Corwin sat, head in hands, pulling his hair. “Argh!” he grunted, sitting up straighter. “Aru, this is a disaster. Dana’s going to kill me. I might have been better off staying on Haruna.”
“You’d have died on Haruna.”
“Yeah, well, it would probably have been less painful than facing Dana is going to be. Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t have a choice, did I? Of course I didn’t,” he answered himself before the little bot could display a response. “I needed to get off Haruna to survive, and to get off Haruna, I needed the ship.”
“I feel I should point out that we have had this exact conversation before. Several times, in fact,” the bot commented.
“And we’ll probably have it many more times before this sluggish bucket of bolts gets us anywhere civilized,” Corwin said. “I just haven’t decided whether to be frustrated with or grateful for how slow the trip is.”
“I suggest frustration,” the bot sent back. “I’m picking up active sensors reflecting off our hull.”
He frowned, mouth twisting as he considered the possibilities. “Keep track of them. Keep me up to date on what’s happening.” Could be a patrol, which was fine. Maybe better than fine. They might be able to help speed his ship up a bit, help finish some of the most critical repairs they desperately needed. But there were darker possibilities, ones he’d rather not contemplate. He pushed himself up from the console and grabbed a com tablet so Aru could communicate with him wherever he went in the ship.
“Switching to console, Aru. I’m going to check over the ship again, see if we missed anything.”
“My inventory of the ship is complete.”
“Your inventory doesn’t include hiding places in case this takes a bad turn.”
“If you say so.”
Ordinarily Corwin would be happy to defer to Aru on matters like this; the bot had been over every cubic centimeter of the vessel with a variety of maintenance units back on Haruna trying to get it to fly, after all. But Corwin had chosen the old rust-bucket for a reason. It was an antique, and antiques were his passion and his specialty.
The Night Star, as someone previously had named her, was a good 345 years old or so at his best estimate. She was a cargo freighter, smallish by today’s standards, and a very popular design of her time. Ships like her had sailed the space ways ferrying cargos, legitimate and otherwise, for well over a dozen decades before their popularity began to wain. For a time, they’d had quite the reputation as a smuggler’s best friend.
They were all but unknown now, but Corwin had recognized the design pretty quickly once he got a good look at her, and had chosen her without hesitation. Corwin had chosen the ship for her age, not for her reputation as a smuggler’s ship, but if he was right about her, Night Star might just save his life even in her sad current state.