Unicorn lamps and other confusing things and a free look at Rocket

So I woke up yesterday morning about 3:00 am because my cat insisted that I wake up. He does that. I guess he gets bored sometimes and wants someone to bug so he comes and wakes me up, meows a few times and then leaves. If he continues to meow it means … “Get up you fat %^&$#@& and let me out right now!” I understand cat relatively well.

So about three years ago my mother bought me a lamp. One of her summertime rummage sale romps and she dragged back this touch lamp with glass shades, and all the shades have pictures of horses grazing next to a field and a stream. Very pastoral, peaceful, made me think good things. I used the lamp on my desk for about a year and then installed an overhead lamp so I can see to type better on my monitor… Did I really just say that? Yes, I did.

So my excuse was that I wanted to see better as I typed, but the truth was I couldn’t see much of anything on my desktop, it was all murky and indistinct so I installed an overhead fluorescent light and nearly blinded myself, yanked that out and screwed one side of a clip on lamp to the wall above my router and called it good… Ahhh, the things you can get away with when you don’t have a wife.

A few days later I noticed the touch lamp sitting forlornly next to my desk so I picked it up thinking … “I need a bedside lamp.” And there it went and stayed.

So the cat comes into the doorway at 3:00 am and meows, I awaken, look at the shadow, wonder if it is a cat or that damn raccoon that has been hanging around: The raccoon in the television commercial that follows the woman to bed because she calls it thinking it is her cat bugs the hell out of me and I am probably blind enough to make that mistake. Don’t ask me when I would have let the raccoon in… So I click on the lamp to better see the cat and make sure it is a cat and I’ll be damned: My horses grazing next to the stream and field are not horses at all I see as the light comes on and nearly blinds me; they are bright glowing white unicorns… Yes, unicorns grazing next to that stream and the field. I look at the cat, the cat looks at me as if to say “I could have told you they were unicorns, Susie.” The cat is a real wise acre. I blink but it is still 3:00 am and the horses are still unicorns and the cat is still meowing so I get up, pad to the door and let him out. I return to bed thinking I must do something about this. After all this is the same mother that bought me A pink high heel shaped tape dispenser that my visitors picks on me about all of the time.

“Hide it in the basement.” I say aloud… No good. We don’t have a basement.

“Well, the pantry then.” Uh, no, we don’t have a pantry either.

I make it back to bed. Look at the lamp carefully and yes, this is no mistake every damn horse in the field on all six glass panels have spiraled unicorns on their narrow heads. I sigh, turn out the lamp so I don’t have to see them, but there is no sleep for me, the cat and the disturbing unicorns have awakened me so I pop on Netflix: LOST season 5 episode 8 and watch it. After all, if it is going to be weird I may as well enjoy it… Geo


This is the short story that turned into Rocket. I will leave you with this, enjoy the weekend, Dell…


DYING WORLD

Dying World is an unpublished short story by Dell Sweet.

All rights are reserved by the author. Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person dead or living is purely coincidental. This work is licensed to this blog only. You may not copy, transfer or quote this text; excepts verse of two paragraphs or less strictly for critiques. Anything more requires author permission.


DYING WORLD

Earth

Los Angeles district

2:00 am

My hand reached across the bedside table searching for the headset as it buzzed. Petra moved beside me, mumbled, obviously displeased that the buzzer was still going off. “Wake the babes,” she said, as coherently as she could.

My hand finally closed on the headset. I untangled my head from the sheets and jabbed at the on button as I bought the device to my face. I mumbled into it.

“Mike? … Mike?” The voice sounded excited. Over excited. I opened my eyes fully in the semi darkness, got up and out of the bed. I was barely used to sleeping off ship, it was only my second time. But I had missed Petra and the babes so much. The gravity was horrible. I felt overweight, out of shape. Petra said it passed, but I hated the waiting and the truth was that for me, with only short stays it never would pass.

“Brother… Brother. Listen to me, brother, listen to me… Can you hear me? … Are you there?” The voice was my oldest friend, Tom Richards.

“Tom… Tom, calm down. What is it.” Do you know,” I looked at the clock: A thing I rarely ever worried about shipboard, “time it is? Petra’s upset, you could’ve waked the babes

babes!”

“You’ll have to wake them anyway,” he said bluntly.

“What?” I asked. I made my way out of the bedroom quickly, stumbled to the kitchen and pulled a stool from the serve through and sat down.

“I said you’ve got to wake them… And Petra. This is serious!”

“What is serious, Tom? You’re scaring me more than a little. What’s wrong? … Has it? …” I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

Tom had worked at one of the biggest penal colonies on Mars for the last several years. Three years before he had fallen in with Petra and I when we had decide to buy our own Star Cruiser and seek our fortune. He kept close contact when the men and women he had come to know, including some that were part of the Federal Planet Association that controlled all of Earth and all the other planets as well. When things had gone sour for the FPA the year before Petra and I had decided now might be the time to start a family. My wish was to get Petra off the ship, she had wanted to have children before it became too late. Bring them shipboard in a few years. After all  a Star Cruiser might not be a bad place to raise a family. They were protected after all. The Feds had dozens of cruisers of their own that patrolled what they considered their borders to keep us safe as we delivered supplies and more to distant outposts.

Star cruisers were protected, but with just so few ships to protecting hundreds of private cruisers it was becoming a hard job.

We were docked on Earth. More properly put, we were docked at UPT fifteen, twenty-two miles above Earth. I was on the planet with Petra.

“We lost a big chunk… A big chunk,” he was whispering now.

“A big chunk?” My mind was beginning to focus.

“A big chunk… The Feds are pulling out… Right now, they’re pulling out. They’ve done their calculations and we just slipped past the point of no return… I got a shuttle on the way, but believe me when I say this is no easy deal… You got to get them ready… Move fast… You there?” He whispered.

“How much time,” Mike heard himself say. His face felt numb. He stood and trotted back to the bedroom on autopilot.

The end had been coming for generations, but it had been suppressed, kept from the public in the best possible way, ignoring it. After all someone was always yelling about the end coming. There was always some doomsday prophecy being rolled out. The Feds had found out long ago that shaking your head with a crooked smile on your face was the absolute best way to fight it. It said exactly what words could not say. Words that affected the same thing would have fanned the flames. The nod and he crooked grin worked.

And that had been their tactics for the last year since the voices had begun to shout louder and louder. Nod, smile, move on to something else. Meanwhile the atmosphere had been leaking from the planet Earth faster and faster. Tonight it had passed the point of no return. He and Tom had discussed exactly that scenario. In fact he had intended to discuss it with Petra on this visit. Maybe it was time to pack up the babes and go ship board… But they had never found the time. It seemed there were so many other things that crowded in and so little time before Star Dancer had to leave dock again. Time with Petra, time with the babes, talks of the new crew manifest with Tom. The year before Tom and Marva had become full partners and they had moved up several notches on the cargo drops for the Feds. Large contracts: Full time work. No or little time off. In fact they had discussed the possibility of another ship, maybe even bigger than Star Dancer. It was incredible to think it, but collectively they were worth trillions and they could easily handle the loans they needed. And then Earth had taken a sudden turn for the worse. And a turn is what had started it.

For millions of years the Earth had wobbled in her orbit. Many had thought that was an unfortunate occurrence in the early years of civilization, but they had come to learn that without the wobble there would probably be no way to sustain life. They hadn’t predicted that the hole that had been in the ozone layer, growing wider and wider  would suddenly begin to vent atmosphere. The venting of atmosphere was small at first, but life a small hole in a raft the constant rush of atmosphere widened it.

The Feds had known and suppressed the information. The news agencies that were still owned by free stations broadcast it and for once the nod and grin failed them. Even so it was far too late. By the time everyone realized just how late there had been a complete clampdown on the news sources. Tom had feelers out and the news had been trickling in that the situation was untenable. Still, Mike thought that meant years. Apparently it had not.

“They think it will completely blow out within a year. Apparently once it hit this point it is all downhill from here.”

“My God, Tom,” I said “I meant how long do we have to get there… To make it?”

“Oh… Oh… Fast. Lift off in three hours. I can’t hold it. I had to fight to get a slot. They’re freezing any passenger flights solid. No one leaving at all until they say so; if we weren’t cargo… Still, I don’t know what traffic will be like… Delays… Boarding through the station, so I would just come directly to the ship… Put it in a cargo bay… Petra could do it. And… You’re under an assumed name… I had to lie, pretend to be you to push the flight schedule, so they believe you’re on board with Petra and the babes.  It seemed smart… The alternative would have kept you tied up for hours, maybe days, and the ship grounded.”

“I see. I see that… PETRA!” I screamed into the semi darkness. “Get the babes, get ready, we have to go now!” I spoke back into the headset, realized I was still holding it and dropped it to the floor. I tapped my wrist twice and turned on my personal link system. “Where will you be?” I asked Tom.

“Space gate ten. I had to move to the ready line… Fifteen ahead of us right now.”

I nodded, realized the camera link was off, ”We’ll be there in a n hour tops… Depending.” I clicked off and began stripping off my sleepwear so I could get dressed.

We had prepared for this possibility, although we had both believed the government propaganda. Both believed it would be solved. Still Tom had warned it might not be true. The people he had been in contact with said otherwise. The people he had spoken to said the hole could not be fixed, reversed, repaired, it was over. This had happened on many other planets, a few in our system. It was like the great reset button in the sky, and when it was over everything on Earth would die off. The atmosphere would leave completely. Then, a few million years in the future something would shift in the great mystery that was the universe and the whole thing would start over agin. The atmosphere would slowly reestablish itself, then life would reawaken from the frozen seas and it would begin to establish domain once more. Maybe. On some worlds that had not been the case. On Mars the atmosphere had been lost and they had not been able to reestablish it. They had nearly perished before they had managed to reestablish themselves on Earth. And Earth’s peoples had not known that had happened until the discovery of the ship that had bought the seeds of humanity from Mars to Earth all those years before, in the Ice of Antarctica.

Global warming. If not for global warming Standard would not have been in Antarctica exploring at that particular day when the warm winds had expose d the hull of Mayosythia from its frozen tomb. Mayosythia, the pictures and grainy video had been on the news channels for months and then suddenly the story had disappeared from the headlines and a few years later Standard had invented Starlight Drive. Probably not a coincidence, Mike thought now. He was surprised at the random thoughts running through his mind as he hopped, one boot on, one in his hand and finally made the bedroom door.

The bedroom looked like a hurricane had swept through it. The babes were both on the wide bed, quiet, well behaved, a new game they most likely thought. Petra’s eyes met his own, wide frightened.

“Tom has it worked out. We are prepped and on standby to launch. We have plenty of time to get there, Petra… We do.”

I went to a console in the wall, punched in the names Tom had given me and downloaded the ID we would need if we were stopped. I looked around, there was nothing else here that we needed. Petra gathered the babes as I grabbed the two backpacks she had stuffed full of essentials for the babes and we rushed through the kitchen and into the service port lights going on and off before and after us, tracking our progress. The babes wide eyed and babbling baby-talk as we went: Excited for the new adventure.

I checked the charge meter, three quarters, more than enough. I punched in the kill code and shut down the juice port on the old runner. Three minutes later we were hovering in the air, rising slowly up through the top of the service port, the port yawning wider as we rose, and finally breaking clear of the port and rising above the house into the darkness of early morning L.A. That was when I saw the pup I had bought home for the babes just two days before. The pup to raise with the babes, looking up at me from the rear yard area. Body wriggling.

“It’ll die,” Petra said as if reading my thoughts.

“I know.” I set the runner down on the lawn, levered my door-lock open and ran through the house to the rear yard attachment. The pup came running, her whole body squirming with happiness, as if she knew she had just won the lottery. I picked he up and tucked her inside my shirt. She curled against my stomach. Tucked her nose into her tail and seemed instantly to drift off into sleep before I made it back to the runner.

Petra looked at the small bulge in my shirt.

“Makes you look fat,” she laughed in spite of everything, the fear and tension she must have felt.

“Let’s hope so,” I said. I felt the pup move as I lifted into the air and accelerated into the dark skies.

4:00 am

Star Dancer

It had taken forever but we had made it to Space Gate ten with no incidents of note. Considering what we had expected and the shock we were operating under it was amazing that my flying, the unauthorized flight, none of it had caused suspicions or alerted anyone. The shock came when I saw what awaited us at Gate Ten. Not Star Dancer, the intra-crusier we owned and operated, but one of the larger, newer ships. A Fed ship. She was unmarked. No name graced the curve of her bow. Her viewports were black and rose stories into the air. My heart sank, but I tapped my wrist anyway.

“Tom,” I called. I had little hope. Tom was probably already in a holding cell waiting for the Feds to pick him up. Marva’s voice came to me.

“You will be coming around to bay sixteen,” her voice said. “We’ve been expecting this delivery… You’re a little late, be glad I don’t place you on report… Stand by… Disengage engines…”

I tapped the control sticks and let the runner drift momentarily. The digital tug line caught us and we began moving sideways and down the front of the ship. Marva said nothing else. Petra and I both sat silent as we were maneuvered around the giant ship. Her thoughts probably a mirror of my own, what next? What had happened to our own ship? Where was Tom?

It took more than twenty minutes to make the trip down and across one side of the ship. We finally slipped under one Starlight pod and a yawning chasm of a hanger opened before us. I saw no one.

“Shut down your engines please.” It was an automated voice. The ships computer. The runner slowed to a crawl and made its way inside the hanger.

“All passengers must remain on vessel until the atmosphere has been restored. Leaving your vessel at any time prior to the restoration of…” The voice stopped and then began again. “Atmosphere has been restored. You have been cleared to leave your vessel once ship personnel arrive to facilitate disembarking. United Planet Technologies thanks you for shipping with us.”

“First damn thing I’m going to do is gut that voice system,” Tom said.

I laughed. I had had no idea that I had been so scared, so nervous. Beside me one of the babes pulled away from nursing and giggled. Petra soothed her.

“Jesus, Tom… What happened. What is this ship? Where is Star Dancer?”

“Happoed,” the baby giggled.

“Terrica, you said a word!” I became all melted and soft at once. Something about your baby speaking will do that.

“Jerrica,” Petra corrected.

“Jerrica,” I corrected. I was not my first time making the mistake and it probably wouldn’t be the last. Hopefully I would get it right long before they were old enough for it to be a big deal. “Jerrica,” I said again. Terrica looked at her sister as if she knew perfectly well who she was.

I glanced out the window and saw a smooth wall part and make an opening into the interior of the ship. Tom and Marva came through with a half dozen others, all crew I remembered. I released the door-locks and we stepped from the runner onto the ship.

The conversation lasted well into the morning, concluding just before takeoff with me on the bridge with Tom and Petra at the navigation station where she had always been on the old Star Dancer.

Star Dancer Two

Bridge

The answers were not so complicated. Tom, Marva and Petra had signed the papers for the new ship weeks before. It was a surprise and would have come to us completely ready for flight had the world not taken a sudden turn.

They had moved her from dry-dock. Some interior work left unfinished: Her name as yet not on her bow. These were things that could wait, as far as the Feds were concerned. Wait for a time when things on Earth were not so volatile. They had commissioned her with nothing more than database entries, no official words or ceremony. As it turned out Star Dancer Two was the last ship ever commissioned from Earth. From anywhere in the Federated system, for all any of them knew.

She was preflight tested. Tom himself had captained her. She was loaded with Fed materials for a new colony. Star Dancer and nine other ships under command of Dancer Two had left the day before. Even though Star Dancer was a fast ship, with our speed difference we would catch her in a matter of weeks and assume command of the fleet. The shocking news had come later in the flight. The news of what our cargo and destination really was: The news that there had been no mistakes, no carelessness. The Feds had known we were off planet and they had made sure that we had made it back to the ship.

We were less than two full days into our flight when Earth became a fireball and all communications with the planet failed. Subsequently all communications with colonies and bases in the Federated system failed as well. All of it had been routed through Earth or Mars. We had no way of knowing what had happened on Mars, but something serious enough to shut the relays down. Mars had gone silent: Communications became loose messaging systems between the other ten ships ahead of us….


Rocket: Smashwords | iTunes | Amazon | Nook | Kobo



 

Rocket Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet Preview

Rocket
Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet all rights reserved.
Cover Art © Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
LEGAL
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PROLOGUE
PART ONE: Star Dancer
ONE
TWO
THREE
FOUR
FIVE
SIX
SEVEN
PART TWO: Star Cruising
EIGHT
NINE
TEN
ELEVEN
TWELVE
THIRTEEN

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


 
PROLOUGE
Hay Vida 02281 11-08 21:58:27
Present Day
Michael Watson sat at the mouth of the cave staring out over the valley below. This close to the thick plastic the air was cold, but the wooden benches were comfortable if a little hard. They had served for dozens upon dozens of people since Mike and Tom had built them some thirty years before: They still served them well. He turned and smiled at several children who sat nearby pointing out different landmarks in the valley far below. The children, especially, never seemed to tire of sitting on the low benches and looking out over the valley.
Michael chuckled to himself, turned his eyes from the other benches, and back out on the valley far below. The snow was falling heavy. Two hours ago late fall had been holding steady, little smudges of green had still existed throughout all the fall foliage in the valley. Now it was quickly becoming a blanket of white. Fall had lost this round.
Years before they had devised a new year that better kept track of seasons and the much longer year Hay Vida had. Even with a year that now held some 95 extra days spread over fifteen months to even the seasons out the time still seemed to move by too quickly. Time was never a friend to anyone, Michael thought. Well, maybe death nothing else.
The seasons had worked themselves out after a few years. Some longer, some shorter, it was winter that had come out the winner in that round. Even slightly longer winters had a huge impact on the year around weather and the planting that could be accomplished. It took much longer to get through winter, longer for spring to thaw the valleys and fields for planting, longer for the sun to warm the ground and glaciers were forming in the north: Growing ever bigger year by year. Michael had sometimes wondered in years past if he would see them come this far. Of course the answer was no: They would not come this far in his lifetime, but he had no doubt they would come here eventually.
Winter was coming in strong today; there would be little left to do soon but plan the hunts and tell stories around the fire.
They still kept their own herds started from the stock they had worked so hard to bring into this valley, but they often hunted. The habit was good and it passed the skills down to the younger ones. There were places in this still-young world where those skills were essential.
The whole mouth of the cave had been closed off from the elements for many years. Salvaged carbon sheets that spanned floor to ceiling: A graphite frame that held them: Warmth inside the elements without, but always within reach. Something Tom had built. The last thing Tom had built, Michael remembered sadly.
He shook his head slightly remembering. That had been back in the council days before the wars had begun: Before the years of leaders, kings, the two queens and everything else that had come with the wars. Even so, even in the council years, Michael had been their leader. The council had made its decisions, but he had lead them.
Michael had been the only leader for several years now, he had helped to build this society, but he was getting older and it was getting closer and closer to the time when he would need to turn the reins over to a younger, stronger person. Maybe even this winter, he thought as he watched the snow swirl and blow.
Back in the cave behind him there were three generations waiting to take their own steps into the procession that would bring them to leadership. Some of those young men and women were ready now. It really wasn’t something he should be thinking about it was something he should be doing.
“Grandfather?”
Michael smiled up into the eyes of Rain, a newborn at her breast; her swollen belly a testament to the one coming. He took one of the furs from his shoulder and laid it across the worn wooden planking for her. A second went around her shoulders as she sat.
“It’s not too cold for the baby this close up is it?” Michael asked. The carbon held the weather out, but it was still very cold this close to the huge sheets.
Rain smiled back. “Thank you, grandfather. No it isn’t too cold.” She looked out over the valley too.”It’s beautiful,” she said.
“It is, but it can be treacherous. Winter is here now… Probably you should stay?” he asked the last. Too often he came off as demanding. The rule giver; it was something that Petra had always chided him about: He missed her constantly.
“It’s what Ron and I thought too. Base One will be there in the spring. I thought we could send a messenger… Maybe tomorrow after the snows?” She smiled widely. She knew he had been worried, and she was glad that he had given them the time to work it out between them. Glad now to give him what he would consider good news. Michael had already stood and turned though, his large frame standing tall from the rock floor.
“Jerrica,” he called out.
A young woman came from the back area of the cave. She was tall, dark, short black hair framed her face. Her clothes were stitched leather, heavy, well made. A laser rifle rested upon her back. A wide belt circled her waist; pistols on either side and a knife sheaf depended from it: Firepower was a luxury not easy to come by any longer. She came and stood next to Michael. She looked so much like her mother, Michael thought, that it amazed him. He had known Petra at this age, the resemblance always threw him when she was here and made him think for a second that reality had side slipped and he was back in time somehow.
“I will need you to deliver a message to your mother for me,” Michael told her. He stood and walked a short distance away and continued to talk to her in low tones. Rain turned her face back out to the valley and watched the thick flakes of snow fall, when they had finished their conversation they both came back to the benches. Jerrica gazed out over the valley, her eyes veiled.
Rain smiled at Jerrica, but her face barely softened. She was so serious. All members of the guard were always serious and Jerrica was no exception. Rain supposed she had been the same during her service too, but something in Jerrica had gone past service, she had come to love it. She had never left it. It was her life. Younger than Rain, she had already been a guard for several years. Rain had done her own duty for two years and had then become a wife and mother. She and Ron were going to Base One to be considered for leadership. She listened to the low whispers of talk between Michael and Jerrica and thought about her own life as she did.
She had come to this valley as a child with the original settlers: Years past now. That bought her to nearing her middle years, the age of leadership. As she looked out over the valley she realized there was little left of the original settlement she had watched rise from the valley floor as a child. In those days the people had still clung to the old technology. That was long gone here now, except with the guard and some other applications like the power plant; a few others. The people themselves had gone back to simpler roots. The old ways Tom had taught them. His motto had been; why use it just because it’s there? Do we want to return to the old life or do we really want to move on to something else? Always a challenging question and one everyone had to answer in their own way.
There was only a settlement here at all because Michael had come back, killed the ones that had enslaved the people; freed them, Rain included and taken the settlement back.
Michael spoke, interrupting her thoughts.
“A team is outgoing with Jerrica. She will tell them to look for you in the spring.” He smiled. “Maybe that will give me time to talk you out of leaving.” He smiled, but it was an uneasy smile.
Rain smiled. He didn’t know why they were leaving. They had told him it was simply time to move. She didn’t know how he would feel if she did tell him, but she hadn’t wanted to hurt him.
Michael turned back to the valley speaking as he did. “They will know inside of a week.”
Rain made up her mind. “They have asked us to come… To be considered to lead… Petra asked for us.”
Michael turned and straightened. “Petra?” He looked from Jerrica to Rain as he spoke.
“Petra wishes to step down,” Jerrica told him quietly.

“… I remember the times we spent there… When it was still good for all of us,” Rain said. Her eyes teared up; she shifted the baby and looked at Michael…



Read more at Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo or smashwords…
 
 
 
 
 

iTunes books from author Dell Sweet

Top Books from author Dell Sweet

1. Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite that was supposed to miss the earth completely, hits and becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in a desperate struggle to survive. Small groups band together for safety, leaving the ravaged cities behind in search of a new future…

2. The Zombie Killers are the men and women who keep the new settlements safe for the other survivors. Those in the Nation and those in the Fold, and the many independent colonies that would not be able to exist without their help and intervention. They are the ones who search out supplies, fight the Zombie Plagues so that the others can live in safety…

3. Earth’s Survivors Rising From The Ashes continues to follow the survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule. The small groups are growing, branching out in search of a new future. It chronicles their day to day struggles as well as their dreams as they search out new hope in their shattered world…

4. This part of the story really concentrates on the formation of The Nation and the people who will build it and carry it forward, but it also brings along the side story of The Fold and the people who will build that haven. It gives a more complete picture of Adam and Cammy, and picks up the Tale of Billy and Beth, Mike and Candace, Conner and Katie as they work to sort out their lives.

5. Home in the valley concentrates on the building of the first and most important settlement of The Nation. The valley settlement is where the people that run the Nation will come from. They will rise to leadership positions across the former United States. The first supply trip out for the Nation nearly turns to disaster, and more of the separate parties join and become one under the Nation Flag.

6. Major Weston read the report twice and then carefully set it back on his desk. Johns or Kohlson: One of the two had stolen samples of SS-V2765. It was not a question. No one else had the access, no one else the proximity or knowledge of where it was stored. Two of the virus, one each of the REX agents were missing. Enough to infect several million people, and that was just the initial infection…

7. Plague outlines the sudden rise of the dead, chronicling the spread across the country. It follows Adam, Beth, Billy and Pearl as they head north looking for an antidote that can bring the plagues to end. It also sees the first babies born to the Nation, the formation of both the Fold and Alabama Island, and the loss of one of the founders of The Nation without whom the Nation may dissolve…

8. When a catastrophic natural disaster looms on the near horizon, the government releases an airborne virus designed to make the human race better able to survive. Those that do survive are picking up the pieces of their world, and those that have died lay in their death sleep, but in their bodies the virus works on, mutating, setting the stage for a second catastrophe far worse that the first.

9. Star Dancer is an inner galaxy cruiser, transporting inmates and materials between the penal colonies on the Moon and Mars, as well as supplies and people to the bases scattered throughout the Solar System. Her captain, Michael Watson purchased Star Dancer right out of school, but the last few trips have left him longing for more adventure out in the wider expanses of space…

10. This book steps back to the beginning to bring you the story of the Fold. Jessie Stone, why and how Snoqualmie settlement came to be. It begins in present day and then falls back in time to the beginning of the Apocalypse. The Fold becomes the biggest challenger to the Nations power. The community that can force the Nation into compromise, or bring a war that may destroy both societies.

11. The summer of 1969 in Glennville New York had settled in full tilt. The July morning was cool and peaceful, but the afternoon promised nothing but sticky heat. Bobby Weston and Moon Calloway worked furiously on the go-cart they had been planning to race down Sinton Park hill, in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. Both boys had grown up in Glennville…

12. Crime Time is a collection of nine crime stories from author Dell Sweet. From short stories to near novel length… … When a man tells you he has the moral flexibility to include murder in his life if he deems it necessary this is probably not a man you should be hanging out with. Jeff Johnson had reminded himself of this fact about Robert Biel more than once…

13. L.A. Billy and Beth: March 11th Billy was up on the roof. Beth, Jamie, Winston and Scotty were standing at the edge of the building as he was, looking out over the city. Things were crazy, and they seemed to be getting worse as the days rolled by. The police precinct was still burning.No one had come to put it out. Gangs were rounding up survivors, never to be seen again: The world seemed over…

14. Earth’s Survivors SE 1 contains the complete text from the first two Earth’s Survivors books, Apocalypse and Rising From The Ashes. It includes a character bibliography. It follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite hits and sets off a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule.

15. Billy Only intended to go for a walk downtown, look at the lights and the pretty girls, kill some time. It seemed the safest thing in the world. He bent to take a look in the window of the car, two dead men, he had thought, but the driver was not dead, he raised his gun and leveled it on him. 24 hours later as he dug the hole in the desert hard pan he was wondering how it had all gone so wrong.

16. An apocalypse of epic proportions has shaken the Earth to it’s core. In the bigger cities the dead are growing quickly in numbers. Growing intelligent as they continue to change and mutate. They have one thought in their rotting brains, take over the world, and destroy those that live in the process. Billy Jingo leaves Los Angeles hoping there might be something better on the other coast…

17. The Zombie Killers are the men and women who keep the new settlements safe for the other survivors. Those in the Nation and those in the Fold, and the many independent colonies that would not be able to exist without their help and intervention. They are the ones who search out supplies, fight the Zombie Plagues so that the others can live in safety…

18. Gabe Kohlson moved away from the monitors. “Heart rate is dropping, don’t you think…” He stopped as the monitor began to chime softly. “Dammit,” Kohlson said as he finished his turn. “What is it,” David Johns wheeled his chair across the short space of the control room. “Flat lined,” Kohlson said as he pushed a button on the wall to confirm what the doctors already knew. Clayton Hunter was dead.

19. Donita’s Notebook March 1st (Night) Quakes, at least three. Warmed up fast, and all the dirty snow that was piled along the streets has melted. Torrential rains. Thunder and lightening in the snow storm that came after sunset. Didn’t last long; turned back to rain. Parts of the projects are burning. Jersey is burning. The sky is red-orange, everything across the river is on fire. No one has come.

20. Donita: The hunger was terrible, all consuming, and it came in crashing waves. The impulse to feed seemed to be the only coherent thought she had. It was hard to think around, hard to think past. It was all she could do not to rush from the trees, find the smell that tempted her and consume it. Eat it completely. Leave nothing at all…

Rocket series debuts Base One, the second in the series

Rocket series debuts Base One, the second in the series…


Book One: Rocket

Michael Watson is the captain of an inner galaxy cruiser: He Purchased Star Dancer right out of school and has spent the last twenty years running people and supplies to outposts within the confines of the Solar System and the established bases on the Moon, Mars and Saturn’s moons. The times are changing though and the big money is in the longer out of system runs. To do that he’ll need a crew and a bigger ship, but he has the ambition and the rest just might fall into place.
A new navigator, the beautiful Petra starts him thinking in a new direction and not just about Star Cruising. Maybe the next few flights for Star Dancer will be her last and he and Petra can set their sights on bigger adventures out beyond the stars.


Book One is now a free download from Smashwords in formats for Kindle and iTunes, Nook, Kobo. It will be available free at iTunes and Nook in the next few days.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/728792


Book Two: Base One

Nothing truly ends. We think highly of our race and we believe that the end of society means the end of the world, but it does not.
This time on Hay Vida we might not have to retreat to our DNA. It might be possible to go forward and adapt, but even if we did retreat it would not be world ending. It would only mean beginning anew in a more basic configuration of the life form we truly are…


Book two is available at Smashwords now and will be available at Amazon, iTunes, Nook and Kobo in the next few days…

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/797262


Paperback editions of both books will be available at my Amazon Central page in the next few days…

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Wendell-Sweet/e/B00B6QPHNM



 

Rocket. A free preview from Dell Sweet

ROCKET



Rocket

Copyright 2018 Dell Sweet all rights reserved.

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LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

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PROLOUGE

Hay Vida 02281 11-08 21:58:27

Present Day

Michael Watson sat at the mouth of the cave staring out over the valley below. This close to the thick plastic the air was cold, but the wooden benches were comfortable if a little hard. They had served for dozens upon dozens of people since Mike and Tom had built them some thirty years before: They still served them well. He turned and smiled at several children who sat nearby pointing out different landmarks in the valley far below. The children, especially, never seemed to tire of sitting on the low benches and looking out over the valley.

Michael chuckled to himself, turned his eyes from the other benches, and back out on the valley far below. The snow was falling heavy. Two hours ago late fall had been holding steady, little smudges of green had still existed throughout all the fall foliage in the valley. Now it was quickly becoming a blanket of white. Fall had lost this round.

Years before they had devised a new year that better kept track of seasons and the much longer year Hay Vida had. Even with a year that now held some 95 extra days spread over fifteen months to even the seasons out the time still seemed to move by too quickly. Time was never a friend to anyone, Michael thought. Well, maybe death nothing else.

The seasons had worked themselves out after a few years. Some longer, some shorter, it was winter that had come out the winner in that round. Even slightly longer winters had a huge impact on the year around weather and the planting that could be accomplished. It took much longer to get through winter, longer for spring to thaw the valleys and fields for planting, longer for the sun to warm the ground and glaciers were forming in the north: Growing ever bigger year by year. Michael had sometimes wondered in years past if he would see them come this far. Of course the answer was no: They would not come this far in his lifetime, but he had no doubt they would come here eventually.

Winter was coming in strong today; there would be little left to do soon but plan the hunts and tell stories around the fire.

They still kept their own herds started from the stock they had worked so hard to bring into this valley, but they often hunted. The habit was good and it passed the skills down to the younger ones. There were places in this still-young world where those skills were essential.

The whole mouth of the cave had been closed off from the elements for many years. Salvaged carbon sheets that spanned floor to ceiling: A graphite frame that held them: Warmth inside the elements without, but always within reach. Something Tom had built. The last thing Tom had built, Michael remembered sadly.

He shook his head slightly remembering. That had been back in the council days before the wars had begun: Before the years of leaders, kings, the two queens and everything else that had come with the wars. Even so, even in the council years, Michael had been their leader. The council had made its decisions, but he had lead them.

Michael had been the only leader for several years now, he had helped to build this society, but he was getting older and it was getting closer and closer to the time when he would need to turn the reins over to a younger, stronger person. Maybe even this winter, he thought as he watched the snow swirl and blow.

Back in the cave behind him there were three generations waiting to take their own steps into the procession that would bring them to leadership. Some of those young men and women were ready now. It really wasn’t something he should be thinking about it was something he should be doing.

“Grandfather?”

Michael smiled up into the eyes of Rain, a newborn at her breast; her swollen belly a testament to the one coming. He took one of the furs from his shoulder and laid it across the worn wooden planking for her. A second went around her shoulders as she sat.

“It’s not too cold for the baby this close up is it?” Michael asked. The carbon held the weather out, but it was still very cold this close to the huge sheets.

Rain smiled back. “Thank you, grandfather. No it isn’t too cold.” She looked out over the valley too.”It’s beautiful,” she said.

“It is, but it can be treacherous. Winter is here now… Probably you should stay?” he asked the last. Too often he came off as demanding. The rule giver; it was something that Petra had always chided him about: He missed her constantly.

“It’s what Ron and I thought too. Base One will be there in the spring. I thought we could send a messenger… Maybe tomorrow after the snows?” She smiled widely. She knew he had been worried, and she was glad that he had given them the time to work it out between them. Glad now to give him what he would consider good news. Michael had already stood and turned though, his large frame standing tall from the rock floor.

“Jerrica,” he called out.

A young woman came from the back area of the cave. She was tall, dark, short black hair framed her face. Her clothes were stitched leather, heavy, well made. A laser rifle rested upon her back. A wide belt circled her waist; pistols on either side and a knife sheaf depended from it: Firepower was a luxury not easy to come by any longer. She came and stood next to Michael. She looked so much like her mother, Michael thought, that it amazed him. He had known Petra at this age, the resemblance always threw him when she was here and made him think for a second that reality had side slipped and he was back in time somehow.

“I will need you to deliver a message to your mother for me,” Michael told her. He stood and walked a short distance away and continued to talk to her in low tones. Rain turned her face back out to the valley and watched the thick flakes of snow fall, when they had finished their conversation they both came back to the benches. Jerrica gazed out over the valley, her eyes veiled.

Rain smiled at Jerrica, but her face barely softened. She was so serious. All members of the guard were always serious and Jerrica was no exception. Rain supposed she had been the same during her service too, but something in Jerrica had gone past service, she had come to love it. She had never left it. It was her life. Younger than Rain, she had already been a guard for several years. Rain had done her own duty for two years and had then become a wife and mother. She and Ron were going to Base One to be considered for leadership. She listened to the low whispers of talk between Michael and Jerrica and thought about her own life as she did.

She had come to this valley as a child with the original settlers: Years past now. That bought her to nearing her middle years, the age of leadership. As she looked out over the valley she realized there was little left of the original settlement she had watched rise from the valley floor as a child. In those days the people had still clung to the old technology. That was long gone here now, except with the guard and some other applications like the power plant; a few others. The people themselves had gone back to simpler roots. The old ways Tom had taught them. His motto had been; why use it just because it’s there? Do we want to return to the old life or do we really want to move on to something else? Always a challenging question and one everyone had to answer in their own way.

There was only a settlement here at all because Michael had come back, killed the ones that had enslaved the people; freed them, Rain included and taken the settlement back.

Michael spoke, interrupting her thoughts.

“A team is outgoing with Jerrica. She will tell them to look for you in the spring.” He smiled. “Maybe that will give me time to talk you out of leaving.” He smiled, but it was an uneasy smile.

Rain smiled. He didn’t know why they were leaving. They had told him it was simply time to move. She didn’t know how he would feel if she did tell him, but she hadn’t wanted to hurt him.

Michael turned back to the valley speaking as he did. “They will know inside of a week.”

Rain made up her mind. “They have asked us to come… To be considered to lead… Petra asked for us.”

Michael turned and straightened. “Petra?” He looked from Jerrica to Rain as he spoke.

“Petra wishes to step down,” Jerrica told him quietly.

“… I remember the times we spent there… When it was still good for all of us,” Rain said. Her eyes teared up; she shifted the baby and looked at Michael.

Michael nodded. “You should not leave here. I have sat staring out at this valley and wished you would stay so I could offer you this leadership,” He turned away to hide his own eyes from her. “Not so large or advanced as Base One, but large and in need of new blood to lead.” He turned back to face her. “Had I known I would have offered. I was afraid you would refuse it.”

“I…” she caught herself as her voice broke. “I didn’t know…” She turned her head away and then stood quickly and walked away.

Michael turned to Jerrica. “I had thought that it would be you that would lead after your mother stepped down.”

“It was offered… I refused. My place is here in this valley where I was raised; not there… I … I refused,” her eyes seemed to struggle to say more, but it was not really necessary.

It was the same with many aspects of the split that had torn them apart. There were sides and they were chosen. After all of these years he couldn’t think of a single reason why he had stayed and fought here. He reached out and placed one large hand on her shoulder. “I understand your choices. I am glad that there are no barriers between your mother and you.” He waited for her eyes to meet his. “I hope to be going with you. I should make some changes here.” He glanced over where Rain stood talking with Ron.

Jerrica followed his eyes.

Ron had watched Rain from the seat he shared at the fire with some other hunters. He excused himself, and followed her to the back of the cave where they made their own winter quarters.

“Rain?” he asked as he came to her and placed one massive hand on her shoulder.

“He is stepping down… He wanted me to know he would have already given the leadership to us.” She turned and buried her face in his shoulder and wept. The baby fussed for a second, upset at the confinement and emotion and then went back to nursing; sniffling as she did.

Ron smoothed her hair with his roughened hands. He turned her slowly and then pulled her and the baby down to the floor where he held her silently for a few moments.

“What do you want, Rain. What do you want?”

“I can’t leave now… I can’t. We can lead here. We can make it bigger. Rebuild it even more from the wars. It could be good,” Rain said as she looked at him with her tear reddened eyes.

“Trade the sea for the snow?” he asked with a smile.

“Leaders can visit.” She shifted around. “I think all the people that caused the wars are dead now. Just the ones who worked so hard to end it are still going. Michael, Jerrica, Ash, Terrica. They are still here. They still want it all back together. We should try to get this all as one again and as leaders we could do it. I could accept leadership here you could accept it there. It could work.” Her eyes pleaded with his.

“They would turn both of us out if we tried that,” Ron told her.

“Not if we were straight forward. Accept leadership here and take the proposal to them next spring. We will already be leaders here. They can only say no, but I do not believe they will say no. I think it is time to put us all back together,” Rain said softly. The baby let go of her nipple and began to fuss. “Poor, baby,” she soothed as she put her over her shoulder and patted her back softly, rubbing for short periods. Her eyes met Ron’s.

“Tell Michael. Tell Michael and see what Michael says about it,” Ron said after a few moments.

~

Michael watched the heavy flakes fall. He had not known what to make of Rain jumping up and leaving so quickly as she had. He only hoped it was because she wanted time to talk to Ron about what he had said. What he had essentially offered.

He had shocked himself. While it was true that he had been sitting here thinking about turning leadership over he had not thought it would be so soon. He had hoped that when Rain and Ron came back from their trip to Base One he could approach the subject with them. Now he could see that it would have been far too late then. They would have left and they would never have come back.

It saddened him to think of passing leadership to someone else, but in another way the responsibilities were too heavy. He was too old. Petra was younger and stronger. He couldn’t understand why she would give up leadership. A position she had held in one capacity or another for all the years since the end had come. She was a natural. What would make her consider stepping down, he wondered as he stared out over the valley.

He had been on the verge of rising; going to find Rain when Ron dropped down beside him.

Michael held his eyes when he turned to him. “She spoke to you?”

“She did, grandfather.” He laughed. “She would never leave you now.”

“It wasn’t meant to make you stay… It was time,” Michael said. He turned his eyes back out to the valley. In the far distance a herd of bison grazed. Whether their own or a wild herd he could not tell. At one time the entire valley had been closed: No longer. A smaller valley on the opposite side of the mountain held the winter herd: Small; what they could afford to keep and feed through the cold. The rest were turned loose. They mingled with the wild herds, but they never forgot the valley was their home and so they could be depended upon to come back in the spring.

Ron followed his eyes and watched the herd of bison in the distance through the blowing snow. “Big herd.”

Michael nodded and then turned. “You will stay?”

“She will stay…” he paused and let his words sink in: Concern mounted in Michael’s eyes. “She seems to think that I should take the leadership being offered by Base One… Bring us all together as a people again.”

Michael smiled. “She is like my own blood.” He laughed; a small laugh, but then he let it roll out of his huge chest. “I can see it. I can see it.” He fell quiet, watching the bison as they moved more fully into the protection of the walls of the valley. Their coats were already heavy; carrying the weight of the snow as it hid them from the eyes of predators. Ron watched with him.

“Almost gone already… If I didn’t know exactly where to look…”

“Yes, I never get tired of it,” Michael agreed. “I’m older than all of them you know. It was so unfair… Petra is so young; she should rule for years to come yet she is stepping down. Here I am in my late seventies, almost eighty now… Soon I will be…” He sighed. He shook his head. “Where did it all go to?” He turned and met Ron’s eyes, but Ron only shrugged as he held his eyes. Both men turned back to the valley, but just that fast the bison who had been moving nearer had disappeared under their walking blankets of white.

“Insulates them too: Hard for me to believe that but it is true,” Michael said. He turned back to Ron. “She’s right… It’s what should have been done long ago.” He stood and turned back into the cave where Jerrica stood talking to several others. The only vehicles they still had were the transport vehicles the guard used. Everything else had long been given back to rust and age. The guard transports had only gotten better. Built from scratch and modified with more and more technology as they came across it in the old drops they discovered out on their missions.

Michael stood to his full height and raised his arms high above him. “People,” Michael’s voice boomed out and the people in the cave stopped what they were doing and looked to him. He may have been closing in on eighty, but there was still a great deal of fight in that voice: Power.

At one time there had been several thousand people here. Now there were slightly more than two thousand; still a great responsibility and a growing one. He waited until he had everyone’s attention, at least those that were inside. Most were working at this time of the day, but it didn’t matter. The news would find them.

Rain came from the back: The baby gone; most likely sleeping on a pile of furs with a few others, Michael thought. She came to Ron; her face tense, unsure what was about to be said.

“You all know me. You all, I hope, know that I am not pretentious. I pray to God I never have been or will be. I am just a man.” He paused. “There is no easy way to say this, for I love you all. You mean something to me. Every one of you; and if you can look at this in that light you will realize it is past the time that I stepped down.” A few gasps punctuated the silence and a very low buzz of hushed, surprised conversation.

“It has never been concealed from you that I have looked at Rain as my blood. That is why I hope and pray that you will accept her leadership of this settlement.” Michael fell silent and the silence in the cave held for a few moments before the cheers began. With a few seconds the crowds around himself and Rain were so thick they found themselves pushed together and herded back into the central area of the cave. Questions, answers; they would have them. He had to answer some of them at least.

Michael raised his arms and waited for the quiet. “I give you your leader… Will you accept her?”

The cave reverberated with the shouts of yes.

“It’s finished then,” Michael said softly. He said it softly on purpose to hold their attention for a moment longer. “Before the celebration begins I will explain why it had to be now. When Jerrica and her guard team leaves I will be going with them to Base One. I will leave tonight with them, and I do not know if I will return. My wish will be to return, but that old dog age is nipping at my heels and so who knows, maybe I will reach the warmth of the sea and wish to stay there.” He waited for the laughter to die down. “You need a leader now: A leader that can take you to the next place our people need to be. The same place we have all worked to attain, togetherness, healing, advancement. A man or a woman grows, or they die. This settlement is the same way. We forgot that back in the wars. I have remembered it now. Rain has never forgotten it,” his voice fell even lower. “Something I only wish I could claim. Something I am proud to see living within her.” He met as many eyes as he could.

“God willing I will see you all again,” Michael told them. He turned and embraced Rain as her tears fell and then his eyes fell on Jerrica where she awaited him. He kissed Rain’s eyelids, told her he loved her; wished her all the best there could be and then he joined Jerrica. A moment later they were making their way through the tunnel to the eastern side of the mountain where the guard had their own quarters: The laughter and cheers of congratulation falling away behind them.

“You surprised me,” Jerrica said as they walked.

“I surprised me,” Michael agreed.

The guard was comprised of ten all in all. He found that impressive. The first group he himself had formed had been only four. And what they had then was nothing compared to what they had now. Weapons, vehicles, armor and more bags of tricks, some Michael was sure he himself didn’t fully understand the implications of.

They turned from the main tunnel way into a wide open area filled with large transports and bustling with activity.

“We are ready…” Jerrica faltered; unsure how to address him. For so long she had addressed him as leader, father when she had been younger, she didn’t know what to do now that he had turned his reigns of leadership over so quickly.

“Father will do,” he told her as her face colored.

“Father,” Jerrica said. “We need to get going.”

Michael took a last look around the huge area. “Been a long road,” Michael said huskily. He followed Jerrica to one of the huge transports. He stepped inside: The door drew down and sealed with a hiss of air: A few seconds later a huge carbon panel parted; opening the cavernous space to the outdoors and the transport rolled silently out into the swirling snow…


ONE: Star Dancer


ONE

Earth Date: 2196 – 08 -25 – 16:21:43

Moon Base 14: United Planet Technologies

Intra Flight Systems: Star Dancer

Michael Watson

Michael Watson, Mike to his friends purchased Star Dancer right after college and began intra system runs shortly after that. He could remember his great-grandfather, gone now for more than forty years, talking about what he had, had for opportunities right out of high school. That would be laughable now. Mike’s parents had, had his life mapped out from the age of two. Life Mapping was and is a serious thing, Mike didn’t know anyone that didn’t have their lives mapped out now from birth or before.

School was not complete without college. You could not be licensed to work the counters of a Planet Burger unless you had two years of college. His own career had taken four years of Specialty College as well as geared trade school from the first grade on. When other first graders were learning about monetary systems and world level banking, he had been learning about Solar Wind Drives and Hydrogen Propulsion units.

The grades, one through twelve, start at age three and last on average seven years. Some fall behind, some spring ahead, but by ten years of age most are ready for focused education and he was no exception. He began his specialized training; four years, four more years of global military service after that with an option for six more which he had deferred and he was pretty sure he made his instructors very happy by doing so, and so at the old age of eighteen Mike had signed a twenty year funding commitment for Star Dancer. At the time he was sure he would never dig himself out of thirty million credits of debt, but for the last two years he had been watching credits build in his accounts.

Today he was docking at UPT on Moon Fourteen to pick up a four year re-supply for a prison colony at Mars Twenty-Seven: Some kind of Tech drop for Colony One; and two panel pre-fab labs for IO’s base six.

Moon Base Fourteen is United Planet Technologies’ own base. There is not much else there; a small cafeteria, some lounges for through travelers, each progressively worse than the last: The best being Vic’s, and Vic’s was the only official bar, the other two were simply overlooked. That could happen at a base that was not really a base at all but a company town.

Mike had, had the tour before and short of taking on a small fed crew, and maybe a new navigator to replace the one he had been without for the last seventeen months he would be here only long enough to fuel, be unloaded and then reloaded: Once the ship was re-supplied he would be off; there would be no downtime in the next twenty-four hours.

The crew was a fed security and transport crew. In other words a federal crew that would accompany him to all three of the offloads, do all the offloading and on loading. He would be coming back to Moon Base Fourteen with a full load of finished products bound for Earth and they would pack it all, all he had to do was bring it back. They also provided security for himself and the Star Dancer crew. In nearly twenty years of intra cruising he had never had a single security issue for them to defend him from.

On the last stop, IO, he would lose the crew. That would leave him alone for the return trip unless they turned up a dead head crew for the return trip. He would also be required to transport any returning paroled inmates: Terminated or retired employees or UPT employees that required transport: Bar those possibilities; unless he signed a navigator today he would be coming back alone and so far out of twenty possible candidates he had, had only five show up, and out of the five three had turned him down. He had turned the other two down. He told himself that if he were a betting man the odds were that he would be riding alone this return trip.

A return trip alone did not mean he would be returning empty. No transport was ever left empty. There were always shipments heading back to Earth, short hops to other Moon Bases, Mars and twice he had done several runs between IO and Mars without going back to Earth. In any case of in-system transport he was required to have a security crew. If it was a straight run back to the Moon or Earth then the shipment was loaded, locked and sealed and he could run back with no security crew. If a parolee was scheduled for the ride back then a security team was required, even if there was no other reason for their presence. He had rarely transported parolees, once or twice that he could recall. He almost always offloaded, reloaded Earth-bound cargo, loaded up supplies and a dead head crew, usually a mixed security and worker crew and headed back within a day or two.

He eased Star Dancer into dock. Most Captains go with the auto-nav, but he had heard too many horror stories about out of phase computers, last second power surges and more to trust his ship to the machines. He would do it himself. He had known how to do it since third grade in the flight sims: Microsoft had the best federally approved space-flight sims and Mike’s parents had made sure he got the best.

He gave his reverse thrusters a quick slap with his palm at three hundred feet out and watched the ships lock coupler drift home with nothing more than a small frame vibration when all systems went green on lock-in. He keyed his overhead.

“Central, I’m locked on 6B… Standing by for station personnel, over…”

“Green on my board, Dancer… Unlocking for loads… You have company standing by, Dancer.”

“Oh yeah?” That was a surprise.

“Uh… Lounge seven… Navigator?”

“Oh, okay, right… Send him right up, and thank you.”

“Uh, her.”

“Her?”

“Oh yeah… Pretty sure unless I’m blind.” He chuckled.

“Huh… Supposed to be…” He punched the name up on his scheduling screen. “Pete Stanovich.”

“Uh huh… Short for Petra no doubt… Petra Stanovich… See you must have heard the Pete part and not the tra part.” He chuckled again.

“Someone screwed up… It’s entered as Pete in the com. Okay send her up then and thanks.”

“Coming at you… Base out.”

Mike clicked off and sighed. This meant number twenty-one was most likely a wash too. Most women who interviewed for the job were not interested once they realized it was an intra-galaxy, or system cruiser and one that was considered a dinosaur of a ship. About all he did have to offer were transferable credits for Federal space-work. Because he had not deactivated his military time he had what was called time for time credit. A perk because he had done his four in the service and kept his six active. That meant that technically the feds could still pick him up for that six any time they wanted to. In exchange it meant that he could offer his employees who were fresh out of military service time for time credit. A young navigator would have to be fresh out of military service, or within their benefit time window, thus making them eligible for the time. The time would count directly as military experience in advanced navigation; a big plus, but maybe not worth the two year minimum hitch they would have to do on his ship.

Even so it was a good perk and the past three navigators he had hired were immediately picked up for star cruiser service at the end of their contracts. It was both his ace in the hole and his queen of spades.

He unbuckled thought about it and then keyed his Com-Link

“Unlocked, central and could you delay my visitor by twenty?”

“Be at least that… Problem?”

“No… That’ll work…”

“Okay, Mike… You have Baylor as Sec-Chief… A crew of twenty security. Three max level prisoner transports and four tech level grads bound for IO. That’s it… Out.”

Mike keyed his Com-Link as an answer; flicked the unlock switches for the cargo holds, electronically signed his security certificate to allow off loading and loading and headed for the showers and fresh clothes. He may as well make the best impression that he could, he reasoned.


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