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Inbound from Deadwood: – silk , gems, processed foodstuffs, medical raw materials
Outbound- silk , gems, processed foodstuffs, medical raw materials, icewine , brandy

It was winter on St Alban’s, as usual.
The moon had very short hot summers, less than four months above freezing, but those twelve weeks had temperatures in the thirties. Crops grew fast or not at all and the genetically crafted grapes that flourished in the short summer were very high in alcohol-producing sugars.

Like most of the St Albans farmers Farrell Smith, father to Mal and Zoe’s dead comrade, Tracy, had grown for the local market; the miners and factory workers who could not grow their own fresh produce or afford imports. Smith had concentrated on small fruits, most bush crops that grew on new growth, avoiding losses when fruit bearing son growth froze in band winters. Most farmers sold their surplus crops to the canning and freezing company, owned by Blue Sun, which paid just enough to keep their suppliers coming back.

Smith had come to grapes when his parish priest asked him to supply grape juice for communions. The fresh juice was unexpectedly popular, quickly finding a secular market which brought it to the attention of other congregations who asked for grape wine for their rituals.
Smith learned to leave some of his grapes on the line past the first freeze  of the winter, which dried the grapes and concentrated the sugars. Icewine was a luxury product, worth the cost of export to more prosperous worlds.
While Mal and Smith discussed fees and costs, Kaylee and Tracy’s brother Rand walked down to the family graveyard to visit Tracy’s grave.

“Surprised the captain and Ms. Washburne ain’t coming,’ the boy said. ‘Seems you only knew him for a couple days.’
‘We had sorta a moment,’Kaylee said,”I mean, nothin come of it, but it coulda…if… well he kinda panicked when the organleggers come after him.’
‘Organleggers? Why were they after him?’
Realizing that Mal and Zoe had been vague with the family about the exact circumstances of the trooper’s death, Kaylee gave a brief explanation of the events at Space Bazaar when they had received Tracy’s unresponsive body by mail and were followed by bounty hunters, looking for the precious organs he carried.
She didn’t mention that Tracy had actually died of Mal’s bullet, fired as the hysterical youngster held her hostage .

They passed an outbuilding on the way back from the cemetery. ‘That’s our distillery,’ Rand explained.’Wanna see?’

Kaylee was always fascinated by new kinds of equipment, and had been making her Inter-Engine Wine almost since she had joined the crew. She accepted the invitation with pleasure.
Inside the shabby building shone. Tall stainless steel vats gleamed angles tubing sparkled. A steam disinfector purred in a corner, sanitizing glass bottles for the next batch of aged brandy. In contrast a second room held real wooden barrels still aging brandy in strict climate control.

‘The ones with the red tags is ready to go, but the barrels is older. This’ll be the good stuff. The Tracy batch from the year he died.’
‘Y’all still miss him.’
‘Mama does, mebbee daddy. I almost don’t remember him. He was in the last three years of the war, with your captain and first mate, right? An he only come home for a bit fore he quarrelled with daddy and left again.Then you brought him back  in a box. Eight years ago now. I’m twenty so I was three when he left the first time and twelve when he left again.’
‘I only knew him for a few days,my own self. He had a real ingratiating manner.’
‘Mmmm. I ain’t gonna speak ill, but Daddy more of less kicked him out both times he left. Reckon he weren’t willin to pull his weight. Allys looking for and easy berth’
‘As a soldier?’
“Didn’t say he was smart.’
Kaylee asked some questions about the distilling equipment and was told the Smiths threw out near ten percent of the brandy they distilled.
“Well, I say, throw out. It gets sold as cleaning fluid. If somebody drinks it, it won’t kill’em but it’s got lot of fusel oil and other impurities. We could go with less, some distillers only toss one percent, but Daddy is fussy like that. You should try our potato vodka.’

‘This’ll put hair on the soles of your feet,’ boasted Farrell Smith, pouring a glass for Zoe and Mal, ‘And make childbirth a pleasure.’
Mall tossed back the liquor and coughed as his throat caught fire. ‘What proof is this?’
“One sixty six, but no worries. It’s so pure you cannot get a hangover. Have another?’
‘No, no. I’d rather take my time. This is a proper sipping drink.’
‘We get the water from a glacial spring on our own property. They some minerals in it will do your body good. When you’ve finish that let me give you an taste of my buffalo grass formula.’
‘You make shine from grass?’ asked Zoe cautiously sipping her own glass.
“Vodka,’ Farrel  corrected.’ Just a few strands in the bottle to give a delicate whisper of flavour. Tastes like the smell of a field ready for harvest.’
‘How are harvests these days, Mr. Smith?’ asked Mal.
‘Farrel, please, sergeant. It’s been a little warmer these past five years. That’s standard years, our orbit is twelve of those.’
‘Closer to Red Sun?’
‘Wobbly axis. St Alban’s has six month with the south hemisphere facing  from the sun and eight month facing away repeatin through those twelve years.’
‘So in twelve standard years you get fourteen summers?’
‘Ten. But the ten further away is colder. Not famine cold but the Northern Glacier grows near to the equator. That’s why we we make our money in warm years, if we can.’
‘You know you’d do better on consignment than cash.’
‘Too much risk. I got school fees for the last two kids and youngest boy is wantin to go to Academy. We’re hoping for a scholarship.’
‘Know what you mean. We got three kids on crew and they’re doin good in their level exams.’
‘Emma’s not innnerested in Academy though. She wants to be a plot like her daddy.’
‘I thought that lil gal was your pilot?’
’Now. My husband passed fore our girl was born.’
‘None of us are dead while our names are spoken.’
Zoe was silent.


About femmefan1946

Retired professional writer and editor. Nominated for an Aurora Award for work on CAN-CON 2014, which concentrates on introducing new and aspiring writers and artists to agents, editors and publishers.
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