Rory quickly put on her shipsuit and combed her hair. Stepping across the hall she palmed the door do the bridge which slid open.
“Morning skipper,” Astra said from the pilot’s seat.
“Bout time you got up,” Colin said from the right hand seat.
“Mutinous dog, is that any way to address your captain?” Rory said, smiling.
“Arrr Cap’n, I shore be sorry, ma’am, that I be,” Colin drawled in a horrible Long John Silver imitation. “Don’t be keelhauling me now ma’am!”
“God I ought to maroon you just to stop you from doing those stupid voices,” Rory sighed.
“Would you? Please?” Astra said. “I swear I’ll give up one of my shares to you if you do.”
“No please! Please! You have to help me Rick! Please!” Colin whined as Peter Lorre.
“I ought to maroon YOU for getting that chip full of ancient 2Ds,” Rory said to Astra.
“I didn’t know he was going to do this! He’s your Contract not mine,” she replied. “Besides, you love that one about the ring and the hobbits.”
“THAT must be it!” Rory said, sitting down in the captain’s chair.
“Hmm?” Colin asked.
“Oh I had the most fucked up dream full of elves and dragons and all kinds of shit,” Rory said, bringing her screen up.
“You were muttering in your sleep when I left but you always have vivid dreams, this worse than usual?” He asked.
“Fuck yeah. This was like being in a sim. Anyway, what’s our status?”
“On course and on time,” Astra said. “30 minutes until we break warp and if The Man of a Thousand Voices over there did the math right we should be planet-side in just under two hours.”
“Nyet!” Colin said, copying the voice from a cartoon that was on the chip, “We are not to be making any mistakes! We will land on time and make big trouble for Moose and Squirrel!”
“Unless those voices stop, someone isn’t going to take advantage of the hotels planet-side to have a little alone time with his Contract.”
“Course parameters double checked and verified by Rock before input Captain,” Colin said in his normal voice.
“Confirmed,” said the ship’s computer in it’s deep voice. “Lowest Delta V approach is locked in.”
“Thank you Rock,” Rory said, pulling up the engineering screen. “Dee, how are we looking?” She asked, toggling the intercom.
Dee put her coffee down and responded from her post in engineering, “We’re using a little more reaction mass than I’d like but temps are well within range and the bottle’s holding like a rock. See what I did there? I want to do a tear down soon but we don’t need to worry about it until after this trip.”
“Thanks Dee,” Rory said, closing the connection. “Colin, what’s the cargo we’re picking up.
“Passengers skipper,” he replied. “Three and their luggage.”
“That’s it?” She said. “I thought you said we’ve got a full load?”
“They’re paying the full charter,” Colin said.
“You didn’t say that it was just passengers,” Rory said.
“I’m pretty sure I did skipper, but they’re paying our full fare anyway, what’s the concern?”
“Why is the concern.” She said frowning. “Why the fuck would someone pay to charter a freighter, even a small one, when they could just take a liner? You sent our usual contract?”
“Signed and notarized bosslady,” Colin said, sending it over to her screen.
Rory read it closely. It was notarized through a very well known, very expensive law firm.
“Hun,” she said to Colin, concerned, “I’ll need you to scan the SHIT out of them and their gear. I do NOT want any contraband on my ship. The LAST thing we need is Federale attention now that we’ve almost paid The Rock off.”
The Dragonstone was a small but fast freighter and her crew, Rory and Colin, a Contracted couple, and Dee and Astra owned her along with La Premera Federale Credito, the bank, but one more solid charter should pay off the lien. They made their living hauling high value perishables - exotic foods and spirits for the Caudillos who ran things.
Rory, Colin and Astra were ex-Federale military, having served together. After the disaster at Benders Grove they mustered out with a full body rebuild, three of only 28 survivors out of a crew of 90. Physically they looked like teenagers but they had the souls of much older people. They met Dee through Astra. She said they were relatives but Colin and Rory suspected there was more to the relationship than that. Neither cared. Astra had saved both of their lives at the Grove when she piloted their critically damaged cruiser to safety, she had more than earned her right to do whatever the fuck she wanted, and Dee knew engines. The woman could break down a fusion bottle and put it together with minimal help. It was scary how good she was with machines.
So that was the crew of the good ship Dragonstone, or The Rock as they called him. He was run by Captain Rory, who Astra and Colin both privately agreed was the real reason their's was the only ship not to be completely annihilated at the Grove. Somehow she knew there was an ambush and had ordered evasive maneuvers just before the grav cannons opened up. The rest of the fleet was vaporized, but their ship, The Santa Maria, was able to drop back into warp, mortally wounded but not destroyed.
They pooled their mustering out money and their survivor's bonus, somehow convinced the bank they were a good risk, and bought The Rock. Astra, whose name was actually Trinidad, was their Astrogator, Rory, of course, captained, the rest would have it no other way. Colin was officially the purser, but he described his role as ‘George’, navy slang for ‘the guy that does all the jobs no one else wants to do’. Finally, Dee kept The Rock running.
“Coming out of warp…now,” Astra said, pulling back the levers to de-power the warp field surrounding The Rock. Newtonian physics resumed and The Rock dropped into reality ten light-minutes from the planet Faraway.
“Boom,” Colin said “Another on-time arrival for Captain Guy Smiley and The Rocky Space-lines.”
He flipped a switch and began hailing the planet, “Faraway control, this is MVV Dragonstone requesting approach vector.”
He repeated the message three times and then they waited the twenty minutes for it to reach the planet and then for the reply to come to them.
“Hello Dragonstone and welcome to Faraway. Transmitting approach vectors now. Be advised there is a Federale Dreadnaught in orbit. Maintain at least 20 klicks separation at all times.”
“Roger Faraway and thank you Dragonstone out,” he closed the transmit button and moved the coordinates into the navigation computer.
“Good numbers,” Astra confirmed when her indicator turned green. “Take her in skipper?”
“Make it so, astrogation,” Rory confirmed and The Rock dropped inward toward the planet.
“I wonder what ship?” Colin asked.
“Mmm,” Rory grunted. “I wonder what the fuck it’s doing here. This is the ass-end of nowhere.”
“You got one of your feelings about this?” He asked her.
“Noooo, not really. I’m just…unsettled.” She sighed. “Stupid dream. Take us dirt-side Astra, I need to smell air that doesn’t smell like Colin’s feet.”
“Amen to that skip,” Astra said.