How many words and worlds must we cross before we find that last bit of love and life that we search for? How far can we run before our own personal demons catch up and make us pay for the sins of our past?
“How’s it going, Tai?” Sal asked, her face suddenly appearing on the screen in front of him.
Only time and experience kept him from jumping out of the pilot’s chair. Somehow, Sal was always capable of bypassing any and all security measures on comm. Systems. She could tap into just about any system, no matter how new it was. Captain had only smiled the first time she shocked Tai with that trick and said it was one of the reasons he kept her aboard. Tai had only been with them for about a week and was too overcome with awe and hero-worship to even think about asking what the Captain’s other reasons were. He doubted, even then, that Sal was playing Captain’s Whore, but the ways of those who travelled the stars were new to him and he couldn’t be certain.
“It’s not too bad,” he shrugged. “One’s on, one’s being loaded and I’m just waiting for the other two.”
“Hmm, records show they’re together,” she raised an eyebrow. “Husband and wife probably out for a romantic trip.”
“On the ’Hawk?” Tai was sceptical. “Don’t get me wrong, I love the ’Hawk, but she’s not exactly a pleasure cruiser.”
“No, she’s not,” the alien woman agreed. “But they could but the thrill seeking, slumming sort, and our lovely Starhawk is perfect for those type.”
A chime from the hatch pre-empted anything he could think of to reply to that. Making a face at Sal, he reached over a toggled a switch. “Pilot d’Nontic, how can I help you?”
“Good-day, Pilot, I am Cilla Pratt. I believe you have us on your passenger list?” The softly accented female voice floated through the comm system.
Sal did a quick look at the list then nodded at Tai. “I’ll be right down to help you load your luggage.”
“Have fun,” Sal shouted behind him as he headed down to the loading doors. He shot a crude gesture over his shoulder and her laughter followed him down.
Thankfully, the shuttle was small and the trip to the hold was fairly quick. Not so lucky for him, the overprotective, rude mother was leaving the shuttle just as Tai was coming down the ramp and the latest passengers were coming inside. She looked over the man and woman, snorting in contempt. It was more than likely the commonness of the couple’s clothing that set the woman off. Neither of them were dressed richly, instead their clothing was suitable to time aboard a ship where the temperature could drop to near freezing easily. The mother had dressed her son in the thin, light silk that was common on the planet side and Tai had already sent a message to Sal to put extra blankets in the boy’s room.
“This is what my son will be travelling with?” The scorn in her voice was nearly another person in the small space and Tai desperate thought of some way to diffuse the situation before it became bad for the ’Hawk.
The new woman, Cilla Pratt, only smiled at the mother, a wicked light dancing in her dark eyes. “You should be careful who you insult, you just may end up saying something to the wrong person.”
The mother snorted again. “You are the wrong person, in every way.”
Cilla Pratt smiled again, this time a small, feral expression that made the rude woman back up a step. Tai waited for something to be said, but the silence just dragged on until the mother finally shuddered and hurried off. Confused, Tai looked at the couple and noted that Cilla’s smiled had gone back to something soft and sweet. She linked her arm with the man at her side, her husband but the look of it, and nodded at Tai to lead the way into the shuttle.
“I apologize for that,” Tai said as he grabbed the small bags.
“No need for that,” the man said, finally speaking. “There are those like her every where you go.”
His accent was like his wife’s, a strange sound that made Tai wonder where their home planet was. Sometimes the Captain had a similar accent but not quite the same. It started him wondering about the Captain’s background, not something he was brave enough to ask about.
It was short work to get the Pratts aboard and strapped in and Tai was glad that he could finally leave planet side and return back to the ’Hawk. He hated piloting and he hated dealing with passengers. He’d rather let Erna and the Captain take care of them. A quick check made sure that everyone was strapped in and ready for liftoff. Nodding to himself, Tai headed back to the cockpit and started up the pre-launch sequence. Once everything was green lighted, he hit the button for open comms.
“This is Pilot d’Nontic, and we are just about ready for liftoff. The trip to the Starhawk will take three hours, local time and we will arrive just in time for supper. We liftoff in 3, 2, 1-”
The comms shut off as he hit the throttle and took the shuttle up into the atmosphere. The familiar pressure squished him back against the seat and he wondered just how the passengers were handling it. He didn’t know if any of them had travelled off planet before, but he wondered if he should have warned them about the pressure. He shrugged as the pressure levelled off. Too late now.
“It’ll be a few more minutes before liftoff,” the First Mate said, appearing suddenly by Xander’s side.
He just blinked at the man and shrugged. “I’m in no hurry. You know when Mrs. Steinberg wants the piece delivered.”
“True,” Erna nodded. “It’ll take us about five hours to get back to the ’Hawk. Do you need anything before we leave?”
Xander thought about it for a moment then shook his head. “No, I’m good for now.”
“We’ll get back to the ship just after supper, but I’m sure we can find something for you if you’re hungry them.”
Xander smiled his thanks and turned back to his thoughts, thoroughly dismissing the First Mate. He didn’t want to play friendly. Being friendly only got him pain in the long run. No, he was tired of making connections with people only to lose them. No matter how long he had with anyone, losing them always seemed to come too soon and Xander had realized that he couldn’t take that anymore. The heartache was killing him slowly, and though he may long for death on occasion, that wasn’t the way he wanted to go. Keeping to himself was the best policy.
It wasn’t long before Captain Pryce called the warning for liftoff over the comms, and then the shuttle was launching into space, pushing Xander back into the seat. He let his eyes slide closed and let his mind and heart drift. He would drop off Mrs. Steinberg’s package and be gone, off to somewhere remote to be alone. No more watching and waiting for everyone around him to succumb to age and death. No more love and losing. Just him for the rest of eternity.