Q: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This is Freya Isildsdottir, interviewing the famous space outlaw, Richard Hughes. Welcome, Richard!
A: It’s good to be here, Freya. And I prefer the term “independent space captain”.
Q: I see, independent space captain Richard Hughes. I understand your birth name isn’t Richard Hughes?
A: Richard is real, but Hughes I picked myself. Dick Hughes, the ladies love it.
Q: Oh I’m sure they do. So tell me about yourself. Why did you feel the need for this change?
A: Well my ancestors shipped off of Earth and became pioneers during the settlement of a new world. Early wave, not the first but still early enough for it to have been mostly untamed land. My grandparents’ generation was well-established on in the local system’s shipping trade. Then my dad went and struck the mother lode.
Q: The famous “Creeping Coin”?
A: That’s right. I was born Richard Aurelian, raised in the lap of luxury. We were one of the richest families in the system, and as you can imagine, that was boring for a hot-blooded young man.
Q: I imagine a scion of the Aurelian family would have had opportunity for any kind of commission, any kind of captaincy.
A: On a trading vessel, or a luxury cruiser, rubbing shoulders with high society. But Freya, have you ever sat down for a formal dinner with Elves?
Q: Can’t say I have, no.
A: Four hours of eating salads, thin soups and jellies with fourteen different utensils. Only thing a man can do is down the wine and stare at the cleavage of anyone in sight. And the poetry! Elves can recite poetry for hours. A man can’t listen to poetry, it just kills you inside, verse by verse.
Q: So you had no aptitude for diplomacy or etiquette, I take it?
A: On the contrary, I was quite adept at being diplomatic and not breaking etiquette. How do I pinch someone’s rear without them being able to call me out on it? How do I sniff their hair, or maybe feel their fluff? I believe I could stroke your tail without you being able to call me out on inappropriate behaviour, Freya.
Q: Oh my. Did this ever land you in any trouble?
A: I may have started an incident when I started a food fight with some Goblins. I threw my pudding, they responded. That was a good spot of fun, but my parents made it clear that sort of thing wasn’t acceptable.
Q: And so?
A: And so I decided I needed my own ship.
Q: One your parents didn’t own or pay the salaries of the crew, I take it.
A: Exactly. Now with the kind of allowance I got, there was no problem buying a used ship. Lots of guys my age and in my social circle had a hobby of buying old ships and tuning and renovating them. They usually went for the small, fast ships though, for racing. Corvettes and stuff.
Q: Were you ever a racer?
A: Never had the head for it. I pass out when the Gs get too high, can’t help it. But in space, acceleration isn’t a problem. I wanted a deep space vessel. One you could fit cargo in, so you could go out from system to system, hauling that cargo and making a profit.
Q: You wanted to be a space trucker, then? The Aurelians must’ve employed tens of thousands of people in that industry.
A: Sure, but an independent one. Someone who doesn’t have to stand in line for a hyper space lane. If I want to take a detour, it has to be my call, as a captain. Not a corporate decision. And I wanted to install stashes for contraband, because smuggling increases profit margins.
Q: A life of crime held an appeal for you?
A: Absolutely. A life of victimless crime, anyway, which is what smuggling is. But getting a ship is one thing, finding a crew and getting it outfitted to my specifications was a whole other can of worms. The first thing you need is a reliable engineer, someone who was committed to me and my ship, but couldn’t be bribed by my family. Someone who would keep their mouth shut and get everything running.
Q: And this would be Miss Stonering?
A: Yeah, Wendy Stonering. The first person I hired. Gremlins love their ships. You bring one of them to derelict ship and tell her it’s theirs, see how their eyes light up. Amazing. She brought her tools, which took three footlockers, and the rest of her belongings, which took one duffel bag, and then she settled in. From there on she’d give me a list of parts she needed and I’d give her the money and she’d handle everything. Next I needed to hire an actual crew.
Q: All people not on your parents’ payroll.
A: That’s right. So I went into the sleaziest dump I could find and started asking around for freelancers. To start with, a ship needs at least three people to man the helm in shifts. You need a quartermaster to run the cargo holds; you need a competent navigator, a doctor (not necessary one with a license), a cook, some muscle for security and all that. A good twenty people all together. And the worst part was that I had no idea who to take as my first officer.
Q: You can’t hire trust.
A: Yeah. You need something more. Someone you can really count on. And there was one person I had in mind.
Q: Miss Petra Nefernefer.
A: The most reliable person I’d ever known.
Q: Quite the opposite of you, in more ways than one.
A: Hahaha, yeah. We’re like fire and ice. Or sand and water. I’m water, she’s sand. And my rain brought life to her desert. You can quote me on that; it’ll make her squirm like you wouldn’t believe.
Q: It’s generally understood that the two of you are an item.
A: We are. Petra and I went to school together. She was the valedictorian; I only made it through by the skin of my teeth. She was always proper and did what was expected of her, I was the black sheep of the family.
Q: As a fan of romantic comedies, I can tell you were meant to be together.
A: It was inevitable.
Q: How did you convince her to abandon everything and go with you?
A: I just asked. Straight up. “Hey Petra,” I said, “wanna be my first officer?”
Q: And she just agreed like that?
A: No, she yelled at me over being irresponsible and how I was ungrateful to my parents and how nothing good would come of it and I would run into an asteroid or get captured by pirates and end as a pet to a Dark Elf. She argued that she had no choice but to come with me to make sure that I didn’t screw everything up.
Q: And so you were ready to sail.
A: Not quite. It’s bad luck to sail on a nameless ship. So had to name ours.
Q: And who came up with the name?
A: Well the christening happened on accident, when one of our security personnel, Miss Nagaiashi, downed a bottle of champagne and tossed the empty bottle over her shoulder. When the bottle hit, she said “That really hit the spot”, so we named our ship Hit-the-Spot.
Q: Legendary ship these days.
A: The old girl’s been around.
Q: And maybe we’ll hear about some of those places after these messages.