10 November 2020
A Close Encounter
"Not again! This can't be happening again! He said he fixed it!"
Typical. Right before I was scheduled to make a drop off to my wealthiest and most powerful client, my hyperdrive blows a fuse. It’s not as I didn't check on it, goodness knows. For crying out loud, I had it fixed last week! But either the man I hired was more sketchy than I thought, or my hyperdrive was running with little to no fuel. My money was on the fuel theory, but no need to take chances.
"M.A.X.! Give me the status on the hyperdrive!"
"The hyperdrive is at 95% stability, and at 0% fuel, captain."
Just as I had feared. With no hyperdrive, I wouldn’t be able to make this shipment in time. My client would be furious! I had to find a way to get more fuel, so I pulled up the ships communication and navigations panel up. As if the day couldn’t get any worse, it seemed as there were no trading posts in this area, meaning that my hopes of trading for more fuel was practically impossible. Frustrated, I lied back in my chair, banging on the armrests. However, in my anger I kicked the communications panel, and it switched to the trading screen. Much to my surprise there was one spot on the map lighting up in the sector, on a planet called Eagura-5. It was a small marketplace, filled to the brim with almost everything the sector had to offer. It was nearby, and I was able to find a shop that could sell me the fuel I needed at a price I could afford. There was only one problem.
While most planets in this sector had unrestricted airspace, there were a few that had minimal flight control. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, as all they asked for was a ID and ship identification. But those were two things that I didn't have, as a courier such as myself has to stay completely off the grid. But that doesn't mean I couldn’t get to the market. All I would have to do is hack their basic systems to give them a fake ID and I would be in the clear. Getting my programming system ready, I began my descent into the planet's atmosphere.
It took a little while, but the air control guys eventually found me and started circling me. They were operating small dagger ships, with only one gun and rusted titanium. If it is was me one-on-one with one of these ships, I would just blow them up and move on. But two was a problem, because then the other one could request backup if I blew his buddy to Kingdom Come. Similarly, I would normally be able to out-maneuver them if my ships hyperdrive and hull hadn't been so damaged by the blown fuse. In order for this plan to work I would need to stall for time, which happened to be one of M.A.X.'s specialties.
"M.A.X.! Open a channel to the monitoring ships. While you keep 'em busy I'll hack into the system and get us out of here. Got it?!"
M.A.X. got to work, and started creating frequency disruption and distortion to make them seem like I had major damages. That would keep them busy long enough so that I would have time to hack into their systems. It was honestly shocking, though, how easy it was to hack into their systems. I managed to get in in under 5 minutes, and with my powers, took control of their systems. I synced the two together, so whatever I did to one ship would do to the other. Knowing that the pilots had parachutes, I made both ships dive at 100 mph at the ground. As if on cue, it took about 3 seconds for both pilots to eject from their ships. Both ships slammed into the ground in a massive explosion as the pilots drifted down, flailing for their radios, something that I couldn't allow.
The rotund one was still flailing when he got shot, disintegrating into a pile of common dust as his items, including his radio, fell and were destroyed on impact. The lean one, seeing what had just happened to his friend, fumbles his radio but manages to say something before he gets disintegrated as well.
"Damn it M.A.X.! We let him get the message off!"
Listen, I don't like seeing innocent pilots disintegrate any more than you do. But if it's between them and the mission, the mission will ALWAYS come first. Ending someone's life isn't easy work you know. I takes a lot of confidence to pull the trigger or push the button, it isn't like an impulse desire. The few seconds you usually have to decide are filled with more rationalizations than anything you will ever do in your life. Because no matter how hard you convince yourself that it was necessary or the right thing to do, you know subconsciously you will never be able to reverse it. Ironically, the more you do it, the easier it gets but not because you get used to it, but because after all of the rationale and lies you tell yourself, you begin to actually believe it's the right thing to do.
I knew then that the clock was now ticking. It wouldn’t take long for the planet's air control to begin searching and hunting me down. In preparation for landing, I slowly descended onto the surface of the planet Ueugara-5. As the auto pilot landed the ship I gathered my money and clothing for the journey to the marketplace. I opened my expedition wardrobe, and put on the scarf and toga. I also grabbed my money pouch, and slipped my halo-card in there as well. I could hear the "thunk!" as the ship came into contact with the ground, the familiar settling of the ship as the hyperdrive cools refreshing to the ear. The back door to the ship opened, and I stepped out onto the cliff I had landed on.
As I looked over the hill I saw the market place. It was about half a mile from the cliff, and looked like a colorful and shady place, in the style of most alien marketplaces. I could see from this distance that there were a large amount of tents surrounding one big tent, which I assumed to be the big trading hall. The trading hall was usually the biggest part of alien marketplaces, as such a wide variety of things needs a large place to be traded in.
The walk was not far, maybe 20 minutes or so, but it felt like 10. Maybe it was the adrenaline shooting through my body due to the anticipation of the marketplace, but I suspected it was really because I knew once I got the part I could leave and be done with this job. I guess you could say that was my fuel. The feeling that this would all be done eventually. I was so prepared to just get my part and get the heck out of there. But the marketplace was not at all what I expected, and I was in for a surprise.
The marketplace, like other marketplaces, was colorful and had stream of light and color everywhere. The shops had colorful banners to draw attention to their shop, and there were also dancers and performers out in front, doing magic and marketing and even some shot fire balls out of their mouths (The fire breathing ones are called Glodioposinions, but I just call them Glops because their name is too hard to say). But what stood out to me is that instead of everyone going in and out of the big tent like I had expected, most of the people either went in and out of a shop or went into the largest tent and dint come back. While I was curious what was in the large tent, I just assumed that it was a circus show or something. After all, everyone who goes into the building had to pay a depressed looking man at the door, his jingly hat and 3 eyes drooping down, as he accepted payment after payment.
As I shuffled my way through the hustle and bustle of the marketplace, I kept seeing people, mostly non-humans, whispering to each other as I went by. They probably didn’t get many human visitors, as this sector was really only inhabited by human thieves and the races that live here naturally. I paid no mind, as I had been stared at all my life, mostly by creatures with many eyes, which made them hard to look at. Being stared at was as natural to me as peeling an husk of Deshardelite from the fields of the a Glop (Yes, the Glops harvest crops, no jokes please).
I was fortunate enough that the shop, named Jill's Treasures, was right near the exit. Upon entering the shop I let out a small sigh of relief. For reasons I still don't understand, being in quiet, homely shops always put me at peace. Maybe it was the wonderful scents that the shopkeeper was always burning. Maybe it was the muffled silence, or maybe it was as simple as I liked good service. But any thinking I had related to peace would have to be put aside until I can get back into the air. As for the shopkeeper, she was a nice old human lady who must have been the daughter of fierce raiders that abandoned her from childhood. And from what I could tell, she wasn’t going to be hard to deal and wheel with.
"Hello old shopkeeper. I have come to ask you if you have any Cramdilite for my ships hyperdrive. You see, I am out and-"
"That’s all you needed to say my dear. I happen to have a whole crystal of Cramdilite waiting in the back for someone like you. How much do you need?"
"Ummmmmm..... How much for half a crystal?"
"3000 Quadrant cubes. I accept all forms of payment, including Halo-card."
3000 wasn’t exactly what I had wanted, but I suppose that beggars can't be choosers. I made sure that I had the money then gave my halo-card over to her, which she scanned in her outdated scanning machine and then handed it back to me.
"Thanks for your time dearie. Good luck out there!"
"You too shopkeeper!"
I left the shop, crystal in hand as I walked to get out of the market place. There was no point in me staying here, as I was only at more risk. The crowd had gotten significantly larger than when I entered the store, I believe because the show that was in the big tent had ended, so the influx of people had returned to normal. Normal being everyone crammed in like sardines while you get random elbows showed in your face. It was still navigable thankfully, otherwise it would be impossible to get out. Passing the opening of the marketplace, I decided to use my rocket boots to get back to my ship faster, not realizing that the fuel was low. I flicked on the power in both, then began rocketing forward, en route to get to my ship in under 5 minutes.
The wind going against my face, the roar of the boots as they leave behind trails of smoke, the pieces of dust and sand occasionally flying in your eyes. These are all what it feels like to fly. The feeling of excitement and adrenaline going through your veins as you do loop de loops in the sky. I was completely enveloped in something other than work for the first time in forever. Everything was going perfectly, and I was genuinely having fun. All was going great! Of course, that’s when the air control guys showed up and shot me right out of the sky.
Have you ever felt a good "WHAM!" Before. Not the comic book punch kind, the kind where you slam into something really hard. Because I'm quite confident that if you held up a dictionary and looked up wham, you would find me, faceplanting into the ground of Eugara-5 with streams of smoke coming from my feet.
"PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR! I REPEAT PUT YOUR HAND IN THE AIR! YOU ARE UNDER ARREST FOR ATTACKING AND POSSIBLY KILLING TWO LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS! DON'T TRY ANYTHING, WE GOT MEN ALL OVER! IF YOU WANT TO TO LIVE PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!"
I had tried to avoid this outcome, but I suppose that it is what it is. I put my hands in the air and laid belly down on the ground. The guards, approaching with caution, eventually decided that I was not a threat lying down and picked me up. They began to take all of my weapons off, starting with my phaser rifle and laser pistols. They then took off my boots, hat and laser spear. Last to go was my belt. While not having many weapons, it still had smoke bombs and E.M.P bombs everywhere around it. They had trouble getting it off though, as no amount of prodding and pushing could get it off. Eventually, after much attempting, I said something.
"How stupid are you guys?! You have to press the buttons on the sides! Jeez, what are you thinking?"
The leader ruffed, but listened and pressed on both sides of the belt. It sputtered for a few seconds, then clicked off.
"Hah. Well, that’s the first time I've ever seen a courier tell me how to actually disarm their weap-"
Before he could finish the sentence, I grabbed the belt from out of his hands, punched the guy with the crystal, picked it up and blasted off using the secret rocket boosters attached to the belt. I shot right up into the sky, having no control on where it went. I could see the phaser fire coming out from underneath me, and I was praying that I wouldn’t get hit. A few seconds go by, then the belt stopped flying upwards and I began to come back down to the planet. Not a problem, as I pulled the string attached to the rocket boosters and the handglide started folding out. Once it was fully formed, I grabbed on tight and started gliding quickly to my ship. Dodging phaser fire left and right, I swerved past cliffs and rocks as I approached my ships hanger bay. I was just getting in position for a smooth landing when the handglide was shot by a laser sniper, and I started flailing in the direction of my ship. I couldn’t control in anymore, so it was going to come down to a matter of luck. The handglide kept coming down, inching closer and closer towards the ground and less to the ship. Knowing at that point that I was probably not going to make it, combined with the fact that the ships hanger door was beginning its automatic 1 minute closure, I decided to jump from off the handglide. Soaring through the sky, I barely managed to squeeze into the hanger bay before it closed. I hit the ground running, ignoring the pain I felt in my legs. I had to get this hyperdrive fuel in or I'd be toast.
Racing into the engineering room, I opened the hyperdrive panel and entered the passcode for the energy deposit slot. I opened it up and threw the crystal shard in there, closing it back up quickly and sealing it at the speed of light. Rushing to the helm, here came the moment of truth. If the hyperdrive didn’t work, then the air patrol would get me and destroy the ship.
"M.A.X.! ENGAGE HYPERDRIVE!"
The directional coordinates lighted up, the energy signals were green, and the little red button was blinking red.'
"I HOPE YOUR READY M.A.X.! FULL THROTTLE!"
And just like that, I was on the other edge of the galaxy.