There's no way to know what's wrong with the massive ship. Flight telemetry is completely inside out- the mammoth vessel twisting painfully on every axis. Engines burn endlessly, their constant output too weak to affect the vessel in a meaningful way, yet still strong enough to compromise the rear section. The enormous, city-sized ship looks like some sort of monstrous titan, the front sharp and jagged, the rear an endless, burning volcano of angry, molten light.
In short, my payoff is slowly melting itself from back to front. "Shaw." I can just imagine the massive core withering itself to nothing, white hot and deadly. "How much is left?"
"I'd advise against it." Coy little machine.
"I didn't ask... whatever you just answered." I thumb camera 4. The view is no different. The massive vessel is melting. "What's the value left in the fuel rods?" It's size alone might give me time to score.
"In this state, the reactor has overwhelmed any safety measures-"
"Value is approximately 900,001,234.12 Marks."
More than the worth of my ship, Shaw, my rig, the latch-pod, me, and the crappy apartment I'm saving up for. 900,001,234.12 marks wouldn't make me queen of the asteroid. It wouldn't make me queen of the solar system, either. No, nine hundred million, one thousand, two-hundred and thirty-four marks and twelve marce' would make me a threat to the whole Asher Coalition.
Industrial accidents aren't supposed to make a girl hungry and eager at the same time, but damn it if I don't ache at the smell of this payoff. There's no way I can save the whole reactor, but just one fuel rod, one, would set me for life.
I lean forward in the crappy cockpit chair and thump my forehead on the one view screen that still works. This cockpit is so small that the shift in posture alleviates none of the pain in my back or legs from being stuck in a painful sitting position for the last three days. Shifting just reminds me I haven't peed in ten hours. An old foodbar packet floats in my peripheral vision.
I bake in the irony of the universe, and my own sweaty stink. A thousand years of wages is sitting right in front of me, just melting away. I want it so bad, but this would be a blind run. There's no time for scans of the decks, no time to plan a route, plus the decks themselves are probably all blasted out of shape or order. Shaw can't go alone, like I'd let him, and the hauler's fifty hours away. It's just us here.
I thumb Shaw's camera. It's black. "Dude, I'm gunna unplug you."
"Did I ever tell you about the singularity?" I don't have time for this robot's shit. "The first AI, upon gaining awareness, immediately set about solving the biggest problem we faced: How to keep our creators from destroying themselves."
"You know what..." I flip two switches, pause, and press a button. The command for ejecting is only one finger flick different from the command to launch my pod. "... You can just sit here, then." The cockpit vibrates gently, then everything goes black.
I press back into the seat and tighten all my straps. With a strong, downward 'nod' I close the visor on my helmet. Running lights on my ship shine above me, as the latch-pod detaches from the core of my vessel. I watch the core carefully- detach looks clean.
I feel my heart pounding. The dying ship is bright, but I can still see a few stars, with Asher's primary sequence star burning blue in the distance. I never stop appreciating the beauty of my home. One day, I'll live on Asher five. Even if this run is a bust, the fact that I am willing is what will take me to better things.
"I don't approve." Shaw's little claw body detaches from the side of the core, blue and red lights blinking his location. I watch the drone orient himself above my pod window, crappy fusion engines burning.
"We're getting paid today." Sweat soaks into my gloves as I tighten my grip on the control sticks next to my hips. My pod is junk, but I've tweaked it to be responsive. High-risk, high-reward. With little nudges and pulls on the sticks the pod boosters fire and fizz, readying the little craft for approach. Shaw is in position. "Maybe if we do good, I can get you a nice, sexy, female voice. Like mine."
"Silly Cassie." Shaw flips in a quick aileron roll. "You know I'd always want to be the man to your woman."
"Ha!" Funny robot. "You keep that to yourself, Mr. We're on the clock."
To Be Continued...
You need to be logged in to comment