The 5th Day of the Cramps Birthday Week. Luck saves the day. And maybe some skill?
|I’d really gotten myself into it this time. I only had the one job. Keep the microchip safe, get it to Alexi before time ran out. Easy, right?
It would have been. Really it would have, but I’ve got a thing for trying the libations on every planet that I stop off at for refueling. I also like to gamble. I’ve got a one man ship and it can get lonely out there in the cold dark. Not to mention boring as hell. You start to miss the excitement, the adrenaline surge. The idea that you might lose is sometimes more exciting than winning.
Now, I don’t remember losing that microchip in a bet but I’m told it happened. Fair and square, over a game of Empire and a failed bluff attempt. I was told this by the man I’d lost it to. Jakob Friar. It seemed more likely that he’d stolen it from me after I’d had an intense reaction to starlight moonshine and had quit cards for the night. But still, I tried to buy it back. He laughed in my face.
It wasn’t something I could just let go. This chip was designed for one purpose, to program a defense system with the exact information it needed to wipe out the coding system of an enemy alien fleet. Why was there a time-limit? Obviously because, though they’d taken years to traverse space to get to where they could attack us, procrastination won. Our guys didn’t even start work-shopping defense until six months ago. And here we are.
There was no use beating myself up for losing the chip. I’d just have to steal it back.
I know you are wondering how a guy like me even got assigned this gig. I’m a hero, apparently. Though that situation had much more to do with some elegant dumb luck than any kind of skill. But being a hero has enough perks that I wasn’t about to disabuse anyone of the notion. Probably should have.
I hacked into the hanger terminal and found out where Jakob’s ship was headed. I nearly crowed when I saw that he’d been docked for repairs. His ship’s schematic had been uploaded for the mechanics.
I spent some time memorizing the layout of his ship and I caught up with him two planets later. This planet is named Pawn Pirate and is, unsurprisingly, a planet-wide pawn shop. They had high end quarters and low end quarters and a deep black market. Maybe I wouldn’t have to steal it then, could just buy it back. Wish he’d have saved me the trouble and let me buy it back before. But honestly, whatever.
I followed him from the docks. He went into the shadier pockets and back alleys of this world, to a place called Even Money. I waited across the street and watched. He left the building a little later with a sharp grin on his face.
I went in, the greeting bell on the door clanged heavily and I kicked the door shut behind me.
“How can I help you?” said a high, thin and yet somehow also nasal voice.
“I’m in the market . . .” I started but I didn’t get to finish.
The bell over the door clanged again and there was Jakob Friar with two rather imposing thugs flanking him.
“Uh, hi!” I said, overly cheerful.
No one said anything, they just grabbed me by the collar and dragged me back to Jakob’s ship.
Once inside Jakob finally spoke. “Were you looking for this?” he asked and held up the chip.
“Well, obviously.” I said.
“It’s in my best interest that this doesn’t get where it needs to go.” He said.
I looked at him aghast. Firstly, I hadn’t expected him to have the first clue what that chip was for, and also, “Why?” I asked. “Are you just into mass genocide or something?”
He chuckled, though this didn’t seem the time for that. “Hardly.” He said. “There’s just someone that I need killed on Genoa and I can’t get to him there.”
“You’d kill a whole planet just to get to one guy?”
He looked at me levelly. “That’s not even the worst thing I’ve done.”
Yeah. I didn’t need to dwell on that. Ever since hulking things 1 and 2 had dragged me here, I’d been docile as a lamb, hoping that when I wasn’t it would come as enough of a surprise to give me a little bit of wiggle room. Being underestimated and thought of as a drunken buffoon was actually how I’d managed to survive this long. I was hoping it wouldn’t let me down now. It wouldn’t. They hadn’t even bothered to disarm me.
From the schematics I knew the door to the left led to a bend in the hall that I could use for cover.
I waited and hoped for a distraction and it came with an alarm at the console. No idea what that alarm was for but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. What does that expression even mean, anyway?
They all turned to look and I bailed into the hall.
On the whole, I don’t like shooting people unless they are trying to shoot me first. So luckily for me they were shooting and they were, all three of them, terrible shots.
I took them out in under a minute. I’m not a terrible shot. I listened for footsteps. Nothing. I went to Jakob and found the chip on the floor next to his outstretched hand, reaching for it even in death. I took it and ran out and back to my ship.
It took two full days to fly to Alexi.
I jumped out of my terminal in the hanger, hopped a cab to the capitol building and fairly threw the chip at him. He input the information and the defense system mobilized to stop the attack . . . with nineteen minutes to go.