Starship's Mage: Episode 4

Starship's Mage: Episode 4 by Glynn Stewart Read Free Book Online

Book: Starship's Mage: Episode 4 by Glynn Stewart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Glynn Stewart
talks shop,” Damien told Jenna.
    “Don’t worry, you can do that to any of us aboard the ship at will,” Jenna reminded him. “I know nothing about ‘Thaumaturgical differential quotients’ or whatever it was you were trying to even out in Rib Four yesterday.”
    The young Mage opened his mouth to try and explain, and then turned to study the main viewscreen when he realized that even the simplified explanation was a mouthful of jargon.
    “That’s a lot more detail than we usually have,” he realized aloud, his now-practiced eye reading the symbols and text showing the region of space around Amber and Heinlein Station – easily out to several light minutes.
    “Yeah, it turns out the Amber Defense Co-operative sub-contracted building and running the planetary sensor arrays,” Jenna told him. “Since they then had information everyone wanted, and this is Amber, that company provides subscription access to what would be military grade arrays anywhere else in the Protectorate.”
    Damien nodded his understanding – and bemusement at the way Amber ran its defenses. He paused as a new icon appeared on the screen.
    “Jump flare,” he said quietly, eyeing the icon and wondering how much data the link into the planetary arrays would give them.
    “Oh shit, shit, shit, ” Jenna starting cursing behind him as the icon stabilized, and the sensor arrays calmly populated the transponder signal of the Royal Navy of Mars destroyer Golden Sword of Freedom .
    The Protectorate was here.

#
    David was finding it surprisingly hard to say goodbye to Keiko. They’d had barely three days together, and neither had pretended that it was anything but a friendly fling between two people of a shared age and attitude towards the world, but as they watched the last of the loading gear retract from the Blue Jay from an observation lounge, he found himself mentally making excuses to put off the moment.
    The observation lounge was a quiet, elegant place. The sort of spot where wealthy merchants and starship captains made deals and watched their ships through the walls of steel made transparent through magic. Runes swirled across the floor, creating a gravity field that held everyone and everything down, and discreet human staff delivered drinks to the widely scattered quiet tables.
    “I guess that’s it then,” he finally said, watching the Blue Jay ’s ribs spin up. If Jenna had spun up the ribs for gravity, then the last of the cargo was loaded. “Your special cargo came aboard with the rest. I’m impressed you found it all,” he admitted.
    “I am the best at what I do,” Keiko told him cheerfully, her gaze meeting his. “This has been nice, David, but I’m not one for teary goodbyes. I hope you weren’t expecting one.”
    “Hardly,” he said with a snort of laughter. “It would clash with your ‘hardened revolutionary’ vibe.”
    She put a finger to her lips. “Shush,” she replied, laughing herself. “That’s not part of my reputation here. On Amber, I’m known as wealthy, ruthless, and perfectly willing to bury people in lawsuits if they get in my way.”
    “Guess that’s how business is done here,” David admitted, eyeing his ship. “I was surprised by how good the safety gear was, to be honest. I was expecting…”
    “You were expecting slaves driven with whips?” Keiko asked dryly. “Which do you think is going to motivate a business to do better at safety: a government standard that, once they meet, they’re no longer liable – or the knowledge that a death will see them sued out of business? Our companies have the best safety gear around – they know they won’t survive a death liability case.”
    David figured much of that to be exaggeration – the gear wasn’t as bad as he’d feared, but he’d definitely seen better and safer work crews, too. That was also, he understood, at least partially the choice of the crews – and that was how Amber worked. He kept his peace, though. Keiko was a

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