Earthstrike Agenda novel by Bobby Nash. In this excerpt, we meet Braun Hatmeyer, part of the crew of the transport vessel Windsong.
EARTHSTRIKE AGENDA EXCERPT
Transport Vessel Windsong
Braun Hatmeyer was restless.
Since his earliest recollection he’d had only one goal in life. He wanted to travel the space ways. Every story he read romanticized living and working in the outer reaches, the wonders of the cosmos had been conveyed with such reverence and awe.
Young Braun ate it up and set upon a course that would eventually take him to the stars.
Growing up on the Seltus Minor Colony only further fueled his ambition to go anywhere but here. Seltus was not a bad place to grow up, even he would admit. He had a loving family there who still worked the farm to this day. His two brothers and one of his sisters were still within walking distance of his parent’s home. Braun doubted they would ever leave.
His sister, Arani, and he were the rebellious ones of the bunch. They were the only Hatmeyers to actually leave the colony in generations. To this day, despite the years that have passed, his mother still expected her errant children to “grow out of this ridiculous phase and come home where they belong.” Braun suspected his mother was in for a hard lesson one day.
Although their father never said anything to the fact, Braun knew that it hurt him that two of his children had chosen to leave the nest. He was simply far less vocal on the matter than Braun’s mother. As such, Braun tried to keep in touch as often as possible. Communications across the gulf of space was expensive, especially for a real time feed so he mostly wrote them letters from whatever port the ship happened to stop at long enough to allow shore leave.
Arani, on the other hand, stayed closer to home. She moved to Mars where she attended University. While there she met a man, fell in love, and stayed. The last time he spoke with her, she was pregnant with her second child, a girl this time.
She told him of her plans to visit the family on Seltus in a month and she had convinced Braun to join them. Unable to deny his sister anything, especially when she laid on the guilt, he agreed. His captain had approved the time off request and even offered to drop him off since the ship would be in the Seltus sector on business around the same time. This officially eliminated any chance he had of backing out of it at the last minute.
Braun looked forward to visiting the old homestead, but a part of him also dreaded it. He had spent so long trying to get away from it that the prospect of setting one foot on the farm scared the hell out of him.
But he did miss seeing his family.
And it would still be a month before his visit.
Braun was off duty. Sitting alone in his cramped cabin, he lay in his hammock and stared out the porthole that was his window to the cosmos. When he had left Seltus, he signed on with the first ship that would take him. It had been a small freighter that was looking for strapping young men to work in the holds. It was grunt work, but he took it gladly. Surprisingly, grunt work on a freighter was very much like grunt work on a farming colony.
Basically, he worked for room and board with the occasional bonus, but really didn’t mind. He was finally in space, ready for the adventure he had so long dreamed of.
Ten years later he was still waiting.
He never once regretted his decision to leave Seltus, but space was not the sprawling adventure he had read about as a kid. In his case, truth was more mundane than fiction. Living in outer space was a lot of hard work. Oh, he still loved it, but he was a bit restless because even this great experience had become mundane. Nothing exciting ever happened to them. At least not exciting enough for Braun.
His biggest regret was that no one - most importantly, not he himself - had discovered an alien race.
That fact was the hardest to swallow. The galaxy was vast, filled with planets of various sizes, shapes, and atmospheres. Surely, somewhere out there had to be… something.
Were humans the only intelligent life in the galaxy?
Braun Hatmeyer hoped not.
Too worked up to sleep, he rolled out of the hammock, his bare feet stinging on impact with the cold steel floor. He reached over and grabbed his shoes and pulled them on quickly. His cabin was compact enough that he grabbed them without leaving the hammock that was both his bed and easy chair. A small digital converter and screen sat atop the clothes dresser built into the wall of the cabin. A stack of movies sat on the shelf above the screen. He had acquired some entertaining movies over the past year thanks to the bonus the captain paid out after they made the Palfry run under budget. The movies were great, but he had already watched all of them at least twice and was not really in the mood for another viewing.
Maybe a run will help, he thought as he opened the door and stepped into the cramped corridor, which was barely wide enough for two people to pass one another.
His ship, The Windsong, was a transport vessel. Captain Reyes was the owner and operator. They moved any kind of cargo not considered illegal under the UPA legislature’s transport code. One of the things that Braun respected about his current employer was his integrity. With the black market flourishing and smuggling becoming a growth industry, Captain Reyes had chosen to keep his hands - and ship - clean.
Braun respected the man for that.
The Windsong was on approach to home port after an exhausting three-week round trip from the Pellor Three Colony. The colonists had chosen a harsh, barren world to cultivate. The terrain was rugged so farming was difficult. The colonists were certain they could fashion a living for themselves there and had thus far been successful.
Mining had become the primary resource on Pellor since the discovery of Trillium Ore in the mountains north of the initial settlement. The colonists were giving it a go, but since they were not miners by trade, they wisely went into business with those who were.
The Axapta Mining Company had partnered with the settlement to work the mine and share the profits. While Axapta Mining did not have the best reputation in the business, they did manage to get the job done.
The Windsong had been chartered to deliver the usual essentials to Pellor Three to handle the increased manpower on site. Food rations, toiletries, assorted entertainment programming, and medical supplies were the primary resources needed for the increased population of the colony.
After the three week round trip, the Windsong would put into port, take on a small job or two, then one week later head back out to Pellor Three. Apparently, Braun was not the only one impressed by his captain’s performance record.
Braun was looking forward to docking at McGintlee Station, the ship’s home port. Captain Reyes had an office on the station that served as home base for his shipping business. He also held the lease on warehouse space and a secure docking port. If business kept picking up, Braun might even start saving up some money of his own.
Reyes had already mentioned purchasing another transport ship to help handle the increased workload. That gave the crew incentive and offered relief that they had job security, a precious commodity considering the current unemployment rate in the quadrant.
While his competitors dabbled in smuggling, the Windsong was able to pick up those clients with government contracts because of the captain’s good name. Smugglers tend to shy away from government controlled worlds, for obvious reasons.
“Make a hole!” Braun shouted as he jogged through the corridor. A group of dockhands were milling about at the junction between sections. When not on duty there was not much to do aboard ship expect sleep, read, jog, or hang out. Sometimes a nice impromptu poker game would spring up, which usually drew a crowd.
Sex was a limited option as there were only a handful of women aboard. At a ratio of four to one they generally paired up quickly. As far down the totem pole as he was in the ship’s hierarchy, Braun no longer tried. Once they hit the station though, all bets were off. He had been seeing a dancer off and on for a few months. Nothing serious, but they enjoyed one another’s company. After a long voyage, that was more than enough for him.
After three weeks cooped up aboard the Windsong, Braun was looking forward to a little quality time with her.
The grunts moved aside as Braun jogged past. He spoke to each of them briefly, calling them by name and making an off-handed comment that brought laughs from the dockhands. Braun himself had once been in their position so he made it a point to speak to them. On some ships there was an us vs. them mentality aboard transport ships that divided the crew. He was happy to see that was not the case here.
Yet another reason he liked serving aboard the Windsong.
On his second lap through the corridor, Braun spotted First Mate Eng, Captain Reyes right hand. Alexandra Eng was not the kind of woman you would expect to find on a transport vessel. The majority of the men on the crew drooled over her, and rightly so. Eng was tall, with legs that went on seemingly forever. She kept her auburn hair in a ponytail, usually sticking though the back of a faded baseball cap.
Eng too, was a jogger. Braun picked up the pace to catch up with her. They had jogged together a few times and he always enjoyed her company. They had some good talks while jogging.
“Evening, Commander,” he said as they rounded the corner that lead into the storage areas. Here the corridor was wider so they could run side by side instead of single file. Not that Braun had a problem following her. He loved the view. Since the Windsong was a civilian vessel there were no military officers aboard, although some of the crew were former military. Braun had called her Commander by accident early in his time aboard ship and she had thought it was funny. It had become a running personal joke between them since.
“How we doing, Braun,” she replied, not one bit out of breath.
“No complaints, Alex. Just ready to get home for a couple days.”
“Your girl waiting on you?”
“God, I hope so. With her schedule, it’s hard to plan ahead.”
They slowed at the end of the aisle while a load lifter moved a pallet from one hold to another. They had picked up a few items for delivery to the station while out on the fringe, which had made this a doubly productive haul. It also meant a small bonus for the crew, which was also a nice change of pace.
“I know what you mean. Malcolm was transferred to some godforsaken backwater world last week. I just got the letter now that we’re within the buoy net.”
“Sorry to hear that. You two seemed rather happy together.”
Her stride increased and Braun picked up his as well to keep up. “Yeah, but it was nothing exclusive. In our line of work it’s hard to maintain anything even close to resembling a long-term relationship. You know how our schedules are and his were even worse.”
“The Alliance is good about moving people around,” Braun said. He knew that Malcolm Setlik was an Alliance officer and as such never stayed in one place very long. He had met him once at a birthday party the crew had thrown for Alex’s last birthday. He thought they made a nice couple, despite how utterly different they were.
“I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye,” she said. “That’s the worst part. Naturally, I’ll call him, but it’ll be a good day or so before we’re back on McGintlee.”
“I didn’t realize we were that close.”
“Thanks for trying not to sound too happy about it, Braun,” she said, looking at him and smiling. At the end of the cargo bay, she stopped and rested her hands on her knees. She was not breathing hard, but Braun was and he appreciated the chance to catch his breath.
“Sorry, Commander,” he smiled.
She returned the smile.
“What say I buy you a drink and we can talk some more,” he said, surprising himself with the invitation almost as much as it had obviously surprised her. “I’m sure O’Toole’s got some good rot-gut under the bar.”
Her smile remained in place. “Better yet, I’ve got a bottle of the really good stuff back in my cabin. I picked it up on Pellor on a trade. I was hoping to save it for after we get home, but since there’s not much there to celebrate, I figure now’s as good a time as any to break it open.”
Braun shifted nervously. He’d certainly stuck his foot in it this time.
“And I’d rather not drink it alone,” she added. “What do you say?”
Not sure exactly how to respond, he was surprised to hear himself say, “Lead the way, Commander.”
No longer jogging, they ran to the first mate’s cabin.
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