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Fletcher and the captain watched silently as SS Environ slowly drifted closer. The colony planet, the planet SS Environ had allegedly come to trade with, and the planet they were now orbiting at a distance as they waited for their prey, stood out among the stars like a giant marble. On the side facing them there was a wonderful mix of colors of green, brown, blue, white and hints of grey that seemed to warm Lieutenant Fletcher when he thought about its beauty. It's a lot like Earth, he thought to himself.

Suddenly, he started to miss home. Good job, he thought sarcastically. You had to pick right now to get homesick. He sighed internally and instantly realized it would be futile to try to deny himself this one pleasure. Now how am I supposed to be at my best when you're thinking of a place that's slightly more than 20 light years away? This happens to be one our most lucrative jobs yet and you're off in la-la-land, he continued to chide in half-amusement at himself. Well, as long as it doesn't show I suppose. I'd hate to have the captain notice. Who kno-

“Hmph!” the captain grunted, interrupting his thoughts, almost as if in response to the suggestion of his person. The lieutenant looked over and watched for a moment waiting for a follow up statement. Yeeeeeesssss? he thought, annoyed by his superior's habits, only made worse by his subtle contempt for the man.

“I think we should ring them up now,” the captain said flatly as he turned to his second-in-command with an expectant look.

~ ~ ~ -- -- -- ~ ~ ~

This was it! This was what this whole trip had been about. Now, as he sat in the in the cabin of one of the three small but not-so-cramped transport shuttles, he felt a strange combination of emotions surge through him; anticipation, excitement, fear and dread, among others he couldn't even begin to describe right now.

DING! Silence seemed to fill the air as everyone fell quiet to listen to the incoming message. “All right men,” a deep, crystal-clear voice said into his right ear, “we're establishing contact right now as we speak. Once we make our terms clear, and they've agreed to them, you will be out the door. Make sure you're on your assigned shuttle before then. We will NOT tolerate slackers. End of transmission.

From one of the other the other shuttles sitting parallel with the one he occupied now, a harsh voice began barking orders. “You heard the man! Get your sorry asses on a shuttle, NOW! If anyone so much a-” he stopped listening as other thoughts began to proliferate within his mind.

The End

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