Sunar sat in the back of the unmarked police car and watched the city pass by. A heavy silence had descended as soon as they entered, and he felt no reason to break it. These two men seem to resent the errand they have been sent on, and keep glancing at each other, but refuse to even acknowledge my presence. I thought I’d gained a lot of insight into understanding people Out Here, but I have no idea what to make of any of this.
He shook his head slightly to clear it. I don’t get the sense they mean me harm, so I may as well focus on something productive. He pulled out his comms unit and started looking for a ship to board. Wonder if I can find a sort of ‘help wanted’ listing? I’d rather not sit idle in a cabin with a paid ticket, able to do nothing but spend money. Hmmm…
At length the car came to a stop at the spaceport and both cops practically leapt out to position themselves near his door. He considered taking his time, just to see what kind of reaction he’d get, but decided against it. These poor guys don’t seem happy already, and I see no profit in antagonizing them.
He got out of the car and started walking in the direction his map indicated. He got several steps before one of the men firmly, but not entirely roughly, grabbed his arm. He turned to find one angry man holding his arm, and another, looking more irritated than angry, standing a few feet away and still half turned in the direction opposite of where he wanted to go.
Angry cop spoke in with clipped words, “Where are you going? The passenger ships are this way.”
Sunar carefully washed all expression from his face and turned a cool gaze on the hand gripping his arm. Angry cop harrumphed at him, and made a show of letting go and holding his hand open. He quirked an eyebrow at the men, nodded to them, jerked his head in the direction of the smaller ships, and started moving again. He heard the two men fall in behind him after grumbling to each other. When did they take their badges off? I never even noticed.
The walk through the freight area of the spaceport was interesting, in contrast to his previous experience with the passenger areas he’d experienced on his one previous off-world venture. This side of the fence is very… utilitarian. There are a handful of robo-delis, some vending machines, and relatively narrow corridors with the occasional bench, as opposed to the large spaces with comfortable seating, staffed commercial eating, and retail areas. They do keep it reasonably clean here, but not the same spotless cleanliness that is in the other area.
It didn’t take too long to find the berth he was looking for: the place had a lot of very clear signs intended to help people get around. He soon walked up to a small cargo hauler called the Tranquility. The classified he’d found listed it as an independent hauler with a crew of ten, looking for a basic deck hand, experience negotiable.
The ship, sitting on the ground, looked quite large, but then he considered the boxy machine’s bulk against the cruise liner he’d traveled on before, and decided this thing could probably have fit inside the liner’s promenade. He stepped out into the afternoon air and walked up to the lowered cargo ramp. Several people were busily moving large boxes up the ramp, under the eye of a watchful Halfling. As they approached the ramp the Halfling, without taking his eye off the cargo being loaded, held up his hand in a sharp gesture.
Sunar waited patiently at the bottom of the ramp as the Halfling directed the loaders with quick gestures and quiet words. His escorts displayed little patience, however, constantly shifting their feet and looking around as if they expected… something.
After several minutes Angry Cop spoke with harsh tones, “Hey, you the Captain of this…” Sunar thought for a moment that the man would use some sort of vulgarity, but seemed content to make a gesture towards the ship instead.
The Halfling turned, lifted one eyebrow, and faced Sunar – much to the obvious irritation of angry cop – and spoke with irritation in his voice. “Good Noble, I would normally ask whom I have the honor of addressing, but before I make introductions, I will have to ask that you tell your man, there, to keep a civil tongue in his head, and please not to interrupt the operation of this crew.”
Sunar quirked his own eyebrow as he looked at the handful of people moving efficiently about the deck of the ship. “I would apologize for the Goodman here, except that he is in no way mine, unless you wish to hold me responsible for the actions of an escort I did not request.” He allowed himself a small smile, which the Halfling returned after a glance at the two men. Sunar continued, “That settled, I am Sunar Dawnsflight. Might I have the honor of your own name? I presume that you are Captain of the Tranquility?” He bowed, slightly, in a deliberate show of courtesy which brought another irritated noise from Angry Cop.
The Halfling made a slow, small bow, his face towards Sunar but his eyes, mockingly, on Angry Cop. “I am Falo, but you are in error in assuming I am the Captain. I’m the Quartermaster, the Captain is currently indisposed.” Falo tilted his head at him slightly. “Though I do admit you have me curious: A young noble, appearing with guards-who-are-not-his, and speaking with respect while the Goodmen with him act with disdain. So, tell me young Noble: what brings you to seek out my captain?” His eyes narrowed and the tone of his voice hardened slightly. “I will have you know that he runs a completely legal operation, everything above-board, and gives short shrift to those who believe that he has some mythical price which will change that.”
Annoyed cop made a small, rude noise.
Sunar could tell by a flickering eyelid that Falo had taken note, but the man gave no other sign that he’d even noticed. He nodded his understanding. “I assure you that my intentions are…”
Angry cop made a harsh, impatient sound, stepped forward onto the ramp, glared at Sunar, and spoke with heat in his voice, “Look, I ain’t got all day to sit here and watch you and this half-noble sit and compete at who can be nicest. I was told to see the boy here onto a ship headed off this planet, and he got the bright idea he could hire on with you people as crew. So, you willing to take him, or not? I mean, look at him, he is certainly strong enough to haul anything you got around.”
Falon made a face like he’d bitten into something incredibly bitter then a tall, lanky human walked out from behind a box, “I don’t take free-loaders, and don’t take well to people boarding my ship without so much as a by-your-leave. So, you best be on your way, before we have a problem.”
“You want a problem, little ship-captain?, I can give you a problem, but that is not why I’m…”
Angry Cop’s words trailed off when the rest of the men and women loading cargo suddenly stood and turned to face him. He shook his head and made a dismissive gesture. “Look, you can tell all them to stand off, I was just sayin’, I’m not here for a problem, it was you who started talkin’ about trouble.” He gave a sly smile and turned his head slightly, “Trying to avoid trouble is why I am here, you get me? I got a boss, something you, as a Captain, should be able to appreciate. Boss says to get this boy safely away from the planet. I had a mind to put him on a transport, but he thinks he knows better. So, if you don’t want him, all ‘ya gotta do is say so, and I’ll haul him over to the other side of the…”
The Captain spoke again, this time taking a step forward and pointing at the cop. “I didn’t say anything about the young man, here. He has stood, politely, at the bottom of my ramp, and spoken well to my crew. I am talking about you, and I don’t think I stuttered. But, since you seem to be a little dull, I will say it more clearly: Get. Off. My. Ship.”
Angry cop held up placating hands as the Captain, and his crew, started to advance. The man backed up quickly, and as soon as his feet hit pavement the Captain’s entire attitude changed. He smiled, made a dismissive gesture towards the cop, and turned to Sunar. “Now, as far as negotiating your passage: I hate to turn away a good hand when I know we put out an ad for one,” He shot an inquisitive glance at Falon, who nodded, “So, I’ll tell you what. You have permission to board my ship. I’ll find you a berth, even something with a little pay for your labor. Sound fair enough?”
Sunar stepped onto the ramp and walked to the Captain while resisting the urge to throw a mocking look over his shoulder at the cops. He heard the two men leave as he shook the Captain’s hand. “Captain, I want to thank you for this opportunity to join your crew…”
The Captain had been watching the door to the spaceport, rather than him. Sunar heard the doors shut, and the Captain abruptly dropped his hand and his expression changed – again – to one of deadly seriousness. “Let me make things clear, Sunar. You are exactly the kind of trouble I want to avoid from this place. We already filled the job, and I have absolutely no intention of letting you remain aboard my ship any longer than it takes those dirty cops to get clear of the spaceport.”