This is a short excerpt from my upcoming book, still untitled. Another short reading will be made available later in the week.
On his way back to the bridge, Reagan noticed that the bodyguard was in the kitchen portion of the galley preparing a meal. “I trust you rested well.” Reagan began as he poured another cup of coffee.
The big man turned, startled. His hand moved of its own accord to the blade he carried on his belt in the small of his back. He was dressed in a blue loose fitting slacks, a matching tank top and shipboard slippers. A relaxed dressed and one that told Reagan this man had seen many transits.
“My apologies.” The guard offered. “The first day of a voyage is always the hardest for a new bride. Much uncertainty awaits her. It makes new brides... ready to be foolish. This is not my first trip to fetch a bride. In fact it is one of my duties.” The guard turned back to his food preparation. “Sometimes when the weight of the decision finally fully rests on the shoulders of a new bride, they look for an escape. Or a last fling.” The man turned back towards Reagan and gave him a penetrating look. “I am here to prevent that, as well as to see her safely to her new home.”
Reagan sized up the man. Confident, large, relaxed and in control were words that came readily to Reagan’s mind. He did not like the man’s tone, nor the implications of what he was saying. “I would never violate my contract. You and her are secure here.”
“And that is always what the captain says. Even the captains with wandering eyes... and hands.” He emphasized the point by moving his hand back to his blade.
“I respect your position. Now please respect mine. I am here to pilot my ship and fulfill a contract. That is all. I do not need threats from you, veiled or not. This is my ship and if you violate the terms of the contract, rest assured it will be ended immediately. And I will drop my cargo immediately regardless of where we are located.” Threats could go both ways.
The man picked up the tray of food and moved quietly towards the cabins. Reagan also knew that he could easily drop word about what the escort did aboard ship, with or without evidence, and it would end the man’s career if not his life. He was sure the guard knew that as well. Reagan really despised these games of bluster and posturing. Reagan did not see him again until the day they docked at the Gardens.
The Gardens was the docking area for ships seeking safe harbor at the Sultanate. The Sultanate was not a planet if its own right. It was a collection of asteroids, planetoids and small moons that had been smashed together over a period of centuries, as additional space was needed for the growing population of the Sultan’s Empire. The Sultan forbade entrance to the Empire to any infidel. But some trade and commerce were required so as a section of the planet, called the Garden, was established for non-believers to make landfall. It was an opportunity for the Sultan to show off his wealth and power as well as for other families of the Sultanate to conduct business. The Garden offered a vast, well-tended garden of many delights. It also offered many “backrooms” for other delights and places to conduct shadowy business deals.