“At least I know that last is true.” Gerald growled. “And I know Spence has to be a lot older than he looks. So . . . is he The Old Man himself, or is he the youngest of Murphy’s company?”
Gerald stared at his lists, thinking it over . . . and dismissing it.
“His past doesn’t matter. What matters is that he seems to be against the pirates, and well respected, even if he isn’t officially in the government.”
“What’s important is that he’s in command of something close to two hundred men, many quite elderly, but some young and healthy. I do need to meet more of them . . . and learn if I want them at my back . . . or where I can keep an eye on them.”
A rap at the outer door, and he went to let Dee in. “Morning, or whatever.”
She giggled. “We call it morning. And I got huge data dumps in last night the 345 and 330. Ahead of us, Stations Thirty and Forty-five are mostly agricultural, and the few miners that base out of there stay ahead of them, so there’s not much the pirates can easily hit. Now.”
“Now?” I need to remember that she’s Spence’s daughter.
“Yeah. With Fifteen out farther and slower, they’re getting further away, harder to raid, easier for someone from Zero to intercept them.” Dee set her comp down and opened it.
“I see. And . . . Fifteen is currently close to Zero, and getting closer to 345 and 330.” Gerald bit his lip. “That’s . . . going to be a problem, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Especially when they hit a shuttle running between Zero and 345. I . . . hadn’t realized how many ships and miners had gone missing. I mean, I know it’s dangerous, but . . . Well. Here’s the list from here. I put it order by date of last contact. And graphed it against time. And noted how many ships were operating out of Zero that year.” She turned the screen to show him.
“Oh. Now that is interesting. Missing miners trend started climbing much faster than the number of ships starting forty years ago.” Gerald thought that over. “There weren’t any big changes then . . . that I can think of, right off the top of my head.”
Dee squirmed a little. “There was a . . . rivalry . . . between loose groups of miners. The Abandoned clustered around zero . . . I don’t know about the timing, or if they had anything to do with the piracy though. Maybe you should talk to the old guys? And . . . I could chat up the young ones?” Her voice wobbled off uncertainly.
Because you don’t want them to get the wrong idea about you? Or because you know they aren’t really young?
Gerald sighed. I really do need to start treating the people here as if . . . they are more than they seem.
The girl sighed. “Spence says I need a couple of months on my own, just to realize that I can take care of myself now. He’s leaving tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I think he actually needs a bit of peace and quiet. I mean, he mined alone for years, decades. He likes being alone.” She frowned down at the desk. “He’s had five years with me hanging around. It must be a relief, for me to old enough and . . . whatever.”
“Umm, Dee, is he actually your father?” Gerald braced himself . . . for nothing . . .
She smiled, relaxing suddenly. “Yeah. We . . . all of us kids of whores, we could be anyone’s kid. My mom, when she knew he was coming in would quit working, and they’d be exclusive.
“He always treated me special. I mean, all the kids knew him. He spent time with all of them. But I got extra, exclusive time.
“But when he left, went back out, she’d go right back to work. She said she was bored, needed the money—and I know Spence always made sure she had plenty—but she . . . I don’t know, what she needed, what she was driven to do. But, well, Spence says the whores are all broken in some way, coping as best they can. She just . . . had to be with someone.
“But while we were on Earth and all, we did a DNA test. He’s my real Dad. Mom always said he was, I just wasn’t ever sure.”
“And now he’s left you, just like he used to leave your mother.”
“Yeah. Funny. Isn’t it supposed to be the kid that’s leaves the nest? Anyway. Here’s my resume, in case you need a full time secretary . . . or even part time because I’m taking college classes remotely, and I have plenty of savings, I helped with the mining for a year, and it really I a good way to get rich, so don’t feel obligated like I’m a charity case or . . . Sorry. Babbling. I’ve never applied for a job before.”
Gerald looked back at the screen and the graph. “Dee, as soon as I figure out how to hire staff, you’re hired.”
She muffled something that might have been a squeal, and tried to look serious. “Thank you sir. Shall I get to work on the new data?”
Gerald grinned. “Dig in. I’ll be in my office.”
His next visitor was Sarah.
His wife looked at the bare walls, the industrial indestructible flooring and sighed. “Don’t worry, Dear. I’ll have you all fixed up by this afternoon.”
A giggle from the front.
Gerald sighed. “Why don’t you take Dee with you. I suspect she knows where to find everything you think I need for a very professional government office.”
She grinned and hooked his elbow to lead him out to the front. “Excellent idea. Dee? Do you mind, I know you’re working.”
Dee held up a finger. “Two minutes. I think I’ve got the 345 data all into the graphing program, so I just . . . voila!”
Gerald looked at the graph. “It’s got the same break about forty years ago. I need to talk to some of older people around here, get some feel for what was happening.”
“Well, while you’re doing that, Dee and I are going shopping.”
Gerald got out the spare keys and gave them each one. “In case I’m out accosting everyone who looks old enough if they were out here then.”
And I think I know where to start.
The Just Desserts was nearly empty, in between breakfast and lunch.
They must keep to Earth standard eating hours just to stay sane and remember to sleep.
Hask limped out and waved him to a table. “About all we can offer right now is Danish and coffee.”
“Sounds good, but what I really need is some history. Were you out here when the various miners’ groups were butting heads, oh, forty years ago?”
“Oh, an invitation to reminisce and gossip? I’ll be right back.”