Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spaceport by Jim Burns

I find Harry Harrison's "Mechanismo" a quite mixed bag, but this artwork stands out especially because of its detailed (and nerdy) description text, which is quoted in part here:

The illustration on the previous pages depicts the interior of the massive TRANSOLAR LINE'S ARRIVAL/DEPARTURES TERMINUS with its famous 'Biggest Window in the Universe". The year is 2488 SGT and the Divison Wars are hotting up throughout the Quadrant. Old Sol (Man's ancestral system) has allied itself with the Capellan Shards against the reactionary Sirian Axis (The Empire) and the legendary hero of Space vice-Marshall (later Primo Marshall of the New Empire Space Militia) TALIAN (extreme right), the most decorated man in military history, has arrived on Janus to help organise Sol's material support for the conflict. Sol was one of the militarily less well prepared systems and her assistance mostly took the form of seconded civilian craft and personnel. In particular Transolar Lines with its variety of large freight and passenger carrying craft was able to give very significant support.

In the illustration, in the background, can be seen the Transolar Lines' CLASS 4 CLIPPER 'India'. This craft is about to leave the system for the Arcturan System where it will undergo a military refit and thence to Arcturus IV to pick up a battalion of Shard combat-ready Marines along with their Biotronic Missile Unit 657 (one of the dreaded Gaussi Battle Robots or 'Two Step Toms' as they were known).

Transolar Lines employed a large number of female crew members and about to receive her orders from Talian is first pilot NIOBE-ARTEMIS VON FREYJA. She already holds the X-on Core Latch Secrifact just presented to her by Talian and her 3-pole Verity Satisfaction requirements will mean a rendezvous in Pluto proximity space. She pilots the Class 4 Clipper 'Italia' and will be ordered upon opening her secrifact to refit her craft in Arcturus. She will then go on to become one of the first female Gaussi fighter pilots. (...)

Port Security Guard CHALKY WHITE has had instructions to apprehend the notorious 'Planetary Wanderer' HUGO LE GRIFFE (later famous as the author of several books, notably 'To Pluto and Back on a Tandem', 'Stowaway on a Ripple Rider' and the award winning 'A Bent Pin on Rivel VIII--A Tantallium Star on my Chest'.) Later he was drawn into a magnificent career with the Shard F.U.E.W.E. (Foundation for Undermining of the Empire's War Effort). Port Security Guard White wears the regulation (and Quadrant wide) security helmet made of 80% plasto-beryllomolybactium and 20% quasi-dermodiamond plus. Helmets of these types will withstand a sustained pressure of 8000 tons per square centimetre without defoming or scratching although they are vulnerable to sustained heat-weapon attack. The port security man holds a non-lethal electro disabler in his right hand as well as a small and lethal Teedee gun in his holster.

Behind the main group is HAROLD D'ALGONQUIN DAZHBOG, adventurer, mercenary smuggler, one time politician, on time embezzler, ex-starship pilot, womaniser and extremely wealthy man. He is waiting to buttonhole Talian and offer his services in some mercenary capacity. Dazhbog succeeded in creating havoc, after Talian accepted his offer, amongst the Sirius System, making hit and run attacks on all manner of Axis targets. He thus earned large sums of money from the Shards and traded with Axis under a diguise, taking their money and then blowing them out of the Universe wherever his luck would allow. Eventually it ran out, however and he was identified while on a bogus commercial attaché trip to Novo Russe War Ministry. While making a dash across a Neorganika-defined auto-highway he slipped and was sucked into the vacuum-grab of a robo detritus-conversion unit where he was rendered, along with the detritus, into plant fertilizer. There is a small plot of land in the middle of a field on Sirius IV where the cabbages are said to grow 12 feet across!

[Harrison, Harry: Mechanismo. Reed Books 1978, p51]

The Nonist: Mechanismo

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