Black Night

17th April 2158

Taken for A Ride

I got a call from Jonathon first thing to say the cargo had arrived. I went down to the adjacent cafe for breakfast: Vincent and Sylvie were there.

“What happened?” I asked her.

“Nothing. That bitch Aurora she was rude: I help her with the facelift when I smash her face into the sink. I’m sure the plastic surgeon he is no stranger to her.” She replied. “She drops this.”” She tossed a hand data pad to Vincent, who immediately started playing with it.

“Hmm personal info, routes, next destination. She’s the Astrogator I think.” he muttered. “Boring crap.”

We dropped it into the lost and found and went to check the cargo loading; the ‘Queen Anne’ had already left.

The cargo handlers seemed to have it already in hand, but I wanted it arranged in a certain way and watched them. It was then that I noticed the container door for the big Gas Exchange Unit had been tampered with.

“Hang on” I said. I checked it and opened the container. No Mass Gas Exchange Unit- just a box filled with iron slag. With Vincent and Sylvie I checked some of the other containers.

“10 tons of used wellingtons here. Assorted colours” said Vincent.

“Owwr!” said Sylvie, her face wrinkled with disgust. “It is the used nappies I think.”

We’d been had. I rang Jonathon, who promised to be there within the hour. We checked the other crates-all crap.

Jonathon turned up all smiles. “I understand there’s been some sort of minor hitch. Maas accepts no liability for any mistake of these dock contractors of course.”

“Well I haven’t signed for this load and I’m not going to. This isn’t what you’ve contractually agreed with LFC; none of this stuff is on the list. I need it off my ship and I want to know what you’re going to do about getting me the real stuff.” I smiled genially.

“Hm, give me an hour to check what’s happened.” He went off to the hanger and I could see him making calls. The cargo drones started to unload again.

Half an hour later he came back over. “There appears to have been some sort of mixup. Don’t ask me why.” He said. “All the containers destined for your ship were loaded onto the Queen Anne at 1 am this morning, shortly after the Gas Unit arrived. They left at 6 am. I’ve no idea how this happened but I will certainly investigate.”

“The Queen Anne? We had an altercation in the bar last night with their crew. They might have been distracting us I suppose.” I replied.

“They must have worked fast to arrange something like this”, commented Jonathon. “Anyway the good news is you’ll be insured. The bad news is that it may take us several months to ship in replacements for all this stuff again.”

I rang Hiro, who indicated that such a long delay would cause extreme difficulties with LFC’s Plan.

“The good news is that we think we know where the Queen Anne is heading. We could try to intercept. Make me an offer.” I added.

He made one. He also indicated that arranging a scam like the one which had occurred would have required more than a couple of hours planning: palms must have been greased in advance.

We roused the other crew and made ready; the Queen Anne’s apparent destination was to an asteroid about 5 days into the Chlaer Radical on M Drive; with some fancy astrogation cutting a debris field we might be able to shave some time off their lead. With instructions for Jonathon to contact us we set off about noon.

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