The Orbit Liner by James M Smith
Visit James M Smith's page

Shelby sat in the handstitched leather bucket seat looking over the Q1 financial reports published early that cycle. The reports were still generated and pushed to the network on Earth Mean Time which meant that Shelby was still asleep in his suite onboard the Orbit Liner when the numbers went live. He thought about it for a minute. If it weren’t for the half-dozen little clocks he kept on his multiple displays he would be lost in his own time zone.

Must have been... yes, we’d have been passing through the asteroid belt during the upload.

That accounted for the further delay in transmission. Pulling down data was always spotty until you got on the other side of the belt and neared the closer relays around Jupiter.

The current report was highlighting the impact closing the last of Luna’s warehousing facilities would have on Earth exports this quarter, but emphasized the savings freeing up capital would bring in the long run. Could be a hit for Earth-based exports. Shelby thought. It’s probably for the best in the long run. He hated to see those facilities closed, even if he knew it was only for silly nostalgia of the legacy SpacExpress business.

A waiter dressed in an elaborate red vest and pinstripe slacks walked over to where the older businessman sat. He carried a glass of expensive amber liquor in a laser-etched crystal glass that was shaped to look like a tulip upon a silver platter. Inside the clear glass was three fingers of Old World Scotch and a single globe of chemically pure H2O. The waiter set the glass down next to Shelby and the business man tipped him with a flick of the wrist, wanting to finish this last page before turning his attention elsewhere.

Finally taking a break from a solar system’s worth of financial data, he lifted the glass and sipped on the single malt scotch. As he raised his gaze up from his lap, the financial reports became opaque, and then disappeared all together. Reclining in the leather seat, Shelby relaxed in the Liner’s luxurious viewing cabin. He let his eyes wander across the room.

It was relatively early on Sol time but Shelby was old school. He was Martian born and raised and intended to keep his internal clock just the way it was set on the day he was born, thank you very much. Still, if you could afford to drink alcohol made on Earth in millennium old distilleries people rarely told you it was to early to start. He regarded the expensive mixture in his hand and gave the amber beverage a slight swirl, enjoying the clink the ice made against the glass.

One of these days the company will make you give it up though. That persistent voice inside his head piped in. Shelby knew he shouldn’t be drinking. The alcohol would doom his liver and he would soon need to replace his already aging second. He didn’t care though. He could afford the two weeks leave he’d need to recover from the surgery. He was a company man who lived on company money and for now, Shelby was worth more than a new liver transplant and a couple of weeks vacation time to heal up.

His eyes drifted to the back of the room, furthest away from the bar where a large grand piano sat vacant. Windows were both a danger and an engineering pain for out-of-orbit vessels. The lower levels typically only had round port holes measuring less than a foot in diameter, but up here in the luxury suites the entire starboard wall was made of a nearly unbreakable clear polymer that was designed to self-repair if damaged. Outside, the massiveness of Saturn loomed into view.

There was a slight but pleasant chime in Shelby’s ear as his augmented visual displays minimized and the Orbit Liner’s four concentric rings logo appeared in the middle of Shelby’s vision.

“Greetings valued passengers!” The pre-programmed message from the navigational computer began inside his ear. It was odd that the program was set up as a neural message even though the ship broadcasted it vessel wide. It continued, “We would like to inform you that the Orbital Liner has passed out of Photonic Laser Thruster Gamma’s range and will soon align itself with PLT Delta’s array. For those of you leaving the vessel to board shuttles bound for the Titan, Phoebe, Prometheus & Pandora colonies, the shuttles will depart in T-minus 75 minutes. Please be aboard the appropriate vessel in the docking bay before then. Thank you, and may you have a pleasant voyage.”

The message ended in the same chiming as it had began; only this time the notes descended in tone. Shelby switched the channel over to Classical Compositions of the Masters and went back to his scotch. He’d boarded the vessel while it had been making the transfer just outside of Mars and would be travelling another few days as the ship made its way back towards Earth.