I stood watching the three mercenaries leave my hatch talking amongst themselves. They were almost unaware of how I'd got them there, to Rislar six.
They commissioned me to fly them to a planet they could have easily taken a commercial hop to, and cheaper, but had other thoughts they didn't think I knew about. I was suspicious from the gate. I am Falin, from the planet with the same readout. Some of us can feel things, some can fly, some can read simpler, unguarded thoughts and minds. I could do all three and then some.
I took their money because I was having trouble getting freight or passengers and took these guys on for just that, money. I charged them quite a lot, almost double my normal rate to see if they really would go through with their half baked plan, as they wanted my ship, I discerned. They had plans to have their way with me, too, then dump me into space after wards.
Falins are known to have all those characteristics earth men love on their women and I am no exception. What they had planned was not a fun thing, or decent, moral, or even in the least bit appealing to a woman of any race, and after take off, I almost dumped them into space, but didn't. They were foul individuals, flaunting their weaponry and acting out things they weren't and I even read, in the forgotten areas of their minds, what they had done to other women, mostly during war, but I could have killed them for it, if it hadn't been for my upbringing. I had a code of action and murder, even of scum like this, was not what I was about.
As soon as they boarded the ship, all three of them walking in together from the back hatch, I did a little trick of mine and froze them in their tracks. I have fields in all the entrances I can do this with. Not with cold, but with a nifty little gadget built into the walls that stops a lot of neural activity and muscular movement, though letting the body stay alive with all its essential functions. One of them tipped over onto his nose, his limbs frozen in its motion, and I actually laughed, it was so comical. By the time I'd taken off, they were all tipped over and laying on the deck plates of my ship like tin soldiers out of their plastic packaging, but they were okay. I landed, tossed a few empty liquor bottles around them, put one of them in the hand of the nearest and stood back. I reactivated them and they flopped on the floor like a sea squid out of water.
"Rislar Six, gentlemen," I announced. They got up, thinking they must have really had one heck of a night drinking and left the ship, looking back at me suspiciously. The dumb bone heads didn't know what happened to them, other than they were at their destination.
I did a voice protocol to have the ship, speaking to Sanja, the brain of our craft, stun them to unconsciousness if they ever showed up in front of me or it, again. And that's how I got there, through deception and cunning.
I tisked, turning away when someone asked, "Captain?" with a voice that sounded refined, and deep. It wasn't one of my former passengers. This voice was different.
I turned and there stood a large man. He too was human but of a higher breed, I gathered. Very well muscled, quite handsome, I could see, and he was wearing those casual things earth people call, Tee Shirts and Jeans that fit him closely. I don't know why the quadrant is so crazy about these earth people that are spreading like wildfire, but admittedly, they do have things about them that beg to be emulated and copied. Heck, I've even got caught up with their way of speaking and dressing myself. Even though I try to stay true to my planet in morals, at the very least, if not in dress, even though I couldn't have claimed that today. I had on a pair of tight black hip huger pants, styled after earth woman's fashions, with my seventeenth century boots that are the latest rage, whatever that meant, but still, I liked them. I was also wearing one of my skimpiest black earth bras under a very fine, see-through, mesh tunic, but I had my weapon strapped to my right thigh for eventualities. Everyone knows what men of any race are like if they see a woman's breasts on obvious display. I wore this kind of outfit simply because it attracted passengers and sometimes freight.
His eyes, I noticed, didn't paw all over me, strip me naked, like most earthlings did, the males at least, for the most part. He was pretty decent, I thought, unable to read his mind, so I knew that it was generally a good sign, though not conclusive. Some very cunning minds work like that, too.
"Are you taking on passengers just yet?"
"I could but I just got here. I may not find freight for a week," I said, lazily walking towards him. "If you're willing to wait, I can accommodate you, but you'll have to pay half up front." Yes, I was aware of how my body bounces in this kind of an outfit, cheap displacer that I am. But still, his eyes staid rock steady. He wasn't thinking of me as a toy. Not just yet, anyway.
"Your rate?" he asked, and I told him.
"But I don't know where I'm headed, just yet."
"I really don't care. I just want to get away from this place."
"You got troubles that might work their way into being my troubles?"'
"No. I'm just bored," he said, quite casually as he came forward a few steps, actually putting his feet on the ramp of Broken Wing, my ship, digging into his left front pocket and pulled out a healthy wad of bills, in large denominations. He peeled several off real fast and slapped them into my hand. I figured he was used to having money and had very quick reflexes.
I told him he had overpaid, giving me the whole amount and them some. But he said, "It's okay. I like to get things done with. Are there any other fees I need to know about?"
"No. This is it," I said, giving him change and looking him over, up and down now, at close range. He didn't budge, merely cocking his head from one side and then the other, watching me. If he wanted something out of me, a surprise attack, or something to that effect, this was the time he could have taken advantage of it, if he was fast enough. I'm pretty fast, too. We were within arms reach of each other. But he didn't move a centimeter, staring me down. He was certainly no flake and you could see a high intelligence smoldering under those clear green eyes.
"Okay," I said, turning and walking down one of the isles leading off the small cargo bay. I could hear his light footfalls on the deck plates behind me. For a large muscular man, he had a very quiet walk. To me that meant he was athletic.
"What did you see?" he asked, as we turned to gain the ladder to the next level up. Our eyes stared at each others, briefly, as I led the way upwards, to the middle decks.
I didn't answer him, immediately. It took a little thought. Already the politics of questions and answers had begun, but this guy, I sensed, he was quite pleasant, not pron to too much game playing and again, he was nice, or seemed to be. Half way up, I said, "You're someone that seems lost."
"I'm not lost," he replied right away. "I'm just looking, current circumstances aside."
I stopped and looked back at him, still walking up the ladder. He wasn't looking at my butt but I knew what he meant. We smiled at each other and kind of chuckled, and that was that. At least he had a sense of humor, and that was a good thing, generally speaking.
"This is your quarters," I said, stopping at a round hatch to a single berthing compartment. "It has the usual amenities. The galley is open all the time. The crystal feed station is that way and equipped to give you anything you want, except Traciant food. Their stuff stinks up an entire ship."
"The Octo, people, huh?"
"Yeah," I said. "Them."
"Do you have a notifier? I'll probably wander around the markets some, in between now and lift off."
I took one off my belt, where I kept several. It would vibrate and give the time of departure in plenty of time to get back to the ship.
"Your lock number for this cabin is, three three niner one. Got it?"
He did, nodding, then repeated the numbers.
"What do I call you?"
"See ya around," I said, leaving him to settle in.
"What do I call you?"
"No first name?"
"You want to keep things detached and professional, is that it?" he asked, with a smile.
I pointed my index finger at him and held my thumb up and let it depress onto my hand, like a projectile gun, something I'd picked up from some earthling. It meant, Yeah, you got it.
We smiled at one another and I walked away.
Having at least one passenger already gave me hope I could get a full cargo and passenger load this hop, wherever I was headed. The freight would determine the route. People had to adjust themselves around it. It has always been that way, especially if you're catching rides on a small freighter like mine.
I secured the ship, and left via a hatchway. I told the ship's brain to allow Hayden in and out access. It was a person in that locked and bolted titanium shelter and they are much easier to work with than computers, plus, they're quicker about everything. They have full access to their minds, unlike most people and other ships that run with computers. Another earth invention that is transforming space travel out here.
I went to a real restaurant, first thing. Ships food is excellent, but there's something about a freshly cooked meal by a real chef that simply seems better, if you got a good cook, that is. I went to a 'Chinese' eatery, as they call themselves. They were earth people, too, but they were slightly different looking but oh how they could cook food. It was a feast for one and I felt five lbs heavier when I left, eating all of my favorites.
I wandered around the market place shopping for nothing, really, and ended up in the Field Commissioner's Hall. This is where I usually pick up business sitting for hours in front of a mindless computer system that is always a little bit different wherever you go. I'm good at it, but it is a hassle to figure-out at first.
I found some small, very expensive containers, made out of beryllium that needed a fast and secure ship for exclusive charter. I had that and connected to the agent's handling the cargo. We made a quick deal and it was quite advantageous for me, as it was a rush job. They wanted me to leave right away, and I said I could.
So, I immediately beeped Hayden and he beeped back he was still on board. Good. They were bringing the cargo right then so there was no time to goof off, as the saying goes, and I got right back to the Broken Wing. I had just lowered the big bay doors for loading when they arrived.
I showed them where to put it, signed all the papers, secured the load with mag bolts, and resealed the ship. Or the symbiotic did. She's good at anticipating my need. Brilliant girl.
Her name is Sanja, by the way. She comes from a place on earth called India. Her skin is dark and she has the most beautiful hair and smile. I've seen her a couple of times from camera. We don't often get to see them, our ships brain people, as they're naked, part of their care and function practices. It wouldn't be proper to see her like that all the time. We talk on longer voyages when there isn't much to do. They recruit girls, mostly, like her from damaged individuals that cannot be repaired. Her spine was ruined and that did it for her, but she actually prefers this to her old body and mind. When they go through the process, they are apparently perfected in all other areas, like lost limbs and so forth, and she was beautiful though they cannot seem to repair damaged tissues of the nervous system, not in the spine, anyway, and she just couldn't move below the neck. With all their sensors and cameras, they feel very comfortable with their jobs. They say its very enlarging with all they can see and feel. They're sealed in a central place aboard the ship and are really sealed in. Only the maintenance crew can get to them, with any kind of efficiency. They're in titanium rooms and sealed, resealed, and sealed again. Very secure.
I asked Sanja to contact Hayden as I rushed around, preparing things for another planet hop, and let him know we'd be taking off immediately, and have him strap in.
I got to the control pit and switched everything on. Sanja had already pre-warmed several of the slower systems that needed to go through their extensive checklists and within several brief moments, we were ready to leave. I beeped the outside and almost as quick, took her up. The Broken Wing is very maneuverable and I hovered my way over to number 13 launch sight. The earthlings say it's an unlucky number. Hogwash. We soon got clearance, being several kilometers away from the parking zones, and all the vulnerable market places. I was going through my own checklist I'd invented over the years, from various experiences I've had. You can read that as, possible problems and disasters, or PP&D's. But it's paid off several times.
I boosted thrust, released the brake and we began climbing. The glow outside the ship grew with intensity as acceleration mounted and then quickly dissipated as we left the planets atmosphere. I made sure our exit lane was clear and pushed the four buttons in sequence that got us well past light speed to the twenty-secant power. I was feeling good. We were on our way, safe and sound, and paid. An hour later I found Hayden in the galley and we had our little chat.
I told him, "We're headed for a mining colony. It's in the Defron System. Do you know where that is?"
"No. Never heard of it."
"It's quite a distance. Take us a week to get there, but we shouldn't have any delays."
"What's it like?"
"Like most mining planets. Dirty and dull, unless you like casinos and low-life's."
"I might be buying another passage to somewhere else."
"We can do that."
"Thanks." He stared off into space then stuck a finger in the air. "You're Falin, right?"
"Yes. How'd you guess."
"The ears," he said without any judgment or sarcasm.
Our ears are up near the tops of our heads. And just little wing-like structures that flare out. I've heard earth people describe them as looking like bat wings. A small flying mammal on their planet. They stick out through our hair. Otherwise, humans and we are pretty closely matched.
"So when was the last time you were on Falin? I've been their once and liked it a lot. Got any nearby plans to visit your home world in the next few jumps?"
"No. I haven't been home for seventeen of my standards. That's roughly, seven of your years."
"No reason to go back and visit?"
"Not really. I have a brother that's still alive, but doesn't even know what my birthday is, much less care where I am. The rest of my family is dead. They were all killed in the last three wars."
"Pretty tough to take, isn't it? Everyone dying like that?"
"Yeah, I grieved, but we weren't that close. Military brats, you know? Dad was always off on duty somewhere and mom was home worrying and drinking something you call wine. It wasn't a happy upbringing. And then their were the wars. My kid brother died first, and then Dad, and then my mother."
I guess I looked a little down.
"I'm sorry Janssa. I didn't mean to bring up bad memories. Oh! Your name. I read it off the bulkhead license down on 'E' deck. I'm just curious is all, thinking it was an interesting planet for me to get off. If not, I'll find someplace nice."
"The freight makes the route, you know? We could be hopping for some time before you find a place you like. A lot of freight is for out of the way developing planets, you realize. I don't want to give you any illusions about where we're going. Are you all right with that?"
"Yes. I'm wondering, if you can give me a cut rate on any of that planet hopping. I have money, but if I'll be with you a while, that might deplete some, unless I can have a few days to make more."
"Are you a gambler?"
"No. I'm an investor. I need a few days for the markets to fluctuate so I can make a buck. I mean money." I knew what he meant. "I'm pretty good at predicting trends and movements in currencies and grain shipments, and other things. I make good money."
"Why not stay in one place and make a lot of money."
"I like to move around the galaxy. You must know what I mean?"
"So, if I do whatever needs doing around here, you think we can cut a deal on my hops with you?"
I knew we could. There were jobs I'd just as soon not do. "Yes, if you don't mind getting dirty. You'd be doing a lot of things you may not find pleasant."
"I grew up on a farm in Iowa, that's a place on earth. I did a lot of dirty jobs on it, so, I'm not too concerned with dirt," he said, again, with that big beautiful smile of his.
Yes. I thought he was pretty cute.