A BUSY DAY
Chapter 1: Getting away from trouble
For the first time in ages, I walk straight. I’ve been drinking myself under the table lately.
It is over.
We lost, and if what I’ve heard about New Varsaw is true,....... Well, those Joint Chiefs blokes might’ve been the lucky ones, dying quickly and all.
I was successful, making profits wherever I went, speculating on the War. If those civvies want to think that a used photon rifle would make them single-handedly repel a Cat assault brigade, who I am to tell’em otherwise ?
Whatever.... Now, I’m like all those guys: totally screwed, as the mightiest force ever gathered is closing to Sol.....and just as happy to nuke us unworthy apes as me when selling enough small arms to a farmer to fill his barn.
But, I have a plan, now.
Simple, and effective: The hotshots Confed pilots fly and die, while I fly and flee, with my crew, my ship and a whole load of goods a radioactive Earth won’t need anymore, to a brave new world: One of the “lost colonies” I got the coordinates two years ago in exchange for a ride to Perry with two containers of cardamine.
Noone knows but my XO, who began preps as soon as I told her what my contact in ConFleet sent me in his report.
I just need to take care of the paperwork, and good bye Ear....
Well, my bad. Word of the situation must have got out while I was away. The spaceport is now crowded by rats leaving the ship.
Could be interesting.....how much one of these CEO would pay for a ticket in a fast ship getting as far as Cats as possible ? Or maybe I’ll let Ben, my pal at the control tower, escape with us.
“Ben, whazzup ?”, I say while entering the control tower, looking at the skinny guy surrounded by Navy officers. He turns and, seeing my face, looks as stunned as if I were Trakath himself.
“What are YOU doing here, Mueller”
“Same thing as all those guys here, of course”, I snap back. What did thought, that I was going to take on this fleet for Confed’s sake ?
After a while, he answers: “I didn’t expect that from a guy like you, but....., if that’s what you want.....”
“There is still some room for you, on the Qin, you know”, I offer him.
“No, sorry. I have still a lot of work to take care of here.”, he answers, after taking five secs to think about it.
I had no time to argue with such an oversized ego, so I left for the Qin Saldi, my key to a deserved retirement.
“You know him ?”, asked the Marine officer to Benjamin Quevillion.
“Yeah, and that’s why I’m stunned. This guy.....he’s kind of a smuggler, and as long as I knew him, he did not care about anything else than his own sake and his profits. And now....”
“Looks like he wasn’t such a selfish guy, after all”, said the officer.
“You know, had he insisted, I’d have followed him.”
“You wouldn’t have done any good: one more man won’t change his crate’s odds against Kilrathi fighters”, said a Navy commander, who lokked rather surprised at Ben’s reaction when hearing him. “What was funny here ? He’ll probably die out there, like all those blokes”
“Sorry”, said the flight controller, “but the Qin Saldi is not what I’d call a....crate. It’s more like a corvette with cargo holds, shields, photon guns and all. So, I tell you, one more man could help, with such a ship to work with.”
The Qin Saldi.....my ship, and a legend of its own. Some said it was more famous among smugglers than the Bonnie Heather was in Secret Ops. After all, it was the unique result of tinkering of techs from Earth to Landreich and, if some gossips were true, even or two Kilrathi techs who rightly thought that their love of shiny circuitry outweighted such a tiny thing as a total interspecies war.
And, after a few not-so-clean deals, this legend was the property of Francis Mueller, a.k.a. me.
When I arrived in the hangar I rented for the week, the crew was already inside making sure everything would go as smoothly as possible. No wonder noone wants to be there to greet those……”less than friendly” visitors.
“Skip, the Qin is fueled, loaded nd ready to go. We’ll have clearance in eighty minutes.”
“OK, Ron, the sooner we’re away the better”, I answered to Veronica Chavez, my XO.
“Couldn’t have said it better.”
I get in the command Room, a tiny CIC “found” in an old gunship, to find everything running. After a quick check-list that only reflects the quality of the Qin’s crew, I sit down and begin to relax.
Only one hour to a clearance to survival.
I take a glance at a screen showing the spaceport, where ships of all sizes are now thrusting upwards. Why those intrasystem business shuttles are taking off, since they obviously lack the jump drive that would get them to safety ?
A light in the CIC interrupt my thoughts: Someone is in the hangar, too close to the hatch for comfort.
“Nell, Andy, come with me. With your guns”, I tell to my two crew members assigned to security.
I totally forgot about getting some lazy, high-revenue passengers, but it seems they did not forget me.
Maybe I’m finally going to make some profits on this trip, after all.
“Colonel Amos, Terran Confederation Marine Corps. I guess you are the commanding officer of the Qin Saldi”, said the newcomer just after I opened the hatch.
-“What are THOSE guys doing here, boss ?”
-She is smiling….what can this mean…..Oh, yes, of course, it’s only a “We’re screwed and you still show enthousiasm” smile…..
I'll post the following chapter in a few days. If you have any suggestion, don't hesitate, since it's my first "real" text in English.