The dark sky was a vast array of moons and long trails of colored space-ether. They striped the sky over the backwater planet with their pale hues, contrasting just enough with color in the blackness to be distinguished. This was a crowded sky and a dangerous place to fly, with all the near planet asteroids, or, even do business as Arra was running for his life. The Follen, the local civilization, hadn't liked him this time or had liked his trade goods too well, having turned on him, even though he'd been here before and leaving with everyone happy. They had been getting greedier on subsequent stops and on this of Arra's sixth visit to the place. Through some sixth sense, he'd acquired from years of trading and selling, he learned they were after his head as a trophy and all his trade goods, this time.
Barely on the top of the last ridge of several he'd been fleeing over, he shouted down at Beverly, his synthetic, just outside the interplanetary ship resting in the canyon below. She was faithfully standing guard at the entrance ramp, waiting for his return.
"Beverly! Get the ship ready," he yelled down to her.
She looked up and stared dumbly at him.
"Right now," he said, and she disappeared into the ship, raising an arm to acknowledge his commands.
Arra looked behind him, again. The tribe was half way up the slope, already. Crimony, they were fast, he thought. If it wasn't for this planet being a low gravity world, I'd be in a heck of a bind.
Arra turned away and began running down slope, now. Huge ten meter strides gobbled up the distance between him and the ship and on reaching the dark space scared hot rod, he hopped up the open bay's ramp and slammed the button to close the clamshell doors. He was safe now. This ship was made of thick, heavy, Black-Space-Iron and was nearly impregnable once the ship was fired up due to the internal drive and speaker voice that protected the whole craft.
Rushing to the cockpit, Arra touched Beverly on the back of her bare neck as he sat down next to her, feeling the softness of her skin and its pleasant warmth. It always felt good to have her close by. Even though she was a mere pleasure unit, having won Beverly in a game of chance, at cards, and knowing she had been designed for only sex and minor other duties, Arra had still grown very found of her. She was a darn good pilot, these days, as well as being a sweet companion. He'd been training her for several years.
"Bringing up speaker volume," she said, "Dark drive active and ready for hover."
"Let's take it up," he told her, strapping in.
The ship tilted coming off the landing sight and viewing the screens as he snapped the heavy aluminum buckles in place, Arra saw why. Beverly had purposely done it to push the natives away from the searing blast point, knocking them all off their feet and back so they wouldn't get hurt too badly. She laughed while doing it and then Arra had the controls.
He focused on the readouts and as soon as the nav'-computer gave its green go ahead, he touched the red launch button and roared deafeningly into the atmosphere until they were screaming through the various thinning layers of upper planet-side gases. And then the sky suddenly went black and the distant colored ethers merged into one shade of darkness. They were safely away.
He stayed attentive as he arced around one of the distant moons and flowed into his directional path, ready for the acceleration that would take them to their next world. The destination had been pre-set.
"You had trouble, I take it?" Her voice soothed him. All the time.
"Yes. I lost the trade goods. They got greedy. We won't be coming back here, again. It was a good source for gold, but I guess we still have other sources. That asteroid we passed coming in should be a good stash for some back up if we need it, next time we pass this way. Damn it, though, I really wanted some gold before we hit Amith 5, this time."
"Then why don't we go get it?" she asked. "The asteroid. It's small enough to fit in the cargo bay and if not, we can probably trim the edges to make it fit. I know you want to get moving, but it won't take long."
Arra thought for a second and then smiled, looking at her. He always got hyper after a death defeating event and she could always recognize it and calm him down. And she was right. He knew he was in love with Beverly and it was probably unhealthy to be, with a synthetic, but it was at times like this he really appreciated her and didn't care what other people thought.
"We won't get as good a price with gold in raw form," Beverly continued, "but that thing's a good sized chunk of money. Anyone would be impressed with it."
"Yes, you're right, as usual, Bev'," he said and popped off his restraints and reached over to her head, drawing her lips to his. Arra kissed her gently on her perfect mouth and let them linger momentarily. "Get us over there, then; I'll get suited up."
She reached out to him, smiling seductively, and touched his chest. It was always sensuous when she touched him in any way. She kissed him back and he got lost in her beautiful dark brown eyes and the way her warm lips felt.
How does she do that? he wondered, tearing himself away and went down into the bay's outer suit-room and got ready for the EVA.
"We're there," the voice in the helmet came over clear and crisp. That sure didn't take long, he felt, wishing she would say something else.
Her voice was a distraction but he liked to listen to it. He knew what he wanted to do right then, but it would have to wait. Work, work, work.
Suited up, Arra picked up the heavy-duty mining blaster and said, "Okay, take the artificial gravity off line and open the bay doors when we're right up to it.
He floated up off the surface of the bay and waited. The ship was backing up against the asteroid, he knew. He trusted Beverly implicitly. She was that good of a pilot.
"Object stabilized," she said. The relatively weak towing beam easily slowed and kept the rock outside from tumbling as it had been for untold billions of years.
"Bay opening," Arra heard her say, all business and concentration, then the clamshell doors opened like some huge maw of a gas giant's whale, and there was the asteroid. The gold mixture of the black and red rock, and expensive raw metal, gleamed under the outer flood lamps of the ship. Sparkles of pure gold reflected light and Arra thrilled at the prospect of how much it would be worth. Possibly more than what he could have traded for. At least he could hope for as much.
This system of planets within the influence of this sun and, as yet, undiscovered solar system was rich with the stuff, and he would have preferred to trade for it with those natives of the forth world, but this would do just as well for what he required of it. His ship needed an update on the drive and that wasn't cheap. He had to stay competitive or loads would go to other ships and he and Beverly would starve, so to speak, in local deliveries. Arra had done that once and never wanted to repeat that kind of duty, again. His ship was relatively small, for a cargo vessel, and he needed high end business. Cargo that paid well. He was ahead of the game these days, doing well, and wanted to keep it that way.
"All right," he began to guide Beverly, "Bring it a bit starboard. Yes, like that, keep it coming. Okay. Stop. Now let it drop a little. Yes. That's it. Okay. Good. I'm going to do a little trimming so hang on a few minutes.
Arra used his blaster and cut the edges of the asteroid, here and there, maneuvering easily though the airless space in and around the floating rock outside and within the bay itself with his eye and voice controls. His EVA suit took care of directions all too easily. After nine minutes had passed, Arra directed Beverly backward, capturing the now motionless asteroid in the ships cargo hold.
"Okay, Bev, turn the gravity back on, slowly. This sucker has got to be really heavy."
The asteroid settled on to the scratched deck plates and bits and pieces of the rock broke off, pinging off into the bay as chunks of it fractured and was jettisoned. The plates didn't creak or buckle, crackle or grown, they were that strong. And then it was fully settled and his suit felt heavy.
"Okay seal it up. Wait for me before we get underway. I'll meet you in the cockpit."
"I'll be waiting," Beverly said, not unsexually, he noticed, as the bay hissed anew with the return of air. Or was it only his imagination? The way she spoke to him.
Removing his helmet, Arra asked himself, again, "How does she do that?" He knew, of course. It was scientifically rendered voice modulation, but it was more fun to wonder. The pleasure units were the masters of making you like them.
They got underway, again, accelerating up to speed, set and double checked all the safe guards so they wouldn't strike some far off tumbling bit of rock. With the speakers on full and in combination with the drive warble, there was no way any asteroid could penetrate the force field, in theory. If there was something too big for the ship to avoid on it's own, it would warn them well in advance.
Funny name for a force field, Arra had often thought. Speakers? Probably because it blasts things out of the way with pulse tech, and forms a barrier with 'M' waves, huh?
.... There is more of this story ...