2952-02-07 – Tales from the Service: Kel’s Dispatch

Sadek Sherburn had just sat down in Visitor’s small, many-windowed mess hall with a bowl full of perfectly synthesized food-fab teriyaki when Kel summoned him to the cockpit. 

A ten-thousand credit signing bonus had certainly earned the xeno the right to interrupt meal-time, of course. With only a brief, wistful look at the marvel of spacefaring technology he had intended to be his lunch, Sadek tossed the food into the food-fab's recycler and headed for the chairlift-like apparatus that occupied a diagonal space cutting through most of the decks. This contraption served Visitor instead of a proper set of Terran lifts. Kel’s people didn’t much like being in tight, confined spaces like lift cars; that was probably why their shipbuilding tradition prized transparent corundum as a hull material. 

Sadek was already over the teriyaki the next bucket-like chair in the chairlift scooped him up. One of the advantages of Kel’s ship being overhauled by Terran shipwrights at The Sprawl was that all of its fittings were practically new, and operating exactly as designed. Even without the ministrations of a good maintenance tech, the food-fab machines wouldn’t start to break down for months yet, and Sadek intended to make sure that Kel hired a good maintenance tech and never missed a round of scheduled dockyard maintenance. Good food – by spacer standards, anyway – would be the way of life for Visitor’s crew in a way that Sadek and the other mining-rig jockeys on Thaddeus Wall had never experienced. 

After jumping off the chairlift and mounting the almost ladder-like steps up to the bubble cockpit at the ship’s apex, Sadek found Kel seated in the bucket-like pilot’s couch. He was  facing away from the controls, his bulbous eyes gazing out into the blackness beyond every facet of the jewel-like cockpit enclosure. 

“You called, boss?” Sadek had almost gotten used to the idea of calling Kel his boss in the two days since he’d come aboard Visitor. 

“Is your mining craft in working order?” 

Sadek frowned. What did Kel want with the battered little utility launch? “More or less. Launching it from the pressurized cargo bay is going to be tricky. Besides, the nearest decent concentration of asteroids is back where we left Wall.” 

Kel waved his hand. “I have already moved or secured all the cargo in that bay. When we make our final jump into the inner Sagittarius Gate system, you will launch and proceed to the Sprawl station on your own. I will call those who I left advertisements with, and let you work with them in my stead.” 

Running in-system in the ponderous mining launch would take nearly twice as long as it would take Visitor to make the same trip, and of course Sadek would be cooped up in the tiny vessel’s seventeen-cubic-meter crew compartment for the entire time. He’d spent longer aboard the mining rig, of course, but that was before he’d gotten used to the relative space and comfort of Visitor. “Why the change?” 

“There is no change. This was always my intent.” Kel interlaced his triplicate, claw-like fingers. “I will arrive at the station perhaps seven or eight Terran days after you. You will have the new crew ready to come aboard when I arrive.” 

Sadek sighed. “Kel, I thought you trusted me. Where are you going that I can’t go with you?” 

“It is not a matter of trust. It is one of time and discretion. I have one obligation to discharge in human space before we travel to my people’s home to obtain hulls.” Kel dipped his head. “It is... a private personal matter, in which I am repaying a favor.” 

“All right, then.” There would be no getting more out of him. Kel was very concerned with keeping good relationships with people who had done him any kindness, no matter how slight. That being the very same trait which had ensured Sadek his lucrative first-mate position, it seemed unwise to prod it very hard. “So I'll have about a week to hire us a crew?” 

“I do hope it is sufficient time.” Kel made a fluttering gesture which probably was his equivalent of a shrug. “There may be many applicants.” 

Sadek wasn’t worried about that. He had never been in a position to hire anyone before, but how hard could it really be? Wall’s Captain Kumar had never made bringing new spacers into the fold look particularly difficult, anyway. “The main problem is that my rig isn’t really equipped for long-haul flights right now. I haven’t needed to spend more than a couple shifts in it at a time in a while.” 

“Yes, I remember being aboard the craft before, and thought that might be the case.” Kel held up a slate device. “Take what you need from Visitor’s stores and spare equipment.” 

Sadek took the slate and scanned the manifest. His eyebrows shot up at the listed quantities. Kel had apparently bought more than replacement systems; most varieties of commonly available reserve supplies were listed, and there were duplicates and triplicates of almost everything. There was even almost half a ton of colonist ration-bars on the list; while they were not as good as a hot meal, these were certainly preferable fare to the raw nutrient slurry from a food-fab machine’s supply tanks that was a spacer’s usual emergency food. 

“Oh.” Kel, apparently, had noticed Sadek’s surprise. “Is something critical missing? I thought these reserves were adequate.” 

"Adequate?” Sadek shook his head. “Kel, you’ve got more reserve parts and supplies than a fleet cruiser carries. Everything I need is on here, don’t worry.” 

“Ah.” Kel turned back to his console. “We will make the final jump in perhaps six hours. Make a note of everything you use on your rig, so that I may replace it.” 

Sadek tucked the slate under one arm and proceeded down to the hold where his mining rig was stowed. Even for a being who’d had a recent run-in with being stranded in the void on a damaged ship, the supplies were excessive. 

With no good explanation for the embarrassment of supplies, Sadek used his ride on the chairlift to mark the items he would be loading onto his rig. He might not be able to enjoy Visitor’s pristine food-fab machines for a while, but he intended to make the run into the Sprawl spaceport as comfortable as Kel’s supplies would allow. 

While I still doubt elements of this account – indeed, additional messages sent to us have given me a fairly clear picture of where Sadek has embellished or altered his picture of life aboard Visitor – the broad strokes do seem to be truthful. Rather than try to correct the record he presented with external information, I am providing here his account with only the usual editing for this feed.  

It would violate the spirit of Tales from the Inbox to correct an account in that matter, unless it is in a manner that pertains to our role as correspondents from a theater of war.