“Damn. She sure looks pretty from up here.”
Vim finished shutting down the burn, having pointed the Souxsie Queue at the knot. In a couple of days, they should be ready for the pop to Project.
“Yeah, she does. Mostly because she’s behind us.”
Köhler was already out of his acceleration couch, flipping switches and spinning dials, trying to make the transition from action to inaction as quickly as possible. Three weeks of beard and funk felt like they were swallowing his soul, and this miner was looking forward to some R&R.
Soon Vim was up alongside Köhler, each taking their turn down the checklist. They worked in the silence of familiarity, having done the same procedures countless times before. This trip was like all the others: full of back-breaking work running zero-g drilling equipment until the holds were full, manually adjusting the placement of ore in the holds until every bit of space was filled and the load was balanced, and the maximum potential for profit was met. Fuel was no worry; they had an on-board converter that could keep them going almost indefinitely. It wasn’t super-efficient, but the obtanium was everywhere.
“Everything looks good,” said Vim. “Course is dead on, and nothing looks out of line. Number six is running a little hot, but we knew that already. Nothing that won’t keep until Project.”
“Sweet Jebus, am I looking forward to some rest. This load ought to keep us flush for awhile,” said Köhler. “Life support is good. Way more OXY than we need, and the condenser seems to have stabilized. That means showering is a ‘go’.”
Vim and Köhler started to share a laugh before they were both instantly vaporized along with the crew cabin.
“Boom. Direct hit. Never saw it comin’.”
“And the cargo?”
“Intact. Trajectory slightly deviated, but nothing we can’t handle. The navcom’s already adjusting the drone burns.”
“Keep an eye on it. We don’t want to lose this one. You don’t want to lose this one. Pop’s not going to let it slide again.”
Veracruz Doumapoulos turned and glared at his older brother, but that was just for show. He knew the truth of it. The last time they tried to collect on a deadbeat, the younger Doumapoulos brother had humped the monkey big-time. The juice they were trying to score was lost in a no-recovery tumble, and the skeeve that had defaulted was already pasted, just like the two spacers from Project.
“Alright, alright, I’m on it,” Veracruz said. “I learned my lesson. Besides. These dudes were better pilots. They weren’t already wobbling like the last one.”
“Sure, sure,” said Marcello. As the elder heir to the Doumapoulos holdings back in Neuvia, he was ultimately responsible for what they brought in from their “customers.” He loved his brother, but he wasn’t going to let that punk off the hook if it came down to the wire. “Just keep an eye on it. There aren’t any cruisers around, but you never know when one might pop out of the knot. We don’t want to get caught with our hand in the cookie jar until we finish eating the cookies.”
His younger brother waved him off, eyes glued to the scanners.
Marcello, content with the state of things, dragged his considerable bulk out of the captain’s chair and back to the lounge. Artificial gravity wasn’t cheap, but the alternative made him nauseous just to thinking about it. As he lit a cigar, Marcello looked around the cabin and tried to decide which orphan he’d be taking to bed this cycle. It was a shame he had to leave his favorites back Home, but the tip about the Projectans was worth it. Maybe.
With a deep sigh, Marcello pulled a blonde and another blonde into his lap.
The bacchanal had been going on for awhile. Hours? Days? Schezed didn’t know, and really didn’t care. He was having fun, and—truly—what else mattered? This was his house, and thus his domain. Who else had a life this good?
The new toys he’d picked up in trade were proving to be worthwhile. He wasn’t sure at first; those space men had not really done anything to cross him, and it could have been risky if they ever came back Home. But the other space men (though reeking of smoke and flatulence) had offered these tantalizing playthings… The ladies had been a bit dirty and unkempt, but his staff soon tidied them up. Schezed paid his staff well; that was the key to loyalty and a carefree life: happy servants.
One of the guests moved up next to Schezed. Was this an invitation?
“What’s for dinner?”
Ah. Boring conversation, then. But a necessary one. He was feeling a bit peckish.
Schezed surveyed the scene, and pondered as he quaffed a long draught from his flagon.
“I suppose we’ll just eat whichever one wears out first.”