Here I place the 'rough' finished chapters as they become available. Remember that I am likely to change or update these as the work progresses.
I don't know if this will need a rework or not at some point, looks decent for now, but it runs about a hundred words under the target.
As for himself, Xavier Richards had never particularly cared for planets without a breathable atmosphere, but the barren rock of a world he stood on right now had to be one of the worst. The only color on the desolate planes and mountains came from the aurora in the night sky above the little settlement he was visiting, and from the buildings themselves.
Regulus Prime had only one colony, though it was divided into subsections by color. As he understood it, the citizens on this world were allowed to wear only the color that related to their work or their social status. Mureen, the young woman who had taken Jardan Krisold's fancy, was dressed in the elite, purple tones, as were most of the members attending the wedding. Here and there, splashes of gold or green might be worn, but most of the people wearing them were standing to the back of the dome.
"I don't mind being your best man, old friend, but are you certain this is what you want to do? You have the soul of a traveler, just like me. And besides, you're the best assistant I've ever had. Without you around, things just won't be the same."
"Don't go all sappy on me now, boss," Jardan grumbled. "I'm too happy right now to become riddled with guilt. You're just wasting your time."
"No, my friend, don't think that way," Xav told him. "I wish you all the luck in the world. But now I'm saddled with the task of finding someone else to help me out. A task I'm not really looking forward to. But by all means, enjoy yourself. Don't let the threat of all my upcoming hard work get you down."
Xav was sure relieved when the celebration was over and he could return the Luna One, the base where he and his crew would be staying for the next week. His pilot, Kurana Storm, spent almost as much time glancing back at him with concern in her eyes as she did getting the shuttlecraft back into the hangar at the top of the spire closest to their quarters.
Though most of the lunar base was underground, from the top the place almost looked like a row of jagged teeth. Inside each spire were rows of elevators that quickly spanned the twenty floors, bringing the passengers to and from their ships. Only the elite members of society ever landed on the top three floors; their own parking area was on the fourth from the top only because he was one of the most famous captains in the Regulus sector.
"Richards, don't look so down," Kurana told him during the elevator ride down. "It's not the end of the worlds, you know. I know how much you like a well-oiled machine, but surely you must know that change is inevitable. For myself, I'm hoping that this one will be a change for the better."
He sighed. "I know you're right, Kurana. It's just difficult to picture the future when you're losing a good friend. I'm sure I'll find an assistant who works and plays just as hard, but it'll take some getting used to."
"Well, sir, I would love to hang about and offer more pearls of wisdom, but I think my husband might object," she said, smirking.
"Reagan's a good man," Xav said, grinning as well. "Don't piss him off. I wouldn't want to hurt him if he accused me of trying to steal you away from him."
Kurana scoffed. "He knows you never could, even if you wanted to. But with all that champagne going to my head—well, you know exactly what champagne is good for.
Laughing at her admission, he replied, "Well then, I suppose you'd better hurry before it gets beyond the feeling good stage and knocks you out for six hours before you can even make use of it. Stop worrying about me, will you? I've got to go inquire about some office space for the hiring event. It should keep me busy for hours just standing in line, let alone ensuring the right furnishings are supplied for the rooms."
"Sounds like you have your evening cut out for you too," she chuckled.
"I have the next three days cut out for me," Xav corrected her. "You and Reagan have plenty of time before we get to leave Regulus and head out for the wormhole."
"That's good, sir. It'll give you some time to settle down."
"Get out of here already," he grumbled, giving her shoulder a playful squeeze as he pushed her away and started to walk in the opposite direction. He was chuckling as he stepped into the administration sector, but seeing the long line of people ahead of him was rather sobering.
One hour later, he managed to be seen. When he explained his needs, the clerk located a room for him. "But this room has no furnishings at all, sir. The roster says that you will have to rent them yourself. Might I suggest you go to the suite and have a look around before you start ordering? I've had more than one customer who ran into trouble by doing it the other way around."
Dutifully, Xav headed for the rooms and had a look around. The fact that he stopped off at his quarters and picked up a really well-aged bottle of brandy and a floating chair along the way only went to show that he was good at multitasking, not to mention just how willing he was to spend the evening alone, free from any members of his crew who might show up to tell him about disputes or try to cheer him up when he’d rather take some time to be melancholy first.
He brought along his vid-cuff, but he muted it to incoming calls other than the ones which came in response to his furniture inquires. It took several hours to get it done, but he finally managed to arrange for a reception desk and twenty chairs in one room, and a bigger desk and more comfortable chairs for the main office where he would be conducting the interviews. He even acquired a hot-and-cold water dispenser and a coffee brewer, along with cups, creamer, and sugar, as well as numerous teas and hot chocolates of every possible description.
The truth was, he knew very little about Regulus Prime, so he couldn't plan for how many applicants might show up. There could be a hundred, or there could be only two. He hoped to see at least ten so he could pick out a candidate he wouldn't mind working with.
That evening, he hid out and contemplated just how much the loss of his friend Jardan, and just how much he was going to miss him. He also contemplated life, the universe, and his place in the cosmos. And, once he was suitably inebriated, he even contemplated the fact that even when Jardan was around, for the most part he had always been alone.
It must be nice, he mused, to find the woman you could commit to, a person you would willingly surrender your heart and soul to without question. As for himself, Xav knew that he would never be willing to settle down on some strange planet to be with his soul mate. She would have to be willing to travel the stars.
Then again, any woman who would be his soul mate obviously would desire to travel throughout the universe, or how could she ever be the one in the first place? No, relationships like the one that Jardan had just agreed to did not appeal to him. Perhaps someday, when he was a bit older, he might desire a wife and kids, but right now there was just too much work.
He was in charge of delivering goods and ensuring the livelihood of seven planets, four star bases, and a whole gaggle of settlements on his own world. He didn't have time to settle down. No, he could see the appeal for a man nearing his fifties, but for Xav, he didn't believe even the threat of age would ever slow him down.
When he finally slept that cycle, he slept right in the lonely chair that came with the room. He didn't open his eyes until furniture began to arrive, and then he began to move it around and supervise. By the end of the day, the place was hardly the same, unrecognizable in comparison to any office that might have been established there for decades.
"Now the rooms are ready, let's just hope I can find an assistant who is worth every penny," he grumbled as he closed and locked up the place. He would be seeking his breakfast late, but that simply meant he'd avoided every space jock and crewman in the place.
"Kurana?" he said into his communicator. "Are you and Reagan awake?"
"Sir? Of course we are, it's ten clicks into the cycle."
"Come to the mess hall and a meal with me," he said, still sounding a little groggy.
"Sir, the dog that bit you must have been sporting some really big fleas," she said, chuckling.
"What do you mean?"
"You sound like you got run over by the entire fleet. Reagan and I will be there soon."