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StoryKettle » GRANNY » Glom

Copyright © 2022, Michael M Wayman

It was dark, it was dingy, it was dismal, it was gloomy. It was most of the D‑words.

I had better explain, I was at the Glom, a conglomerate of old freighter ships, all welded together with steel walkways, together with a mixture of small asteroids and whatever. And a whole load of awful people. It was in a stable orbit around the orange star, it was the orbit of a gas‑giant planet. Though it was not near the gas‑giant planet, it was at the Lagrangian point L5.

Several hundred men live there, there is enough power to heat, feed and for all the other resources that humans need. However the lighting is always dark, dingy, dismal and gloomy. I cannot believe that there is not enough power to provide adequate illumination. But the people are really awful.

I had better explain, I was at the Glom, a conglomerate of old freighter ships. How did I get there? I certainly didn’t want to be there.

I’m a retired captain with four stripes and star. The star means I can captain any freighter, any size, any freight. Every few years I need some extra cash and do a trip to the outer edge and bring a quantity of rare earth metals back to the small rocky planets where most people live, me included.

The mining company assigned me a small freighter, a nicknamed jewellery box, with three tonnes of supplies as ballast. It is traditional to always carry ballast, it is not necessary, however the miners do like deliveries of exotic stuff, such as foods, medicines, videos and so on.

A crew on such a small ship is not needed, I insist on this. Androids don’t weigh much, but humans with support are heavy and reduce the payload. For some reason captains are mandatory, probably insurance.

It took two months to reach the outer belt of asteroids beyond the planets, the orange star was just a point of light like any other star. I had almost reached Sector D, I was in the middle of nowhere, then I received my destination coordinates.

It was a dusty big chunk of uninteresting rock, uninteresting to me that is, it was a giant asteroid. The miners there arranged a big celebration: the first new face that they had seen in years. And the face of the man who was going to transport the most precious hunk of stuff that they had hewn with great effort out of the asteroid.

The supplies were unloaded and one tonne of something loaded. It was darm­stadtium tetra­chloride. No, I’ve never heard of it either. Next task: get back to the biggest rocky planet before any rival mining company.

I was crossing the orbit of the gas‑giant planet when it happened. Pirates! I applied full power and lost them. Great! But not enough fuel to get home, I had used most of it. I did not want to spend the rest of my life in a boring orbit around the orange star. The nearest and only destination was the Glom.

I was not the only one docking on the Glom, a big, black freighter was also arriving. After docking I checked my ship out: some damage but still capable of travel. However not enough fuel to get anywhere, but an endless orbit around the star. And no, no help available from the Glom. Big problems.

That evening I was surprised to receive an invitation to visit the vice-captain of the black freighter. This was welcome, as I needed time to sort out my problems. Casual wear, so I wore my fatigues with my four stripes and star. An android arrived at the command bridge airlock to escort me to the black freighter.

“Hello, my name is Michael Malcolm, so I’m called Mork, Captain. I would welcome you to the Glom, but I can see that you are no fan.” I replied that my name was William Birdsall and that I was looking forward to meeting the vice captain of the black freighter. That I had never heard of the grade vice captain I kept quiet.

It was gloomy, about a kilometre from the small ships docks to the big ships docking space. We entered the huge freighter at the crew airlock, we didn’t go to the bridge. “Welcome aboard! No need to take you on a tour of the ship, Captain. I have seen your four stripes and star.” We went to a large room that was brightly lit.

I could see the back of a person in white, was this the vice-captain? She turned towards me. “Hello, Captain Birdsall, pleased to meet you.”

“Hello, just call me Johnnie!”

“And I’m just granny. I’m the Vice Captain, because every time we are empty we dock here at the Glom; the captain and the crew disappear to one of their awful Glom events and leave me in charge.”

No, we didn’t discuss the appalling and disgusting practices of the Glomerates, which are too appalling and disgusting to mention here.

“Not that I do anything with the ship, I leave that all to Mork. I just cook. Do you want to see what I had prepared for this evening? That I made two years ago – I’ve defrosted enough for you and me. Try reading this!”

It was a menu, a good wine, Boeuf Wellington and Syllabub. Very good. The Captain likes old classical dishes, they are old enough. But I’ve had enough – there’s enough frozen, prepared dishes to last five years – it’s time I found a new position.”

I told her about my valuable cargo and that my small craft was damaged and out of fuel.

To cut the story short the next morning, with Mork’s help, we loaded my small ship into one of the huge landing craft of the black freighter and took a trip to the nearest rocky planet. We sent the empty landing craft back to the Glom and lived happily ever after.