“Checking in to Fleet Command basecamp with a head full of Tarach Spice and intentions of committing espionage, fraud, smuggling, and who knows how many other major and minor felonies...are you ready for that?” My co-pilot’s question put an interesting perspective on things.
On the one hand, I was a bonded agent of the Imperial Propaganda Ministry. An Imperial Duke! Well, former-Duke technically. Calling my work espionage
was a matter of perception, hardly a claim that would hold up in court or tribunal.
The rest of his accusations, however…
“How long do I have?”
“About fifteen minutes,” Gonzo answered, checking the display from the co-pilot console with a few taps of his finger. “Any longer and you’ll be a raving mess, shouting about cosmic bugaboos chasing you and who knows what else. At full speed, I think we should just about make it.”
We had just reachedOmega Sector VE-Q b5-15 and were about to rendezvous with the Distant Worlds Fleet at last. It would be our first contact, not counting that Diamondback commander we ditched at Thor’s Eye.
A standard scan would reveal a very suspect, but hardly suspicious, cargo.
Anyone who bothered to scan our ship would find 2 galactic standard units of Mechucos High Tea, 2 units of Aganippe Rush, 2 units of Indi Bourbon, 2 units of Bast Snake Gin, 2 units of Harma Silver Sea Rum, 2 units of Saxon Wine, 1 unit of Eranin Pearl Whiskey, 1 unit of Wolf Fesh, and two units of Lyrae Weed...
Not that we needed all that for this trip, but once you get locking into a serious collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.
Technically this would categorize us as part of the Logistics wing of the expedition.
Closer internal inspection, with either the right eyes or proper scanning equipment, would verify Gonzo’s claims of smuggling. At least in the eyes of the proper authorities.
Discerning visitors, upon close inspection, may just find a small latch embedded into the floor of the cockpit, about finger-tip size. Pressing it would release a hatch, revealing a modest case.
Inspecting that case would reveal an entire multicoloured galaxy of uppers, downers, screamers, laughers - but no Onionhead
. That terrible stuff had no place on this trip.
Still, those recreationals
could be damning.
But we had calculated very specifically:
There wasn’t enough to be detected without an onboard inspection - far less than a galactic standard unit - but easily an 8-month supply for most commanders. We’d need strict
Of far larger concern to me at that exact moment were the bats. Some kind of void-dwelling nightmare beasts, screeching and swooping all around the ship. Gonzo hadn’t noticed them - yet.
Everyone knew that a big part of this expedition would be the search for new life, and we had found it here. The entire system seemed to be infested with them. Why Fleet Command wanted to rendezvous near such a major infestation was beyond me.
There was one thing I knew for sure: we couldn’t stop here for long - this was bat country!