Last night, Vin had taken some much needed R&R planetside and stayed well away from a ship’s cockpit.

The shuttle journey down from the station felt strange – not being in control of the vessel made him twitchier than normal. Even with “gravity” on board station, his body took some adjusting to being under an atmosphere.

He’d spent most of re-entry trying to get his brain around how travel was working these days. Frontier had changed the whole way that faster than light travel had worked for the last 30 years, working closely with the drive manufacturers and shipbuilders.

It appeared that hitting one button for accelerated travel in system from the beacon had been judged too unsafe and been replaced. The idea of “slaving” jumps with partnered ships intrigued him – perfect for escorted trade runs and safety in numbers in the more dangerous systems.

Stepping out into the daylight, his eyes took a while to adjust – the advantage of the old wireframe screen was that it protected him from the glare and flashes on the long journey. Glancing out of the portholes in his downtime had been enough to experience the moth eaten curtain of space.

A mild case of agoraphobia had hit him – his sense of distance and perspective had been hammered by years of passing white flashes from debris and a big blue sky overhead felt very strange indeed.

After evening fell, he had found himself on the rooftop bar staring up at the stars. Funny to think that only a year ago, he had been parked up next to one of them, looming impossibly large in the tiny viewfinder and now it was a sparkling speck in the distance.

Constellations had ceased meaning anything to him years before – every planet had its own legends and histories and these days it was just a pretty panorama.

He’d had a few e-mails from Zaonce after his report from the first test of the new ship. “We’re looking into it” was about as far as it went. He still had faith that they’d knock the rough edges off before his next sortie.

“You moody son of a sidewinder. Pull yourself together.”

Vin necked the last of the glass of brandy he had in his hand and headed back inside for another.

“Only 3 more days until I’m back in the cockpit.”


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