Outward Bound
Chapter 10

Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa

The first thing the next day, I surprised Lucy Golden in her office. She had just finished meeting her section bosses and assigning the days jobs. I was seated in her outer office, talking to her secretary. A nice young lady, petite and cute. I’m sure that she was a heartbreaker in the wardrooms.

“Captain,” Lucy was surprised. “What can I do for you? I thought I was going to have some time for the wish list you wanted.”

While she was talking, she waved me into her office.

“No, Ms. Golden, that isn’t why I’m here.” I sat down on the couch against the wall. “I need to talk to you about our scouts, shuttles, and all the other craft.”

“Not much to tell there, Sir. We don’t have very much on board. There are a couple of shuttles that we use to move back and forth to the station, hauling passengers and cargo. We also have an antique heavy hauler. But its in need of a complete overhaul, preferably a factory refit. The shuttles could also use a solid going over. They have been used quite a bit since we hit orbit.”

“What about the scouts? how many do we have?”

“None.”

“None? You mean we haven’t got a single scout? not even an orbital flitter?”

“Oh, we do have a flitter. We use it to get around the ship’s exterior. But it’s of no use outside of our immediate orbit.”

“But no scouts? No heavy haulers? How is that? isn’t that how we work in the belt?”

“Not quite, Sir. You see, we contract out all of the pilots. And they bring their own craft. We supply fuel and maintenance, and they find and collect the rocks. They bring them in, we mill and refine them down. But we don’t have ships of our own.”

“Ok, we hire the pilots, and they bring their own wings. So, where are they? As far as I know, our flight decks are empty. Shouldn’t they be packed with ships?”

“Again, no, Sir. As soon as we get in range of this and other stations, the pilots draw their vouchers and head out. All of the money houses will honor our vouchers, so there are no worries there. Most of them will spend some time with their families. If they have any. The others will drink their pay away. When their money runs out, they sign on to the next ship headed out.”

“Seems an inefficient way to do things.”

“Maybe, Sir, but that’s the way they want it. The way it’s always been done.”

I sat back and thought for a moment. In a way, this made my plans easier. I looked up to Lucy, “Ms. Golden, I’ve got something planned, and you may or may not like it.”

I took a deep breath and plunged on. “I want to take flight operations and maintenance away from you and hire on a Flight Boss. Make it into a separate independent division.”

Lucy stood there for a moment, a look of amazement on her face. This slowly changed to amusement then laughter. “Really? And you thought that would upset me? Sir, you have no idea how much trouble you have taken off my shoulders. No more worrying about those cantankerous pilots and their crappy scouts. You have no idea how much time and resources I had to waste on them. What usually happens is that they bring some barely spaceworthy garbage scow with them. And then expect us to rebuild them to their original condition. Our problem is the contracts their guild forces us to sign. We have to guarantee maintenance and repair. It only takes two or three of them gaming the system to screw up my budget, let alone take up my people’s time from real work. Good riddance, and I pity the person who takes over. I think we are going to have a party over this.”

“This isn’t quite the response I expected. I’m reluctant to ask for my next favor from you.”

Lucy was still enjoying the moment. “Go ahead Sir, I’m feeling generous at the moment. Who knows what I’ll agree to.?

“Ms. Golden, I don’t need anything. But if you have a recommendation for the position, it’ll definitely help me out.”

Lucy sat at her desk for a moment. Considering what she would say next. Instead, she reached down and pulled a drawer open. Pulling out a bottle of brown liquid and two glasses, she poured two shots and slid one towards me. Taking the other glass, she leaned back.

After taking a sip, she started. “Well, unless someone is hiding in with the rest of the family. There isn’t anybody on board with the experience needed for the job. Oh, don’t be mistaken. There are probably a dozen pilots. Two or three are damn good pilots. But command experience? there isn’t anybody.”

Taking a sip, she continued, “Now, if you were talking about a maintenance boss, that’s a different story. I’ve got three or four top-notch wrench turners that know what they’re doing with scouts shuttles and tugs. But if you’re looking for somebody to run the shop well, that would be Larson, Dan Larson. Best man in my group. And before you ask, you’d better talk to him first. There isn’t a thing I could do or say to convince him. That would be your job.”

“Interesting, I’ll need to talk to him first. But your recommendation ranks high. In the meantime, and if you’ve got the time, why don’t you show me around?”

“You’re lucky, Sir. Right now, things are still in the ‘let’s find what’s broken’ phase. Six months or a year from now, and you’ll be lucky to find me. It’s more than likely that everybody here will be knee-deep in grease and oil.”

While we were talking, she led me out of her office and through a set of double doors in the outer office. “Let’s talk to Mr. Larson first. Follow me, Sir.”

We entered a huge room. There were work bays along both sides of the room and two large overhead cranes. The striking part was the noise. Or a lack of the sounds you would expect of a maintenance bay. A few people were working, but for the most part, the room was deserted. Shocked, I turned to Lucy. “What gives Lucy? is there a problem I should know about?”

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