studied the archives and chose to base Roseann’s punishment on her greater crime of breaching the Quarantine Act. Within the archives, the Punisher found a story of a man being punished for giving humans the gift of technology, a perfectly appropriate consequence for the wayward bus driver’s actions, and guaranteed to be a commercial rating success.

As for Roseann, much to her own surprise, the company chose not to fire her (“Fire a celebrity? You have to be joking! Think of what that’d do to the share price!”) but carried on as if nothing had happened. She went right back to doing her shifts and fighting with Gilda Hanque (who was now livid at Roseann’s celebrity). Perhaps more surprising, the thought of going AWOL again never crossed Roseann’s mind. Occasionally passengers would ask her about her trip, and her life as a celebrity, but by far the most common question she was asked is, “Would she do it again?”

Would she go back to the edge of the Galaxy?

“Sure,” she’d answer with a smile. “Why not? But only if the company says I can use 19D4 for free.”

<<<< The End >>>>