My new passenger occupied a lot of my attention the first day or so. Not that she did much but stay in her stateroom once we got into hyperspace. I spent my time with the girls talking about the Justice system. It wasn’t much of system really. There were no inhabitable planets and the only inhabited body in the system was moon revolving around one of the larger gas giants. The thing is this moon was lacking all but the most rudimentary atmosphere so the whole of the population which numbered in about 200,000 people lived in domes connected by tubes. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the moon had some basic mining, was close to a gas giant for refueling and was a necessary star port that was one of only two ways to get to Preston then I doubt it would exist. The starport at least had a scout base and could do basic maintenance and refueling.
The planetary government was one of those rare things called a Feudal Technocracy. Basically people consent to be governed by local lords devoted to technology. Each dome on the planet was rules by one of these lords and some lords had managed to gain control more than one. The starport was neutral territory although there had not been a violent conflict in decades as the whole point of the ‘Technology’ part was that this feudal hierarchy was based on technological advancement and not military might. People flocked to the banner of the lord that offered the best technology or a technological edge. This meant that Justice’s tech level was almost as high as Aurora’s despite lacking resources and people. The planets one main governing body was The Moot and it decided things that affected all the lords.
When I was a day out of Justice, my new passenger finally made and appearance. She was a little shorter than me and had dark hair and dark eyes. She was a little thin and wore clothing that was both ragged and dark. She was definitely still nervous.
“You know you’re in hyperspace. The only people on this ship beside yourself are me and two girls going to Preston. You can drop the scared herbivore routine.”
The woman took a deep breath.
“Sorry, I have been on the run for so long, it is hard to feel ‘safe’.
Then she told me her story because she felt I might still be in danger. She had been a slave on Solax and had escaped. It should be noted that the Republic frowns on slavery and it s member worlds are expected to take action that eliminates it. The problem is Solax’s slavery while common is also illegal but it takes place anyway because of the crime families. From my perspective, she had beat the odds and was a free woman, the problem was she had stolen a lot of money from the crime boss she escaped from. That meant he might send out bounty hunters. The thing is that bosses might come after her even if it loses money simply to make a statement to the other slaves. I felt for her and told her that she probably needed to take a different ship from Preston to another system or head out past the borders of the Republic. The problem was there were no guarantees in the universe; it’s a big place.
We came out of hyperspace and landed at the starport. The gravity is really low on Justice so the domes and tunnels are fitted with artificial gravity. The starport is small with only about seven bays. Once we landed I decided this would be the place to lay over for a week while my ship got full maintenance. This excited the girls but seemed to make my new guest nervous.
“Listen, your best bet it to take another ship to Preston. That way if they follow me then you might lose them.”
I helped her get passage on a Far Trader heading to Preston that was going to then cross the border and do some trading with some independent worlds. I wished her well and thanked her for the double fee. I went back to my ship, dumped the cargo and then put out I had one mid passage berth available.
The two girls were thrilled that we were actually were stopping and they could get off ship. The society on Justice was civil and polite. Almost too polite for my tastes. Thankfully they mark visitors with a special red sash so they know your from off world. Otherwise there a codes of chivalry and manners to observe that are complex. If you’re wearing a sash there is definitely more forgiveness unless you are deliberately rude. For me, I found an old shipmate and we renewed old times. He was in port getting his ship maintenanced and had four days left. So for the next three nights at least my bed was warmer. The girls for their part left the ship and went to a hotel. I knew they couldn’t get into too much trouble on a planet like this. There were tours for tourists on Justice for cripes sake.
My old shipmate took off with me having three days left on my maintenance schedule. So I hit a few watering holes although I don’t drink much. I mean my metabolism thanks to my ‘condition’ as Sabine called it means it takes a lot more alcohol than even large men to get me even tipsy. I eventually decided to take a private walking tour of the dome closest to the starport. The local lord’s colors were red and black so it made it seem pretty cool. As I looked around, I realized that Justice would soon have technology equal to that of Aurora. Probably in a decade or so.
The week ended and the two girls reported back to the ship looking a little awestruck about some of the things they had seen. They seemed happy though to get back on the ship. I understood as I felt things were pretty tame on Justice. I had thankfully picked up another cargo which was worth a good fee and about a day before leaving a new passenger registered. He showed up about ten minutes before departure. He was a technician who was being rotated off planet. That is the one rough part of living on Justice. There are only so many people who can live there so if you don’t produce technological breakthrough or work with top efficiency, you can be told to leave the planet. A citizen without a lord has three months to find one or he has to leave. This one had been released by his lord, but he wasn’t waiting the three months, he wanted off world now.
He paid the fee and I showed him to his room. I then headed for the bridge and we shoved off Justice and were off on the last leg of the journey. Preston here we come.