For Part 1 of this sci-fi story, click here. Then, read on!
With mixed emotions, they followed McGrath toward the hulking vessel. It took a few slams of the human’s grimy hand on the release mechanism to get the ramp to lower, but eventually it did, with only a slight grinding sound. The ramp was sturdy enough, and it led to a thankfully less rusted airlock, which led into a cargo hold.
Nell frowned; the inside of the cargo hold was about as rusty as the exterior of the ship. McGrath must have caught the look on her face because before she was able to open her mouth he said, “What you’re seeing is the exterior wall. We’ve still got to put in the environmental plating you ordered. It will look good as new, I promise!”
Nell narrowed her eyes at the man, but said nothing as they all traipsed through the empty cargo hold to yet another ramp. This one led up into the rest of the ship. It was less rusted in here, if only slightly. They toured through engineering; storage; and medical, which at this point, being empty, looked exactly the same as ‘storage’ had; a couple of crew bunks with cots that folded out from the walls; and a ‘communications’ room that contained nothing more than a metal desk and a couple of chairs; and finally the galley.
The galley was the first furnished room they came across and that was no thanks to McGrath. The furniture and appliances all looked familiar and it immediately became clear why. “I had the Silent Serpent gutted before I sent her to be scrapped. Anything that could be used here got moved over,” Claw explained. “So you’ve got all the chairs, cupboards, and bedding I could find. Oh, and the sonic shower is from the old ship, too.”
Well, at least I know one part of this ship will work. Nell grimaced.
The last stop of the tour was the cockpit. As Quattro and Xendri were listening to Vox and Claw negotiate with McGrath, Nell slid into the pilot’s seat. It’s the same one, she noted, as her butt slid into a familiar groove. She ran her black-furred hands over the controls, swooping her tail up to see if she could reach the overhead buttons. After a moment, she started to purr. Yes, this might do, after all. This cockpit is Pentaurii design…
“Like I said, the cockpit is Pentaurii-built, just like the engines. They’re used, but top of the line, just like you asked. You see those glass panels there,” McGrath said, gesturing to the glass beneath Nell’s feet and all around her. She could see up and down just as easily as she could straight ahead. “Pentaurii like windows in their ships. Don’t know why, but they make some solid glass. That stuff can take a hit, lemme tell you.”
Of course we like windows. Nell was proud of her Pentaurii heritage, even if she had been in a hurry to leave home and see the galaxy as soon as she’d completed flight school. Scanners are great and all, but to really fly you need to be able to see where you’re going.
“Pentaurii engines are about as reliable as they come,” Claw noted, “and it can’t hurt that you’ve got a Pentaurii pilot who knows how to make good use of them.”
“Now we just need an engineer,” Xendri said.
“Yeah, it’s too bad Sue didn’t want to stay on after we left the Serpent,” Quattro added with a pointed look at Claw.
Claw’s face reddened under Quattro’s gaze. “Yes, well. Sue’s decided to stay with me for a while. Here, on Mars.”
Quattro grinned and slapped his former Captain on the back. “Hey, congratulations man! Now I get why you’re so eager to retire, a woman like that!”
Claw’s blush deepened as he looked the other way.
“Well, shall we complete the paperwork in my office?” McGrath asked and Nell stiffened.
“Is the vessel spaceworthy?” Vox asked.
There was an uncomfortable pause. “Haven’t you taken it for a test flight?” Claw asked McGrath.
“Well, I was waiting for you!” McGrath said a little too quickly. “Wanted you and your crew to have the honour, you see.”
“Xendri’s crew,” Claw corrected him.
“Yes, yes, of course. Now, if you’ll just allow me to complete the paperwork, we can get this thing up and running. Do you know what you’re going to name it? For the records, I mean?”
“What, this majestic thing?” Nell quipped.
“Majestic, yes!” Xendri perked up, having been largely quiet until now, inspecting the ship carefully. “That’s a perfect name. It has so much potential.” She beamed, her brown eyes wide. “Thanks, Nell!”
Nell shook her head. Koowans are strange.
“The Majestic…” McGrath typed out on a datapad he’d pulled out from seemingly nowhere. “Very well, and the owners are…?”
The others gave their names and planets of origin, starting with Xendri, but when they came to Nell, she froze. “Uh, Nell,” she said, knowing that wasn’t going to be enough to satisfy him. McGrath looked at her expectantly and she struggled to come up with a believable sounding family name. “Kiri…of Raal, in the Pentaurii system.”
She felt Claw’s eyes on her, but she kept her head down.
“Okay,” McGrath said, “Now, I’ll just need to scan your IDs to complete the registration.”
Most people started reaching for their ID chips, but Claw put his hand up. “We can handle the official transfer later. Let’s make sure this thing can fly first, why don’t we?”
McGrath hardly looked pleased with this arrangement, but he nodded gruffly. “Very well,” he said, making for the ladder that would take him down to the airlock. “I’ll get some of my people to watch the engines for signs of trouble. Why don’t you come down with me, Claw, since you’re not part of the crew.”
“In a minute,” Claw told him, catching Nell’s gaze as the others dispersed. “This whole ID thing going to be a problem for you?”
Nell stiffened again, but after a moment, she nodded.
“Nell Kiri, huh? Of Raal? I know some people. I should be able to get you a passable ID by tomorrow.”
Nell’s eyes lit up, hope surging through her. Claw just smiled. “Least I can do for the pilot who saved my life just in time for retirement. Consider it done.”
Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of nine novels and counting, and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally role-playing with her friends.