Vessel 1-103, Voyage 022D18. Crew G. Herron.
Transit time out 107 days 5 hours. Note: Transit time return 103 days 15 hours.
Extract from log. “At 84 days 6 hours out the Q instrument began to glow and there was unusual activity in the control lights. At the same time I felt a change in the direction of thrust. For about one hour there were continuing changes, then the Q light went out and things went back to normal.”
Conjecture: Course change to avoid some transient hazard, perhaps a star or other body? Recommend computer search of trip logs for similar events.
On the other hand, it was eight thousand dollars more than I’d had.
I celebrated by buying myself a drink at the Blue Hell. While I was drinking it, I thought about my options. The more I thought about them, the more they dwindled away.
They would find me culpable, no doubt about that, and the least they’d assess me would be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Well, I didn’t have it. It might be a lot more, but that didn’t make any difference; once they take away all you have, there isn’t anything left anyway.
So when you came right down to it, my eight thousand dollars was fairy gold. It could vanish with the morning dew. As soon as the xenotech’s report came in from Gateway Two the Board would reconvene and that would be the end of that.
So there was no particular reason to stretch my money. I might as well spend it.
There was no reason, either, to think about getting back my old job as an ivy-planter — even assuming I could get it, with Shicky fired from his job as straw-boss. The minute they made a judgment against me my credit balance would disappear. So would my prepaid per-capita payment. I would be subject to immediate defenestration.
If there happened to be an Earth-bound ship in port at the time I could just get on board, and sooner or later I would be back in Wyoming looking for my old job at the food mines. If there wasn’t a ship, then I was in trouble. I might be able to talk the American cruiser, or maybe the Brazilian one if Francy Hereira was in a position to pull strings for me, into taking me aboard for a while until a ship showed up. Or I might not.
Considered carefully, the chances were not very hopeful.
The very best thing I could do would be to act before the Board did, and there there were two choices.
I could take the next ship in port back to Earth and the food mines, without waiting for the Board’s decision.
Or I could ship out again.
They were two lovely choices. One of them meant giving up every chance of a decent life forever… and the other one scared me out of my mind.