Janell checked the readouts for the third time. She lifted one lemon-blond eyebrow, looked at Will, and then asked, “Do we have to stop here?”
“No,” Will flashed her that infuriating cocky grin of his. “We could just keep on going in a straight course until we starve to death or die of old age. Maybe we’ll get lucky and some spacefarer plodding along in the middle of nowhere might come across our drifting ship, but knowing our luck they’d be pirates or bounty hunters.
“Or,” he sucked in a deep breath to prepare for one of his long-winded speeches.
“O.K., O.K., I get the point!” She waited until he exhaled before adding, “I know we have to stop somewhere, but does it have to be…”
She pointed a slender finger at the green dot flashing on the hologram map, “Here, of all places?”
“What?” He asked, his eyebrows raised, “You don’t like Planet Y?”
She let out a long sigh. “I give up! You’re impossible!”
“At least it’s not called Planet X,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. He plotted the course into his autopilot then flashed another grin, “Eh, Darling?”
Her eyelids closed until their blue corneas were half eclipsed. Her words came out through clenched teeth, “I already told you once: don’t call me Darling!”
He winked then punched in the commands to engage the Hyperdrive Activation Mechanism. Janell felt the cargo ship vibrate around her. She crossed her fingers and prayed that the hunk of junk would work this time.
Sensing her discomfort, Will decided to add a little extra upon her by flashing that irritating grin of his and saying, “Relax. It’ll work this time, Darling, I prom—.”
“What’d I tell you before?” Her nostrils flared as she pointed a finger at his rugged face, “Don’t call me Dar—!”
Space and time warped around the ship’s hull, leaving the conversation frozen. They would reach their destination with little fuel to spare.
If the H.A.M. was repaired correctly.
* * *
Gorguth pulled the loader down the main corridor of Wik’s Galaxy Store, his little furry hands clenched around the plastic cords like they were a lifeline. On the loader’s platform was a reactor engine twice his size and three times his weight. He gritted his flat teeth, his floppy ears eclipsing his vision, as he strained his tiny muscles almost to their limits. The engine’s weight was taking its toll on the platform’s cushion force field projectors, which were designed only to alleviate friction.
Why couldn’t Wik just buy anti-grav platforms like everyone else?
“Gor!” His ears trembled at the whiny voice of his boss. The pudgy Amphroid waved his Aktorian cigar in the direction of Docking Bay Nine. His green eyes bored into Gorguth, “Move your lazy, furry butt! We can’t keep the customer waiting. He’s been here three whole minutes for crying out loud!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” Gorguth groaned through clenched teeth. Couldn’t that hairless, bug-eyed, insect-eater see how much he was struggling? “I’m not pulling a feather, you know!”
“If you can’t hack it,” Wik’s tone made clear his intended threat. Gorguth started pulling harder.
As he passed Wik along the corridor, he heard his boss shout, “We got another one docking at Five, so be there and ready to get what they need in five minutes!”
Gor looked down the long shaft that led to Nine. There were at least another fifty paces to the docking bay. “But there’s no way I can get there in—.”
“Do it!” Wik shouted, “Or I’ll sell you to a Carnar!”
With a wicked grin, he added, “They consider your kind delicacies, you know.”
Gor’s body started trembling. He lowered his head and ears and said, “Yes, sir.”
“That’s better,” Wik muttered past his cigar as he took a puff from it. “Don’t be late.”
Gor reached Docking Bay Five ten minutes later, his fur all soaked with sweat. At least it was an empty loader he had to pull all the way from Nine. As the transparent door to Five slid open, he braced himself for the shout he knew was forthcoming, “Gor! You’re late!”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Gor replied, ears trembling. “I—.”
“No excuses!” Wik’s squeal was higher pitched than the last one, and Gor could see that the two new customers were holding their hands against their ears. “How many times have I told you not to keep the customers waiting?”
Gor quickly sized the two customers up. They were about twice his height and were of a species he hadn’t seen before. There wasn’t much fur on them except on top of their heads. They wore flight suits made from some kind of silver fabric, possibly worn to protect their vulnerable skin; though, Gor had heard of some species who wore clothing primarily for status, but he figured most of them were obviously extinct. The guns magnetically attached to their hip pads suggested predatory and/or territorial instincts—that observation made Gor’s eyes turn yellow -- [End of Preview.]