Fiction Western Science Fiction

Four miners point blasters my way–not the welcoming party I was hoping for. Jander told me not to come here, maybe I should have listened to that little guy. Standing in front of my trading ship, the Galactic Kakapo, I await their next move. A man behind a heavy cannon mounted on a mining truck eyes me closely. 

“You carrying Terra credits?” he asks. 

“On my ship.”

“Good. Are you alone?” 

“I’m alone–” Their fingers move toward their triggers. “Except for this guy here.” I point down to a Jander VII drone at my feet.

The miners study him–Jander is a little plastic box not much bigger than a vacuum cleaner. They point their guns back at me and their trigger fingers get itchy again. My drone is not very impressive to look at.

“Show them what you can do, Jander.” Our of instinct, I duck.

The canyon explodes in a flash of light, and thunders with the echoes of five lightning bolts at once. When my eyes refocus, I see the tops of the miners’ hats have been sliced off and turned into origami swans.

I announce, “We mean no harm!”

The miners look at each other’s remodeled hats, and one by one take their fingers off their triggers. The miner in the truck climbs down and offers to shake my hand. I offer him a fist bump instead to keep a distance. A distance from the smell. They reek as if they haven’t had a shower in weeks.

“I'm Corvin. Welcome to Davina, the Yttrium Exchange is open for business,” he says.

“Thank you,” I say. This is good news, because the Yttrium business is my business. I transport the rare earth metal along the lesser known routes.

They begin to wander off like rhinos that have lost interest in an opponent. Which makes me relax , as the miners are huge. They inject growth hormones to give them the bulk to run the heavy machinery.

An hour later I’m still standing there waiting. One of them returns and says it’s going to take a while and am I hungry? He takes me to the cafeteria, a low hanging shed. It’s the only place in the settlement where I see people except for those in mining trucks going back and forth from the dusty plains.


It’s my third day on this barren planet. The third day of eating bean soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve come to know the faces of everyone that comes and goes from the cafeteria. They don’t seem to mind the bad food or the smell as much as I do.

I don’t like my own smell much these days.

“Is there anywhere I can take a shower on this planet?” I ask the server, who I’ve come to know as Thalia. 

“All of the water we have goes into that soup.” She points at my bowl.

Low-G planets don’t retain water. Humidity blows off into space. But, I don’t want the hassle of restarting my ship’s reactor just to take a shower.

“I know it’s not your job, but when does the Yttrium Exchange open? All I’ve seen is a dark building,” I ask.

“They need to wait for Mr Lanwap to hold a board meeting to approve a trading session.”

“Who are the board members?”

“Mr Lanwap. Just him.” Thalia, who from my observations the last few days, is the waitress, bartender, cleaner, cook, and repair person of this establishment, points to Lanwap’s face on an old 2772 calendar on the wall. “Lanwap is out hunting Davindian mongoose. He usually gets back in a week.”

“A week? Thanks for letting me know.” A week? I could have cleared out of here by now if I knew it was going to take this long.

“When you leave, how about you take me with you?” She smiles flirtatiously. We haven’t talked much, so I’m taken aback. I see a beautiful woman under the layers of mining dust. 

“Thalia, I would love to. But the galaxy doesn’t work that way.” 

Her smile vanishes.

I mumble apologetically, “Had some bad experiences…” A runaway’s family tracked me down and tried to kill me, twice.

She ignores my excuses and gets back to serving customers. 

The miners don’t get to talk to many new people so their curiosity overcomes their aversion to strangers, and they begin. to strike up conversations. In the last few days, I’ve figured out what’s important to them–mining, drinking, and robbing unarmed visitors– so I begin to relax a little bit. 

The greeting party I met the first day comes to the cafeteria every night. Tonight the lights are dimmed and the cafeteria has become more of a bar. 

“We mined 2,000 grams at the Big Dig today! Drinks on me,” their leader Corvin says. He’s the one on the dump truck the first day.

Someone places a shot glass into my hand and after seeing everyone else drink, I drink mine. It’s my first drink. I’ve spent the last several days spilling drinks under the bar when no one was looking. A trick not to get robbed in a new town.

“The first smile we’ve seen on our visitor!” Corvin says, looking at me. “Have another round.” He hands me another.

I have my drone, Jander VII, start a light show to the music-he's been following me everywhere. This gets me a round of applause. After a few more drinks, Corvin drifts over to my table.

“So, man from Terra. You and your accent, Terranian clothes–” He looks me up and down with a look of mock disgust. “How did you wind up having to come out to Davinda?” 

I tell him my origin story. “I hit 0 social credits on Terra, and was stuck in a work program. Washing dishes. I’d be washing dishes forever–no offense, Thalia–but I came up with a plan. I started gambling, and in a game of strip poker against a Mvelvian, one in which I was losing, I took out a blaster and declared the game over, and that his ship was now mine. Word of advice, never get naked with a Mvelvian, ever.”

“A Mvelvian?” he says. “I’m not buying this story. But zero social credits, that happens here too.” His face lights up when he mentions social credits.

“Social credits. How’s your score?” I ask.

Corvin shows me a tablet around his neck with pride. “I’m up to 2.” The tablet shows it’s a scale that goes up to ten, but he looks proud with his score. “That’s how I’m all of their bosses. They are all zeros and ones.”

“Anyone have a score better than a 2?” 

“The big man has a 10,” he says, glancing up at Lanwap’s face on a poster on the wall. The smiling portrait I see on walls and notice boards everywhere.

“What did he do to deserve a 10?”

“That’s above my paygrade.”

I take the hint to stop asking. “Corvin, have you seen any other parts of this side of the galaxy?” 

“Never been off Davinda, but plan to. A ticket on a shuttle is 3,000 Davindian credits. I’ve saved up 900. 1 credit a week for work, and 10 credits for each–.“ He winks. “Well, you know how it is.”

“You’re going to have a nice time when you make it,” I say. What did he mean by the wink and ‘you know’? I’ll get back to that later. “Another round?” I ask.


After a few more drinks, Corvin becomes animated explaining the mining details of the Big Dig. He never gets back around to his own life or the thing about the credits. Loose lips sink ships?

On the wall, my eyes settle on another poster I’ve seen everywhere in town. ‘Davinda stands for the Rule of Law’. For all their gruffness, the miners do seem to be very law-abiding. They never fight, and they all go home at 9pm. That would never happen with a crowd like this on Terra. 


A few days later, I’m informed the Davinda Yttrium Exchange will open. As I approach the building, I see all the 3D displays and exhibits on the ground floor that were dark before are now turned on. I enter and scan the exhibits detailing 250 years of Yttrium mining on this planet. 

A clerk in the cleanest uniforms I’ve seen on this planet points at a sign: Yttrium Exchange 2/F.  

I take the hint and walk upstairs. There’s a circular table with 50 computer terminals. Only one of them is occupied. A very tall man, and the first man I’ve seen wearing clothes from Terra. Behind him, I see Corvin and his usual crew of mining supervisors, armed with blasters again.

“I’m David Lanwap. We hear you have some interest in trading for our product.”

“I have 50,000 Terra credits on my ship. I’m looking for 200 kilograms of Yttrium.”

“What’s to stop me from just taking your Terra credits,” he asks, tossing his hunting scarf behind his head and smiling as if he told a funny joke. 

I glance at Corvin and his assistants. They stare straight ahead. 

“Your reputation as an honest gentleman, one of the smartest traders in the system, and the automated nuclear weapon on my ship connected to this little guy.” I gesture down at Jander VII who flashes a few lights for me.

Lanwap looks at Corvin. “Is this true?”

Corvin gives the tiniest of nods. Which is helpful, because I don’t have any nuclear weapons.

“Then it looks like we have exchange business to do. I declare the Davinda exchange open for trading,” he says. “We can offer 200 kilos of Yttrium for 100,000 credits.”

“All I’m carrying is 52,000 credits.”

“Then perhaps throw in the nuclear weapon you mentioned.”

“Maybe if I search my cargo hold for change, I can get up to 54,000.”

“Or how about, that drone of yours.” He points at Jander VII who now twitters angrily at my feet. Luckily, he hasn’t shot anyone accidentally on this planet so far.

“55,000 credits is my limit.”

“60,000,” he says.

I spread my feet apart and stand quietly. Going over 55,000 would cut too deep into my margin for the risk I took to get to Davinda.

Lanwap raises an eyebrow and sneers at me in annoyance. “I’ve got things to do, so let’s get this over with. 55,000 Terra credits for 200 kilograms of Yttrium. As Chairman of the Exchange I declare the trade final.” Lanwap stands up and walks out without saying goodbye. 

Lanwap emotes the rashness of a dictator. I’ve seen a few on the outer planets. I begin to think it might be an idea to clear out of here quickly. I rush through the paperwork and transfer the credits. The miners begin to load the Galactic Kakapo with Yttrium.

While his workers are loading the cargo, Corvin comes over. “It’s been nice knowing you. You know, most of the traders from Terra aren’t as down to earth as you.” Unexpectedly, he gives me a bear hug. With the growth hormones, it hurts. “Don’t spend all the credits you earn in one place,” he says, and backs off. I see a tear in his eye. “We lost a few miners getting that out of the ground.” 

Mining is dangerous work. I’m not sure I can ever show Corvin the right amount of gratitude. 

“You’re the best miner on this side of the asteroid cloud,” I say, and give him a Republic Marine salute.

Moments later, I blast off. Putting the dusty Low-G planet of Davinda into the rear-view mirror. I’m just a merchant trying to survive. Miners’ health & welfare isn’t my deal. And I’ve got a long dangerous trip back to Terra through the cloud. The danger of the cloud is the only reason big corporations don’t trade with the far planets and I have a chance to make a few credits. Also, I don’t pay insurance premiums.

With nothing to do for weeks, my Marine training kicks in. Every week, I perform equipment checks. The first time I inspect my surface landing equipment, I feel something in my flak jacket pocket. I pull out a memory stick. One I haven’t seen before.

Putting it into a secure reader, I see a message from Corvin. The title is: Let them know.

What comes next is a list of starships, with captain names and home ports. There’s a note below the list: They’re all buried under the Big Dig. I punch the names into the shipping registry, the ships have all gone missing over previous years.

A month later, I arrive on Terra. I sell my cargo and get back around to what I'm going to do with that list. Seconds before I blast off on a trade route that will take me far, far away from Davinda, I send the list to TerraLeaks. I added my own impressions about Lanwap. There are names of powerful families on that list. They will seek revenge. Revenge isn’t my job, I’m just a courier. 

June 25, 2023 08:20

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Amanda Lieser
02:25 Jul 21, 2023

Hi Scott, Oh my goodness I think my favorite thing about this piece was that final line I think that it’s so interesting that human beings defined themselves by their titles and their roles so intensely-some people feel passionately that you ought to be doing more than your official job title and others feel that to do so would be an expensive our own personal and mental health. You did an amazing job of creating a rich and wild science fiction world that provided enough background for me to really get into the story while also not being ban...


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Delbert Griffith
10:17 Jul 04, 2023

Loved the tale, Scott. I got a definite Han Solo vibe here. The robot could have been Chewie, albeit smaller and not living. LOL The droid was very memorable. The MC was just the right blend of amoral with a bit of heart. The miners were extremely cool. Great characterization all around. I wrote a couple of tales for this week, both much more in the traditional sense, so your tale was, to me, refreshing and inventive. You have a distinct talent for futuristic westerns - or any type of westerns, for that matter. Nicely done, my friend. Nice...


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Russell Mickler
22:06 Jul 01, 2023

Space … the final frontier. These are the stories of a plucky droid, Jander 7, and his nameless sidekick. :) Had a good western vibe, good dialogue, and felt fun, whimsical … origami hats :) Jander steals the show though. :) I think that’d be a fun spin .. the Roomba uses this dude to get deals done but the MC is Jander :) R


01:46 Jul 03, 2023

haha good point. Jander got to do most of the fun party tricks, that might have fun to do a reveal at the end that Jander was in control of everything. Not naming the MC was sort of unintentional, as I so much had Mando in mind when writing this. The man with no name, hmm very spaghetti western.


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Valerie Shand
19:16 Jul 01, 2023

I don't believe we ever learned the name of your protagonist. I would like to know his name. I also would like some interaction between the Jander drone and his owner from the POV of the robot. Your planet is well described and easily envisioned. I enjoyed it. I'd be honored if you'd read and comment on my story, "Shootout at the A.R. Depot," a take-off of "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."


01:49 Jul 03, 2023

That's a good point, and not naming the protagonist turned out to be a huge unintentional mistake, I think I was so focused on the robot and fun and games. Everyone who reads this is more into the robot than the MC!


Valerie Shand
13:23 Jul 03, 2023

Funny how things like that happen, isn't it? I flashed to R2D2 immediately and couldn't drag my mind back.


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Michał Przywara
20:56 Jun 28, 2023

Very fun :) Had a Firefly vibe. It's all about the money, but underneath it they do have room for heart. The narrator's not looking to rescue anyone but he does his part to help justice. Of course, whether that succeeds or not is a different issue. The setting is believable, and while there's a dark undercurrent to what's happening on the planet, it's also fairly light-hearted. Like, with the guns being pulled. I think that's reflective of the narrator's attitude to life - when you take mortal risks for small rewards, you probably need t...


01:48 Jun 29, 2023

Thanks, the idea of a profit-seeking disinterested hero is very Western, or perhaps, Western-inspired Space Opera. if Reedsy had music would go more Guardians of the Galaxy but I'd say this one is closer to a Mando but without 'the way'. Firefly, hadn't watched that, just finished the latest season of Black Mirror, and am looking for new TV shows will have a look. (black mirror is still great at delivering twists btw)


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Lily Finch
15:32 Jun 26, 2023

Hey Scott, I like the angle of the courier and revenge being someone else's job. I also like that Corvin knew whose hands to put the information in to get a response from. I think you have a tightly knit story here. I guess I would have liked to have seen a better connection between Corvin and the courier somehow. Not sure how but somehow. Maybe deeper into character traits etc. Otherwise, great job. LF6


01:50 Jul 03, 2023

That's a good point, Corvin and the MC suddenly became friends at the end, maybe they should had a deeper moment together at some point or some shared experience.


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Mary Bendickson
03:40 Jun 26, 2023

Authentic other worldly reality to me. Lots of plot and action and possible twists. Yours are always good.


05:44 Jun 26, 2023

Thanks for checking it out! I sort of had one of those scifi tv shows in mind. Heavy on plot, I might add some more character and description to this.


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Charles Corkery
08:42 Jul 06, 2023

Bloody loved this story, mate!


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Euodia Albright
18:38 Jul 05, 2023

Amazing, very incredible.


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Ken Cartisano
17:57 Jul 02, 2023

This is fricking Excellent, Scott. This shits all over my story, imho. Fast pace, lots of humor. LOTS of humor. From the bean soup staple to the origami hard hats to the Jander VII 'droid-guard.' This is like 'Rockford' meets 'MacGyver' in a galaxy far, far away. Only better. A really fun story.


01:48 Jul 03, 2023

So happy to hear you enjoyed this, I added weird details and asides as they came to me. Usually I try to keep things really moving fast and weird, and aim for 1,500 words not to overload readers.


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Philip Ebuluofor
12:15 Jun 28, 2023

The prompt was confusing to me and your story didn't clear my confusion.


12:25 Jun 28, 2023

Western (=cowboy) stories are usually about a lone gunman in Texas going to a village and saving them from criminals. Like "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly", or the same stories in scifiction like The Mandalorian.


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