This part originally appeared in Freelance Traveller’s March 2012 issue.
After dinner the Roosters packed all the checked baggage onto Waffles’ beat up, old Chilton Grav Sled, and as the passengers left the ship via the large cargo bay doors with any carry-on bags, the Sled followed slowly as they moved toward the small Terminal building.
Once all of the luggage was claimed, the Chilton turned about and headed back with the prisoners’ unclaimed kit. Thom looked at the odd collection in the rearview, wondering what they held.
Back at the ship again, the Roosters packed both pallets of the cargo due Nordic Prime on the Chilton in quick order. When they were done, the old sled could barely get off the ground, but it could still get off the ground. Thom maneuvered the ill-mannered pig down several narrow streets, and finally, to the loading dock; the whole time the mountain of crates leaning this way and that.
Thom sat in the Chilton’s cab, listening to a Micro of Atomic Era Greats, Creedence Clearwater Revival bluesin’ their way through “Long As I Can See the Light”, as he watched his local counterparts with envy as they loaded their cargo onto a battered but working Pallet Master.
With the last couple of large crates being loaded, one of the local stevedores rapped on the door panel of the Chilton.
“Say pal,” he said to Thom, “that last crate there!” he nodded toward the crate that the rail gun’s composite round had smash into. “Its damaged. I can’t take it.”
“Well, we’re certainly not paying for it.” Thom said, getting out of the truck.
“This here is what’cha call an Act of fucking God, brother.” Thom stepped up to the wrecked crate and dug around inside for a minute before pulling the magnetic slug from the box and tossing it to the stevedore. “Pirates hit us on the way in,” he said, “You can add it to your pile or not, but we’re sure not eatin’ the cost of this one!” Thom said, finding himself becoming more and more agitated.
“There’s no need to get you hackles raised, little Rooster.” The stevedore said. Looking Thom over and deciding the little guy looked ready to stomp somebody’s guts out, he said “’Ere. Lemme sign that paperwork for you.”; taking the comp pad and scrawling his name in the proper spot at the bottom; the electronic authorization funneling KCr24 into the Waffles’ account.
With that bit of business taken care of, Thom returned to the Waffles, wrecked container in tow. Freeing up the old Chilton for other use, Thom hefted the heavy crate to the cargo deck; the act much easier without the constraints a vacc suit would impose.
Stepping into the Terminal with Ilsa Frielander, Captain Fyyg found the Port Director’s Office after a not too involved search. Stepping into the cramped office, the Captain introduced himself and his Second to the older man who sat behind the desk. The man must have been in his 60s, but knew his way around handling cargo in his youth; his once muscular frame thickening now.
“Hobson.” the man said, half rising to shake Fyyg’s hand. Then standing to take Ilsa‘s hand, he kissed it and smiled; the office lights glinting off his gold teeth, “But you can call me Walter, my dear. Everyone does.” he said, rubbing his shaved head with a handkerchief.
“My, a gentleman with manners.” Ilsa said, pushing her Spacer’s crush cap back on her head as she smiled at the Port Director and sat on the corner of his desk, innocently crossing and uncrossing her long, well-turned legs and readjusting her skirt several times as she and Walter exchanged in small talk; Captain Fyyg smiling affably as the pair talked.
At some point, as the subject of food came up, Ilsa readjusted her skirt in such a way as to rub her left knee against the Port Director’s hand. Walter told the pair that if they wished to avoid the Terminal building with its vending machine fare or Galaxy Pizza, their best bet was the small Wu’s House of Larb near the landing pad.
While Wu’s sign normally sported a cowboy riding a bucking dragon bareback, the sign here had suffered some sort of damage, to where it looked as if a headless body with a massive red phallus was jumping up and down.
Walter had offered to pay for their dinner, and as they approached and saw the sign, Ilsa shrieked “Blimey! Look at the size of that fella’s dong, would you? Just what sort of place is this?”
The Captain couldn’t maintain his composure any longer and began laughing; the others joining in until they were all laughing like idiots.
“No, really, its fabulous.” Walter told them, reassuringly, “Trust me.”
Fyyg had thought from the sign outside the place’d be a dump, but he’d been to the Wu’s on Olde Earth.
Opening the door, the place was decorated in dark woods, potted plants, and deep green walls. Beautifully carved wood, and cast-metal statuary was everywhere. A weather-worn carving of the Buddha’s face the size of a door was mounted on the wall opposite them. The little place seemed to have the same ambience as the one on Olde Earth, just in a smaller building.
Once seated, the Captain ordered a round of Olde Republics for the table. Sipping the heady brews, the trio debated on what to order off the menu. Captain Fyyg had had chicken Satay before—he particularly liked the cucumber salad that was included, and thought he’d play it safe and order it again. Second Officer Frielander hadn’t a clue. All she knew was she wanted an appetizer, which left the Port Director to order for the table.
When the bowl of spicy, fried grasshoppers arrived, Captain Fyyg decided it was time for another round.
The rest of the fare; the Thom Kha Gai , the Satay, and Larb Nuea were all delicious, if less exotic.
Later, back at the Port Director’s Office, Captain Fyyg kept a respectable distance and focused on an ashtray nearby as Ilsa gave Walter a hug and an alcohol-fueled mother-of-all kisses kiss. Breaking away from him and straightening her skirt, Ilsa said “I had a real nice time, Walter Lets get together next time I‘m in town, why don‘t we?”
At his respectable distance, Captain Fyyg rolled his eyes and smiled slightly.
Walking back to the Waffles, the Captain asked “And what purpose did that little exercise tonight serve, Number Two?”
“Well, Nordell, I’ll tell you. I single-handedly managed to accomplish the most unlikely and the most exciting things to happen to a girl here on Nordic Prime.”
“And that would be?” wondered the Captain.
“Having the Port Director buy me dinner out of his own pocket!”
“Eating fried, very spicy grasshoppers.”
“My dear Ilsa.” Captain Fyyg said, putting an arm around Frielander’s dark shoulder “You are decidedly a shameless flirt!.” he laughed.
“Me, a flirt? she asked, astonished. “And who was it in that discotheque on Driscoll’s World, bought the Port Director beers all night? AND danced with him?”
“Well I suppose that may have been me.” The Captain admitted, laughing.
“AND you’re straight!” the woman yelled.
“But you’ll remember,” he continued, laughing “He called the next day with a load of cargo for us.”
“And,” said Ilsa, laughing as well, “Walter will call tomorrow with a load of cargo for us.”