“Your cousin seems the safest bet. I would rather deal with someone we can trust.”
“Very good, Captain. I can make contact with him, but we will need a front until we can speak alone with him.”
“I’ll call in some favors from Haluush.”
“I’m curious what favors those are, Captain. Maciian’s have been trying to establish trade with Haluush for as long as I can recall.”
“Story for another time, Scorch. Why don’t you and the Bartender go get what supplies and parts you need while I make the call.”
“Yes, Captain.” Scorch climbed back inside his armor and the Bartender followed him outside into the burning sun.
Once they were outside, Laurie climbed back up to the cockpit, activating the communicator. Shortly, a hologram of a human appeared above the console. He was male, and stately in appearance despite the worn coveralls he wore.
“Captain Mack, good to hear from you.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have good news, sir,” she replied, making an effort to keep her voice steady. “It’s your son.”
“Chip? What is it?”
“I’m sorry, but he was killed.”
The old man let out a long, haggard breath, grasping for the chair behind him and sat down. He rested his head in his hand for a long moment, digging at his temples. “How… How did it happen, Captain?”
“We were set up by mobsters on Fuesillia. Ambushed by the government, mobsters and revolutionaries all at once. He allowed us to escape.”
“The Fuesillian sun.”
“Good. He always wanted that. Didn’t want to die in the mines like his old man.”
“I’m sorry, sir. He was a good friend.”
“He admired you so much, you know?” The old man fought back tears. “He always wanted to go fly, and when you came here, it was all he could think about. I’m glad you could give him the life he wanted.”
“It ended too soon.”
He took another long, stuttering breath, fighting back tears. “I run a mine, Captain Mack. I see lives cut short a lot. It may have been no different here, and he would have been miserable. At least his mother didn’t live to see it.”
Laurie stood silently, letting the man grieve and talk.
“It was his mother who called him Chip. When he was a boy, he wanted to run the mine one day. Played miner all day long. Chip off the old block, she said. Look at us now.”
Laurie nodded silently, wishing there were any words to say. The old man composed himself, wiping away unwanted tears from his eyes. “Where are you now, Captain?”
She spoke as confidently as she could manage. “Well, that’s another reason I’m calling. I’m on Maciia, and could use a favor.”
“Maciia? Those crooked traders?”
“I happen to know one pretty well, and he’s in a bit of a pinch. I’d like to help him out.”
“What can I do?”
“We need to set up a meeting with a trade family, but need a reason for doing so. It’s a metalworking guild, and if we had some ore on offer…”
“You need a contract from me?”
She nodded. “It doesn’t have to be enforceable. Just a ticket to get us in the door.”
“I’ll have it to you inside an hour.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Come see me after your business on Maciia.”
He nodded and switched off the call, leaving her standing alone in the cockpit, arms crossed and chewing her lip. She closed her eye and fought back tears.
She composed herself and returned to the cargo bay, where Scorch and the Bartender were returning, several small crates in tow.
“All sett?” she asked.
“Yes, Captain. All the parts I need.”
“Good. We will have a dummy contract in the next hour or so, so let’s get a meeting set up with this cousin of yours.” Scorch nodded, the torso of the armor leaning forward. “But first, we have some business to discuss.”
“Yes, what to do about you.” She nodded to the Bartender. “I can’t help but notice we gave you a ride, yet you’re still here.”
Laurie held her hand up, palm out to silence him. “I know. I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of places you can go?”
“There is certain to be a price on my head, yes.”
“If you don’t have at least one bounty out for you, you haven’t really lived.” She smiled. “You’re handy in a fight and can make drinks. Any other skills I should know about?”
“I do have contacts in the underworld around the galaxy, as well as many governments- at least those sympathetic to Fuesillian Rebels.”
“Good enough for me. Scorch?”
“I agree, Captain.”
“Well, Bartender. Feel like joining our merry little company?”