First chapter of a EV story
I've been working on this for several years (actually, I worked on it several years ago!). I came across it recently and decided to work on it again. Here is the first chapter. Feedback is appreciated and desired.
Hey Stone, when are we next heading home?
A trader has no home Alex. Stone Ales didnt even look up from the nav display, where he was computing out the jumps to Zaxted Station, their first refueling stop. Besides, OreAg isnt paying us top dollar to give that mining equipment a custom tour of the universe.
Alex shrugged off the sarcasm and went back to the pre-jump checklist.
So,... yall ready? Stone asked, if only retorically. Before Alex could reply, if he had tried, Stone had punched the jump execute button.
The Lady Titanias engines wound up. Though there was no sense of motion on the inside, the ship increased speed as it travelled outward from the center of Heras system.
High speed is not necessary to make a hyperspace jump, but like passing a finger through a flame, greater speed means greater safety. Less time spent in the flux of locational transistion increased the margin of safety to make intrastellar transportation a reality.
Benjamin Stone Ales could never describe the sensation of making a jump, because there was not really anything to describe. The only sign that a jump had been made was a change in the position of stars, signifying movement of thousands, if not tens of thousands parsecs. Entry into another system was made far enough from the center that it may sometimes take most of a days time on impulse power to reach the planet of destination and enter orbit.
If multiple, successive jumps are made, it is next to impossible for the pilot to know what day it is in Galactic Standard notation. Therefore, the ships computer needs to recieve a syncronization signal from the nearest settled planet that it uses to displays the date somewhere on the control panel so that the pilot and crew may maintain some sense of continuity.
Once in orbit, the crew then contacts the port authority for planetside destination, co-ordinates and permissions. The time a crew remains on a planet is fully up to the captain in most cases. There are a few systems that limit time a crew may stay or where they may go, but it is rare. Generally, a captain will remain on planet for 18-24 hours and the crew is given 12 hours of shore liberty.
Stone had programmed the Lady Titania for 5 successive jumps to Zaxted Station, and while refueling, Alex had run to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. He was pre-setting the next series of jumps to Polaris when Alex came running up the boarding ramp.
Stone! Check the news vid! he explained breathlessly.
More annoyed than interested, Stone reached across the panel and flicked the vid screen on. He immediately forgot what he was working on.
...after 20 years. Again, the Rigel Rover has been located in the NGC-6849 system and being taken to Spica for Personal Resuccitation and Orientation. Elsewhere, the Rebel Alliance has engaged the Confederation at...
Stone turned the volume down. They found her,.... he murmered softly.
Yeah! And theyre going to Spica! Just 2 jumps off our path! Stone! We NEED to be there
Stone thought a minute and said No. We deliver first and then well head to Spica.
Listen, it takes 5 days to prepare for Resuccitation, and then another 2 for conscienceness. Toss in travel time and we have long enough to deliver and make it with a nights rest to spare.
Alex thought for a moment while the reality of what Stone had said sank in, and resigned, Yeah, youre right.
Strap in and get settled. I wanna get out of here. Stone snapped a bit brusquely.
Alex was already strapped in and looking over his section of the console. Mm hmmm. He grunted unpreturbed. He was accustomed to Stones moods.
The ship detached from the docking port and moved away from the station in preparation for their jumps.
Were just going to refuel at Polaris, so stay on-board while were there.
Alex just shrugged.
The run to Turin V went without a hitch but Stone couldnt take his thoughts off of Spica. As they came near the planet, Alex performed a routine collision scan. This would let them know where other ships were located so that they could plot their approach. It was the usual mix of couriers and transports.
Hey, wouldja look at that. Alex exclaimed.
Whatcha got Alex? Stone asked as he leaned over to glance at the sensor screen in front of his partner.
Aint never seen one of those before. It registers as a scout, but the size and mass doesnt add up.
Inbound or outbound?
Looks like its comin in.
Maybe well get a look at her at the port. Stone turned back to his own console. The mining representative will want to meet with us as soon as we land. Should get a bonus, we beat deadline by two days.
Ill need a couple hours to work on the radial thrust regulators Alex added.
Fine. Well grab a bite to eat before we take off.
After that there was silence as the two men concentrated on their respective tasks. Eventually a voice came over the intercom, Lady Titania, youre cleared to land at Port 64 NW. Coordinates are being transmitted now.
Thats not right. Stone muttered as he smashed the transmit button, Were hauling mining equipment. Request clearance for Port 23 NE.
Port 23 NE is closed due to code 86D. All traffic is being diverted. Company representatives have been notified and are expecting you at Port 64NW.
Alex whistled, Somebody cracked up on landing. Hmmmm. Wonder if it was anyone we know?
Im sure well find out if it was. Anyway, the traffic in and out of 64 NW looks dense. Im taking it in manually.
Not much more was said as Stone guided the Lady Titania towards the port. Turin V wasnt the easiest planet to land on, but it was among Stones favorites. Being primarily an industrial planet, he didnt have to contend with tourist liners, sightseers, or flitters (as private pilots were called in the business). Professional cargo pilots maintained a flying etiquette that kept hassles to a minimum. Flitter pilots considered themselves above such niceties and always expected preferential treatment.
Welcome to port 64NW, Lady Titania, youre signaled for dock 341
Stone briefly pressed the transmit button as acknowledgement, and settled the ship into the designated berth. Alex ran through the shut down checklist. As he finished, he glanced out the viewport just as a ship passed overhead.
Blessid mutha! That must be that scout ship!
All Stone could catch was a flash of black, then it was gone. Must be close by. Im going to find the rep and get this equipment off. Get those regulators taken care of.
Stone stepped off the ship and looked for the dock steward. Hearing a commotion down the corrior, he headed that direction. He could make out a females voice, and by the tone of it, she was highly aggravated. As he got closer, words became clear, if not shrill.
I dont care if the entire port is in flames! Ive got things there in personal storage that I have to get to. Now when will it be open?
Weve not been given that information yet Miss. the flustered steward said. Please be patient and we...
That is totally inexcusable! Get back to your comm and get me an answer NOW you moron!
Stone, seeing that the steward was unaccustomed to this type of behavoir, stepped in. Theres no need for name calling, Im sure the steward has the latest information.
The woman whirled and glared at Stone. Blast off space boy. This aint your biz.
Listen missy,... Stone felt his temper rising and caught it, took a breath and turned to the steward. OresAg rep?
The steward, grateful for the diversion, looked at his digipad, He would be at the dock office, back up this corridor about 100 meters, on the left.
Thanks Stone nodded to the steward. Turning, he saw the woman, still steaming. Smiling, he said Chill! and headed down the hall. Behind him, he distinctly heard a grunt, then smaller steps going the other way.
Hey Stone, good timing! Once again you beat the deadline and will be duly compensated. Byron was a long time business aquaintance. Stone had first met him while working on his Uncle Geralds ship. You HAVE heard about the Rover? Byron mentioned. When Stone nodded he asked Hows Smokes takin the news?
You mean Uncle Gerald? Dont know. Havent talked to him. By the way, have anything headed for Spica?
Sorry Stone. Not this round. As a matter of fact, until we get this new gear up and running, we cant ship ANY product. Thats why were so anxious to get that equipment here. The crew should be here to unload it within the hour. Get some rest.
I plan on it. Just as soon as we get a bite to eat. Anything good near here?
Nothing much. Theres a place a couple clicks away called Lous that aint bad. Just avoid the meatloaf.
Thanks. Well check it out.
A couple hours later, Stone and Alex had finished eating and were making their way back to the Titania. As they rounded a corner, Stone was practically knocked off his feet by a woman coming the other way.
Blast it! the woman snapped. Looking up, she recognized Stone, Oh, space boy, I shoulda figured.
Its Stone Ales if you dont mind!
Yeah, as if I care. she flipped, You really ought to watch where youre going.
Now just back up a...
Move it outta the way. I dont have time for idiot talk. She started to walk pass Stone, but then she noticed Alex, standing back stifling a smile. Though she would never figure out what it was, something about him caught her fancy. Even though she was still irritated at Stone, she could hardly suppress a smile herself.
Now THAT becomes you! Alex quipped. Much more flattering than a scowl.
Well, arent you the smooth one?
Nah. Just appreciating the better things in life. Im Alex. He held out his hand.
She considered it for a minute, then shook it firmly Im Kirya What was it about him? she wondered. What are you doing with the likes of,... she jerked her thumb back towards Ales.
Kinda neccesary for the paycheck. Alex winked. Dont mind him. You know, all bark....
Stone showed no reaction to these comments. He didnt know what he did wrong, but he had definately started on the wrong foot. For now he would let Alex lead.
So, youre his, uh, mechanic?
Mechanic, co-pilot, cook, you name it. Weve been together a few years and it works out well. Whats your line?
Me? Well, mostly exotic foods. It tends to attract a higher class of clientel, but the deadlines are usually impossible to hit. Now with 23NW closed down, not only will I be late on my next delivery, half my inventory is probably well toasted. A look of disgust came over Kirya.
So you had storage there? Stone prompted, but was met with an icy glare.
Yeah, and now I have to find a ground runner. Theyll let me into my area, but its going to take a full day to get there and back. Sheesh, tomorrows shot to hell and I STILL have to get the ventral stabilizing fins readjusted. As she stated this, Kirya was struck with a thought. She looked at Alex, So, youre a mechanic huh?
Well, yeah. I know my way around Alex smiled.
I dont suppose you would be willing to help a damsel in distress, would you? Kirya feinted a slight pout on her lips.
Alex glanced at Stone, who tapped his wristwatch.
Hmmm, I guess I could take a quick look. Stabilizing fins arent difficult to set, should only take about an hour at most. Glancing back at Stone, Alex saw him nod.
Kirya only had eyes for Alex, Great! Im in port 357 She turned to lead Alex off and then saw Stone. With a disgusted shake of her head she turned and walked off.
As they walked through the port, Alex and Kirya engaged in small talk while Stone followed a few paces back. After a short bit, they rounded the corner to dock 357. Alex stopped cold in his tracks. Whoa,...
Stone looked past him into the dock. The ship before them defied common sense. All black, it somehow appeared to float several feet above the dock floor. Looking closely, the landing gear could be seen, but only if specifically looked at. The ship had a long central cabin, swept delta wings on either side for atmospheric flight, all forming a general arrowhead shape. By Alexs expression, this was the ship he had noticed as they landed.
Where in galaxy did you buy THIS?!? Alex gawked.
Im really not at liberty to say, but it didnt come cheap.
Stone immediately realized that Kirya wasnt a simple cargo hauler, and the multitude of access panels on the ship werent for maintenance purposes. He knew that his presence was not welcomed, and he really didnt want to inadvertently insult Kirya anymore than he had already.
Uh, I need to catch up on a little paper work before we lift, Alex. Dont take longer than you need.
Sure thing Stone, Ill be along directly.
Stone nodded politely to Kirya and headed back to the Lady Titania. As he walked along the corridor, he thought about the ship he had just seen. It had definately been a Scout at one time, but had been massively overhauled. How could she have gotton her hands on it? Abandoned? Possible, but claiming a Confederation ship by salvage rights always cost more than buying an equivalent private ship new. She was armed to the teeth in that thing, and to say the least it was more than enough to haul perishables between planets. Just what was she into? He knew that some of the modifications were not the type you could just fly into a general shipyard and have done. She had to have been to Pirates Cove at one time or another.
Pirates Cove,... the thought of if stopped Stone for a moment. The worst professional mistake he ever made was at Pirates Cove and he almost didnt live to regret it. It cost him his Uncle Geralds ship and a half a dozen mens lives. A cold shiver ran through Stone, then it was gone. Stone opened up the hatch of the Lady Titania and climbed inside.
Exactly one hour later, Alex bounded through the hatch.
Get her all taken care of?
Oh yeah. No problem at all. Alex grinned. It REALLY is,.. or was, a Scout. Working on it reminded me of my navy days. I wasnt able to get anything out of her about where she got it though.
Not surprised. Shes obviously had some interesting dealings with the Confederation,.. Stone paused a moment, or someone else.
Stone didnt have to vocalize it, but someone else could only have refered to pirates.
For some reason, I have the feeling this wont be the last time we see her. Stone mused, shaking his head. You ready?
Lets do it! Alex shot back.
As they lifted off and headed back to space, Stone thought back to an earlier time in his life.
(end part one) :unsure: :unsure: :unsure: :unsure: