004-1117 – Venad – Adar/Hinterworlds

Venad – Adar/Hinterworlds 0402 A221621-B Ni Po Na 324 Im M0V M6D

We have an Engineer! Thank the gods. Now, once I find out when the Grayswandir will be out of maintenance, I can announce our destination and start looking for passengers and cargo.

Yesterday, after I had gone through the applications I had received, I rented an office back at the starport to interview the short list of Engineers I had come up with. It was a cheap place; the wall screens hadn’t been evenly applied, leaving annoying distortions here and there, and one of the light panels was annoyingly off-color from the rest, but it would do.

Unfortunately, the interviews were going about as well as the office. Venad has over a hundred ships a day passing through which I would have thought would have meant a lot of potential candidates. It did, but it also meant a lot of competition for those candidates. And honestly, it takes a certain mindset to work a Free Trader. Most people preferred the stability, and guaranteed paycheck, of the bigger lines over the greater freedom and risk of an independent.

Which meant that most of who I was talking to were people who had just been kicked off their last ship, or who were inexplicably desperate to get on a ship. None of them seemed to have the attitude or desire I was looking for.

It was getting later in the afternoon and I was thinking that I would have to rent the office for another day when I finally found the candidate I was looking for.

I wasn’t sure at first. When she walked in the first thing I noticed was that she was wearing a slightly ill-fitting jumpsuit and coveralls, obviously something from a fabricator instead of actually being made, with her breather mask still hanging around her neck. She sat down in the chair opposite me without waiting for an invitation, dropped her remote onto the desk, then leaned forward extending her hand.

“Jami Wistina,” she said. “Captain Derek? Good to meet you.”

I was a bit taken aback by her familiarity but I took the pro-offered hand. Her grip was firm and calloused; obviously someone who worked a lot with her hands. That was a good sign.

“Yes,” I said, slightly annoyed. “Captain Kodai, of the Grayswandir. Thank you for coming in.”

She shrugged and popped a chew-stick into her mouth. “No problem!” she said. “Not doing much else today.”

I frowned. She was being a little too casual and flippant; Saahna would definitely have a problem with her. On the other hand, I found her lack of protocol a bit refreshing after the candidates I had been talking to.

I made a point of pulling up her application on my comp and studied it for a bit longer than necessary. Yes, I remembered reading it yesterday and, now having met her, a lot of it made a lot more sense. She actually had experience on a Free Trader, but….

I flicked her application onto the wall behind me. “Tell me about the Cygnarus.”

She leaned back and the smile left her face for the first time. “That wasn’t my fault.”

“That wasn’t what I asked.”

She frowned, then shrugged. “If you want the details, you’ll have to ask Captain Barikus.” She held up her hands in a helpless gesture. “I knew it was a bad idea, but he was the Captain and I didn’t feel like contradicting him.” She shrugged again. “Wouldn’t have mattered anyway.”

I leaned back and crossed my arms. “I still want to know. You’ve been the chief Engineer on the Cygnarus for…”, I looked at my comp, “…eight years. Why leave now?”

She laughed. “Because the Cygnarus is… kinda broken.” She saw my expression then leaned forward again, suddenly earnest. “And that wasn’t my fault either. We wouldn’t have made it back without me!”

I held her gaze. “If you want to be on the Grayswandir then you will be on my ship. And I need the people on my ship to tell me the truth, no matter what it is. So… what happened?”

She returned the gaze for a long moment then shrugged and leaned back again. “Captain got greedy. We had a contract to deliver a bunch of weapons to a belt habitat. Got there, and instead of the contact we expected we found a bunch of angry Belters.” She held up her hands in that helpless gesture again. “Apparently the weapons we had been bringing in had been getting used against them. They were kinda annoyed about that. Did I mention that weapons were illegal there?”

I smiled. Been there, done that, got the vacc suit. “Yeah, I get it. What happened next?”

She shrugged. “I suggested that we just sell the weapons to the Belters instead of the government. Captain didn’t want to do that; he was more concerned with maintaining his relationship with the local authorities. So he refused and we tried to leave.” She paused. “Ever get shot at by a Seeker? Much less a half-dozen of them? They claim those lasers are for mining, but they punch through hulls just as easily as they do asteroids.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I try not to get into arguments with people who have more guns than me.”

“Exactly!” She leaned forward, overly excited for the story she was telling. “We had hull breaches all over the place. We lost Macoln; he was our Steward.” She frowned. “I always liked Macoln.”

I tilted my head at the sidetrack. “And…?”

She smiled again. “Oh! We managed to make it into jumpspace, fortunately basically everywhere in a Belt is 100 out, but once we did I still had to run around patching holes and holding the ship together. We’re lucky we made it back.”

She stopped and looked down, looking less than happy for the first time since coming it. “It was tough. Berenda, our Medic, died from jump sickness; her cabin had gotten ruptured and no one knew before we jumped. Barikus blamed me, though I hadn’t even known it had happened. I had my own problems in engineering to deal with. We managed to limp home, then the moment we entered orbit the Patrol intercepted us. Apparently someone had reported what had happened and the news got in before us. Our cargo got seized and Captain Barikus had to answer a lot of questions he didn’t want to. The Ral Rantans don’t appreciate people going behind their backs.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I’m not their biggest fan either.”

She smiled wider at that. “Yeah. Anyway, the Cygnarus is going to need a lot of repair work before it can fly again. And Captain Barikus lost everything he had invested in those gauss rifles and pretty much lost all of his contacts around the sector since no one trusts him anymore. He’s out, but they’re still watching him pretty closely. So… I kinda need to find somewhere else to be for a while.”

“Before they come after you?” I asked.

She nodded. “Or before Barikus and his friends comes after me. He still blames me for us getting caught.”

I knew the answer but frowned and answered anyway. “Were you?”

She got angry at that. “If he had listened to me we wouldn’t have been shot at in the first place! And I held the Cygnarus together through several Jumps before we got home! It isn’t my fault that the Patrol showed up wondering why we were leaking oxygen.”

I nodded. “So, I assume you’ll tell me when I do something stupid?”

She hesitated a moment, then nodded. “Yeah, don’t expect me to be a quiet, ‘yes sir’ crew-member. If you’re wanting otherwise, don’t expect me to stick around.”

I thought for a moment then shook my head. “I wouldn’t ask that at all. If I’m doing something stupid I want to know about it. It’s a lot cheaper that way.”

I stood up and held out my hand. “Welcome aboard the Grayswandir.”

She looked slightly startled then jumped up. “That’s it?” she asked. “Just like that?”

I shrugged. “I’ve been flying Free Traders for a long time. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of who will and who won’t work out. I think you will.”

She smiled broadly and grabbed my hand. “Thank you Captain, thank you! You won’t regret this! When can I move in?”

“As soon as we’re out of maintenance. Probably a day or so.”

She nodded. “I know Davorn over at the shipyard. I’ll go check it out. See you around, Captain!” With another cheery wave, she hopped up, gave me a sloppy salute, and practically skipped out the door.

I shrugged and sat back down then canceled the rest of my interviews. From her certification she knew what she was doing and from our brief conversation I felt that she would fit in.

I checked with the maintenance bay to let them know that Wistina would be stopping by and asked when maintenance would be done. They said they expected to turn the ship back over to me on 008. With that, if I went ahead and started lining up some trade goods and passengers, there was a good chance we could hit jumpspace on 0011. I set my calendar accordingly. I’d schedule a meeting with the crew in a few days.

It was almost time to go back to work.

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