puddlehopper, puddlejumper, puddleskipper,
The gate was a long way out but the families had been getting by on savings. The red on the ledger books the families kept had been going on for to long. The elder of families on old home rock had sent there tough little old firebugs to pay off the family debt and to try to find any trade route that would show profit.
The old elder of the families had sent his best and britest offspring to ensure the delivery was made. Even the outsiders made note of the prompt payment with all back interest and profits from the many low-risk loans that had kept the money working and the lowest outsiders ship among them was encouraged to open negotiations for a family credit line that would make finding a cargo as simple as just buying one.
The firebugs required a crew of five but one good pilot could fly one in a pinch and the canny old elder had sent twenty five worthy crewmembers with solid pilots ratings for each ship, all to guard against failure of the mission to clear the lien against the ships that had founded there familys life in space. They had brought the antique ships out of the family heritage museum because no other ships, in there experience, could be trusted all alone that far out and the small firebugs had been maintained by the best engineers the family had as a matter of honor and pride.
A quick review of the well kept log books took awhile because the small ships had been all over the galaxy looking for work and working the jobs they had found.The families now own ten cargo ships that could hold a firebug in there airlocks.
The firebugs had been parked long enough for a museum to have grown up around them. But the care showed in every aspect of the ships from the shiny new skid pads and kingpins to the fresh ceramic heat coating, even the fact that the pilots hands never left the controls, even when Helen had remote control spoke volumes. Other ships had almost fell out of the sky because critical crew members left there posts to look out port holes.
Helen’s respect for all things fleshy could generally be measured only in pico-give-a-shits but the pristine condition of the incredibly high-mileage bugs and sweet hum of the well tuned cores really did impress her.
Two of the ships had never even been overhauled proving her original claim that a firebug properly cared for would run almost forever. The logs she reviewed contained good conduct citations from thousands of sources and even the outsiders were reviewing the families credit history through the labour union records and liked what they saw.
The five large ships that had opened there databases were half of a fleet of ten ship loads of ten thousand union contract labour workers each that had been sent out by a desperate labour union that had billions of unemployed members to feed and to many idle ships. The desperate looks frozen on the captains faces were sad to behold as they kept there crews on task till the all safe was called. Helen guilded these ships in a group and the whole floor opened beneath them as the ships went down deeper into the planetship. Helen had great need of new crew and stamped the group labour contracts with barely a glance. The captain and crewmembers were told an alternative ship would be provided for the return voyage as housing was not available for the new crew and they would remain in stasis until she could get there housing set up.
The senior captain stammered a profuse apology and informed Helen that they had all brought there families with them to escape the poverty at home and the skilled workers they had in the stasis pods had risked the class five jump too nowhere packed in there pods with there children verses leaving them behind to starve.
The fact labour was cheap was alright with her. But damn this was getting ridiculous. The risk of losing the overloaded pods increased with every minute. She had no choice but to release the workers, the risk of loss was to great.
A fleet of a dozen medium sized heavily armed transports had quite literally chewed a hole threw the lines of the enemy ships. They had punched though the lines in an impressive display of high energy weapons fire to claw an opening for those five transport ships. The flow of ships that followed the break out was able to maintain the breach by shear numbers.
Those transports had no autopilots and the pilots were in fact brainships that had been installed in these ships when they had survived there own destruction. They had suffered half lives of pain and misery for years. They had crossed the line in a dizzying display of piloting skills that had dumbfounded the enemy tracking computers.
The crews that had manned the guns that had been hastily bolted to the outside of the hulls in the final moments before launch were all career solders of fortune, the best of the best, hired by the brains to find Helen and her lost stash of blank brainship halls at any and all costs.
The brainships knew what she liked and all the contracts all had open ended extension clauses that allowed Helen to transfer them to her employ as career service personnel. They were the best she didn’t look at the
The wounded remains of the military fleets were told they could park anywhere they wanted as long as it was on the surface or in designated parking orbits. In the zones marker as green on the com-net maps. Any attempt to land outside of the green zones would incur a fatal response.