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In A Starship's Wake

By Stephen Schamber

Chapter 40: Changing Futures

    “Alright, is there any other paperwork you need me to send in?” Joseph asked.
    “Nope, that’s the last of it,” Melissa replied. “I sent the registration and title information to the station clerk, so those documents should be ready and aboard ship by the time you arrive. You said it would be a little over a week until you get here, correct?”
    “Right. Our arrival date is July twenty-fifth.”
    “Hey Joseph, have you...” Tyrone cut off as he entered the workroom and realized he was on a call. Melissa had no doubt heard him, but took no notice.
    “Let me double check that it’s on the work order.” She was silent for a moment as she reviewed her computer screen, then smiled slightly in satisfaction. “It is, my memory was just slipping. We already started final work on it actually. It’s assigned to bay number H5134.”
    “Good.” Joseph quickly typed the number in a note. “I don’t know exactly when the rest of my crew will arrive, we’re assembling at the station. Some of them may already have booked transportation there. What’s the earliest the ship will be available for crew move-in?”
    Melissa consulted her screen again. “It should be accessible by the twenty-second. We’ll still be working on it, but the quarters will be finished.”
    “Excellent, thank you. I’ll relay that to them, but I don’t think anyone will arrive earlier than that. Thanks for shepherding me through the process.”
    “You’re welcome, that’s what a good salesman is supposed to do. Thank you in turn for buying from us. I’ll see you on the twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth to give you a tour of the ship, if you haven’t had one already, and make sure everything is in order. As always, if anything comes up just give me a call.”
    “I will. See you then.” The screen went blank as the call ended, and Joseph turned to Tyrone who now sat at his desk. “What were you going to ask?”
    “Already got the answer from your conversation. I wanted to know if you’d sent instructions on where to go to the new crew. Since you just got the bay number, the answer to that would be ‘no.’”
    “That’s the answer,” Joseph agreed. “Like I said to Melissa, they already know we’re boarding at Vermillion Shipyard, so some may be on the way already. I’ll send out the bay and ship information in a few minutes, now that everything is ready.”
    “Have you picked out a name yet?”
    Joseph shook his head. “I’m having just as much trouble coming up with one I like as we did with Garden Variety Animal. Three years apparently wasn’t enough time for that. It doesn’t have to be done immediately of course, but I’d like to have one picked out before we start flying.”
    There was also no requirement that a spacecraft’s registered name be unique, but most owners tried to at least come up with something uncommon. Joseph was no different. Very few private vessels in the Teton Sector had a name shorter than three words.
    “That would be helpful, then it’s out of the way,” Tyrone agreed. “Name selection is a nice problem to have, considering that only a few years ago we doubted we’d ever buy another ship.”
    “Yeah, and here we are making the purchase. I don’t think I ever doubted as much as you. It was only a matter of time until we built up the money.”
    “My doubts were based more on the possibility that one of us would decide to change careers than on making the money.”
    “I don’t think that was ever very likely either. I know not everybody wants to live their life traveling aboard ship, but I never doubted the two of us would enjoy it.” The curiosity to travel and see distant planets was among the most powerful factors that built their friendship. “I guess there was always the chance one of us would get our fill of traveling and decide on something that kept us planetside or in a station office.”
    “Exactly. Or we’d discover traveling all the time wasn’t as much fun as we always imagined it would be.”
    “Well we both discovered that!” Joseph laughed, recalling their first few voyages. “We both discovered that within the first month. We just still liked what we were doing once we realized it wasn’t as cool as we thought.”
    “I think we knew that it wouldn’t be,” Tyrone laughed. “We were pre-disillusioned by research and the people around us. What if we hadn’t taken to it? Would you ever have been willing to go back home?”
    Joseph considered the question for a moment, but when the answer came didn’t surprise him. “No. If I wanted to go back to living planetside I’d pick a different planet. Why go back to the same place we already lived?”
    “I couldn’t give you a reason.” Tyrone rubbed his stubble and stared around the still-cluttered workroom. “I think Justine may want to live planetside eventually. Not soon, but she likes any visit we make to the surface. She always has.”
    “She did grow up on a station. To stand on the surface in gravity that isn’t artificial is a powerfully novel thing to anyone raised offworld. There’s plenty to be said for all that wide open space full of air that isn’t recycled by machines, and the wilderness beyond the towns.”
    “Funny to hear that coming from you. You were never the wilderness type.”
    “True, if I were my career goal would have been to be a ranger with his own ship, not a freighter captain. Still, the planetary outdoors has something you just can’t capture elsewhere. Agricultural domes come close, but they still don’t quite make it.”
    “I have to disagree with you there, the domes don’t come close at all,” Tyrone laughed. “Whichever Justine and I ultimately decide on, I’m glad we’ll have the chance to travel around a little while we’re starting our family. Justine got to see different places when she was growing up, and we never had that chance. She underestimates what that’s worth.”
    Joseph chuckled and fiddled with a pen. “I think it’s safe to say we do the same with living in one place, on the surface. You tend to undervalue the advantages you have.”
    Tyrone snorted. ”You’re feeling philosophical today, I see.”
    “No more than you are,” he shot back. “I’m not the one who steered the conversation into discussion of our futures.”
    “I guess I have to take the blame on that one,” Tyrone laughed. “Things are changing fast around here, and it has me thinking forward.”
    “I have been too,” Joseph admitted. “Not quite as far, I have more immediate problems in learning to run a different ship. We have to find a new goal to work toward now.”
    “Any ideas? I know it’s my turn since you came up with the ore hauler, but so far I’ve got nothing.”
    “Not really. I know there are other highly profitable types of freighter we could expand into operating, but I don’t know if I’ll ever want to learn yet another business. I’m fairly certain you won’t. We should ask Justine too, maybe she has something.”
    “She probably would have mentioned it to me, and she hasn’t.” Tyrone shook his head. “We’ll have to talk about whether we want to keep buying more ships, too. I’m okay with expanding our fleet, but with too many ships it becomes a constant hassle just to keep them staffed. If we add too many we risk growing into a major carrier. Then you and I become CEOs, and our only responsibility is to make decisions that affect hundreds of people all day.”
    Joseph shuddered and made a cross with his fingers to ward off that idea, prompting more laughter from Tyrone. “I can’t imagine a fate more horrible.”
    “My feelings aren’t much different. I don’t mind becoming rich, but not that way.”
    “We’ll see how things go with the ore hauler. That stands a reasonable chance of making us rich on its own, you know.”
    “I know.” Tyrone scratched his chin again. “Maybe if it goes well we can buy a couple more of those. Once we have enough contacts to find an initial crew, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep them staffed. When you’re ready to settle down we can buy another light transport where you can raise a family, if that’s what you want. I know that was part of your original plans.”
    “Eventually I’d still like that, but it also relies on me finding a wife, and that’s by no means certain.”
    “Oh, you’ll find one someday, don’t worry about that.”
    “Spoken like every married man to every bachelor friend in history,” Joseph retorted.
    “And like every bachelor friend in history you won’t believe me until it happens. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m right.”
    Joseph only spread his arms in reply. On this subject his partner would never back down, and Joseph hoped he was right. Whether or not he found a wife, it would be wise to plan based on what he wanted their life to be like. Of course, there was a limit to that. Whomever his wife would be, she might not like the path he had laid out, and she got a say in the matter.
    “Well, I think that’s still what I’d prefer.” Joseph propped his feet up on his desk. “Married or not, I’ll want to leave the ore hauler eventually. Best to lay the groundwork for that as part of my goals. I’ll have to think about it more.”
    “I’ll ask Justine about ideas for our next business goals, too.” The dark man rose and made for the door. “It’s always possible she had an idea and just wasn’t ready to share it yet. Don’t forget to send out that location, or you’ll find yourself short a crew when it’s time to sail.”
    Joseph turned back to his computer with a smile and began the messages. Within minutes they were on their way. One more step completed on their journey to owning multiple ships. The crew was officially hired.
    Eight days would bring them to Vermillion Shipyard and Joseph looked forward to their arrival. Not only because of the excitement of purchasing their ore hauler. Things were changing rapidly on Garden Variety Animal, and it was high time he left the ship. With Justine aboard, she and Tyrone slowly adjusted the place to suit them.
    That didn’t really bother Joseph, and he’d been a willing participant in some of the rearrangement. It was inevitable after all, this stage of their business had always been coming. He would soon make the same adjustments to his own ship. He wanted to get there and get started, since the moving aboard and organizing would take time. The still-unnamed ship would be under way only a few days after they took delivery, and there was a lot to do. Things were changing, and they would never go back.
    Particularly strange for Joseph would be the absence of Tyrone. The couple’s honeymoon was only time he could remember in the last fifteen years when he hadn’t seen Tyrone daily. Joseph would miss their frequent mocking exchanges, and even their normal conversation.
    For Tyrone and Justine, the change was an odd inverse. Until now they had only rarely been together for an extended period. Even electronic communication hadn’t always been possible, since many unaffiliated planets were not connected to the instant communication network, or if they were it wasn’t accessible in the space between them and the Teton Sector. 
    Communication would be even more sparse in the space the ore hauler would traverse. Lack of contact with the couple would be hard for Joseph to adjust to. They were the closest friends he had. He would become close with his new crew, he hoped, but it was a little different when you were the captain.
    He sighed and rose, suddenly glum. The choices he’d made to get here couldn’t be undone, and much like his choices about Allison he wouldn’t take them back if he could. No matter how hard it was for him, it was worth it. Tyrone and Justine would be safe, traveling in the Teton Sector and far less likely to put themselves in danger than he was.

Published: October 14 2018

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