The Velvet Anchor

“Captain.”

The voice crackled through the speaker installed just above her bed. She hadn’t yet upgraded to the video projector, doubted she would anytime soon. There was something unappealing about the idea of her crew having a chance of accidentally catching her in a state of undress.

“No,” she replied and rolled over, pulling her pillow over her ear.

“You wanted us to let you know when we got near Damocles Station.”

Kylie opened one eye and peered at her clock from under her pillow. She had pre-set it to the outpost’s standard time before going to bed. Accordingly, it informed her she had been asleep for around three solid hours.

“Ffff. That’s two hours earlier than expected, Talos. What happened?”

“Low traffic at the jump gate. That shaved off most of it. Once we were through, we punched it for a while. You made it clear how important this lead was.”

You can’t call him an asshole for being a good crewman, Kylie, she thought to herself. You want to, but you can’t. Put your Captain hat on and deal with it.

“I’ll be up in ten. I want a stim ready, and I want it hot.”

“Yes, ma’am. Sugar? Cream?”

“I want it as black as the space I’ll eject you into if you don’t get off the fucking com and get back to work.”

****

The bridge of the ship wasn’t very large,  but it didn’t need to be. Hers was not a luxury cruiser or a military vessel. The Velvet Anchor was a recovery craft, intended on the seizure and transportation of smuggled goods, illegal weapons caches and escaped criminals. As such, the belly of the ship was where most of the space was, with rooms set aside for storage and a handful of cells for prisoners.

Kylie sipped at her stim and glanced around at her crew. Magda wasn’t present and was likely doing a standard maintenance check throughout the Anchor. Talos was back on the navigation system. Garrety sat at the weapons station, legs outstretched and hands clasped behind his head. If there were any reason to fire upon the station, chances were they would be too late to defend themselves properly anyway.

Ilo, her first mate, sat at his station next to the captain’s chair. He was busy pulling up the schematics for Damocles Station: current population, structural details, command structure and shipping logs. A blue light began flashing at the top of his control panel.

“Station’s hailing us, Captain.”

“Patch him in.”

Ilo pressed a ridged black button next to the light. A moment later, a small blue hologram cast out from the light in the form of an older man dressed in loose pants and a button-up shirt.

“Can you see me alright?” the man asked.

“All fine on this side.”

“You’re coming in clear for me as well. My name is Patch Harding. I’m the dockmaster for Damocles Station. State your name, crew size and starship for our records, please, and the purpose for your visit.”

“I’m Captain Kylie Hendren of the Velvet Anchor, currently with a crew of five, counting myself. I’m a molly contracted currently by the Alcan Recovery Operation. I got a tip that a wanted felon is hiding out on your station. I’d appreciate your assistance and the assistance of your station security in apprehending him.”

Harding looked away to someone not visible in the projection. After a moment, he nodded once and offered a tight smile to Kylie. “Everything checks out. You’re free to dock in AC-7. After you get settled, any of the workers will point you in the direction of my office. In the meantime, what’s the name of your perp? I’ll call in an alert.”

“Appreciated. His name is Dillyn Harridan. He’s wanted on several counts of weapons smuggling so tell your people to be careful.”

“Come again? Did you say Harridan?”

Kylie’s eyes narrowed. “You know him?”

“Haven’t had a molly stop here in close to eighteen months, figures you’d be here for him. We’ve already got him locked up, Captain.”

“On what charges?”

Harding looked grim. “We’re holding him for six murders. I’ll tell you more once you’re landed.”

“Roger that, Dockmaster.” Kylie ended the call and settled into her seat. “Take us in, Ilo.”

“Captain, holy shit. Six murders? That’s not, like, a feud or a crime of passion. That’s psychotic.”

“We don’t know any details yet. Could be anything. Guy’s a weapons smuggler. Maybe a deal went wrong or there was another, pissed off party there. I’ll have to find out.”

“Forget the murders,” her navigator said. “I heard Damocles has a strip club. We got time to nose around the station?”

“Shut up, Talos.”

“Cap, if he’s already caught, some leave time would be welcome,” Garrety said. “It’d be nice to get off the ship for once and stretch out legs.”

Kylie sighed and set her cup aside before rubbing her temples. “We’ll see how it shakes out. I’ve got to talk to Harding first and I may even need to see Harridan. Murders don’t sound like him.”

Ilo frowned and looked over at her. “Do you know Dillyn Harridan, Captain? I thought this was just another job.”

“It is just another job. I don’t know Dillyn, but I knew his brother years ago. We’re mollies, this crew. We’re here to grab a criminal, take him in, and collect a check. All the same, I aim to find out some answers.”

The Anchor settled down into the docking bay, handled expertly by Ilo, who had flown several kinds of craft during the Halfgallon Moor war on Bellam. Captain Kylie Hendren’s crew turned down their systems and began prepping to exit into the station.

For her part, Kylie made her way back to her room and strapped her pistols to her hips. She glanced into the mirror. No make-up. No problem. The weariness in her eyes was masked by the scowl she wore for having slept so little.

She was a decent captain. She was an excellent molly. She had a damn job to do.

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