Excerpt from Last Ship Off Polaris-G

Excerpt from
Last Ship Off Polaris-G
(A Central Galactic Concordance Novella)

A bureaucrat and an interstellar trader must overcome treachery and their broken past to save the last inhabitants of a dying planet.

Note: This snippet starts the first chapter of Last Ship Off Polaris-G.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

SUPPLY DEPOT MANAGER Anitra Helden counted her lucky stars that she’d stumbled across an abandoned interstellar freighter, and hoped Trader Gavril Danilovich’s evaluation would bring rare good news in a year of bad, worse, and catastrophic events. Funnily enough, she trusted him more than anyone local she’d known and worked with for the last three years. Nothing like a slow-moving apocalypse to bring out the worst in everyone.

Excerpt from Last Ship Off Polaris-GIn the final months of life on the formerly up-and-coming frontier planet of Polaris-Gamma, the settlers had become reckless, volatile, and mean. The settlement company that had organized the planet’s colonization had gotten greedy. The government’s overworked and understaffed planetary law enforcement barely kept the pot from boiling over. And between broad-daylight thefts, city infrastructure failures, and near-nightly riots, Aetheres city enforcers were at burnout.

Dust made clouds in the chilled air, creating a golden haze in the shafts of autumn sunlight that streamed in from the cavernous airdome’s open skylights. The mottled surface of the massive old freighter looked like a canvas painting. Anitra had traveled in hundreds of interstellar ships, large and small, but never stood on the top of one in a repair dock. Below her boots spanned a hundred and twenty meters by ninety meters of transit space-etched incalloy. Her mind balked at trying to imagine its true size, even if she could see it.

Gavril had every reason to tell Pol-G’s government to suck a hot flux hose. A month ago, Pol-G’s government-run spaceport had impounded his cargo and sealed off his interstellar trader ship—his sole means of livelihood—on a dubious charge of unpaid landing fees from a previous visit. He’d been losing customers every galactic standard day since then. He was only with her now, well outside the city in the defunct ship repair hangar, because they had a history.

Well, more like a chance meeting two years ago that had led to a long weekend together that became a glorious long week. Unfortunately, fantastic sex and dreams of different star lanes were no match for his scheduled trading commitments throughout the galaxy. Or for her ground-based responsibilities as a newly promoted government supply depot manager, a job she’d worked hard to get. Besides, returning to any of the Central Galactic Concordance’s five-hundred-plus member planets wasn’t an option for her. They were both well past the age when a chance for love made anything seem possible. She hadn’t known he’d gotten stuck on Pol-G until she’d run into him again two weeks ago in the same pub where she’d first met him.

He wore his life experience well, she thought. Body shops could make anyone look any age they wanted, from seventeen to one hundred seventy. However, as far as she knew, Gavril only went in for regular checkups and maintenance, so he’d won the genetics lottery. She knew him to be fifty-six, but he looked at least fifteen years younger, and delighted in whimsical hair and eye colors, and artistic skin decoration.

She didn’t look her own age of fifty-five, either, but that was thanks to a full body makeover that made her look early thirties and of deliberately vague Afro-Euro heritage. She didn’t expect to see another body shop for multiple decades, since circumstances had forced her to set fire to her former career in the Central Galactic Concordance and flee to the sanctuary of the frontier. She’d set down roots on Pol-G, hoping to age gracefully there for the next hundred years, far away from the CGC and out of reach of the Citizen Protection Service. And look how well that had turned out.

She sealed the collar of her green half-cloak against the chill of the disused hangar and walked briskly back to the stairway up to the banks of computers and large-format displays where Gavril worked. She wouldn’t even have recognized them as comps, much less that they controlled the repair dock’s cameras, scanners, and probes below, if Gavril hadn’t told her. She’d found a plausible excuse to get the dock’s power turned on and neighborhood batteries recharged without mentioning the existence of the dormant freighter in the underground repair silo. Good thing she’d remembered Gavril trained as a ship engineer and worked in a commercial shipyard for twenty years before taking up the life of an independent trader. Good thing he also liked tinkering with old ships, because the Deset Diamantov was at least ninety years old.

She stood to the side, out of his way, surreptitiously admiring the view. His imposing nose and generous mouth looked European, but the shape of his eyes and cheekbones, and his wiry strength, spoke of Asian heritage. His currently long black-, blue-, and gold-beaded braids hid the pilot’s skulljack behind his bejeweled ear. It made an intriguingly handsome combination, and was one of the qualities that had first attracted her to him. He was sexy as hell. His grumpy, sarcastic surface hid a generous nature and a lively sense of the absurd that made her laugh.

She didn’t need her empath talent to tell that he was enjoying himself now, but she dropped her shield and let herself be soothed by the uncontained flavors of it anyway. Not exactly ethical, but she needed it. They’d be back in the sulking, raging city soon enough.

He slid his hands into his jacket pockets and turned to her. “That’s the final system check.” The corner of his mouth twitched with humor. “Tell me again how the planetary government lost a freighter the size of a gravball stadium.”

Excerpt from Last Ship Off Polaris-G

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