“Here’s one that meets some of your requirements.” Bill scrolled down the list on his electronic tablet and tapped a selection. A hologram of a spacecraft materialized on the table in front of them.
“A deep space cruise ship converted to a cargo hauler. Didn’t make much sense as a freighter. Not enough capacity to make shipping pay off. Kind of sexy looking for a cargo vessel though.”
Sam walked around the room examining the ship from all sides. It had a pointed snout and clear front panels made to look like a windshield. A series of observation blisters dotted the sides. The streamlined look was marred by the addition of protruding panels in the sides that had been added as access ports to the cargo bays. Two antimatter propulsion drives were mounted on fins protruding horizontally from the vessel near the back.
“Antimatter the only propulsion?”
“In addition to conventional ion impulse drives there’s sail technology, either light or magnetic.”
“Minimum of six. Up to twenty-four if you convert a cargo bay to open bay barracks. Probably more than that if you really need to.”
“Let’s have a look at the bridge.”
Bill tapped a spot on the tablet and the ship expanded to envelope the room. They were on the captain’s bridge standing next to the command chair. Four large display screens on the front wall dominated the room. Sam walked forward and examined the navigator’s console then the communications desk. He returned to Bill’s side and looked around the room.
“Kind of fancy for a cargo ship.”
“Not for a cruise ship though. It was made to impress people.” Bill handed the tablet to Sam with the ship’s specs listed on it. Bill started scrolling through it.
“You know the answer to that. We can’t sell ships with weapons to civilians.”
Bill looked up from the pad. “Shields?”
“Sure. Got to have shields. Couldn’t handle a full military assault but good enough for pirates.”
Bill was back to looking at the tablet. He was scrolling around a schematic of the ship’s layout.
“Let’s look at one of these loading ports.”
Bill tapped the screen and the hologram around them changed to the interior of a cargo bay. They were facing a pair of doors. Sam knew that beyond the doors was an airlock and another set of doors to the outside of the ship. A large round hole in the door had been welded shut. On the wall next to it were receptacles for hose connections. There was a heavy duty flange anchored to the floor. Sam looked at Bill.
“What kind of cargo did they haul with this?”
Bill shrugged. “You got me.”
“Well it’s obvious they had ordinance at one time. Not cruise ship stuff.” Sam looked around the cargo bay.
“It’s got possibilities.” He looked back at Bill. “But I don’t have a crew of six.”
“So you’ve said. I don’t know Sam. I’m running out of choices.”
Sam had gone back to the tablet. He paused in his scrolling. “What’s this?”
Bill looked over his shoulder. “It’s the engineering bridge.”
“Can you run the ship from there?”
“With less than six?”
“Well yes I guess you could. Maybe you could get by with four. How big is your crew?”
Sam gestured to enlarge the engineering bridge display. “Two”, he said absently.
Bill stepped back and gave Sam a hard look. Sam ignored him and continued to study the specs on the tablet.
“Are you wasting my time?”
“You know I’m not. You know I have the funds. You’ve already checked me out.” He swiped the screen to bring up another display.
Bill tapped Sam on the shoulder. When Sam looked at him he mouthed the words ‘Follow me’ and motioned him to follow. They stepped into the hall, walked two doors down and ducked into Bill’s office. Sam started to speak but Bill held up his hand to stop him. He went around his desk and tapped a screen on the back wall. Rock music filled the room. He opened a drawer and flipped a switch. Something vaguely calypso started playing. Another switch and rap was added to the mix. Bill came back around the desk and stood face to face with Sam.
“Now we can talk.”
The technician pulled the headphones from his ears and let them drop around his neck. Graphic displays on the screen in front of him danced a hyperactive dance. He tapped a spot on the desk and a soft voice floated up from hidden speakers.
“Think I got something.”
“Bill Lundigan. Used equipment salesman. He’s been showing spacecraft to a customer. They went into his private office and turned on some music. Three sources. Conflicting rhythms. Computer can’t sort them out.”
“They’re obviously saying something they don’t want us to hear. I could borrow resources and try to filter down to words.”
“Lundigan? Let me see.”
A silent pause. “No. No, don’t do that.”
“We could bust him just on suspicion. Shut him down.”
“No. Seems they know about Lundigan. They just want him watched. Probably hoping he’ll lead them to something bigger. You got ID on the buyer?”
“Sure. Got that early on. Pulling background now.”
“Fine. Put it in the report. Be sure and include all you got on the buyer. Just pass it up the line.”
“You got it.”
Bill eyed Sam carefully. “I don’t care about the law. I’ll do just about anything I can get away with if it means money. What I do care about is getting caught. One hint of trouble and I turn you over in a heartbeat.”
Sam smiled. “Wouldn’t expect anything else.”
“I just want to be clear about that.”
“I don’t care what you’ve got in mind.”
“I don’t want to know.”
Bill stared at Sam, considering. Sam smiled benignly.
“So you want the ship?”
“I want it.”
“Okay. Let’s do it.” He swiped to a form on his desktop. “Fill this out and we’ll get started.” He pointed to a section of the display. “Here’s where you enter your codes for the transfer of funds. You know about the three day waiting period. You have three days to change your mind.”
“I’ll be waiving that.”
“I don’t think you can.”
“Yeah.” Sam tapped a spot and a box opened on the screen. “See?”
Bill looked over his shoulder. “Didn’t know that was there. So when do you want to take possession?”
“By noon tomorrow at the latest. That brings us to something else I need you to do for me. I need you to supply the ship.” He held out a pocket size tablet. “It’s all in there.”
Bill took the device and started scrolling through the list. “When will you be leaving?”
Bill kept scrolling. “Not possible. You have to get a spot on the schedule. Inspections, clearances. A week at best.”
“I have two letters of transit.”
Bill looked up. “How did you get…”
“Signed by Devereux.”
Bill opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out.
“Can you do it?”
Bill looked away, stunned. “Yes, but…”
“There will be a handsome bonus in it for you.”
“I can do it. It’ll take all night but your ship will be ready in twenty-four hours. But I… Is the signature authentic?”
“Authentic enough for you. It’ll check out.”
Bill looked at Sam, still stunned. “Who are you?”
“I’m nobody. Just a guy who wants to buy a spacecraft.”
Copyright © 2012 by Angus B. Lewis
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