Laundromat in the Sky

"Well, let's hope they still brew beer. I could go for a few. Mark, see if you can find some moist towelettes so I can get some of this blood of. We look like we just butchered a hog," Doc says.

"Moist towelettes? What? This ain't no brothel, brother," Mark replies, confused.

"Wet napkins. Something to clean up with."

"Oh. There ain't nothing like that back here."

"We'll stop at a laundromat or something," Steve says as he punches in the coordinates to take them to Milwaukee. The HUD tunnel changes course. Steve takes the controls and guides the ship in. Their orbit lowers through a cleared section of the junk field into a heavily trafficked space lane. They merge behind a light freight shuttle. Smaller, faster ships zip past them on an inside orbit. After a few minutes, they drop towards the Earth.

The Python burns through the Earth's atmosphere smoothly. It's quite a fireworks show watching hot plasma burn all around the tinted glass roof of the cabin. The descent is quick and not as rough as in the Pu. Within minutes they're back over North America, once again flying at hypersonic speeds towards the Great Lakes.

The North American wilderness, however, is now replaced by sprawling circuitboards of cities, reaching suburban tendrils through sparse quilts of farmland. There is plenty of traffic in the air. Several other ships came down from the space lane off ramp, each breaking off in turn as they head to their destinations across North America.

Dr. Ritenrong slows the ship and descends as they approach Lake Michigan. It's hard to tell what city is what. Chicago seems to have spread across the entire Great Lakes region, as if concrete, glass and steel were crystalizing, creating a crust around the waterways like calcium deposits around a long clogged kitchen sink. The ship's HUD seems to know where it's going, though, and leads them on a winding slolem through Milwaukee airspace.

The buildings are very, very tall. Doc remembers the construction boom after the Middle East crisis. Lots of large office towers were built all across North America with the intention of creating jobs in construction, architecture, and interior design. However, that plan all came apart when it turned out there was no one to rent office space except construction contracting companies, architectural firms, and interior designers. So, a lot of empty office buildings were transformed into residential apartments and people from overcrowded cities around the world moved in to take advantage of desperately low prices. This lowered the employment percentage drastically, and that is about where Doc left it.

Things seem to have picked up, though. The air is clear of smog, the temperature is in the mid 80's (practically a snow day in Doc's time), and the city looks clean, kept, and economically fertile. Glass office buildings as blue as the sky are busy with luxurious flying cars landing and leaving at many levels. Green terraces and rooftop parks are filled with fit pedestrians and energetic dogs. The upper part of the city looks well-to-do.

The lower levels don't look so good, though. Steve pilots the ship down through the mid levels, which still get some sunlight, like the streets of the New York Doc remembers. Below them is nothing but shadows and fog. Dr. Ritenrong brings the ship down on a rooftop which rises just a few floors above the darkness.

They land in the parking lot, which is on the roof of a large apartment building almost entirely obscured by thick, grey fog. There's another building on top of this building. It's like they stopped at a store in the clouds in a valley of rectangular and cylindrical mountains. The holographic sign over the door reads "Suds" sandwiched between a cartoonish beer glass frothing over and a washing machine doing the same, all underlined by a pool que and punctuated with an eight-ball.

The other vehicles in the lot are much smaller than the Python, much older, and in various states of disrepair. None of them are designed for space flight, only atmostpheric transit, and probably not very far at that. The nicest looking vehicles are a pair of well ridden Harley Davidson skycycles. A few people are coming and going, pushing wheeled carts or carrying baskets and bags full of clothes. They are mostly older, or at least worn out by life, and wearing cheap grubby garments, but that's probably why they're here anyway.

1 comment:

Doc said...


"Okay fellows, let's get cleaned up. Mark, see if there are some clothes we can change into while this stuff is in the wash."

Change clothes if we've got them and distribute the pistols. Give the stun batons to Thunderhorse and Mark, as they can use them the best. Thunderhorse and I will go get the laundry started while Steve gives Mark a crash course on how to operate the guns. Once we get the laundry started and have a beer, let's have a talk with Steve about what we need to do next, as I have no idea where to go or what to do. And keep an eye out for more Exkoreans. If they sent two, they'll send more.