A Serial Saga Of Those Maverick Spacers Known As Rocketbillies And Their Moonshine-Powered Rockets
Author's Note: This space opera is inspired by a dream I had where I was blasting into space on a moonshine powered rocket. Going planet to planet, living free - - as a moonshine powered Rocketbilly. Cause when you're a Rocketbilly, whether you're drinking up or blasting off, you're always powered by that same ole moonshine.
As traders, explorers and prospectors, Rocketbillies exist within a highly decentralized star-spanning economy where the primary consumable - moonshine - can be produced almost anywhere that you can grow fruit or sugarcane to ferment. Where there is life, there is moonshine, as the Rocketbillies say.
I am proud to debut this serial space opera, as it is written, here on our own decentralized frontier - that "space" we call Steemit! I hope you enjoy.
Rocketbilly 2315.79 - The Red Dragon
We stepped out of my ship at Trexxa jumpgate and the twins went joggin' off like lithe gazelles. They was princesses on their homeworld but here they was just a couple a Rocketbillies-In-Training eager to exercise and explore.
The dockmaster was gettin' pushy. Said galaxy-saving hero or not, the dock fee was due again. Amazing how I had blown through the fortune I won! But with no cargo in the ship and no progress on my prospecting claim, I was in a bind. Karma rich but cash poor! I smiled and offerred him some moonshine to share in honor of the Rocketbilly gods. But he wasn't havin' it.
Just gimme time to cruise about and collect on some debts, I told him, wheelin' my rocket bike out of the cargo hold. Soon as I'm paid it will insta-tranfer to the dockchain. He handed me that some old signing pad and I scrawled my mark upon it. "You know the drill. Half an hour you're in default. Why didn't you prepay dock fees while you were rich? You coulda bought the whole section."
"Not the Rocketbilly way," I said, and thumbed on the bike's gravity shield and lift fans. A twist of the wrist fired the rockets and I roared off.
First stop, Macey's Pawn to collect on some crates of grav transducers. The place was swarmed with folks buyin' music and gamer equipment. The joint was flush with cash. More than enough for my transducers. Took ten minutes waitin' in line just to talk to a robot. Transducers hadn't sold yet. They were still on "special display." Where? I hadn't seen no transducers.
Bot swiveled its head to the side and nodded toward the corner. Buried under some holosound amplifiers were my transducer crates. "How you gonna sell what nobody can see?" I complained. "Store policy," the bot said, which made no sense.
I waited five more minutes to talk to a human. "Everyone can see those right where they sit," he smiled, "They're on the pawnchain."
I staggered out cussing up a storm, but it attracted no reaction from the pawnshop's distracted patrons. Half of them were immersed in gamer worlds using goggles or full helmets. I had a powerful urge to seek out some of the station's more genteel patrons just so I could disturb their peace. But there was no time for that.
My wristcom chimed and noted that I was now in default on the dock fee. I called the dockmaster and told him to cut some slack for a galactic hero. After all, I'd saved the whole economy, the civilization, an' everyone's lives. He gave me an ornate lecture about the wheel of time, how it turns and how heros have their day and fulfill their destiny but that wheel don't stop. What was he gettin' at? Was he sayin' I was gettin' run over by the wheel of time? I knew I had under 30 minutes to pay or I would lose title to my ship and this guy was blatherin' on and on. Burnin' time like he had all the time in the world. Them dockmasters was pirates. He was tryin' to talk the clock out. Waste my precious time. Ship control would transfer to him soon as the dockchain counted down to zero. I'd be locked out of my own ship!
I hung up on him but there was another chime on the wristcom. It was the twins. I'd promised them dinner again at the revolving restaurant with platefuls of that lobster from Terra. It would cost a fortune. They was blissfully unaware of my dwindled resources. I'd bluffed pretty good so far. But if I didn't provide Terran lobster tonight they'd know something weren't right. They blew me kisses, winked and murmured promises of some private things they would like to do later after our feast, back at my ship. Dang it!
Salvation smiled on me then. Happy and relieved, I entered a bar where folks was playin' holo-cards fast and furious. Crypto-cards, cyberchips and token pogs littered the tables, ripe for the taking.
But though I beamed my winningest smile all around, the reception was downright hostile! Security was already headin' my way from all directions. The proprietor made clear in colorful language that I was no longer welcome. Seemed they'd caught on that the twins was psychic and I'd been usin' em to boost my luck. I was banned from all the card houses on the strip.
I glanced up and down the street. Here came Tork, the local rocketbiker I'd out-raced weeks before. Maybe he would race again.
Nope. Tork wouldn't race. He wanted to hang out and talk racing. I had no time for that, but he seemed like he wanted to be friends so I broke it down for him.
"I need to win a race and get paid. Fast." I glanced at my wristcom. "Like, 15 minutes fast."
He nodded, waved for me to follow, and took off walkin' fast. I was startin to like Tork.
He led me to a beat-up door and gave 3 quick knocks, then one more. A metal slat slid back and eyes peered at us. The door cracked open. I heard industrial sounds, engines, metal banging against metal.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Underground vehicle club," Tork smiled.
Through the door and downward we went, into another world...
25 feet down, the scene opened up into a 500 foot long arena. Stripped-down ground cars swarmed around bashing each other. Massive fans sucked the plentiful smoke and exhaust fumes into the walls, where the air was scrubbed and returned.
Tork approached a car with red paint of scales and flame and "Red Dragon" written in script.
"Here's your ride," said Tork, pulling the driver out through the window and punching him. The driver fell to the ground and yelled, "What was that for man!?"
"That last tuneup you did was for shit. You lose your ride. It's Jake's ride now. Give him your impact suit and show him the special features."
The driver stood, rubbed his jaw, and shrugged. He stripped off his armor pants and jacket, gave them to me. "Door's welded shut," he said, "Go in through the window."
The "Red Dragon" was an alcohol turbine groundcar modded for demolition derby. All glass was removed. You was allowed to hit your opponents anywhere but the driver's door. We wore armored environment suits and full cyber helmets. So we could see radar, thermal, and competition data while we dueled. Flamethrowers, spinning blades, and hammers was allowed. If you couldn't move your car for 10 seconds, you was out. Last moving vehicle won.
The driver, Hernandoz, showed me the special switches and toggles. "Flamethrower. Booster rockets."
"Where's my sawblade?"
"No sawblade, hombre. But you got this..."
He popped open a panel embedded in the firewall beneath the steering wheel.
"That's some next level tech, bro! Nobody's seen this before. Here's your clutch and gear shift."
I slammed the panel shut and started the turbine. It wound up with a raspy hiss, then settled into a nice rumble.
At the starting line I took a slowdown tab to get rid of the jitters. I'd hardly swallowed it when I felt time slow down. Might help with some split second maneuvers.
I fired a test blast of my flamethrower. Out of twin nostrils on the hood an oozy fire spewed 30 feet. A toggle let me angle them up & down and side to side.
I grimly checked my wristcom. I had five minutes to immobilize the other 3 cars or I lost my ship. Maybe the twins too. If I won, payment would hit my blockchain instantly from the derbychain and I'd be golden. There'd be partying and good vibes.
Desolation or elevation, my choice. I controlled my destiny with the controls in my hands.
I chose victory. I yelled as the starter lights flashed. The arena shook with the sound of the starter klaxon.
There were 4 vehicles in the derby.
I drove "Red Dragon." It had twin flamethrowers on its hood and 4 solid fuel booster rockets mounted above the rear bumper.
The metallic brown and gold "Thor's Hammer" sported a single massive weapon - a 12 foot long, 1,500 pound V-8 powered hammer rising out of the hood.
The silver car was labeled "Boss Saw" and had a robot armed saw blade on the hood and 2 fixed saw blades on the rear bumper.
A blue car with airbrushed "Cryo Crazy" name and graphics had a cryogenic gun on its hood that fired not just liquid nitrogen, but one step colder. Liquid hydrogen. With some gel and additives that made it transfer temperature even more rapid and destructive. They said in the trunk he had a rack of solid hydrogen insta-freeze bombs. The coldest of the cold.
We pulled off the startline and prowled around hunting each other. Cars collided and pieces went airborne.
I seen right off that me and Cryo had the fastest cars. Boss Saw accelerated only slowly and Thor's Hammer was downright sluggish. All the weight of them saws and hammer was weighin' em down.
But Thor's Hammer was no joke. You couldn't get hit with that hammer. One good blow on your engine compartment would crush your turbine and you'd be out.
Boss Saw and Cryo Crazy was battling. Boss sawed into Cryo's front fender while Cryo fired a cryogenic stream of liquid hydrogen which was freezing Boss's right front wheel solid. Under the influence of the slowdown tabs, I saw it all. Icicles and hexagonal nodules of frost formed on the wheel. Complex geometric crystalline cracks spread across the tire and it became hyper-brittle and pulverized.
I had to snap myself out of it when Thor approached with his hammer slammin' down toward my bumper. I zoomed away then spun around near Boss Saw. As Thor's Hammer started to come down again I accelerated and rammed his hood at an angle that turned him towards Boss Saw. The hammer came down and hit Boss Saw's cryogenically frozen wheel. It shattered like glass. Whole shards of the nearby fender went spinning off and pulverized when they hit the ground. Cryo Crazy gave me a thumbs up.
But that didn't keep him from redirecting the spew of liquid hydrogen towards me. It splashed across my hood and made weird ice patterns on my helmet that distorted my synthetic vision.
I lit up my flamethrower and moved in towards Cryo's front left tire. In seconds of concentrated fire attack I had turned it into a smoking, charred rubber droopy mass. It pulled apart and fell off the wheel when Cryo spun around.
Cryo's spew of liquid hydrogen was about to freeze my whole engine compartment so I had to back off. My turbine coughed and stalled. Then it warmed back up and began rumbling normal again. A few more seconds and it would have froze up and exploded.
Boss Saw came at me, dragging one wheel-less axle but still steerable and moving fast. I put 'er into reverse and dodged. This left Thor's Hammer in his way. With his large hood saw screaming at full power, Boss cut cleanly through Thor's entire hood. Splitting straight through the turbine. The whole front hood of Thor's Hammer was cleaved off and the derby had its first immobilization.
Boss Saw slammed it into reverse and came at me with the twin saws on his rear bumper. He sawed off my right wheel. My front end slammed down as the wheel departed. I hit Boss Saw with a dual-nostril spew of fire an' precisely targeted his exhaust ports.
Napalm shot up Boss Saw's exhaust pipe. It melted and backfired the turbine. Boss Saw's hood blew off as his turbine exploded and scattered in pieces. Boss Saw was immobile.
It was a duel now between me and Cryo.
I followed him as he fled, trying to target his exhaust ports. I thought I was about to succeed when hatches above Cryo's rear bumper swung open and cannister-like bombs popped out.
These was the dreaded frozen hydrogen. They burst as I rolled over them, shattering my drivetrain and causing parts of my car's underside to crumble and pulverize.
I skidded to a stop. I saw in the data display of my cyber helm that the race computer had switched my icon to yellow an' was countin down ten seconds til I was declared officially immobile.
With 1 second left I fired one of the four solid rockets mounted above my car's bumper. Vectorin' the thrust with a toggle stick, I targeted Cryo's car and hit it on the rear quarter. That knocked some body panels loose and sent Cryo spinnin' into the wall.
Again the computer began counting down ten seconds til I was declared immobile. My 3 remaining rocket boosters would only buy me 30 more seconds of mobility.
Cryo roared straight at me. He unleashed the cryogenic stream of liquid hydrogen and froze up my hood. I saw the engine's temperature sensors show ridiculous cold readings: negative 375 degrees Fahrenheit and fallin'. Then my turbine coughed, seized up, and exploded in a million crystalline shards.
I fired a booster rocket and slammed into Cryo, bashing his car's hood against my hood. It was a powerful hit, dead center, and crushed my flamethrower tanks along with Cryo's hydrogen tanks. Fire and ice erupted and fought each other, dappling our cars with various damage and pooling in the street. The extremes gradually cancelled each other out, an' pools of hydrogen an' napalm boiled off an' burned.
With less than a second left, I fired my next to last rocket and spun off to the side to get set up for my last attempt to disable Cryo with one last well-aimed, perfectly timed ram.
Cryo smoked his tires and accelerated towards me. I saw my moment of opportunity and seized it! Fired my last booster rocket at just the right angle to let me clip Cryo's engine compartment where the body was ripped away. I crunched his turbine. It coughed and sputtered, spit out bits of glowin' metal, and smoked. But did not quit. It whirred on soundin' sick but not yet dead.
In my cyberhelm I saw the seconds counting down until I was officially immobile. Blown turbine, no booster rockets left. Just sittin' on the pavement.
A monstrous shriek rent the air and Cryo's turbine blew up. Finally he was immobile! But became immobile later than me. The derby computer had just now begun his 10-second countdown. I was now down to 1 second.
I looked real close to make sure Cryo was not moving but with his turbine blowed up, he wasn't goin' nowhere. Not that I had no choice now.
I opened the hatch beneath the steering wheel and engaged the controls Henandoz had shown me.
I felt silly. Like some kinda circus clown pedalin' a toy bike. But it worked. Bicycle pedals drove the rear wheels. It was geared real low so I could move the car. I adjusted the gearshift and got it to go slightly faster. In the cyberhelm I saw the computer detect this movement and change my status from yellow back to green.
Cryo's car timed out and was declared immobile. Still I pedalled along, scraping the arena's pavement at maybe 1/3 mile per hour. The derbychain registered my victory and I began receiving crypto tributes from fans, supporters, and compadres. The crowd went wild.
I checked my wristcom. Just in time, the derbychain credited my blockchain and it auto-payed the dock fee. It was a big prize. I was solvent again, and then some. I could afford all the Terran lobster the twins and I could eat - for the next week if we wanted.
Tork and his crew approached what was left of the Red Dragon cheering. Hernandoz joked that I owed someone a 10 minute car.
The Twins had seen most of the derby. Soon as I had signed up on the derbychain they'd gotten notifications. They didn't have underground vehicle clubs on their primitive jungle homeworld, so this kind of racing was all new to them. They were blown away by the spectacle. They posed for some sexy holo-photos next to the wreck of the Red Dragon. I didn't need to be psychic to figure out they was turned on by my victory, the remnants of my gladiatorial chariot, and the whole scene of which I was, for the moment, practically King.
I praised Saint Elvis for his guidance and inspiration. Then I swallowed 3 more slowdown tabs and submerged deeply into the moment.