Captain Trevor Rollins studied the man before him: older than Rollins, with completely white hair and a lined face, but he still looked lean and fit and he'd passed Doctor Weaver's medical examination. He relaxed in his chair with the casual confidence of someone who knew how good he was and felt no need to have to prove it.
“Hunter”, said Rollins, “is that your surname or first name?” It had been the only name listed on the extremely impressive resume.
“My title,” said the other man, “bestowed upon me by the Kanee during their fourth War of Repulsion.”
Rollins was further impressed – Kanee natives seldom earned a title and he'd never heard of them giving one to an outsider. “Which makes me wonder all the more why someone such as you applied for this job,” he said.
“As you can see, I'm not a young man any more,” said Hunter, “and that makes it hard for me to get work of any kind.”
Rollins nodded, pleased by the man's candour and honesty. A lesser man might have attempted to look less like he was desperate for work.
“Well, your age is certainly not a problem for me,” he said, “your work history more than mitigates it and we won't be needing combat skills, just experience in shipboard maintenance. Do you have any questions about the job?”
“Are you expecting any combat at all?”
“Not on this. It's a milk run.”
Hunter looked surprised. “Then why are you doing the job?”
Rollins gave a wry smile, “because getting work of any kind – especially our kind – is difficult these days and because our employer is convinced that his new ship is going to get attacked by pirates or worse the moment it leaves dock.”
Hunter laughed. “So he hired the Septic Death
“And crew. He hasn't got a crew of his own so he wants us to fly his ship home for him. Unfortunately, he's a grade A-one-plus xenophobe and won't let any non-humans on board, which means over half of my crew has to remain on the Septic Death
and that leaves us without enough to crew both ships.”
“Which is why you're looking for another crew member.” Hunter sighed. “I'd hoped for more than that.”
Rollins ran his hand over his short-cropped hair. “So had I. But, anyway, the job's yours – if you want it.”
Hunter snorted. “Like you, I don't exactly have employment options queueing at my door. I'm in.”
Rollins stood and extended his hand. “In that case, welcome to the crew of the Septic Death
Hunter shook his hand.
“So, Captain, what's our employer like?”
Rollins rolled his eyes. “A complete and utter flatlander. He's a government official from some agricultural colony out at the arse-end of nowhere – from what I've heard they pretty much keep themselves to themselves and don't trust outsiders much. If he's typical of the rest of his people, they're a pretty uptight and insular bunch.
“It seems that their one-and-only interstellar-capable craft wore out beyond repair and he got the job of getting a replacement. So he got a lift out here and bought the first spaceworthy thing he could afford . He negotiated a good price, right enough, but he doesn't know one ship from another and got an old decommissioned yacht, when what they really need – from what he told me of their old ship – is a freighter.
“I tried to explain that to him but he insists that the ship will be fine. He's not one to listen to others.”
“So, we fly his yacht home and the Septic Death
, with the rest of your crew, comes along as protection from,” he grinned, “space pirates? Considering his fear of non-humans, I'm surprised he's letting a large armed ship filled with them follow him back home.”
“It took some doing to convince him. In the end I had to tell him that I can scuttle the Septic Death by remote if they get out of line. Even then, he insisted on me leaving a human with them to 'keep an eye on them'.”
The twins put the last of the boxes into one of the cabinets and left.
Doctor Weaver opened her recorder and placed it on the desk.
“Medical Officer's report,” she began, and eased herself into a chair. “The Infirmary has now been stocked sufficiently for the voyage and all the fittings have been checked. I am confident that I can handle any likely medical emergency and most of the unlikely ones short of transplant surgery.”
She pushed a wisp of hair out of her eyes and continued, “the crew aren't happy with not being on the Septic Death
and being separated from the rest of the crew. Densor has come to me twice today complaining of pain in his left hand and I can tell by the way he keeps rubbing his eye that it's stress caused by the change in routine.
“Grizbot's delusions are getting stronger again, despite the medication, and I am concerned that stresses related to this mission may exacerbate the problem. He was wandering around the ship earlier muttering that it was an 'interesting new simulation' and prodding at the walls.
“I have decided to increase his medication to the maximum, at least for the duration of this mission, which will mean splitting the dosage between all three of his meals so that he won't taste it. This regime will commence with today's lunch.
“The rest of the human crew and the two temporary recruits are in excellent health and the Spectre seems to be as it always is. It has not required my attention in the past, so I have to assume that it will continue to perform normally and not require my attention for the duration of the mission.”
As always, the Spectre's examination had been an interview wherein she tried to determine, from its impassive body language and emotionless responses to her questions, whether or not there was anything to be concerned about. If the day ever came when it needed her attention, she had no idea what, if anything, she would be able to do.
She switched off and pocketed the recorder then busied herself readying the doses of medication.