Freya's Tears

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Delivery Complete

Mission: Book Two - Ginnungagap
Location: Lafayette

The landing area was much less crowded upon Els’s return. Most of the bystanders had been pressed into loading out the cargo or had fled the area to avoid the extra work. The ATV remained parked outside the ship. It would be utilized to get around the post—there were no taxi or bus services on a base this small. Two space hands were hooking the final rolling pallet to their vehicle, all others having been hauled away.

Els thanked the driver and waved at the naval crew as she passed. Tobias sat in a tattered folding chair at the base of the ramp, sharpening one of his blades and enjoying the fresh air and sunlight. Like Kasli, he’d been Confed Space Navy, the main arm of the Siler Republic’s interstellar military force, with sixteen years experience. If there was one thing he knew about a military station it was how desperate some fools were to go AWOL. Though Freya’s Tears had landed on one of the safest planets in the sub sector, standard planet side procedures had to be maintained to deter AWOL stowaways.

She paused at his side. “See anything?”

“Oh, one or two,” Tobias said, his voice gravelly from years of bellowing orders. His blue eyes flickered across the last of the stragglers. “I think we’ll be fine if we keep up a presence.”

Els privately agreed with him as she patted his shoulder and continued on into the ship.

Hrothgar and Kolodka had finished stowing the cargo securing straps and were inventorying the parts locker under the stairs. Her brother’s head was deep inside the locker, but Kolodka waved a greeting.

Stopping at the ramp controls, Els accessed the ship’s intercom. “Meeting in the hold, people. Hightail it down here.”

It didn’t take long for the crew to gather. Once everyone arrived, Els started the meeting. “Okay, we’ve been paid in full, so we’re flush. When we’re done here, I’ll head to the bank kiosk at the PX and get your pay. Bonuses all around!”

They cheered. Incentives were built into the profits but the ship accounts had to be paid first before allowing bonus payment to the crew. There were still thirteen years of ship payments due and credits had to be set aside for fuel, emergency repairs and annual upkeep.

“Naya, did the courier packet get uploaded?”

“Sure did, Els.” Naya pirouetted in place, her blue dress fanning out from her calves. She’d donned boots to assist with the off-loading, but was once again barefoot. “The packet went out a few minutes after you left.”

“Good. Folsum says he might have a job for us. I’ll meet with him tomorrow. That gives us at least tonight, possibly tomorrow night before we hit atmo.” She scanned the gathering, pointedly looking at Tobias. “The NCO Club is available for our use. No brawling! I know that we’re only here a couple of times a year but I don’t want Lafayette to expect trouble every time we show up on their doorstep.” After receiving a disgruntled response from her more edgy people, she continued, “I’ve set up a PX fund for the ship. A thousand credits. Tomorrow three of us will head over and pick up supplies. Make sure you leave a list on the dining table if you want something in particular.”

Kolodka, ever the engineer, spoke up. “What about parts?”

“I was getting to that. You two have permission to peruse their parts warehouse, but don’t be greedy!” Els’s last words sharpened to overcome Hrothgar’s whoop of pleasure. “I know it’s tempting to clean them out, but we won’t be allowed access again if we steal them blind.”

“No problem, Els. I’ll keep the boy in line.” Kolodka grinned at his younger companion. Hrothgar glared back with little heat, having long since gotten used to Kolodka’s fond paternal attitude toward him.

“I’d appreciate it. The offer is good for today only, so I’ll drop you off on the way to the bank. Give us a call on the tachcomm when you’re ready to return.” Els turned away. “Austin, are you going to want to hit the PX while we’re here?”

Austin, sitting at her eye level on the steps, shook his head, dreadlocks swaying. “Naw. They’ll deliver if I ask ‘em.”

“All right then. You’ll be on ship watch our entire stay. Let me know if you change your mind and I’ll cover for you.” At his nod of acknowledgement, she turned to the others. “Naya, it’s your rotation, so stick close. Tomorrow is Kasli. If we stay a third day, Hroth will be in the hot seat. Forstå?” She waited for the three in question to indicate they understood her orders. Naya had a pretty pout on her face at not being able to jump ship, but Hrothgar and Kasli readily agreed. “Keep the ship buttoned up if you’re not outside. Tobias thinks there were a couple of wannabe runners in the crowd.”

Els dismissed the meeting, sending Kolodka and her brother outside to the ATV. Austin trotted back up the steps with Naya following close on his bare heels. Tobias trailed after, muttering something about a quick shower before heading out to the NCO club for a beer.

Kasli headed for the steps, and Els snagged her sleeve as she passed. “Wait a minute.” She gazed upstairs until Tobias disappeared from sight. Pulling Kasli close, she leaned in and kissed her. “What are you doing tonight?”

Draping her arms over Els’s shoulders, Kasli smiled. “I thought I’d hit the NCO club with Tobias, keep him out of trouble.” Her smile widened. “It’d be more fun if you were there.”

“Actually I have a much better idea.”

“Oh?”

Els grinned. “How about we dress up and go to a real restaurant tonight?” She watched a flash of puzzlement cross Kasli’s face. “Folsum gave me his table at the Officer’s Club. I thought it’d be nice to…you know…”

Kasli’s already beautiful smile became brilliant. “Go out on a real date?” she supplied.

Ja.” Els swallowed against the nervous flutter in her belly, mentally castigating herself. She and Kasli had been friends for years and exploring this new facet of their relationship for months. There was no reason for this abrupt skittishness. She inhaled deeply to quell the anxiety. “Will you go out to dinner with me?”

“I’d love to, mahasanni.”

Relieved and feeling ridiculous for fearing a rejection, Els hugged her close to hide the absurdity.

“Hey, snog on your own time!” Hrothgar called from the ramp. “Time’s a-waisting. We have parts and paychecks to get.”

Irritation washed away any residual nerves as Els growled under her breath. She heard Kasli chuckle and smiled in response, pulling back to look her in the eye.

“Better get a move on, Captain. The crew’s preparing to mutiny.”

Els kissed her much too quickly before pulling away. “I’ll see you when I get back.” She spun around and trotted out of the cargo bay, scowling at Hrothgar’s impertinent grin as she passed. Keel hauling was sounding more and more like an acceptable option.

 

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