To Dream of Impossible Dreams (Flash Fiction)

Miklos had been dreaming of bacon for a solid week before he decided, by God, to do something about it.

Almost anything could be gotten at Capricorn Station. It was a transport and commerce hub for twelve star systems. Species, races, and cultures of all kinds passed through, for diplomatic or economic exchange, or on their way to somewhere else. Capricorn’s warehouses were stocked with goods from hundreds of planets and outposts, any of which a being could buy, within reason.

Unfortunately those reasons did not extend to cured, smoked, animal-based lipids in a protein matrix imported, at great expense, from Earth.

“I’ll have to make my own,” Miklos confided to the only customer in the bar, a shifty-eyed jack-of-all-trades who claimed his name was Anson.

“Tricky,” Anson mused. “How are you going to do it?”

“You’ve worked the vats in Protein Processing, haven’t you?”

“Oh, no, you’re not getting me involved! One more social behavior demerit and I’m put on the first transport out! I like it here.”

“I’m not asking you to do anything,” Miklos purred, refilling Anton’s glass with a heady amber fluid. “Just tell me, who down there can I talk to?”

“Remember, Lyra, this is a special order, off the books.”

“Off the books? Why the secrecy?” the lab technician demanded suspiciously. “If you want pork protein for your establishment, you can order all you want through regular channels.”

“Because this particular batch needs to be at least 60 percent lipids by volume.”

Lyra scoffed. “Are you insane? It’ll never pass the nutritional standards. Even if I did tweak the culture genetics, Control would just condemn it as a bad batch and recycle it.”

“Which is why Control cannot know. Please, Lyra, it’s very important.”

“Why? What the hell is it for?”

He leaned close and whispered a single word into her ear. Her eyes widened.

Miklos made certain that nobody was following him down the service corridor, then opened a hatch marked, “Danger! Outer Hull Integrity Compromised in This Section. Do Not Enter!” In the docking bay Anson shut down his molecular welder and nodded at Miklos.

“I have it,” Miklos announced, and unloaded his float pallet of a cold box and a bag of wood shavings. “Are you certain you’ve made it vapor tight?”

“As tight as it can be,” Anson replied. “You realize this is the craziest part of your scheme, don’t you? Do you have any idea what the penalties are for burning things?”

“Which is why I’m trusting you to make it all right and tight. You said the smoke vents through the airlock?”

“Yeah, just open this valve. But to rig it I had to override about six different safety protocols! When we open that airlock, it’ll show up at the Station Ops Center. As soon as they register a pressure drop they’ll scramble an emergency team in here, and then we’re in it for sure.” Anson shook his head. “I wish I had never let you talk me into this.”

“Don’t worry about Station Ops. I have a man inside to cover for us.”

“How do you know you can trust this guy?”

Miklos shrugged. “The same way I know I can trust you. He drinks at the bar.”
The pork came out of the cold box, already cut into slabs and the surface sparkling with accumulated crystals of nitrates and chlorides of sodium and simple hydrocarbons.

“Not as big as I expected,” Anson remarked.

“The dry curing process removes water, shrinking the meat.” Carefully they laid the slabs across the waiting racks, sprinkled a generous handful of wood shavings on a heating element, and dogged the hatch shut. Anson activated the unit, and the conspirators nodded at one another before going their separate ways.

Three days later, Station Security was waiting when they went to vent the smoke out the airlock. The tiniest whiff of pyrolosis had made its way to an active sensor, and three burly Security Officers were waiting, shock sticks held at the ready. Backing them up was Administrator Javert, who was rumored to sleep every night with a copy of the station regulations.

“At the moment, gentlemen,” Javert hissed, “I have you on at least twenty-four separate charges of unauthorized use of Station resources, the release of combustion byproducts and assorted volatiles into the Station atmosphere, and a potential breach of station hull integrity. At best I will have you deported for this. At worst,” he smiled unpleasantly, “your destination will be one of the outer mining colonies.”

Javert paced around the contraption. “What exactly were you hoping to accomplish, may I ask?”

“We just wanted to smoke a little bacon,” Miklos admitted.

“What?”

“Bacon, sir. It should just about be ready by now. That’s why we came back.”

At Javert’s nod, Anson opened the valve, venting the smoke-filled chamber into space. As soon as they opened the smoker’s hatch, though, they could all smell it. The bacon looked perfect— smoky, rich, and mahogany brown. Even the Security Officers began to sniff deeply, mouths watering.

Javert scowled at the evidence. “All of this will have to be disposed of most carefully.”

“My thoughts exactly, sir.”

Plates slid smoothly into place in front of the diners. “I found this recipe in an ancient Earth cookbook,” Miklos told them. “It’s called a ‘BLT.’”

Javert took a judicious bite and chewed slowly. “Your thoughts, Chairman?”
Capricorn Station’s chief executive swallowed, then wiped her mouth with a napkin.

“Quite. And the process of converting one of the obsolete lifepods into a— what did you call it, a smokehouse? You say that’s fairly straightforward?”

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