Trucking Digest

Republik Trucking, Bakersfield, has expanded quite a bit since those early days when there was just Jed and I. With three other drivers joining the company after Mille, we’d bought a second depot over in Flagstaff. That’s a handy location for east-west work along I-40 and also south to Phoenix and Tucson. It was also good in the early days of the company’s growth because I could easily take a load between our depots in a single shift, allowing me to handle any challenges we were facing personally. We bought several older trucks back then to save money but now we’re gradually modernising the fleet. Nowadays we have a lead driver at every depot we own to keep things running smoothly and dispatchers at key locations like Jed in Bakersfield. I just move around between them doing whatever jobs are given me by a dispatcher – helps me keep my finger on the pulse and I ain’t ready to swap the wheel and truckstop for a desk just yet. We now own depots in Sacremento and Medford as well, stretching our reach northwards.

Logically, I should be thinking of another depot in northern Oregon or in Washington but logic doesn’t always play in trucking. That run out to Roswell I told you about showed me an opportunity hauling Grain in that area – so we have a out-station depot down there. More recently I took a look at Utah for our next expansion – there’s a lot of freight potential up there. I decided that we should buy a depot in Price and tap into the mining and fracking industries. We then bought another depot at Elko, just half-a-shift of driving away. With more mining over there for gold and silver, we pick up a lot of machinery transfer work. I’ve been based up in Elko for a few weeks now helping our latest employees and getting to know them. We have three trucks based there now – all Kenworth W990’s sourced from the local dealer. I brought our old K100 with me from Flagstaff… and I’m currently working to the Elko dispatcher, Carmel. She’s a Shoshone and proud of her roots. There’s a little less banter than I have with Jed but she’s doing a good job marshalling the troops and keeping the trucks rolling. Although she’s based in Elko depot she also manages Price for me.

I’m using one of our flatbed trailers and Carmel sent me south to Barstow with a load of reclaimed iron pipes – that’s nearly a 10 hour drive in a car but longer in a truck with a top heavy load……so I took my time and had a break in Mazany Creek. Barstow is Jed’s territory and the day before yesterday he set me up with a light but valuable load of farming machinery back up to Salina. That was a very good run and showed what Kenny’s Cummins 444 engine can do – 9.61mpg is not to be sniffed at, even if we can’t get anywhere near that on most runs! So I was back to Carmel for another job yesterday and that was the job I was going to tell you about before I got to talking so much about the company!

When I called Carmel that morning she was happily chatting with one of our Elko drivers in the office – so she can do banter, just not with me! She’d sourced me a long distance run which was paying pretty well – fertilizer. “I hope that’s not liquid”, I quipped but she didn’t take the bait – just gave me the collection and destination details. We’re off to sunny Portland, well I hope it’s sunny – last time I was up there on a run it was misty and wet. The collection point was a large farmers supplies depot just outside of town. With the sun setting and night drawing in, I set off north towards Salt Lake to pick up I-80 westbound.

I settled into the night drive along I-80, cruising at 55 with the steady throb of the Cummins blending with some music from a country station as we crossed Bonneville Salt Flats. I got to thinking about all the speed merchants I’ve met in this job. Most of them have gone now, either slowed down under the weight of legislation or left trucking altogether. Then my musing was inturrupted as I got called in at the port of entry weigh-station. That’s usual – I think I’ve only passed through here twice without getting checked over……then it was back out on the interstate.

Having passed the inspection at Wendover, I was very surprised when they yanked my chain again at the Elko weigh-station, more so because there were several bears there and a lot of other trucks weren’t getting called in. The DOT man checked my manifest and showed it to a cop – he shook his head. “You’re good to go.” said the DOT man. My curiosity was peaked – no check of the truck for faults? So I had to ask, “What’s up?” Seems the bears had an intelligence led operation in progress. Some gang was setting up a very large cannabis farm in the Reno area – they didn’t know where. So they’d hit on the idea of checking large consignments of bagged fertilizer heading westbound along I-80. So that’s why I’d been called in. I had to laugh at that one – needle in a haystack but sometimes you get lucky! But there was another twist as I told the DOT man – “They won’t get much Cannabis and definitely no magic mushrooms with this stuff – it’s a faulty batch – been recalled by the manufacturers!”

I turned off at Winnemucca and made my rest stop at McDermitt to sleep the day away. Then, after a late afternoon breakfast, I was on my way once more..…picking up Oregon Route 20 and passing through Riley, between Burns and Bend……in the gloom of a cloudy evening. We picked I-5 at Salem and then found our way through the spaghetti of Portland’s road system to the chemicals depot where the manufacturers seemed very relieved to have got the whole batch back – it could have cost them a lot in litigation if some farmers had used it! I thought they could have shown how me how relieved – by giving me an easier parking spot though!..

This was the 50th edition of Trucking Digest – I hope you enjoyed the story! Till next time… 🙂

Lost in Confusion

Continued From

An ISS Captain peered round the corner of the door, laser pistol in hand. He acknowledged Border and holstered his weapon before pulling out a scanner. Two junior officers appeared behind him in the doorway. As he viewed the screen of his device it spoke – “Border, Jaxon, recognised; bounty hunter co-opted to assist ISS in this sector.” “Clone, 22nd in series, Anson, non-resident; possible suspect in crime.” It stopped speaking. The Captain waved it over Jenckque’s body in an irritated fashion – “Damned thing – must be on the blink!” then, pointing to one of his subordinates – “You read the victim!”

The young officer took on a bemused look as his scanner also registered nothing. “Captain Hoathe” Border interjected – “Perhaps the two bodies down the corridor?” Hoathe nodded and turning to leave prompted his team “Don’t let the Clone leave – probably our man!” I didn’t protest – this was Border’s show and I felt I could trust him to see me right. Border turned to me – “You’re sure that’s your friend Jenckque? No mistake?” “He’s changed a lot but I guess I’m sure that’s him… I recognised his voice.” Border frowned – “He’s not appearing on the Citraxx system – I’m not reading him either – even dead he should be there!”

A new face appeared at the door – glasses held in place by an extended forefinger… “Hi Jaxon… Chief finished in here yet?” Border shook his head – “He’s having scanner problems and he’s checking the two down the corridor.” “Damn – clear weapons fire Terminates… should be straight forward.” Said the doctor – “those two down there yours?” Border nodded – “they were shooting when I arrived – I didn’t have much choice!” – He said, grimacing, and the doctor looked back down the corridor as the Captain started making his way back.

“This is damned stupid – those two don’t exist either…!” He waved his tablet around for all to see – “What the hell’s going on Border?” “John, I think someone has erased these from the Citraxx system.” Captain Hoathe stared at Border – “You’re givin’ me crap…” He said. “Do you have another explanation?” asked Border. “Have you scanned these bodies Border?” “No, but I did tag the two down the corridor a day or so back – got their info on my tablet. I’ll pass it to you – just watch out for overwrites. Those guys existed yesterday!” After a minute or so Hoathe looked at the files – “That’s amazin’ – These guys aren’t real… they’re angels and they’re shooting?” “Where do you fit in and who’s this?” he said, finally involving me in the investigation!

“I was waiting here for my friend…” I said, pointing to Jenckque’s body. Border caught my eye with a quick shake of the head – (don’t tell too much). “Just came down to my quarters and these guys started shooting at us!” Hoathe looked at me carefully – “I guess that’s the truth then – or you’ve spent too much time with Border!” He broke into a smile… “Don’t leave the station until I give the ok. I probably want the full story from the pair of you tomorrow after the autopsies have been done. Doc, All yours!”
“C’mon,” said Border “You need a beer and somewhere else to sleep.” We wandered off to Dayzee’s.

Message Received

Continued from…

Jenckque appeared in Dayzee’s bar the following afternoon. He stood there in the doorway looking around the room in a shifty way like he was a criminal expecting the ISS to be hiding in an alcove.    I couldn’t believe the change since I’d last seen him – his hair was lank and he had grown a beard that straggled its way down to his chest. Gone was the sharp dressed man with a gaggle of ladies at every station!  He was in overalls that were a couple of sizes too big… I guessed that he’d come in on a freighter working as a Loadmaster. He also looked as tired as he was dishevelled. He spotted me and made his way over to my table by the bar – eyes checking every person on the way.   I waved a hand to Daisy but I needn’t have bothered because she was there almost before Jenckque sat down to take our order. I knew Daisy was probably ears for Jaxon Border but I didn’t have any problems with that. With drinks served, I turned my attention to Jenckque – “What’s going on?”

Jenckque’s story began with some light transport and courier work near Sol. The jobs had taken him towards Empire space. In the systems along the ill-defined boundary between Empire and Federation, escorting minor Senators and business leaders became a regular job. Pay was good and the risks small – Politicians often have an inflated sense of threat to their person. Normally he’d have expanded into tales of dogfighting with pirates but he pressed on – the urgency of his tale evident in his hushed voice.   Regular work arrived in protection escort duties for Senator Marcus and Jenckque travelled for a long time in his retinue. The Senator was a lover of business and political functions at which he played the extravagant host, seeking to boost the standing of the Empire and his own Imperial standing at the same time. Military tales were a favourite with him and he invited his escort pilots to a lot of the functions. At one of these around a year ago, Jenckque had been introduced to Heron.

“Heron?” I exclaimed… “The singer?” “Sssh!” – Jenckque blinked nervously around the room before continuing his tale. “Yes, the singer. I couldn’t believe it when she showed up at one of his shabby political events.” A few days later Jenckque had been offered the opportunity to join the singer’s escort team. “I couldn’t refuse that!” he said “Chance of a lifetime with good credits to boot.”   Heron was a Galactic star and very popular. She was a great singer always performing with some of the best musicians, doing a mix of styles from old Sol music of a type that I believe was known as Jazz back a long time past, to modern Galaxart. Her popularity was all the greater because she was always happy to perform even at the small mining stations. She was quite a looker by all accounts with a slender elegant neck from which she gained her stage name. I’d never seen her myself.

After a couple of months on the road Jenckque found himself called to her quarters after a show on a quiet planet. Not sure what to expect, he wondered if he was about to be released from his escort role. Instead he was given a small package and asked to deliver it discretely. It was the first of many – each one accompanied by a cash remuneration for himself. Initially, it seemed that he was delivering gifts to well-wishers and fans but slowly he became suspicious of the contents. When the opportunity arose he got a package scanned – drugs, cash and some unidentified electronics. And that was where it all went west…

Returning to take up escort he was interdicted in LHS 1599 by a squad of Vipers with another larger ship that he didn’t have time to identify. Caught unawares and on his own there was only one outcome – they shredded his ship. They sifted the wreckage too… “They were out to kill me!” “You’re here” I responded – “how?” “I camouflaged the escape pod to appear like wreckage and turned life support off… Got close to dying – God! I thought they would never leave!” The rest of Jenckque’s story was as I had already surmised – He left the LHS 1599 system on a transport initially as a ‘slave’ consignment. Reaching Tlapana the freighter captain dropped him in an escape pod programed for Melchiodi Base.  Hooking up with Solly King, a mutual friend, he sent the message to me from King Port. After receiving my reply, he picked up a role as a loadmaster on a transporter that was coming this way – the captain was good enough to divert to complete the drop off at Axon Station.

“They’re here waiting for you – you know?” “Shit… I thought I’d slip them doing the freight route.” “They must’ve intercepted your message to me… Who are they?” “I don’t know… Shit they’re everywhere!” “We need to move” I said – “My ship is ready to go but I need a couple of things from my cabin.” We hurried out of Dayzee’s. There was no sign of the watchers as we left the bar and no sign of security either. I hoped we were in the clear as we headed for the nether regions of the station.

We turned into the corridor outside my quarters and were almost at the door when the two pilots who had been watching me turned in from the other end. They immediately drew weapons and I leapt forward to the door. Punching in the door code happened in slow motion and with a blaze of light from their pistols. We were cowering against the bulkhead as the door started to slide back with the screams of the laser pistols tearing our ears. Then Jenckque gasped and leaned heavily against me pinning me to the door. My arm with my pistol was trapped between us – I couldn’t shoot back and I could hear them running towards us.

Then the door opened. We fell inwards and I found myself on the floor with Jenckque across my legs and my laser pistol sliding away from me as I dropped it. I was scrabbling to reach it as I heard their footsteps approaching but I couldn’t get there. Then I heard a loud flat crack – grenades… “They’re using grenades!” I thought through the fog of it all… I heard a second crack and a scream of pain… and then a shadow appeared in the doorway. Then Jenckque was being lifted off my legs and I was being sat up.

It took what seemed like an age for me to realise that Border was holding me… “Jaxon… What the?” He holstered his projectile weapon. “I’m sorry Anson – I was a little too late… Your friend is dead.” He indicated Jenckque’s body on the floor. I could see a large hole in his right side.  Moving towards him, I crouched down but there was no longer any breath – I’d missed his passing. Then I felt sudden pain in my right shoulder – as I clasped it Border put his hand over mine – “It’s a minor laser burn – you’ll be fine – ISS are coming – they’ll be here in a minute or so!”

Continued here…