“I don’t understand, grandpa. Why let me come with you on this jaunt and then not let me do a skeevin’ thing?”
Quinten sighed and looked around. Once again, he wondered whether he had done the right thing in bringing the Perdition’s young engineer down to Lesotho Drift. His preference was for his quieter second-in-command, but Saff--with her too-white skin and obviously alien features--would have stood out against the Drift’s mostly human population. He knew he could have told her to shift into someone more human-looking, but she had pre-empted him. The minute he had broached the subject of a drift visit a few days ago, she began talking about the urgent needs of her beloved hydroponics garden, looking at him with those huge black eyes of hers and, the next thing he knew, he was drift-bound with a chattering monkey of an engineer beside him instead.
“I hear the drifts are max with all kinds of things you don’t find dirtside.” Despite the lack of encouragement from his commander, Toy Cenredi pushed ahead. “Whatever your, er, heart desires. Girls, boys, quasi-animates. I think we should--”
Quinten jerked his head, killing the conversation before it got embarrassing for either of them. “Look.”
Down the half-flight of stairs that was the boundary between drift sections, someone flashed a blue light three times in quick succession.
“Come on,” he told the younger man, and headed off without hesitation.
Quinten didn’t like drifts. They were useful places for picking up black-ray equipment and concluding illegal deals, but they were also chaotic agglomerations of barely spaceworthy vessels, pieces of them peeling off and suddenly shooting away as merchants shut down, were run off or got the urge to try their luck somewhere else.
It had taken a month of careful navigation to get the Perdition to the drift and it bothered Quinten that the terse directions he had been given upon contact with his buyer might now land him in a tight cul-de-sac about to be blown into hard vacuum. His fingers twitched by his side and he shrugged his shoulders, feeling reassured as his armour tightened against him, a pliable sheath of protection that had already protected him through several dangerous situations.
The end of Lesotho’s Teal section was marked by a thick scuffed line next to a hatchway that had once been a vibrant blue-green. Quinten took note of the lowered flooring of Carnelian section and stepped through. Thankfully the corridor was short, ending in an open hole through which the ends of a metal ladder were fastened. When Quinten reached forward and tugged at it, the entire frame shook. His lips tightened. This was exactly what he didn’t like about drifts.
Behind him, Toy’s voice was high and a little breathless. “Hey grandpa, wait up! Where are we heading?”
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