L ifting his duffle bag onto his shoulder, Carl Lingiari took a final look at his cabin before preparing to disembark the Galathea . He wasn't usually so sentimental, but the prospecting mission he'd just finished had been eventful. Hostile aliens called Shadows had killed the ship's officers and appeared as perfect copies of their victims, and Carl had fought alongside Harrington, the chief security officer, to save the ship. The menace of the Shadows had followed them to the colony planet, Dawn, which was supposed to have been free of the hostile aliens. It had turned out to be anything but.
The original pilot of the Galathea had been among the fatal casualties of the alien attack. For Carl, this meant that he'd gained precious flight hours piloting a starship, though it was the worst way for the opportunity to occur. He intended to put the experience to good use. He would pay his folks at home in Australia a brief visit, then he would apply for a full pilot's position and go touring the stars again.
"You all right in there, mate?" He directed the question to his duffle bag. A pair of bright eyes peeked through the half-open zip.
"Yeah, but get a move on," Carl's friend, Flux, replied. "It's stuffy in here. And your socks smell. Have you washed them?" An alien resembling a cross between a sugar glider and a bat, Flux was hiding, ready for the disembarkation inspection. Pets were banned aboard ship-not that Flux considered himself a pet-and prospecting crews weren't allowed to bring anything back that they hadn't taken with them when they departed Earth territory, especially not any alien life forms.
Strictly speaking, this meant Flux should have been safe from confiscation because Carl had smuggled him aboard when they'd set off, but the higher-ups in Deep Space Customs wouldn't see it that way. Flux would have to hide, and Carl would employ a special signal an old girlfriend who worked in Customs had taught him. The signal would guarantee that his bag wouldn't be inspected.
His door chime sounded. Harrington was waiting outside, looking stormy.
"What's up?" asked Carl as he left his cabin and closed the door for the final time.
"Haven't you received Haggardy's message yet?" Harrington replied. "Check your interface."
Carl unzipped his bag, lifted a disgruntled Flux off of his screen, and pulled it out. The alert light was flashing, indicating a message had arrived. Flux must have been sitting on the speaker when it beeped.
Haggardy had taken over as the Galathea's master when Akabe Loba had died, and had avoided as much responsibility as was possible in his new position. Carl wondered what the man had to say now that was suddenly so important.
Harrington supplied the answer before he could even open the message.
"He wants us to lie about what happened," she said. "He's sent us a report' to repeat to the investigators so he doesn't get into trouble for not helping to save the officers from the Shadows. Kratting misborn. I'm damned well not lying for him."
"Crew to departure hatch," came a voice over the comm system. "Prepare to disembark."
Carl and Harrington set off, joining the crowds of shipmates heading in the same direction.
Carl wasn't surprised that Haggardy wanted to cover up his role in the events of the last few weeks. If Polestar or the Global Government found out the extent of his inaction, he would be dismissed and his pension withdrawn at the very least. At worst, he could be charged with criminal negligence and involuntary manslaughter.
"Does he really think he can brush everything under the carpet that easily?" Carl asked. "There's gotta be security vids of it all, and he can't expect the whole crew to lie for him."
"He doesn't need everyone to lie. The rest