The Collected Tales of Alex Hawthorne

as Approved by the Board

Chapter 1 Not Much More Than I Bargained For

"Thank you for purchasing this Spacer's Choice sponsored record collection datapad, valued customer! It's not the best choice, it's Spacer's Choice." said the monotonous drawl of Moon Man.

It was Martin Callahan, the aforementioned company's representative on the Groundbreaker. My name was Alex Hawthorne. I enjoyed paying this specific vendor visits any time I needed to restock supplies for the Unreliable because the small man in the hilariously cheesy Moon Man mascot hat was pathetically amusing. I also held good reputation with the company and was always able to receive the best price on Spacer's Choice products. Instead of going to other more expensive shops on the Promenade, I stopped by Martin's stall often to take advantage of the ability to talk down prices my good standing with the company allowed me.

This was the first stop on my way back from the Board offices on deck for a job I'd picked up recently and buying the datapad was the last thing I needed to do before returning to my ship. I shot Martin finger guns before shoving the datapad in my pouch. "Have a good day Moon Man!" I laughed.

Martin snapped his fingers and gave a less than enthusiastic, "It's always a good day at Spacer's Choice."

My boots clanged heavily on the Unreliable's metal ramp. I recognized the cockney undertones of ADA's computerized female voice as I entered the vessel, "Welcome back, Captain. I trust you've secured what you needed then?"

I nodded, "Yes, ADA. Thank you."

"You are welcome." she said surely.

"Now, normal procedures, head into space and keep Groundbreaker proximity." I said before continuing on.

"Yes, Captain. As per usual, I always follow a direct order." I could hear the sass in her voice.

Bored, I moved past the bridge. Fiddling with the fastener on my holster, I snapped it open and closed many times as I ascended the stairs before I finally came to a stop on the landing outside my quarters. I grinned as with one hand I held onto the record datapad and with the other I pressed the door control and it hissed open.

I tossed my pack towards my bed without looking as I walked to my desk. The bag landed on the floor next to the bed. Sitting in the chair by my desk, I set down the record pad and powered on the terminal. It was required by Law for every employee of all Halcyon Holdings' affiliates to keep track of their income for expenditure purposes. I needed to update my logs to indicate I'd been paid for the last job I'd been hired to do by Sublight. I was way less formal, liking stories over spreadsheets, and so wrote about my adventures in a journal kept on my terminal and personal datapad.

Every employee, including me, who was worth anything to Sublight, knew that the things they were really doing for the company was beneath the Law. They were subtly undermining the Laws of the Board. For anyone living this life, that was okay, especially for me. I absolutely hated the Board and everything they stood for. So much so that I'd recently been in communication with one of their most wanted outlaws, Phineas Welles.

Phineas wanted help with some of his more radical ideas, but I had been skeptical, as a smuggler under the Law I was always cautious. So me and Phineas had come to a compromise and it was agreed we'd get to know each other before I took on any major assignments. Phineas' way of doing this was to send me tips on various scores to help show me I could trust him. It had proven to be a mutually beneficial arrangement, and so I continued choosing to undergo these tasks. The more I did, the more I felt comfortable doing things for the so called mad scientist.

Not only that, but Phineas riveted me with captivating conversations. While I didn't understand half the things Phineas brought up, and the man certainly wasn't the most socially adept, he did have a certain charm about him that appealed to me. I liked people that could speak their mind without shame, and Phineas' extremist ideas about overthrowing the Board were like a fine salvage, you always got your worth out of the shiny bits. Always get your worth, my favorite motto. I thought to myself as I straightened from my chair and went to plop down in my bed.

I was just getting comfortable into my pillows, when I heard a sharp ding beneath me, coming from my pack, and noticed the light on my terminal flare up for a short second. I groaned, reaching over the side of my bed to dig into my backpack. I dug around without any fruit before having to roll, with another sigh, onto my side and focus on searching the bag. I finally retrieved my datapad. It was a message from Phineas, labelled Urgent.

[FROM: Phin] Alex, my friend, you did manage to get that collection of records for me, did you not? I am in need of that information as soon as possible. Phin sent, as always lacking some much needed tact. I didn't mind, I preferred the doctor's brazen nature to that of the mindless corporate drones.

[FROM: Alex] I was just sitting to relax. Give a man a break! I typed my reply hastily, rolling back onto the fluffy pillows. I mumbled in satisfaction, eyelids closing, as the pad blipped another notification.

[Phin] When the Board falls, then breaks can be made mandatory, but until then, the records friend?

[Alex] Can you give me a moment, Phin? I only just got home and I'd like a breather.

[Phin] Running around all day, huh? I do apologize for my brevity, but I lack the time for it to be of concern. There was a minute before yet another message came through. So did you obtain the pad, my good friend?

My eyes snapped open and I moaned in annoyance when I finally sat up and picked up the datapad to reply. [Alex] I do have it, give me a second. Sighing, I chuckled to myself, knowing the scientist could be a handful, but at least his priorities were straight.

I slid off my bed and walked the short distance to the terminal. Leaning over the keyboard, I connected the record pad to the port then keyed in the command to transmit the data to Phineas Welles. Barely a few seconds after another message from Phin popped up on the screen indicating he'd gotten the transmission in the subject line. I plopped down on my bed again and opened the message on my datapad.

[Phin] Thank you, Captain. Now, for the sake of not seeming like a prick, would you like to tell me about your day? I assume the permissions required to obtain this data were filed with mountains of paperwork! As usual some of Phin's dry humor to lighten the mood. I smiled to myself as I read the message.

[Alex] No such mountains, but it wasn't a piece of sweetheart cake either.

[Phin] You're alright though of course. His statement of the fact may seem rude, but was in fact another shining example of the scientist's lack of social skills. I was used to his pragmatism by now.

I rolled my eyes but couldn't help smiling to myself. [Alex] I could be better. I did have to go to Reed in Edgewater to obtain the proper permissions though, then he had it sent to Udom, who then approved it for purchase through Moon Ma-er-Martin. You owe me for those bits by the way. I heaved a breath. It had been a long day of back and forths and running errands for everybody.

[Phin] Yes, you shall be reimbursed for your losses and compensated for your hard work, as you are anytime I contract you. But it was well worth it to travel to Terra 2, yes? I could just see Phin's annoyed frown and frustrated shake of his head as he typed that last part.

[Alex] Yes your tip paid off nicely. I appreciate it, like always!

[Phin] That's great to hear!

There was a second before another message came through and it put a silence in the air. [Phin] You do realize I consider you friend right? I don't always mean to come across so brashly.

I was taken aback by the sudden mindfulness. Frowning, I thought about it for a second before sending anything. "Huh," I said aloud, "I'm actually getting used to it."

[Alex] I'm used to it, don't worry.

[Phin] That's the point! I do worry. I have emotions you know.

Another, shorter, pause. What I'm trying to say is, I don't always appertain to people very well.

Suddenly there was a ping from another message, sent by someone else. It stated Udom in the notification window. I quickly typed to Phin before switching over, [From: Alex] I understand, Phin.

[From: Phin] I don't think you do... I clicked away from the chat before Phin could finish typing anything else.

[From: Udom] Alex, my boy, Are you still on the Groundbreaker? If you haven't gone off on one of your little adventures, I'd love to have You over for dinner tonight.

Udom loved to think he and I were best of friends, and that wasn't exactly the case. I didn't dislike the rep, but I did tolerate him. Sometimes it was annoying, other times I liked to go with it. Udom had his own way with words, in much contrast to Phineas. Where Phin was all black-and-white thinking, Udom was very colorful. It was quite entertaining some nights. This was one of those nights. I felt I needed some relaxation and the fun way Udom dictated was a good way to take his mind off things.

[Alex] Oh Udom, I'd prefer to just stay on my ship if you don't mind.

[Udom] Ah, busily filing your summary? Writing in my journal? I looked up to the offwhite metal plates of my bed enclosure frame, noticing some of the grime on the edges of each interlocked plating. No, I'm just laying here in bed kicking my leg, my thoughts then strayed back to the conversation as I swung one leg thoughtlessly from the side of the bed, back and forth.

[Alex] Yes, you could say that. I had already written in my journal of course, but Udom didn't need to know that.

[Udom] Ah yes, you could say I have as well. I imagined Udom doing one of his expressive hand gestures, like clapping in glee, right about now. You see, you mentioned your Journal to me the other day Inspiring me to take up doing the same!

I laughed, [Alex] Congrats, you actually learned something!

[Udom] I take offense to that :P :P This was one of Udom's ways of coloring things in, when he text chatted with me, he sometimes included emoticons. There was no way the Board allowed that kind of self expression on their approved list of terminology. Yet the representative did it anyway and I thought it was funny. Udom continued, Anyway, I've been writing my own Journal, just wanted you to know.

[Alex] That's sweet of you XD I braved my own emoticon.

[Udom] *hand over heart* Flirting are we? Udom hadn't taken offense to his use of unsanctioned lettering! The man was quirky and I liked his subtle defiance of the Board.

[Alex] Don't go too overboard now.

[Udom] Me? Never!

I yawned heavily, almost dropping my datapad. [Alex] I'm gonna get going now, a little tired on my end.

[Udom] A hard day's work deserves a rest You've earned it dear friend.

A minute or so passed before another message, [Udom] goodnight, Captain.

I rolled my eyes and shook my head with a smile as I ignored it and put my datapad away. Then I shifted the covers on my bed, getting comfy beneath them.