Ad Astra Chapter 7: Rigel Nine

11Mar14

spankedOur story started here.

The great brown and silver-grey rock rolled slowly past them looking near enough to touch. At 10,000 meters off to the starboard, in space terms, it was. It was just one of the hazards the Ad Astra as it approached Rigel Nine, although the asteroid belt here was not as extensive as the one in the Lucifer system. Nonetheless it was more closely packed and much nearer the main inhabited planet.

Dane adjudged that they could pass ahead of the great boulder rather than hanging back and risk colliding with another behind it. But all the same he had ordered the ship to general quarters and all hands now stood at their stations.

This latter order had been enthusiastically welcomed by both Jen and Tammy, who up until then had both been standing at attention with their dress trousers and undershorts at their ankles. Luckily for them the port authority would not send an officer until after they had docked, so unless Dane ordered a resumption of punishment parade for the trip to Maelstrom, then their ordeal was over.

But neither was so green that did not view the proximity of the asteroid as a serious hazard and both felt their bellies tighten as the fixed their eyes on the better-than-life scanner. For the first time since leaving Little Sister they got a sense of the ships movement and relative speed as it plummeted towards Rigel Nine.

Then at a critical moment in the manoeuvre the lights flickered and the panel consoles shut down.

“Luna,” the entirely unmoved captain said casually, “Initiate a reboot diagnostic.”

It was a basic enough operation, but one that could easily be screwed up by a novice. Dale’s face went ashen and she moved to initiate her own console.

“I said Luna,” Dane growled.

“Eh… yes Sir,” Luna replied hastily in a panicky and strained voice.

Then for several precious seconds she fumbled with the panel before suddenly everything came to life.

“Good, very good,” Dane said crisply, “Michelin, take over and get us clear of that damn rock, it looks a little close.”

The aspect view on the monitors rolled down and to the right as Michelin expertly reasserted control.

Dale was not only one looking a little green and whirled around to watch the asteroid tumble away to the rear. For a moment she was certain they would clip it, turning the Ad Astra into so much mashed metal, and her heart lurched. Then she rocked back in relief as the massive boulder became a wall of rock as it passed less than 800 meters from their stern. Close enough to see cracks and textures on the surface.

“What the hell happened?” she gasped, pulling up diagnostic screens on her console.

“I initiated a test shut down,” Dane said with a yawn. He was already thinking about their next move. “I wanted to see what our latest crew member had learned.”

The first mate did not hide her consternation and her mouth moved as she ran through a gamut of silent curses.

Jen and Tammy exchanged glances, both grinning broadly until they included the still rather stunned Luna in on their mirth. This was what they signed on for; seat of the pants flying and imminent danger. The newbie had come good.

Damn the man, Dale swore to herself, God and be damned, what does he think he is doing? Every day she hated him more and more. But for Dale things were not to improve.

Although the ship docked without incident it did not take long for Dane report back on the next leg of the voyage. A healthy cargo had been added to their existing one, but none of the goods they carried had been slated for removal.

“Damn, damn that God cursed man,” Dale screamed as she threw the manifest across the room.

There had not been one taker for Dane’s leather goods and now they were saddled with a hold full of cargo and a millstone of debt. She hated losing her temper, it never helped and she was only glad that there was no one to see her. Even so it took a moment to calm down, her hands dragging through her hair as she sat heavily on her bunk.

She was certain now that Dane was working in cahoots with her sister to bring the business to an end. He had already half-mortgaged the ship and now… but no, that didn’t make sense. Her sister might want Dale back home on Little Sister, but not at such a financial loss. Not when she stood to gain what she wanted anyway.

So why then did the apparently competent Captain Dane take such risks? Dale took two deep breaths and considered her options.

Rigel Nine was a good place to make some money if one knew the right people. It was risky and she had sworn for Jen’s sake that she would stay clear of shady deals in future. But the Ad Astra and her future were at stake. She had no choice but to at least consider all the options.

Meanwhile at the other end of the ship the other women had gathered in the main hold for a mutual bitch-fest. The ever unsuppressible Dane had not blinked when there were no takers for his luxury leather goods. Instead of being phased he had merely gone out and bought a consignment of ore for the onward journey to Maelstrom.

“You mean we have to restack the entire cargo?” Tammy gaped, “But why didn’t we place it all to one end when we started?”

Michelin shrugged. She had no idea why the captain had decided to reallocate cargo but she didn’t like it any more than the crew.

“I don’t know,” Michelin sighed as she rubbed the back of her head at the mountain of crates that had to be moved. “But I guess we had better get on with it.”

Jen and Tammy exchanged hard looks and held each other’s gaze. Finally Tammy shrugged, but she could tell Michelin was pissed off, which was more than unusual for the second mate.

Michelin still didn’t understand cargo and it irked her. How could she serve the ship if she was incompetent? She wasn’t made that way. The other thing that was troubling her was that Dane hadn’t attended to her since Little Sister and she was getting antsy.

Instead of focussing on the tasks at hand she was thinking of ways to be naughty. But so what if the captain wanted her to restack the cargo? He could order to restack the cargo as much as he liked, it was her job wasn’t it. She would do it naked if it pleased him. Well wouldn’t she? After all she was made that way.

But all the same she hadn’t been to the woodshed in a while.

*

Gail Lustrom knew something was up. Dale had stormed past her on the rec deck without saying a word. It had been this way since Dane had come aboard and it was beginning to put the brakes on her love life.

One might think that Dale resented Dane, which would be only natural. But Gail knew better, or thought she did. For years Dale had said that she hated being in the top spot, a position forced upon her by the departure of Jen’s father. Good riddance, Gail thought, but it had meant that her friend had taken on quite a burden all by herself.

Many times Dale had said that she would give half the ship to attract a highly qualified captain to advance the business. Well now they had one, so what was her beef?

Okay so Dane had been unorthodox, but treading the same old paths was only going to lose the Ad Astra in the end. They had to take a chance, didn’t they? Maybe if Dale really thought that Lidia was up to something it would all make sense, but Dale’s sister was not that devious and in any case at bottom she only had Dale and Jen’s interests at heart, even if she was a bitch about the Ad Astra.

It was time to have it out with her.

*

“Dale,” Gail called.

The door to the first mate’s quarters had opened to her as usual, but inside the lights were out.

“Dale, are you there?” Gail tried again.

“Go away Gail,” said a gloomy voice from the dark.

Gail reached for the light pad and held it until the cabin illumination reached a healthy 60 percent. Then she stepped fully inside and closed the door behind her.

Dale was lying back on her bed with a wet flannel on her face.

“I told you to get out,” Dale snapped without moving.

“Is that an order Ma’am?” Gail asked as she sat on the end of the bed.

Dale answered with a heavy sigh but didn’t move.

“Come on, what’s up?” Gail asked.

Dale sat up and hurled the flannel across the room. For a moment Gail thought that her friend would hit her and then Dale dropped her face into her hands.

“That man, that…” Dale made as if to spit, “bloody man,” she finally cursed, “He is up to something and he won’t tell me.”

“I take it that there were no takers for the leather goods?” Gail sighed. “Did you ever really think there would be on Rigel?”

“No,” Dale said sullenly.

“And don’t you think he knew that?” Gail prompted.

At this Dale dropped her arms and became animated again.

“That’s what I mean. He is up to something,” Dale said angrily.

“I expect he is,” Gail agreed, “Captain’s do that, like another captain I used to know.”

“But…” Dale extended an arm in frustration, her eyes darting wildly in her head, “Oh I don’t know,” she growled and fell back to slam her hands down beside her.

“Do you really think a man like Bradley Dane is working a fast one with Lidia?” There she had said it, Gail thought, it must have crossed Dale’s mind.

Dale didn’t answer for a moment and then she sighed, “I told you to get out.”

“No.”

Dale sat up again and gave her friend a hard stare.

“Come to dinner with me on Rigel instead,” Gail said firmly.

“I said get out,” Dale said, trying to sound angry, “Do you want a trip to the woodshed?”

“Promises, promises,” Gail giggled.

Dale lunged at her and the two women rolled around the bed until Gail was positioned firmly under the older woman’s legs. Then after a flurry of swats to her behind Dale began to drag the pants-half of the uniform down her thighs.

“Oh you bitch,” Gal squealed.

“Bitch, am I?” Dale snarled and swung Gail across her lap so that she could push her pants and undershorts down her legs.

Then she seized a hairbrush off what passed for a dresser and blasted it down on Gail’s bare bottom. It took a moment to get a reaction and by then Gail’s bottom was a smooth even pink and she was yelling her head off.

The spanking was a long one that left them both panting for breath and continued until Dale had no more strength in her arm. Finally a moist-eyed Gail twisted around and cuddled into Dale’s lap.

“You worry too much,” she said huskily.

Dale kissed her and squeezed.

“I just hate that man,” Dale said.

“Do you? I wonder,” Gail whispered and kissed Dale back.

*

Despite her promise to take Gail to dinner Dale was restless. Nor had she slept since they had finished their tryst. The lights, still at 60 percent, cast a pall of softness across the naked Gail who now lay face down next to her on the bed. The exposed reddened domes of her lovely bottom were gently rising and falling as she slept. Dale listened to her Gail’s breathing, which sang in her mind like the rhythm of the void. Only this time she wasn’t soothed.

Instead her thoughts turned again to darker matters and she scowled. Dane had taken her ship and she didn’t trust him. Maybe if he had… well asserted his authority and taken her in hand. Or if he had taken her into his confidence… she didn’t follow that train and sat up. Damn the man. Well if you won’t save my ship and you won’t trust me then I’ll show you what I can do.

She took a look at Gail and considered waking her to tell her dinner was off. But then she would have to explain why. She told herself that it was because she wanted to protect her friend, but that was a lie. What she really feared was that Gail was right and would talk her out of doing something rash.

Dale slipped from the bed and dressed in the first civilian clothes she could find; a synth-leather puff-jacket worn over tatty brown dungarees. She also took an old pair of spacer boots rather than her good ones, but waited until she was out of the cabin before she put them on.

To the residents of Rigel Nine she would look like a miner or a one of the shadier characters that did their best not to look like smugglers. It was an old look for her and strangely comfortable.

Dale got to the docking rig without incident and from there it was easy to get into Tramp Town, what the locals called their main space port.

Rigel Nine was not pretty. The sky was a murky rust red and the only visible terrain was bitter non-descript ragged rocks rising like broken fingers into the gloom above the city.

The rooftops themselves were of corrugated metal and set at angles so that it was near impossible to tell where one building left off and another began. Most of the exposed areas of metal were rusted and some badly so giving the air an acrid scent. Dale remembered it well and hurried on.

In places the street became enclosed in dark tunnels only poorly lit by an assortment of rough retail outlets and bars. Also at odd intervals the streets made sharp turns or became three or even four lanes.

Dale stepped unerringly through this warren keeping to the shadows as she picked her way to Gremlin. But it wasn’t until she got to Bunker Hill that the city opened up and she could see the mines and smelters shooting great gouts of fire into the sky. It was like some old vision of hell, mile upon mile of gantry towers and columns of flame.

Here the landscape opened to a valley with ramshackle houses built into an almost sheer cliff and Dale paused. The houses and streets were apt to change and for a moment she couldn’t see her way down to Gremlin and the old bar she knew. Then she spied a familiar mission house and clambered down a ladder to the upper platform leading to the steep stairs into the crack in the world. The buildings were tightly spaced and even in the daytime it was dark, it was as if Rigel Nine had swallowed her whole.

Above, the cyborg adjusted his eye to dismiss the gloom and watched as Dale made her descent. It looked like she was heading to Gremlin and the Rusty Bucket. Oddly enough he was disappointed, although it was what he had expected. It seemed his mission had begun in earnest.

To be continued…



8 Responses to “Ad Astra Chapter 7: Rigel Nine”

  1. 1 paul1510

    Damian,
    it’s been a while, but I think I’m on track. 🙂
    Paul.

  2. Yea,it’s been a bit but that was so worth it. Dale knows she loves Gail, she needs to jus admit it and be done

  3. 3 DJ

    Thanks – we will see how the story unfolds

  4. 4 Jon

    So, what happened to chapter 8?

    • 5 DJ

      I have actually more or less written it – but haven’t found time to sense check it and run it out. But fear not Ad Astra will return. 🙂

      • 6 Jon

        DJ: There is a wonderful typo – or maybe it isn’t – in today’s post about Abraham Heights: You refer to clothing from the 50’s as “booby sox” rather than “bobby sox.” I’ll definitely take the girl in the booby sox.

  5. 7 DJ

    Thanks Jon 🙂 Not intentional but funny

  6. 8 Bloom

    Another great series 😀 Please don’t make us wait too long ^_^


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