Second Star To The Right (Entry 1)

This is actually part of a project I started a while back but have decided to entirely rework. Giving “horror” a break.

The entire ship shuddered as the docking clamps latched into position. Hopefully the cargo drones could get me unloaded quick. Past experience with this station told me I was dreaming if I thought those clamps were letting go of my ship any time soon.

This was my last run before heading home for some much needed rest. Too many stim pods and not enough sleep will really mess with a person after a while. “Space happy” they call it. If you can call seeing demons in the view port and hearing voices “happy”. Maybe it’s one of those ironic names, like when big guys are called Tiny. Either way, it was starting to happen. None of the egg heads seemed to know if it was the lack of sleep or excessive use of stim pods that made it happen. Regardless, it was a fact of life for a spacer like myself. The only thing to be done for it is a few standard weeks of rest and relaxation. Luckily, I was only a cycle away from home. I’ve cut it closer to the edge before.

I sat at my console and closed my eyes. A quick nap wouldn’t fix anything, but it might quiet things down a bit. No sooner had my eyes closed when my comms panel started screeching. I said a few choice words and slammed my fist down on the connect button.

“Dag, got a few minutes?” the all too familiar voice came over the speakers as the display flickered to life.
“What the fuck do you want Nash? I made the trip in time.” I demanded.
“I know, and I appreciate your diligence and ability to stick to schedule. I wish all my pilots were as good as you.” Nash said with the most disingenuous grin I’ve ever seen. I was a thorn in his side and we both knew it.
“Bullshit Nash. Let me ask again, what the fuck do you want? If you think for even a minute that I’m canceling my home time, you’re sorely mistaken.” I snarled.
“Let’s not be hasty Dag. By the time you’ve heard what I have to say, you’ll be begging to take this run. It is a gravy run that pays double your normal stipend.” Nash said calmly. Prick.
“I hate to turn down credits, but I’m beyond exhausted. I can’t make any more runs safely. I’ll be pushing it to make home.” I exaggerated slightly.
“That’s not a problem. You’ll be ship swapping. The ship you’re taking has a rejuve bay. The run is “auto-nav in and auto-nav out. Your ship will be waiting for you at home when you’re done. And the rendezvous is close to your current position.” Nash explained.
“Why not send the other pilot? Why bother with a ship swap?” I asked.
“Because I don’t trust him like I trust you.” Nash said.
“Well Nash, flattery will get you nowhere. But you already know that.”
“I didn’t want to do this Dag, but you aren’t leaving me much choice. You either take the run or turn in your ship. I’ve got shit to get done and I don’t have all day to wheedle and cajole you. So what is it going to be?” Nash said, his calm veneer starting to crack.
“Fine I’ll take the fucking run. But I want some extra downtime.” I said. He and I had danced this dance many times. Although a ship swap and rejuve bay was a new one.
“Good. Now that we have that settled, I’ll beam you the coordinates to the rendezvous point.” He said. After a pause he continued “Dag, you do know that if you let us put a rejuve bay in your ship, you’d never have this problem.”
“I know, but I also know that means taking a hit to my pay. Rejuve bays eat up a lot of weight. In this business, weight is money.” I replied.
“I suppose your right. Although the pilots who do run bays don’t complain about pay cuts. Hate to cut this short, but now that you’ve agreed to the run, I have to contact the customer.” Nash paused and grinned. “By the way, they asked for you by name.”

And with that, the screen went blank. What a prick. Oh well,

Once the docking clamps released, I navigated a safe distance from the station and punched the coordinates into the navigation computer. While waiting for the Heinlein drive to spool up and make the jump, I popped another stim pack.

My hands trembled as the synthetic adrenaline began to kick in. Followed almost imediately by my vision going the most interesting shade of red. Then came the racing heart and 5 seconds of sweating bullets. Through blurred vision, I could see the timer counting down to jump. Almost in unison, the initial rush of the stim pack the counter hit zero and I was pushed back into the command couch. Even the best artificial gravity can’t overcome that initial surge.

Little did I know that this would be the last run of my career.

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