Zaable’s Destiny #1

In the first installment of Zaable’s Destiny, we find a young man reaching the end of his childhood and being forced to decide on a path forward. Enjoy…
Zaable looked up from the comp unit which was currently prompting him for a response to an advanced physics problem related to starship propulsion. He was having trouble concentrating today after his parents had reminded him that the time was near when he would be forced to work or leave the asteroid. He remembered how they told him and that they did not seem to care at all which choice he made.
Zaable looked out the view plate behind his comp unit and saw a young couple giggling and kissing just down the path toward the company store. He recognized them as being a couple of the kids that had been in his class when he went to the public school. The sight made him feel even more alone. He remembered the boy with his friends mercilessly teasing him calling him Dumb Zaable. That particular day Zaable had finally gotten up the courage to speak to one of the girls in the class and she had ignored him. One of the boys witnessed it and had led an endless chant “Dumb Zaable will never have a girl, he is too dumb to know what they are.”
Zaable knew he was not a looker, short and heavy set, with long blond hair and grey eyes that peeked out of his full round face. But he was smart, smarter than any of the other kids in the class anyway. But he had not always been that way and kids never forgot.
So, what did he want to do? He could become a miner like his parents and spend the rest of his life on this asteroid belt, or go to an uncertain future on whichever planet the next cargo ship was headed for. It just didn’t seem fair that those were his only options. What about the universities he had heard of. Surely the mining companies needed skilled geologists and engineers. Just apparently not from the mining communities.
Zaable turned back to the comp unit and quickly answered the question. These were so elementary, why could they not provide more challenging problems. Zaable often wondered why they called these advanced classes if he did not have to work hard to complete them. The language classes were a little challenging, but the math and science courses were so elementary anyone should be able to pass them.
Zaable completed the last question and the comp unit promptly informed him that he had received a perfect score and had completed the course. Unlike all the courses before, though, this time it told him there were no other courses available in physics.
Well, if I have to go to work running a driller or a mover, I guess additional physics classes are meaningless. Guess I had better focus on completing the geology and advanced medical aid courses. Probably wouldn’t hurt to take that course on geothermal radiation, it might be useful if I should get stranded below like that group of miners last month.
Zaable called up the geology course and the regenerator spun up quickly giving him a series of ore samples to test and identify. He looked at them and concentrated until nothing else existed except the ore samples. This was simple too. The first one was…
…Zaable looked up from the comp unit. No more language courses available did not surprise him. When it told him that there were no more geology courses available Zaable began to wonder if they were already disconnecting him from the systems. But he still had nearly a full year before he would be required to join the mining workforce or leave the asteroid belt for good. He had never heard of anyone being cut off from course work before the last day, and if they chose to join the mining crews the course work remained available to them. This was very strange.
He quickly coded a course inventory analysis program and executed it. It churned for just over 2 minutes before coming back with a list of 5 courses he had not completed. Two were on the art of makeup, and one each on janitorial machinery repair, childbirth preparation, and origami.
Zaable checked the statistics the program had returned and the library consisted of just over two hundred thousand courses. He pulled up the school overview page and sure enough that was the number of courses they advertised having available.
So, he really had completed all their available courses. Zaable sat there stunned for a few minutes running through the various areas of study that he had gone through. He knew he was a very quick study, but had he really completed all the coursework available in the company’s library? Clearly the answer was yes. He knew his talent at programming analysis routines was beyond expert. But just to be sure he wrote another routine in a different language and kicked it off. 2 minutes later the same results appeared before him.
“So what now? Am I really supposed to take a job here running a digger and abandon education forever?”
“What did you say son?”
Zaable nearly jumped at the sound of his mother’s voice. When had she gotten back?
“Sorry mom. I was speaking to myself I think. The system is telling me that I have completed all the available coursework unless I want to learn to fold paper into the likeness of animals I have never actually seen.”
“Why do you bother with that stuff? We have told you for years that none of it means anything when you are pushing a crusher for 12 hours a day. Study how to fix a crusher motor, that would be useful. Learning how to plot a course for a starship from here to Guul Nine is a waste of time.”
Zaable knew it was useless to tell her he had studied all the equipment used by the mining company, but that none of it would be useful the way she meant because the crushers and all the other drilling equipment only had breathing environments in the cab, and none carried the tools needed to do a repair if such were needed.
“Your mother is right boy. So, you decided if you wanna work for a living or not?”
Zaable bristled at his father’s ribbing, but he remembered the calming techniques he had studied in the psych course work and applied one before he responded.
“Yes father, I will work for a living. The question is more accurately, will I work for a living here?”
“Don’t you give me none of your lip boy. You will either work for the company or get dumped on some planet with nothing but your cloths. I ain’t gonna spend good credits supporting a bum who chose to go planet side.”
Zaable again applied calming techniques and answered calmly.
“I would not ask that of you father. Whatever I decide, you will not need to support me after my decision day.”
“Damn right I won’t. And don’t come trying to get a job on my crew. Ain’t gonna support no nepotism neither.”
Zaable lost control for just a second.
“They could not pay me enough… Sorry father, I understand and would not put you in such a situation.”
His father grumbled and left the room shaking his head.
“You should not provoke him that way Zaable. You know he is under enough stress already what with the pit petering out and his team’s production slipping.”
“Sorry mom. I will try to do better.”
His mom nodded and followed his father out.
Well, that settles it. I have got to get out of this asteroid belt. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I cannot become my father.
With the decision made, Zaable was surprised how relieved he felt. He was going to an uncertain future on an unknown planet where he had no idea what would be expected. And he was relieved? That made no sense at all.
He turned back to the comp unit and signed up for the janitorial equipment repair course. Might as well be thorough, besides that was likely a skill that could be used anywhere.
The course started up and he lost himself in the focus that came on when he studied new things.
…The comp unit signaled that he had completed the course and Zaable came out of his focus looking at the unit for a few seconds before he realized he had taken the course in one continuous session lasting over two days, and his stomach was quite upset with him for ignoring it.
He forced himself to get up and walk over to the food regenerator and keyed up a meal of hot broth and fresh bread. Then he laughed to himself. How could it really be fresh bread if it were regenerated? He doubted anyone really knew what fresh bread was anymore, but it struck him as funny anyway.
As soon as he swallowed the first bite, he could feel the energy supplements in the broth begin to work. By the time he had finished the meal he was feeling strong once more. But his body also needed rest, so he made his way to his rest station.
All he wanted to do was curl up and rest for a day or so, but there in the middle of his rest station was a travel bag filled with all his belongings and a list of positions currently vacant in the mining company. The positions that came with quarters were all highlighted and sorted to the top of the list.
Zaable felt his heart beating in his chest and his eyes blurred briefly as the message sank in. He reached for the calming techniques immediately and focused on them completely for a few minutes.
Apparently his father wanted him out.
Zaable felt the forced calm but also could feel the emotions boiling under the surface as he continued to work the techniques and gathered himself for action.
He moved over to the console and pulled up the cargo carrier schedules. Three were scheduled to depart in the next two days, one to Guul Nine, one to Friz Two, and one was going all the way to Lyyn Four.
Friz two was a mining planet, he ruled it out immediately. Guul Nine was interesting, but the mining company had a corporate office there and people from this asteroid belt regularly caught that freighter for a little R&R. Zaable’s analytical mind told him that he would have the best chance of getting into an engineering program for the company if he went there. But his heart said to get as far away from here as possible and never look back.
Zaable made his decision and checked the departure time. The ship for Lyyn Four was departing in 15 hours. He checked and there were several stasis berths remaining, so he reserved one and entered the code he had been given with his choice mandate at the beginning of the year. Seconds later the system returned a notice that this was a one way trip and that if he wanted to return he would have to pay the fare himself.
He confirmed his understanding and the system then provided him with an account number where his final settlement credits would be deposited as soon as his decision was confirmed. He set the account number to memory and wrote it down using an encryption algorithm he had learned to secure it. Just in case the stasis drugs had undesirable side effects.
He acknowledged the account number and a second later the system displayed a pop-up. Dependent decision confirmed Zaable to depart today, no return authorized.
Zaable stared at the screen for a full minute before pushing himself back to his feet and returning to what was no longer his sleep station. He gathered his bag and headed for the door.
Zaable made his way across the station to the transport center. Then he waited for the transport going to the right asteroid and climbed in.

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