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In orbit above Baile Na
It was a lovely little planet, all blues and greens swathed in swirls of white clouds set against the blackness of space. On the bridge of the Traveler's Choice, Ana watched the main viewscreen and smiled in anticipation. After so much time spent in space she would soon breathe fresh air and have ground rather than metal beneath her feet. She could hardly wait to land.
"Your brother is where?"
Kavath's sounded savage. Startled by the tone, Ana tore her attention from the display to see her employer glaring at his wife. Normally Kavath adored his lovely and pregnant wife to the point of distraction, but now he looked furious.
Kavath was a big believer in family ... why should he not want his wife's brother around? Ana knew Mea and Kavath's children, Morgan and Kavy, would be thrilled that they were going to finally meet their Uncle Jack. They'd grown up listening to Mea's stories about the Travelers, and how she and her brother had lived in the original Baile Na, the abandoned mining platform they'd been driven out of.
The attack on Baile Na had orphaned Jack and Mea and they'd been induced to join Earth's military. Mea had become a fighter pilot, same as Kavath, but on the opposite side. They'd met when their ships had crashed onto the same planet, had fallen in love, and were now married with two children and a third on the way.
Mea's story sounded like the plot of a sappy holo-flick, particularly with the happy ending. But Ana had always liked that kind of holo-flick and truthfully she was a bit intrigued by the stories Mea told about her brother. From what Mea had said, Jack was a bit ofscoundrel.
Gaian widows rarely got the chance to meet scoundrels, or have the kind of adventures that Mea and Kavath had experienced in real life. Not that she expected anything to come off that meeting ... adventures for Gaian ladies was another thing that only happened in sappy holo-flicks. Still it was fun to think about.
When Ana had been a teenager, she and her friends at school read a series of books entitled Julie and the Pirate about the romantic adventures of a young Gaian woman and a reformed space pirate named Romeo, the man who'd attached to her. Now that she was married, Ana knew better than to ever expect a man to be as romantic as Pirate Romeo but at the time the written romance sent her adolescent heart soaring, while Julie and Romeo's adventures entertained her for hours.
Ana shook her head. She could use a little adventure in her life. Maybe this trip to Mea's people would give her the kind of experiences she'd dreamed about. If she could ever bring herself to get off the ship. Once more she examined the lovely view of the planet in the viewscreen. Yes, she'd get off there, if only to enjoy the taste of fresh air.
Mea and Kavath were still arguing and Ana thought of slipping off the bridge, but she was on pilot duty. If they needed to talk privately they should move to their cabin or relieve her. They did neither so she stayed at her post.
Mea calmly met her husband's glare with a gentle smile. "Jack is part of the settlement and lives there. He took off in his ship yesterday, but they said he'd be returning today."
"You know how I feel, Mea."
Mea gave her husband a long meaningful look, and then sighed. She wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned her head on his chest. "I do know. But it was all so long ago. I'm glad he's here. It's been too long since I've seen him ... since we've seen him. So many years have gone by without resolution. He's the only family I have other than you and the children. It is time to put the past behind us."
Kavath stood stiffly for a moment, but with his wife's arms around him some of his tension gradually eased away. Ana watched her friends, envious of their love--but happy for them, as well.
"You're right," he said finally, kissing gently the top of Mea's head. "The past is past and it has been a lot of years. I wonder what he's been up to all this time."
Captain Denn Fuller dragged his attention away from his digital solitaire game to look at his first mate. "What do you mean, they caught up with us?"
Doing double duty as Tactics and Comm officer, Steven Kwam rushed across the narrow bridge of the freighter from one control station to the other, a look of near panic on his face. Watching Denn reflected that it was a shame he couldn't help his crewman out. Unfortunately, he'd put on weight in the past couple of years--only fifty kilos or so--and could no longer fit into either of the station chairs.
Instead he had to wait in the captain's seat made specially to fit his bulk while his solitary crewman did the rest of the bridge chores. Maybe he should consider hiring a new crewman but the idea only lasted as long as it took to remember how much a crewman cost, both in wages and living expenses. If Denn knew nothing else, he knew how to run a ship on a shoestring ... a necessity given his cargo losses lately. Losses that if he was right about the bogie hunting them were just about to repeat themselves.
Denn spent a small curse on the men he was contracted with and their choice of cargo. If it were up to him, he'd give up the trade, but they were insistent and made it clear what they'd do if Denn dared cross them. Unfortunately those in the ship behind him were just as insistent and at the moment much more immediate.
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