Antonio’s fine jacket and leather shoes were already soaked and dripping, but he shielded himself from the freezing rain beneath the bulk of the space freighter on dock seven. He set down a bulging duffle bag to shield his eyes from the spotlights on the ship’s ramp, a briefcase hanging heavy in his other hand.
A voice from beyond the lights shouted down to him over the pelting of the rain on the landing pad. “Help you?”
“I think I may be in the wrong place—”
“Then you probably are.”
Antonio paused, dumbfounded.
“Um, I’m looking for the FTL Peregrine.”
A silhouette of a man descended down the ramp. The man’s closet could have doubled as a military surplus store from his appearance. He picked up the duffle bag, grabbed the briefcase from Antonio’s hand, and hiked back up the ramp, calling over his shoulder, “You didn’t look very hard, son.” He disappeared in the glow of the spotlights.
Antonio rushed up the ramp after him. At the top he found a chipped stencil painting of a diving falcon.
“This is the Peregrine?”
The man set down Antonio’s belongings in a trunk and then went about reading labels on the various other containers scattered throughout he large space. He was checking them against a paper manifest that looked like it had been crumpled in a pocket for most of its life.
“That’s right. You must be my passenger. Make yourself comfortable; we’ve got a couple hours. Galley’s around the corner.”
Antonino threw his arms out into a caricature of a shrug. “I paid for FTL passage.”
The man continued his inventorying. “That’s right. Frontier To Luna, one-way transport. Welcome aboard.” He made notes with a pencil, erased a bit, and blew away the rubbery dust.
“What kind of a scam is this? I want to speak to the captain.”
“Son, I don’t much care for your tone…”
Antonio dropped his arms and balled his fists as he stomped towards the ship worker. “Enough of this bullshit! I said—”
Before he knew what was happening, the man had Antonio pinned to the hull with one huge hand cupped around his throat. Something deadly flared in his eyes, and he spoke through vicious clenched teeth.
“If you so much as hiccup without my say-so, I’ll leave pieces of you behind like a fucking breadcrumb trail between the stars. You paid to smuggle yourself to Sol. This is a smuggling vessel. Now sit your ass down.”
He let go and Antonio slid onto the deck, holding his reddened neck and trying not to sputter.
Going back to his manifest, the man cleared his throat and spoke calmly. “I’m Captain Paxton. You can call me Captain. Welcome to the Peregrine.”
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Erik van Ooijen, used with permission.