The Last Launch Site
Thump Dump, I grumble to myself. I certainly see where the name comes from.
Claudia and I approach the massive facility “affectionately” known as Thump Dump. In another life, this was an Omnidyne-M-controlled facility that was pivotal in the early days of the Arclight’s construction. Unfortunately the economic realities of the time didn’t make the facility viable, and Omnidyne-M packed up shop and moved their operations to the newer, more efficient Smoke Mountain facility. The facility stood abandoned for a number of years before a group of miners decided to retrofit it to launch and receive the numerous thumpers that are launched throughout New Eden – and making the owners of this facility very, very rich in the process.
This was before the Arclight crash, of course. In the chaos, New Eden lost every resource gathering and refining facility. All of them, of course, except for Thump Dump. Yet even though the facility has avoided the fate of so many others, the Melding wall still casts an ominous glow across the whole area.
Sometimes blind luck is the best thing you can ask for.
A massive skull greets us at the large blast doors which sit half ajar. We stop in our tracks and stare at it for a moment, both of us awed by the sheer size of the thing. If it were on the ground, it would easily stand as tall as I do.
As I look at it, Claudia speaks. “I told you.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Well I still think you’re full of it.”
Claudia scoffs, but I mind it no attention. We pull ourselves away from the skull and make our way past the blast doors.
And holy hell does the smell hit us.
A combination of burning wood, motor oil, and something I can’t even begin to guess the origin of hits us like a dropship landing on our heads. Claudia’s face twists, and I let out an audible cough, but we push onward. You would think a place like Thump Dump would carry its own musk, of course, but nothing quite prepares you for the actual stink of it.
We head further into the Dump, towards the base of a massive automated crane. All around us are mounds of twisted steel, the remnants of countless crashed thumpers, ruined LGVs, beached boats, and whatever else could be melted down or used for scrap. Reaching the base of the crane, we look around. The actual “dump” part of Thump Dump is something of a maze – a labyrinth of trash piles that you could easily become lost in.
“Well,” Claudia speaks up, looking around at the numerous piles of junk. “What now?”
I look around for another few moments before I look at her and simply shrug my shoulders. “No idea. I mean…” I look up towards the massive tower to the northwest of us. “Our best bet is to keep heading towards that thing.”
“It’s called a cannon,” a voice calls out. Claudia and I both snap our gazes towards the voice to find an unassuming man standing about fifteen feet away. He wears a grey coat, and wipes his hands with a towel. The handlebar moustache is a nice touch. “Now what can I do for you two?”
Claudia takes a step forward and speaks. “We’re trying to find our way out of this junk pile – and hopefully out of whatever it is that smells so bad.”
The man laughs. “Absolutely! You two follow me and I’ll take you to the bossman.” Claudia and I look at each other, nod, and start following the man towards the large outpost. “So what brings you two out to the ol’ Dump? Looking to find your fortune, I take it?”
I chime in. “Nothing so dramatic, I’m afraid.”
“No? Then what can I do you for?”
“I’m actually looking for somebody,” I say. “A man by the name of Javier Almas.”
“Javier Almas? Yeah, I know that name – though I haven’t heard it in a while.”
I arch a brow. “How do you mean?”
“After that damn ship crashed, you know, the world went to hell.”
“I think we’re aware of that,” Claudia says. The man gives her a quick, unamused glance.
“Yeah, well when all that went down Javier was here. He was a mechanic – pretty good one, too. Not the best, but then again I’m here so...” He paused for a chuckle that never came. After a moment, he continued. “Regardless, after the Melding came and gobbled up half the damn planet, he started acting weird.”
“Weird,” I ask. “How do you mean?”
“I think the weight of the situation got to him after a while. He didn’t really sleep for the first few days. Then he started to talk about ‘voices’.”
“Yeah. He’d go on and on about how he’d hear these voices every time that he closed his eyes. Frankly it was starting to creep the rest of us out.”
We round another large pile of trash to see a disheveled, messy excuse of a garage in front of us. A large black vehicle with its massive tires partly buried in the dirt rests against a pile of trash that we walk around. The garage itself is loud, buzzing with the sounds of welding and heavy machinery. Pieces of thumpers lay strewn all over the place and a couple of mechanics work on repairing a couple more. It’s obvious that this operation is very much a makeshift show.
“Welcome to Thump Dump, by the way,” he says. “Since we’re the last known thumper launch site in the world, our services have been in high demand. The downside to that, unfortunately, is that we’re running these damn things into the ground faster than we can build ‘em.”
“How do you manage,” Claudia asks.
“Sometimes I don’t even know. We always find a way, though, even when things seem insurmountable.”
“I think we’re getting off-point,” I say. “You were telling us about Javier.”
“Huh? Oh! Right, sorry. Let’s get inside, first.” The man shakes his head for a moment before leading us past the equipment and into the facility.
Unlike the area around the Dump, the interior is practically pristine by comparison. Sure, it wears its age on the walls and the dimming lights, but it’s clean. The man leads us up a flight of stairs, passing by two giant crystite shards. Continuing up a ramp, we make our way into a large storage bay.
“So, Javier heard these voices for a couple of weeks – each night complaining that they were growing louder and louder. Eventually the poor bastard just stopped sleeping altogether. That lasted a couple of days.”
“What, uh,” I try to keep my composure. “What happened to Javier?”
The man with the moustache stops a moment, looking me over curiously. “Why are you asking all these questions about Javier?”
“My name is Emmanuel Almas,” I tell him. His eyes widen slightly as the pieces come together in his head. “Javier is my brother. Now I don’t need you to sugarcoat the fact that he’s probably dead, but I really, really need to hear it so I can just freakin’ deal with it!”
He sighs. “After the third night of not sleeping, he walked out of here. One of our mechanics, Yun, saw him walking towards the wall. He tried to call out to him, to stop him, but he didn’t listen.”
To say it was a punch to the gut was a bit of an understatement. It was a possibility, I knew, but I had kept it out of my mind until now. I took a step back, sucking in a breath to calm my nerves. To be truthful I was never too close to Javier – he was the sort of prick that would ask to crash on your couch for a weekend, three months before you eventually had to kick him out. But that doesn’t make it any easier. He was still blood.
I want to yell. I want to tear this man, this stranger who has been generally nice to me and my companion, to pieces. I want to rip through this entire damn building and go to war against any and everything in my path.
But I know that would only get me killed.
So I simply nod.
“I’m, uh,” I stumble to speak. “I’m going to go outside for a minute. Could you, uh… show Claudia around?”
“Emmanuel…” Claudia says, trying to be comforting.
“Sure thing, buddy.” The man glances at Claudia, and the two turn and walk further into the facility.
I make my way back down the stairs and outside, taking in a deep breath once I was back in the garage. I looked around at the piles of trash, and the mechanic working on a half-wrecked thumper. I could feel the anger in me building, but there’s nothing for me to take it out on. But I’m seething still, and wanting to just let it all out, and…
…I walk. I walk out of Thump Dump, and I walk east. I give a moment to think about Claudia’s reaction to my leaving her behind. But as I make my way further away from the Dump, every reservation melts away.
I’m done with this damn assignment.