I am a waterman. I'm sixteen years old and nearing the end of my apprenticeship.

In some places, such as most of the near and deep space colonies, being a waterman more or less meant that I'd be the local plumber and that I'd for certain have a lowly place on the list of the colony's tech men. But where water is difficult to find, you become the most important member of the colony after the acting mayor that is.

No water, no life.

My journeyman: Taffy, - has managed the needs of our colony for twenty-five years now but bad habits have taken a toll on his health of late. And in his day I've heard that he was once a legend of sorts for his divination skills.

"All apprentices must learn by the book, Curran. We learn the right way first and then we'll see if there's some of that magic in you that they say your mother had."

I remember those words like they were yesterday. Taffy was two years younger at the time and I was as new and green as they come. I recall being quite apprehensive, shy, and quite uncomfortable about my appointment back then. There were surely many better qualified candidates for the apprenticeship out there I thought, but I however had a history.

I've not met my mother. It would have been nice had I, but many people have no mother technically speaking. Just consider the New Eurons - they come from a butcher. They're spat from a machine like cookie dough. They all look the same. If having a mother that I've never touched or hugged, helps to distinguish me from the likes of them: I'll take it.

And of course, as fate would have it my mother was also a waterman. Her colony however was located more than two thousand kilometers from here on the shores of the Pacific. Sea water can be made potable but the real difficulty in her case was collecting it safely. There was some serious competition to contend with when it came to collecting sea water - about three of them; big bruisers, too. Between the three of them they have the monopoly for all the open salt and fresh water resources on Earth. How about that? There was the New Euron Water Group, the Inter Stellar Water Corporation and of course - JUNCKE; they're into everything.

Anyhow, my mother was sucked up into one of their water spouts. These water spouts were man-made micro storms or vortexes that lifted the sea water up and into the lower atmosphere where it was collected and transported away by tankers.

You can't blame the colonists for getting too close to those spouts because there was an immense amount of fresh protein left behind as the local shore lines would recede when the water spouts were active. Even here, where it's dry as a bone, we contend with weather vortexes of our own as often as once a day and ours aren't man-made and ours seemingly have a mind of their own like the devil himself our elders say.

But regardless, man-made or otherwise you need god's good guidance or the good sense to get out the way when a vortex was around. All my short life, I've been teased for being the son of an unfortunate fool or hero depending on how you want to look at it. It's what got me into this whole thing and ironically only a fool would say no to the job because there are lot of worse occupations - like working on top for instance.

If you aren't seriously gifted, clever or had some seriously debilitating disability - you worked on top. The colony needed your income. It didn't matter if you were done in ten years or had come back crippled - your colony would take care of you the best it could till you were dead.

Pouring forms wasn't for me, not if I could help it. That's where they'd normally start you up top - makin' concrete. Twelve hour shifts, and longer when required. Freezing till you turned blue on build-ups and tear-downs and swimming in a pool of your own sweat from the neck down when they were curing the forms. People would tell you all the time that you were making good money, but they weren't the ones being irradiated in an oven or frozen in a weightless hell. There were some up top that believed that shit even though the fact of the matter was that for every day you spent on top your life would become a week shorter.

So much for man's 'Immortal Revolution'.

'A man can live forever now', - they'd tell you when you were little and unaware, but just not you you'd find out later. Your heroes; they get to live forever. The ball players, the big media types, the very top of the tech men; they are the immortals. And, those precious extra days they get to live were on the backs of others - namely the colonists.

I'll be one till I'm dead. I know my place. If you're not New Euron and you still live on Earth these days as I do; they call you the vestigials when they want to be nice and the 'vesticles' as in testicles when they want to be nasty. We fought a war more than a hundred years ago to gain our colonist status. Vestigial colonist status on earth means never living past forty for most of my brethren and that makes me want to be the best waterman I can be for them.


Where is this man? He told me just yesterday that he'd be early this morning to check a troublesome perimeter well with me.

A hard cardinal rule around here was that it takes two to investigate any calls beyond the colony's perimeter. I wasn't going home again to sit on my ass all day like yesterday. If he doesn't show up within the hour I'm headin' out without him. And I'll log it in my hours: 'Attended calls without my journeyman'. We'll see how he likes that - the fat fuck.

Taffy's problems aren't mine. Everybody in the colony has had their ups and downs, and most - worse than his and they still managed to pull their weight. If he wasn't good for anything else but a waterman they'd have shipped him up top long ago.

He's a piss tank! Makes his own, and I'm not kidding.

"You can fuck yourself up on anything else and there will be a record somewhere of it. But I can get as drunk on fermentation as I want and no one will know unless they catch me loaded," he told me.

Well Taffy was right about most of that but at some point his liver was going to rat him out when he turns up jaundiced at the clinic. But he was absolutely correct in that you can't open or close a door or a switch for that matter around here without a record of the time and place that it occurred being recorded in the colony's log.

I hear that in the log he holds the record for fruit juice consumption. I bet he's got plenty of company, too.

Ten minutes. Then I'm loading up the Eldorado. I have no fucking idea why he calls the tractor: the Eldorado, but the old fucks around here have strange jargon for just about everything. You gotta respect them though; your elders are your elders. We don't get to pick them and who else around here do we have to look up to?

I logged the job as a local rather than a perimeter pump inspection and maintenance visit, and checked the weather for the next six hours. Maybe, if I do everything correctly; 'dot my eyes and cross my tees' no one will notice that journeyman in attendance wasn't checked off. It's not like he's there with me after one of his benders anyways - he sleeps most all of the ride. And believe me, that's usually the best part of my day when that happens. If I have a problem and I have to wake him - then the shit hits the fan; Taffy doesn't like to be woken up when he's feeling under the weather.

I called him once more. His kit went straight to memo. I wasn't about to leave a live record about my taking the Eldorado out for a spin to that pump. If I have to, I'll call him from there. Chances are it'll just need a kick or two. Of the more than one hundred and fifty pumps that we have in service; there's only a few that need anything more than a manual reset for an overload or lost interlock.

"They're just stupid fucking machines after all. They need a good kick in the ass once in a while. Just like some people."

And, I've heard that one from you know who and more than a few times.


Every time I get into the Eldorado I think of Ella. She makes me hard if you know what I mean. She's just a year older than me and boy do I miss her. There was nothing she wouldn't do if you follow me. I heard from her just a week ago. She had passed her exam and was to have a child early next year. We swore to each other that we'd be tight for the rest of our lives but she must be meeting a lot of new people and ones I expect that would have a lot more to offer her than I ever would. Anyhow, if she has a kid its good for her; there's not too many that can anymore. Luca was the last one from our colony to make it all the way and that was maybe five years ago. She works on top now - at a good job as a communication technician, no less. Fertility has a way of opening a lot of doors for you around here. I suppose being a waterman is a good go too, but it seems only the spent and disabled come back to finish out their lives here in Shelby.

The Eldorado is the fastest and most comfortable tractor in the colony; still it will take a good hour and a half for her to get to that perimeter pump today. The colony broke the budget last year and bought a faster model once we had to start relying on these perimeter pumps; Taffy and I would be spending all day and half of the night getting to and from some of the perimeter pumps beforehand. The best the old tractor could muster was twenty-five to thirty kilometers per hour. The Eldorado however, could double that and - without shaking the hell out of you. It was a sweet ride. Taffy and I had gotten green from motion sickness more than a few times with that other old piece of shit. But best of all, the Eldorado had a big beautiful cab; there was enough room in there for two or three to stretch out and do what comes natural in the case of Ella and me.

Taffy had said it many times: "Seems fucking crazy to me that most of the universe travels faster than light when they want to go somewhere but the vestigial population on Earth are limited to only sixty kilometers per hour. What the Fuck?"

I was an hour out and still I hadn't heard a thing from Taffy. He'll play stupid sometimes to avoid taking responsibility. He won't call. I bet he won't even acknowledge that he even missed a day's work unless I confront him about it tomorrow - then we'll hear his excuses.

The weather was still fair; the wind was still down. I seen a few dust devils a few meters high but nothing much else. Towards mid day there was a good chance for some incoming debris but we're talking five millimeters and smaller - they can still rip you to pieces if you're not ready for it.

The pump station was just coming into sight when I got buzzed by a New Euron patrol. He did a fly by and then hovered about a hundred meters in front of me.


This was the last fucking thing I was expecting. Taffy is the problem here. He's been stopped by these pricks before. He was famous for taking the tractor out when he was three sheets to the wind. I brought the Eldorado to a stop. The patrol craft was a light armoured stinger and it began a slow approach towards my tractor.

"Operator and occupants of licensed maintenance vehicle seven, eight, alpha, nine, nine please exit and step away from your vehicle's service side," appeared on the Eldorado's control annunciator.

I'm fucked now. These people can be real pricks. I fucking hate them.

I shut down the tractor and assumed the position at the side of the Eldorado. For miles all around me was nothing but dry, flat steppe. The nearest bump in the distance was my pump house. Clearly, they're not going to wonder why I'm out here. I'm a tech man on a service call that's just a few kilometers in front of me. But if you are me or a colonist this is just good old fashioned policing.

I kept my hands atop my head. The wind was blowing sand and grit up and into my face and I would love to lower my visor or cover my eyes with one of my hands, but that could turn out to be fatal if I attempted anything like that.

There were two of them and as they stepped away from the stinger it went up above them and began circling above the Eldorado in a tight orbit. I've been through this before but always with some company - never alone.

"Good morning 2002612. Where's your mate?" asked the forward one.

"I think he's still in bed," I answered.

"On the cot is he? Got a pressing job today?"

"I got a pump out," and with my hands still clasped atop my head I indicated as best I could with my brow the direction I was heading to.


I started to unclasp one hand to point and then the sand around my feet was peppered with light projectiles shot from above by the circling stinger.

The rear New Euron now wore that familiar smirk they all characteristically have. It makes you hate genetics when you see a room full of these guys all grinning the same way, talking the same way and behaving the same way.

"No one asked you to point, - did they?"

"No sir."

I couldn't look at him right now because the wind had come up and grit was stinging my face and my eyes in particular. And the forward New Euron could clearly see my discomfort

"You keep that visor up, son. I'm going to have a little look around while you wait on us."

So I stood there under the scrutiny of the orbiting stinger as these two went though the Eldorado.

It seemed like an eternity but after they had checked out the logs and ate my lunch they came back out and over to me.

"Everything seems copasetic in there except that you've got a partner who appears to be AWOL. You let him know when you see him that Jim and Barry came by for a social visit when he was out, will yuh."

"Yeah . Yeah I will Officer Jim."

"I'm Barry that's Jim," he smiled.

I could smell fermentation on his breath. It was all coming together now.

"You watch out for the incoming later today. Won't you?"

"Yes sir. Yes I will."

The stinger came to rest fifty meters away from the front of the idled Eldorado and the two sauntered away.

"You can lower that visor now, son."

I rubbed my watering eyes and pulled my visor down and I could clearly see the shape and weight of something resembling one of Taffy's bottles in a duffle bag being carried by the New Euron patrol officer Barry back to his waiting stinger.

Well no one is ever going know or care that I was out alone today. It had never dawned on me that Taffy was a bootlegger but it said a lot about why he's tolerated around the colony.


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