"I can't leave my ship unmanned. Are you on auto pilot?"
"How about I tether to your ship and transport you here?"
"Great, stand still."
In the blink of an eye, she was on the other ship and looking at the back of Hootie's fuzzy head. He slowly turned around, "Hi Lanie."
She gasped; his skin was almost the same color as hers. "Uh Hi!” She walked closer to him for a better look, "How is it that your skin is so pale, are you a hybrid?"
"Yes, I am the first generation hybrid. It was a nice try, but we are of no use to anyone, we're sterile."
Lanie frowned, "Don't say that!"
"It's true I'm afraid. It was the purpose of the experiment."
"Still, you have other uses, right?"
"I'm probably what you would consider an outcast. I will never have a family so I'm used for my technical potential. As long as I perform my job, they leave me alone."
"What do you do?"
I fly the perimeter of the planet and report what I see and I take occasional trips to Earth to ... pick up things."
Lanie nodded, "Alone?"
"Don't be. I'm okay. I have some friends; we do stuff when I get time off. And I like going to Earth."
She smiled, "I guess what I do isn't much better. I'm delivering and picking up stuff for Ku." Shrugging her shoulders, Lanie pointed out the coordinates.
"Oh no really? Did he tell you what it was?" Hootie was grinning from ear to ear.
"No, but you are going to tell me aren't you? Is it illegal?"
It probably SHOULD be! What you are picking up is an aphrodisiac, what you are delivering; I have no idea, maybe just payment."
"Oh man..." Lanie laughed, “Why that ol' devil..."
"Seriously Lanie, where you are going is very dangerous, did he tell you that?"
"Yes he warned me to stay low and keep my helmet on. Is there any reason to believe Azano might be on this planet?"
"Hard to say...I doubt it, it’s not a very pleasant place. I did do some checking around on Krayton and haven't really come up with anything. I'll let you know if I do."
"Thanks." She put her hand on his shoulder. Lanie thought of him as her only real friend in space.
"Well! I have to get going so I'll send you back to your ship. Since I tethered to your ship you're taking me in the wrong direction."
"Oh yes of course." For some reason her cheeks felt hot.
Hootie kissed her on the forehead and before he drew his lips away, she was back on her own ship.
Lanie was able to see his ship swing out of view and continue back to his planet; she was alone again. Over the next few days she fell into a routine to help past the time. Starting a project, Lanie began to plot where she had been. It was a rudimentary drawing but she would get help with it when she got back to Tentalu, where she now lived. When that thought passed through her conscious, she paused and repeated it aloud. "Tentalu, where I live." It made her feel odd to hear it, she no longer even felt like an earthling.
This planet was called Degratro, the one she could now see drawing nearer. She would arrive tomorrow. No wormholes existed in this area so it was longer trip than most. Lanie knew her time on the surface would be limited; she would have to make the most of it. When they switched the cargo, she would do a little snooping.
With the new improvements to her ship it hummed like a kitten, but she was so in tune with it, she could tell instantly when something changed, something was different. It was the sign of an excellent captain. She felt the change, and she was beginning to check the gauges when she realized she was being pulled into the planet’s atmosphere below. Looking out the window she couldn't see very much, the angle was wrong. Lanie tried to wait patiently to land.
A charge of electricity went through her; they expected her and called her Captain! Lanie cleared her throat and tried to sound professional, "Yes, This is Captain Romein."
"We have you in our control. Please refrain from using any type of landing device; we will assure you of a safe and gentle landing."
"Thank you." Seemed odd, but she allowed it. Objects started to come into view as she gazed out of the window. Towers and skeletal remains of buildings were scattered about as far as she could see. Lanie frowned as she wondered what kind of place this was.
"You are safe to open your hatch and disembark."
Without answering, she opened the door to leave. A mobile tunnel had been attached to her ship, it caused her to pause and look down the tube. About five hundred feet away, someone stood at the end.