Captain Lukk spread an old knitted shawl over the small aluminium shipping box and settled herself down, just where a shaft of sunlight spilled through the open main cargo hatch of the Iridium Queen. She drew her jacket more snugly about her. Sertan’s orangey light cast a golden glow across the late afternoon sky, but the K2 star did not throw much heat at this time of year and at this latitude.
Casually checking that the butt of her autopistol was free of the edge of her pocket, Lukk nodded towards the scruffy idler loitering beside the hoist at the foot of the cargo ramp. The idler suddenly found something utterly fascinating in his infotainment sheet and settled down on one of the hoist’s tines, half turning away from the Iridium Queen’s open hatch as he scanned the text boxes. Lukk lit her pipe.
Hearing footsteps on the deck plates, she glanced quickly behind her and then relaxed as Holi Pradeen came into view around the end of some stowed cargo jacks. Wheezing in the thin air, the rotund Celephaizon Engineer plonked himself down beside Lukk on her rug-covered shipping box. “I see our little friend is still out there,” he puffed. “I’d like to know how the Dear Leader gets his watchers on the Starport Authority Payroll.”
Lukk blew a smoke ring. “Quotas,” she said. “The Bromosians are a xenophobic lot. They don’t like offworlders. They’ll trade with us, but they don’t like us.”
Pradeen chuckled. “We’ve been here three and a half weeks, Elera,” he said. “They don’t seem to want to trade with us either.”
Lukk pursed her lips. “That’s why I sent Kiir and the lad over to the terminal,” she replied, “to post our destination on the main board.”
Pradeen raised an eyebrow. “Freight?” he asked. “We’re taking freight? And passengers?”
The Captain glared up at her rotund Engineer. “Yes, we’re taking freight,” she snapped. “And no, we’re not taking passengers. We don’t have a steward, and the Dear Leader probably wouldn’t let any of his Joyful Companions out of their potato fields, anyway.”
“That’s a relief,” Pradeen said. “I like having a stateroom to myself. I would really hate to have to bunk with Kiir.” He cocked his head, listening. “Sounds like the mule, inbound,” he added, hauling himself to his feet. “Hope Kiir and the boy had some luck at the terminal.” He smiled down at Lukk, “And our watcher has vanished, too,” he said quietly over the noise of the approaching quadbike and trailer.
“Well, you’d better go throw some coal in the boiler,” Lukk said, gathering up her shawl and pacing across the deck to the main hatch. “I want to be off this cabbage patch as soon as we’ve got something in the hold. We’re going back to Miazan. At least folks there have got some money.” She quickly stepped aside as Kiirgun gunned the mule up the ramp and through the hatch. Aloin sat perched on a pile of boxes in the trailer, grinning as the trailer bounced over the lip of the hatch behind the quadbike.
“You better have good news for me, Kiir!” Lukk shouted over the noise of the mule.
Kiirgun cut the engine and gestured double-thumbs up. “Captain,“ he said. “We have freight.”
Fifty-six hours later, the Iridium Queen lifted from Bromus Downport, two twenty-ton consignments and a five ton break-bulk load stowed neatly in her hold. Two hundred and fifty-two hours out from Bromus, on 212-1107, she slipped into Miazan Highport Bay 42 Spinward. The docking seals were barely tight when Captain Lukk had Kiirgun and Aloin crack open the main cargo hatch and begin shifting the containers dockside, much to the initial amusement, and then growing irritation, of Miazan Customs and Excise.
Time to rattle along the last couple of jumps before the use of encounter tables kicks in. It has been a nice, quiet run so far which has enabled us to learn a little about the characters, get a handle on how the ship operates, and do a little bit of trading. Sadly, Captain Lukk has had appalling luck on the Trade Tables. When Aloin begins to think about it, he may begin to wonder how she can afford to sit for weeks on a dock.
I’m very happy with how the background of the subsector has been developing, and the discussions on ships and shipbuilding have helped me focus various thoughts I have had off and on for years. Coincidently, I have recently seen two discussions on Citizens of the Imperium about both constructing shipyards and about what shipyards can construct, which have been both informative and entertaining.