Corran Antilles is having a bad life. Schlepping cargo for the Federation doesn't pay. Even worse, the corporate hauler assigned to him malfunctions inside Trevithick Station. Before Corran's ship-trouble costs him his life, he's able to land, but at the price of his job.
Down on his luck, with no money and no way to get home, Corran thinks he’s hit the jackpot when a stranger approaches and offers him the chance of a lifetime. But of course, nothing in the Federation is free, and there's always a catch.
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This maybe the last of the FREE published stories that I've won an award for so pay attention! Below is CHAPTER 2 of "Dangerous Gamble".
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Last we saw our hero, he was crashing a space bucket of a ship that should have been retired and managed NOT to kill anyone. Still he was fired and left as the scapegoat for the wreckage he left behind trying to deal with a broken, un-maintenance craft.
A Dangerous Elite Fanfic
© S.N.McKibben 2015
My Last Paycheck
After I dropped off the suit and picked up my check, I had enough money to sit and drink two shots at the Star and Garter. No ship. No money. No one here to trust and I smelled like week-old trash. Felt that way, too. I took a shot of the potts-dim liquor—the cheapest crap you could buy that didn’t have the consistency of used oil. It would burn the nose hairs, though, which helped to keep from smelling myself.
“If it isn’t the pilot himself.”
That would be me. Apparently no one else who ever sailed into Trevithick had ever made a mistake.
I pulled up my shoulders to my ears and lowered my head, as if hiding my face would hide my shame.
An older gentleman with small, round, black-framed glasses sidled up to me. He wore a pilot suit under a deep red velvet robe with an Imperial insignia clasp at his collar bone.
“Yep.” I swallowed the last of my paycheck down my gullet and climbed off my stool. “If you’re looking for compensation then all I have is a sorry and the skin off my hand.”
“I was actually looking for a drinking partner.” He sat on the stool next to me and flagged the bartender.
Dalton, the barkeep, stepped up to the man, eager to take his order. “Yes, sir?”
“Bast snake gin?” the old Imperial asked hopefully.
The bartender frowned and shook his head in disappointment. “Still not here.”
The old Imperial sighed. “Then two rounds of what my friend here is having.” He smiled at me and clapped a hand on my shoulder.
I raised my hands. “I don’t have a way to pay for more.”
“It’s on me,” he said, and thrust a greeting hand forward. “The name is Felix Wulfhart.”
I shook his hand. “Corran Antilles.”
Dalton placed two shots of amber liquid in front of us and Felix downed his.
Unsure of the situation, I did the same. I didn’t want to piss off anyone else in this place.
“So why the long face?” he asked.
My eyebrows rose. “Have you seen pad thirty-eight?”
He laughed deep and hearty. “Yes, son. In fact, I was watching you from the Peterson building when you came in.”
“Great, so you got a front-and-center view of my humiliation.”
“Better than being shot to molecules by Trevithick guns.”
“Maybe,” I said. There wasn’t a place on this station that would put me up for free. Mom and dad didn’t have the money to get me back home. I’d have to find a way to get planet-side by myself.
“So, Corran, what’s next?”
Seriously? “Yeah, I thought I’d jet over to Fairbairn Station. See how well a half-baked hauler bounces around in their docks. Hell, maybe they have rubber walls.”
“Well, I suppose that’s your choice.” Felix assessed me. My impression was that he was taking my measure.
“Choice?” I said. “None of us has a choice.” I waved my hand at the other patrons. “It’s starve with a job or starve on welfare. Look around.”
He glanced at the people in the bar and returned his attention to me. “So you give up?”
“No,” I pouted. “But there’s only so much to go around.”
“Well, with that mentality there sure is.” Felix waved a goodbye to Dalton, turned around and left me looking at his long drape of a robe. Pompous prick. Just because you have money… Now it was a matter of pride. I chased after him down the metal hall of the station.
When I caught up, I demanded, “What do you mean by that?”
The biggest grin seemed to crack his face in two. “I mean, Corran Antilles, you reap what you sow.”
“So you do think it was my fault the ship broke down. Do you know how hard it is to steady a hauler with a stuck thruster with only rudders for steering?”
Felix stopped. “I thought it was only the control stick that malfunctioned.”
“Che, well, if you ask me, everything on that ship malfunctioned except for the cargo ramp.”
Felix wrapped an arm around my shoulder and pulled me next to him like a mother bird would her chicks. “Ah, my dear boy, you are better than I expected.”
He led me down a corridor going to the landing pads.
“Better than you expected?”
“How would you like to fly for yourself?” Felix asked.
“Wait, are you offering me a job?” Was he crazy? What did he want me to haul? Probably something illegal.
“I’m offering you the break you always wanted.”
“Hey, um… I can’t ship illegal cargo. I have family.”
Felix laughed. “You can decide what you carry.”
We entered the port toward an orange Sidewinder with a racing stripe on the left side.
“Okay,” I said. “But I don’t have a ship.”
He gestured at the Sidewinder. “Yes you do.”
I stared at the box of a vessel. “That’s not mine.”
“It is now.” He stepped up to the cargo ramp and waved me inside.
The maneuverable wing of a ship looked like a tent, but if she was mine I didn’t give a flying flag. I raced up the ramp. “What do you mean it’s mine?” Mine as in mine?
“Corran, I’d like to be your benefactor.”
“Whoa, benefactor?” What the hell was a benefactor? “Wait,” I waved my hands and stepped back. “I’m not into guys.”
“No, Corran.” Felix took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “The ship—I’m giving it to you. Your pilot’s dues are paid. All you have to do is find cargo and get it to the destination.”
I still wasn’t convinced. “And what do you get?”
He put his thick bottle-caps back on. “Bragging rights and a pilot I can depend on every so often.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it, and you should check the system you’re going into if you’re concerned about such things.”
Standing there bewildered, I tried to wrap my head around everything. My own ship? I could go anywhere?
“You’ll need a pilot’s suit, but the vessel is fully fueled.”
Felix added more confusion to the mix. Why was he giving me this? What was the catch?
“You’ll find credits in your account,” he said. “I suggest you take a shower first.”
I looked inside the cockpit in awe. “Shower first. Got it.”
Any moment now I’d wake up on the floor of the Star and Garter.
“Good luck, Corran.” Felix left me there standing inside the Sidewinder, trying to slap myself awake.
Part 2 End
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