A Smuggler’s Story, Part 3

Hello again, here we are with the third installment of A Smuggler’s Story and my entry for the word prompt “Forest” on Rachael Ritchey’s #blogbattle!

A Smuggler’s Story, Part 3

“I think I’m going to be sick,” I groaned aloud, leaning into the braking couch, staring through the forest of trash that I hadn’t bothered to remove from the ship’s cabin in probably a year. I had always had other priorities. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

“Well if you had fixed the stabilizers you wouldn’t be having an issue right now,” my guidance system snapped.

He was right. The craft shuddered the way it did because the braking was uneven. Only slightly, but when you’re decelerating from near half-light-speed, being slightly off is a problem. The other stabilizers were having to compensate for the one bad one, and that was creating a rhythmic throbbing that was turning my stomach. “Shut up Lars,” I said.

“You know I’m right,” he spat.

“Yeah, but I can’t go back in time and do anything about it, so… can it. I was trying to save money.” I brought the cig I had been holding in my right hand to my lips and sucked on it, but it was cold. “Dammit.”

“You shouldn’t be smoking anyway, it’s going to make you sicker.”

I fished in my pocket for a lighter. “Didn’t think you cared, I’m touched.”

“I don’t really, but the sicker you are, the more I have to listen to you complain, and I’ve got my own problems.”

I snickered and then winced as that made another wave of nausea wash over me. Lars loved to talk. And when I complained, I think he enjoyed rubbing in the reason for my misery. “Alright Lars,” I said sarcastically, “I’ll leave you alone to concentrate.” I lit the dead cig and took a long drag, breathing out the smoke with a growl. Lars was right again; the smoke made me sicker. I looked down at the white envelope resting on the couch next to me as I sucked on the cig for a second time. “Hey Lars,” I said, “Have you sighted any outposts?”

“Yeah,” he said, his mechanical voice laced with acid. “I told you that like an hour ago. We’re headed straight for it. Should reach it in thirteen hours and thirty-six minutes given the present deceleration rate.”

“Right, but I mean, have you sighted any other outposts besides the one we’re headed toward?”

He hesitated. “Well, yes, there’s one solar northwest, and deeper into the cloud, and there’s another one at a similar depth but way to the east. The one we’re heading toward is the closest given our current position. Why?”

“Nothing, I’m just trying to get a feel for the layout. The one we’re heading to, can you scan it yet?”

“Yep, several structures mounted on an asteroid roughly two-point-seven miles wide.”

I nodded. “That sounds good.”

“You worried about an ambush?”

A long strip of ripped cardboard fell into my lap. The vibrations had worked it loose from where it had been wedged precariously under several other pieces of trash. I kicked it away from me. “No, not really. We’re not exactly an imperial fleet. Plus, even if we were ambushed I don’t think it would turn out badly for us. We’re not enemies. Also, it seems like a waste of resources to build an entire set of structures like the ones on that outpost strictly to be a decoy. No, the outpost is real. We may not be readily welcomed into it, but it’s real.”

“I just sent a message to them introducing you. They’ll get it in about half an hour, and the reply will take about fifteen minutes for us to receive it, based on where we will be at that point. So in forty-five minutes we’ll know more.”

I felt the burning ember on the end of my cig creep up and start heating the sides of my fingers. I ground the butt into the braking couch, which was already dotted with cig burns, and squeezed my eyes shut against the flopping of my stomach. “Show me the outside, Lars. I need a distraction.”

I opened my eyes again to look at a display a few feet in front of me, hazy with the smoke lingering in the cramped cabin, revealing multiple views from different parts of the ship. One was pointed at Sol. The others were all looking at an intense star field. Ever been out in the countryside on a clear night? Know how there seems to be more star than blackness? Yeah it was like that, only even more intense. And I couldn’t begin to appreciate it. I just stared at it, sweating and thinking about the lead-like knot inside my ribcage.

An eternity later, the speakers crackled with a response from the outpost we were headed toward. “Yes, Thomas Jeck, pilot of the cargo ship Lamassu, you are welcomed to the Wohl Outpost of district forty-three. We will assist you in docking upon your arrival.”

“Ugh,” I groaned. “I don’t like the sound of that.”

“What’s your problem?” Lars demanded. “That was a fine welcome.”

“Yeah,” I said, fumbling around behind the braking couch for a plastic bucket. “That’s the problem. Too easy.”

Copyright 2016 Grace Petrelli


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