As he gazed towards the terminal buildings Hal thought back to his own school days, and it dawned on him that all his teachers had been absolutely terrifying. Sharp-tongued, impatient, quick to tweak his ear … and that was just the librarians. Would Miss Walsh be like that? It was too late to draw up a new invoice, but Hal did have one trick up his sleeve: if she turned out to be a fearsome old dragon he’d slip Clunk the bill and leg it.
‘Anybody home?’ said a female voice.
Hal jumped, then looked around for the source. There was a safety bunker behind the ship, used for shelter by ground crew when a vessel came in to land, and a young woman was holding the hefty metal door open with one hand and shielding her eyes with the other. She was looking directly at Hal, and he noticed her startling blue eyes. ‘Can I help you?’
‘I’m not sure.’ The woman left the bunker, brushing dust from her figure-hugging jumper and skin-tight jeans. She had a mane of golden hair that cascaded over her shoulders, and as she moved it shimmered like a waterfall. ‘Tell me, is this the Volante?’
‘I’m Harriet Walsh. I’ve come to collect my cargo.’
Without taking his eyes off her, Hal pulled out the crumpled invoice, tore it in two and tossed the pieces over his shoulder.
Simon Haynes is the author of four Hal Spacejock novels, a number of articles on writing and publishing, and several short stories, one of which collected an Aurealis Award in 2001. He divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with a daily 25-40km bike ride to blow the cobwebs away.
Born in the UK and raised in the south of Spain, Simon emigrated to Australia with his family in 1983. He’s a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and lives in Perth with his wife and two children.
His goal is to write fifteen Hal Spacejock books before someone takes his keyboard away.