Stars In Our Sails – Chapter 1

••• Kindle edition of the novella is available now on Amazon.

116 pages of space, adventures, and intrigue in this character-driven short story.

A loud crash broke through the commotion of the loading bay, and soon after came the swearing. Ned Ibolya, captain of the “Dauntless”, sighed and rose from his chair at the customs terminal. His massive, almost two metres tall silhouette immediately distinguished him in the crowd of workers and crews busying themselves in the bay as if nothing happened.

There was no immediate apparent source for the crash, but Ibolya was pretty sure of the reason for it. He charged like a bull through the crowd, which instinctively made room for the angry, dark-skinned man in a black jumpsuit. He crossed the loading bay’s walkway straight to bay fifteen, where his freighter was currently being unloaded, a wave of people closing behind him.

The “Dauntless” stood out among other vessels like a sore thumb – old, brick-shaped freighter, yellow and red paint long ago bleached by the sun and scratched by space dust. Its hull was pockmarked with dents and burns along the seventy-metre length of a rectangular broadside, narrowing towards the top of the ship. Bulbs of turrets and a square cabin at the stern completed the sight. Concrete floor before the vessel’s open cargo hold was full of ice fragments, melting fast next to an overturned forklift drone and a broken container.

‘Rod! Where the fuck is he?!’ cried Ned in anger, drops of saliva falling on his short beard.

‘Hoi, calm down there, boss,’ said a thin man with a black goatee as he exited the craft, wiping oil from his hands with a rag. ‘I’m sure Rod didn’t screw up programming the drone again, no way!’ He gestured vaguely towards the vessel’s dark inside and a nervous smile twitched in a corner of his lips.

‘Don’t tell me to calm down, Abe!’ The captain shoved past the mechanic, through a bay filled with containers similar to the one broken outside. On the opposite side of the hold, a pale man in an orange jumpsuit suddenly went even paler, unconsciously lifting a computer tablet as if to hide behind it from his furious boss.

‘My bad, c-c-chief’, he started, ‘those LCVs are buggy as hell, I didn’t finish parsing the code yet, and it just went off the ramp!’

He opened his mouth to say something else, but Ned’s giant fist clad in a leather glove caught him in the chin and sent him flying towards the wall of the ship, where he crashed heavily into the pipes and landed on his knees. Ned grabbed him by the jumpsuit’s collar and lifted close to his own face with one hand.

‘That was two hundred k worth of ice, dipshit,’ growled the captain. ‘Not to mention the drone and the container.’ A short jab of Ibolya’s fist pushed Rod’s reply back down his throat, along with a few teeth.

‘It was the last time you set foot on the “Dauntless”, or so help me I will crack you open like a watermelon! Rodolfo Adisa, you’re fired, get the fuck outta my ship!’

The captain watched Rod get up and run out of the ship and into the landing bay, furious.

‘Looks like we’re in need of a new geek again…’

Ned’s eyes followed the source of the voice up the short ladder leading to crew cabins, where his first officer stood, her brown dreadlocks tied in a loose tail. She threw a leather jacket over a padded black jumpsuit and a backpack over the shoulder.

‘Yeah, well, I’m not in the biz for charity, Juanita,’ he snorted. ‘Another shit-for-brains nerd whacks my cargo, I’ll whack him, I swear!’

‘Well then. Want me to look around for some fresh meat for you when I’m in the market?’ she asked with disinterest, preparing to leave the ship.

‘Hah, like anyone is gonna risk getting thrown overboard for some dumb shit or other,’ laughed Abe, coming over to pick up the forgotten tablet from the floor. ‘Our cap’s patience and understanding for people screwing with the cargo is known far and wide.’

‘Stop taking a piss, Abe, we lost loads of credit because of that ass, and what we get for the rest might cover buying a new drone,’ replied the captain.

‘Don’t forget we gotta buy a new terminal,’ chuckled the mechanic showing Ned the tablet’s cracked display.

Ibolya grabbed the nearest object and tossed it at the engineer. Abe ducked out of the way, and the wrench went past his head, hitting the deck with a loud bang.