2951-01-04 – Tales from the Inbox: Ramiro’s Three Novelties

You probably saw the service announcement yesterday. I am not entirely sure why this schedule change is being made, but you may be happy to know that I agree that it has little to no impact on us out here. As far as we’re concerned, every entry is still due at the same time, but I’ll be honest, I’ve got no idea what they’re doing back at Centauri with our text for the roughly half a standard day they have it already before it hits the main ingest feed, so I certainly have no idea what another day is needed for.

Regardless, the change is being made at levels above mine, and those levels generally know what they’re talking about.

Ramiro W. stood with his arms folded beside the airlock as his quartet of passengers shuffled onboard Jen Daley. Ramiro had never liked being in passenger service, but this particular trip, he hoped, would be interesting enough to make up for the usual annoyances of carrying cargo that could talk.

Though the first passenger was human enough – a prim, angular woman in Naval Survey Auxiliary fatigues whose holographic shoulder insignias marked her as a full Captain – the three following her were anything but. Ramiro had rubbed elbows with plenty of Atro’me and Rattanai in his days on the spacelanes. He’d heard of, but never met, many others: the aloof robotic puppeteers of Cold Refuge, the infamous broker-sapient Jeb of the Silver Strand, the brilliantly plumaged Makaharwans, the only sapients native to the Coreward Frontier, and others. These three, stooped and concealed below white hoods embroidered with intricate blue trim, were something else.

The last of the trio paused next to Ramiro, the hooded head turning slightly toward him. “Our items?” The voice rasped around what were to it unfamiliar syllables of a new language, but Ramiro detected a decidedly gruff, perhaps militaristic tone.

“Everything sent here is in the hold.” Ramiro nodded. “You will be permitted down there once we’re away.”

The xeno hesitated, then ducked its head forward and entered, turning left and heading into Jen Daley’s lounge.

Ramiro sealed the hatch, sent a departure request using his personal comms, then followed. He found Captain Larson talking in hushed tones with one of the hooded creatures, while the other two poked around the compartment, investigating the fittings and fixtures.

“May I have your attention.” Ramiro stood straighter as the quartet turned toward him. The cold, blank stares from below those cowls might have unnerved most spacers, but he’d stared down an Immortal in this very space. A few strange xenos were, by comparison, no problem. “I’ve requested departure clearance and we’ll leave as soon as we get it. I must ask you to make your way to your cabins before we undock and remain there until I buzz the all clear.”

One of the creatures’ embroidered hood twitched from side to side. “Is there some… danger?”

“Interstellar travel can never really be safe.” Ramiro shrugged. “The cabins have local backup atmospherics in case we have a mishap.” They were also the place where rescuers would expect to find passengers, if something happened, but Ramiro’s favorite benefit of confining prisoners to their cabins during departures and docking approaches was that it kept them out of his hair while he ran the ship.

“The Skipper is just stating a standard procedure.” Captain Larson stepped forward. “He’ll permit free movement for the bulk of the journey.”

Ramiro nodded, then pointed forward. “You will find the cabins through there and on the right-hand side of the corridor.”

The three xenos followed their human minder uneasily through the hatchway and into Jen Daley’s small cabins area. They’d already arranged the trio to share a single cabin, with Larson occupying the other.

As Ramiro headed forward to take his position at the ship’s controls, his comms chimed to indicate departure clearance. Running passengers on a military contract did have its perks – normally he’d be waiting two hours or more for clearance from any large station, but now he had it in minutes.

As he sat down in the pilot’s chair, the intercom chimed.

“Captain, I’m told you should have your clearance.” Captain Larson announced. “Are we waiting for anything else?”

“No, Ma’am.” Ramiro winced and began his undocking procedure. “We’ll be away shortly.”