Tag Archives: spaceport

Episode 154: Flight Delay

Zack and Nectra continued moving the body of The Phantom Matador. Zack had wearied of transporting The Phantom Matador by lifting his limbs quickly, and Nectra had recommended the switch to carrying the criminal by keeping his arms over their shoulders. Appearing to walk side by side, the three trudge through the jungle. Zack was definitely moving slower, and looking paler. He coughed violently and slowed to a stop.

“Hey, mind if we take another break?” he asked. “This heat’s gettin’ to me… maybe Igneous’ ice tub wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.”

“Ice tub? And no, I don’t mind.”

“Yeah, she was… overheating or something? And so she made or bought a kind of hot tub that was cold. Who knows why.”

“Well, I don’t think we can do that,” she said, awkwardly lowering the Phantom Matador’s body to the muddy floor of the alien jungle. “But we can rest a bit. I can even scout ahead if you’d like!”

“Yeah, sure,” said Zack. “Don’t be too long, though. I dunno what Fletch drugged Matty with but it’s not deadly, so he’ll come to eventually. We should both be on the lookout for that.”

“Right,” said Nectra. “I’ll… get our bearings. Make sure we’re on the right path. Ooh, or maybe ask one of those snake people for directions!”

“I dunno how well that’d go over,” said Zack. “I said you might’ve been involved in those murders. Plus you don’t speak the language, do you?”

“Right, the murders… rest here, I’ll be back.”

Nectra’s wings opened, and she pulled her staff off of her back. Using the leverage that it granted, she easily jumped to a low branch, kicked herself even higher, and began gliding away.

Zack watched the flying shangmere until she was out of sight before turning back to The Phantom Matador, half expecting the criminal to already be up and pointing an energy blade at him. Zack reached into his coat, and pulled out a Purcellian Striker.

“Not a bad idea, imaginary Mat,” he said, charging the Striker and aiming it at his prisoner. In time he found a suitably dry log didn’t look poisonous and he sat upon it. Minutes later he drifted off to sleep.

Much earlier, on another world…

Zack checked his passport again before looking out the window. The pilot for his charter plane was running late, and the other two passengers at the private terminal weren’t talkative. One was a haukreen carrying a glowing glass tube over its shoulder, and the other a human wearing a business suit and checking a watch while reading a small pamphlet on the ecological impact of human civilizations on non-human planets.

An orange skinned vantarian neared, the first that Zack had ever seen with his own eyes. The four-legged creature approached, looking comfortable in a captain’s uniform that looked like it had been designed for humans but altered to accommodate humanoid employees. The vantarian tipped its hat.

“Apologies, everyone,” he said. “We can begin boarding now, there was just a last minute charter service that I needed to attend to. Which one of you is Zack Gamma?”

Zack shifted uncomfortably and looked at the other two passengers, who were similarly looking at each other and him. Zack looked back.

“Who wants to know?”

“Oh, it involves the delay,” said the captain, smiling. “Are you Mister Gamma, then? Someone came here to meet you. Is that fine?”

Zack looked at the captain in confusion before glancing at the entrance to the comfortable sitting area that acted as the private terminal’s waiting area. A grizzled, though well-groomed and decidedly sheepish, Azar stood at the door. He raised a hand in a friendly half-wave. Zack returned the gesture and turned back.

“Yeah, yeah that’s fine. I just go through the double doors when we’re done talking?”

“Oh, yes,” said the captain, turning toward the doors himself. “Take all the time you need, he tipped generously to earn a little extra time for your plane before we take off.”

The vantarian walked toward the double doors and the two other passengers followed, eying Zack and the stranger curiously. Zack watched them go as Azar neared, looking almost apologetic.

“Hello, Zack,” he said. “I found your folder and realized you were slipping off without saying goodbye.”

“I said goodbye last night,” said Zack. “And again before you came out to Ravelar with a former pro-wrestler for your secret vacation, if you’ll recall. I don’t belong here.”

“We’re your friends here, Zack. Seems to me you belong where friends are. Plus, if memory serves, you weren’t thrilled with the plan to head to Ravelar.”

“I was wrong about that,” said Zack. “Zamona wasn’t waiting to get you alone to turn in the bounty. Or if he is, he’s playing a longer game, one I wouldn’t expect him to have the patience for.”

“You don’t give him enough credit, Zack. He’s actually very bright.”

“Maybe not. You could see the silver lining of a smog cloud, though, so forgive me for being paranoid. It’s in the job.”

“One you do very well. Stay safe out there, Zack.”

“And you stay safe here. Take care, okay?”

“I will. Goodbye, Zack. And one more thing?”

“Yeah?”

Azar reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, glowing disk, a coin made of energy. Zack recoiled, but Azar was faster, quickly slipping it into Zack’s hand. The detective almost dropped it in surprise.

“Hey!” he shouted, while his brain processed. “Wow, that’s… that’s heavier than I thought. And… almost hot.”

“Hold onto that for me, would you?” said Azar. “I don’t like keeping all my eggs in one basket. One’s in the bank, and the interest alone is paying for everything here… the other I keep with me. And I think that you should take the third.”

“Azar, that’s crazy. This thing should be-”

“In a bank? In a safe? Zack, it does no good in either of those. If I lose one, I have two others. Just keep it until we meet again.”

“Azar, I appreciate that we’ve been through a lot here, but this is a lot of money. You still don’t know that I won’t just run off with it, abandon you, and drop this in a bank somewhere for myself.”

“Are you saying you will?”

“Well, no… but that’s not really the point, is it? You shouldn’t trust someone with this much money.”

“I shouldn’t,” said Azar. “I will though. Bring it back in one piece for a nice bonus. Or use it for expenses.”

Zack looked at the coin and gulped.

“Azar, this technically makes me one of the wealthiest people ever by proxy.”

“It makes you one of the wealthiest people ever literally, at least while you have it. The oddity with wealth is that you need a place to spend it.”

“I can spend it all I like after I finish this job for the monasteries.”

“You can’t spend it in one place, though,” said Azar. “I’ve looked. Look, this is just for emergencies. And after what I read in that red folder you slid under my door-”

“You’re a fast reader if you read all that already.”

“I was in the habit of double-checking the fine print when I signed on for my hazard pay jobs,” said Azar. “Teleporting rigs don’t build themselves, after all. You need to know what you’re getting into.”

“Fair point. Look, Azar, this is still crazy even if you DO trust me.”

“I’ve earned the right to be eccentric, Gamma, and I’d ask you to respect that. We all have lives we want to live, and I’d like to do things that I like to do. Just like you enjoy helping people, and like Zamona enjoys wrestling. Did you hear about his first match the other night?”

“Yeah, it’s crazy,” said Zack. “He was good, they say… though I think it’s bad for our cover.”

“Of course you do,” said Azar. “Look, it’ll be a while before you can access a bank and take payment from me. Just hold onto this in case you need it, all right?”

Zack narrowed his eyes but Azar stared back with large, friendly eyes that lacked any real concern about the world or the reasonable dangers it contained. Zack eventually closed his eyes.

“Fine,” said Zack. “But you’re takin’ this back as soon as we meet again.”

“Do you think that’s likely? Your notes in the red folder were… thorough.”

“Look, just follow those exactly. I’ll keep in touch eventually, I’ll just have to keep tabs on how it unfolds.”

“Are you sure you can do that? It’s a complicated scheme.”

“Hey, did you forget who you’re talkin’ to?” said Zack, taking a step away and tapping his hat with the coin. “Mind like a steel trap. Look, I don’t wanna delay the fine folks on my plane any more, so…”

“Goodbye, Zack,” said Azar. “And good luck.”

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Episode 145: Document Delivery

Mister Mayfair heard the polite cough of Julianna Dawes, the latest administrative assistant to be granted a position working for his division of BristleCorp’s Pando Project. He looked up from his desk and saw the orange-skinned human holding up a document.

“A message for you, Mister Mayfair. It wasn’t marked as urgent, but I took the liberty of treating it as such.”

Mayfair held up a finger and quickly finished scanning the document he was working on. He noted the pertinent corrections onto the context-sensitive interface of his desk and turned to face Dawes.

“Good timing. I have a few minutes here. What’s the issue?”

“You’re familiar with the Dyson Empire’s attacks within the system?”

“It’s hard not to be. Brilliant light show. Our building should be safe from most incidental damages likely to occur in a battle of this sort.”

“Emperor Dyson’s Herald has sent a list of demands to the rulers of Veskid,” said Dawes, handing the document to Mayfair. “It seems that we were included on that list?”

“Oh?” said Mayfair, taking the document and reading it. “That doesn’t make sense. We’re not the only… oh.”

Mayfair read the document, a single piece of paper with text filling only two-thirds of its available space. It had been years since Mayfair had misread something on a document of this nature, but he read it three times just to be certain.

“This can’t be accurate. Surely any reasonable person would know that we can’t do this.”

“Harold Zamona seems to believe that we can.”

“Well, let him know that he’s wrong,” said Mayfair, pushing the document away and onto his desk, where its contents were quickly scanned, registered, and filed away. “Even if we ignored the incredible cost and the unimaginable impact on local economy, we simply don’t have the authority.”

“I know, sir,” said Dawes.

Mayfair drummed the top of his desk.

“Right. Here’s what we do: nothing. We don’t respond, we don’t acknowledge, and we don’t activate. In two hours, remand all employees with a Rho classification or higher to a protective facility unless they have proper clearance to ignore you for this kind of order and choose to ignore you, they should know what they’re doing. Include yourself in this list if you wish, or just take the rest of the day off if you’d prefer. In the event of my death, I have a pre-written letter of recommendation on file for you.”

“Thank you, sir, though it’s hard to imagine working anywhere other than BristleCorp.”

“Good, we might have some career vacancies in the near future. I’m going to call some of my counterparts and let them know what’s happening.”

“Good luck, sir.”

Dawes nodded, turned, and walked for the door of the office while Mayfair reached under his desk. The helmet resembled an old fashioned sky divers helmet, though the interface was decidedly modern. Mayfair lowered the headgear onto his head until it obscured his eyes.

“Conference Call,” he said. “Urgency Level Two.”

Much earlier, on another world…

Zack’s room was as tiny as the rooms in the hotel came, which was still more spacious than the kinds of places he liked working. He shuffled through the documents in for the next DMA assignment, a case involving two sects of different religious groups that had monasteries close enough to each other that one was blaming the other for a series of unfortunate ‘accidents’ that had been increasing in number, one including a death. He kept an older style clock on the nightstand near his bed, one that would tick and remind him of the passing time, since he knew that he had to make it to the space port in order to get through security.

He slid the final documents that would help the case into the green folder, and pushed the folder itself into his new briefcase, a parting gift from Azar. He’d withdrawn his support of Azar’s anonymous case from the Desperate Measures Agency at Azar’s request, marking the case as “complete”, a generic enough description that was accurate enough without giving anything away. Azar would continue paying him personally and had even offered to pay what he’d been paying the Agency, meaning that Zack would be getting a raise now that the DMA wouldn’t be taking its percentage off the top.

Zack turned his attention to the second folder, the red folder. Despite the color of the dyes, Zack noted that the folders had actually been made from abacá when he purchased them, making them genuine manila folders, an extra expense he was willing to spring for. The red folder involved notes from his case with Azar, including some predictive strategies for reacting to likely eventualities while he was gone. He checked it to make sure that everything was in order, sighed, and closed it. Taking a pen, he wrote the word “Eclipse” on the top of the folder so that he could refer to the plans by shorthand in the future without giving away too much of the contents of the documents.

He donned his coat and his hat, grabbed the briefcase and the red folder, and left. He’d decided it would be best to part ways without drawing much attention to it, so he had said his goodbyes to Azar and Harold the previous night. This didn’t stop him from passing Azar’s door on the way to the elevators, though, and as he moved in front of the door he carefully slid the red folder beneath it.

His business concluded, he walked to the elevator. The early hour meant he hadn’t seen a soul since leaving his room, and the bellhop carrying the suitcase inside the elevator was almost startling. He recovered quickly and tipped his hat to the bellhop as he entered the elevator, and the bellhop gave a friendly salute in return.

“Going down?” asked Zack.

“No, but we can head down first. We’ve got an early arrival, but I don’t think they’ll be finished checking in for a few minutes yet, so I’ve got the time.”

“Thanks, pal,” said Zack as the doors closed. He pushed the down button and felt the shift in inertia as it began to descend. “Thanks for the attention to detail while I’ve been here, by the by. This company’s a real tight ship.”

“We aim to please. I take it you’re leaving then?”

“Yeah,” said Zack. “I’ve got a plane to catch.”

“Not a ship?”

“No, I’m leaving the spaceport by plane. They have some small charter ones if you’re just going elsewhere on the world.”

“You sure you want to do that?” asked the Bellhop. “I’ve heard that outside the parts that are dedicated to tourism this world can be a little rough.”

Zack grinned as the elevator stopped and the doors slid open.

“What can I say?” he said, stepping into the lobby. “Duty calls.”

Episode 90: The Amber Sting

“The special… ‘seating’ you requested was simple enough to install,” said Amela, looking out from the back of the luggage compartment of the trolley that ferried cargo between ships at the spaceport. A spaceport employee was dutifully driving them both, knowing enough to not listen to the conversation taking place behind him.

“Good,” said Igneous, warily looking out across the open space between ships.

“I hope it’s fine that we put it in the cargo hold instead of with the seating. We don’t offer many passenger seats, and under the circumstances…”

“It’s fine,” said Igneous. “I’m not a big mingler.”

“Naturally, I imagine that you have some contingency plan for retribution in the event that we double cross you while you are indisposed, so rest assured that the Yellow Jackets are professionals and you’ll reach Mandrake safely. Barring the standard risks of space travel and smuggling operations, of course.”

“Of course. Why did you name the vessel Amber Sting?”

Amela blinked, not sure about the change in questioning.

“I’m sorry?”

Igneous pointed one of her coal-red fingers out the side of the trolley at the nearing saucer-style ship.

“I’m curious about the name. You’re the Yellow Jackets, it’s got a yellow hull, so I understand Amber, but none of the weapons look small-but-potent or sharp enough to be called Sting. Unless you’ve got hidden weaponry. Or is it a metaphor for how the Yellow Jackets operate? Sting operations?”

“No, it’s… we’re the Yellow Jackets. It’s an animal from Earth, it has a stinger. Yellow Jackets are like wasps or bees.”

“Ah! I see. I know about bees. Do Yellow Jackets also make honey?”

Amela looked at the saucer as they drew nearer to it.

“I actually don’t know. We just liked the name when we started up, and it’s served us well. Vara suggested it, she probably knows more than I know.”

“Not important. How many others on the saucer?”

“Pilot and copilot, two other passengers, four guards. One of the other passengers is even going to Mandrake.”

“Mandrake? But why?”

“I could ask you the same.”

“Don’t get cute, human,” said Igneous. “I need secrecy.”

“We always assume that,” said Amela. “This client even paid us instead of threatening us like you did.”

“Is your client a human female? Cybernetic reticle over one eye? I wouldn’t expect her, but-”

“Not human, not female, no reticle,” said Amela. “Not that it’s your business.”

“Good. That’s my only concern. I’m sorry, I’ve got some complications that I need to avoid.”

“Don’t we all,” said Amela. “Anyway, if you’re, uh… ‘cold tub’ stops working with the ice, we have liquid nitrogen in a container nearby, as per your request, and all of it will be easily unloaded onto Mandrake. You’ll have to hook up the nitrogen yourself, but it should only take a minute or two outside of the tub.”

“That’s fine,” said Igneous. “If I can’t last a minute like that, then I’m already too far gone. Your pilot has my instructions for where and how to set me down onto Mandrake?”

“Yes, and the Amber Sting will be scanning for any signals like that when it enters an appropriate range.”

“Good,” said Igneous. “Let them know to speak to me if there are any troubles on following my instructions.”

The trolley pulled up to the cargo ramp of the saucer and Amela nodded toward the ice-filled tub.

“I’m ready to lock you up now, safe and sound for the trip. Anything else before boarding?”

“I trust you to be professionals about this,” said Igneous. “And as you said, the warning isn’t even necessary. But don’t double-cross me.”

“Right,” said Amela. “Let’s get you in the tub.”

***

Vox Cul-Dar leaned back into the chair. It was cramped by human standards, but he found it comfortable enough. The pilot of the Amber Sting approached, looking over his itinerary.

“Is there a problem?” asked Vox.

“These instructions for your destination and retrieval, I’m not sure that-”

“Don’t worry about me,” said Vox. “I can survive on Mandrake.”

“Yes, but step one of your instructions for finding the site to drop you only rules out half the planet.”

“The later instructions refine it in greater detail.”

“Yes, but are you sure that you’ll be able to get to where you’re trying to go?”

“Not at all,” said Vox. “But I do believe that I can make do under the circumstances.”

Episode 89: Spaceporter

Igneous passed the numismachip to the red-uniformed porter behind the glass, taking care not to let her arm linger. The desk would probably be fine, but scorch-marks could be difficult to clean. The porter gingerly took it into her hands, feeling the incredible heat pouring off of Igneous’ skin. She put the chip into her computer for analysis.

“I have the van in space ninety-four,” she said.

“Got it,” said the porter. “The scanners already registered you, I just confirm it.”

“Thank you,” said Igneous, turning to walk away.

“Hey, are you okay? You look like you could use a doctor.”

“Thank you,” repeated Igneous, looking over her hulking shoulders. “I probably could. But I’m in a hurry.”

“Don’t you want the chip back?”

“They’re cheap enough, I really don’t-”

“There’s a lot more than you need on here,” said the porter, looking at her screen. “A lot more. Was this the right chip?”

“It was,” said Igneous. “Keep the rest for yourself. It’s a tip.”

“This isn’t-”

“I really won’t be needing it.”

“Hey, wait,” said the porter, rising from her chair and moving to the door of her office. “Don’t-”

“Stop,” said Igneous, turning back to the window. “Honestly. I don’t need the chip. I won’t be dying without a doctor, I’m just… do you know about Pyrhian metamorphosis? I’ve been taking pains to keep it from happening. I can’t stave it off much longer without the right treatment, and no regular doctor can provide that. I have days or hours if I can stay calm, hours or minutes if I don’t. Please don’t give me the stress of being late for my flight.”

The porter stopped unlocking the door and raised an eyebrow. After a moment she returned to her seat.

“My apologies,” she said. “Thanks for your generosity. Enjoy your trip.”

Igneous nodded and walked to the levipad that would take her up to the starport proper. As she lifted through the air and vanished out of sight, another customer, fresh from having parked his car, neared the porter’s station. He smelled brimstone in the air, and could feel an unusual warmth, but brushed it off as unimportant. The porter mentally shifted back into work mode.

“Space eighty-two,” said Vox Cul-Dar, sliding paper money onto the tray.

“Yes,” said the porter grabbing the money. “The computer’s already scanned it, I’ll just confirm it for you.”

“Thanks,” said Vox, his insect-like claws tapping on the counter. The porter seemed agitated, but it wasn’t important right now. All that mattered was Gamma, and the poisonous surprise in his luggage.

“Keep the change,” he added. “How long is it good for?”

“You can rent a week with this,” she said.

“Good. I shouldn’t need that long.”

He walked away from the counter and stood on the levipad. Moments later, he drifted up to the spaceport.