Long Odds and Percentages by william douglas

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Long Odds and Percentages
By W. Strawn Douglas
Strong, weathered fingers drummed on a mahogany slab of desktop. He ran his hand through his gray close-cut hair and looked at Kirby Todd. Admiral John Gorman Hanford was looking at his last good idea.
Hanford needed this cargo to get through, one mother ship carrying thirty small scout ships. Given, each to a scouting crew, the ships could map and claim thousands of light years of deep space. Outside of Earth corps monopolies the scouts would find good minerals and life forms to trade. That would all be to the fleets benefit and not Earth corp. These ships were the fleet's clandestine product to compete against Earth's unified corporate front. The black market and gray market were strong here.
Hanford said to Kirby "Get your crews and get them moving. This has top priority. You are allowed forty-five souls from the file on this disc." Hanford handed Kirby Todd a small, four-centimeter, disc. Kirby slid it into his wrist deck and smiled. "I'll take Whitworth if I can sir."
"He's yours" Hanford said.
Kirby walked with the lankiness of a six-foot tall man used to lighter gravity than found on Earth. His blonde hair stood on end as if electrified. He came to a portal in the hallway of the space station docks floating above equatorial Medina Prime. This was the room reserved for fellow fleet Captain Eric Whitworth.
Kirby rapped against the aluminum plate hatchway. It opened and a sleepy faced Caucasian man in what seemed to be pajamas peered out of the narrow sliver of dark in the opened hatches space. His partly bald head looked disbelievingly at Captain Kirby Todd. "What the devils got into you Todd? It's been eight hours of sleep since my last mission. Damn cruel of you to wake me like this. You better have something important for us both or I won't return your mail for a season."
"You're timing is perfect Eric. You've just enough sleep to help me pick out a crew."
"Pick out a crew? Then you're for real and not just some damn prank? Come on in then. You can help make tea while I get into a uniform of some sort. What's it going to be then? Bug hunt? Smuggling spice or veldbeast meat?"
"Not at all you haggis. We have 30 Sukhoi 610s to get to Clements planet for the traders rendezvous. There was a ship last stellar week that tried his run and disappeared. No debris, no distress call, no nothing at all."
"Mutiny?" Whitworth asked.
"No chance. Gomez was commanding. Jason Gomez would never mutiny or pick a crew destined to do so. He picked a crew out just like we're about to do."
"Then the top picked crews are already gone and we get last pick of what's left over."
"Jane Harrison is my first pick for third shift commander on equal fitting with you and me. We each take a shift."
"She's commercial, not fleet. You better give her a profit share or she'll be selling those Sukhois at the rendezvous rather than giving them away."
Kirby felt the need to elevate the conversation as he strode into Whitworth's cabin and began to make tea.

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