Re'Golith was a moon system in the Artinis quadrant, on the Green Arm of the galaxy, and really out there. The solar system itself left little in the way of being spectacular and with it being so remote, few seldom thought or knew to go there, and for what? There was no mining, few to little natural resources, and little to do as there were no cities. Just one little settlement on the biggest of three moons and supposedly, inhabited by only limited individuals, though no records spoke of who he or they were.
Neil Carlton read on, his thoughts getting more and more bored. He'd never heard of the place and had to look it up when he'd acquired the charter.
The moons, he learned, rotated around each other on a 23 to 27 degree tilt of their axis, and the three were angled just enough against their tiny sun so shadows never crossed over the other spheres. But their influence of the other two moons was so dramatic on the big moon's one ocean, which covered about half of the planet, they caused enormous tides of up to sixty meters in some places.
That was it! Neil slammed his loosely coiled fist onto the tilt switch, turning off the screen. He had enough of local history. Who writes those things, anyway? Crimony. Probably the same guys who write driver's license tests.
He thought it was about time he send the signal for his near arrival anyway. The frequency was already in the computer and finding it, showing the complete manifest, he sent it off via his short range pin beam.
Walking away, he got an acknowledgment beep that the message had been received, with a big thank you at its end, on screen.
That was nice, he thought. Didn't get that every day.
He'd be there tomorrow morning and even though, on his flight schedule, it was still early evening for him, he thought he'd get some rest. If these locals were like so many other places he went to, it wasn't 'their' cargo until it hit some of 'their' dirt. He'd be doing a lot of sweaty lifting, probably.
Following the coordinates, Neil flew in by himself, not trusting or wanting the computer to do any of the fun stuff like sequence's and miss all the good parts about flying He felt it kept him sharp, anyway, and that's why he'd went into space in the first place, wasn't it? To fly. He loved it.
Going through a shroud of clouds over the region, he broke through them at roughly six-thousand meters and saw the settlement below in the near distance with its elongated landing pad. It looked like a well thought out, laid out piece of property, orderly, minimal, and smaller than he thought it would be.
The roar of the atmosphere jets must be deafening for the people he saw walking around down there, he considered, nearing the pads. They didn't scramble away though so he knew they must have ear and eye protection.
He put the ship down on a rectangular piece of black permacrete with a big number one on it. You could see it three kilometers away. Two was right beside it with a chewed up old craft that could or couldn't be space worthy, he noted, getting closer. It was about the size and tonnage as his ship, he thought. It looked small on the pad, though, but they were big pads. Big enough for medium size cargo craft like his wasn't, but it still took up quite a bit of the space.
Dust kicked up from the landing sequence and then the pads touched down, compressed, and released the excess steam into the pleasant outer temperature.
Neil went down into the lower decks, settling in on the main cargo bay, just looking things over to see if it looked presentable. He liked the professional way he kept the ship and cargo bay clean, keeping their appearance up. The bay, being what it was, sometimes looked a bit too messy on other ships, and he'd thought that was a poor reflection on other captains. Every once in a while, customers would give you a tip and if you looked good, and had done a good job for them, it could pay off. Neil thought he was tipped more often than other cargo craft his size.
He lifted the locking bar with a grunt and swung it aside, then touched the button to open the bay door. It rotated away to the left and there they were, a crew of dock robots. Good deal. Maybe he wouldn't need to sweat today. Cool.
He confirmed with one of them, that presented himself as their foreman, and verified he was at the right place and that the cargo was what they had ordered. Their was machinery, food stuffs, clothing, exotic metals, chemicals, lots of those, and lots of electrical undisclosed thing, too, as well as different types of hardware, almost like this place was a remote Australian cattle ranch, which Neil actually saw a few of, cattle, in the distance.
He helped release the mag' bolts but the lesser model robots were very efficient in slipping the pallets out of the bay and transferring the goods to sleds, so he stayed out of their way. They took them to a distant airfield building made of metal and came back for additional loads.
Almost done, Neil saw movement in the distance, a floater car. Someone was coming. The boss, probably.
Closing the distance and driving right under the overhang of the port buttress, he saw a beautiful blond woman at the controls. She got out and the somewhat lonely Neil was thinking she had as perfect a figure as any woman could want or have, that being, trim, fit, and beautiful beyond his most recent measurements of women he'd seen in other ports. Wow! She was made right in every conceivable feature. Dressed in a work suit, both forearms were covered with well worn accessory bracelets. Miners used them a lot, didn't they, but they could be used for dozens of applications, too, and probably were out here.
She had a great smile, too. It seemed a bit hesitant, at first, but she was well adjusted and confident enough, he could tell, to come right up into the bay and shake his hand, introducing herself.
"Hi. You must be Captain Carlton?"
She was almost as tall as he was and he was almost two meters.
"Yes. Neil Carlton," he said. Her soft hand was heaven to touch but there was real strength, to it, too. This girl worked hard at something with her hands. And she would, too, wouldn't she, out here where so many things had to be done by hand and personally he knew, just like him onboard his ship. Her arms were strong looking, too, but still very feminine.
"I'm Veenas Sheckly," she said. "Glad to meet you. Sorry I was so late. I was working on a project and couldn't leave it. Was it a long trip?"
"Well, to be truthful, yes, but I had time and you were paying an honest fee for the distance."
"It is out here, isn't it?" she smiled, and Neil took an instant liking to that smile and to her in general.
"I'm almost completely isolated out here, I know, but it is a beautiful local. Not too many people fly out and I don't advertise the fact that I'm here, either. I don't want any marauders getting any ideas, though I think we have enough defenses to take care of ourselves. This other ship," she pointed to the old craft beside his, on pad two, "were some guys that tried to rob us, back when my dad was still alive. We took care of them with electromagnetic pulse guns. You know what they do to people, don't you?"
Yeah, he knew, and nodded. They exploded bodies like someone put a big humongous firecracker in their belly button. It wasn't pretty. She had to be pretty tough.
"We only release the fact that we're around when we're expecting a shipment in. I do appreciate you're being punctual."
"My pleasure. I'm glad your help was nearby. Sometimes I'm left on the landing pads for hours before anyone shows up. I never know if they're going to refuse the freight or they're dead."
Veenas laughed delightfully, again. "I can only imagine. Is it a hard life?"
"Oh--yes, it can be. Finding a good load is difficult to locate, sometimes. I'm a small carrier so I have to scramble to find good work. You get better at as you go, though, so I can't complain. There's usually plenty of work."
"Do you have regular routes?"
"No. I don't stay in one place that long. I could make a decent living doing that, I know, but I like the open spaces. There's so much to see I get anxious every time I head out into the hinter lands, so to speak."
"Oh. You sound like you're educated. Did you go to school?"
"College, you mean? Yes. I got a degree in ancient languages. I could have stayed home, on the ground, found a nice fat little college professorship, somewhere, but I chose this, much to my mother's disappointment. I was in the military for a while. That's where I learned to fly Sometimes I ask myself, what was I thinking, but all in all, I enjoy this kind of work. How about you?"
"Yes. What brought you out here?"
"Oh! My father. He found this place and we've been settled her ever since. It was hard at first, when I was less experienced, but I'm used to it, now. He died a few years ago."
Neil waited, thinking she would elaborate more about herself and her education, and at least what she did here; ranching, mining, farming, whatever, but she didn't offer anything and figured she didn't want to discuss her private business. So he let it slide and thankfully, she finally asked...
"I hope you're hungry. I told my house keeper before I left to expect two for lunch."
"Mmm. Now that does sound good. I've been eating my own cooking for too long."
"Well, it looks like we'll be done before you know it and then I can show you our accommodations. Can you stay a few days. I don't get visitors very often and I like to bend their ear about things back in Hybradies. Is that where you picked up the cargo?"
"I can't get any news stations at all out here."
"I'm sure I can take a few days off. Thank you."
They descended the cargo ramp, leaving it open until all the robots left and then Neil closed it with a remote. This was semi grassland and where there was grass, there were rodents and snakes. He didn't need any stowaways.
Lunch consisted of a lot of fresh things from her garden like corn, an artichoke with real butter and sprinkled dry cheese, pees and the main course of a beef roast. It really did set well with Neil. Veenas was a gracious host and her house keeper robot was an excellent chef.
"How tired are you?"
"No too..." he said.
"Would you like to go swimming in our sea?"
Neil didn't have to think too long on it. "That would be wonderful. It's been a long while. Last time I went swimming was back on earth, three years ago."
"Then you'll like our ocean. I know where there's a beautiful white sandy cove. It's a great place to hunt for shells. I've got quite a collection. Come on, I'll only bore you for about five minutes."
Neil stood. "All right," he told her. He couldn't say no to her. She was softly enthusiastic and so sweet to be near. He actually looked forward to it.
Veenas showed him her colorful collection of shells and they were quite impressive, he thought. One thing led to another and she walked him around her compound of buildings, showing him the layout and how she lived, ranching, for the most part, but the place didn't seem big enough to him. She didn't go to one building, though. It was set apart and made of concrete and looked like a huge bunker.
Science Fiction /