April 9, 2514, 0815 hours
Sitting at the pilot's station and running figures for their departure, Cooper noticed Sully watching from the corner of his eye as the captain placed her angry wave.
"Good morning! Sloan & Sons Wholesale," came the answer -- whether the fellow was Sloan Sr. or Sloan Jr., Cooper had not been able to figure out, although the man was of middling-years and his yellow hair was in full retreat from his forehead, while cut into a square beard beneath his plump chin.
"It's a beautiful sunny day out there," Cooper growled into the comm line. "Only thing is, I'm missing my cargo. It's 15 minutes past the hour, Sloan. Where's my container of irrigation parts and aluminum sheeting?"
The cheery tone slid at once into a woebegone drone, and the man’s smile reversed itself. "Captain! I am so sorry about the delay, only it's my brother. You see, constipation from his recent treatments make him a walking time bomb, and this morning, he is so very blocked, he…”
Cooper knew Sully was listening in. She rolled her eyes at him in despair as Sloan continued to explain the family’s scatological emergency. Sully was laughing soundlessly, finding the whole situation a whole lot more humorous than Cooper could. She was glad someone, at least, was enjoying this goathump.
“I understand your brother is in some distress,” she interrupted the wholesaler. “But you need to either shove him out your warehouse door with some prunes stuffed down his piehole, or else you better pick up those keys yourself and get that truck over here. I have a very narrow departure window here, mister, and I cannot afford to miss it!”
“I appreciate your situation, captain, but we’re doing the best that we can. My brother’s doctor says he cannot drive, and I cannot leave the office until my daughter comes in to take over reception. Surely an hour or two cannot be so very bad…”
Then Sully suddenly reached across his boards and toggled the secondary comm line for an incoming wave. Cooper watched Sully as she listened to the wholesaler's continued excuses. Sully sat back, listened to his line for a second, then immediately turned in his seat and flagged Cooper for her attention.
"Hold please," Cooper interrupted Sloan’s moaning, then stabbed the mute command without waiting for acknowledgement. "What?" she barked at Sully.
"You want to take this," Sully answered enigmatically, forwarding the wave over onto her screen at the co-pilot’s station.
"Captain Cooper here," she said, braced for any manner of incoming mayhem as the vid screen split into two.
A pale, angular face gazed back at her from the left side of the screen, a polar opposite of the sweating, bearded wholesaler. "Captain," came the dry response. Cooper recognized the glacial voice and icy stare at once as Rydia Kazantzakis. "You are in departure for Greenleaf, yes?"
"Yes ma'm," Cooper replied.
"We have three standard reefer containers for expedited delivery to Port Auckland on Greenleaf. Self-contained power systems and environmental controls. They need to arrive within 3 days. We will pay the standard trade union rate of 10 creds per AU per container. Can you deliver them for us? We will have them at your dock with all necessary paperwork by 0930 this morning."
"Yes ma'm," Cooper replied immediately.
"Good. Yiá sas.." Kazantzakis gave her a precise nod before ending the call abruptly. Cooper gave Sully a smirk, then toggled off the mute with Sloan.
"My regrets for you brother and his family troubles," she told the wholesaler smoothly. "But you realize the situation you place me in here? I have three outbound containers arriving on my dock from Kazantzakis Shipping at 0915 hours. I am going to have to call up their operations manager and explain why their cargo is going to have to sit and wait on the dockside, because your brother is too busy doing whatever-the-hell it is he is doing. Dong ma?"
There was an uncomfortable silence, and then Sloan’s expression undertook a near-magical transformation from woebegone to decidedly chipper and can-do.
"My brother's has just arrived with our truck and we are getting your cargo loaded at once! We will make every effort to be there and have your containers loaded up by 0900. My apologies for the confusion, captain! Your cargo will be there and loaded in time, you have my personal word on it."
Cooper shared a wry look with Sully as she keyed off on the call. "Something had to scare the shit outta the poor man,” she deadpanned.
The container from Sloan & Sons was being secured at the back of the cargo bay when the three from Kazantzakis arrived. They stacked the four containers two-by-two in the center of the hold; the Kazantzakis delivery foreman was all smiles and good cheer as Cooper signed off for his shipment and accepted the shipping manifest. Smaller commercial deliveries from half-a-dozen outfitters came in throughout the loading procedure -- parts and supplies which had been purchased the day before, Hoss knew, and he could hardly wait for the opportunity for unpack and see what goodies the crew had ordered for him. It was sort of like Christmas -- but better, the big mechanic thought to himself. He was looking forward to repairs he expected to make during the next two days in transit -- and even more, to bringing the Jin Duiand her crew to their next destination, Raikirua Island on Greenleaf.
Hoss carried in the crate of replacement life support filters, and Cooper escorted the delivery man out of the airlock hatch. “Abby,” Cooper called into the all-ship. “That was Benge & Standish Outfitters, 200 count box of Easy Kleens; forty pounds of chemicals for the water reclamation system, and four filter buckets.”
“Check, check, and check,” Abby responded, from wherever she was managing inventory control. “That’s the last delivery.”
“Hĕn hăo,,” Cooper said as she closed the hatch firmly. “Helm, we’re locked and loaded down here.”
“Aye aye, Captain,” Sully replied from the bridge. “Notifying Eavesdown Control; we’re ready to lift as soon as she sends our numbers up the pipe.”
Hoss slid the box of filters beneath the forward bay stairs. He turned and surveyed the cargo bay with satisfaction. With four containers, the huge chamber looked stuffed full.
“Port Authority is sticking to schedule,” Sully reported from helm. “Eavesdown Control is giving us clearance in three… two… one.”
There was a brief moment of sway as the Jin Dui went vertical. Hoss glanced at Cooper, and saw the expression on her face. He moved around the edge of the stairs and sat down on a step, then patted the space beside him.
Cooper limped over to join him, sinking down beside him on the stair step with a sigh of relief. “Niúbī,” she breathed aloud. “We did it. We have a cargo. We have money in the bank, we’re not landlocked, and we’re not eating port fines like candy. You’d almost --” She stopped and satisfied herself with just a wry look instead, when she realized the all-ship comm was still open.
Hoss grinned at his old friend, predicting exactly what she had been going to say. You’d almost think we knew what we were doing, huh?” He patted her knee knowingly, the words not needing to be said.
“Almost,” he answered. “Almost.”