Chapter Thirty Seven

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"Here we are," Gaylen said. "Gveloh."

They approached the planet from its darkened side, making the stronger concentrations of electric lights visible.

"Wow," Herdis said. "Actual civilisation."

"Well, yes," Gaylen said. "The Fringe has population centres. I've just been avoiding those."

"I know. I'm joking."

Gaylen activated the intercom.

"We've reached the end of this road," he said. "I'm not going to pretend that it hasn't been messy. But... here we are. I'll complete the delivery, and then you'll get your 800 G-rils. As agreed. If you all just stick around a bit longer I'll find a place to sell the rest of the pirate loot, then distribute that. As agreed. After that I feel I should head back to Chukata to find out if Ayna is at least still alive."

He cleared his throat.

"Look, if you want to step off here, I'll understand. As I've said, you shouldn't have much trouble hiring onto another ship. But as far as I'm concerned everyone on board has proven themselves repeatedly, and I'd be happy to rehire you. Think about it, at least. That's all."

He ended the call and returned his full attention to the space traffic around Gveloh.

"You know, you do make a decent leader," Herdis told him from her seat.

"Thank you," he said. "Just doing my best to hold it all together."

"I'm just stating the truth. You have been managing messes every step of the way, and here we are."

"Most of us."

"Yeah."

Herdis looked pensive for a moment, then sighed.

"Well, considering everything I think it's minor miracle that any of us made it to the end."

"And is it miraculous enough for you to stay on?" he asked.

"I'll think about it, as you said. I am doing all of this to explore and experience. And it has all been terribly exciting. Just... maybe..."

"Overly concentrated?"

"Maybe."

"I am moving away from all of this," Gaylen said. "Away from gunfire and gangs and monsters. Just one last job for a monster to get the ship. And whatever he's up to he let it leak. Hence our troubles."

"Yes. I'm not... blaming you. Like I said, I'll think about it."

"Sure."

Gveloh couldn't compare to a core-space cityworld and it probably never would, given its relative scarcity of solid land. But it did import raw materials from less developed worlds and so had made itself into an industrial centre for the immediate area. And with industry and a large populace came shipping and opportunities.

Gaylen wasn't surprised that Lanson had some business with the head of the main port, but he maintained the inner block he'd had in place since that meeting in the dark. He wouldn't wonder what this was all about, and never think about that damned cylinder again.

With civilization came regulations and control, and Gaylen followed the traffic signals broadcast from the surface. He joined the modest air traffic, then turned when directed to and approached the Unnan landmass.

"Attention, Jekata Dock. This is civilian freighter Addax, with a priority delivery for Hu Veo from Ruuk."

There was a brief wait.

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