Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Star Traveler Update - The Shift

I picked up a load today. It went something like this:

“Hi, I’m Bronwyn Remstedt. May I sit down?” He was short, stocky and rather young. Not my type at all.

“Not today, thanks,” I answered. I motioned him away with my half full mug as I brought it to my lips.

“Oh, no, it’s not like that,” he said. “I understand you are a transporter and need a load. I have one.” He gave me what he thought was a winning smile.

I looked at him from head to toe – spacer suit, rather new (like him), spacer boots – nothing about him said planet bound.

“Now, I’m really not interested,” I confirmed. He was looking to ‘shift’ something. I don’t do shifts. They can only lead to trouble. For those of you who do not know the industry term, a shift is a load that goes through two or more hands before it gets to the recipient. It is a dangerous practice to take on a load someone else started with. You don’t know what they may have mixed in with it. All I could think about was MT2424 stopping me on the way here. I was confident when I met them then. If I had a shift, I wouldn’t be near so sure of myself and my load.

“Yes, it’s a shift, but not like you think.” At this point, he was getting desperate. He pulled up his own chair without an invitation and sat down. “Let me at least tell you about it.”

I shook my head and looked over his to catch Katka’s eye in case I needed him to help me eject this guy.

“I’m doing a delivery to Madelor for Andrew Daily,” he started to explain.

This just kept getting worse and worse. If this kid was looking to unload something, he should have made up a better story. Andrew Daily is known as the largest transport tycoon in the Verse. He has a fleet of ships. Why would he hire some young inexperienced goon to transport something for him?

“I may be young,” the kid said with a look of defiance, “but I am not so stupid to know this doesn’t sound really bad. Just hear me out, please.”

I gave Katka a nod to indicate I was okay for the time being. I instinctively moved back my chair in order to reach my blaster, but that wouldn’t help, you had to check your weapons at the gate when you entered a Trade post. I hadn’t had my gun for days. I really didn’t think this kid was a threat anyway. I picked up my mug and took a sip. “Make it good,” I told him. I could hardly wait.

“I worked for Mr. Daily in his fleet crew for a couple of years. Six months ago I bought my own ship, a Class 1 Drifter.”

A Drifter is a very small, fast ship. Usually they transport medical supplies. The supplies are small and needed as quickly as possible.

“Mr. Daily contacted me,” he went on. “He arranged to house a pair of Golden Screamers in his daughter’s menagerie. The Zoo at Gamma 12 was going to loan them to him. He wanted them delivered in time for Sarah’s birthday so he needed a fast ship in the area. He was willing to pay big and throw in a bonus if I was early enough on the delivery to settle them in before her birth date.”

Okay now I understood. Golden Screamers are an endangered species. They are extremely small primates with incredibly loud voices. From what I have read they like a static environment, if it changes, they get really upset. When they get upset, they scream. They also scream when they are looking for a mate, when they mate, when they communicate in any way. In the wild a screamer can be heard for miles. And, they do scream. They don’t call, bark or talk. They scream. As I have said a Drifter is a small ship. I am surprised the kid made it this far without jettisoning his cargo – live or not. I could take this on provided he had the proper papers to prove I wasn’t transporting illegal cargo. I could put them down in the pressurized section of the cargo bay. The screamers wouldn’t bother Sam. Between the Cargo Bay and my quarters were at least three bulkheads. That should take the edge off their screams. I decided to test the waters.

“What kind of deal do you want to make?” I asked.

“40% for me getting them this far and 60% for you taking them the rest of the way,” he said. “I need 40% just to cover my costs this far or I would offer you more.” He was pretty desperate.

“Do you feel comfortable contacting Mr. Daily?” I asked. “I want written permission from him to shift the load and I want a vet to have a look at the screamers to certify that they are fit to travel on from here.”

You could see the relief on his face. He suddenly looked five years younger. “Sure, let’s contact him right now.” He accessed the NET from the keyboard on the edge of my table.

A woman’s face appeared on the monitor – no 3D holographs here, a monitor was much more private in a place like this. “Hi Bron. What’s up?”

“I’m at Trade post 1313. Can you connect me to Mr. Daily?”

“Sure. He’s out in the field. Let me put you through.” Her fingers flew across her keyboard and a moment later Andrew Daily’s face appeared. I knew it was him from the news vids I had seen over the years.

“Daily here,” he said. “Bron, where are you?” he asked when he recognized his caller.

“I’m at Trade post 1313, Mr. Daily.”

“Nothing wrong with the Screamers is there?” he asked anxiously.

“No sir,” the kid hesitated a minute. “You know I wanted to do this job for you, sir. I’d like to still be a member of your team, but those screamers are just too much in too close a space. I can’t fly any further with them.” Daily started to say something, but the kid cut him off. “I have it covered though, sir. This is another transporter, 3su. She has a very good reputation in the area. I’ve checked her out. She flies a larger ship and can take the screamers the rest of the way to your place. I’ve calculated the distance and even though her ship is slower, I made good time getting them this far. She can make it in plenty of time for Miss Sarah’s birth date.”

“Do you agree to this shift,” Mr. Daily asked.

“I want to check out the transport papers and have a vet check out the screamers,” I answered.

“Of course. Have you two agreed to a split?” he asked.

“40% for me, 60% for 3su,” Bron answered.

“Is that agreeable to you?” He asked.

“Agreed,” I said.

“Bron, I’ll transfer funds to your account when 3su confirms she has taken on the load. 3su, I will forward written permission to shift the load within the hour. I will have your funds waiting for you when you arrive on Madelor. Did Bron tell you about the bonus?”

“Yes, sir. Looking forward to picking that up too,” I said with confidence.

“Then I will leave you to it.” Daily signed off.

I stood and stuck my hand out to Bron. “Let’s go find a vet. I want to make good on that bonus.”

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