The beam of light cut a slice out of the darkness of the small storage room, highlighting the shelves full of items he recognized but could not immediately put names to. Dust motes danced in the light as the bearer moved the torch around taking in the number of odd items on the plastic shelves, some looking familiar, while others only brought up the barest memory: the round, orange shape of a grinning monster; the white of a human skull, decorated in an odd but colorful way; a variety of smaller items representing death in a number of ways; a colorful tree of some sort; a four sided top like contraption with unusual markings on each side; a statue of a grinning, seated man with a big belly occupied a whole shelf to himself while numerous other items crowded the rest of the shelves.
Everything in the room represented a holiday or held some sort of religious or historical significance, though Allen Hernandez-Ortiz was hard pressed to say just what at the moment.
Obviously, some planning had gone into the creation of this room, everything was secured against being thrown around in zero-g and, more importantly, against being destroyed in some unforeseeable accident. The room was a museum now, but it had, at one point, served an important purpose. Allen flicked his light around the room again before he grinned and walked in, leaving his little floating cart in the corridor.
The ship itself was derelict, set in a decaying orbit around a sun that had no habitable planets. Why a colony ship was orbiting this unnamed star was beyond Allen. The database in Elle Space's computers was relatively small, if detailed, but there had been nothing on colony ships heading out this direction in the recent past. Lily had set a search running before Allen came over to the derelict ship in the hopper. Hopefully the search would produce something useful…
"Hey boss," Lily's voice in his ear. She was monitoring his progress on the derelict ship via remote back on Elle Space. Despite the scarring and pitting of the derelict's hull, Allen had been able to make out the name R. Reagan painted on the nose of the ship.
Even with his high-priced education, in which he had majored in history (at which he did well) and goofing off (at which he excelled, all the while still maintaining an excellent GPA), Allen was hard pressed to come up with any reference to the ship's name in his memory. On the other hand, given the age of the ship and what he was currently finding, the reference might come from Earth.
"Yeah, Lily," Allen ran a gloved finger over one of the plastic shelves and shook his head. Dust everywhere. He wondered where it came from.
"Search in our data base came up with some really vague references to Earth, but not much beyond that. We'll need to lock into the main database on Buehler for a more detailed search. I have sent a query off for more info, though it's going to take a while to arrive, given the distance.
"Anyway," she continued before Allen could ask, "what I have here is a reference to a 20th century actor who became governor of a place called, erm, Cal-i-fornia," she hesitated over the odd word. Lily's education did not include ancient Earth languages or much history. "He was also the president of the United States of America, whatever that was. There are also references to one of his sons-some kind of political commentator; a guy from Tularosa who built and made a ton of credit off of flitters during the 3400s and one from Vamp's Hold who is into some really interesting stuff."
"Interesting stuff?" Allen's voice held amusement. He could almost see her cheeks heating with a mix of embarrassment and interest.
"Yeah, he's into interesting stuff." Lily's own voice took on a slightly husky tone before returning to her normal dulcet tones. Allen grinned and took a swipe at another shelf with a finger, shaking his head at the amount of dust. Just where had it come from? A thought niggled at the back of his brain, but refused to come forward immediately.
Pushing it away, he began studying the items on the shelves in earnest, sure now that he'd found a major treasure.
"Hmm, guess we'll be making a trip soon to visit Vamp's Hold, eh?" Allen murmured into his mike. Sputtering on the other end of the communit made him grin more widely, "Now, now, Lily, I'm just teasing. However, if you're truly interested, I have no objections to visiting the place. There's a bar I've been wanting to …" he broke off, distracted.
"Yeah? What kind of bar is that?" Lily was curious. She knew her boss's interest in Vamp's Hold would be purely academic, despite the planet's reputation for catering to all comers. Allen never seemed all that interested in such things.
Never once had he expressed interest in her as anything but a colleague. And now that she thought about it, he did not seem all that interested in any relationships beyond friendship. While she appreciated that Allen saw her as a colleague and friend, it could be frustrating at times when she could have used the relief.
Allen barely heard Lily's question, his attention on the shelves, as his memory began to work finally, coming up with the information he needed. The mention of the 20th Century helped to open the vaults on the knowledge he had squirreled away.
"Are you getting the visual feed, Lil?" At her affirmative, Allen began carefully cataloging what he was seeing verbally, everything being recorded for backup and to prove his claims on salvage of this ship and its contents. Unfortunately, Elle Space did not have the power to pull the old ship out of its decaying orbit around the unnamed sun. The R. Reagan was larger than Elle Space, even though it did not have the bulk of current colony ships. And it was obviously a colony ship, a very early colony ship. The question was, how early? How far back in time was he standing?
"The shelves in storage room A-5-D1 are loaded with paraphernalia from several religions, including Christian, Muslim, Judaism, Buddhist, New Age, Shinto, and others I can't put a name to right at the moment. Also, there are decorations here for several holidays I'm fairly sure no longer exist anywhere in the universe, except maybe in forgotten corners and pockets." Allen panned around with both his flashlight and the camera, making sure he showed the light on everything he was cataloguing. "Also, oddly, everything here is covered in dust."
"Wait, what?" Lily sounded like she had just sat up in interest. "Did you say dust, boss?"
"Yes. Ring any bells with you? Presumably there was power and working filters at one point, so there shouldn't be this much dust everywhere. It should be almost pristine I would think." Allen was puzzled by this little mystery. Again a memory pulled at the back of his brain, but it refused to solidify.
"I'm doing a search Allen." Lily sounded puzzled too.
"Thanks." Allen removed a small tool from his pouch and tested the corner of one of the carefully preserved objects. The material, some kind of plastic, held under Allen's gentle probing. Still, there was a chance of damaging the objects if he was not careful. This salvage job was going to take time and patience and there were other parts of the ship which still needed exploring. Not to mention other storage areas, some presumably would have colonists' personal belongings.
He wondered just how the objects on the shelf had been secured against a zero-g environment. The ships of this era had very unreliable gravity generators, if his assumption was correct about the age of the ship.
After a long, careful few moments of thought and gentle testing, Allen chose to pick up one of the objects he could put no name to, but felt sure might actually bring a decent price on the market, assuming he could get it back to his family's trading ships in good order. There was no sound outside of his suit, of course, but there was definitely resistance to his touch, at least at first. Then suddenly, the object came away in his hand, safe and whole. He realized it was made of some kind of light metal, a type which would not corrode or tarnish over time.
Allen studied the shelf, seeing a strip of material he sort of recognized but could put no name to. Running a gloved finger over the material, he noted how soft it was, even as it crumbled away to dust, puffing up and dispersing around his gloved finger. Gently flipping over the object in his hand, Allen saw a corresponding strip of material on the bottom. This strip was rougher than the other one and crumbled just as fast as the other strip had.
"Velcro!" Lily sounded fascinated.
"What?" Allen started.
"That stuff you were looking at, I think it's Velcro, a material that made its first appearance in the late 20th century and was used for everything from replacing shoe laces to keeping things from floating around in low-to-no gravity environments. They still make it you know. Never went out of production on Herbert."