“Iridium Queen, you are clear on approach vector 231, azimuth 140, at 0.85g deceleration,” the Floranan Traffic Control Officer sounded bored. “Switch to Channel 21421 at 100,000 klicks for Close Orbit TC and docking instructions.”
Aloin tapped the comm key. “Affirmative, Florana TC. Iridium Queen inbound on 231, azimuth 140, decel 0.85,” he said. “Switching to 21421 for Close Orbit TC. Iridium Queen, clear.” Closing the channel, he glanced up at the back of Captain Lukk’s head, even as he reset the main Comm . “We good on that, Captain?” he asked.
“Eh, what?” Elera Lukk asked, starting awake and sitting up suddenly in her chair. Miska Ilurrin snuffle-laughed from Navigation.
“Don’ worry, ‘lera,” she whispered. “Course lock’d. Three hours to Close Orbit. You want t’go lie down fo’ bit?”
Lukk glared at her and then yawned. “Three hours, you say?” she said at last.
Miska nodded. “Me ‘n’ the lad will keep an eye,” she said. “Scan’s clear. One outbound freight’r. Kampie No sign of Kampie Navy.”
Lukk pulled herself out of the pilot’s chair and stretched. She turned and glared at Aloin. “You keep a sharp eye on scan,” she said. “I don’t want any surprises. Speak that freighter once the Light Speed delay gets down to a reasonable factor. They should have news from Kamperel, things like traffic, cargos, or other information we can use.”
Aloin bobbed his head and shunted Scan up onto the main screen. “Yes, Captain,” he said. “The outbound is the Flower of Kamperel, Kamperelian registry. She’s on track for Ektra, by the look of it. We’ll be in under ten second delay in forty minutes.”
Lukk examined the main screen display. The boy’s numbers and analysis looked spot on. She grunted. “You call them in forty, and me in sixty,” she said at last and then hobbled off the bridge, heading for her bunk. Frak, she hated getting old.
“... and average temperature was around twenty-six degrees celsius when we left there, about 178 hours ago,” Aloin said. He laughed. “Humidity was high, though. Afternoon swims were almost compulsory.” The light speed delay was still seven and a half seconds, which made casual chat a chore, but Eisther, the Seconday comm tech on the Flower of Kamperel, was bored, patient, and rather pretty.
“Twenty-six degrees?” she asked. “Gosh, it was just over freezing when we left Kamperel. Van Zaquerl Downport was under fifteen centimetres of snow. We had to de-ice before takeoff. Didn’t want to drop lumps of ice on the housing estates around the starport.”
“Once we offload at Florana, my skipper’s talking about making a run into Kamperel. Anything we should look out for?”
Eisther glanced over her shoulder and then leaned into the comm pickup. “Might not be such a good plan, at the moment,” she said quietly. “Security was at ‘Heightened’ when we left. We had a twelve hour hold because the purser hadn’t completed all documentation. Missed our slot, and the Captain went mega-bilious on him. Busted him a pay grade, too. Then, the System Guard was all over us, outbound, put us in the low acceleration lane and pinged the Captain for not keeping to schedule. So she had another go at Primeday crew, and they passed the proverbial onto us on Seconday.” She shook her head. “Kamperel’s tight for us, and we’re local. You Impies would get old and die in a decaying orbit.”
Aloin laughed. “Okay, thanks for the head’s up,” he said, gesturing “hold” to Elera Lukka as she entered the Iridium Queen’s bridge. “Hey, I’m back through this way from time to time. Perhaps, we can catch up, dockside?”
“Perhaps, Iridium boy, perhaps,” Eisther smiled and then sat bolt upright in her chair, listening. Aloin could hear a muffled announcement over the Flower of Kamperel’s internal speakers. “Thank you, Iridium Queen,” she said, speaking clearly and carefully, “safe travels. Jumping in ten. Flower of Kamperel clear.” She winked and cut the connection.
Smiling to himself, Aloin swung his chair around. Elera Lukk was watching him intently, a quizzical look on her face. Aloin sat up straight. “Captain?” he said.
“Mr Grathikka?” Lukk replied. “I trust you have something to relate, other than tales of your conquest?”
Aloin swallowed nervously. “Yes, Captain,” he said. “Word from the Flower of Kamperel is that the Kamperelians are on high alert ...”
Lukk waived a hand. “Yes, yes, yes, I heard all that,” she snapped. “Kampies on the warpath, a fairly regular occurrence. One day, they’ll actually do something about it, rather than moaning and whining, and then they’ll get their posteriors handed to them on a plate.”
Aloin cleared his throat. “Kamperel’s a High Population, Poor, Industrial world,” he said. “Florana’s a Non-Industrial world. We could pick up a cargo of raw materials of some sort, or even food stuffs, at Florana and make a reasonable profit shipping it to Kamperel. The downside, from what Eisther ... ah, the comm tech on the Flower of Kamperel, said, is that with the Kamperelians so stirred up, we’re likely to hit delays and searches – especially if we get tangled up in their red tape. Also, the “Protection Against Piracy” levy we encountered at Florana is still in place at around ten percent. So heading to Kamperel could be an expensive, and lengthy, trip.”
Lukk cocked her head. “Your recommendation?”
“We unload our freight at Florana, as planned,” Aloin said prompltly, “and then pick up either cargo or freight for Ektra or Omega Vasalai IX, and then do a sweep down the Miazan Main.”
“You’ve given this some thought, haven’t you?” Lukk asked.
“Yes Captain,” Aloin replied.
Lukk, settled herself into the pilot’s chair. “Okay,” she said at last. “Go grab a sandwich and see if there’s any xhu left – you know how I like mine. I need a little time to think.”
As Aloin clattered down the corridor, Miska glanced at Lukk. “’e’s a smart lad,” she whispered.
Elera Lukk grunted. “Wonder if the Flower of Kamperel is headed for Ektra or Omega Vasalai IX?” she grumbled as she began to set up her board for docking at Florana Highport.