Zaable’s Destiny #5

In the fifth installment of this great story, Zaable decides to decline the opportunity to study under Master M’Elv and begins searching for a job….
“Sir, that whole building is for temporary lodging? How many people live here?”
The laughter boomed for a moment, and then Master M’Elv turned to smile at him.
“The capital city here has just over 28 million people in it, but at the peak of the business season which is starting now, it grows to a little over 32 million people.
As the capital not only of the planet, but the seat of the solar system, there is a lot of commerce conducted here, especially during the warm months.
You should take advantage of the free time you will have this afternoon to do some research on the local economy. I would also consider looking up the commerce and facilities on Xuml, that is the planet master H’San and I are based on.”
“Yes sir, I will.”
As they spoke Master M’Elv led them into a huge lobby area in the huge building. They were greeted at the door by a real human, a clear sign that this was an expensive place to lodge. The young man took their bags from Zaable and carried them over to the check-in desk and put them on a cart there, standing next to it while Master M’Elv stepped up to the counter and spoke to the clerk there. Again the check-in clerk was human, or at least appeared to be human. A young woman with a pleasant smile and a voice that sounded like the shift chimes he had grown up listening for.
Zaable kept a close eye on the clerk with their bags until Master M’Elv turned back to him and asked him to step over and press his hand to the ident plate on the counter.
“Zaable, you will have access to both rooms. They are across the hall from one another on the 123rd floor. The baggage clerk will escort you there.
I will likely be pretty late this evening, so go ahead and order room service for your late lunar meal.
Remember, no one enters my room except you and me.”
“Yes sir.”
“Okay, I’m off.”
With that he turned back toward the entrance to the building and was instantly in his ground eating stride once more.
“Sir, this way please. I will show you to your rooms.”
It took a moment for it to register that the clerk was speaking to him. It was the first time he could remember anyone calling him ‘Sir’.
“Yes, of course. Thank you.”
Zaable followed the young man who took them deeper into the massive room and over to a wall of elevators. These were technically the same type of device as was used on the cargo ships and the housing facility on the asteroid belt, but they were much larger.
When one opened to let a couple of people out, Zaable could see that it was large enough for a whole mine shift to fit inside. Not only that, but this one had mirrors on the upper half of the walls and some sort of exotic wood on the bottom half. It was beautiful. Zaable figured he could be happy living in a room this large if it only had a refresh facility.
“This way sir.”
The clerk had stepped into the elevator and was holding the door open. Zaable quickly stepped in beside him and was amazed to see the large bank of floor numbers. This was indeed a large building, it showed numbers from 100 to 150.
“This building has 150 floors?”
“Oh no, sir. We have 268 floors with available rooms and another 12 floors for storage and maintenance facilities.
We are building a larger building out near the star port. It should be complete by the middle of the summer. It will be much nicer than this one, but they say this one will remain open until we can acquire space to build a larger facility here in town.”
268 floors with available rooms spanning two city blocks? Either the rooms were huge, or this building would house the population of 8 or 9 asteroid belt mining facilities. How could so many people all live in the same place?
The elevator came to a stop and the doors opened once more.
“This way sir. Your rooms are on the east wing.”
Zaable followed the clerk as he stepped out of the elevator and turned down a long hall to the right. He counted as they went, and they passed 56 other rooms before reaching the two that Master M’Elv had secured for them. The clerk waited for Zaable to press his palm against the door frame to open the door to his room.
He knew that the room would be large based on the spacing between the doors, but he had not calculated how deep the room would be. When the door opened and the clerk entered, Zaable could see that this was not just a room, there were what appeared to be three rooms and a refresh station all large and elegant. There was a room that appeared to be a business office with view screens and various devices he had seen in the mining supervisor’s office. Then a large room clearly intended for entertaining with a wall sized view screen showing scenes of a large mountain range and clear blue skies. There were enough seating spots in that room for a couple of families to be comfortable. Then there was the room with the sleep station that would hold five people comfortably. It also had a small table with chairs around it and a reconstitution station for ordering drinks or meals. As he stood there taking it all in the clerk unloaded his bag onto a table that was clearly intended to hold much larger bags. Then he went over and opened the curtains on one wall and Zaable’s breath caught as he saw a view of a city that went on for many parses, as far as the eye could see.
The floor to ceiling windows made Zaable a little nervous as it seemed that one could fall out if you got too close.
“Sir, can I escort you to the other room? I can deliver the other gentleman’s bag there and turn down his sleep station.”
“No, thank you. I will take his bag over in a few minutes. I just need to get settled here first.”
“Yes sir, I will leave it here then. Enjoy your stay sir, and if you need anything just ask for the lobby and we will get you what you need.”
“Thank you.”
Zaable dug in his pocket for some credit chits but as he turned around to give them to the clerk, he caught just a glimpse of the man’s back as he exited the room and closed the door.
Looking around, he could not believe the luxury he found himself surrounded by. Apparently Master M’Elv was well to do, if this was the type of accommodation he typically had. Zaable had known many families that had done with much less space, and did not know anyone who lived like this… Until now.
He went into the office room and recognized the console although it was much newer than he was used to, he had studied this model and knew how it was supposed to work. He stepped over and passed his hand over the security panel, then spoke.
“Provide population, primary industries, and history for capital cities on Greentree, and Xuml.”
He turned to go back and unpack while the data was retrieved, and was startled by the immediate response.
“Planet Greentree, capital city Greentree Commons, population 28,987,832 full time residents, and an additional 3,625,183 temporary residents currently registered in the city. Primary industries in Greentree Commons are food production, exotic food production, food regeneration compounds, mineral refinement, manufacturing of specialized mining equipment, manufacturing of general mining equipment, higher education, and contracting for governmental needs.
Planet Xuml, capital city Xum, population 46,297,123 full time residents and an additional 4,823,261 temporary residents currently registered in the city. Primary industries in Xum are Gaseous compound formulation, Chemical Compound formulation, Fuel exploration, food regeneration compounds, exotic food production, and food production, higher education, and contracting for governmental needs.
Would you like a listing of companies?”
“No, thank you.”
“You are welcome.”
Zaable shook his head. Those cities were huge relative to anything he had every witnessed before. He had studied the Free Colonial System of course and knew which planets had started with the largest number of settlers, and which, based on available natural resources and lack of natural predators were likely to have grown the most over the years. But until he saw this temporary lodging building, he had never truly quantified what those numbers would mean.
It was definitely going to take some getting used to. Doubtful he would ever get to the point where he knew all the people in the common areas as he had back on the asteroid belt. There would be both good and bad because of that. With everyone knowing who everyone else was, there was no escaping reputation on the asteroid belt, but in places this large, Zaable figured a person could start over with no reputation and no past to deal with. That had been his goal in coming here in the first place. On the other hand, he would have no idea who to trust and who to avoid, which he knew very well back on the asteroid belt.
Strange that people actually grew up and lived in such an environment. He knew for example that there were hundreds of people in this building that he would never even see before he moved on. And millions in the city that he might never meet even if he chose to settle here. How strange that must be, to grow up and live one’s whole life in a place where you would never know everyone.
Well, I had best get Master M’Elv’s bag over to his room. And it wouldn’t hurt to put an alarm on the door so I know when he gets back.
Zaable, picked up the bag and headed across the hall. Pressing his hand against the panel and waiting for the door to unlock and open. He stepped in and was amazed at how much larger the room was than his own. He had assumed based on the size of his own that it was the largest available room, but this one was at least twice as deep with an additional room that had something that looked like the privacy equipment the mining executives had in their offices. Clearly this was more modern, but it had to be the same type of equipment. The room looked like a meeting room, and had vid units all the way around suspended from the very high ceiling. When he looked more closely, he could see that every seat at the table had their own console built into the table, and there was what appeared to be a full disconnected comp system in the corner.
What in the universe could Master M’Elv be working on that would require a disconnected comp, and a privacy conference room?
Zaable waived his hand over the console at the end of the table facing the door, figuring to confirm his understanding by calling up the privacy console.
“I’m sorry Citizen Zaable, you have not been cleared to operate this console. Please contact Master M’Elv for authorization.”
Well, I guess that tells me how far Master M’Elv trusts me. I can watch his room, but not access the privacy controls.
That makes a certain amount of sense, only why would he ask me to watch his room and give me access to the main door then? He is a master, so no telling his logic. But he must know by now that I don’t intend to become his apprentice after seeing him punish that innocent waitress.
Ah well, he is allowing me to stay in a high end temporary lodging facility for a night before we go our separate ways. I should quit worrying about what he is thinking and doing, and set about trying to secure employment.
Zaable went back out to the main room console and set the alarm to let him know when the door was opened again. Then he went back to his room.
He entered and went straight to the office waiving his hand over the console once more.
“Access my education and work experience and match that to available employment outside of the capital city.”
“Privacy Code?”
“Authentication Phrase?”
“Education is the key, dedication is the way.”
“Thank you, Citizen Zaable. Here is a listing of positions with their distance from the metro area. Same day interview availability is indicated by a green interview icon. To apply for a position, simply say ‘Apply’ followed by the position number.”
Zaable looked at a long list of positions ranging from sanitation engineer in a temporary housing facility, to mining consultant for a small mineral refining company. But nearly all of the positions were within five parses of the metro area. It seemed that Master M’Elv had told him the truth about that.
He sorted the list to put the same day interview list at the top. These were likely to be the most high stress and least desirable positions, but also the ones most likely to hire a newcomer just in from the asteroid belt. He had the rest of his life to upgrade to other positions, but for now the critical thing was to secure a job so he could know that he could safely walk away from the apprenticeship opportunity Master M’Elv had offered.
First things first, he went to his bag and took out his best jump suit, went to the refresh room and got cleaned up and dressed in his best clothes for the interviews. Then he returned and scanned the positions once more looking for the most desirable of the positions to interview for first…
Four hours later he stood up and walked into the rest station room and lay down to consider his options. 10 grueling interviews had yielded two opportunities. One as a sanitation engineer, and one as a courier. Neither was a step toward any career options, and the sanitation engineer position was a night job working very long hours, but paid the best of all the opportunities he had looked at. He had put in applications for a number of other positions to get the process started, but at the moment, his best option appeared to be an entry level position as a courier. That meant spending a lot of time on the streets of the city, something he had hoped to avoid. But it was better than spending long nights moving garbage from the city out to the recycling facility on the edge of the metro area.
And his goal of studying at one of the great universities had also taken a significant hit when he saw the price for non-residents. He would have to wait the four years required to qualify as a resident before he would be able to afford to attend one of those.
So much for the great destiny he had dreamed of having. His father’s words came to mind once more.
“Zaable, there ain’t nobody in the universe who is out there hoping for the opportunity to help you become somebody. You got to make the most of what is available, and hope that means you can eat tomorrow.”
Zaable slumped into his sleep station and closed his eyes.
I’m not done yet father. I will keep trying as long as I’m breathing.

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