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George Ellis


A Denver Boyd Novel

First published by Zero Atmo Publishing 2021

Copyright © 2021 by George Ellis

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmittedin any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise withoutwritten permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distributeit by any other means without permission.

George Ellis asserts the moral right to be identified asthe author of this work.

George Ellis has no responsibility for the persistenceor accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet Websites referred to in this publication and does notguarantee that any content on such Websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Designations used by companies to distinguish their products are often claimed as trademarks.All brand names and product names used in this book and on its cover are trade names, service marks, trademarksand registered trademarks of their respective owners. The publishers and the book are not associated with anyproduct or vendor mentioned in this book. None of the companies referenced within the book have endorsed thebook.

First edition

ISBN: 978-1-7364843-0-2

Cover art by Drew Hammond

This book was professionally typeset on Reedsy

Find out more at reedsy.com


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27


About the Author

Chapter 1

I might not be the smartest guy in the galaxy, but I do know my way around the place. I also know my way around every kind of ship in it.

So when I picked up the distress signal from a T-Class 405 Cruiser, my first instinct was to ignore the red flashing light on my console. 405’s are strictly federation vessels. Military. The last time I helped a 405 out of a jam, it took a solid month to get paid. No tip, either.

Not to mention this particular distress call belonged to a ship that was 250,000 miles away. Unless someone invented a magical warp drive and didn’t tell me about it, a quarter million miles was 36 hours of my life I’d never get back. That’s a big sacrifice just to save a handful of federation yahoos who’d just as soon arrest me as pay me for my services.

Screw that noise. I’d rather enjoy my beer.

It was my last one, though. Acquiring a good batch of IPA was hard enough with a healthy credit line. My line was more on the anemic end of the spectrum. And by the end, I mean past the edge and over the side. That’s probably because the last job I had was over three weeks ago, towing a non-wealthy family of four back to their home base for a grand total of 46 credits and a bout of some rare sickness called “the measles” that left me weak as a baby.

I took another swig of my beer, delicately nursing the final few drops just in case they were my last for a while. I enjoyed a great brew more for the taste and the relaxation than to get drunk. There was something about those hops that hit me just right. I also had a soda problem. Basically, put something delicious in a can and make it hard to get, and I wanted a lot of it.

A testament to my favorite vices loomed in the corner of the cabin: a pile of empty cans and packets that rose like a mountain, growing closer to the ceiling each day. Around the base of the structure were discarded plastic food containers I hadn’t got around to trashing yet. One of these days I would move the heap to the incinerator…if I could just find the wheelbarrow. Or even a shovel. The control panel was littered with vintage books and magazines, some of them hundreds of years old and filled with quaint stories of Earth and its many “countries,” which were basically various plots of land with imaginary boundaries drawn around them.

The copilot chair served as my foot rest most of the time. The heels of my boots had actually left a pair of matching, permanent dents in the seat.

Sleeping atop the back of the chair on a gray flannel blanket was Pirate, my one-eyed cat. He was born that way (with one eye, not sleeping atop the blanket, though he does spend most of his time there). Some of his mock-tuna cans were in Mount Trashmore as well — like captain, like cat. He drew his black and white paws tighter as I walked past him toward the bathroom, which was situated down the hall, inside the section of the ship that contained a row of living quarters designed to accommodate up to eight crewmembers. Which meant Pirate and I each had four rooms to ourselves, if we wanted them. I of course imposed no such imaginary boundaries on myself. The entirety of the ship was my home, from the cabin to the various crew rooms to the cargo bay. Five thousand square feet of sovereign soil wherever I chose to fly it.

Mustang 1, as the vessel had been known since well before I’d inherited it from my uncle, was far more impressive on the outside. Its exterior panels were outfitted with large swaths of chrome in an homage to the muscle cars that used to prowl the roads of Earth in the late 20th century. The massive wings formed an X around a tubelike center retrofitted with not one, but two extra turbine engines, giving the Stang a total

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