Love And Atomic Rockets

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by Edwin Cintron

Of all the people I had ever known, Granny Shimout was not one to ever ask for help or show weakness. I grew up listening to tales of her legendary strength and fortitude. Heck, when the first muster was called against Hatzck Naar's pirate fleet, she took over command of her family's privateer ship as her father lay dying at her feet. I am told she did not shed a tear or shown any distress when her father died during Harzck's last stand at Timeon. The only emotions she did display were a smile as Hatzck boiled inside his vac suit when he was spaced, courtesy of the holes she poked in his gear.

So when the call came from her asking me to meet her in order to lend her a hand at Timeon station, I dropped everything and caught passage on the first star ship I could find. The Star Dancer was a fairly new heavy freighter, and word around the station was that the ship’s captain was in dire need of a pilot. Her last pilot and first mate were killed during a pirate attack, one of several that had plagued the ship over the last couple of months. Many felt that the ship was jinxed. Since I was not the superstitious type and the idea of facing down pirates was not a turn off, I figured that it would be a great way to catch a ride and earn some credits along the way.

Chapter 1

As I made my way down the gangway, I was a little surprised at the lack of activity. The ship was schedule to jet in twelve hours and there was no sign of loading cargo. Generally, the captain-owner of a ship tried to minimize docking fees and spend as little time as possible in port. Ships zip into a station, acquire a cargo, and head out. So either the cargo was already loaded or the ship was jetting out empty. I was greeted by a voice from the comm panel at the ship air lock.

"State your business," the box squawked.

"Heard you're looking for a pilot," I replied and flashed my spacer's guild card at the external camera.

The air lock door slid open and I came face to face with a grizzled old spacer. "What's your name son?" he asked as his eyes roamed up and down my body.

"Name's Rodworth Shimout."

"Kind of young to have a class A starship pilot's license?" he asked starring at my guild card.

"Mister I've been piloting starships from the moment I could reach the controls. Heck, made my first jump into the void when I was ten." I shot back.

"Shimout? Scott's boy?

"He was my dad."

"Good man, sorry that he’s dead, but if you are Meteor's whelp then you are just the man I need. Come in." He moved to the side to let me in.

The grizzly old spacer was Albert Cam, owner-captain of the Star Dancer, and he assaulted me with his tale of the streak of bad luck he had been experiencing since taking ownership of the ship. He formerly owned a smaller ship, The Rusty Venture, which netted him a small fortune on the run to Timeon from Minotaur. Members of his old crew had pooled their saving together to purchase the Venture, so the Dancer's crew were new. Thus he has been growing suspicious that a member of the crew was a pirate's plant.

By the time we made it to the bridge we were like old friends, he told me how he met not only my father but also my mother Tei Song Shimout, and how her death due to Red flu had rocked my father.

"Son your mom wasn't a scrapper like your dad, but she had the heart of lion. She gave her dose of antibiotic to a new born baby, knowing it would spell her death. She was one heck of a lady. Your dad was never the same after that." He finished his tale as we entered the bridge.

There were five of the crew at various consoles running system checks. Matt and David Howler, cargo handlers, Xi'tic'koi, a Vrush med tech and life support specialist, Jake "the Hammer" Johnson, second mate, and Eddy "the Mouse" Wilson, engineer and ship mechanic.

"Okay you swabs, this is Rod Shimout and he's our new backup pilot and first mate." Captain Cam roared after introducing me to my crewmates. They looked a little shocked, me being the newbie, and newly hired. Jake the Hammer looked angry, which is understandable since it is the tradition of the second mate taking the place of first mate when the spot becomes available. Jake held his tongue but I knew there would be trouble.

Captain Cam was no dummy. He was letting the crew know that they were suspect and making me the stalking horse, in hope of having the traitor show their hand. Didn't make me too happy but the old coot must have figure that I could handle it.

"Where’s Alice?” he asked after scanning the bridge.

"She in the Radio room, running checks on the FTL radio," Eddie the mouse answered.

"Come Roddie me boy, let me introduce you to pretty Alice," Captain Cam said as he pushed me in the direction of the Radio Shack.

The hatch to the radio room was open and I could see a pair of feet poking into the corridor, on her hands and knees Alice was attempting to open an access panel at the base of the FTL radio set. I didn't expect much as my experience was that when an old coot of a spacer call a woman pretty they’re anything but that. In a way I was correct. When the captain called her and she rose to her feet, I found that she wasn't pretty. She was beautiful!

I am not a poet, and my mere words fail to describe what I saw, but Alice was a woman whose sight would make a man's heart race and put iron in his bottom. With me, I felt that I was struck in the chest by a Gyrojet round and all I could do was stare like some silly school kid.

"Alice this is Rodworth Shimout, our ship pilot and new first mate. Roddies me boy, this is Alice Heart, or should I say heart breaker, radio operator and sensor tech." Captain Cam bellowed in a loud voice that echo through the narrow passage.

A shy smile appeared on her lips as she looked me over. She walked over to Cam and wrapped an arm around his waist. "Well, my captain, he does look like he has some fight in him. Maybe he will work out." She purred then she and Cam locked lips.

"Oh great, she's the captain’s woman!" I thought, making her definitely off limits

"Well, let me show to your bunk young Shimout." Cam said as he disengaged from Alice.

He led me to a small compartment on the lower level near the engine room. The room basically was a ten by ten cube with a zero gee hammock and a small foot locker. I secured my Duffel bag and vac suit carrier to a series of rings on the wall.

"Well boy we are jetting at 0600 am. Get some rest," he said as he turned and left me alone in my new quarters. With my gear secure I made my way upward and found the galley. Jake and the Howler boys where already seated and eating a meal. I nodded at them and attempted to drift pass them to get to the food processor. Jake struck out his foot in an attempt to trip me. Instead I brought my foot down on his shin. He howled and attempted to stand. So I slammed him face first into the table. Holding him down, I whispered into his ear, "look, there can be only one alpha dog in a pack, and I am it. So are we going to be cool or are we going to have to repeat this everyday that I am aboard?"

"We're cool," he groaned and I let him go. The Howlers stared away trying their hardest to pretend that nothing happen. Mouse and Alice entered the Galley and that moment I decided it best to go back to my cabin and attempt to get some shut eye before liftoff.

Chapter 2

My personal com woke me up at 0500 and I was ready to go. I hit the sonic shower, retrieved my skin suit from the refresher unit, and by 0515 I arrived on the bridge. The crew members were already at their stations. The captain was at the pilot chair so I took the co-pilot seat.

"Ah I see that you have graced us with your presence young Mr. Shimout. " he said mockingly drawing smiles from the crew. He turned to the pilot console and muttered, "Don't take it personal son, but I like to be at the helm when taking my ship into and out of the station, also for our jump into the void."

Cam ran a tight ship. He ran preflight checks on all systems with each member of the crew calling out their system status in turn. When 0600 came around he detached from the docking ring and fired the maneuvering jets. Cam didn't bother with the automated anti-collision system and bought us out on manual. It was easy to see that Cam was a master pilot, the Star Dancer was just that with him at the helm. And in a few minutes we were moving out at one gee on a course that would take us out of the system.

Two hours into our flight Cam rang the high acceleration alarm, and everyone strapped themselves into their acceleration couch as he performed a high speed turn that exposed us to six gee acceleration. I was a little perplexed with our sudden change of course and then Cam spoke. "Relax me lads. We need to pick up our cargo, and that maneuver should have put off any one who may have attempted to track us. We are heading for an asteroid factory in the Belt so everyone get prepared for zero gee operation. Mister Shimout, turning the helm over to you. Location is already program into the console. I will see everyone at the main lock in an hour.

An hour later we were all gather at the main air lock, Cam arrived limping. For a man his age a six gee maneuver was a little hard on the body and it was apparent he was feeling the effects of his earlier stunt.

"Listen here mates, this is how it will go. I’m taking the life boat over to that rock to conclude the transaction and to pick up a couple of passengers. Mr. Johnson and Rodworth will use the ship's work pod to transfer the cargo to the hull and the brothers Howler will take care of storing and securing the cargo. Ms. Heart, you will monitor communication and Mouse, you and Tic will be suited up to lend aid if needed. Questions?" Cam grunted his order in attempt not to betray the pain he was feeling. As he headed to the hatch Xi'tic'koi watched carefully to ensure Cam was okay while the rest of us went to suit up.

Zero gee cargo loading operations are dangerous affairs, the list of hazards are a mile long, ranging from micro meteor strikes to solar flares. The biggest danger comes from simple laws of physics when dealing with force and momentum. A slight nudge can start a large mass moving, while that mass’s inertia makes stopping that moving object an issue. Worse if that moving object should impact you when you are not looking. The asteroid factory was using robot tugs to move the massive containers into position.  Just as Jake began to line up to latched on to a waiting container, one the tugs had their engines misfire hurling a massive container at him. I spotted the container and barked "Jake to your rear six. Rogue container.”

He managed to fire his jets and his work pod side steped the out-of-control container, while I jetted into position to brake it.

"Thanks Rod, owe you one," he squawked over the comm and we went back to hauling cargo.

It took over three hours to load the cargo and ensure it was secure. When it was completed we gathered at the main air lock. The captain was there with passengers: two humans, a male and a female dressed in full military body armor with a pair of robotic mules carrying several heavy cases. No mistaking them for anything but ultrahigh security, very likely heavily augmented, and carrying enough fire power to stop a squad of war`bots.

"Crew, this is Mr. Smith and Ms. Jane, they are to be treated with the utmost courtesy and given full run of the ship. Mr. Rodworth, plot us a course to the jump point for Timeon, I will relieve you in twelve hours, Alice I want you on the long range radar, I’ll send Mouse to relieve you in twelve, everyone else get some rest and in eight hours I want us to assume regular ship routine." Cam barked and we scattered.

I got to the bridge and dropped into the pilot chair, from the console I checked and saw that the reactor was set to idle. I rang the acceleration alarm and fired the engines for a standard one gee acceleration. Unlike the pulp novels, starships have no artificial gravity. All the effects of gravity are produced from the acceleration provided from the rockets. As old Einstein discovered there is no difference felt between the acceleration due to the pull of gravity or acceleration from firing the engines. So generally, starships maintain a constant one gee till they reach the speed needed to enter the void for the comfort and health of the crew and passengers. From the console view screen, I watched as we pulled away from our orbit around the factory asteroid and into the emptiness of what lay ahead. Alice popped into the seat behind me and brought up the long range radar screen that scanned space for several light minutes around us.

"All clear young Shimout," she purred in the mocking manner of our captain. I grunted back an okay, afraid that any attempt of making conservation would end up with me saying something foolish. This woman had me rattled and as I glanced over and saw her smiling, it was obvious that she knew it.

"It's going to be a pretty boring twelve hours Roddie if you remain so stiff. Relax. Tell me about yourself. I promise I won't bite. At least not till I know you better."

So I told her of my life, born into a spacer clan, a mother who was a priestess of the goddess Infiniti, my father the lion of the space ways, my three brothers: Barnes, Xenon, and Cross, my sister Grail, and of course Granny the matriarch of our clan. How at sixteen I took off on my own when I realized that there could be only one alpha dog in a pack. I loved my brother Barnes too much to battle him for that place, not when the whole Frontier beckoned. Then there were the four years of adventures and battles that lead me to here, sitting across from a woman whose glances set my blood boiling.

When I was done I looked at her, her face was flushed and she looked away. The Chronometer showed that eight hours had past and at that moment Mouse entered the bridge. He threw me a protein bar and water bulb, and said "Captain ask me to relieve you early, Alice. Figure you could do with something to eat before your watch is over, Rod."

He took Alice’s seat as she rose to leave and turned to me and said, “So tell me about yourself Mr. Shim....."

Chapter 3

Several hours later, Captain Cam entered the bridge accompanied by Mister Smith. Smith took the seat in front of the ship’s laser battery and began keying it into the long range radar. Cam walk stiffly toward me, a sign that he still had not recover from his earlier exposure to the high gee maneuver. He managed a smile, "Go get yourself some grub and a good rest. I expect you back at 1200 to relieve me young Shimout." I hurried out of the bridge toward the galley.

The duty cycle was long, and there was a host of needs that my body demanded. I ran down the list, to the refresher to relieve myself, the galley for food and water, and the sonic shower to rid myself of grime and sweat. Then finally to my compartment to sleep. I threw myself into the zero gee hammock and sleep began to tug at my consciousness.

That’s when Alice entered my cabin and I fell out of my hammock in shock. I got to my feet and began to say, "What the heck...." and before I could finish asking her what she was doing here, Alice kissed me. Next thing I knew we stripping off our skinsuits and fell into each other arms like a pair of colliding black holes. When it was over we lay side by side among a pile of our skinsuits and the tangle mess of the zero gee hammock.

"My sweet naked singularity! What we just did was wrong. You're the captain's woman." I muttered.

Alice sighed, "Roddie I'm no one's woman but my own. The captain has been good to me, gave me a job and I’ve shown him a little kindness," she traced her finger down my chest and look me in the eyes, "This is different. " she sighed again and lay her head against my chest before closing her eyes. I did the same and fell into sweet slumber.

Chapter 4

When I woke Alice was gone. I untangle myself from wreckage of my hammock and dressed. Catching a bite to eat, I made my way to the bridge and ran into Ms. Jane. As we walked toward the bridge she turned her head in my direction and smiled. "Hummm, looks like someone got lucky," she said without breaking a stride. I was not sure what visual clues she pickup on.

At the bridge the captain exclaimed,"Haah young Shimout, good to see you. Mouse told me of how you saved Jake's hide during the cargo loading, hope that square things between the both of you." He smiled as I watched Jane and Smith swap places. "See you in twelve, me and you will run twelve on twelve till we jump. The rest of the crew knows the drills."

He rose and made his way to the hatch. As he left I breathed a sigh of relief, apparently what Jane could see wasn't obvious to us unmodified members of the human race. I made a silent vow to keep away from Alice and went back to work.

And it went on like this for two days, me and the captain relieving each other at the conn, Alice dropping by my cabin after my tour, me surrendering to her charms, and feeling guilty for betraying my captain. The bright spot was that I would be jumping ship at Timeon, but in a way that ate at me to. I liked Captain Cam, he ran a tight ship and his crew seem to be an okay brunch, almost like family. Yet one or more of them were likely a pirate plant. When we reached the jump point I was more or less on the verge of mental and emotional collapse.

The Void is what makes faster than light travel possible. It is one of those parallel set of dimensions scientist call a D-brane. It actually wraps around the normal four dimensions of time and space. Subatomic particles actually rotate into and out of it, giving them that odd half Planck spin. It's only when a large object, like a starship, reaches one percent of the speed of light that it can also rotate into it. Distances are jumbled up in the Void. It takes careful timing to reach the right place, a second or two miscalculation can put you light years away from your desired location.

Cam impressed me again with his piloting skill as he managed our jump without use of a nav computer and actually smoked the jump cutting off two days of travel.

It meant two less days in the Void with Alice, and two less days of worrying about waiting to see what awaited us when we emerged in the Timeon system. Both Mr. Smith and Ms. Jane were on the bridge when we emerged in normal space, and everyone cheered when the long range radar showed the area around the jump clear of pirates.

"Okay mates, let clear the bridge. Xi'tic'Koi, let's break out the hard stuff and everyone can have a drink to celebrate," said Cam, his face alight with joy. "Mr. Smith and myself will hold down the bridge. Young Shimout you can relieve me in two hours." With that, I and the rest of the crew headed to the galley.

When we hit the galley Xi'tic'Koi opened the locked liquor cabinet and began playing bartender. Before I could get a drink, Alice grab my arm and dragged me away, Xi tic Koi gave her a strange look, maybe like Jane he was able to tell what was going on between her and myself. While that thought bothered me, it did little to bar the call of the flesh. Two hours passed in a haze of passion. When I attempted to pull away and dress Alice grab me.

"Don't go." she said, her eyes pinning me like a tangler grenade.

"I have to relieve Cam." I said shaking my head

"Roddie something bad is going to happen. In a couple of hours the ship will be taken. Stay with me and I'll make sure nothing happens to you. We can go away together. Be together my dear," she pleaded.

I had never hit a woman before, but my fist connected with Alice's chin and she went down like a sack of potatoes. I put on my skinsuit in a hurry. I reached into my duffel bag and pulled out a needler pistol and rushed to the bridge. When I got there, I found Captain Cam, Mr. Smith and Ms. Jane slumped into their seat with three drink bulbs on the floor. I rush over to the Captain. He was alive but totally out of it. The console was alarming, so I moved over to check the long range radar and spotted a blip on the edge of the screen – a ship on an intercept course at least two hours out.

Leaving the bridge I rushed to the galley, the rest of the crew was scattered around the deck out cold like Cam. Missing was Xi'tic'Koi.  There was one last place to check, the radio room. I took the safety off my pistol and set it to lethal for the stakes were too high to play it any other way. As I near the radio shack I could hear Xi'tic'Koi's polyvox screeching out its translation. Ignoring it I kick in the cabin door. Xi'tic'Koi whirled around with a laser pistol in his hand but before he could fire I emptied my clip into him. He tumbled to the floor with half a dozen flechette etching a line from his abdomen to his thorax.

"Red one, this is Red leader. Come in Red one," blared the radio. As I turned off the receiver, I was hit with the realization that I was a dead man. We were all dead men. I toyed with the idea of loading everyone into the life boat and making a run for it, but the pirates would chase us down. I could man the laser battery but without the rest of the crew we wouldn't stand a chance in a straight fight. I went to the pilot console and upped the acceleration to two gees – the limit of the engines.  As I felt the increase force of gravity on my body, I knew that this would only give us a few extra minutes. There had to be something else I could do. At that point I decided to check the cargo to see what was so valuable to warden the extra muscle that came aboard to guard it.

I searched the Howlers brothers and found the key card for the cargo hold. It took maybe a half hour to break into the cargo containers, inside were robots, servant bots, maintenance bots and war-bots, at least a dozen. There was hope, but the war-bots had no power batteries or weapons. I rush to engineering deck and found five fully charge parabatteries. A search of Ms. Jane's and Mr. Smith's quarters yielded a small arsenal of weapons, a heavy laser, a couple of laser pistols, electro and sonic stunners, and a pair of vibroknives.

Chapter 5

It was a race. I barely got a squad of five war-bots up and armed when I heard grapples strike our hull. Armed with my needler and Xi's laser pistol, I raced with war-bots in tow to the main airlock. I positioned myself at the first bend in the passageway to the airlock and waited, arranging the bots in a line behind me.

Soon enough I heard the airlock cycle. The inner door slid open and a dozen pirates cautiously enter the corridor. I jumped into the passage and unloaded my needler but the shots rang harmlessly against their armor. One of the pirate screamed "Get him!" as I darted around the corridor. The pirates barreled around the corridor hoping to catch me and ran right into the waiting War-bots. "Sic 'em boys" I ordered and the war-bots waded into the pirate band. The following battle was one sided, the War-bots had the element of surprise and I joined in with Xi's laser on maximum. Three of the pirates went down before the others turned and fled back to the main lock with the War-bots close behind.

They attempted to return to their craft but before they could seal the hatches to our airlock the war-bots slipped aboard their craft. Their ship disengaged and jetted away at max thrust. I could picture in my head the chaos that raged aboard their ship as they not only were attempting to escape but also had to battle a squad of killer robots. As it stood that was the last I saw of the pirate vessel.

There were ton of things to do. Checking on the down pirates, I found two of then still breathing, so I used my needler and a clip of tranq rounds to keep them unconscious, a few shots into each would keep them out for days. It took me a couple of hours to break into the medical locker, but once I did I then began injecting the down crew with Stimdose to revive them. But there was no reviving Captain Cam.  During my battle with the pirates his heart had stopped, Xi had given too big a dose to Cam. Then there was Alice. As the crew was reviving I went back to my quarters. She was just recovering from my upper cut and she attempted several times to rise only to drop to the floor.

"Don't bother getting up my love." I told her in an icy cold tone and shot her with the needler. She slumped into a pile and I realized that it may have been better at this point if I had hit her with the lethal load of needles instead.

As first mate it became my duty to take the captain's place. The rest of the crew were no problem, they knew their duties. Mr. Smith and Ms. Jane were a bit ticked that I borrowed their gear and lost it. They insisted that they needed to contact their employer so I had Mouse escort them to radio shack. I then went over the captain's log and found a series of instructions in case of his death.

This added another stop to our trip as the captain wanted his body buried on Charon's rock, an Icarus asteroid that spacer's used as burial ground in this system. Plotting a course to it would put additional day to our journey but it had to be done. Finally I radioed Timeon station and had them connect me to Cam's only living relation, his daughter. After breaking the news of her father's death, I advised her to get a good lawyer in order to handle the ship transfer and the final transaction with the cargo and its owner. It was then the strain of all that happen caught up to me and I past out. Next thing I knew I was being shaken awake by Jake

"Hate to wake you Captain, but the pirates are coming to." he apologized.

"How long have I been asleep?" I yawned

"Almost a full day." he answered.

"Murphy's mother, I must have been tired. Jake you and the Howler brothers bring the pirates to the main airlock, have Mouse bring Alice. It is time to have a Captain's Court."

There is no one set of laws or authority that covers the Frontier. In fact in some systems the only law is one that comes out the mouth of a laser, but for spacers there is a set of traditions that bind us. Generally, small offenses like malingering are punish by the offender's ship mates. Slightly greater ones by the first mate. But major ones are handle by the ship's captain and piracy is the most serious offense possible. There is usually only one punishment for it and that is being ejected into space.

The Captain's Court was held at the main airlock. The two surviving pirates struggled against the grip of Mr. Smith and Ms. Jane who took it upon themselves to play master-at-arms. Alice was sobbing with Jake and Mouse holding her. She did not struggle and the sight of her standing there broke my heart, but justice had to be served.

"I’m not going to waste time, we all know why we are here," I said as I turned to the pirates. "You and your mates attempted to take our ship, and I am sure that our lives would have been taken also. Your actions have led to the death of Captain Cam so there is no mercy that I can show you. I sentence you two to be spaced

The pirates attempt to break free but Smith and Jane easily tossed them into the open airlock and Jake closed the hatch. As captain it was up to me to hit the emergency cycle button that opened the outer airlock door to space. The pressure of the air inside the lock ejected them into the vacuum. Alice swooned, and was caught by Mouse. Ms. Jane pulled a vial out of a pocket and positioned it against Alice's nose causing her to regain consciousness.

"Alice Heart, for your actions your life is also forfeit. But yours will not be a quick death. Instead you are sentence to accompany our fallen captain. You are to be marooned on Charon's rock with no radio and twelve hours of air. "As I pronounced her fate Alice again collapsed.

Mouse barely caught her and he turn to me, "You're a cold one. Don't think we all didn't know you were shagging her and now you going to sentence her to death."

"Can it Mouse, the Captain is right. Heck it serves her right to suffer a bit. Spacing is too good for her!" Jake said jumping to my defense.

"I’ll have no more of that. Ms. Jane, take Alice to her cabin and lock her in. The rest of you back to your duties, we'll meet here in twelve hours to put Captain Cam to rest. Hop to it!" I roared.

Spacers' funerals are solemn events, staged on deserted asteroids in the deep vacuum. It was up to me as acting captain to offer up last words. So as the Howler brothers lowered Cam’s body into the pit Jake had blasted into the stone, I recited an old Infiniti prayer I had heard my mother use on such occasions. It spoke of the green fields of Earth, man's mother world lost so many centuries ago, and our return to it in our next lives. Alice was standing silent as Ms. Jane held onto her arm. Smith looked on cold as ice and Mouse was crying as he positioned the capstone on Cam's grave.

"Okay let get back to the ship, Jane I'll take care of Ms. Heart," I said as I grabbed Alice by the arm. "I'm sorry, I wish that things could have gone another way," I muttered as I opened her helmet comm panel and grabbed the radio circuit board and crushed it in my hand.

Everyone made their way to the airlock and I trailed behind and watched as everyone boarded. Just as I began to climb into the lock, I removed a flare pistol from my suit emergency pack and dropped it. It drifted slowly in the micro gravity of Charon, but eventually came to rest on a small boulder. Little hope that Alice would find it.  Even a smaller hope that any ship would come by that she could signal with it. But it eased my conscious and a small hope was better than none.

Chapter 6

When we lifted off from Charon's rock, the entire crew watched from the bridge monitor as we pulled away, as it faded in the distance not a word was said. The rest of our journey was uneventful and quiet but when we finally pulled into port we were greeted by a small mob.

There were peace officers from the Timeon Department of Justice, stevedores to unload our cargo, a set of suits representing the owners of the cargo and their security agency. Also there was Helen Cam and her lawyers. The first to greet me were the police officers demanding copies of our logs, which I had waiting. They began making demands that I accompany them for further questioning on the pirate attack and the fate of the pirates that were captured. Their demand stopped as one of the suits came over and whisper in the ear of the officer in charge, I also caught a quick exchange of credit chits when the two shook hands.

Then the suits approached and I found Mr. Smith and Ms. Jane at my back, one of the suits reach out to shake my hand," Captain Shimout, Mr. Smith and Ms. Jane have informed me of the actions you took to save our cargo, I’d like to thank you." As he took my hand he placed in my palm a credit chit, "the local militia has found a derelict vessel filled with dead pirates and powered down war-bots. So it looks like you get to collect the bounty. If you ever need a job look us up, we are always on the lookout for good men."

Finally, came Ms. Cam and her lawyers, I took her hands, "I am really sorry about your father, I did not know him very long but I came to really like him. I wish I could have done more."

One of the lawyers led her away and the other took possession of the Captain's access card and logs. He then proceeded to hand out our pay, there was a muttered exchange that after all the paper work was completed that Ms Cam would be needing a ship crew and captain, I gave a tentative reply that if I was still around that I would be available but my heart wasn't into it.

I made my way to local Spacer's Bar, as I entered I spotted Granny seated at a table filled with old spacers laughing and drinking in celebration of times past. Granny spotted me and got up out of her seat.

"Roddie my boy, what took you so long?" she ask as she hugged me

I told Granny about all that happen, she nodded and ordered us drinks. When I was done she commented, "Roddie you are so much like your father, a soft touch for a pretty piece of fluff.  Cheer up I have something to give you." And she tossed me a starship access card.

I looked at the card, and had to admit that I was a bit perplexed.

"Look over there, out that viewport," Granny continue pointing at a viewport across from us. Drifting in a parking orbit outside the station was a one-man courier vessel. It was a bit scarred and pitted, but it sported a band new class A atomic drive.

"It’s yours, I found the ship adrift on the edge of the system. Drive was gone but everything else was fine. Likely belonged to some smuggler who blew the drive and abandon her. I've already talk to the station's Postmaster and he will contract with you for courier runs to connecting systems."

What could I do but hug the old bat and rain kisses on her cheek, "Thanks Granny."

"Now don't be a stranger, you have your own ship and you know the systems our clan roams. Every one misses you, including Barnes!" She scolded me.

At that moment two young ladies entered the bar, very likely locals looking to find some fun with wild exotic spacers. Granny poked me in the arm and pointed at the ladies.

"You know the quickest way to get over a broken heart is to find yourself a missy to comfort you." She said with a smile.

"Thanks, but no thanks," I said. "I've had enough of the fairer sex for a while. I think I will check with the Postmaster and see if he has any mail needs delivering. "I kissed my granny on the cheek and headed out of the bar. And on to my next adventure.....