[SG] SERIES' #0: One Question

Mechaman mechaman at eyrie.org
Fri Mar 28 09:55:46 PDT 2008

               If you were the one, the chosen one
           To sacrifice yourself in the moment of danger
          Would you have the grace, the courage it takes
               To save the life of a stranger?

                   Ghost in the Mecha, XLtd


                         S E R I E S '

                        0 - One Question

*--- Hey There, Mr. Madman

-- July 6th, 2009

    Watchamacallit Station had many adjectives associated with it.  Most 
of them not being anything positive for its outlook.  However, it had a 
few.  Remote.  Vital.  Sturdy.  Well, the last it had some danger of 
losing soon if the station's sole inhabitant didn't turn over some
cash quickly.  He'd even considered raising his rates to keep up with 
interstellar inflation and the collapse of a few free trade agreement 
loopholes he'd been using for some supplies.
    Part of the problem was location workes both ways.  He didn't like too 
many people coming around asking too many questions.  On the other hand, 
without enough questions, no money.  No money, no fixing.  No fixing, 
well.  He might have to rent a place.  And he hated that.  So he found 
himself working in the environmental room, trying to scrub scrubbers to 
gain another six months out of the seven-over-warranty he'd already 
gleaned out of the current set.  He knew they were good for that.  After 
all, he _was_ The Sage.  If he applied the elbow grease, that is.
    An alarm sounded sharply for a moment, then cut out as quickly as the 
airlock door cycled faster than was generally possible.  The Sage 
scowled and wiped his hands on his coveralls as he went to head for his 
rooms.  Partially to get on something a bit less messy, but more 
realistically to provoke his visitor to appear in front of him before he 
could.  On cue, the man walked into the engineering section from a side 
passage, cutting off the Sage from his rooms.  The Sage's scowl deepened 
in further annoyance as he looked at the visitor.
    "Ohhh, no.  Not you, no questions for you.  I don't care what you've 
got, I don't care what treasure you bring, what money you offer, what 
poison you want me to swill."  The Sage rubbed his head and scowled all 
the more as he felt the grease smudge his the top of his balding head.
    The man smiled widely, the twinkle in his eyes shining almost as 
brightly as the gold filigree woven into the flowing shirt and sash he 
wore.  The clothing was as gaudy as a Hawaiian shirt, if seemingly more 
expensive by far. It only made hime seem more insufferable to the Sage's 
opinion.  "Oh, I don't have any poison for you, sir.  And are you sure 
you'd not take a question from the likes of me?  I'd hate to find that 
the all knowing Sage would find any question a problem, unless, for 
example, he does not know."
    A vein pulsed on the balding man's neck, though the flush of blood 
to his face helped hide it as he looked angrily at his 'guest'.  "A 
question?  A question I don't know?  I. Am. The. Sage.  I Know 
EVERYTHING!"  He took another breath and seemed to calm, a patent and 
false sense of hospitable friendliness.  The kind practiced by 
pre-owned vehicular salesmen since the wheel was put up for barter.
"But if, and I say IF, I would answer such a question, that price would 
be a high one.  Way above my humble standard rates."
    The smiling one's expression didn't change one bit.  "Oh, I think I 
have a few things to offer.  All for one question."  He reached into his 
pants and pulled out a small golden sphere.  It wasn't bigger than a 
golf ball with a few stub pencils seemingly stuck through.  He held it 
with casual grace, as if willing to just let it roll off his fingers.
    The Sage blinked a moment, then snatched the item out of the man's 
hand angrily.  "What the Hell did you think you were doing bring 
that anywhere?  Especially here!"  He cradled the little sphere like a 
precious gem or egg as he glared to the man.
    "What's a few atoms of Absurdium among friends."  The smile didn't 
waver at all.  The Sage didn't need to speculate that his guest had all 
going to plan, damn the luck.  "Enough to power this station for oh, 
half the life of the universe."
    "And half a chance of blowing it and a good bit of the sector to the 
end of time instead, if it gets breached!"  The Sage snarled. His hands 
held fast to the item as he glared.  "Damnation, Dustin! That's no 
payment, that IS the poison."
    Dustin Etranger, so named, didn't bother changing his expression any 
more than he did for anything else.  "Oh, I had a feeling it wouldn't be 
so simple.  So perhaps this would be enough?"  With another flourish, he 
pulled out of thin air a small rack of pink crystal, each slightly 
smaller than the last.  The Sage's expression brightened as he looked at 
that, phantom images of dollar signs blinding him a moment.  "Is that a 
perfect set of Octavian core crystals?", he asked rhetorically.
    "Valued at about half a million galactic credits minimum on the 
auction circuit, yes," Dustin confirmed.  He held it one-handed, the 
other end pointed toward the Sage.  "One.  Question."
    The Sage watched the end of rack, swallowing with difficulty.  He 
could feel the headache building in the front of his head as the tension of 
the moment increased.  He moistened his lips, eyes following the case as 
if it were a cobra poised to strike at his face.  "One.  Question."
    Still the smile stayed the same, even as the tone of the voice 
dipped, cold as the space outside, softer than the hiss of a snake. 
"Why are you The Sage?"
    "Why."  The Sage paused, a moment of surprise hitting even as he KNEW 
what was being asked.  Such is the power of sheer absurdity.  As the 
shock passed, he scowled and finally broke eyecontact with his coveted 
prize to glare.  "WHY?  BECAUSE, of course!  I KNOW EVERYTHING!  What 
else do you EXPECT?"
    "Ah, well, that is the question I suppose."  Etranger admitted 
amiably, his voice regaining it's general tone of affability.  His hand 
loosened its grip on the case as he relaxed, the end of it tipping 
enough to allow pseudogravity to take its course with it.  The Sage let 
out an inarticulate cry and grabbed quickly with his hands, forgetting 
the small object within it.  He grabbed the rack, cradling it much like 
he had the golden orb that now bounced unnoted into the station center.
    Etranger, his objective realized, sketched a small salute and turned 
to leave.  As the airlock klaxon rang again, the Sage uncurled and 
winced as the headache didn't abate fully.  He regarded his prize a long 
moment, then started to walk for the hanger airlock.  For all the 
greed-fueled glee on his face, something nagged at the back of the 
Sage's head.  Something he knew he was willfully ignoring.
    As he placed the crystal down in the copilot's seat of the overlarge 
transtellar shuttle he ownened, he let himself just let that nagging 
feeling go.  He turned on the transmitter, sending to the obligatory 
picket he'd had for over a decade.  "This is the Sage, and I'm declarin' 
the station's closed.  Sage's holiday!  See you all in a few planetary 
rotations OF your choosing.  Choose a long one, I'll be a bit."
    There was a small pause before the picket's occupants responded. 
"Roger that, Sage.  Anything we should worry about while you're gone?"
    The Sage smirked as he went to reply.  "That would be a good 
question.  Would you like to contribute fifteen to my coffers to find 
    "Fifteen?  I though you've been charging twenty or more for years..."
    "I'm feeling charitable, benevolent, and nostalgic." The Sage 
declared arily.  "Rate'll be back when I get back.  IF you want to 
capitalize on them now..."
    "....no, I think we're good.  Happy Holiday."
    "Hmph."  The Sage toggled the comm off and threw the shuttles 
thrusters into a lurching move forward before the engines finished 
tuning their balance.  They never did want his answers when he was in a 
good mood.  But of course, he knew everything.  They knew better than to 
think it was everything they wantd to hear.  Besides, it'd be horrible 
if he gave them the interstellar forecast.

    Cold, with 5% chance of the fabric of time and space unravelling five 
solar days hence, stellar winds from the galactic core at 3 


Copyright 2007, James Rinehart.  All rights reserved.  The Sage created 
by Bill Dickson.  Opening 'teaser' quote from hidden track of Styx' 
_Cyclorama_ album.

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