Light poured into the hold of the Iron Eagle from its open cargo bay doors. The sun’s heat did not bake the crew busy in the hold as much as the planet’s humidity made it hard to breathe and work. The sounds of feet pounding and squeaking on the metal floor was constant as bodies collided with each other. A repetitive sound of banging rang in the crew’s ears. His eye on the prize, Captain Davik Taim (Call sign: Five) made his move to and open passage for his cargo. He ran forward in between two of the other crew members; they did not realize how unwise it was to leave him with such a gap. By the time the two of them realized what they had done, it was too late.
He sprinted off down the lane they had left them. Both of them swatted at him, but missed their target. The captain leapt up as high as he could and laid his cargo right in the basket. The chain net barely slowed it down as came back into the ground and bounced back towards the two shocked crew members. “Game!” Davik shouted. “Good job Chris.” He extended his hand above his head. The blonde crew mate with shortly cropped hair slapped the hand hard in a gesture of appreciation and celebration.
“Thanks cap!” he replied. The sun that shined through the open bay doors showed that sweat covered their bodies and small puddles of the liquid had collected on the floor of the cargo bay. “You guys want to go again?” Chris asked.
“Not me,” said Davik as he walked towards the cargo bay doors. He grabbed his golden t-shirt and wiped down his body as best as he could. But in this humidity it would do little good as the sweat would cover his body again in another minute. “You three wear me out. I need to slow things down to more my pace. I think I will join Chief sitting in the sun.”
He continued down the ramp as the three remaining crew members, Chris Carrington (Call sign: DC), Fælløn Hongar (Call sign: Guns) and Cace Dak (Call sign: Monk), organized a game of twenty–one. The air was not much cooler outside, but the sun made it worth it. The crew spent more than enough time in the halls and passageways of the ship while on the job. So whenever they made planet fall Davik tried to get some sun. It also gave him that kissed by the sun natural glow he liked. As he walked out of the shadow of the ship he could see his chief engineer and mechanic Siinguler Chondock (Call sign: Chief) lounging in a rusty and beat up old folding chair. He too was enjoying the sunlight; his eyes lay closed under the brim of his faded and torn hat.
As Davik got closer he heard a loud nasal sound coming from Chief. Sleeping, as usual, Davik thought. Who could blame him in weather like this, hot and humid, what else was there to do? Chief was the sanest among the crew, who had been killing themselves playing basketball. Davik decided to leave him alone. He looked back at his ship, the Iron Eagle.
It didn’t look all that pretty. Dents, dings, bullet holes, and patches littered the hull, just how he liked it. It gave anyone who saw it, including Union and planetary law enforcement officials and officers, the impression that it was just above a piece of junk. This gave the ship and the crew an advantage in most situations. The paint scheme was the similar to the one used by a fighter squadron he had lead on the Federal Planet of New Thyoph, his home planet. It matched the physical characteristics of its namesake. A bird of prey unique to Davik’s home planet it is similar to the species of eagle found on Earth with one defining characteristic, a coloring of feathers and skin that looked similar to that of iron ore with a touch of rust. This helped the bird blend into its natural environment in the mountains of the continent that Davik made his home when he was a child and young adult. The planet the ship moored at between jobs, like right now.
When you looked at the hull configuration carefully it almost looked like an eagle. The cockpit above the cargo bay doors had a vague resemblance of an eagle’s head. Painted below the windows of the cockpit small icons, faded with age, adorned the metal hull. These marks represented Davik’s kills when he as a fighter pilot for the Citizen’s Air and Space Force of Federal Planet of New Thyoph. He was one of the lucky ones to make it out of the Unification Wars alive, especially since he fought on the losing side.
Next to them, was an image of a scantily clad woman dressed in the traditional blue and red flight suit of the citizen militia units of his planet. She gave a salute to all those who passed by and saw her. Davik read somewhere, or did DC tell him, that pilots on the Exiles former planet, Earth, used to paint similar objects on their flying vessels, called airplanes. The people of Earth seemed to be a suspicious bunch. Davik, his crew, and all generations of humans in this corner of the galaxy for the last several hundred years had never lived on, or even seen, the planet that their ancestors, the Exiles, had come from many centuries ago. And since his ship did not have a name of a lady, she might as well have one on her hull; the painted lady would hopefully break the bad luck of its lack of a name.
Just behind the cockpit the forward wings extended out and back for over a hundred and seventy feet in their flight position. The forward wings could retract when necessary to fit into smaller docking or landing bays and other areas. Out here in an open field though it was not necessary. Embedded into each wing were two powerful jet engines and their cowlings provided the propulsion. These engines had the ability to rotate three hundred sixty degrees on a central axis. This allowed the Eagle to not only take off and land in the traditional manner with long runways, but provide for the possibility of vertical take off. The Captain had learned some other tricks along the way to utilize these engines to their full capacity. Each engine could be controlled independently, but the onboard flight computer generally adjusted their pitch as needed in flight to ensure the smoothest ride, and the tightest turns.
In the area between the bridge and the tail and between the two forward wings resided the crew’s quarters and a generator room that provided power for the ship and its faster than light Gravity Drive. Below that was the cargo hold.
At the present moment it contained nothing except some containers, the crew’s ATVs in their storage positions, and the three other crew playing basketball. The hold stretched back to the aft tail of the ship, which also had a cargo door. When forward cargo bay doors opened, like at the present moment, it almost looked like an eagle screeching out its natural cry.
The hull curved up to the aft tail and engine cowlings. The wings on the tail of the ship did not retract and extend like the forward wings. The short and stubby wings, reminiscent of an eagle’s tail feathers, each had their own engine with the same rotational capabilities of the forward engines. The Eagle also had another unexpected surprise added to the ship over the years of its service to Davik and his crew.
Nestled and hidden in the hull of the vessel, were three sets of rapid fire high caliber guns and cannons. When called into use they popped up out of the hull. They had operational stations on the bridge of the Eagle, but all could be controlled by one operator if necessary. The emplacements came out over the bridge and on the top and bottom of the tail wings. These cannons provided significant firepower to a cargo vessel. Davik loved this ship even with all its quirks and flaws.
He made his way back to the front of the ship; Chief was still snoring. As he approached the cargo hold he could hear the buzzer in the cargo bay communication console ringing. He rushed into the bay and saw his crew still playing their game. “I assume we were just going to let this go to voicemail?” Davik yelled rhetorically over the din of the game and the buzzer.
Chris shrugged his shoulders, “We’re in the middle of a game Five,” He then took the shot and made it without so much as hitting the backboard.
“If it’s for any of you I’ll just tell them you are too busy to take the call,” Davik yelled.
“Aye aye captain!” they all said with a chuckle and a fake salute.
He pressed the answer button on the wall communication panel. “Davik Taim. Go!”
The voice on the other end responded, “Davik good to hear from you,” Davik could tell by the voice and the location tag that it was Wyatt Waring, one of the captains main contacts for hauling cargo across the stars.
“Good to hear from you too. To what do I owe the pleasure of this communication?” Davik asked.
“On Synex Five some undisclosed cargo needs transport to Acamar Prime right away. The other crew I contacted fell through and because of that I have a tight deadline.”
“Mission parameters?” Davik asked.
“I only have a customs window at the drop off point so you need to land away from any Union eyes at the pick up on Synex Five. Luckily my contact on Synex Five already has a landing spot situated away from the city. Can you handle that?” A customs window is when a merchant of contraband or black market goods arranges a time frame where the merchants of black market goods have control over the interplanetary customs process. This means that a crew can load or unload the cargo without the usual paperwork associated with normal cargo.
“I think we can arrange that. How long is the customs window open?” the captain asked. He stated a period of time that was almost took close to call for a delivery of this time. “That’s very tight. We have travel time to Synex Five from our current position, pickup and delivery to your drop off point.”
“I can give you a bonus if you make delivery within the window.”
“Like what?” Davik asked.
“Double the usual rate and a free fill up of fuel and food for the Eagle.”
”Wow you’re desperate! You’re not one who usually gives a man a paycheck a fill up, and a free meal.”
“You’re my best and only hope right now. The cargo has to move and move now...,” Davik let him hang on the line for a second just to let him sweat.
“Sure! You can count on us.”
“Thanks Davik, you’re a lifesaver. I am sending details now. The usual: contact name, landing location, drop off dock, etc. You know the drill.”
“Make sure you send the cargo manifest to Eight-Ball. Remember I don’t want to know what I’m hauling.”
“Can do. You should have everything in a minute.”
“See you soon.” Davik hung up the comm line. He yelled into the cargo hold “Next point wins! We got a job,” He walked outside as the crew finished their game and got to work preparing the Eagle for departure.
Chief still appeared to be asleep as he approached his tattered and dirty lawn chair. Davik went to wake up him but before he could shake his shoulder the old man said, “I heard ya Davik,” The captain jumped.
“I hate how you do that!” Davik yelled and smiled.
Chief was starting to get up. “It doesn’t help that you make more noise than an Ita Land Whale. What’s the mission?”
“Covert pickup on Synex Five with a customs window on Acamar Prime,” Davik replied.
“Tight schedule. How we getting passed the planetary defense force on Synex Five?” the chief asked.
“Why would we need to get past planetary defenses? We’re just an honest shipping crew trying to secure our next job,” the captain said as the Chief let out a quiet laugh.
“I’ll get the engines warmed up,” Chief got out of his chair folded it up and strolled into the cargo bay. The rest of the crew had finished with their game and started to prepare the ship for departure.
“By the way, when you getting rid of that disgrace for a chair?” Davik asked. The lawn chair that Chief set by the cargo bay door was one of the dirtiest, ill kept, dented, and frayed chairs Davik had ever seen.
Chief chuckled. “The answer is the same every time you ask me that question: when I am dead and buried. And not a day before or after.”
“I’m going to hold you to that old man,” Davik said.
“Yeah if you’re lucky, though I will probably bury you before you bury me,” he replied.
“You just might Chief. I am going to check in with my sister before we leave.” Davik looked around the wide open spaces of the homestead. This was his parents land. He inherited it when they died during the Unification Wars. They were not the target of any attack or action of the Union, just natural causes. They were apolitical. As long as they got a good price for their crop they could care less about who was in charge. It’s a good thing they never lived to see the end of the war and the effects. While the family technically still owned the land, it was leased without any say to one of the Union’s agricultural monopolies. These corporations directed what you would plant, when you would plant it, tend it, harvest it, and how much you would get paid for it. While the Union may not have confiscated the land, they pretty much owned it.
Davik had no real attachment to the land, so he gave it to his sister on the condition that he could park his freighter here as often and as long as he needed. She agreed, so long as he would ship all the goods from the homestead free of charge. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. He walked up to the door of the large house and knocked on the door. A moment later his sister Amy opened it. “You know you don’t have to knock,” she said.
“I know,” he said as he walked inside. “We have a job. Lift off will be in a few minutes, just wanted to let you know,” Davik said.
“Thanks for the heads up. I’ll see you in a couple of days?” she asked.
“Not unless there is more work to be done,” he replied.
“Alrighty then,” she said. “See you around.”
“Bye sis,” Davik said as he walked away. As he walked back to his ship, he could hear the engines coming online and warming up. A slight breeze came from the four engine cowlings. Nothing too strong, just the turbines rotating as part of the startup sequence.
The cargo bay door was already closed when he walked under the ship’s cockpit. He punched in the security code on the side and a personnel door clicked open in the middle of the large cargo bay door. He walked in and shut it behind him. He approached the communication console in the cargo bay and opened a line to the engine room. “We ready to go Chief?” Davik asked.
“All lights green and good to go.”
He switched over to the cockpit line. “Monk, I’m on board and ready to depart. Take her up and set a course of Synex Five at the quickest possible speed and route. I will be in my quarters. Drop us out of light speed before we enter transport range of the planet. Let me know when we arrived,” He opened the channel to the rest of the ship. “This is Five, as soon as we engage the Gravity Drive, the crew is free to do whatever they wish until thirty minutes before we arrive on station at Synex Five. More details will be provided at that time. That is all. Over and out,” He switched off the communication panel and made his way up the steep desk stairs on the starboard side of the ship. These were the closest to his quarters.
He entered his quarters and stripped down to his bare skin and climbed into the private shower he had installed in his room. He took a quick shower to wash off all the sweat and heat that his body felt after the game of basketball. A few minutes later he was out, drying off and putting on fresh clothes.
He pulled up a set of dark blue denim jeans patched numerous times and stained with who knows what substances. Over that he put on a colored tank top. He pushed his arms through a plaid button up collared work shirt. He left the top few buttons undone and rolled up the sleeves to his elbow. He thought about donning on his clutch holster that doubled as pant suspenders, but thought better of it. While he was technically on his ship there was no point in carrying while in transit. Plus, due to Union regulations, most planets did not allow for firearms to be openly carried unless you had a special permit; Davik did not. He threw it back on the bed. Scuffed steel–toe military grade combat boots covered the long knee high socks and his feet. He was dressed for the mission. Davik made his way out of his quarters and on to the bridge. “What’s our ETA to Synex Five?” he asked.
Cace responded, “Four hours.”
Davik opened a communication channel to the rest of the ship. “Our ETA to Synex Five is four hours. Chow will be an hour before we arrive to coincide with the mission briefing immediately following. Get some rest, we have a short turn around on this mission and no time to waste. That is all. Five out.” He turned off the comm line and sat in his chair. Cace and Fælløn both left the cockpit. After the door shut behind them, Davik flipped off all the lights and set the computer to wake him in an hour. With that he leaned back in his chair. Except for the tight schedule, this job was easy money. As he closed his eyes to take a nap, a red light flashed on the cockpit console, but quickly flashed back off.