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"That's a good points but we have already thought of that. True, we are just a cargo ship so there's no real reason for an overly large crew, or at least not as large as a military ship, but we're on our way to one of the furthest colonies in the galaxy. The crew is going to get a bit anxious being in such close proximity with each other for so long so we're going to need extra security to maintain order both here on the ship and on the ground, once we get there.

"I know, it's a thin excuse," Hawkins quickly interjected, waving one hand in a sharp motion, when Carl began to protest, "but I doubt they're going to really notice. Most of the men have taken to the engine room where they will be out of sight and undetectable by their heat sensors. So, as far as the mercenaries know, there's not really any reason for worry. So what, we have a few more men but it's nothing compared to their numbers."

The pilot began nodding slowly at first then more vigorously. “Oh really? They're in the engine room.” Carl said, more as a statement than a question. “I trust they aren't touching anything they're not supposed to be.”

Hawkins grunted in amusement.

“Well, I'm just glad we had the new internal heat armor installed in there. If it can mask the heat signatures from our new warp drive then it can certainly hide 20 or 30 men,” he continued.

“Courtesy of the admiral,” Hawkins reminded. “Like I said, this plan has had a lot of work put into in more than one way. Ways in which we are going to benefit from for a long time after this. I don't even know if SS Environ qualifies as just a cargo ship anymore!”

“I certainly hope it does. After this, I never want to do anything like this ever again. There's a reason I became a merchantman and not a military man. Let's just get in there, capture the boarding party and get out while the admirals ship's take care of SS Estrange. Maybe, if all goes according to plan, we can sleep in some warm beds planet-side by tonight.

Until then, I suggest you relax and enjoy the view,” Hawkins patted his friend on the shoulder while waving a half circle in front of him with his other hand to indicate the stars streaming past them in an endless onslaught of light, just beyond the pilot's window. “I think we take this for granted some times, but now that we're about to willingly hop into the fire I have a renewed appreciation for things like this.”

Silence encompassed them while they watched dancing lights fly by and then suddenly stop mid-flow as they fell out of hyperspace. Their destination, a large colony planet, loomed in the distance.

Well, we're here,” Hawkins said with a sigh after one more wistful moment of silence. “I'm going to go prepare while I still have the chance. Remember, we have 10 minutes before they should contact us.”

See you at go time.”

The End

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