Helium lifted her silver blue eyes to the clouds, watching them form images of faces, bears, continents, and great striding giants from childhood that roamed the world with fearless stares and angry faces. She had always seen them in her mind, in her heart, not only here on earth, but on other worlds as well, and had always kept them to herself. No one, as a child, wanted to listen. Those thoughts, those childish imaginings, were hers and only hers.
The strong south wind out of north Africa blew her wild black hair all around her proud head, whipping it back and forth as she checked the one last mag-pallet, making sure the numbers matched. She signed the Manifest of Delivery with her electronic stamp and sent the little wheeled delivery 'bot-train off to its other robotic duties at the London space port.
She thought again about intimacy, how she never shared her heart with others, humans, or anybody. She never had since she'd been very young and it was never opened to anyone, except possibly 'Q'. She had learned, early on, how people could hurt each other and her, personally. Helium had gathered her lessons as a child about feelings and knew not to trust them, hers or others because everyone lied. She did everything in her power not to have them, either, those intimate feelings that always ended badly. That did not mean she was unacquainted with the divisiveness of many people, how they felt and maneuvered themselves, socially. She thought she knew humans very well. She could read them almost instantly, but she had no need to be emotional around them, or indulge in any kind of intimate behavior with those beings that looked like her -- she was not one of them.
Signaling her own robot with the tilt of her head, her android, QM-1, who had reappeared at the edge of the cargo bay, came down without hesitation and activated the anti-grav' of the mag-pallet and took it aboard.
Helium seldom came to earth any more, even though she'd been born here but hadn't stayed, growing up. It was a long ways from most of the inner concentration of stars where freight was much more lucrative and frequent. But every once in a while, as this time it had, she got a good enough shipment that paid plenty to make it worth her trouble. She had taken on a passenger, too, for the return trip. Someone who wanted to get further in towards the center of the galaxy where things were happening and opportunities abounded. They paid dearly for passage on her fast ship, though, as the only kind of people that usually left the planet alone were people trying avoid the law or make big money. Short, Type A's, usually, that needed to prove themselves to others.
She crossed her arms beneath her lovely pyramid breasts and looked out over the warm blowing air field of rippling waves of the single sun's heat reflecting off the permacrete. Helium had left people before, but she'd wait a little longer. He should have been here already.
She spun and strolled up the long/wide metal ramp of her cargo craft to see if all the pallets were secured. QM-1 was just finishing up silently and finally came her way.
"All freight's been secured, Helium," he said, then paused. "We don't have our passenger, yet, though, do we?"
"Are you going to wait for him?"
"A few more minutes. Go prep the pathlicon generator and get flight clearance. Start warming the engines, too. I'll be up in a few minutes."
Her loyal servant left her sitting on one of the extraordinarily expensive, unlabeled, shipments of platinum, stored in long tin cans. The stuff was in pellet form. They were stacked waist high and each one was banded together with heavy steel banding. The things weighed metric tons.
She let her eyes drift down to her knee high, crossed over boots, and thought of the two planets she'd be visiting soon, to deliver their cargo, wondering if she had any enemies there. Helium often had to play it tough to preserve what was hers and get her due. When she looked up, he was standing there in front of her, staring at her body, his eyes roving up and down her figure as if they were hands. She felt them briefly and they were not respectful. She wasn't surprised very often. But at least he was here. He wasn't short, unusually. So many type 'A's were.
"I'm sorry I was late Captain," he said with a smirk. "Something beyond my control, I'm afraid." His voice was deep, but not too deep. It had a resonance that made it listen-able, if they had to speak, and almost believable. He was lying of course. They all lied.
She didn't say anything, just stood and touched her forearm controller a couple of times and the bay doors began their closing with a huge rumble of engines working and the cranking of steel gearing, with the hiss of doors and seals shutting tight. Without looking to confirm if he was following her, Helium walked down one of the passageways, out of the first cargo bay, and paused at a hatch, half way down it. She waited till their eyes met and he was nearly beside her.
"Strap in. We're leaving immediately," she said, not elaborating.
She spun and felt his eyes on her back. She could feel where he was looking, every place, plus, what he was feeling, thinking, contemplating. Like most human men, and most men in general, he had a simple mind. Her body was all too intimidating and lust inducing for most of them to stay their eyes and emotions, as he hadn't, if not all human males. But she simply ignored it most of the time.
Helium sat in the pilots chamber, in her cockpit, 'Q' quietly beside her in the co-pilot's seating, doing most of the small labors.
"Lets go," she said. "Inertia dampers on."
"Tower, Mourning Child requesting clearance for hover and taxi," 'Q' said. He was usually the voice for the two of them.
"Mourning Child, Tower. You are cleared for hover and taxi on green line four. Proceed to launch position at will."
"Mourning Child, acknowledged."
They taxied to their concave launch site of permacrete. The permacrete was seventeen meters thick there. It was a huge bowl dished out beneath the level of the ground and absorbed most of the concussion of the launch. The relatively large ship of the Mourning Child pivoted into position, dwarfed by the size of the launch site, its nose angled up into the sky at about sixty degrees, give or take a degree. It didn't matter.
"Tower, Mourning Child requesting clearance for launch."
There was a noticeable hesitation and in the mean time the two pilots understood why as another ship launched with a deafening roar down field.
"You are clear for launch, Mourning Child. Have a good flight."
"Thank you," said 'Q', and now spoke off-line over the ships intercom, only, mainly for the benefit of their passenger. "Launch in four, three, two, and launch."
The ship blasted upward and their was only the slightest sense of movement as the ground and clouds slipped out of existence. Two seconds later they were in the ink of space, slowly building their speed and then after only a fraction of a minute were out of the solar system heading inward toward The Massive, the central part of the galaxy. The course was a gradual arc that would take them to their first destination.
"We're on line to Travers," 'Q' said. "We should be there in about 17 hours. You should rest, Helium. You look exhausted. I'll take care of all the incidentals and our passenger."
"Thank you, 'Q'," she said, standing. She touched his shoulder and left. He was the only thing that could reach her, that she would allow. He was a machine, but completely loyal to her, and would let himself be destroyed before ever betraying her in any manner.
"I'll be in my cabin," she said, walking away.
She removed her soft indigo flight suit and white undergarments, showered in hot water, then lay down on her roomy, cozy bed of warm colored spreads. It was nice to wrap herself up in her blankets and sleep. She always pushed herself in port and seldom got any rest. She needed this...
When Helium awoke, she went to the galley to find something to eat. Their passenger was there, feeding himself. The replicator could make anything out of the silica, water, and other raw materials it took to function and create all essential nutrients and enzymes with them, as well as make it look appealing as well as taste good. The passenger had a feast before him.