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   Chapter 19 No.19

Loderunner By Christina Engela Characters: 5971

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:01

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The Sol System. Reputedly the birthplace of Humankind, home to High Civilization and interplanetary taxes. (Of course, many felt it was also the home of interplanetary civilization and High Taxes.) The light of the Sun was distant, dim, almost just another star in the heavens. Her sub-light drive engaged, Celeste serenely passed the small dark world at the extreme edge of the solar system. At long last. Four days had passed reasonably quietly, all things considered and, aside from Vic, who had spent just one day there, nursing scores of bruises and minor cuts – nobody had visited the sickbay.

Nurse was there most of the time, doing interesting things with beakers and synthesizers. It looked like a science experiment waiting to go wrong. Tim hadn't quite got around to asking what it was yet, but he would. Later. He just wanted to see how long the man would hold on to his eyebrows first.

None of them saw much of young Jamie since the first day of the voyage. Mister Jones had kept him pretty much locked up in the cabin since their little chat. It became rather obvious to Tim that the boy was some kind of captive. He thought about that a long while, but couldn't fathom why. Jones had taken to having their meals back to the cabin every mealtime. Maddening as ever, Deire got the wrong end of the story as usual, and kept making little comments at the table in their absence about 'the love nest' and the 'honeymoon suite'. Tim passed his time thinking about how to help the boy, perhaps get him out of Jones's clutches without getting him and his crew into worse trouble. There didn't seem to be any way around that. Mister Jones was connected, and obviously if something happened to him along the way and the boy didn't reach his destination at the asteroid in

planets as their complex orbits coincided. The intense gravity fields also tended to tear planets apart between them. He shuddered. He put his flashbacks of the Astro-Science Channel out of his mind for the moment, and concentrated instead on the events at hand. Celeste was closing in on the famed rings of um, Jupiter. The rings were just one huge disk made up of millions of asteroids and smaller chunks of rock that from this extreme distance looked like the smooth rainbow disks the planet was famous for.

Saturn had a few moons, mostly the same size as a decent planet. Only one of them was even inhabited and that was a mining colony called Miranda. Independent prospectors traveled the rings, looking for valuable ores and minerals, mining them and selling them. Io Station was a nearby space facility that processed ore and sent it back to Earth by loderunner and did some small trade between prospectors, local colonies and incoming spacers – small private loderunners like Celeste. But Celeste wasn't heading for Io Station. According to the wishes of her passengers, she was being directed to the far side of um, Jupiter, opposite to Io Station. Out of sight and out of mind.

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