Catalyst

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Meet Autumn

Naresh felt the acceleration of the ship as it not only left Earth’s gravitational field but the sun’s field as well. He turned to Sanjay who was sitting next to him. “How long will we go like this?”

“It will take us two and a half hours to clear the solar system. Then, we’ll phase into hyperspace. Once we do that, we won’t have any turbulence and we can unbuckle ourselves.”

“How long until we get to New Dublin?”

“Eighteen days.”

Naresh looked at his watch. They would be entering hyperspace at about the same time as he was supposed to revive Autumn. Should he go ahead and tell them she was here, or wait? He’d wait. There was no reason to do anything now. Besides they were all buckled in. He’d wait. He realized how tired he was. It had been a stressful day. He leaned his chair back, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Naresh was woken up with an alarm bell going off. “What’s that, what’s happening? Is there something wrong?” he asked, fighting panic.

“Relax,” replied Sanjay. “That’s the warning that we are phasing into hyperspace. You’ll be able to get up soon.”

The bell stopped ringing and Sanjay unbuckled himself and got up. Following his lead, Naresh did the same. “Is that it? Have we phased? I didn’t feel a thing.”

Sanjay chuckled. “First time, huh? You never feel anything phasing in. I never understood why we bother with the alarm bells and stuff. Phasing out can be a different matter. I hardly notice anything, but I’ve talked to others who hate it. Maggie says it makes her hungry. I’ll be sure to ask how it affects you when we get there. In any case, we can get you settled now. I’ll take you to your quarters. Where’s your stuff?”

“Stuff?” Naresh asked stupidly.

“Yes, your stuff,” Sanjay repeated impatiently. “Where’s your clothes, toilet, whatever else. Where’s your stuff?”

Naresh’s stomach sank. He had nothing. He only had the shirt on his back! “It’s, uh, it’s in the crate that was loaded.”

Sanjay groaned. “Oh space, Crystal is going to be pissed. Didn’t anyone give you instructions for travel with us?”

“No, everything was arranged for me. I wasn’t given anything.”

“You say all your stuff is in the crate. The crate Crystal loaded in the cargo bay, right?”

“Yes, what’s the problem?”

“The problem is, your crate is loaded with a bunch of other crates. It’s not necessarily a simple matter of getting it out. You may have to simply get by with what you’re wearing.” He spoke into his communicator. “Hey Crystal, you better get to the launch room. Numb nuts here packed his stuff in the shipping crate.”

“It’s a nuisance, but not a big problem. His crate was last on. Besides, the shipping directions had some specific instructions. Instructions I was going to talk to him about. We can get to it easily. I’ll be right there,” Crystal replied.

In just a few moments, Crystal arrived at the galley, where the passenger’s launch chairs were located. She waved her tablet at Naresh. “Your directions are to open the crate after we enter hyperspace but no later than 21 hundred hours in order to inventory its contents. What the hell is that all about? We just get the crate and load it. We don’t have any idea and no responsibility for what’s in it. So why do I have to inventory anything?”

“Well, I wasn’t part of loading the crate, so I guess I have to check to make sure everything was loaded.”

“So, what if there’s something missing? You don’t expect us to turn around do you? If you wanted to check the contents, you should have done it before we launched. This is a lot of trouble for nothing.”

Naresh was starting to panic. “Listen, I’m operating under instructions, same as you. It is very important for me to check the contents.”

“Yeah, I know. You paid extra anyway, let’s go.”

“Go?” Naresh asked stupidly. “Go where?”

“To inventory the crate!”

“But, but it’s not time.”

Crystal narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “What is this about, really?”

“I have to open the crate at the specified time,” Naresh said weakly.

“Why?”

“That is what I was told to do.”

“You mean you don’t know why?”

Naresh shook his head.

Crystal spoke into the communicator. “Captain, this is Crystal.”

“What’s up, Crystal,” responded the Captain.

“Captain, can you come to the galley? I’ve got a situation with a passenger.”

“Crystal, passengers are Sanjay’s job.”

“Yes sir, but there is something fishy about this one. I think you need to be aware.”

There was a long pause. “This was Angela’s booking, get her.”

“Yes sir, I’ll get her, but my gut tells me you’re gonna have to be involved anyway.”

After another long pause the Captain replied, “Fine, get Angela and I’ll meet you there.”

“Uh sir, it will probably be better if we meet at the cargo bay instead.”

“OK, I’ll be there in 2 minutes.”

Crystal called Angela on her communicator. “Angela, this is Crystal.”

“Yes Crystal, what is it?”

“The Captain would like to meet with you, Mr. Ritesh, Sanjay, and myself in the cargo bay please.”

“What do you need me for?” asked Angela.

“Passenger Naresh Ritesh is acting kind of fishy with his cargo. We all need to know what is going on.”

“What has that got to do with me?” asked Angela. “Sanjay handles all the passengers.”

“Yaay me.” Sanjay said under his breath.

Crystal smiled at him as she spoke to Angela, “Since you were involved with his booking, the Captain wanted you there as well.”

“This passenger and his cargo represents a nice profit for the Liberty. No good deed goes unpunished, is that it? Very well, when does he want me there?”

“I would say immediately. He’s on his way now.”

“Thanks for the heads up Crystal.” Angela sighed and replied, “Very well, I’ll be there shortly.”

Sanjay, Naresh, and Crystal met up with the Captain at the entrance to the cargo bay. Naresh, went to him with his hand out. “Sir, my name is Naresh Ritesh. I appreciate your hospitality in providing passage to New Dublin. However, I’d like to discuss with you some of the treatment I’ve been receiving from your crew.”

The Captain did not even look at Ritesh’s hand or acknowledge his presence in any way. He said to Crystal. “Where’s Angela?”

“Right here Captain. What’s this all about?” Angela spoke up, coming in from behind him.

The Captain turned and as always had to pause a moment to admire the woman. Angela had long auburn hair that reached to her waist. At the moment she had it tied back in a ponytail. She had emerald green eyes with very regular features. Her figure, her face, her movements all conveyed style, grace, and beauty. Refocusing on the matter at hand he replied, “I don’t know, Angela. Crystal thinks there is something peculiar about our passenger.”

“Let’s go inside and I’ll fill you in,” instructed Crystal.

They went inside and Crystal pointed out the crate that Naresh had signed for. “Is that yours?” After Naresh nodded, Crystal turned to the Captain. “When I received payment for his passage I also received instructions regarding transporting this crate. The instructions were to open the crate, inspect and inventory the contents no later than 21:00 on this date. I received the instructions two days ago.”

Upon hearing this, Naresh looked at Crystal astonished. The Captain noticed his reaction and gestured for Crystal to go on. “When Ritesh showed up today to board, he had no idea where we were going, he just wanted on this ship. When he paid his ticket, I glanced at his balance and he has no money left at all. Not only that, he claims all his luggage was packed in the crate. Aside from it he has no personal items at all. Then when I said I was going to open the crate, he insisted that I wait until 21:00.”

“No money?” ejaculated the Captain. “He’s traveling to New Dublin with no money? Why did you let him on the ship?”

“Angela had cleared him. She had checked him out.”

The Captain turned to Angela and asked, “So what’s going on Angela? Is this one of your Guild’s schemes? New Dublin will not let us dump a passenger off with no resources to support himself. What happens when we get to New Dublin?”

Angela flushed, “I assure you Captain, I know nothing about this and I certainly did not clear this man for passage. He contacted me several days ago about booking passage and I forwarded him to Crystal and that is all I did.”

“I contacted you? I never contacted you. I don’t know who you are,” protested Naresh.

“You most certainly did. How dare you call me a liar!”

The Captain turned to Naresh. “What’s in the crate?”

“It’s my property, I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“Sanjay, put the crate in the airlock. I’m not taking any chances. Dump it.”

“No! You can’t do that! It’s mine!” cried Naresh.

“Tell me what’s in it.”

“Let me open it, I’ll show you.”

The Captain was very suspicious now. “You’re not touching it until you tell me what is in it.”

“My daughter is in it! She was put in stasis and can’t be released until 21:00.”

The Captain stared at Naresh with incredulity. “You shipped your daughter like she was freight?” He spoke into the communicator, “Doc, I believe we’ll need you in the cargo bay.”

“On my way. Is anyone injured?”

“Don’t think so. What do you know about caring for someone who has been placed in stasis?”

There was a pause. “You’ll need to fill me in when I get there. We better not be in the business of human transport,” warned Doc.

“We’re not, and we’ll both be filled in together,” replied the Captain while he glared at his unwanted passenger.

“Very well, I’ll bring the necessary meds.”

“Okay, now,” he spoke to Naresh, “Once Doc is here, you can tell us what’s going on.”

Doc was there shortly. “Where’s the stasis chamber? When is the occupant scheduled to be revitalized?”

“First things first, Doc. Ritesh, tell us what is going on,” interrupted the Captain.

“My daughter was rescued from John Hopkins hospital today. The people who rescued her must have arranged for passage on your ship. They put her in stasis to enable her escape. That’s all I know.”

“Why did you need to rescue your daughter from John Hopkins?” Crystal asked. “I never thought of it as a prison.”

“They were doing experiments on her, I think,” replied Naresh.

“Who was?” asked Angela.

“The Science Guild and the Security Guild were working together I think. I think it was a rogue group of the Security Guild who helped us to escape.”

“The Security Guild!” exclaimed the Captain. “You’ve crossed the Security Guild and then stowed away on my ship? Why my ship? Besides, I’ve got news for you. The Security Guild doesn’t have rogue groups. Why would you think a rogue Security Guild Group would be interested in freeing your daughter?

“One of the girls involved mentioned knowing Autumn during her training.”

“Her training! She was an Agent? How old is she?”

“She’s nineteen.”

“You signed your daughter up to be an agent? Sanjay, get up to the bridge and start scanning for any news or communication pertaining to Naresh Ritesh and, what’s you daughter’s name?”

“Autumn Ritesh.”

“Autumn Ritesh, you got that? Find out what problem he’s dumped into our lap.”

“Yes sir.”

“All right Naresh, its 21:00. Open the crate.”

“Me, can’t someone else do it?”

“You do it. If its booby trapped, who better to spring it?”

Naresh swallowed hard. “May I have some tools?”

“Crystal, get him the tools he’ll need.”

While Crystal was getting the tools, the captain stood next to Angela. “What’s going on, Angela? This smells like a major operation by one of the guilds. Normally, I wouldn’t believe you would involve me in something without consulting me, but I’m starting to wonder.”

“I promise you Alex, I am in the dark as much as you,” Angela replied with complete sincerity.”

The Captain nodded, “Okay, then what’s your read on this?”

“There’s more involved here than he knows. I don’t think he is sophisticated enough to be an informed player, but there is a player or players involved with this. One of the Guilds has something going.”

“Which one?”

“Well it’s not the Science Guild. This is obviously in opposition to their interests. They wouldn’t have put this together, not like this. The Military Guild maybe, but I don’t see where they have an angle in this. This seems kind of like a Security Guild or a PAG play.”

“I agree. Their using you in this scheme points to either guild. It seems to point to the PAG, which is too obvious, unless, it’s a form of message?”

Angela shook her head. “If it’s a message, I don’t have the data to interpret it, at least not yet.”

“When do you talk to Marguerite?”

“I just saw her yesterday. I’m not scheduled to speak to her again until we reach New Dublin.”

Naresh completed opening the stasis chamber interrupting the Captain and Angela’s conversation. “Doc, Naresh has the chamber open. Let’s see what we have,” ordered the Captain. “This loving father put his daughter into stasis and shipped her like baggage. Check her out.”

Doc and the Captain went to where Autumn lay. The stasis chamber was open. Autumn lay stretched out in the chamber, still restrained in the straight jacket they had kept her in at the hospital. The Captain stared at her. He could tell by her gaunt face that she had suffered. Nevertheless, he could see that, when healthy, she was and extraordinarily attractive girl. She had the brown skin and dark brown hair of her father with his Asian heritage. Her features however were European. He looked sharply at Naresh, “Where’s her mother?”

“She passed away at child birth. Autumn never knew her mother.”

Seeing her like that, reminded the Captain of his confinement on the penal planet Beta. They saw the straight jacket as an effective discipline for lack of respect. He had spent many weeks secured like that. “Doc?”

Doc had been checking her vital signs and straightened up. “She is out of stasis, but she is also heavily sedated. I’ll have to run a drug panel to see what she’s on and if I can wake her up.”

Drugged too, huh, the captain mused to himself. Poor kid, you never knew your Mother. Your Dad’s a jerk who sold you to be taught how to murder by the Security Guild. They in turn sell you out to be a guinea pig for the Science Guild. They strap you up like an animal and drug you to boot. No telling what you’ve been dealing with the last few weeks. A girl like you should be worrying about whether some boy likes you and instead you’ve been taught how to kill and been drugged and packaged like a piece of meat. You’ve had it tough haven’t you kid. The Captain reached out and put his hand on her head and made a silent vow. “So long as you are on this ship, little girl, so long as Alexander Singleton is your Captain, nothing is going to happen to you, I swear.”

Angela saw his gesture. Her eyes moistened briefly. This is why I love this man, she thought. He’ll lay his life down for the girl now and he barely knows her name.

“Take her down to the clinic, Doc,” ordered the captain. “See if you can wake her up, but don’t take any chances. Crystal, get with Michelle and Maggie. See if you can scrounge up some decent clothes.”

“Captain, I was looking through the crate,” said Crystal. “They have some luggage packed, both for the girl and her father.”

“Really? Thoughtful buggers weren’t they? Crystal, show Mr. Ritesh his quarters and set up quarters for Autumn when she’s ready to leave the clinic. Uh, Ritesh, after you put your stuff in your quarters, have Crystal bring you up to the bridge. I want to get the whole story.”

“Who can help me with my luggage?” asked Naresh.

The Captain looked at him coldly. “If one of my crew helps you, it will be to help you out the air lock.”

Grumbling, Naresh followed Crystal while dragging his suitcase.

“So what are you going to do with them?” asked Angela.

“We’ll see what Sanjay finds out, if there will be any complications from any of the guilds. Then I’ll decide.”

“You believe me, that I had nothing to do with this?” she asked.

He smiled at her, “Actually, I’m not sure. I don’t think you did, but I don’t know. I think this is a PAG operation, not Security Guild. The one I’m wondering about is Marguerite. Our dinner together was unusual. She seemed unusually pensive. She was unusually eager to share the virtues of your Guild. Makes me worried. I think we’re in for trouble, and I think you’re going to have to choose your loyalties, the PAG or the Liberty.”

Angela reached out and touched his arm. “I will never go against you Alex. You must believe me on this.”

The captain nodded, “I want to believe you, but we’ll just have to see, won’t we.” He turned and left Angela standing and went back to his quarters.


Even though Autumn was sedated, she was aware immediately as she came out of stasis. The fools in the hospital never understood that. Even though she couldn’t move physically, her mind was still aware, and being tortured. This time when she gained consciousness her first impression was the quietness around her. She found herself blessedly alone.

If she hadn’t been drugged she would have wept in relief. Yes there were others around, but so few! Only ten. The difference was sublime. It was like having a hurricane transformed instantly into a spring breeze. For the first time in days she could think. Her mind touched the other thoughts that were around. There were two that caught her attention. Two had psyche’s with immense reservoirs of strength. Their confidence regarding who they were and what they were about was unshakeable.

She felt it when one of the two had touched her. She felt the link of his mind and felt his pledge to her down to her very soul.

Her thoughts reached to his and linked with him. She could trust this man. To survive, she must give herself to this man. She needed his strength and he promised to give it to her. She knew he would keep his promise. With him to protect her, and his strength to draw on, she found the courage to reach her mind out to find the demon. He was gone! She could find nothing. She was safe, at least for a little while.

Autumn touched the other souls with her mind to find out who they were. As she did, she understood what had happened. She was in hyperspace. The only people in her world right now were those on the ship. When the ship phased back into real space, her hell would return. But perhaps the man she was linked with would give her the shelter she needed to survive. For the first time in days, she was hopeful. She allowed herself to relax and actually rest.

Captain Singleton went to the bridge to check on Sanjay and Michelle.

“Got anything on our stowaway?”

“Not a peep, Captain. No mention of any man hunt for fugitives, nothing. I’ve got some background info on our passengers,” Sanjay replied.

“Go ahead,” replied the captain.

“Naresh Ritesh is a computer engineer. He’s not bad either. Supposedly he’s brilliant but an underachiever. Autumn Ritesh on the other hand was some kind of child prodigy. She set academic records in every grade. Both the Science Guild and the Security Guild recruited her. Ritesh opted for the prestige and connections the Security Guild offered. One interesting fact, her mother Cynthia Ritesh, maiden name of Brady was a PAG member. Apparently, they got caught up in some civil war with the Cabal and got stranded on a frontier planet without adequate medical facilities and Cynthia Ritesh died in child birth. In any case, the match was a surprise to all, but considering Autumn’s capabilities, looks like their genetic engineers nailed it again. Makes me wonder why you keep dragging your feet with Angela Pontneuf, Captain.”

“Mind your own business, Sanjay.”

“Little touchy about Angela, aren’t you Captain?” asked Michelle.

“Whether I get married and whom I marry is my own business. It’s not yours and it’s certainly not the PAGs.”

“You’re just fighting the inevitable, Captain,” laughed Michelle.

“Whatever. So, there’s no mention of their escape?”

“Nothing,” replied Sanjay.

“First on the bridge.” Crystal called out as was custom when the Captain of the vessel was on the bridge. She had Ritesh in tow with her.

“Okay, Ritesh,” said the Captain. “Tell me everything and don’t leave anything out. We’ve been checking up on you, so we’ll know if you’re lying.” Michelle and Sanjay glanced at each other amused at the Captain’s bluff.

Naresh, shaken by all that had happened, did not have the presence of mind to lie. The only reaction he got from the Captain was when he told how much money he had embezzled from the Science Guild.

“370 credits stolen and not a peep in the news? There’s some big fish pulling the strings on this. What’s the account number you made the deposit in?” asked the captain.

“I don’t have that information anymore.”

“Now that was short sided. I sure would like to check out that account. I imagine the credits were bounced out of that account faster than a lickskiggle ball.”

“Clinic to the bridge.”

“Go ahead Doc, this is Singleton.”

“Captain, the girl is waking up.”

“I’ll be right down.”

Captain Singleton turned to Naresh. “I guess, since you’re her father, you should come to.”

Naresh straightened up indignantly. “I should say so.”

Autumn was awake several minutes before she let on. She was aware of the two close by, an adult man and a young boy. She was aware of the strong one, but he was not present. She hoped he would come soon. She opened her eyes and looked at the older one. “I am thirsty, may have something to drink?”

Doc Collins gave her a bottle of water and Autumn drank it down eagerly. She had been on IVs for several days. This was the first time she had anything to actually drink. “May I have another? I am very thirsty.”

“Sure we have plenty.”

She drank the second one more slowly, taking time to savor the wetness in her throat. It was very good.

“Do you know who I am?” she asked.

“I think so, do you?”

“I think my name is Autumn, but it is hard to be sure. I remember so many names, but yes, it is Autumn.”

“That is our information as well.”

“How did I get here?”

“Your father brought you.”

“My father? My father’s name is Naresh?”

“Yes.”

Autumn was very pleased to be able to recall these details. It took some concentration. There were so many details all jumbled together. She knew she was drawing on the strong one’s will to focus only on her own memories. She was grateful for her mental link. She needed to make it stronger. “What is your name?”

“I am Doctor Collins. Doctor Larry Collins.”

She nodded her head, and looked at the young one. “You are very young, younger than me. What is your name?”

“I’m David, David Collins. Doctor Collins is my dad. My Mom is the pilot of the Liberty. Her name is Michelle Collins.”

At that point Naresh, Sanjay, Crystal, and Captain Singleton entered the clinic.

Autumn knew immediately the strong one was present. She turned excitedly and cried out, “Strong one!” She leaped off the examining table and rushed to him and grabbed his hand with both of hers. The physical contact allowed her to draw more efficiently from his will. She closed her eyes as she found herself able to recall more and more of her life and what had happened to her.

Captain Singleton was startled at this enthusiastic greeting and a little uncomfortable with how eagerly she held his hand. However, there was something pleasant and exhilarating with the contact. Suddenly, he felt more alert and he seemed all of a sudden to have a clearer grasp of this strange situation. Gently, he began to disengage his hand from her grip. She resisted for a moment and then allowed herself to let him go. She opened her eyes and looked at him intently.

“Strong one, what is your name?” Autumn asked. Sanjay snorted at the nickname she had given him.

“My name is Captain Alexander Singleton. You should call me Captain, at least while you are on board the Liberty.”

Autumn sighed contentedly. “Thank you for your pledge, Captain. It has saved my life.”

“My pledge? What pledge?”

“You pledged that so long as you are my Captain, no harm shall come to me. Have you forgotten? Were you not serious?”

The Captain stirred uncomfortably while the rest gaped in surprise.

“When were you able to talk with her, Captain?” asked Doc. “Are you holding back from us? Do you know more than you’ve let on?”

“I made a promise to myself when I first saw her,” the captain replied thoughtfully. “I felt sorry for her,” then to Autumn, he asked, “Can you read minds?”

Autumn nodded. “It was the result of the drugs given me by Dr. Hawkins. He is not here on this ship, do you know what has happened to him?”

Captain Singleton shook his head. “I don’t know anything about what happened to you at Johns Hopkins. I don’t know Dr. Hawkins. If you can read minds, why did you ask our names since you must have already known them?”

“Even though I can hear other’s thoughts, it is hard to know whose thought goes with whom. So, hearing helps. It also helps to actually touch. You touched me before, that is how I knew you promised to protect me. I believed your promise, was I wrong to do so?”

Again Captain Singleton shook his head. “No, you were not wrong. While you are on this ship, you will be considered a member of this crew. We all take care of each other.”

Sanjay and Crystal exchanged startled looks at this announcement. They had never seen their captain extend this acceptance of another so easily. Being considered a member of the crew meant that each was committed to protect her no matter what.

“How am I here?” Autumn asked. “I know I am in hyperspace, but other than that, there is little that I understand.”

Naresh explained to her how he had participated in rescuing her from the hospital and all that had happened to her. Autumn listened carefully. “Thank you, Father, for rescuing me. I was going insane in the hospital. I would have died shortly if I had been left there. It is unusual for you to be that bold, it took a lot of courage. That is very uncharacteristic of you.”

Captain Singleton was amused to see Ritesh flush in embarrassment at this insult delivered in such a matter of fact manner. He turned to Sanjay. “Sanjay, take Autumn to her quarters and help her get settled in. Later perhaps you can take her on a tour of the ship and introduce her to the rest of the crew.”

Autumn objected immediately. “I do not want my own quarters, Captain. I need to stay with you.”

Sanjay chuckled, “Angela is not going to like this, not at all.”

“Sanjay,” the Captain rebuked, “Keep it to yourself!”

Autumn’s interest in Sanjay perked up. “Who is Angela? Why should she care where my quarters are?”

“Look Autumn, don’t pay attention to him. He just likes to stir things up. The thing is, you can’t share my quarters. I don’t want anyone sharing my quarters. Okay? You will have your own quarters and that is final.”

Autumn nodded her head. She would accept that for now, but it would change. She had given herself to this man and did not intend to be separated from him. “I will accept your instructions for now, Captain. However, when we phase out of hyperspace, all the others will come back, and I will need your help to cope. I do not believe I will be able to cope unless you are physically present with me. You promised Captain. Mr. Sanjay? If you will show me the way, I will go to my quarters.”

“Uh, drop the Mr., just call me Sanjay. Autumn, you can follow me.”

After Sanjay and Autumn left, Captain Singleton turned to Doc. “What’s your take on that? What does she mean ‘All the others will come back?”

“Let me do some research first, Captain. Parapsychology is not my field. It does seem obvious that she has formed a special bond with you though. Her dependence on that bond is at a minimum very real to her and could actually mean her life. I find it very interesting that her first name for you was ‘Strong One’.”

“How is that interesting?”

“Well, I’d prefer not to say, right now. However, you might want to alert Angela that you have a young girl that has formed a serious attachment to you.”

“You think it is romantic?”

Doc shrugged, “At this point, I don’t think she has developed any feelings other than dependency. However, her need for physical contact would indicate that she will pursue increasing physical intimacy. If you consider that romantic feelings then yes I would say a romantic attachment is inevitable. As I said, it would be wise to advise Angela that she has a rival.”

“I’m so relieved that all my crew have such an interest in what goes on between Angela and myself,” Captain Singleton drawled with sarcasm. “I’ll take your counsel under advisement, Doc. Look, Sanjay has a lot to do. Can I borrow David to take Autumn around?”

“Sure, I don’t see why not. It will be interesting to see how she relates to a young boy. It doesn’t seem like she has had much of a childhood.”

Captain Singleton turned to Crystal and Sanjay. “Well, that’s settled for the time being.”

Uncomfortably Sanjay voiced both his and Crystal’s concern. “A member of the crew, Captain? You’ve made her a member of the crew. You normally consult with us. Does she get a full share? This is rather out of character, don’t you think?”

Captain Singleton ran his hand through his hair as he reviewed what he had said. “You’re right. I should have consulted with you all. My pledge of protection stands though, but she doesn’t get a share of the profits unless she proves herself useful, satisfied?”

Sanjay nodded, “That’s fair. I agree with you, I don’t want anything to happen to the little waif either.”

“Crystal, what about you?”

Crystal nodded, “I’m good. I’ll advise the rest of the crew of the girl’s status. What about Ritesh?”

“No change there. Actually, no, his movements are to be curtailed as discretely as possible. I don’t want him anywhere besides his quarters unaccompanied. Make sure he can never communicate off this ship without it being monitored. I don’t trust that weasel at all.”

Crystal grinned, “Yes sir, he does rather look like one.”

“’scuse me?” queried the Captain.

“A weasel, sir. He reminds me of a weasel.”

The Captain chuckled, “Let’s get back to work. By the way, Doc, how did things go with the medical supplies?”

“Great, we got a good price, you should make a nice profit, and I’ll be in good shape with my clinic in New Dublin. How long will we be staying?”

“Depends on what work we get. I have some repairs to make. It will be at least two weeks.”


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