Coffee Break Read – Stin

When the ship finally opened up, Stin stood waiting with Panvia, who still held her tea and was sipping at it. He helped her to kick the blocks to the ramp in an ultra low-tech parody of the way a spaceship dock would normally autosecure.
The first person out seemed more as though he was expecting to meet an armed assault than a middle-aged maintenance technician sipping a cup of tea. He held an energy snub in one hand and looked more than willing to use it. He wore a slightly garish, military cut outfit and his black hair pulled back into a short ponytail, separating on one side around the slight lump of a skull implanted port.
Panvia completely ignored the weaponry and lifted her mug.
“If you want a cuppa, I’ve something warm and spiced on the brew. It’ll help get your innards used to the local micro-flora and fauna. Tastes pretty good too.”
The black haired man didn’t reply, he finished his visual check of the environment and apparently satisfied that there wasn’t a secret ambush waiting in the shadows, moved aside.
“Tea sounds good to me.” The reply came from a second man who emerged from the ship. This one was dressed like he was attending a debut event in Central, but with a shaggy mane of golden blond curly hair tempering the effect. “And your tea always tastes good, Pan.”
Panvia’s normally dour expression lightened to something that nearly approached a smile.
“You look like you could do with it, too. You been living on all that alien muck too long.”
Any reply the blond man might have made was cut short by a shout of unmitigated delight from the entrance to the dock.
“Durban,” Gernie called and strode over to the ship with a huge grin on his round face.” You know until I saw you just now I was only half-convinced it really was you. When you sailed out of here with that cargo I was thinking that was it. That you’d use it to set yourself up – somewhere nice in the Middle Worlds, maybe the ‘City. Or possibly, knowing you, even Central way. Why the hell would you want to come back here, man?”
He finished the speech as he reached the blond man and threw his arms around him in a close embrace which was returned with mutual back slapping. The man with the ponytail moved sharply, clearly worried and only relaxed when Gernie released his victim and stepped back, still smiling. “They still talk about you in Micha’s from when you were first here that winter we met. How long ago was that now?”
“Too many years, maybe even too many decades,” the blond man said, his own smile as warm as Gernie’s. Then he looked directly at Stin. “This a new member of your ground crew?”
Gernie followed his look, turning to see.
“Oh, that’s one of our waifs and strays. Stinian. His girlfriend dumped him and jumped out. He helps out to earn his passage one day.”
“Mostly, for sure. Aren’t you Stin?” Now what was he supposed to say to that?
“I guess,” he agreed.
Gernie had already turned away again, his back to Stin.
“This your latest boyfriend?” he was asking, nodding at the man with the black hair and the scalp port. The blond man, Durban, laughed.
“Jaz is a friend – a very good friend.”
The other man, Jaz, seemed unconcerned by Gernie’s assumption. He seemed to still be expecting some kind of trouble. Or maybe that was just his normal way of being

From A Walking Shadow, the final book in Haruspex Trilogy of Fortune’s Fools by E.M. Swift-Hook. You can listen to this on YouTube.

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