Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.
The MHC-1 floated through space with nothing but a very faint blue glow showing from its cockpit. Any cursory scans would have shown it as an asteroid, and deeper scans would have shown it as a crewless derelict floating on emergency power. Inside however the crew were sitting down to a meal.
“Are you sure we’re well shielded Wrench?” Clare asked as she joined the rest of the crew, carrying her plate through from the kitchen area.
“Absolutely, we’re inside a double bulkhead,” Wrench replied.
The dark red skinned man was one of the two mechanics on-board, his teenage daughter being the other.
“You’re cargo fuselage is big, so we were able to put parts of a passenger fuselage inside it, bolted onto the cargo skin. Chopped it into four quadrants, bolted it to the inside of the cargo, and turned the gaps into the corridors and some spare storage space under the floors.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Clare replied as she started on her dinner.
“So why are we hanging out here sis?” Asked one of the two identical looking men sat at the table in their soiled ship-suits. Anyone looking at them would assume that they were twins, but Matt and Hugh were actually triplets, along with their sister Clare.
“Currently, we’re hiding,” Clare replied.
“From?” Hugh nudged his sister.
“Traders. Not far from here is Florian, standard colony, been running a few generations now,” Clare explained. “They’re currently due a trading ship passing by before heading to the outer laying colonies. That ship will be dropping off tech from the inner planets, and picking up a standard cargo of foodstuffs to take to newer colonies.”
“And why are we hiding from them?” Matt asked.
“So they don’t see us, silly,” Clare replied. “When they’re gone, we touch down on Florian and have a chat with their settlement leaders. Back at the academy, when we were instructed on what planets were where, colonisation techniques, and what trade routes were planned to support the new colonies as they developed, I couldn’t help but think that all these plans were being put into place without asking the colonists themselves what they actually needed.”
“And you think that the folks on Florian,” Matt started.
“Will know what folks on a newer planet will want?” Hugh finished in their twin-speak.
“She’s got a point though,” Socket joined in. “After all, if you want to know how to improve any company, the first thing you should do is talk to the staff. Managers always come in and tell you what the book says, the staff however have first-hand experience of the problems.”
“So what’s the plan then?” Matt asked. “We land, find out what the colony is likely to actually need, and then follow the main trade route out and sell on?”
“Not quite,” Clare replied. “I’ve been checking the data on the newer colony, and it’s very new. Was settled four years ago, still known by its designation of NC205. From most angles, it’s almost identical to Florian, but is slightly warmer. I figure we can land, find out what they’ll need, and then get out to NC205 before the main traders get there.”
“Before?” Hugh asked.
“With leaving later?” Matt finished.
“Yup,” Clare replied. “It’s eight weeks of empty space between here and there, almost no asteroid fields, no planets, no traffic. Pretty much nothing to worry about hitting, and with the adjustments that Wrench and Socket have been doing, we’ve got a faster ship. I reckon as long as we’re less than a week behind leaving Florian, we should get to NC205, land, sell and leave before they others even turn up.”
“Isn’t that going to annoy the official traders though?” Wrench asked.
“Probably,” Clare replied. “Almost certainly in fact. However I’m not feeling too sorry for them, they’ve been fixing the prices for the newer colonies for so long now, they can lump it.”
“Apart from the few freelancers around,” Matt explained. “Trade to the newer colonies is pretty much limited to the bimonthly ships that the central planets send out.”
“And the colonies have to buy from them,” Hugh continued. “It’s written into their charter that they have to buy a fixed amount of goods from the supply ships for a fixed amount of time. The actual amounts and time varies, but they have to buy it.”
“So why would they buy from us?” Wrench asked.
“Because we’ll be there first, there’s always a black market willing to buy extra stuff just to have it first. Plus we’ll hopefully be taking stuff that the regular traders won’t be, stuff they need,” Clare explained.
“And selling them what they need, early means we’ll be able to get some pretty good credit,” Matt continued.
“Which will help go towards paying off the bounty on this ship we’ve stolen,” Hugh finished.
A small, but insistent beep came over the ship’s speakers and interrupting the conversation.
“Ah,” Clare said. “That’ll be the traders leaving Florian, which means we should be able to head down after dinner. Maybe after dessert.”