Let me know what you think, I have never shown this to anybody soooo yeah I’m not an English professor.
Damn sand, and burnt sand at that; burnt sand always has a flavor you never quite forget. But there is lots of that here on Tamarind. A hundred years of raids and fighting do that to a planet. It used to be nice place when I was born here, but my mother escaped with me, my younger sister Ann, and brother Sean - some 40 years ago. She wouldn’t come back, I had to. I had to know if it was a dream, or real. But for a boy of 5, it seemed brighter then, and well, less sand.
And yet more sand, I think to myself as I sweep the floor of the garage, it always finds a way in. They say the desert is receding, yeah right. But to the city Captain’s credit, there is green again in our village. Ever since we won our water rights back from Graham-Davis. They rerouted the river back, and farms are growing, and people are moving back. It’s good for business, fixing farm equipment keeps us in the black. Still the mountains keep the sand at bay, most the time, and the snakes as well. We introduced Mongooses a few years back, and well, I haven’t been bitten in a few months, or seen even one for a while. The snakes here, for the most part, are none poisonous; but there is the il-tamuskien. Nasty little thing, 6 seconds and your paralyzed, not dead, but you wish you were.
It is a nice Garage though; we earned a reputation in some very wealthy merchant circles, for repairing, well, just about anything. They just had to get it on planet and off planet without a lot of questions being asked. But everybody knew what we did, Hell, the local Comstar Precentor has a ‘vehicle’ in here now. We have 36 Techs on staff, and my sister on the books. ‘Don’t **** off Ann’ is our one, and only rule. My star mechanic Eddie has been with me, about 5 years now. I keep promising him a raise. If he could only keep my 56 Apache running, I would.
“You finished yet, Eddie?” staring at his feet twitching under my truck.
“No, and what the hell did you do to this?” He replied
“Ummm, I found a hole”
“A HOLE? looks like you found a crater again.” He claimed, as He slid out from under it. “You’re not going to keep smuggling parts in for this piece of crap are you? Gasoline engines are not on the approved list of House of Marik, or the Free Worlds League”
“Yup, it was my great, great, umm and then some grandpa’s from old Earth.” I replied “And Smuggling is a harsh word and illegal iffin I remember right”
“So what was in the cargo containers, that we’re….Ummm….delivered to you” eyeballing them as if he hadn’t looked at the packing slip, already.
“OOoohhhh, Smuggled Parts.” I replied; he laughs but his eyes weren’t.
“They are both locked, I need your retina scan to open them, do you mind?”
I turn towards the frig “Lunch is ready, we’ll do that later. I need a beer, to wash down the sand, you let in earlier anyway.”
“Get me one too” Ed replies, still fixated on the crates. “Aren’t they a bit big for Truck parts, more like a truck in each, right. You didn’t take on a ‘special’ rebuild again?”
Beer amazing stuff, after thousands of years, it still hides the flavor of Ipecac. As I hand him a cold one. I can get to those crates later.
The next morning, Ed looks a bit worn out. But he went right to work, and didn’t ask about the containers. I had opened them, and unloaded the contents; Parts, parts, and a 1999 Bugatti EB110. The techs all stood around it, till Ed started yelling at them to get to work. Then he stammered; “What the hell have you got us into now” staring at me.
“Ummm a rebuild” I mocked him as always
“Does it run” he exclaimed hopefully
“Nope, but the other one arrives this afternoon, we’ll see what it can do”
“You sly devil you, two of them? Who? How? And how much are we making?”
“We’ll our young merchant friend from Marian, seems to have a thing for Old Italian earth cars” and the two them, are worth more than the dropship bringing the second one in today. We get the glory of; making him and his young fiancée matching racers……”
His face grew red with excitement “And Boss?”
“And yes - I can retire on what we’re making, but not you, you still owe me a running truck” I added
“****, why don’t you go buy a new one?” he chimed in
“Because I have money, and you, go get the Scorp ready - the rail went out with your sand storm from yesterday, so we have to go out to the southern landing to get 2 more containers”
“Don’t ask questions son…… just go get her running”
The Scorp, well what can I say – it’s an old Industrial Mech that I found, and yes, I rebuilt it. It was one of my many toys, as sis calls them. She never understood the reasons, but since she ran the books, she always ******** about the money.
And now she looks really pissed off. “2 Bugatti’s, how the hell did you pull this one off?”
“Connections” I couldn’t look her in the eye, or I would start laughing
“Not your old Merc friends? I imagine?”
“Actually, no, an older friend, she seems to think I owe her a favor”
“OH GOD, here we go” Ann plants her face in her hands, and tried not to laugh as well.
Laughing, I pulled on my facemask and headset. Sat down to pull on my boots, and then I get that chill up my spine; it’s a sound you never forget – A fission reactor has a distinct sound, and I still close my eyes waiting for the ramp down of the core as it levels off……Any other sound and it’s going to be a long day. But for The Scorp it’s more of a prayer in this case. Just start, please, just start…
Then thud; Ed starts bringing her around the buildings, all our employees still stop what they’re doing to watch it through the windows, it is an amazing site. We call it the Scorp, it looks like an old Star League Scorpion, not really, but nobody has seen one for years. It’s an old Daedalus, I tell them, I just scrapped it together…I altered the 2 cargo units into one main hold, and removed the extra lifting arm, to add an air filter & blower to keep the sand, and dust out of the hold. Again, this damn sand can ruin the paint job in 2 minutes in a good wind storm, and I have to keep the customers happy. It’s long road to either port, 70 clicks to the pad, so a 2.5 hours at top speed, which we never do.
Ann yells out, “Do you want the loader to come as well….”
“Nope, I fixed the arm on it yesterday used it to move those containers around, we should be good”
I hear her mumble something as I walk out the door..oh well.
The trip was uneventful; a few kids run out and point at us, but their used to the Scorp running around town, we use it for the parades, for the local teams if they win, and even if they don’t.
I never get used to the site of a dropship, even small ones, too many memories I guess. But there it stood, a big ugly one too, Mule - I think. No heat coming off the engines, so they have been waiting a while, and they don’t look happy either.
I climb down to meet them “Ok guys, sorry we’re late, but no Rail Cars today, the sandstorm covered the tracks, and the locals haven’t cleared it.”
“Just sign for the cargo, so we can go eat” a short fellow blurts out
“I need to see your ID’s gentlemen” I asked nicely “and air sample the containers as you might expect”
“Yeah, yeah, here you go” as he shoves an id badge at me. I scan it and almost gag from the smell he is carrying.
As I scan it on my portable, it flags a security fault. It has been altered, good enough hack, but he isn’t the owner of the card. I hand it back, nod, and walk to the containers.
In my headset, I whisper “Ed, call the Marshall, we got pirates I think.”
“This will take a minute guys” as I plug in the air testing port on the first container. Good Air, Gasoline fumes - but not high enough to refuse the shipment. I unplug and start to the second container. I notice they start to fidget a bit.
“Ed” I whisper “what’s the Marshall saying?”
“I am getting nothing, we’re being jammed I think” I can hear the panic in his voice.
I plug into the second container; blood in the air. I start tapping the testing unit.
“Ah **** guys, the battery just died” I claim, they freeze “I think I have one in a hold over here” as I walk to the Scorp.
“Ed, tell me the ship is powered down?” I whisper
“Yeah, no power readings, how are the jamming us?”
“Dunno, ok, just do what I tell you, don’t ask any questions. Open the side chair panel, enter 1369 on the keypad.”
“aaa, ok…. “
“enter the voice command Manual when asks for a helmet connection” my voice raises a bit, I glance at the group of men starting to walk towards me”
“Done, what the …. Boss it’s making a new sound” as the cad blow away bolts fire everybody in the groups ducks, as large panels fly away from the lifting arm, the smoke clears, revealing 4 deadeye medium lasers.
“Just aim the arm at them and shut up” I yell. I rip my 9mm from my vest, and point it at the short guy with the fake ID badge.
“Guys, you got 3 seconds to make your minds up, drop your guns and run into the desert or we light you up. Ed would love to turn you into burnt offerings to the desert. Either way I don’t care, the Marshall is on his way, with his troops; your badge is a fake and you’re ******* me off with your odor”
The sound of guns hitting the concrete, make me sigh a bit of relief.
They start to run, and then I hear the whine of a fusion reactor. A Mech is firing up inside the ship. Oh Hell…..
“Shoot ED, just start shooting” as I run to the safe side of the Scorp
“HOW” he yells in my earpiece
“Red trigger button, pull it and wave the arm around, and aim at something damn it”
Lasers are funny things, they don’t make a sound until after the Coils are hit with the heat, and then you hear the scream that is so very theirs. Ed was aiming at the group as they ran, good.
I threw open a side panel for tools ripping the tool shelf out I grab at the hidden panel. A recoilless rifle is going to be useless if this Mech-pilot is any good. But I might scare him off with a good hit.
I heard somebody scream as a laser clips a leg of one of the runners. Then that metal on metal sound of the Mech coming out of the bay door. As I run behind the front leg and peer to see what lurches out of the door.
Wasp… I hiss - not exactly what I was thinking, but this still isn’t good.
It turns to aim at the loader; miss’s but clips the cargo bay. I step out, and fire at the leg. I hit the foot instead. The Wasp teeters a bit, but stays upright.
“Ed, aim for legs now, forget the runners” as I grab another rocket.
“What legs… oh crap” I hear him say “Boss?”
“Just shoot his legs” as I take aim as well for a second shot.
The Wasp is picking up speed as it lumbers down the ramp. The pilot isn’t that good I am thinking. Ed fires, and hits the ramp. The pilot leaps the Mech forward and hits the loading arm with a laser. It explodes with hydraulic fluid flying everywhere and the sound of power cables flailing about. I aim and see the missile portals open; I have one chance, and fire….
I hit the head instead. But it deflects the path of the Wasps missiles. I duck, and reach for another rocket. Only to be hit by the concrete flying up to hit me.
As I roll around, the Scorp is lurching to one side; it must have been hit in the leg as well. But the dust and freaking sand blocks my vision. I grab at a rocket, and load as I run around to clear the Scorp if it falls.
Still too much dust, but the screams of metal on metal keep me walking forward.
I see my Buster sitting on the Wasp. With Ann in the controls, she is punching at the cockpit windshield. She cracks the glass, it shatters with the next punch..I hear screaming as I run up and point my pistol inside, and fire. The clip is empty in a few seconds; I hear nothing, but my heart.
Ann moves the loader off the Wasp; I turn and see 3 bodies of the gang that had been running away.
The smoke around the Scorp is drifting off, and Ed is climbing down the ladder. A sigh of relief leaves my lips
I raise my gun, and load another clip, and run for the ramp. I hear the loader following me.
A shot glances past me, I fire up the gangway it came, dead center the body falls. I yell for Ann to get Ed and run for town. She turns and runs the loader down the ramp of the dropship. I keep glancing around, but nothing else moves. As I work my way up, I find a few of the crewmens bodies, in the entrance of the bridge. Inside I see the Captain is out and strapped to a chair. Another, the pilot I guess, is staring at me. I put my finger to my lips to signal he stay quiet. I pull the tape from his mouth.
“How many are there” I ask
“7” he croaks
“Ok, we got 5 of them, I think the other 2 are running for the desert hills to hide.”
“Thanks” he whispers
This isn’t good, it was then I saw see the name of the ship; Castaway - and start black out.
It smells the same, and why is it here. The Castaway was once home, it took us away when Tamarind was under attack. Lyran’s, I was told but Mom always told me not to believe it. She was Lyran, Dad was from here. As was his father before, as the case for 6 generations on Tamarind’s except for mom. And she never came back, once she left the Castaway, she never boarded another ship in fact. Which I found odd, her father was a merchant ship Captain all his life.
My vision starts to return, I hear somebody running up the gangway. I turn to see Ed, with a rifle in hand peering around the corner.
“It’s clear” I yell “I found the crew the Pilot is alive, the Captain is knocked out”
“The Marshall is 5 minutes away, let’s get them where it’s safe boss”
As we look to see if the ramp is clear, Ann is jumping out of the loader.
“What the Hell sis?”
“Oh, just say Thank You, and you broke the loading arm last time you can down here. I just didn’t want to hear you whine on the call for rescue.”
She looks around, and smiles “Speaking of rescues, you can thank me twice”
“God I hate it when she gloats, but I have to agree, she is good in a Mech” I tell Ed as we walk down the ramp.
Ed starts laughing, then looks at me “Who the hell are you two?”
“I dunno Ed, I dunno”
Edited by Opus, 12 June 2012 - 08:49 AM.