from Empire Saga: City on a Hill by Michael Findley

resized empire

“What?” laughed another man listening to them. “Spend money on the moon colony? Cut into their profits? Come on!”

“I’d rather have them raise our pay, anyway,” The small man grabbed another carton and shoved it into place. “But I can’t see them doing that, either.”

“They just might change their minds if enough of us complained,” said Joe. “We’re just taking it. We gotta do something to get their attention.”

“This is Shuttle Three,” came a voice over the console radio, “requesting landing clearance.” No one noticed.

“Com Center, this is Shuttle Three,” said the radio again. “I repeat, request landing clearance.”

“Hey, is there a shuttle out?”

“Huh?” grunted the pale-haired fellow who had commented about clean rooms. He wandered over to the console. “None of the pilots are logged out.” He flicked a switch. “Well? Who is this?”

“Like I said before,” said the voice. “I’m trying to land Shuttle Three. I didn’t put a whole lot of fuel in it. Can we make it soon?”

“But who is this?” demanded the radio operator.

“Jon Newton. Excuse me. Newton, Jonathan A., employee number 63451. I was assigned to repair Shuttle Three. Repairs being completed, I took it for a test flight. Request permission to land this D-20 infraction shuttle. By the way, who are you? Isn’t there supposed to be a real radio operator on duty?”

“I am the operator for this shift,” snapped the man. “Sam Aleti. Newton, you don’t have pilot’s rating. What are you doing flying a shuttle?” Newton and Aleti’s argument had gotten louder. Most conversations in Com Center ended as eyes wandered to the monitor.

“Ahem, Mister Aleti,” Newton began with exaggerated patience. “Pilot Viccieri is assigned to this shift but he’s … shall we say … a little too well-oiled to fly. Pilot Jones is on temporary suspension from flight duty due to one too many D-20 infractions. Pilot Ting is spending his next paycheck on a … ah … lady. Not that I mind — what someone does on his own time is his own business.

“All other pilots being assigned to sleep rotation, someone needed to test the shuttle, so I took it out. As to my pilot’s rating, I was classed A-1 readiness for flight in the Air Force before I had an emergency appendectomy and got a medical discharge to spend six months recovering from complications. May I land now?”

“Sure, Newton,” grumbled Aleti. “Come on in.”

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