From the random muse novel… sigh…
Unedited, as always…
Four divs later, Ghost was moored to Station Xray, and Danny said, “Let’s go find out who the pax are. I know we’re getting four security folks for sure.” Danny strapped a small pulsar on, and had Essie step up security on all hatches to the ship before they left the bridge.
Daniella followed him curiously, and at the airlock Danny motioned her to one side, “Not that anything is going to happen, but.” She moved and he said, “Okay Essie, release the hatch.”
He pushed it open and looked out seeing four Albaderians in the uniforms of the mining consortium’s security force. The senior one, with a graying muzzle stepped forward, and Danny said quietly, “Code?”
The Albaderian said something Daniella didn’t catch, but she saw Danny relax, “Welcome aboard. Your quarters are two twenty one, Lima six. It’s an eight man, so you can spread out. Standard watchbill?”
The GalTrans on his lapel squealed, then said, “Yes, standard watchbill, I am Moe. You cannot pronounce my real name. Your tongue doesn’t work for our language.”
Danny nodded, “Understood.” He stepped aside and the four of them marched on board, glancing casually at Daniella as they did. There was a short conversation in what she could only think of as screeches and howls, and one of the four took a position at the hatch. Danny stepped off the ship, and walked slowly to the four individuals standing well back from the Albaderians.
A wiry old man stepped forward, “I’m Zuckie. Mapper told us to meet you. Said you needed us.”
Danny cocked his head, “I needed you?”
“Yep. Something about the game being on.”
“Wait one.” Danny walked back aboard, then down the passageway. Daniella saw him take what looked like an earpiece from his shipsuit, and she heard him say, “Private. Did you get…”
The rest of what he said was lost, and when he turned back, he was scowling. Seeing her, he shrugged, then plastered a smile on his face, as he shoved the earpiece back in his pocket.
He stepped back off the ship, and motioned the four of them over, “You are correct, Zuckie. What do we have here?”
The old man smiled, “I’m your engineer.” He pointed to a small humanoid standing off to the side in what looked like a metallic suit, “Efrot is the second.” Pointing to another old man, he said, “Hinz is your cargomaster.” Lastly, he pointed to what, to Daniella, was a monster, scarred, missing an upper arm, and limping, “And last, but not least, Gronk. It’s your navigator.”
Danny smiled, “Welcome aboard. Gronk, you’re in charge of billeting the crew. I’m off to get provisions. Efrot, sulfur or manganese?”
Efrot, the little Talasian from the Orion cluster bowed, and its GalTrans spit out, “Manganese would be preferred. If not, sulfur would be fine, as long as it’s freshly ground.”
Danny caught Daniella’s eye, and nodded toward the station. She stepped carefully off the ship, nodded to the four, and caught up with him as he approached the corridor hatch. Turning she watched them go aboard. “What the hell… who the hell are they?”
Danny grimaced, “That is my crew. Apparently I hired them before I left Alpha. Zukie is a hundred and twenty, but he’s qualified any plant, any tonnage as a chief engineer. Efrot is… who knows how old. He’s Talasian, so he can name his price anywhere in the known universe. He can work on hot sections while they’re hot. He’s immune to radiation in all forms. And he’s a heavy worlder. Talasia is a two G world, barely in the zone, and extremely high radiation from the dwarf sun. Stay away from him if you ever plan on having children.”
“Is that why he’s wearing the coat? I saw one on Alpha once, a few years ago, but not close enough to get a good look.”
“Yeah, he’s radioactive. He’ll actually bunk in the engine room. And he needs magnesium to keep his radiation under control. Gronk. Well, Gronk is from… Hydra. They fight. A lot. If they make it off planet, they’re picked up by mercs anywhere in the known universe. They also tend to be excellent navigators, as they have a bifurcated brain and are always double checking themselves. Oh, and most of them are polymaths. And never ask one whether they are male or female.”
“And the other old man?”
Danny laughed bitterly, “That’s a damn good question. He’s signed on as Adrian Butler, but I think I know who he is…”
Danny turned into a dilapidated side corridor, walked half way down it, and opened an unmarked door. Daniella looked around in distaste, thinking how rundown the passageway was, and how rough the station looked. But as she thought about it, she realized this wasn’t a transit station, it was really only for the miners in the belt. That’s why it was so far out. But the air was good, the lighting good, making her curious as to what the hydro section had. She followed Danny through the door and stopped cold. The office was a mess, paperwork stacked everywhere, and a huge fat man in the process of trying to get up from the desk.
“Danny, you little thief!”
Danny laughed, “Alberto, you big fat thief! No wonder you’re so fat. You eat all that food you charge us for!”
The fat man picked up Danny, crushing him in a hug, and kissing both cheeks, “You don’t call, you don’t message, you don’t come by… You okay? Who’s this?”
He winced as Alberto put him back down, and stretched, “I’m okay. On my way to Gany. I need some supplies. This is Daniella, she’s a pax, hydro engineer at Alpha, going to the sector conference on Gany.”
Alberto bowed, “Very nice. And you keep Danny away from you.” Then he looked between them, “You look like brother and sister.”
“Oh no. We’re not related,” she said. Then asked curiously, “How much food is local, and how much is import?”
Alberto shrugged, “Not sure I really know. The greens, some of the legumes, I know are local. Good bit of vat meat. Most of what I ship to the ‘stroids is imported.” He turned back to Danny, “Whatta you need?”
Danny thought for a second, “Thirty days rations. Two, three, four human, one Hydra, one Talasian, four Albaderians.”
“Talasian want manganese or sulfur?”
“Manganese if you have it.”
“Thirty-two echo with the expansion module.”
“Want any real food?”
“Nah, prepped is fine, we’ll eat out of the autochef. Usual snack packs.”
Daniella interrupted, “I can cook.”
They both looked at her and she said defensively, “Well, I can!”
Alberto grinned, “I thought you were a passenger.”
“I am. But I can cook too. And it’s not like there is a lot to do…”
Danny looked at her funny, then shrugged, “Add one pack. Now, how bad are you going to screw me over?”
Alberto put his hand on his chest, “You wound me, Danny. To think I would…”
Danny laughed, “Stow it Al, I know you. You’d screw your own mother if there was money in it. I’ll pay realistic prices.”
Alberto spat, “Where do you think I learned my business, Danny? My mother taught me everything I know. And she tried to have me killed when I went out on my own and started competing with her. Why do you think I’m all the way out here, damn near on the Rim?”
Danny grinned, “I always figured it was all the people you poisoned with your provisions!”
Alberto worked the holo keyboard in front of him, and hit a key with a flourish, “Provisions on the way. Your AI accepted and paid the invoice.”
He levered his bulk out of from behind the desk, shook Daniella’s hand and turned to Danny. “You stay safe. Lots of folks out here are proud of you Danny.” He crushed him in a bear hug again, and pushed him toward the door, “Get out of here you little thief.”
Three days out of the belt, Danny came off watch and walked into the mess looking for a bulb of enriched water before he headed for his cabin. Instead, he heard soft cursing from the kitchen area, “Damn people don’t ever store stuff… mumble, mumble, mumble, gotcha! Why the hell you’re all the way over here, when you should… Eep!” Daniella caught movement out of the corner of her eye, and turned, knife in hand.
Danny jumped back, “Hey! What are you doing?”
“Trying to find something to get into that damn food pack your buddy sent. It’s wrapped up tighter than a hazmat sample.”
Danny called out, “Mech to the kitchen.” He motioned with his hands, “Put the knife down, please?”
She sighed, “I’m at least going to put it where it belongs.” She walked back to the other side of the counter, opened a drawer, and dropped the knife in it with a clang. “Why the mech?”
Danny said, “It’s responsible for the cold section. It will put the package away and log it into the system.
The mech trundled into the kitchen and stopped. “Unload and store meal packs.” The mech beeped and the door of the cold section dilated, as it moved quickly through the hatch. Daniella saw a flash of light as it apparently used a laser to burn through the wrapping, and it quickly scanned and moved things to various shelves. In a couple of segs, it scooped up the wrapping, the pallet, and moved out of the kitchen.
Danny said, “Now you can go look. I’m going to bed.”
Eleven days later, they arrived at Gany station, and got stuck out on the end of one of the arms. Something wasn’t right, and Danny didn’t pop the hatch immediately, even though station security was awaiting them. He made a quick call to the mining consortium’s office, telling them where Ghost was parked, and waited. The station security personnel milled around, and finally one connected after being berated by a civilian accompanying them, “Ghost, this is station security, you need to open the hatch. We have a document for you and we must inspect your ship.”
Danny cocked his head as he watched the video feed, “Um, I will open the hatch as soon as…”
The civilian brushed by the security people and activated the emergency sequence on the hatch, as Danny yelled, “Security to the aft hatch, somebody is attempting emergency access override. Prepare to repel as required.”
He heard Moe confirm and watched on the ship vid as the four of them weaponed up and scrambled for the hatch. “Essie, seal all access to ship. Decompress airlock eight.”
Estrella answered, “Cannot decomp. Outer hatch in emergency mode and seal released.”
“Call station security, no, hell call the GalPat det. Tell them somebody is trying to hijack us.”
LT Phoebe Christou hadn’t even taken the first sip of her coffee when the deedle-deedle-deedle of an alarm sounded through the GalPat det’s office on Gany Station. What the hell? Who’s fucking around with…
Senior Sergeant Pagonis stuck his head in the office, “LT, you’re not going to believe this, but there’s an armed standoff at dock Zulu thirty.”
“What?” She blindly set the cup down, and punched up the dock on the wall screen, “Oh hell no. Not having this. Full response Senior, and I want two in full armor.” She reached into the locker behind her desk, quickly putting on her hardshell armor and grabbed both a stun stick and her autorifle.
She scrambled out of the office and jumped in the front seat of the response sled, “Let’s go, armor can catch up. She patched the vid into her helmet HUD, watched for a few segs, and cussed. “Looks like station security against mining consortium guards, plus some asshole civilian. What the hell is…”
“LT, just got a call from ship captain in Zulu thirty. Says there is an attempted hijack in progress against him. He has high value cargo on board.”
“Ship and captain?”
“DSRV Ghost, Captain data attached.” It popped into her HUD and she scrolled quickly through it-
DANIEL JEROME ORTEGA
MASTER PILOT (NON-AUGMENTED)
CLASSIFICATION- ANY SHIP, ANY TONNAGE, GALAXY
APPROVAL- GANYMEDE GALSTA 28381229 GANYTECH EDU 28381201
RENEWED- ALPHA STATION 28481023 28581105
L&B- ANY CARGO
“Fully qualified, updated five years ago, licensed and bonded, no citations,” she transmitted to the rest of the team as she read it off. “If you need to take somebody, preference would be stun rather than shoot, but if you see a weapon pointed any direction other than the ground, don’t hesitate.
A chorus of, “Yes Ma’am, yes LT, okay,” sounded over the circuit.
“Ship data,” she asked impatiently.
“Standby.” Data started scrolling through her HUD again-
GHOST PREV NAME ROVER
KEEL LAID 2048 ANTARES PLANETS UNITED
REP MISSING 2049 SALVAGE 2057 AWARD D J ORTEGA, SOLACE
RECERT 2058 GEN CGO/RESEARCH
TRIP ORIGIN SOLACE SYSTEM 11 DAYS IN TRANSIT DIRECT
Hmmm, wonder if that’s why it’s all the way out at Planets United docks? Or…
The response sled rocked to a halt just as the two GalPat troops in armor rounded the corner, pounding toward them. “Okay, we go in weapons tight, but I want the two groups separated. I will deal with the ship’s captain first, then try to sort out whatever the hell else is going on. Understood?”
She nodded as everyone rogered up for the command and said, “Halston, pop the door if you will?”
Trooper Halston reached out delicately with his manipulator and pulled the dock’s interior door open, stepping into it before the LT could move. His amplified voice echoed in the tight space, “Everybody freeze! Nobody moves.” He stepped gracefully to the side and LT Christo marched down the length of the dock, just daring somebody to get in her way.
As she got to the airlock hatch, the civilian she’d seen stepped in front of her, waving a document, “I have seizure papers, I have…”
“Out of the way,” she grated. When he didn’t move, and started to open his mouth again, she hit him with the stun stick, “Obregon, take this one into custody.” She looked at the station security sergeant staring at her, mouth hanging open and asked sweetly, “Got a problem, Sergeant?”
He backed away quickly, “Um, no ma’am. But he’s a vice-president of Planets United.”
“So?” She stepped into the airlock and saw four Albaderians in the uniforms of the mining consortium security force, but their weapons were holstered. So Mining Consortium guards on the ship, and behind the station security. This bucket must be carrying something for them, which is interesting, since it’s not an armored transport vessel. More and more interesting.
Danny stepped cautiously out of a side passageway, “Yes, ma… Lieutenant?”
“What the hell is going on here?”
Danny shrugged, “I have absolutely no idea. Station Security was waiting when we docked out here, and wanted me to open the airlock, but I’ve got cargo for the mining consortium, and was told not to open up until they got here. Then some civilian activated the emergency access on my airlock, and I started wondering if they were really station security. That’s when I called a possible hijack.”
“What are you carrying that would be that valuable?”
“Ma’am, I have over three hundred million credits worth of credits worth of precious metals and minerals from the Solace cluster mining consortium’s miners in the belt out there.”
“Ah… Okay, that puts a new spin on things. Have your crew and pax muster in the… Mess? Lounge?”
“Mess, but I need to guard the…”
LT Christo held up her hand and subvocalized, “Halston, forward to the hatch. Nobody on or off until I say so.”
“On the way, ma’am.”
When Halston stood in front of the hatch, she said, “Now, Captain.”
“Essie, ask everyone to muster in the mess, please.”
The PA clicked on, “All personnel aboard Ghost, please muster in the mess immediately. All personnel including pax muster in the mess immediately.”
Moe looked around, and Danny said, “That includes y’all. I don’t think anybody is going to argue with a GalPat troop in armor.”
Moe’s GalTrans squeaked, “Agreed.” With yips and a howl, he herded his men toward the mess, following Danny and LT Christo.