I was going back to Waila with my exploration data – I knew she’d be excited as some of it looked totally new and cartography was clearly her thing. I was also looking forward to that warmth that was waiting… Then, as I passed through one of those non-descript systems on the way back from 104 Aquarii I got a message via sub-space.
Sub-space messages are a mixed bag for me. Sometimes they tell me that I have offended the authorities somewhere and I have a bounty on my head. Then I get ones that tell me that I’ve been granted a new rank with the local navy because of services rendered. We all get the adverts from companies trying to sell us stuff. Then there are the Galnet News ones. Most of them are a waste of bandwidth as you probably know what you want to buy next and you soon find out when you’ve upset the police somewhere because people start shooting at you! This one was different – it was from an old friend asking to meet me urgently.
I was impressed that Jenckque had been able to make contact at all – sub-space gets military/commercial priority all the time. I’ve known Jenckque for a long time. He’s probably an Elite Pilot but has shunned any involvement with the Pilots Federation. He believes that too many of the Elite Pilots earn that distinction through dishonourable actions and wants nothing to do with them. I have some sympathy with his view – I have heard tales of those with very powerful ships and friends in high places preying on the weak and pretending that their victims were pirates or criminals. But I also feel the need to remain a member of the Pilots Federation as it opens doors to systems that are otherwise off limits.
His message was from Tlapana – close to my home system and I guessed he’d hoped I was there. But I was far from home and I reckoned the nearest system I could get to for a meet was Zagoro. I responded more in hope than belief that my message would get through and that we’d hook up. I also wound myself up to a higher level of vigilance – messages are there to be intercepted and I had no idea what my friend had got involved with.
I was right to be careful! I was jumped close in to Zagoro’s main station – Axon – by a pair of well-armed ships. No conversation; No call to give up my cargo – they just started shooting. These scum weren’t Pirates but they hadn’t done their homework – Humourist just boosted away too fast for them to get a lock – leaving them to ponder where I’d gone. I then chose a different approach to give the appearance that I’d come from one of the local planets. I escaped further attention and got docking approval from Axon Station.
Axon is a nice station with clean facilities for the visiting pilot to relax. After clearing security I passed a small shopping area on the way up from the docking area and then got accosted by the ladies in the entertainment area. It never fails to surprise me that humans pay money for sex? – may be because I’m a clone, it’s not something I’d pay money for! Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the sex when it presents itself but it’s not that much of a driving force for us clones – I guess there’s some sort of switch in our brains that controls that side of things – we can’t have semi-clones over-populating the galaxy can we!
I passed through the Cartography Office and sold my data – Mills would be annoyed or saddened but I knew that I was risking losing it all if I kept it on file – that interdiction on approach to the station was evidence enough. I hoped she’d understand and, even more, I hoped that Elite Father of hers would understand too!
So here I am – sitting in The Ax-cellar-on Bar. The ambience is all calm lighting with relaxing music of a kind that I like. A local artist’s work adorns the wall – cartoon parodies of famous ship designs in a traditional earth watercolour style. I lift my glass of light-ale and nod to the bar staff in thanks. The ale tastes good and I’m stuck with time on my hands. I hope Jenckque will find me and tell me what’s going on. I like to help my friends – I just hope the price isn’t going to be too high!