Deep Space One

Hazard Pay, Military Cargo

...Lucy's Reward...

…For Getting out of Trouble

Paddy saw Alex gathering their watch in the spaceport bar on Pell.

“I guess he wants to make sure we’re all on the same page,” the engineer told himself as his CO was outlining their plan.

“First, we need to get past customs to check The Lucy out.”

“Good luck with that,” he muttered.

“Once we’ve got that done, we must evaluate The Lucy in terms of fitness,” Alex continued. " The evaluate Allison in terms of fitness. I’d also like to figure out why the military is interested in Allison and The Lucy and what other debts Allison may have."

When Finbar suggested they may need to consult Dublin Again’s legal staff to get some papers – “and the comp codes from Allison” – Paddy had to agree.

“My bamboozling with the engineering threat doesn’t seem to be working.”

Megan suggested a little extra effort might help, but he knew paperwork was more likely to get him past the bureaucrats. That was when they got a call to appear before the Council.

“The entire ship’s Council of Dublin Again. Something I’ve never seen before.” Not that he really wanted to. “More bureaucrats.” At least they were spacer bureaucrats. Dublin bureaucrats.

Captain Patrick eyed the engineer in the corner, thinking that maybe Allison Stevens was not the one who needed the psyche eval.

“Your entire watch is not represented, 17,” he intoned.

“Oh these ’effing stationers are off their rockers!” the engineer was muttering. “What do they think is goin’ to happen if they don’t get those warp engines looked at? What do they think’ll happen to their precious customs security if the ship blows up? They seem to think their effing bureaucracy will save them from anything. But I’ll tell you what… Th’ laws of physics don’t care about their bureaucracy! If there’s a coolant leak, or any number of other un-managed issues for that matter, the bottle could go critical and take out a chunk of this station with it.”“But in the meantime, they just want to clear out traffic in the area and let it sit. Effing stationers! You’d think they’d care more about their station than that! Oh well, I’m half tempted to just let it sit and be ready with the, ‘I told you so!’ They can go suck on their bureaucracy!”

Alex O’Reilly – also known as Command 17, on the Dublin – was ignoring the lack of etiquette on the part of his watch. So Patrick O’Reilly decided to follow his lead.

“He’s going to have to set the standards on his own watch.” It was looking like that watch was not going to be on the Dublin Again. “Every ship has its own etiquette.” Perhaps that was the first law of spacer etiquette.

“I’m going to approve the request for financing," he told Alex. "That’s contingent on the rest of your watch applying for transfer.” He turned to the other unposteds standing between him and the Council. They all nodded as he contemplated what it meant to ask another ship to consider withdrawing their complaint.

“As for the complaint brought against Lucy, I’ll let you know it’s all been stalled off,” he continued. At first, he had worried about the proper procedures for approaching the other captain.

Then he considered the etiquette violations in the original complaint. “Which was filed without consulting other captains.” Including the one captain whose ship had been tied to the Lucy. “Not proper protocol.” In Captain Patrick’s opinion.

“Lulubelle is the ship which filed the complaint. I’ve talked to her Old Lady. She says there’s nothing personal involved.”

Alex felt Captain Patrick’s eyes burrowing into his.

“You’ve phrased this as a temporary tour.”

“Um, yes, sir.”

“You’ll keep your status then. Your watch will not be vacated.”

“On behalf of my watch, thank you.”

“Here’s a Show-Cause order. It will force the Dockmaster to show a reason why Allison should be prevented from boarding her ship.”

“So without the Lulubelle’s complaint…”

“She will be able to assist you in getting aboard.” To check the condition of their new vessel. “Here are the loan papers. And a voucher for the dock charges.”

He could see Paddy was already eyeing the Show-Cause order.

“I’ll be talking to you. Privately. Now." The captain turned to the others in the room. “Council’s dismissed.”

As the Council filed out of the chambers – through the bridge – Captain Patrick turned his gaze back to Alex. "Come to the Bridge.”

Alex nodded at the rest of his watch and they followed the Council back to the docks. The captain led him to the bridge and sat in his chair as they finished exiting.

“I take it you’re set on this.”

Alex was still examining the papers as Paddy snatched one.

“Applying to take a tour off Dublin. Applying for finance into the bargain.”

He could see the numbers on the loan were much higher than he had dared to ask.

“We have an opportunity to extend the reach of our family’s trading empire in a significant way during this time of change and upheaval.” He was determined to make his case, even if the loan had already been approved by the Council.

“The Lucy is a ship that made two jumps in an extremely short period, it’s definitely an asset.”

The captain was smiling. He took that as a good sign.

“Her captain is amiable towards a long-term loan by which we can pay off her debts, buy cargo and make any repairs or upgrades that The Lucy may require. We humbly submitted the loan agreement and our financial plan for your approval.”

“I don’t want you to skimp on the refit,” Captain Patrick told him. “Good crew deserves good pay and good accommodations.”

“There are still a number of challenges we’ll need to overcome,” Alex continued, “not the least of which is a customs seal on the ship that is preventing The Lucy’s captain from letting us onboard to verify her condition.”

“I think you’ll find the Show-Cause order your watchmate just grabbed will take care of that.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity for not only the unposteds but also the O’Reilly family in general.

“Remember: You’re still an O’Reilly. You come between someone and their ship … and you know what you’re doing.”

As he returned to the Lucy, he got a report from about Paddy’s efforts to bully his way from Finbar.

“They’re admitting they don’t have the authority to stop authorized personnel from inspecting the ship,” his Cargo Chief told him. “But Paddy doesn’t have the comp keys.”

“Well, get them from Allison…. Or, I will. I’m headed for the sleepover right now.”

Cargo Officer Finbar O’Reilly paused on the other end of the comm.

“I’m afraid he may have already offended the militia, sir.”

“How?”

“They don’t seem to like the way Paddy’s treating the customs people. They’re just civilians. And they’re calling the Dockmaster to get approval to remove the customs seal.”

“Get the others to help.”

“They are, sir,” Finbar replied. “If you ask me, Megan is pushing herself a little too hard.”

When he got to Lucy’s berth, he saw his Helm officer was looking a little peaked.

And Paddy was finally getting some results with the Show-Cause papers.

Allison told him she had no concern about an inspection

“As long as it doesn’t involve authorities,” she whispered.

Still, Paddy was convinced she wasn’t telling them everything.

“We’ve got a lot of missing back-ups,” he said, referring to redundant parts that could be swapped out if the equipment being used to fly the vessel should fail. “Some of them are on the main board!”

Still, he was relieved they knew which parts needed to be ordered.

“Make sure they’re all on the list of things we need to buy.”

Alex read Paddy’s report on the condition of the ship they just purchased.

“Lucy is old, but she is neither a super spy ship, nor a junker. The frame is reliable and well-maintained. Indeed, many of the newer models are based on this design. Kicking off her drive vanes and replacing them with a more modern jump engine would turn her into a top-notch (if small) cargo hauler.”

Finbar O’Reilly watched Alex read the report as he patched his PADD in the Market Computer Maeve used back on the Dublin.

“Well, that didn’t take long,” he told his CO. “We’ve got a contract to haul Konstantin Company cargo to Venture.”

Alex looked that up on his own PADD.

“They really want to keep those Hinder Stars open.”

“If they’re not open to Konstantin cargo,” he offered, “they’ll have to turn to the black market.”

“Which means pirates.”

“Which goes a long way to telling us why the Konstantins are paying us good money to haul to the Hinder Stars.”

Now Alex was getting them organized for a shopping trip.

“To Lord and Starship.”

Allison objected they were too expensive.

“They overcharge for everything there,” Finbar heard her tell Alex.

“There’s a discount if you do your whole outfitting there. Besides, you’ve got a first-class crew, you’ve gotta outfit yourself first-class. Starting with those overalls.”

“You gonna wear those silver leathers in Lucy’s crawlspaces? Get ’em real dirty.”

“There’s work clothes, and there’s flash. We’ll get you some flash. But we’ll buy jumpsuits for work as well.”

“Shouldn’t we have nice patches?” Kieran asked.
“Le Cygne right? A swan?”

From the crestfallen look on Allison’s face, he knew he had said something wrong.

“That’s not just surprise,” he told himself. “That’s terror. Sheer terror at being found out.”

He tried to backpedal. He had guessed the real name for Lucy. He knew it now. He had been kinda proud to have figured it out. Le Cygne was a well-known ship. One of Dublin Again’s bridge crew – Chief Cargo Officer Maeve O’Reilly – was rumored to have been fathered by a crewman off of Le Cygne.

“A long time ago.” Not much contact with Le Cygne in recent years. “Rumor has it, she was ransacked by Mazianni,” he remembered. And Allison said her family was killed by pirates. “Mazianni pirates.”

“My bad,” he apologized to Allison. “I was just going by the similarity of the name.”

“No,” she stammered. “No relation.”

He was pretty sure everybody there knew she was lying.

But why?

They ended up deciding on a variation on the gaudy nymph Allison wore on her shoulder.

“More tasteful.” Alex suggested when he picked it out.

By which Kieran assumed he meant “less pornographic.”

Megan would have thought the past few days would have made her less susceptible to surprise.

“Mallory is in port,” Alex told her. That much she knew. Mallory was the captain of the only warship in the Alliance fleet. When Norway docked, everybody knew. “They want to talk to Allison.”

Alex was of the opinion they should go with her. She agreed.

“Present a united front.”

Their escort: one Josh Talley.

“Alliance Military intelligence.” Lately seen watching them in the Dockmaster’s Office.

He took them to an ordinary airlock at an ordinary berth. With an ordinary tube leading to a ship.

“Just like the one we used to leave the Dublin Again.” After their meeting with the captain.

Megan knew the starship on the other end of the tube was anything but ordinary. The guards posted outside, wearing the same uniform as Talley, gave it away.

The brisk efficiency of the people they passed gave it away as well.

“We’re on a warship,” she told herself. Fully aware the war might not be over for these efficient soldiers."

Spacers, she tried to convince herself. Just a different kind of spacer.

They reached the door of an office and got a come-ahead light.

Talley introduced Allison. “Captain,” he said. “Stevens of the merchanter Lucy.

The silver-haired captain behind the desk introduced herself. “Mallory.” To Allison. Not to the rest of them.

“You’re getting clearance to go out. On the Venture run. I understand there’s some question, Captain, about your ID.”

Megan had never seen Allison at a loss for words before. She always had a comeback, an excuse, a clever explanation. In the face of the captain of Norway, Megan saw she had nothing.

“You don’t have any comment.”

“I… I thought it was settled.”

“Is there an irregularity, Captain?" Softly. Staring straight at her.

“Look,” Allison began, “I just want the lock off my ship. I’ve got a cargo lined up.” She looked at Alex. “We’ve got a cargo. I’ve got everything else in order. Just because some merchanter…”

“Let me see your papers, Captain.”

Allison handed over the papers. The Show-Cause. The voucher. The title.

“These are new.” Handing some back. “Except for the title papers, of course.” Mallory felt of the older paper. “You know this kind of paper gets traded on the market. Has to get from one station to the other, after all; and across the docks. And I know places where you can get it. Don’t you, Captain?”

“I’m legitimate.”

“So.” Mallory passed the title back to Allison. “So. Linked up with Dublin Again, are you? A very respectable operation. That does say something for you. Unionsider.”

“I… I plan to operate… We plan to operate here. On the Alliance side.”

“Oh, relations are very good with Union at the moment. They’re supplying ships and troops up and down the Line. We have no quarrel with Union origins. You plan to stay here, do you? Operate as Dublin’s pipeline out of the Sol trade?”

“I don’t know how things will work out.” Allison seemed to be regaining her confidence, her ability to answer every question quickly. Every question right.

Megan could tell Mallory wasn’t taken in. Was prodding at Allison, to find some provocation.

“Your certification comes through us,” Mallory said, glancing at Talley. “We’ve got a problem, Captain. We’ve got Mazianni activity between us and Sol, into the Hinder Stars. Does that bother you?”

“It bothers me.”

“They’d like to cut us off, you understand? It’s a lot of territory to patrol. And they win, simply by scaring merchanters out of that run. We’ve got two stations coming back into operation, and we’re doing what we can to keep the zones clear. We’ll be out at the nullpoints, making sure you’re not ambushed there. We’ve got a rare agreement on the other side of the Line. Union’s sealing up Tripoint and Brady’s and anyother point you can name.”

Megan saw Mallory’s gaze shift hard, back to Allison.

“You play the shy side of legal, do you? Marginer. I’ll reckon you’re no stranger to the fringes. Lying off in space. Operating out of the nullpoints. Doing trading on the side, without customs looking on. I’ll bet you have a fine sense of what’s trouble and what’s not.”

A fine sense. Megan guessed Allison’s fine sense of what’s trouble might have something to do with the reason she was tongue-tied again.

“Might stand you in good stead.” Softly, again. “It’s a place out there – that makes nerves survival-positive. We’ll be there, Captain. I really want you to know that.”

All delivered very softly. Megan had no idea what it promised."

“You can go. You’ll find the obstacles clear. But I have news for you. Your Konstantin Company cargo is cancelled. You’ll be carrying military cargo. You’ll be paid hazard rate. An advantage. You’ll be taking it aboard in short order and undocking at 0900. Mainday.”

“Like that.”

“Like that.”

“I thought… I thought I was under military investigation.”

“You are. Good evening, Captain.”

“Maybe I don’t want this. Maybe I want to change my mind.”

“Do you, Captain? I’d prefer not.”

And Megan decided she’d prefer that Alex say something. He didn’t.

“All right,” Allison agreed. “You protect us?”

“As best we can, Captain.”

Never Stevens. Just Captain.

All of her Security training was screaming at her as they walked back to the ship.

Screaming that Allison was right when she whispered to them as they crossed the docks.

“I think she wants that spread up and down the docks.”

The others nodded in agreement.

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