I decided to give #SampleSunday another try. Today I am posting an excerpt from "Journey to Yandol" which is the main short story in the collection Journey to Yandol, and other stories. If you like this sample, I hope you will also read the samples that are made available through online retailers, and, naturally, order your copy if you like the samples you read!
A sample from "Journey to Yandol"
A sharp pinging on the bridge brought Alex out of her reverie. An unknown party was sending a message to the Sweet Journey; did she wish to receive? Alex punched the receive button to copy the message to the buffer. Once buffered, she saw that it was a private message for her passenger. She shrugged and pressed the intercom call button to get his attention.
"Yes?" Ravin replied sleepily.
"You have a message. Private and urgent."
"What's it say?" The man's smirk was obvious in his voice.
"I don't know, it's private," Alex repeated, quietly restraining the urge to sigh in annoyance. "Probably encrypted, too. Mind if I patch it through?"
"As you wish," Ravin answered. Alex rolled her eyes and sent a copy of the message to Ravin's cabin. If she was really interested in finding out what it said, it was on record for her to decrypt later; however, she had no immediate interest. Her curiosity was sparked a few minutes later, however, when Ravin burst onto the bridge. "Can we divert?"
Alex looked at the man. "Of course we can divert. Where, and why?"
"I've just received word from one of my brothers. My father is dying from a farm accident. Can we go to my birth home on Yandol 7a? He may not live long." The pilot shrugged, then nodded. She didn't think Yandol 7a or 7b would have any cargo that would pay the same as Nine-X, but there was still a fair amount of trade to be had from the linen mills of Yandol 7b. Alex had been curious about the two planets that shared an orbital, and this was as good of an excuse as she'd ever get to see them. It didn't hurt that the Yandol system was a short distance from Zaire, and in a direction that would allow them to proceed without waiting for the Co-Op armada to pass.
Alex turned the Sweet Journey about, and entered the new coordinates. After a brief message to the governorship of Zaire that she and her passenger would not be moving through the Zaire system after all, Alex set the Sweet Journey in motion toward Yandol. The trip to Yandol would require passing through three systems and an independent, but the distances were relatively short. Alex instructed her passenger to return to his quarters, but her reasons were little more than wanting to daydream, undisturbed, about running cargo like normal, away from the last influence of Modak. Alex was giving herself a vacation on Lopez 3 in just two Co-Op days, and she was finally beginning to believe it might be more than a daydream.
The Sweet Journey made good time through two intermediate systems. When they reached the mobile Jeopardy independent, Alex gazed longingly toward the bars on the perimeter. She wanted a drink and a break from the conn, and the mobile independent's designers had artfully placed the drinking establishments in clear view of passing ships. The massive flashing neon signs winked at Alex, and she remembered that an added benefit of Jeopardy was a multitude of casinos that outnumbered any other independent, mobile or otherwise. As with all mobile independents, Jeopardy was assigned a region of space (always on a major shipping lane) for five years, during which it could exact a toll from all ships passing through. As Alex placed her payment in a toll probe, she considered having Ravin reimburse her for the expense, but decided against it in light of his family emergency.
From Jeopardy, it was a short jump to Yandol. As the Sweet Journey moved in toward the G class star of Yandol, Alex began to feel impatient. Even given the opportunity to view the planetary oddity of a shared orbital, she was tired of the run-around that had started in the Modak system. She was deep in frustrated thought when the door swished open, revealing a soused Ravin Sabik.
"We're almost there," Alex stated, trying to ignore the stench of cheap whiskey that flowed toward her from her passenger. The Sweet Journey was never stocked with liquor, so Alex knew the man had brought his own. Probably Toggath Black Vine, from the smell of it.
"I can see... that for myself," Ravin replied, slurring his words and pausing to hiccup painfully. "So how 'bout you stay with me for a few days while I get things settled? I'll need transport out of here to Fellight anyway."
"Why not?" Alex forced herself to stay calm as Ravin came up and put his hand on her shoulder. "I'll show you a good time."
"No. I'm going to pick up any cargo that's not allotted to a freight line and head out within the day," Alex answered firmly. "Return to your quarters for landing."
"We got a... dull hour or two yet. Come back with me and we can... play a game or two." Alex was facing away from Ravin, and he began toying with her hair. "Want a drink?"
Alex had grown up with an older step-brother, and they had fought constantly, both verbally and physically. She had become an adept fighter, and she had never forgotten that experience. It served her well, and it served her now. Without turning, Alex snatched Ravin's hand and drew him forward around the conn, tripping him to his knees with her foot. In one fluid motion she had him face down on the bridge with her knee at the back of his neck.
"I don't drink when I'm in control of my ship. I also don't stoop to drink with people like you. Return to your quarters peacefully, or I will drag you and lock you in. I do not approve of your drunken behavior."
"I never asked... you to approve. I don't think you're strong enough to drag me... anywhere," Ravin giggled, and tried to get up. A sharp pain from Alex's knee convinced him to stay on the floor.
Alex fished a small instrument from her tool belt. "You aren't trustworthy..."
"If only you knew..." the man's voice trailed away as Alex touched two small metal points on the instrument into his lower neck. His back muscles twitched involuntarily, and he lay still and quiet.
"Grief is no excuse for drunkenness," Alex said to the stunned man's back. He couldn't hear her, she knew, so it was more of an affirmation to herself than an insult to him. She replaced her stunner in her tool belt, picked up Ravin in a fireman's carry, and hauled him to his quarters. Alex dropped him roughly on his bed, and returned to the conn, locking Ravin's door from the outside in the process.