The First Version 1995 - Chapter 13
This is the very first typed version of Eric Olafson's Story (from 1995) . I put it here out of reguest of my oldest and first fan and reader, who wanted to re-read the first Version that made him start reading "Galactic Chronicles".
I think it is also shows the progress of the story and is a neat way for me to keep the old stuff as a searchable reference.
The Space bus came out of FTL and approached the blue and white sapphire sphere that was Nifleheim . I had almost 14 weeks before I had to return to Arsenal 2. I wasn’t even sure why I returned, there was nothing there for me, but this was my home world and I was longing to take a long deep dive and feel the fresh cold water all around me. “I wonder how Nifleheim is like!” Asked a young man sitting in the next seat. He wore a gaudy looking bright yellow jumpsuit with holographic flames displayed on it. His skin had a deep tan and his hair was almost as yellow as his suit. He also wore black glasses. “It’s almost spring, so I don’t think it will be to cold and no longer drop below minus 60 degrees Celsius at night, but I bet they still have a lot of snow!” The guy shivered.” Sixty below and lots of snow?” “You didn’t check on Nifleheim before you decided to come here?” He thumbed behind his back and when I looked I saw about twenty more guys dressed just like the one next to me.” We’re the Solar Dolphins.” He said this as if this would explain it all. “The Solar Dolphins?” I asked. “You never heard of us? We are last years Galympic Gold Champions!” “You are a sports team of sorts? I spend the last year at the academy and we did not have time to listen to news and such.” “We play Water polo. My buddies and I are from Sol Castle. Our trainer, Mr. Shallow heard that Nifleheim has the best humanoid swimmers in the galaxy and we going to have our training camp there.” I tried hard not to laugh. The very image of these brightly dressed boys training with grim Neo Vikings was very funny to me. Perhaps things had changed on Nifleheim while I was gone, but I didn’t bet on it. He went on:” Are you a water polo fan? Is that why you go to Nifleheim ?” “Sorry I don’t even know what Water polo is. I am from Nifleheim . I am going home for a while.” He stared at me as if I told him I didn’t know what walking is.” A water polo team consists of seven players. We play ball in a pool. There are goals and we try to put the ball into the other teams’ goal, while we try to prevent them from ding the same thing to us!” I was not really interested but I tried to be polite.” I see.” “If you Neo Vikings are such good swimmers, what sports do you compete in?” “We don’t actually call them sports, but there is axe throwing, brawling, harpooning, Blue Slider riding and of course skull bashing.” He sighed.” Maybe Mr. Shallow made a bad decision to go to a primitive planet populated with dumb brutes!” “I wouldn’t repeat that in front of a Neo Viking if I where you.” He snorted but kept anything further to himself. The space bus broke through the cloud cover and descended towards the only continent called Scandinavia. The largest city was Harstad Fjord and Freikstat Haven six klicks from town was the only space port on the planet. The large duro-crete surface of the port had been cleared of snow, huge mountains of the white mass had been piled all around the perimeter of the landing field. The Solar Dolphin next to me also stared out the window.” It even looks cold!” After the bus had landed we all got up and moved towards the exits. As I stepped through the warm air curtain into the fresh crisp air, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. There was the distinctive smell of burning Tyranno Blubber, the tangy scent of the ocean and somewhere not to far away someone roasted Fish. I became instantly hungry. “Move it buster! You’re blocking the slide belt!” Someone behind me barked with an angry tone. I wasn’t here to fight or get agitated. I stepped on the slide belt, but I didn’t feel like apologizing either. After a short slide belt ride into the Arrival section of the terminal, a big man in Union-Police uniform, braided beard and hair glanced at his readout as I passed my ID implant under the reader.” Welcome home, Master Olafson!” He grabbed me by the underarm and I did the same, the traditional greeting. I checked his name tag.” It is good to be home Master Leik.” He was from the Stavanger Clan from Karlstad. I knew of his clan but Karlstad was on the other side of the planet and his family did not have all that much contact with mine. “It’s the first time I see a Viking in Navy uniform! What a good thing to see!” The angry voice behind me barked again:” Jeezuz, keep the local gossip for after hours. I am freezing my butt of out here. What a bunch of slow pokes!” Leik's face lost all friendliness and he raised one of his bushy blond eyebrows. I turned and looked into the face of a yellow dressed Solar dolphin.” It wouldn’t hurt if you say please and don’t call me names.” “Oh just move it. I have no time to discuss the finer points of social interaction with a local.” I wanted to punch him in the face. Leik had less reservations and smacked his sledge hammer sized fist in the face of the irritated Solian and made him skid a few meters against the moving slide belts direction and collide with another Solar Dolphin. I simply smiled and went on, let him sort that out. Nothing had changed on Nifleheim . The Terminal was not very busy. There was a Swine and Dine and a Mc Burger, a convenience store and a souvenir shop where they sold Tyranno Fin teeth carved into cups and similar trinkets. Two men held a sign reading “ Solar Dolphins welcome” waited next to the exit. Outside, beyond the slide doors was a row of five hover taxies the same five taxies that had been there when I left. No one had come to greet me or to pick me up, despite the fact I had called and told my brother when I was coming. I should have known they still didn’t care, but somewhere deep inside I hoped it would have been different and someone would have come to take me home. I stood a moment outside considering what to do. I almost felt like turning around and taking the space bus right away. The first Cab driver waved, but I shook my head, shouldered my bag and walked. Freikstat was a city of about 500,000. No building was taller than five stories and made of local granite and concrete. Most buildings where connected with sub surface tunnels, but small paths had been cleared at the sides of the streets for pedestrian traffic. Here I didn’t need directions. I would have found my way with closed eyes. I made it to Hogun’s Inn. A sturdy building not far from the shore made of big rough cut granite boulders with a steep roof (for snow to slide off) and stain glass windows. No holo sign or projection advertisement but a simple wooden plank carried the name of the restaurant. It appeared quite primitive, but it was among the most popular restaurants. It was still early in the day when I walked through the door and stomped the snow of my boots over the snow grating behind the door. The guest area was deserted, but most men where at work or out at sea. Women on Nifleheim didn’t go to restaurants by themselves (they rarely went at all). I sat down at one of the big table of polished stone oak wood. A big man cam from a door behind the counter and came over.” Welcome to Hogun’s, what can I get you, Sir?” “How about a big bowl of Fin Stew, fresh steam bread and a big tankard of Helvinson’s Dark warmed up a bit!” “By Odin’s beard we don’t get many spacers here who know how to order!” “Well I worked in that kitchen of yours long enough to know what’s good, Uncle Hogun!” “Eric !” He rushed over and gave me a bear hug, lifting me off my feet. Hogun was a big man , even by Nifleheim standards, where men reaching 250 centimeters where not uncommon. “Freya be thanked! Odin be praised! Thor be worshipped! The gods have kept you safe and you have returned!” ”I was homesick for ocean, cold water and decent food!” I hugged the man back:” Of course I missed you too!” He let me go:” Let me get you decent food and drink then! You got to tell me everything, but you can do that while you eat!” Uncle Hogun disappeared in the kitchen and came back after only ten minutes with a huge bowl of steaming fish soup and fresh hot bread. He slammed a tankard of meet next to the bowl and smiled.” Eat up! There is more where that came from!” The first spoon was like tasting heaven and I closed my eyes savoring the flavor.” By Odin this is fit for Valhalla and Aseir!” He sat down across me and smiled:” You have grown, not only in size but you seem more grown up now. It seems the Navy made a man out of you!” “It was no vacation for sure!” “So what are you now? A captain?” I laughed.” No Uncle Hogun, I completed my first year. I am on the bottom of the ladder and they call that a Midshipman. I got two more years to go until I graduate.” “Well you going to be a Captain one of these days. You talked about that ever since you where this tall.” He showed me with his hand ,barley reaching his knees. “So how are things here on Nifleheim ? He shrugged.” Nothing ever changes here. I am sure you heard your father made Lothar commandant of the Family sub. Lothar proposed to marry Sif and her father gave his blessing. I think they court almost a year now and the wedding shouldn’t be far off.” “ Yes I heard. I bet Lothar is now more obnoxious than before. He is the heir and now he has the prettiest girl on Nifleheim .” Hugin sighed.” Yes he is quite repugnant, but that is normal for First born sons. I should know I am the second behind your father!” He made a gesture that included the entire room.” Why do you think I run an Inn instead of being out there hunting Fins like the others?” “I never thought of that, but it makes sense. That first born tradition is quite unfair to the ones that come later!” “It sure is. I couldn’t stand the thought of being second to my brother for the rest of my life. In your case it’s a gray area. You are the first born and him making Lothar the heir is actually not that easy. You could challenge him or Lothar for that. Nifleheim law would be behind you, even if you kill them!” “I am an officer now and I still would be accountable for my actions under federal law. Have you ever thought of leaving Nifleheim ?” He leaned forward.” There wasn’t a day I didn’t dream about when I was young, to stow away on a Freighter or space bus and leave! But then I married Sonja and her father left us this place. He too was a second son.” “You’re all alone today? Where is Aunt Sonja?” “You know her, she takes her midwife duties more serious than life itself. The Malmebergs expect twins and she went all the way to Norbotten.” Norbotten was a tiny island almost at the geographic north pole of the planet, exceptionally inhospitable and home to the Malmber clan.” Sometimes I believe Aunt Sonja delivered every kid on the planet.” He laughed but with a sad look in his eyes:” I don’t think that is far from the truth. We do have a clinic here, but you know Vikings, they rather do it the old way.” “I bet the doctor at the clinic was never very busy.” “He comes here a lot. He still asks about you ever so often.” I cleaned the last traces of stew with a piece of bread.” He saved my life and if it wasn’t for you bringing me to him , I would not be here today!” The memory of that day came back with vivid intensity and I shivered involuntarily. His face also became serious.” I thought you where dead when I found you with all that blood around you. He hasn’t spoken to me since, but then we where never on the best of terms.” He spoke about the night my father had found me wearing Sif’s dress and beat me half to death with a steel cable. He broke almost every bone in my body and split every inch of my skin. He had left me on the floor to die. Uncle Hogun had found me and brought me to the Emergency Clinic where Doctor Mueller and his med-bot fought to keep me alive. Uncle Hogun let me stay with him for the next years until I was sixteen. “He is angry at you for saving my life?” “Oh you have no idea. He wanted you to die, the old fashioned way! All sick kids die on Nifleheim , killed by their fathers. That’s why you never see any cripples on Nifleheim.” “I should report him, we are still in the Union and there are federal laws!” “Out there, maybe. But not here on Nifleheim and you know that as well as I do!” He got up:” I am getting me a beer, do you want some too? I got a few barrels from Planet Holstein. It’s the best Pilsner you ever tasted!” “Sure I try some!” I pushed the plate away.” I am sorry he takes it out on you, Uncle Hogun!” Hogun walked behind the bar and smiled.” Don’t be sorry. It was the best thing I ever did. I jump at any chance I can to make him angry!” “Why did you never challenge him? You’re stronger than him!” “Not by much, Eric and I never was as vicious as he is. He wields that wicket steel cable of his like no other and I have quite a few marks on me. Naa, I am quite content with what I have become. He can have the island and the Burg . I have Sonja and the Inn.” With two large glasses full of golden beer with perfect froth crowns, he came back to the table and lifted his glass:” I drink to you Eric . May Thor protect you and welcome you despite your flaw into Valhalla when the time comes!” I raise my glass as well.” May Thor welcome you Uncle Hogun when the time comes so you may arm wrestle all the heroes at the great banquet!” We drank. The beer was cold, had a crisp bitter taste and went down smooth. Hogun didn’t leave more than mist in the glass as he set it down. “ Those Germans on Holstein sure know how to make beer I tell you!” “It is quite good.” He pushed the empty glass back and forth between his huge hands.” Did they manage to heal you from your disease in the navy? “It isn’t considered a disease. I was told a few options tough.” “I see. So what are you doing next? You are not planning to go out to the Burg , right?” “I should be able to. It is my home!” But I knew he was right. It was no longer my home! He simply looked at me knowing what I was thinking.” Well I think I take a swim and then take the Space bus back to Arsenal II. I still have lots of time and I might take a detour and visit Earth. I always wanted to see it.” “Yes that is a good idea. One of this days I visit Earth too and see what the old Norway looks like there.” Suddenly I didn’t feel welcome even here with Uncle Hogun. He too looked at me as being sick. I could sense it. With a toneless voice I asked:” What do I owe you for the meal?” “Don’t be ridiculous. You can eat here anytime you want!” “Well I think I better keep going. I still want to take a dive and I think I can catch the space bus before it leaves.” He didn’t argue or offer me to stay, instead he nodded.” I have the Space Bus schedule right here behind the bar. It leaves for Holstein in 3 hours I think.” I got up, took my bag and walked to the door.” Good bye Uncle Hogun.” “Good bye Eric and do call once in a while!” “thanks for the Stew.” With those words I was out of the door and closed it behind me. The wind felt colder than ever and I realized Nifleheim was no longer my home. There was nothing left for me at all. A ice cold sensation on my cheeks made me realize I cried. I had to walk a while over the ice until I reached open water. There about a klick away from shore. I put on my wet suit and dove into the ice cold water and felt free.