• Cobra vs. Monkey
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  • This is chapter Chapter One of my latest Novel. 'A Space Tale' Please read and give me your honest opinions. I will post other chapters as they are ready for comments. Thank you.

    Soon the Alliance, Empire, Federation, and the Free-ports will start an all-out shooting war with each other in earnest. I am a merchant; the powers that be called me a pirate when I was not serving their interests. I have many friends in all four factions of the war to come, and I am independent of them and dependent on all four of them simultaneously. I am Alexander Maximovich, Captain of the City of Lviv Freighter. My friends call me Sasha; my enemies call me much worse.
    One place is special to me; the space station in the Federation. My friend Susan is the first officer there. The space station is the largest in the Federation territories. Five hundred years ago, the four main powers in the galaxy built the station, starting from an asteroid made of iron and copper. They mined the metals from it and other nearby asteroids. They captured many comets as a water source. As time went on, the station grew. Its purpose was a weigh station and unofficial bargaining location for the four major powers and the lesser factions inside each. For a long time, the station was marginally safer than in many of the planets of the powers.
    With my fleet of ships, we could traverse the settled space and many wild areas outside without too many problems from the major governments. I have found many treasures gained and lost good crews and ships. Those tales will wait. Recently negotiations with another merchant went terribly; I lost my right arm to a laser blast and broke my left leg in three places. The ship's doctor/cook set my leg and placed a regrowth frame for my arm. I returned to the station to recover and refit two of my ships. The impending war had made travel more dangerous. It will take six months to regrow my arm; an advantage of this is the titanium-tungsten bones are virtually unbreakable—no more broken arms. The head of security for the station is always watching my crew and me. He is a real pain in the arse. His favorite activity when we are docked at the station is to follow my crew and me. My orders to the crew are simple to stay out of trouble. So far, my crew had stayed out of too much trouble. Once a few of my people were cheated in a casino. They convinced the owner to give them their money back and anything they would have won if he had not cheated them. Security was not happy about the condition of the casino when my people left. That was a minor thing in the grand scheme of life.
    It took me a week to be up and moving; it was time I went to the officer's dining lounge to meet Susan and the new Captain. He was a hero from the Telepath War; he was tough but fair, from what I had heard. They were eating a non-descript gruel that was supposed to be breakfast at a table.

    “Сьюзан, мой дорогой друг. Как дела? Что вы едите?” I asked.
    “It is breakfast.” Said one of the people at the table.
    “Что это?” I asked.
    “Sasha, you need to speak standard Intergalactic.” Susan reprimanded me gently. “The others don't speak Russian.”
    “I apologize; I did not mean to be rude,” I told them. “So, what are you eating?”
    Captain Blalock said, “It is a fully nutritious balanced protein ration.”
    “It looks terrible,” I said.
    “We have a section in our contract labeled SUAEI,” Susan told me.
    “What does that mean?” I asked.
    “Shut up and eat it,” Susan replied. We all laughed.

    The following day I had five real meals of bacon, eggs, toast, and real brewed coffee delivered to them for breakfast. The brew unit was sent with the meals so the coffee would be fresh. Even the head of security, Mr. Gerund, appreciated the gesture. He probably thought his meal was poisoned but ate it anyway. Later that day, I spoke with Lt Cmdr Susan Malochek in her office; we grew up in Sangar in Siberia, a small town on the Lena River.
    “Susan, you are in a good mood today,” I said.
    “Yes, I had a great breakfast; Thank you, Sasha,” she replied
    “You are welcome. How could you stand that gruel for so long?” I asked.
    “You learn to tolerate it,” she said.
    “I have a ship that needs a permanent safe place to sit. It is a hydroponic and traditional grow ship. It sits in Hyperspace near a UV source, but it is hard to transfer food and supplies. Long-term stays in Hyperspace are difficult for a ship, and EVAs are dangerous. I would like it to sit safely from the star this station orbits. We can provide food at a reasonable price. The ship will need to be defended on occasion. Some people think they can take from me without paying. I can also bring in other supplies the station needs. I am sure you have some needs with the hostilities and the increase in pirates.” I told her.
    “Yes, pirates like you have been an increasing problem in many sectors.” she pointedly said.
    “Susan, you wound me. I am a merchant.” I retorted.
    “You're a pirate that would sell anything to anyone for a profit.” She accused.
    “I do make the best deals I can,” I said defensively.
    “You lost your arm, and your leg is broken in three places.” She reminded me.
    “That was a lousy negotiation, but you should see the Nargolan. He will be in rehabilitation a lot longer than I will. But, on to important matters; what do you need for the station?” I asked her.
    “We are short on every type of material I can think of. Our mining equipment is down more than it's up. We are getting less usable ore out of the few asteroids we find on the system's outer rim. We should have ten wings each of Cobra' X' and Raven' Y' wing fighters; we have maybe two operational flights. We have been cannibalizing ships to keep other ships up and running. The lack of fighters puts us in a bad position. It is not like they can move the station on a whim. Our transports are next to useless. They seem to be down for maintenance after every flight, and the crews have to do makeshift repairs. Our fabrication shops are in desperate need of metals and minerals. Food and medical supplies are in short supply.” she said.
    I felt like she had practiced that little speech a few times for my benefit.
    “Why don't you requisition more fighters from the Federation? They should want to protect the station.” I said.
    “It is not that simple; the Federation has cut back on our station's allocations. The war will start soon. The Federation cannot afford to give us any new fighters, parts, or supplies to fix the ones we have. The station will be left to fend for itself when the war starts.” She said.
    “I fear you may be right. I have friends in different sectors that may be able to help supply the station. It will be expensive. Traveling through some sectors is more dangerous than flying into the Void.” I said.
    “I like having a place to rest and refit my ships; I think we can do business. Send my Load Master a list of what you have to trade and what you need. Barter is going to be the most reliable method to get supplies. I believe I can get you most of what you need. Part of the station is industrial; I need 'Ring Ten'. There is virtually no one there. My ships can bring in raw materials. I know many worlds where I can trade some base metals for exotics.” I told her.
    She said, “I will send you the list by the end of today.”
    Good, My ship's load-master, and I will see where we can trade up for things you need here. We will also see what we have that you need. My Grow-ship will be here in a few days. It is not the fastest ship I own, but it goes where we need her. I will station her close enough to the star to get the proper UV light. There are many animals and plants on her. Join me for lunch; my cook is making rabbit stew just like Baba made for us.” I offered.
    I can't, She said. I have back-to-back meetings with the guilds and unions. Maybe later. Okay.
    “I need to get back to my ship to see what we have to help here. Also, to see where we can trade for you.” I said as I turned to leave.
    “Sasha, be safe.” She said as I left.

    Later that day:

    I asked, Ippolit, my Load-Master, “Did you get that list from Lt. Cmdr. Malochek?”
    “Yes, it came in about an hour ago. They have some base metals and a few hundred pounds of gold and platinum, nothing of much worth except on the outer planets. I was checking a survey of a nearby system; a giant asteroid with high carbon content could be worth something to the Alliance. The Empire has cut off the supply lines of raw carbon to them. If we bring in "The Lake Baikal," we could put it in her hold compartment. The factories on Lexix-10 would pay well for the carbon. There are a few good-sized comets we could capture for the water. No telling how many planets we could trade water on.” He said.
    “Make it happen. I am going to see when "The St. Petersburg" will arrive. We need to get her in position near the sun. She has been in Hyperspace too long,” I said.
    “You got the Captain to agree to protect her?” He asked.
    “Yes, we will sell food to the station, and they will provide added protection to our St. Petersburg,” I replied.

    When I got to my stateroom, Marina was waiting.
    “Yes, Marina?” I said in a weary voice.
    “I have been reviewing the list from Susan; It appears she is asking for a whole new station,” she told me.
    “That is our Susan; she will ask for ten thousand credits and settle for a thousand. Check her list of what they have against the list of needs to see where we can get the best trades.” I said.
    “I am doing that now; the computer should give us a list of possibilities soon. There is also the rim.” She added. “We could go a long way around the Free port-controlled space to the edge of the Alliance. Some isolated outposts need tech they usually don't get a chance at. Some of them will have the raw materials the station needs. Some younger star systems have plenty of asteroids and comets with minerals and metals we could trade for the parts she wants. We would make a decent profit to boot. There is a system with a dozen gas giants. I thought we could put an older freighter near a giant and siphon off some of the exotic gasses to trade near the rim.” she continued.
    “I looked at their fighter bay; their fighters are outdated and ready for the scrap heap. There are new versions of the cobra and raven, and we could find a few on the black market and station them in "The St. Petersburg." She will need protection. Hyperspace was safe, but now I wonder how safe she will be when coming here.” She said to me quietly. “The station could not pay for a new fighter, let alone the 90 Susan wants. We can get materials to make new parts, but new fighters are almost out of the question.” She finished.
    “You said "almost" what are you scheming at?” I asked dubiously.
    “Well, a few fighter wings are led by people with negotiable loyalties. I don't like negotiating with people their bosses cannot trust.” She said.
    “I agree, Marina; you can never trust the pilots or their commanders to stay and fight or not jump to the other side,” I said.
    “I know that. I was talking about getting the fighters, not their pilots,” she said in a snarky voice.
    “Marina, could you pull that off and get ten flight wings of "X" and "Y" fighters?” I asked.
    “I think I know a few units who would love early retirements on safe planets near the rim,” she said in a conspiratorial voice.
    “See if you can make it happen. I want a few extra fighters on our cargo ships. We could also use a good battleship or destroyer for protection and retribution. But I am dreaming; If someone stole a battleship, the original owners would be very pissed.” I said.
    “I'll see what I can do about the fighters.” She said.
    “Marina, let me know if you need any help negotiating,” I told her.
    “After the last negotiation, I will let you rest and take care of it myself. Besides, I like negotiating from a position of power. The station letting us live here is good for our business. Don't worry; I'll take care of everything.” She said.
    “That is what worries me,” I said as she left my stateroom.

    The rest of the day was spent reviewing Susan's lists and the list the computer spit out of where we could make the best trades. I was mentally exhausted and ready for a fight or a workout by dinner time, but my leg cast and right arm frame kept me in my chair. I had plotted the best routes to conserve fuel and time for three ships over four months. Next time I negotiate with Nargolans, I'll wear a phase suit. The Narg can shoot at the mirage.
    This is chapter Chapter One of my latest Novel. 'A Space Tale' Please read and give me your honest opinions. I will post other chapters as they are ready for comments. Thank you. Soon the Alliance, Empire, Federation, and the Free-ports will start an all-out shooting war with each other in earnest. I am a merchant; the powers that be called me a pirate when I was not serving their interests. I have many friends in all four factions of the war to come, and I am independent of them and dependent on all four of them simultaneously. I am Alexander Maximovich, Captain of the City of Lviv Freighter. My friends call me Sasha; my enemies call me much worse. One place is special to me; the space station in the Federation. My friend Susan is the first officer there. The space station is the largest in the Federation territories. Five hundred years ago, the four main powers in the galaxy built the station, starting from an asteroid made of iron and copper. They mined the metals from it and other nearby asteroids. They captured many comets as a water source. As time went on, the station grew. Its purpose was a weigh station and unofficial bargaining location for the four major powers and the lesser factions inside each. For a long time, the station was marginally safer than in many of the planets of the powers. With my fleet of ships, we could traverse the settled space and many wild areas outside without too many problems from the major governments. I have found many treasures gained and lost good crews and ships. Those tales will wait. Recently negotiations with another merchant went terribly; I lost my right arm to a laser blast and broke my left leg in three places. The ship's doctor/cook set my leg and placed a regrowth frame for my arm. I returned to the station to recover and refit two of my ships. The impending war had made travel more dangerous. It will take six months to regrow my arm; an advantage of this is the titanium-tungsten bones are virtually unbreakable—no more broken arms. The head of security for the station is always watching my crew and me. He is a real pain in the arse. His favorite activity when we are docked at the station is to follow my crew and me. My orders to the crew are simple to stay out of trouble. So far, my crew had stayed out of too much trouble. Once a few of my people were cheated in a casino. They convinced the owner to give them their money back and anything they would have won if he had not cheated them. Security was not happy about the condition of the casino when my people left. That was a minor thing in the grand scheme of life. It took me a week to be up and moving; it was time I went to the officer's dining lounge to meet Susan and the new Captain. He was a hero from the Telepath War; he was tough but fair, from what I had heard. They were eating a non-descript gruel that was supposed to be breakfast at a table. “Сьюзан, мой дорогой друг. Как дела? Что вы едите?” I asked. “It is breakfast.” Said one of the people at the table. “Что это?” I asked. “Sasha, you need to speak standard Intergalactic.” Susan reprimanded me gently. “The others don't speak Russian.” “I apologize; I did not mean to be rude,” I told them. “So, what are you eating?” Captain Blalock said, “It is a fully nutritious balanced protein ration.” “It looks terrible,” I said. “We have a section in our contract labeled SUAEI,” Susan told me. “What does that mean?” I asked. “Shut up and eat it,” Susan replied. We all laughed. The following day I had five real meals of bacon, eggs, toast, and real brewed coffee delivered to them for breakfast. The brew unit was sent with the meals so the coffee would be fresh. Even the head of security, Mr. Gerund, appreciated the gesture. He probably thought his meal was poisoned but ate it anyway. Later that day, I spoke with Lt Cmdr Susan Malochek in her office; we grew up in Sangar in Siberia, a small town on the Lena River. “Susan, you are in a good mood today,” I said. “Yes, I had a great breakfast; Thank you, Sasha,” she replied “You are welcome. How could you stand that gruel for so long?” I asked. “You learn to tolerate it,” she said. “I have a ship that needs a permanent safe place to sit. It is a hydroponic and traditional grow ship. It sits in Hyperspace near a UV source, but it is hard to transfer food and supplies. Long-term stays in Hyperspace are difficult for a ship, and EVAs are dangerous. I would like it to sit safely from the star this station orbits. We can provide food at a reasonable price. The ship will need to be defended on occasion. Some people think they can take from me without paying. I can also bring in other supplies the station needs. I am sure you have some needs with the hostilities and the increase in pirates.” I told her. “Yes, pirates like you have been an increasing problem in many sectors.” she pointedly said. “Susan, you wound me. I am a merchant.” I retorted. “You're a pirate that would sell anything to anyone for a profit.” She accused. “I do make the best deals I can,” I said defensively. “You lost your arm, and your leg is broken in three places.” She reminded me. “That was a lousy negotiation, but you should see the Nargolan. He will be in rehabilitation a lot longer than I will. But, on to important matters; what do you need for the station?” I asked her. “We are short on every type of material I can think of. Our mining equipment is down more than it's up. We are getting less usable ore out of the few asteroids we find on the system's outer rim. We should have ten wings each of Cobra' X' and Raven' Y' wing fighters; we have maybe two operational flights. We have been cannibalizing ships to keep other ships up and running. The lack of fighters puts us in a bad position. It is not like they can move the station on a whim. Our transports are next to useless. They seem to be down for maintenance after every flight, and the crews have to do makeshift repairs. Our fabrication shops are in desperate need of metals and minerals. Food and medical supplies are in short supply.” she said. I felt like she had practiced that little speech a few times for my benefit. “Why don't you requisition more fighters from the Federation? They should want to protect the station.” I said. “It is not that simple; the Federation has cut back on our station's allocations. The war will start soon. The Federation cannot afford to give us any new fighters, parts, or supplies to fix the ones we have. The station will be left to fend for itself when the war starts.” She said. “I fear you may be right. I have friends in different sectors that may be able to help supply the station. It will be expensive. Traveling through some sectors is more dangerous than flying into the Void.” I said. “I like having a place to rest and refit my ships; I think we can do business. Send my Load Master a list of what you have to trade and what you need. Barter is going to be the most reliable method to get supplies. I believe I can get you most of what you need. Part of the station is industrial; I need 'Ring Ten'. There is virtually no one there. My ships can bring in raw materials. I know many worlds where I can trade some base metals for exotics.” I told her. She said, “I will send you the list by the end of today.” Good, My ship's load-master, and I will see where we can trade up for things you need here. We will also see what we have that you need. My Grow-ship will be here in a few days. It is not the fastest ship I own, but it goes where we need her. I will station her close enough to the star to get the proper UV light. There are many animals and plants on her. Join me for lunch; my cook is making rabbit stew just like Baba made for us.” I offered. I can't, She said. I have back-to-back meetings with the guilds and unions. Maybe later. Okay. “I need to get back to my ship to see what we have to help here. Also, to see where we can trade for you.” I said as I turned to leave. “Sasha, be safe.” She said as I left. Later that day: I asked, Ippolit, my Load-Master, “Did you get that list from Lt. Cmdr. Malochek?” “Yes, it came in about an hour ago. They have some base metals and a few hundred pounds of gold and platinum, nothing of much worth except on the outer planets. I was checking a survey of a nearby system; a giant asteroid with high carbon content could be worth something to the Alliance. The Empire has cut off the supply lines of raw carbon to them. If we bring in "The Lake Baikal," we could put it in her hold compartment. The factories on Lexix-10 would pay well for the carbon. There are a few good-sized comets we could capture for the water. No telling how many planets we could trade water on.” He said. “Make it happen. I am going to see when "The St. Petersburg" will arrive. We need to get her in position near the sun. She has been in Hyperspace too long,” I said. “You got the Captain to agree to protect her?” He asked. “Yes, we will sell food to the station, and they will provide added protection to our St. Petersburg,” I replied. When I got to my stateroom, Marina was waiting. “Yes, Marina?” I said in a weary voice. “I have been reviewing the list from Susan; It appears she is asking for a whole new station,” she told me. “That is our Susan; she will ask for ten thousand credits and settle for a thousand. Check her list of what they have against the list of needs to see where we can get the best trades.” I said. “I am doing that now; the computer should give us a list of possibilities soon. There is also the rim.” She added. “We could go a long way around the Free port-controlled space to the edge of the Alliance. Some isolated outposts need tech they usually don't get a chance at. Some of them will have the raw materials the station needs. Some younger star systems have plenty of asteroids and comets with minerals and metals we could trade for the parts she wants. We would make a decent profit to boot. There is a system with a dozen gas giants. I thought we could put an older freighter near a giant and siphon off some of the exotic gasses to trade near the rim.” she continued. “I looked at their fighter bay; their fighters are outdated and ready for the scrap heap. There are new versions of the cobra and raven, and we could find a few on the black market and station them in "The St. Petersburg." She will need protection. Hyperspace was safe, but now I wonder how safe she will be when coming here.” She said to me quietly. “The station could not pay for a new fighter, let alone the 90 Susan wants. We can get materials to make new parts, but new fighters are almost out of the question.” She finished. “You said "almost" what are you scheming at?” I asked dubiously. “Well, a few fighter wings are led by people with negotiable loyalties. I don't like negotiating with people their bosses cannot trust.” She said. “I agree, Marina; you can never trust the pilots or their commanders to stay and fight or not jump to the other side,” I said. “I know that. I was talking about getting the fighters, not their pilots,” she said in a snarky voice. “Marina, could you pull that off and get ten flight wings of "X" and "Y" fighters?” I asked. “I think I know a few units who would love early retirements on safe planets near the rim,” she said in a conspiratorial voice. “See if you can make it happen. I want a few extra fighters on our cargo ships. We could also use a good battleship or destroyer for protection and retribution. But I am dreaming; If someone stole a battleship, the original owners would be very pissed.” I said. “I'll see what I can do about the fighters.” She said. “Marina, let me know if you need any help negotiating,” I told her. “After the last negotiation, I will let you rest and take care of it myself. Besides, I like negotiating from a position of power. The station letting us live here is good for our business. Don't worry; I'll take care of everything.” She said. “That is what worries me,” I said as she left my stateroom. The rest of the day was spent reviewing Susan's lists and the list the computer spit out of where we could make the best trades. I was mentally exhausted and ready for a fight or a workout by dinner time, but my leg cast and right arm frame kept me in my chair. I had plotted the best routes to conserve fuel and time for three ships over four months. Next time I negotiate with Nargolans, I'll wear a phase suit. The Narg can shoot at the mirage.
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  • Here is Chapter One of my latest novel Working Title 'A Space Tale.' Please read it and let me know your thought and feelings. It is a work in Progress.

    Soon the Alliance, Empire, Federation, and the Free-ports will start an all-out shooting war with each other in earnest. I am a merchant; the powers that be called me a pirate when I was not serving their interests. I have many friends in all four factions of the war to come, and I am independent of them and dependent on all four of them simultaneously. I am Alexander Maximovich, Captain of the City of Lviv Freighter. My friends call me Sasha; my enemies call me much worse.
    One place is special to me; the space station in the Federation. My friend Susan is the first officer there. The space station is the largest in the Federation territories. Five hundred years ago, the four main powers in the galaxy built the station, starting from an asteroid made of iron and copper. They mined the metals from it and other nearby asteroids. They captured many comets as a water source. As time went on, the station grew. Its purpose was a weigh station and unofficial bargaining location for the four major powers and the lesser factions inside each. For a long time, the station was marginally safer than in many of the planets of the powers.
    With my fleet of ships, we could traverse the settled space and many wild areas outside without too many problems from the major governments. I have found many treasures gained and lost good crews and ships. Those tales will wait. Recently negotiations with another merchant went terribly; I lost my right arm to a laser blast and broke my left leg in three places. The ship's doctor/cook set my leg and placed a regrowth frame for my arm. I returned to the station to recover and refit two of my ships. The impending war had made travel more dangerous. It will take six months to regrow my arm; an advantage of this is the titanium-tungsten bones are virtually unbreakable—no more broken arms. The head of security for the station is always watching my crew and me. He is a real pain in the arse. His favorite activity when we are docked at the station is to follow my crew and me. My orders to the crew are simple to stay out of trouble. So far, my crew had stayed out of too much trouble. Once a few of my people were cheated in a casino. They convinced the owner to give them their money back and anything they would have won if he had not cheated them. Security was not happy about the condition of the casino when my people left. That was a minor thing in the grand scheme of life.
    It took me a week to be up and moving; it was time I went to the officer's dining lounge to meet Susan and the new Captain. He was a hero from the Telepath War; he was tough but fair from what I had heard. They were eating a non-descript gruel that was supposed to be breakfast at a table.

    “Сьюзан, мой дорогой друг. Как дела? Что вы едите?” I asked.
    “It is breakfast.” Said one of the people at the table.
    “Что это?” I asked.
    “Sasha, you need to speak standard Intergalactic.” Susan reprimanded me gently. “The others don't speak Russian.”
    “I apologize; I did not mean to be rude,” I told them. “So, what are you eating?”
    Captain Blalock said, “It is a fully nutritious balanced protein ration.”
    “It looks terrible,” I said.
    “We have a section in our contract labeled SUAEI,” Susan told me.
    “What does that mean?” I asked.
    “Shut up and eat it,” Susan replied. We all laughed.

    The following day I had five real meals of bacon, eggs, toast, and real brewed coffee delivered to them for breakfast. The brew unit was sent with the meals so the coffee would be fresh. Even the head of security, Mr. Gerund, appreciated the gesture. He probably thought his meal was poisoned but ate it anyway. Later that day, I spoke with Lt Cmdr Susan Malochek in her office; we grew up in Sangar in Siberia, a small town on the Lena River.
    “Susan, you are in a good mood today,” I said.
    “Yes, I had a great breakfast; Thank you, Sasha,” she replied
    “You are welcome. How could you stand that gruel for so long?” I asked.
    “You learn to tolerate it,” she said.
    “I have a ship that needs a permanent safe place to sit. It is a hydroponic and traditional grow ship. It sits in Hyperspace near a UV source, but it is hard to transfer food and supplies. Long-term stays in Hyperspace are difficult for a ship, and EVAs are dangerous. I would like it to sit safely from the star this station orbits. We can provide food at a reasonable price. The ship will need to be defended on occasion. Some people think they can take from me without paying. I can also bring in other supplies the station needs. I am sure you have some needs with the hostilities and the increase in pirates.” I told her.
    “Yes, pirates like you have been an increasing problem in many sectors.” she pointedly said.
    “Susan, you wound me. I am a merchant.” I retorted.
    “You're a pirate that would sell anything to anyone for a profit.” She accused.
    “I do make the best deals I can,” I said defensively.
    “You lost your arm, and your leg is broken in three places.” She reminded me.
    “That was a lousy negotiation, but you should see the Nargolan. He will be in rehabilitation a lot longer than I will. But, on to important matters; what do you need for the station?” I asked her.
    “We are short on every type of material I can think of. Our mining equipment is down more than it's up. We are getting less usable ore out of the few asteroids we find on the system's outer rim. We should have ten wings each of Cobra' X' and Raven' Y' wing fighters; we have maybe two operational flights. We have been cannibalizing ships to keep other ships up and running. The lack of fighters puts us in a bad position. It is not like they can move the station on a whim. Our transports are next to useless. It seems that they are down for maintenance after every flight, and the crews have to do makeshift repairs. Our fabrication shops are in desperate need of metals and minerals. Food and medical supplies are in short supply.” she said.
    I felt like she had practiced that little speech a few times for my benefit.
    “Why don't you requisition more fighters from the Federation? They should want to protect the station.” I said.
    “It is not that simple; the Federation has cut back on our station's allocations. The war will start soon. The Federation cannot afford to give us any new fighters, parts, or supplies to fix the ones we have. I think the station will be left to fend for itself when the war starts.” She said.
    “I fear you may be right. I have friends in different sectors that may be able to help supply the station. It will be expensive. Traveling through some sectors is more dangerous than flying into the Void.” I said.
    “I like having a place to rest and refit my ships; I think we can do business. Send my Load Master a list of what you have to trade and what you need. Barter is going to be the most reliable method to get supplies. I believe I can get you most of what you need. Part of the station is industrial; I need 'Ring Ten'. There is virtually no one there. My ships can bring in raw materials. I know many worlds where I can trade some base metals for exotics.” I told her.
    She said, “I will send you the list by the end of today.”
    Good, My ship's load-master, and I will see where we can trade up for things you need here. We will also see what we have that you need. My Grow-ship will be here in a few days. It is not the fastest ship I own, but it goes where we need her. I will station her close enough to the star to get the proper UV light. There are many animals and plants on her. Join me for lunch; my cook is making rabbit stew just like Baba made for us.” I offered.
    I can't, She said. I have back-to-back meetings with the guilds and unions. Maybe later. Okay.
    “I need to get back to my ship to see what we have to help here. Also, to see where we can trade for you.” I said as I turned to leave.
    “Sasha, be safe.” She said as I left.

    Later that day:

    I asked, Ippolit, my Load-Master, “Did you get that list from Lt. Cmdr. Malochek?”
    “Yes, it came in about an hour ago. They have some base metals and a few hundred pounds of gold and platinum, nothing of much worth except on the outer planets. I was checking a survey of a nearby system; a giant asteroid with high carbon content could be worth something to the Alliance. The Empire has cut off the supply lines of raw carbon to them. If we bring in "The Lake Baikal," we could put it in her hold compartment. The factories on Lexix-10 would pay well for the carbon. There are a few good-sized comets we could capture for the water. No telling how many planets we could trade water on.” He said.
    “Make it happen. I am going to see when "The St. Petersburg" will arrive. We need to get her in position near the sun. She has been in Hyperspace too long,” I said.
    “You got the Captain to agree to protect her?” He asked.
    “Yes, we will sell food to the station, and they will provide added protection to our St. Petersburg,” I replied.

    When I got to my stateroom, Marina was waiting.
    “Yes, Marina?” I said in a weary voice.
    “I have been reviewing the list from Susan; It appears she is asking for a whole new station,” she told me.
    “That is our Susan; she will ask for ten thousand credits and settle for a thousand. Check her list of what they have against the list of needs to see where we can get the best trades.” I said.
    “I am doing that now; the computer should give us a list of possibilities soon. There is also the rim.” She added. “We could go a long way around the Free port-controlled space to the edge of the Alliance. Some isolated outposts need tech they usually don't get a chance at. Some of them will have the raw materials the station needs. Some younger star systems have plenty of asteroids and comets with minerals and metals we could trade for the parts she wants. We would make a decent profit to boot. There is a system with a dozen gas giants. I thought we could put an older freighter near a giant and siphon off some of the exotic gasses to trade near the rim.” she continued.
    “I looked at their fighter bay; their fighters are outdated and ready for the scrap heap. There are new versions of the cobra and raven, and we could find a few on the black market and station them in "The St. Petersburg." She will need protection. Hyperspace was safe, but now I wonder how safe she will be when coming here.” She said to me quietly. “The station could not pay for a new fighter, let alone the 90 Susan wants. We can get materials to make new parts, but new fighters are almost out of the question.” She finished.
    “You said "almost" what are you scheming at?” I asked dubiously.
    “Well, a few fighter wings are led by people with negotiable loyalties. I don't like negotiating with people their bosses cannot trust.” She said.
    “I agree, Marina; you can never trust the pilots or their commanders to stay and fight or not jump to the other side,” I said.
    “I know that. I was talking about getting the fighters, not their pilots,” she said in a snarky voice.
    “Marina, could you pull that off and get ten flight wings of "X" and "Y" fighters?” I asked.
    “I think I know a few units who would love early retirements on safe planets near the rim,” she said in a conspiratorial voice.
    “See if you can make it happen. I want a few extra fighters on our cargo ships. We could also use a good battleship or destroyer for protection and retribution. But I am dreaming; If someone stole a battleship, the original owners would be very pissed.” I said.
    “I'll see what I can do about the fighters.” She said.
    “Marina, let me know if you need any help negotiating,” I told her.
    “After the last negotiation, I will let you rest and take care of it myself. Besides, I like negotiating from a position of power. The station letting us live here is good for our business. Don't worry; I'll take care of everything.” She said.
    “That is what worries me,” I said as she left my stateroom.

    The rest of the day was spent reviewing Susan's lists and the list the computer spit out of where we could make the best trades. I was mentally exhausted and ready for a fight or a workout by dinner time, but my leg cast and right arm frame kept me in my chair. I had plotted the best routes to conserve fuel and time for three ships over four months. Next time I negotiate with Nargolans, I'll wear a phase suit. The Narg can shoot at the mirage.
    Here is Chapter One of my latest novel Working Title 'A Space Tale.' Please read it and let me know your thought and feelings. It is a work in Progress. Soon the Alliance, Empire, Federation, and the Free-ports will start an all-out shooting war with each other in earnest. I am a merchant; the powers that be called me a pirate when I was not serving their interests. I have many friends in all four factions of the war to come, and I am independent of them and dependent on all four of them simultaneously. I am Alexander Maximovich, Captain of the City of Lviv Freighter. My friends call me Sasha; my enemies call me much worse. One place is special to me; the space station in the Federation. My friend Susan is the first officer there. The space station is the largest in the Federation territories. Five hundred years ago, the four main powers in the galaxy built the station, starting from an asteroid made of iron and copper. They mined the metals from it and other nearby asteroids. They captured many comets as a water source. As time went on, the station grew. Its purpose was a weigh station and unofficial bargaining location for the four major powers and the lesser factions inside each. For a long time, the station was marginally safer than in many of the planets of the powers. With my fleet of ships, we could traverse the settled space and many wild areas outside without too many problems from the major governments. I have found many treasures gained and lost good crews and ships. Those tales will wait. Recently negotiations with another merchant went terribly; I lost my right arm to a laser blast and broke my left leg in three places. The ship's doctor/cook set my leg and placed a regrowth frame for my arm. I returned to the station to recover and refit two of my ships. The impending war had made travel more dangerous. It will take six months to regrow my arm; an advantage of this is the titanium-tungsten bones are virtually unbreakable—no more broken arms. The head of security for the station is always watching my crew and me. He is a real pain in the arse. His favorite activity when we are docked at the station is to follow my crew and me. My orders to the crew are simple to stay out of trouble. So far, my crew had stayed out of too much trouble. Once a few of my people were cheated in a casino. They convinced the owner to give them their money back and anything they would have won if he had not cheated them. Security was not happy about the condition of the casino when my people left. That was a minor thing in the grand scheme of life. It took me a week to be up and moving; it was time I went to the officer's dining lounge to meet Susan and the new Captain. He was a hero from the Telepath War; he was tough but fair from what I had heard. They were eating a non-descript gruel that was supposed to be breakfast at a table. “Сьюзан, мой дорогой друг. Как дела? Что вы едите?” I asked. “It is breakfast.” Said one of the people at the table. “Что это?” I asked. “Sasha, you need to speak standard Intergalactic.” Susan reprimanded me gently. “The others don't speak Russian.” “I apologize; I did not mean to be rude,” I told them. “So, what are you eating?” Captain Blalock said, “It is a fully nutritious balanced protein ration.” “It looks terrible,” I said. “We have a section in our contract labeled SUAEI,” Susan told me. “What does that mean?” I asked. “Shut up and eat it,” Susan replied. We all laughed. The following day I had five real meals of bacon, eggs, toast, and real brewed coffee delivered to them for breakfast. The brew unit was sent with the meals so the coffee would be fresh. Even the head of security, Mr. Gerund, appreciated the gesture. He probably thought his meal was poisoned but ate it anyway. Later that day, I spoke with Lt Cmdr Susan Malochek in her office; we grew up in Sangar in Siberia, a small town on the Lena River. “Susan, you are in a good mood today,” I said. “Yes, I had a great breakfast; Thank you, Sasha,” she replied “You are welcome. How could you stand that gruel for so long?” I asked. “You learn to tolerate it,” she said. “I have a ship that needs a permanent safe place to sit. It is a hydroponic and traditional grow ship. It sits in Hyperspace near a UV source, but it is hard to transfer food and supplies. Long-term stays in Hyperspace are difficult for a ship, and EVAs are dangerous. I would like it to sit safely from the star this station orbits. We can provide food at a reasonable price. The ship will need to be defended on occasion. Some people think they can take from me without paying. I can also bring in other supplies the station needs. I am sure you have some needs with the hostilities and the increase in pirates.” I told her. “Yes, pirates like you have been an increasing problem in many sectors.” she pointedly said. “Susan, you wound me. I am a merchant.” I retorted. “You're a pirate that would sell anything to anyone for a profit.” She accused. “I do make the best deals I can,” I said defensively. “You lost your arm, and your leg is broken in three places.” She reminded me. “That was a lousy negotiation, but you should see the Nargolan. He will be in rehabilitation a lot longer than I will. But, on to important matters; what do you need for the station?” I asked her. “We are short on every type of material I can think of. Our mining equipment is down more than it's up. We are getting less usable ore out of the few asteroids we find on the system's outer rim. We should have ten wings each of Cobra' X' and Raven' Y' wing fighters; we have maybe two operational flights. We have been cannibalizing ships to keep other ships up and running. The lack of fighters puts us in a bad position. It is not like they can move the station on a whim. Our transports are next to useless. It seems that they are down for maintenance after every flight, and the crews have to do makeshift repairs. Our fabrication shops are in desperate need of metals and minerals. Food and medical supplies are in short supply.” she said. I felt like she had practiced that little speech a few times for my benefit. “Why don't you requisition more fighters from the Federation? They should want to protect the station.” I said. “It is not that simple; the Federation has cut back on our station's allocations. The war will start soon. The Federation cannot afford to give us any new fighters, parts, or supplies to fix the ones we have. I think the station will be left to fend for itself when the war starts.” She said. “I fear you may be right. I have friends in different sectors that may be able to help supply the station. It will be expensive. Traveling through some sectors is more dangerous than flying into the Void.” I said. “I like having a place to rest and refit my ships; I think we can do business. Send my Load Master a list of what you have to trade and what you need. Barter is going to be the most reliable method to get supplies. I believe I can get you most of what you need. Part of the station is industrial; I need 'Ring Ten'. There is virtually no one there. My ships can bring in raw materials. I know many worlds where I can trade some base metals for exotics.” I told her. She said, “I will send you the list by the end of today.” Good, My ship's load-master, and I will see where we can trade up for things you need here. We will also see what we have that you need. My Grow-ship will be here in a few days. It is not the fastest ship I own, but it goes where we need her. I will station her close enough to the star to get the proper UV light. There are many animals and plants on her. Join me for lunch; my cook is making rabbit stew just like Baba made for us.” I offered. I can't, She said. I have back-to-back meetings with the guilds and unions. Maybe later. Okay. “I need to get back to my ship to see what we have to help here. Also, to see where we can trade for you.” I said as I turned to leave. “Sasha, be safe.” She said as I left. Later that day: I asked, Ippolit, my Load-Master, “Did you get that list from Lt. Cmdr. Malochek?” “Yes, it came in about an hour ago. They have some base metals and a few hundred pounds of gold and platinum, nothing of much worth except on the outer planets. I was checking a survey of a nearby system; a giant asteroid with high carbon content could be worth something to the Alliance. The Empire has cut off the supply lines of raw carbon to them. If we bring in "The Lake Baikal," we could put it in her hold compartment. The factories on Lexix-10 would pay well for the carbon. There are a few good-sized comets we could capture for the water. No telling how many planets we could trade water on.” He said. “Make it happen. I am going to see when "The St. Petersburg" will arrive. We need to get her in position near the sun. She has been in Hyperspace too long,” I said. “You got the Captain to agree to protect her?” He asked. “Yes, we will sell food to the station, and they will provide added protection to our St. Petersburg,” I replied. When I got to my stateroom, Marina was waiting. “Yes, Marina?” I said in a weary voice. “I have been reviewing the list from Susan; It appears she is asking for a whole new station,” she told me. “That is our Susan; she will ask for ten thousand credits and settle for a thousand. Check her list of what they have against the list of needs to see where we can get the best trades.” I said. “I am doing that now; the computer should give us a list of possibilities soon. There is also the rim.” She added. “We could go a long way around the Free port-controlled space to the edge of the Alliance. Some isolated outposts need tech they usually don't get a chance at. Some of them will have the raw materials the station needs. Some younger star systems have plenty of asteroids and comets with minerals and metals we could trade for the parts she wants. We would make a decent profit to boot. There is a system with a dozen gas giants. I thought we could put an older freighter near a giant and siphon off some of the exotic gasses to trade near the rim.” she continued. “I looked at their fighter bay; their fighters are outdated and ready for the scrap heap. There are new versions of the cobra and raven, and we could find a few on the black market and station them in "The St. Petersburg." She will need protection. Hyperspace was safe, but now I wonder how safe she will be when coming here.” She said to me quietly. “The station could not pay for a new fighter, let alone the 90 Susan wants. We can get materials to make new parts, but new fighters are almost out of the question.” She finished. “You said "almost" what are you scheming at?” I asked dubiously. “Well, a few fighter wings are led by people with negotiable loyalties. I don't like negotiating with people their bosses cannot trust.” She said. “I agree, Marina; you can never trust the pilots or their commanders to stay and fight or not jump to the other side,” I said. “I know that. I was talking about getting the fighters, not their pilots,” she said in a snarky voice. “Marina, could you pull that off and get ten flight wings of "X" and "Y" fighters?” I asked. “I think I know a few units who would love early retirements on safe planets near the rim,” she said in a conspiratorial voice. “See if you can make it happen. I want a few extra fighters on our cargo ships. We could also use a good battleship or destroyer for protection and retribution. But I am dreaming; If someone stole a battleship, the original owners would be very pissed.” I said. “I'll see what I can do about the fighters.” She said. “Marina, let me know if you need any help negotiating,” I told her. “After the last negotiation, I will let you rest and take care of it myself. Besides, I like negotiating from a position of power. The station letting us live here is good for our business. Don't worry; I'll take care of everything.” She said. “That is what worries me,” I said as she left my stateroom. The rest of the day was spent reviewing Susan's lists and the list the computer spit out of where we could make the best trades. I was mentally exhausted and ready for a fight or a workout by dinner time, but my leg cast and right arm frame kept me in my chair. I had plotted the best routes to conserve fuel and time for three ships over four months. Next time I negotiate with Nargolans, I'll wear a phase suit. The Narg can shoot at the mirage.
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