Contact: Book 1: Chapter 6


Chapter 6

A day later, Yunta nodded to Shtap when he entered the flight deck on the Black Carrion Flower.  She ignored the two crew members monitoring the condition of the ship and its orbit.

“I had a second meeting with the natives,” Shtap said, “and all goes well, Captain.”

“If everything is going well as you claim, why is the ship still empty of minerals?”

“We make progress, as I will show you.”  He pointed to a wall-mounted monitor.  “The ship’s computer scanned the map I got from the natives today.  It analyzed the geographical features and made a recommendation on where to start exploring.  The location is marked on the screen.”

“Good,” Yunta replied.  She felt a bit better, but she didn’t know if that was a result of her periods receding or if the heavy dose of recreational drugs had kicked in.

“We will start in this valley.  It is surrounded by mountains and the area has forests, rivers and plains.  We should find something.  This small town will be the center of the exploration.  We think the name is pronounced Skensfirth.  The computer recommends an initial load of fifty explorers.  That many robots will allow us to identify mineral deposits in a very short timeframe.  However, we may have a problem with the natives.  The robots cannot identify private property and that is a major issue with the natives.  They brought it up again at today’s meeting.”

“The natives will simply have to adjust.”  With the tip of one tentacle, Yunta punched a button on her communication unit.

“Mivex here.  Yes, Captain?”  The officer’s image appeared on the screen.  Mivex had responsibility for the engineering and propulsion sections.

“Have cargo pod number one prepared for a mission.  Program fifty robots for mineral exploration and load them into the pod.  You will launch them from the air, not on the ground.”

“Very good, captain.  I will see to it immediately.”

“What about the propulsion system, Mivex?”  Like all the equipment on the Black Carrion Flower, the engines were old and worn.  “You failed to provide me with a scheduled report.”

“There is nothing to report.  Nothing has changed since my last report.”  He sneered at her.  “I know you are busy and I did not want to burden you with trivial reports.  If anything worth noting had occurred, you would have been informed.”

Yunta struggled to keep from ordering the fool thrown overboard.  Mivex was another expense reduction.  Zaftan ships required a propulsion shaman because the sub-fusion propulsion reactor pile needed a periodic and healthy blast of external energy to keep it burning properly.  Mivex claimed to be intimate with every aspect of the reactor pile.  No one in the crew believed him.

She pushed a button and the screen turned black.  Yunta inhaled deeply.  She shouldn’t let Mivex irritate her so much, but she couldn’t help herself.  She made a mental note to read the personnel folders of the sub-shamans.  Perhaps, one of them could be promoted to propulsion shaman.  If so, she could strand Mivex on the planet.  That thought raised her spirits.

She turned to Shtap.  “We must do this quickly.  We have only twelve rotations of the planet left before we reach the midpoint of the voyage.  Find minerals and fill the ship, otherwise, we will not earn a bonus.  I will not mention what our superiors will put in our performance reports in that case.”  In her mind, she could picture a blackened, dead corporate tree.  “We are entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs take risks.  We cannot waste time negotiating with property owners for permission to search their land.  The robots are to chase down any trace of minerals they find and they are to ignore the natives.  You can stall the natives with negotiations until we finish loading the minerals.”

The story about MacDrakin, Higginbottom, Webley and Yunta  continues in books 2, 3 and 4 of the Zaftan Troubles series.  Book 5 starts another adventure with more confrontations between the gundies and the zaftans.

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