Tiredness crept over me by mid-evening. There was no sign of Jenckque so I left the Ax-cellar-on Bar and returned to my quarters in the docking bay area. I watched the Galnet newsfeed for a while; catching up on distant skirmishes between clans and factions. It was all rather remote and I gave in to tiredness, ditched the day clothes and collapsed into bed. I slept fitfully, ill-defined dreams preventing deep sleep. In the small hours I awoke to a feeling that someone was outside my door but as much as I strained my ears I could only hear the background sounds of a busy star port at night. After a while I fell asleep once more and remembered nothing more until I woke at around 9:15 local. My head felt heavy and my eyes were sticky but I forced them open and swung myself out of bed. I had a long and uncertain day ahead.
The bars and restaurants wouldn’t open until 13:00 local – the station was on a Sol-Standard 25 hour day. I caught some breakfast in the crew area. There were a few other pilots there along with some maintenance staff but no sign of Jenckque. I was a bit concerned – We’d had roughly the same distance to travel and he should have been here by now. A quick check on Humourist satisfied me that there was no damage from the previous day – they hadn’t got through the shields before I was out of range. Then I went off to check the bulletin boards and security office for any arrivals news. The desk officer in Security shook his head – “No pilot of that name registered inbound.” He said. With nothing else to do I went up to the main promenade area of the station to do some window shopping.
The window shopping became real when I spotted a casual jacket that I liked in Oakes and remembered that I needed some more under-suit disposables too. While I was paying for these I noticed two pilots standing outside the store opposite. They weren’t actually looking at me but then again, there was something about the way they weren’t looking at me that I found disconcerting. One glanced in my direction and then they moved off. By the time I left Oakes they had disappeared into one of the other shops or down one of the arcades off the side of the main promenade. Everyone else seemed normal – just station staff, other pilots, husbands, wives and even children going about their daily lives. I wandered back to my quarters and dropped off my goods before heading for the bars and lunch.
I knew Jenckque would look to find me in a bar when he arrived. I looked in at the Ax-cellar-on but decided it was too large and too busy – we might miss each other – so I looked for somewhere smaller. I found a place called Dayzie’s in a quiet arcade. It was quieter, smaller and boasted home cooked food. A chat with the tall lady behind the bar revealed that she was Daisy, the proprietor. “Is it always quiet like this?” I asked. “Gets busier late evening but steady regular customers during the day.” She replied and added – “We let the larger bars attract the rowdies with loud music and cheap drinks. You’ll get a peaceful drink here.” She recommended a dish made from mushrooms indigenous to the Zagoro system and when I looked dubious, reassured me “They’re actually quite filling – a bit like a synth-steak pie but with galaxies more flavour!” I acquiesced and took my drink to a table by the wall to wait for the food.
I’d finished the mushrooms – they were everything she’d promised – and was sipping my drink with one eye on the newsfeed and the other on the door when a very tall flyer walked in. “Hey Jaxon!” Daisy greeted the newcomer – “Hi Dais’, the usual please.” He would have got my attention on height alone but the thing that caught my eye was his sidearm. Most pilots and quite a few other people out here wear a sidearm. I wear a light-weight but quality laser-pistol as an aid to peaceful negotiation when trading goods of dubious provenance. Some people wear their sidearm as a fashion accessory. I’ve seen ladies with sidearms that were chosen more for the way the holster belt accentuated their curves than for any use it might have in a fight! But this guy’s sidearm – well, it wasn’t a sidearm: More like a Cannon. The barrel would have been down below his knees if he wasn’t so tall! It was clearly a heavy projectile weapon and I guessed that made him either a mercenary or a bounty hunter.
Daisy and he exchanged some chat and some eyes while she served him then he glanced around the room and approached my table – “Ok to dock?” he asked and was almost seated before I’d nodded my head. “Noo here” he asked, humorous accent and all innocence… “Yes”. He pulled out a handpad and started scanning it. “So whatchyer doin?” I wondered briefly if he was ‘Doin’ the anger causing course! “Passing through” I responded. “Explorer? Right?” – I was starting to get a little fried by now and about to chew his ear when he turned to look me direct in the eye… “Sorry, I’m a bounty hunter here and you are not what I need – times are bad – no bad guys for a couple of weeks. I’m getting hungry and short of excitement too! In fact – don’t think I’ve seen a visitor soo clean!” Then he apologised for not introducing himself – “Should have given my name – Border, Jaxon Border” I looked him over – it took quite a few seconds – he was big! His clothes would have looked big on a bear! He was also telling me something like the truth – I’ve had enough dodgy dealings in the past to know when something smells right. “Anson” – I offered. He looked at me closely for a second or so and then… “I guess I’ve no need to ask for a second name?” he said. I shrugged and let him run with that. So when he asked me “So why are you still here? – usually you explorers sell your data and run off out there again”, I gave him the truth. “Waitin’ for a friend.” We spent an hour or so talking over my predicament – the missing Jenckque, the pilots who seemed to be watching me, the unprovoked attack as I flew in. He was that sort of person – I told him the lot and his ears must have been bleeding by the time I finished.
“I may be able to help” He said – “Give me a while – meet you back here Lunch tomorrow?” “Ok” I said and he left. I spent a couple more hours into the evening watching the door and saw no sign of Jenckque. My pilot ‘friends’ popped in but left after a quick drink. With the station closing down for the night I crept back to my quarters and crashed out – note to self…”Mushrooms good – Local Ale too strong!”