Night Traveller

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(Author's Note -  Coming back to Wattpad! October 2019. The edited version is still available for purchase - 99c for the ebook, from ibooks, Nook, Amazon etc

PS If you click on the External Link, that should take you to the Amazon site)


Chapter One

Asra, night traveller, moved silently through the cold darkness of space, unnoticed for years by almost everyone in the Aurigan space system. It would take 348 years to complete one elliptical journey. In lonely orbit around the binary star system of Menkalinan, it consisted mostly of rock, covered by frozen nitrogen, too cold to interest anyone. However as the years passed, its trajectory brought it gradually closer to the nearest of the two suns, warming the tiny planet and creating a thin atmosphere as the ice melted, turning the nitrogen into gas. Although the atmosphere was unbreathable by humans, the ice melting made the rock and metals more accessible and mining companies began to sit up and take notice. It was over half way on its inward journey when a young scientist, Paulo Caruso, calculated the planet could be made habitable, with the aid of an artificial space dome, for forty or maybe fifty years before it drew too close to the sun and the surface became too hot to support life. That was enough for the miners.

The big companies, Poseidon and Tinto moved in first, scouring the land flat to construct a huge space dome over the top to allow workers a place to live without requiring space suits the whole time. Houses were constructed, underground to start with, then more and more above ground as the dome held and people were no longer fearful of the vast storms swirling around them on the outside. Civic buildings came next, a medical clinic, customs and trade houses, hotels, bars and eateries sprang up. Given the essentially transient nature of the place, it tended to attract single men and women, families were reluctant to settle somewhere they were unable to put down roots. So there was no school, yet, although nature being what she was, there were a few babies and young children around, as couples and families evolved despite original intentions. In only a few years, Asra ceased to be a miner's dormitory and became a town.

XXX

What an idiot! Ryan Callan held his aching head in his hands and moaned softly. He had to cut back on the brandy. After the meeting, he and Dane Trenwith, his business partner and chief pilot had gone out to celebrate, or commiserate, he wasn't quite sure which. Whatever it was, Dane had scored the young man with white blond hair they had both fancied for the rest of the night and he had had one too many drinks.

What on Earth had he let himself in for? He got shakily to his feet and staggered into the bathroom. Bleary red eyes stared back under a shaggy mop of dark blond hair, his skin drawn and pasty looking. Ugh. Lucky he hadn't brought anyone home with him last night, they would have taken one look at him this morning and run off screaming.

Was that a new crop of wrinkles around his eyes or just the effects of the brandy? His birthday next week would be his thirty fifth, he wasn't getting any younger. He splashed cold water over his face and felt marginally more alert. Coffee. He needed a litre of strong black coffee, he couldn't face even the thought of milk yet. He staggered back out into the small kitchen and after mistakenly conjuring up a glass of cold tea managed to coax a hot cup of coffee out of the refreshment unit. He slurped noisily, there wasn't anyone to disgust with his loutish behaviour.

He thought back to the previous evening. It seemed the entire unofficial council of Asra had turned up for the meeting, all twenty of them, including the managers of the five major mining companies, and Serra Yoshida, the owner of the Rising Sun where the meeting was being held and purveyor of fine brandy. All of them seemed to want the same thing, to pressure him into calling in the damned Patrol. Honestly he couldn't see the need. His two ships and the ten men and women he kept on as security staff were enough to keep pirates at bay. Asra was a frontier town for god's sake, they managed themselves, the last thing they needed was some prissy Patrol officer throwing his weight around, setting up rules and regulations for them all to follow.

"That's all very well Callan," retorted Serra Yoshida, after he had expressed himself rather forcefully on the subject. "You keep the peace well enough when you're here but half the time you're out and about with your ships and traders. Those of us based here on Asra need someone we can call on for assistance at any time, someone who's available permanently."

"I admit I don't like the idea of the Patrol poking its nose into my business," said Ser Keating ponderously, the manager of the second largest mine, "but I can see how they would be useful maintaining law and order in the streets. If they restrict themselves to that, I don't see the problem."

"But that is the problem," Callan protested. "Once you invite them in, they follow their own rules and procedures, they're out of our control."

"I think we have to face the fact that Asra is no longer a small community, where everyone knows everyone else," stated Medic Mia Baraky firmly. "At last count we have over seven hundred permanents registered with the Clinic and another four or five hundred transients. We need the Patrol, preferably before the situation here becomes unmanageable."

Ryan Callan had grumbled a bit more but it was clear he was in the minority.

"So we're all agreed then," Serra Yoshida said decisively, if inaccurately. "We call in the Patrol. There's just one more thing. We need to formalise our position, elect a chairperson, someone to be in charge of the council and make sure our decisions are carried out. A governor even, like a proper colony." She gave a thin smile. "I'd like to nominate Ryan Callan. All those in favour?"

"Aye!" The ragged chorus was almost unanimous, nobody wanted the job.

He still couldn't quite believe it, just like that he had become the damn governor. Governor. The very word made him feel as if had to turn respectable, start wearing a dark grey singlesuit instead of cargo pants and a coloured shirt. Cut his hair. He'd probably have to cut down on the drinking and carousing too, mind you at the moment that didn't seem such a bad idea.

He drained the last mouthful of coffee and stepped into the tiny shower.

Governor eh? He knew his first job would be to contact the Patrol headquarters on Capella and request an officer to come to Asra to set up an outpost. He could only hope they'd send him someone reasonable, who could look the other way when he had to, not try and change things too much. Someone who wouldn't get in his way.


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