Waiting around with nothing to do is ok for a few days I suppose. We spent the evening in one of the bars which service the 1000-odd population of Solaris, ‘The Empty Cat.’
Laura and Dmitri were playing an interesting version of speed chess. Whenever someone lost a piece they had to drink a shot of whisky (Laura) or vodka (Dmitri). After half an hour they were on their second game and both virtually comatose.
On the table next to ours were four people in the ship fatigues of ‘The Queen Anne’. Their leader was an interesting character, who had undergone massive cybernetic reconstruction down one side of his face, right arm, shoulder and torso. I imagine the damage he must have sustained would have been so severe that regeneration therapy simply couldn’t cope. It all made him appear pretty fierce. Also interesting was the attractive blonde woman speaking with a long Texan drawl-she was drawing more than a few looks from around the room.
“I’m not sure which of them is more fake-her or the cyborg” I heard Maria mutter. I shushed her and she continued to get rapidly drunk.
They seemed friendly enough though, and the woman (Aurora she was called) asked if they could join us. The cyborg was the Captain-one Viktor Klempp, and he is quite an interesting character. He has been around the asteroid belt for quite a while, and their ship is a prospecting vessel with specialised sensory and remote mining equipment.
The drink flowed. We got drunker. Maria, Laura and Dmitri were out of it, and Vincent was looking decidedly happy. I wasn’t too bad-an advantage of being 6’ 2” I suppose, and Sylvie is one of those people with a cast-iron constitution. Then things turned decidedly odd.
“So what’s the real deal with Maas and LFC? A bit odd don’t you think that a Maas Rig will be moved into free mining territory to mine areas it would normally be legally excluded from. Quite a good scam I should think.” said Viktor.
I said I wasn’t sure what he was talking about but he continued, “Quite a few of the Free Companies aren’t happy at what LFC s doing. ‘This is just a front. Maas is forbidden from exploiting the Free Radicals; given the price Lothrain’s negotiated for this mining rig, it seems to us that Maas is playing an angle. They get one of their rigs into Free Radical belt and start to cream the profits using LFC as its agent. That cuts-down opportunities for us. So, what’s the story?’
It seemed to me that they’d already made up their minds, and I surmised that some of them were spoiling for a fight. I did my best to calm things down, and I could see that to my left Sylvie had palmed that little stick she keeps in her top pocket.
Fortunately I managed to calm them down a bit, but I had no illusions that our luck would hold. “Look boys we’re just contractors-happy enough to have managed to get a mortgage on one of LFC’s surplus ships. We’ve got a 3 month contract running around for them which is due to expire in a couple of weeks. Have another drink and we’ll calm down.”
We ordered the drinks, and then hauled the other three up, one each. I made our excuses and we left, but I could see that they were still glowering.
Out in the lobby Laura made a lurch and Sylvie propelled her towards the ladies. Good luck with that I thought-vomit and microgravity are not a pretty combination. As we waited near the exit Aurora walked in and entered the Ladies without seeing us.
I went and listened and got a few odd looks. It was even more embarrassing when Aurora opened the door and walked out: her hands were covering her face which was pouring with blood. Sylvie carried Laura out and we left, somewhat hurredly.