To-day, I'd like to re-post something written, and published a few years ago, by my old friend, Mr. Richard Austinson.
For those coming to Mr. Austinson's work for the first time, here is an introduction: his stories are set in a sprawling 'Multi-Verse' of myriad alternate Earths and possible futures, encompassing space-opera, treasure-hunt stories, and the occasional sword-and-sorcery vignette. Three interstellar governments exert a nominal rule over all space-faring cultures: the militaristic Foundation, the idealistic Alliance, and the secretive Coalition. The hero of the story, 'Hunter Jusenkyou' by name, is a pilot in the service of the Foundation. His sidekick 'Jason' is the prince of an interplanetary kingdom belonging to the Alliance. "Now, you know enough to be getting on". At the time of this excerpt, Hunter and Jason are on their way home from a scientific conference on the planet 'Gleskel', with Jason's wife 'Metanie' and step-siblings 'Dora' and 'Laden'.
The Other Half
“These conditions are even more deplorable than the first trip!” Dora said, and stamped her foot.
They were currently standing on a platform atop one of the tall space-port towers on Gleskel Core, while Hunter and Jason looked over the ship they had secured to gain passage home.
“I demand first-class accommodations on one of those big luxury vessels we saw in orbit!” Dora shouted.
“Should a’ made your reservations four years ago, then,” Jason replied. “The Caucuses are a pretty major event; they’re probably already sold out for the next one.”
“Well… then…” Dora stammered, clenching her teeth.
Metanie came down the ramp that led into the ship, and said: “As much as I hate to agree with the little scamp, this isn’t exactly my cup of tea either: the crew compartment has eight bunks and only one washroom.”
“This is a G.S. Corvette,” Jason replied; “A combat ship of the line. I asked for something speedy, not something roomy.”
“It’s one of the new Falcon-class, too,” Hunter grinned. “Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a manatee—from what I’ve heard. I can’t wait to get her out into open space and start caressing those curves.”
“I applaud your ability to make something as simple as piloting a spacecraft sound dirty,” Metanie gave a slight bow. “But my point remains: we won’t survive crammed in here for a week. I’m not sure who will be the first to snap, but someone is going to go crazy and murder the rest of us. Of that, I am confident.”
“I wasn’t actually planning on staying overnight,” Jason replied. “There’s plenty of habitable worlds to stop at along the way.”
“Oh, joy,” Metanie rolled her eyes. “Camping.”
“In five-star hotels,” Jason shrugged. “Most of the rooms are probably large enough to set up a tent in, if you prefer.”
“You mean you’re actually springing for deluxe accommodations?” Metanie gasped.
“I’m trying to figure out where you ever got the idea that I was cheap,” Jason shrugged. “Look, there aren’t a lot of luxury liners that go out to the Bur’Ian region. If we felt like waiting around for a month, then spending three changing ships multiple times, we could take a cruise back. But I’d rather borrow a fast ship from the local Gudersnipe Garrison and get home in a week, with a few stop-offs along the way. We’ll only be crammed in here for eight to twelve hours at a time, tops, okay?”
“Sure,” Melanie sighed and forced a weak smile. “That sounds okay.”
“In the meantime, Hunter’s had the galley stocked with a fine assortment of gourmet delicacies,” Jason continued; “All of which he will be using to show off, the entire ride home. Just remember: he’s probably pronouncing the names wrong and doesn’t know any better.”
“Hey,” Hunter snapped.
“You bring it on yourself,” Jason retorted.
The blue-and-white vessel was long, thin, and roughly arrow-head-shaped. It had smooth, streamlined features and a lifting body for atmospheric flight, and three big, powerful Ion-Vacuum-Drive engines for propulsion. Two gun turrets, one mounted on the top and the other on the bottom, gave the ship a slightly more sinister tone. The two torpedo tubes and six spatial charges were well camouflaged, but the vessel was undoubtedly a gunship.
Said Hunter: “Falcon-class corvette: Seventy times light-speed on the straightaway, armed to the teeth, maximum endurance of twelve weeks.”
“It does look rather sporting,” Laden admitted.
“‘Vettes are popular to be re-tooled as yachts,” Hunter explained. “Fast, maneuverable, and designed for multi-venue access. It’s tough to find a ship that can handle inter-stellar travel well and still make planet-fall with relative ease. Plus, once you tear out the weapons you’ve got plenty of space for state-rooms and such. And it can run on a fairly small crew, just three at minimum. Yeah, they’re nice little ships.”
“Also nice for smuggling,” Jason put in. “Very popular for that purpose as well.”
“Well, all aboard that’s going aboard,” Hunter called. “We launch at six bells!”
He quickly produced a large, ornamental hand bell from under his jacket and rang it six times, before putting on a tri-cornered hat and marching up the ramp.
If you like this, so far: check out my friend's work at http://www.thecoursebooks.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=Main_Page. Don't be shy!