Everett Towns left the Homage docking area of the spaceport, walking away without purpose. He'd been on planet for five hours, most of it spent in front of his computer screen, on board, linked now to the terra systems upon landing, but hadn't found any expensive freight to haul, which was his specialty. He was tired of looking and was headed into town for a little rest and relaxation. He'd been in space for over a month and he needed something of a holiday.
The ship was secure and Sheila, his synthetic, was watching out for it. She never got tired or needed R&R, or ever said, No, to him, thank goodness. He'd go nuts on longer hauls without that robot.
Covering his ears as another ship blasted off into the stars, out of the cup shaped launch hole, he casually watched it disappear up into the black sky, between the two moons of Celibus and Hethos, both in full moon cycle, orbiting this planet Kion. It was a lucrative place, a busy place, and Everett knew he would find work within a week, so he decided to treat himself for a few days. Profits had been good this last quarter and he had plenty in the banking line readouts, almost enough to retire, if he wanted to, which he didn't. With the advent of nano-tech and genetic perfectionism, death or growing old was something you never had to think about anymore, unless you hit an asteroid head on. Too bad it wasn't available to everyone. It was hugely expensive.
A roaming transport cart came by as he walked. It was one of the space port's courtesy rides for freight pilots and or passengers. The landing and takeoff field was quite extensive and could take up to a forty minute walk to get over to Homage Central. The driver of course asked if he wanted a lift to the field's central port building. "Yeah. Thank you," he said, and stepped aboard the three bench seated hover craft. From the port building he could get to wherever he wished to go via taxi or public trans'. This was a big, bright, wealthy city, Kytax, and the town had a lot of free services.
The courtesy cart picked up another passenger too, a fiery female, a redhead with long, long tresses, who got on and looked his way, briefly, though he had already averted his eyes forward and to port, after an initial study-glance. Women, beautiful women like her, were not something he longed to be with right then. He was tired, dirty, and not good company at the moment, he knew, being quite exhausted after delivery, maintenance, and computer duties. He was afraid he couldn't be anywhere near civil company for someone like her. She was very beautiful, shapely and sharply dressed, and was probably used to men being overly polite to her. He didn't need that level of output, at the moment, trying to smooth his personality and mental effort to get there. Maybe in a day or two.
He noted she had a very large gym bag over one beautifully broad shoulder and it was a heavy bag. She was nervous, he had seen, with her look arounds, plus, she hadn't locked her ship up, noting the open bay with lights still on. Maybe someone else was aboard. But he tried putting the caution she displayed and her presence there, that perfection of her fleshy, voluptuous, appearance out of mind, to think of his own needs.
I need a resort with a long pool, he'd decided. He wanted to treat himself to a resort stay with nothing to do or think about except a good book and what to eat. Preferably up in the mountains, somewhere.
There was still a travel agent open at central and Everett went straight to it. The tiny little woman behind the desk was very helpful and within ten minutes she had him booked and set for transport into town, for his ride via the private craft to the resort. It was a small out of the way place called, The Stand, far away in the middle of the jungle, somewhere, but fully protected from any animals indigenous to the harsh, primitive planet. It was equipped with a store to buy personal needs and clothing and that long pool he desired.
He rested in the waiting area of Homage Central for the transport and a minute or so before it came, red showed up. She had the same kind of paperwork he had stuffed into his skin tight flight jacket in her hand. She needed some rest, too, he assumed, and got on the transport when it showed up, he waiting for the 'lady' to board first. Everett had no idea she was headed for the same resort he was going to till they transferred to the resort-specific air-bus.
Sitting in the middle, somewhere, behind the driver, he tried not to look at her in his surprise when he first saw red hair. She couldn't possibly be following him, could she? They didn't know each other and what possible motive would she have for doing so? He had women follow him before, due to how handsome he was since all the injections and nano-tech had done their work, but he hadn't so much as made eye contact with this one. No. It was merely a coincidence, he concluded.
There were seven people going there and he let them all depart before leaving the bus. If she was following him, she'd linger, but thankfully, no, that didn't happen.
For a second there, I thought I was going to have a problem.
In his room, following check-in and a side trip to The Stand's clothing store and gift shop, open 28 hours a day, on this planet, he knew everything was normal. He undressed, showered long and slow and went to bed in his air conditioned room. It was a wonderful night of sleep and he awoke refreshed, with a healthy appetite.
Fruit and juice, three eggs over medium, two large patties of sausage, two whole wheat biscuits with real butter and strawberry jam, and lots of coco. He disliked coffee. Tasted like he imagine bilge water mixed with kerosene would taste.
Needing to stretch his legs, after his late breakfast, Everett took off on a trail system for a three hour walk. He saw some incredible things from an age of what most planets with life on them go through, like ancient forms of animals that fit into the dinosaur pocket of history, flying reptiles, humongous plant eaters, and vicious looking aquatic life, crossing over enclosed bridges and such, all beam protected channels. No animal even tried to come too near. They had learned from experience and those that didn't, died.
He was only thirsty when he returned to the buildings and took advantage of his rooms cups and drank a large amount of water before sleeping. He had a light lunch, afterward, even though it was getting late in the afternoon, and then changed for a swim.
The water was a lovely temperature, not too cool, nor too warm, he discovered, swishing it with a foot. He found most of the lap-lanes free and open so dove in on one end, doing lap after lap, vowing to himself to do this twice a day it felt so good. He was happy he had that running flow pool installed, years ago, aboard The Solar Wind, to keep himself fit on board his ship. After three kilometers, keeping count in his head for every pool length covered, Everett exited the crystal water to let himself air dry beside the fluctuating undulations, dangling his calves in the water. After twenty minutes, he then went to the chaise lounge where he'd laid his towel, boat shoes, t-shirt, sunglasses and book from the store.
He read several chapters of a contemporary spy novel of a planet-hopping secret service agent that had several criminal organization after him as well as two world governments by the completion of part one. He marked his place and laid the book aside, and thought he'd take a nap after looking over the pool. There were a lot of attractive 'ladies' around its perimeter and he filled his eyes with them all, until he came to the redhead that had come to the resort with him, now walking to his far end from her distant end.
She wasn't playing fair with the other ladies of less endowment than she exposed; For she was wearing a thin, wet, white wrap around her waist that hid nothing of her shaved skin. Her breasts were free and uncovered in the usual style of a worlds traveling woman and stood proud, and lascivious, to anyone watching her long legged, high stride, topless strut that was, of course, accepted everywhere these days. But it made other women look absolutely drab compared to her golden skin tones and obvious reality. Even the most attractive ones paled in comparison, that is, if anyone thought they had a chance of comparison.
He found himself staring, like many others, and when she glanced his way, as she walked the circumference of the glimmering pool, on the far side, he felt embarrassment, to a small degree, yet did not look away as she continued to stare him down, which didn't work. He liked how she looked but it was obvious to him, if no one else, that she meant to speak to him.
Gaining his side of the water, she sat down provocatively, legs comfortable wide and not caring what the viewer saw, her breasts freely swaying and then exaggerated, if that were possible, by putting her elbows on her knees, squeezing them together for an even greater prominence. She laid down her towel, took off her sunglasses, and her own book and returned to her former position.
She looked about the two of them to see that hey were quite alone.
"Your Everett Towns, correct?"
"Captain Towns, yes," he said, not wanting to open this conversation up on anything but a professional note. She had a definite purpose in mind when she walked over there and it wasn't to start some silly amorous affair.
"I'd like to hire your ship for a one jump charter to Carbon Seck 3, in the Gelit'Tas system."
Everett knew she must be desperate. It was deep in towards the central core, just past the thick nebula's. A very great distance.
"I'm not someone that usually takes on passengers. I'm a freight hauler. Nothing more."
"Yes, I know, and with a very quick craft, The Solar Wind."
She has been doing her homework, he knew, nodding, looking at her chest, again, and then back to her eyes of gold. She had to be Martian, or was, at one time. She had been Millennialized, as the procedures were called, the same he had gone through, was the obvious conclusion. She must have had the same treatments. He couldn't help but wonder how old she really was, even though she look eighteen to twenty. She could be a thousand years old, for all he knew. The original Martians having such a long life span.
"You only take on cargo of the highest nature," she continued. "Mostly precious stones, refined minerals, or, from jewelry producers, investment firm's monies, important papers, and or banks notes, or highly classified government papers, etc., etc. You have a reputation for outrunning pirates, customs agents, world security systems and any other kind of people that want to board you for any reason and getting the job done. In conjunction with your two drives, you may conceivably have the fastest hybrid ship in the galaxy. That's the type of ship and captain I need to transport me and my cargo. I will pay you handsomely for your time. I have a cargo that needs no interruption in its delivery to Seck 3 and need it done in a hurry. I am vulnerable out in the open like this. I need to leave at the earliest possible hour. Can you do it?"
Everett thought long, reclining his head and staring up into the sky, removing his sun glasses. He thought this would cut his resort stay short but the chance of making a lot of money can override any sort of recreational concerns. "I can, if the cargo isn't stolen."
"Let me explain the situation. I am a treasury agent for Carbon Seck 3. The Woollest Corporation, on Dannog 5, and numerous other compromised worlds, stole my cargo from the Corredis firm that was to make payment due for trades made in the seventeenth month of 5413A .003. They wanted the cargo for it's raw power to hedge on their losses that year and took them at the cost of several hundred lost lives. I'm carrying them like this, single handed, because I thought it was less obvious and safer. I was wrong. I've learned from various contacts along the way, that since I reclaimed what was ours in the first place, that there is a force of some concern after me. They almost caught me on the last planet you and I were at, Dadaless, but I escaped here, following you, before I could make contact. Thank goodness you weren't in a big hurry. I was barely able to keep up with you in the rust bucket I borrowed. I need your ship, Captain Towns. You're the only one in several systems that can get me back to my world and my country, with the cargo in tact. What do you say?"
Everett didn't say anything. He stared into her eyes. He had been taken advantage of in the past, swindled, fooled, and made a fool out of, so he was hesitant, trying to read her. At ninety-three, though looking like he was in his early twenties, he had his share of gullible moments. Who didn't?