Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Hold current position, Berkley 410. We’ll notify you when a route clears.”
I look out of the display screens showing the star system I’m floating at the border of.
“Give me a clue, Marsanis Control. Is it likely to be before the sun dims?”
There’s a chuckle.
“That we can guarantee. However, whether it’ll occur within your remaining lifespan is less certain, you long-haired claim stealer.”
I know that insult.
“You hadn’t filed the claim, Barnabus. How was I to know that unmarked motherlode was technically yours?”
“I was delayed by unforeseen hazards.”
“From reaching your comms console? Did the gravitational anomaly that pinned you to the floor have a name, by any chance?”
“Nothing you need to know.”
“Well, I hope it was worth it.”
“That was a low blow.”
Oh, come on.
“If you keep giving me cues, I’ll have no choice but to run with them.”
Another chuckle.
“Poor word choice on my part. I’ll never know if it was worth it, because the conglomerate that bought the claim from you towed the whole asteroid away for processing.”
“I paid for the ride I’m in, outfitted it, and had change for cargo.”
Plus the same amount again. That 120-megatonne chunk of ancient planet was mainly solid Paralan-4, and most of it at 80% or better purity. But some details are best not mentioned.
“Just how much cargo can you fit in a Baxlyn Jaunter?”
So that’s what the blip ahead of me is.
“Check the beacons again. I’m in the runabout behind the Jaunter.”
That’s a long silence.
“You could afford a Talon?”
A Talon IV. Fully loaded Interstellar Venture spec, to be precise… Again, not to be mentioned.
“Didn’t say I didn’t blow a lot on it.”
“Well, at least you’ve still got it. My gravitational anomaly was gone inside a week.”
Salis flits into the cockpit, grace incarnate in freefall.
They reach down and tap the ‘mute comm’ icon.
“Is that Barnabus I hear?”
I nod.
“Of all the spaceship traffic controllers in the galaxy,” she sighs, “we’ll not be meeting him?”
Since that would reveal his ‘gravitational anomaly’ was my suggested delaying tactic for their proposed plot.
“Absolutely not. We’ll also be setting down on whichever planet he’s not on.”
They kiss the top of my head.
“I always loved your planning.”
I unmute the comm.
“That’s a shame, Barnabus. Anyway, I need to check on my passengers, so you be well. Berkley 410 off comms.”
“And you. Marsanis Control off comms.”
Salis gives me a smile.
“I thought I was the only other being on this ship.”
“True. Which bit would you like me to check?”