Author: David Barber
Kuiper-23917 tumbled lazily alongside the Ada Swann.
The conglomeration of dirty ice was on the small side, and worse, the market price was at an all-time low. When Perry was last on Vesta, folk were saying the Ice Rush was over.
She still had one throwaway booster left. Sensors scanned the stars for a fix, and software fired thrusters to keep the ice on track as it fell sunwards. All she needed was a buyer to collect six months from now.
Comms traffic was sparse out here, but there was that voice again, fading in and out. She fiddled with the settings.
“.… nav failed and life support went sour a week ago. Repeat. Wolf Moon calling Ada Swann…”
Perry looked up Wolf Moon. It was an old Lunar Industries craft. Crew of two. Ceres registry. L. Chekov, owner.
His voice was tinny over the speaker. Name was Lev, he explaind. His brother Yuri wasn’t doing too well.
“You got space for us?” he ventured.
The Ada Swan was a roomy six-berth. “There’s just Ada and me,” Perry answered after a pause.
Lev and Yuri exchanged looks. Had she been alone it would have been easy to surprise her.
“She’s running solo,” Yuri insisted.
“Ship’s named Ada. She’s just being cute.”
Lev shook his head at his brother..
“What if you’re wrong, and this Ada sends out a broadcast? No, we get aboard and wait our chance, right?”
“Alright,” muttered his brother.
“And why don’t we use that stupid gun of yours?”
Yuri said nothing.
“Because it needs to look like an accident. We want a nice legal salvage claim.” He glanced around at his ship. “There’s no future in this now.”
“Been having trouble with my main lock,” Perry radioed when the Wolf Moon drew close. “But I’ll open the hanger door.”
When the Ada Swann was shiny new, it boasted a runabout kept in a hanger off Engineering.
Lev pictured the Spacer meeting them. If she wasn’t in a suit, they’d just bundle her out the air lock and make it look like a faulty suit afterwards.
They were waiting for the hanger to repressurise when there was a thump from the hatch into Engineering.
“Sorry,” said Perry. “But that’s you locked in. You get cautious when you fly solo.” She didn’t sound sorry.
“See,” hissed Yuri.
“Just sit tight while I check out your story.”
Yuri began banging on the hatch.
Lev shrugged inside his suit. “She’ll have to let us go sometime, and later it’ll just be her word against ours.”
Wolf Moon smelled funny, and was grubbier and more cramped than Perry was used to, but life support was fine and every control panel was green. She’d felt there was something off about these two.
“Opening the hanger door now,” Perry said.
“There’s been a misunderstanding—” began Lev smoothly.
“Get back to your ship before I light up my drive.”
Lev grinned ruefully to himself. Some you win…
“See the throwaway booster?” said Perry, once the brothers had launched themselves back towards their ship.
She’d fixed her last booster to Wolf Moon, programmed to nudge the ship towards a rendezvous with Ceres in five months’ time.
“Best leave it alone,” she advised. “I took some of your motherboards, so that’s the only drive you’ve got that works now.”
She told them they’d get the chance to turn themselves in before she contacted Ceres Law. Then she switched off comms. No call for language like that.
It looked like she wouldn’t break even this trip either. There was no profit being honest these days.