This is Part 2, don’t miss out on the rest! “You can’t be serious.” Radley jogged to catch up with Captain Gadwall’s long strides. “You said it yourself, no one in their right mind would
This is Part 2, don’t miss out on the rest!
“You can’t be serious.” Radley jogged to catch up with Captain Gadwall’s long strides. “You said it yourself, no one in their right mind would want to go to Chryl space.”
“I’m pretty sure those were your words, Weller.”
“Doesn’t make them any less true.”
The captain didn’t break stride as he turned toward the bridge. “Things may have changed since the war ended.”
“You don’t believe that any more than I do.”
He sighed. “No, I suppose not. But when have I steered you wrong?”
“The Hetraxian on Gellos.”
Gadwall laughed. “I didn’t think you’d take me seriously.”
“That business with the Jonnop.”
“A simple misunderstanding.”
“In the Silt sector—”
“Doesn’t count, I was under orders.” The captain went to check a system panel near the front of the bridge.
“I guess that means you’re throwing out the incidents on Elps and Unilt too?”
A pale gray face rose from behind the navigation console ring. “What about that time you nearly crashed the planet-hopper into Tydal’s moon?”
“Stay out of this, Crowe. You don’t know what we’re talking about.” Gadwall chided.
She raised her hands in a passable imitation of a shrug. “I thought we were listing your failures.”
“So you do know what we’re talking about.”
She smiled, revealing four rows of blunted teeth.
The captain turned back to his panel. “Do you have us up and running again?”
“That depends, do we have somewhere to go?”
“No.” Radley stormed over to Gadwall. “Look, Captain, I’m here to keep this ship and its crew safe. If we take this job, I can’t guarantee that.”
“No one’s asking you to.”
“Um, I am.” Crowe wrapped her slender body around the console like a snake climbing a thin branch.
It was a reminder that she was almost boneless. That always unnerved Radley a bit.
Gadwall grinned at her. “The client can pay.”
“Never mind, I’m on his side now.” Crowe turned expectantly to Radley.
“His way pays better.”
The captain nodded. “Well, now that that’s settled, don’t you have someone to go find, Weller?”
“No, this is not settled.”
“Come on, Radley, you know how much I hate sitting still.”
“He wants us to go to Chryl Seven, Crowe.”
“What?” She twisted her head around to glare at Gadwall. “He’s joking right?”
The captain gave her a calculating glance. “No, that’s the destination.”
“I take it all back. I’m with Radley.”
“What happened to my ‘way pays better’?”
“You don’t pay me that much.”
Gadwall furrowed his brow. “Listen, the truth is we’re running out of options. Manodor’s goons are breathing down our necks, and we barely have enough to keep the Broc Mor running. If we don’t get paid, and soon, this little venture of ours burns up on re-entry.” He glanced from Crowe to Radley. “I know this will be dangerous, but at least Manodor’s thugs won’t follow us there. Besides, it’s the only lead we’ve got. We have to take it. The only question is, are you with me?”
Radley sighed. “Of course, Captain. Always.”
Crowe champed her teeth. “Well, I’ve never been to Chryl space. This should be quite the adventure.”
“I’ll take that as a yes. In which case—”
“I know, I know. I’ll go track down Hicklepeck.” Radley turned back toward the spacedock. “But you should check with Sweqs, make sure we’ll actually be up and running if this doesn’t turn out to be another fool’s errand.”
“Get us a paying client, and we’ll be ready.”
Radley found Hicklepeck gazing out at one of the larger interstellar craft, or possibly the deep space beyond.
“There you are. Have you been robbed yet?”
The Filtonian’s blue scales shifted into a greener shade. “What? No I—”
“Good, you found a ship?”
“Not yet, but—”
“That’s too bad. Come with me.”
“Why? So you can belittle me some more?”
“No, so we can get you to Chryl space. Unless you don’t want that anymore, and I wouldn’t blame you.”
His scales brightened. “Of course! Lead on good sir.”
Radley sighed and muttered. “I’m so going to regret this.”
It took an hour for Captain Gadwall to negotiate the price with Hicklepeck and refuel the ship.
And another before porters had loaded all of the Filtonian’s baggage into the guest quarters near the core of the ship.
Hicklepeck had changed into a thin jumpsuit with tubes running up to the gills on the side of his neck. He puffed a bit as the last of his bags were…less than carefully stowed in his room. “I didn’t expect it to be so warm.”
“It’s a byproduct of the graviton engine. Trust me, you’ll be glad for that once we’re in deep space.”
“What’s through there?” The Filtonian reached toward the heavy hatch almost across from his cabin door.
Radley slapped his hand away. “Haven’t you ever been on an interstellar ship before? That’s the propulsion level, where the engine is.”
“Why is it sealed off like that?”
“Because if it weren’t we’d all be dead.”
Hicklepeck turned his perpetually bewildered eyes from Radley to the door and back. “There’s that much radiation?”
“No, well yes, but we’d be dead long before we cared. The graviton engine functions best in a vacuum, so the core of the ship isn’t pressurized.”
“So that’s why planet-hoppers have less efficient engines?”
“One of the reasons.”
“What do you do if the graviton engine needs service?”
“There are airlocks between this level and the outer ring. If something less than catastrophic happens to the engine, we’d retreat up there while Sweqs makes repairs.”
As if on cue, Sweqs lumbered into view. They were a Kilxi with a thick central core into which each of the five appendages could easily retreat.
“We have not met.” The voice spoke from about where a human’s abdomen would be. “I am Sulvis, Wrond, Entol, Quap, and Sagleete.” They extended an arm.
Radley could never quite keep them straight, but he thought it was Quap.
“A pleasure to meet you.” Hicklepeck’s scales flushed a number of different colors in quick succession as he introduced himself.
Sweqs bobbed as the various appendages all nodded their acknowledgment before continuing on toward their quarters.
Hicklepeck stared after them in astonishment. Or curiosity. Or…something.
Radley couldn’t tell what the greenish-purple hue meant.
“It beats having to call them all by name. And they seem okay with it. Anyway, it’s a lot easier to pronounce than it used to be. Entol is relatively new. Since Honne…passed.”
He seemed to consider that. “Yes, I imagine so.”
“Anyway, you’ll want to get all that gear secured quickly, we’ll be getting underway soon. If you need something, most of us will be on the bridge.” Radley left the Filtonian and headed back to the outer level.
Captain Gadwall and Crowe were almost through the disembarkation procedures by the time Radley joined them.
Crowe’s serpentine fingers danced across the panels around her in the navigation ring, occasionally looping behind her before returning to a more bone-like position.
The captain finished signing off comms with the station officials. “We’re all clear, take us out of the plane so we can make the drop.”
“On it.” Crowe slid a set of dials into position and the spherical ship began to drift forward.
Radley and Gadwall casually took a few steps up the curved deck as the gravity field shifted to what had once been the bow of the Broc Mor. After a brief moment of near weightlessness, the whole ship plunged toward the artificial gravity well that Crowe guided to carefully raise them beyond the plane of the galaxy.
“How long will the next drop take?”
Crowe glanced at the displays around her roost. “Only a couple hours, the Chryl system is relatively close.”
Radley turned to his panel. “Great. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can get gone.”
The second drop was even smoother from inside the ship, though the artificial gravity-well they were harnessing was considerably more powerful.
Gadwall perused his own display, checking the gravity distortion levels in the space around them. “How’s our client doing, Weller?”
“Fine, more or less.” Hicklepeck leaned in from the door, which in the current orientation was in the ceiling. “Other than being a little battered. Why didn’t anyone tell me the gravity was going to change?”
Radley shrugged. “I told you we were about to depart. You wanted interstellar travel, this is how it works.”
“Well, at least tell me how to get down from here.”
Radley gave him the directions and the Filtonian joined them on the bridge.
“There aren’t any windows, how do you see the space around you?”
“Usually, there’s not much out there but black. But if you want to take a look for yourself, you can check one of these.” Gadwall pointed him to a nearby display.
Hicklepeck spent most of the trip with his bulging eyes glued to the fluctuating screen. “What’s this anomaly on the sensors, Weller?”
Radley spun the Filtonian around roughly and held a finger before one bulbous eye. “You don’t get to call me that.”
“Radley!” Gadwall barked at him but didn’t move to help.
He didn’t need to.
Radley released his grip and stormed a few steps away.
Hicklepeck blinked slowly. “But the captain—”
“Captain Gadwall’s earned the right to use that nickname. You haven’t.”
“I’m sorry. If I may, where does it come from?”
Radley sighed. “GWT’s.”
Another blank expression.
“Gravity Well Troopers. During the war, I was one of the nuts stupid enough to let them lock us into a two meter pod and get launched into deep space to battle the enemy.”
“I hadn’t realized the war reached all the way to the Human system.”
Gadwall snorted. “Not much of a system left anymore. No, we were mercenaries. Willing to fight, if the price was right.”
“’Were’? Why did you stop, did you fight for the losing side?”
Crowe tapped the edge of her console. “We’re coming into the Chryl system now.”
Gravity shifted back to its stationary orientation, just before the whole ship rocked roughly to the side.
“Clear those out if you can.” Gadwall turned to Crowe.
“What’s happening?” Hicklepeck’s scales shifted to a yellowish shade.
Radley walked over and pulled up the outer view on Hicklepeck’s display. A vast debris field speckled the blackness, some chunks the size of small moons.
“Is that an asteroid belt?”
“That is what’s left of Chryl Prime.”
Gadwall didn’t turn away from his own display. “You’ve got us all wrong, Mister Hecklepeck. We didn’t quit because we lost, but because of how we won.”
To Be Continued…