I need to remember how I came to be here. My life before Aurora is becoming harder for me to recall. I need to write this before it fades completely. I don’t think I’ve been here that long but my mind is spinning, twisting, like an old, gnarled oak tree. I used to be able to recall the name of a person I hadn’t seen for many months, now I’m struggling to remember the name of my favourite bar.

The Singing Hangman. Possibly the greatest bar ever built. Unusually, for a quayside bar, it was clean and well-kept. The food was cheap and the beer was cold. The clientelle were the usual mix of sky-sailors and regular “wet-heads”. I got on with both. I could never understand why any man would want to spend his days rocking about in a steel hulled death trap. The constant motion would surely turn your stomach into a washing machine. Give me a wooden hulled cloud surfer any day of the week.

She was a thing of beauty, the Dr Valiant, just over a hundred and fifty foot in length. The wood that made her main deck was a deep chocolaty brown with long thin planks that reflected the sun in a way that never hurt your eyes but always made you feel warm. By using the inside of the hull entirely for storage the upper deck ended up three storeys high. This gave it a very strange top-heavy look. It looked like it would topple in the slightest breeze but it never did. It barely wobbled even at top speed. We once made a run from Breezehome to the Isle of Sanctium in under two days, fully loaded and with half the crew missing. I can’t remember where the crew were on that run.  But I do know that under Captain Dean Williot, we could pick and choose the runs we went on and the money we earned.

The Captain always managed to balance the needs of his business with the needs of his crew. There were many times when he’d step in and pull Lazenby off whichever poor bastard had dared to question his culinary skills.  Lazenby was possibly the hardest person on earth to work with. He’d never allow anyone to question his abilities as a chef but he’d always be there to help change a broken prop shaft or clear a jammed air-plate. Jobs like that were meant to be done by the engineer but he was normally too busy losing his wages in a game of cards up on the top deck.

That’s how we worked on the Valiant, each of us knew our job and place within the hierarchy. It just worked. I’d lead the other deck hands when we were loading the cargo then I’d watch over the cargo en-route to our destination. Sometimes we’d be hauling crystals to various energy plants and other days we’d be moving livestock and plants to the barren islands north of the Deathzone Line. The Deathzone Line sounds so exciting. It isn’t. It’s a line that runs around Earth and  marks the start of a huge desert. Nothing lives there but due to demands for more food and places to live, companies are paying billions to try to make it hospitable. We’ve transported tonnes and tonnes of livestock, plants and equipment and I’m yet to see anything grow.  I think thats what we’d dropped off when I ended up here.

It was, I remember counting off the cattle. Twenty five cows, twenty sheep and four tonne of a new super tough grass. The live stock was crated in the usual fashion. I’d walked over each crate in turn and checked they were all alive and well. The run would take us five days in total. Two days to get there, one day on Renus, then two days to get home. We’d set off at nine in the morning, climb to twenty-five thousand feet and full throttle until we got to within a hundred miles Renus. Unless we ran into pirates it would be easy.

There isn’t a greater sight than the towers of Renus. They seem to rise out of the desert like a pair of nails hammered into a log. Renus itself isn’t a big place. It’s called a city but it’s just a big town. Completely surrounded by sand, it seems to  be growing outward in perfect symmetry. The attempts at farming and crop growth are always in perfect squares. But as each one fails it leaves behind a slowly fading patch. These patches turn from green, to brown, to purple and then back to a brick-red, the original colour of the sand it attempted to replace.

Renus itself is the definition of a concrete jungle. There is one road in and out. The fastest and safest way to get there is by Sky Ship. If you choose to try to drive, it’ll take nearly three days. You need enough fuel and water to make it without stopping. There isn’t a single town from the edge of humanity to Renus. Just sand.

Saddlesore. My second favourite bar. It is the polar opposite of The Singing Hangman. Filthy, loud, expensive and hot. So very, very hot. It’s frequented by some of the most clichéd and stereo typical men you’ll never want to meet but the manager is the second best looking woman on earth. Her hair was as dark as her eyes. You could see the years of dealing with scum and blaggards was starting to take its toll but she still had a youthful edge and a smile that you could frame and use to keep warm on the coldest of nights. My god I miss her. I miss them both.

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