Free, thanks to his new-found “friends,” he was aware. Also that the fate of Beta Gruisian Detention Gate could certainly hang in the balance, light years away, Christopher knew that there wasn’t much time before he would be visiting. What was contenting, spiriting even, ironically a problem that, in the split second Christopher contemplated it, this time, it was this crew that was putting him right in the middle of it.
Steve and Bridges seemed all right. It didn’t matter much if they were, as Christopher was aware could be the case, bearing the shipment Christopher thought they had in stow, all the way to Beta Gruisian. It made sense. Why would Steve have readily set the coordinates?
Plus, there was the matter of the banking droid. B2W3 was the least friendly finance model Christopher had ever met. It was as if B2’s output was programmed specifically to infuriate. Every word out of B2W3’s speaker module grated on Steve’s nerves, it was clear. It wasn’t exactly a stellar leap of logic that the ship in warp drive under the friendly command of Steve and Bridges wouldn’t be dallying at the detention gate. Christopher would be given his leave, whatever B2W3 was transporting would be hocked there, and the duo would be on their way, back in warp hyperspace…. Once aboard, however, Christopher smelled a rat.
It was ironic that the stasis pod Trollalay had woke Christopher out of penitentiary hibernation on what was the last day of the year of what the pod’s annals reported was 78429, the seven hundred and eighty-fifth century in the Norman French calendar. Even on planets as remote as Mayall’s Object, time was often charted in the family styling of a century of a hundred years. It was true that stasis meant that there could be odd results of races coexisting at seemingly random points in time. On the other hand, Christopher knew that he was probably okay, as long as he took control of the situation before Christopher’s ship was out of warp drive. The sentinel droid that had intercepted Christopher’s distress signal, a sentinel droid, 4E9F-2506, had coldly while proficiently notified its crew and Steve and Bridges had brought him on board.
Even in the seven hundred and eighty-fifth century, warp hyperspace travel took time, and Christopher was relaxing below deck in a dark recreation chamber, his blood red eyes peering at the starlight through which the ship was at light speed cruising. Steve and Bridges were up top, keeping an eye on the travel dimensions of the ship. Suddenly Christopher’s recreation chamber acknowledged that another guest of the ship wanted in, and he commanded the chamber to grant access to the newcomer.
It was Sherry, light from passing stars illuminating her pale olive skin, her hair gray for her twenty-seven years of age. “Christopher,” she intoned sweetly, eyeing him with her ink black eyes. “Even if B2W3 rubs you the wrong way. it’s just his programming. He’s programmed to evaluate goods. You’re from Beta Gruisian. That’s why it’s selected as a destination. Now, here, you’re among friends. Hogmanay, Trollolay, give us of your white bread and none of your gray.”
“I don’t trust that B2!” exclaimed Christopher. “To tell you the truth, I don’t trust Steve and Bridges much, either. They say they will provide assistance, and maybe home’s where I belong. All told, for now I don’t much trust them.”
“Christopher,” Sherry opined, “let me tell you something. You’re a valued heavy weaponry repair specialist. They have weapons, the kind you repair, on Beta Gruisian. The big picture, I’m telling you, isn’t just being home to repair heavy weapons. The detention gate won’t be the same as it was.”
“Of course not,” interjected Christopher.
“More than ever,” Sherry insisted. “The Detention Gate as a trade center will be as much as a holdover world for prisoners as ever. Bridges on deck has been clear that everything needed, temporarily, should be ready to grab on Beta Gruisian. We’ll be there in time for the celebration of New Year. Don’t fear us, or anyone down there. The tidings of greatness in the air will both cover our vessel’s tracks and that will permit us to procure absolutely everything necessary. The timing’s spot on, that you’ve been located in your stasis pod and brought you on board. Of course, anything possible to make this easier will be carried out to the utmost of our ability. It’s a time of solidarity, and particularly in your galaxy, when our ship reaches Beta Gruisian.”
“It was never that way when they assigned my penitentiary sentence in hibernation in the Trollalay pod.”
“Yes, Christopher. Listen to me. There’s been renewed peace in that quadrant. Sure, there will be a ready market for B3 to arrange a drop-off. At the same time, you will be welcomed with open arms. And us, too,” she added, indicating with a smile on her face that she trusted Christopher. “It isn’t the same as the past, even as recent as when you were sent away in your hibernation state. You’re a free man, Christopher. There’s nowhere ahead of you but up.”
“I guess I can drink to that,” replied Christopher, smiling. He could tell he would begin to forgive the crew. Beta Gruisian Detention Gate waited.