The second chapter of a story that may grow in the telling… The original offering can be found at https://2e0mca.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/the-delivery/
Once again Humourist woke me up – this time with a warning. The passive sensors had a ship behind me on a following trajectory. The hairs on my neck hadn’t been wrong – someone was indeed following. I mused over the tiny blob on the display that maintained its distance, just inside my sensor range. Either someone was being careless or they were deliberately letting me know they were there. I thought long and hard about that one over the next couple of hours. I reasoned that if it was an accident they’d have done something after I didn’t react – easing back to beyond sensor range again. If it was deliberate then perhaps they were waiting for me to bolt – suggesting that they were confident in their ability to catch me if I chose to run which in turn meant they had a very good vessel. My thoughts turned to the Police Destroyers used by Galactic Marshals – Humorist couldn’t outrun them… One of the reasons that payment for my recent delivery was the parts and schematics that I hoped would upgrade the engines. But Marshals didn’t ring true – the destroyers were used in major enforcement work where nests of pirates were taken down or on peacekeeping missions requiring their speed and firepower. They wouldn’t waste one on small fry like me… My indescretions are minor, relatively – only smuggling contraband and offences against local laws and customs. Pirates were the other likely possibility – but pirates don’t usually hover on the edge of sensor range – they home in swiftly and arrive with guns blazing. No – it didn’t make sense. Perhaps it was only coincidence and we just happened to be going the same course and speed. I’d wait it out and in the meantime breakfast beckoned.
The ship can magic up food – But I prefer to cook it myself from the ingredients available. I always purchase fresh food when visiting a planet or spacedock – I’m just a bit light on supplies at the moment. I cooked scrambled egg (from some species of reptile I think) on toast with chopped onions and some garlic in the mix. There’s a part of me believes that garlic keeps vampires and marshals away! The ship purred along without any further warnings. I watched and waited whilst fitting in a very light lunch and dinner but the other ship just maintained distance. In the end I just got bored and went to bed.
The ship rattled my cage a couple of hours later. This time the vessel on the fringe was homing in at high velocity. The speed was enough for me to discount pirates. This had to be a destroyer or some other military vessel. There was no way I could out run this ship and they’d chosen the spot well – no cover for light years around – just open prairie space with the occasional cloud of dust. So, with nowhere to run or hide, I just waited for them to come into visual range, maintaining course and speed. When they came within visual range I checked them out. It was a warship of sorts but I didn’t immediately recognise the class. As their interception course brought them closer I identified the heiroglyphic characters on their vessel… Lethan!
I have only met a few Lethan’s in my career – renegades forced into trading on our side of the galaxy because they’d worn out their welcome in Lethan space. The Lethan’s reputation went before them as a harsh people who didn’t ask questions before or after exterminating those who flouted their laws, which could be pretty rigid at best. It was one of the reasons why I’d never traded there and now I wondered what they wanted with me? Surely a case of mistaken identity? I hoped so! Even then, they were way off their patch and out of their jurisdiction so something must have got them riled up. I started to hope that a Galactic Marshal’s vessel would appear very soon because this was starting to look bad.
Incoming signal Captain! – the ship’s computer grabbed back my attention from my musings. “Stop your vessel and prepare to be taken in tow!” The heavily accented voice brooked no argument and I couldn’t see any realistic alternatives anyway, so I slowed the Humourist to a halt and waited for the tractor beam to attach. “Captain Anson – You are required to transport aboard. Do so immediately!” I checked my sidearm and the knife I keep stuffed in my boot then stepped back to the transport room to find the coordinates already remotely set – and so I beamed across to the Lethan vessel where I was met by two large and well-armed crewmen. Neither spoke but one motioned me to follow and the second fell in behind me as we walked along the corridors of their vessel to the bridge. I was surprised that they didn’t check me for weapons but I guess they were confident that I had nowhere to run to.
The Lethan bridge produced a surprise – I was not alone. I immediately recognised ‘Yellow Dog’ Manders standing across the bridge from me – a particularly reckless and unscrupulous trader. A very battle-scarred Lethan held a chain that was attached to a collar around his neck. To my left was another rogue trader but one more of my ilk – careful and considered in his operations – Jaquiro… “Hi Anson” he said which brought a growl that might have meant silence from the Lethan beside Yellow dog. I looked at the Lethan Commander seated in his chair – he seemed calm enough though that didn’t necessarily mean anything. “Why have you invited me aboard Commander?” I asked. Yellow Dog’s guard growled something again but the Commander waved his hand for silence. “Captain Anson” he commenced in surprisingly good standard galactic language – there was that heavy accent but the words were clearly intoned – “You have been invited aboard because a mutual acquaintance has a proposition for you”. I glanced quickly at Jaquiro but he shook his head and looked pointedly towards the shadows of a companionway on the right of the bridge. A tall slim figure in uniform stepped forward into the light – Marshal Connolly, Galactic Police and someone who’d been looking to feel the threads of my flightsuit for a long time…
to be continued…