Short Science Fiction story
Xeno landed his small craft perfectly, without so much as one corrective counter rocket burst, until the very last moment when he needed them to come to a complete stop. He was showing off. The Intergalactic High Court of Law and Criminal Processing was probably not the best place to show off his piloting skills, but Xeno felt obligated to show off, since he had just received a credit transfer amount—twice verified— of more than he had made in the last year trying to break into the smuggling business. That was on top of the usual Uperb rate, a contract between him and his fare, Uperb couldn’t touch it. And with a promise of the same amount to be paid for the return flight, the least he could do, was demonstrate to the three fine gentlemen who hired him they made an excellent choice.
He agilely jumped out of the cockpit and released the door to the passenger compartment. The three men quickly got out of the craft and walked off at a brisk pace towards the busy hub, to do whatever kind of business had brought them to the High Court. He seriously doubted they held any sort of position in law. If he was forced to be honest about it, his fare came off as distinctly shifty. But Xeno was comfortable around shifty, some of his very best friends were shifty, and as long as the credit was good he wouldn’t allow himself to think about the men in any other terms than ‘fine gentlemen’.
Xeno leaned against the hull, prepared to wait as long as it took, and pulled a battered flat case out of his flight-suit. He opened the case and took out a crystal straw. It didn’t even bother him that he was down to three straws. He could buy a new pack now. He could even buy the blue ones, if he wanted to. Wouldn’t that look classy. He shook the straw until it glowed a soft orange. He then brought the straw to his mouth, happily inhaling the vapors, while mentally listing the things he would improve once he got paid for the return trip. Upgrades to his ship’s engine. A brand new flight suit. Maybe even go all out and get the latest version communicator installed on it.
Who knew being a Uperb pilot would turn out to be so lucrative? He had only taken the job, reluctantly, because cargo had dried up and he was fairly certain he could not go longer than 6 months without food — one reason his kind never were the best explorers. He had to smile at the irony of making his fortune flying to the last place he would have wanted to see in his previous chosen profession. Probably the last place he would have ever seen, had he been taken here involuntarily. The universe always did have a sense of humor.
Ex’rel watched the pilot bring down his craft with great skill and precision. He had made it a habit to notice competence. Aside from it being an advantage in this universe where so many were unable to make good on their promises, he genuinely enjoyed watching a master at work. This pilot obviously knew how to fly. He was surprised to see the pilot was a Saurion. Subsequently, his surprise surprised him, and he quickly turned his third eye inward to see where this prejudice stemmed from.
His self-reflection didn’t last very long. Ex’rel’s remaining two eyes remained locked on the Saurion Uperb pilot, following him as he opened the passenger compartment of his ship to let his fare out. When Ex’rel saw the three men get out of the plane, he immediately became uneasy. He felt he recognized them. They were wearing some sort of disguise, but their energy was one he had encountered before. These three required the use of his third eye to properly observe.
Ex’rel watched the men walk past with all of his eyes, until they disappeared among the moving crowd. It was possibly worse than he had thought. These man would be bad news for everyone who got tangled up in their affairs. Ex’rel started moving towards the skilled pilot, keeping his third eye warily on the bustling terminal
Xeno had just finished his straw, when he saw a See’er walking — crawling, slithering, whatever it was those people did under those robes — towards him. He flicked the empty crystal away from him and fidgeted with his flight-suit. See’ers gave him the creeps. It was well enough that the third eye of this one was focused somewhere else, turned almost one hundred eighty degrees on it protruding stalk. He waited for the See’er to change direction. After a while it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. The See’er intended to speak with him.
“Sorry mate,” Xeno said before Ex’rel could speak, happy to have an honest excuse, “I’m reserved. You will have to find another Uperb.”
“I have transportation,” Ex’rel replied, “I simply wish to know if you are waiting for those same men who just exited your ship.”
Xeno nodded. “That’s right. They paid me really well to get here. And they promised to pay me really well to get away from here.”
Ex’rel sighed. “Those men have no intentions of keeping their promise.”
“Hey mate,” Xeno said, offended on behalf of his fare, “you can’t go around doubting a gentleman’s word like that without evidence. It’s just not right.”
Xeno saw the See’er’s third eye turn towards him and stare at him. He felt weirdly naked in it’s gaze. Then it blinked and turned back around.
“Listen to me,” Ex’rel said, sounding solemn and urgent, “Those men are nothing but trouble. If you let yourself get further involved trouble will find you, too. Here is my advice. Take your earnings, get into your space craft and leave right now, while you still can.”
Xeno shook his head. “I can’t do that, mate. I gave my word. But don’t worry. I can take care of myself.”
“If you won’t take my advice, then take my contact information,” Ex’rel said, producing a micropod from his robes. “You will need it.”
Xeno took the micropod after a short moment of hesitation and placed it on his communicator. The pod quickly took root and merged into the top panel. Within a second there was no trace left of the micropod. A second after that, Ex’rel’s information hologram got projected in the air above the communicator.
“Ex’rel Noxa,” Xeno read out loud, smiling. “You’re a solicitor?”
The See’er nodded.
“What kind of solicitor goes around offering unsolicited free advice?” Xeno asked amused.
“I am competent enough to be able to afford some pro bono work here and there”
Pro bono; what was pro bono again? Free? I bet it means free. Why doesn’t he just say that? But See’ers never did talk normally, did they? “Hey, can I ask you a personal question?”
“How did your people get obsessed with a Terran language that had been dead long before Terra ever joined the intergalactic community?” Xeno asked curiously. He had wondered about this before. He watched the See’er’s third eye roll back in it’s socket and immediately regretted asking the question. That was some seriously creepy shit.
The eyes rolled back and looked at Xeno. “For its simple complexity” Ex’rel answered.
“Okay,” Serves me right for expecting an answer that makes sense. “Anyway, thanks for the contacts. That will come in handy when I need help managing the credits I will receive after this trip.” With a few taps, the communicator turned off. “Have a good one, Ex’rel”
The See’er held up his three slender fingers in a greeting. Xeno waved, shrugged, and decided he should sit in his cockpit to wait. There would be less chance of weird and creepy encounters that way.
Some minutes later the station suddenly shook with several large bangs, followed by a lot of screaming and commotion. What was that? Meteor impact? Why didn’t the shield protect us? Xeno leaned forward in his seat, trying to see what was happening. People were running around in panic. Then he saw flashes of weapons discharged among the crowd. Oh, shit. That’s not a meteor, that’s a shootout. Did someone make an attack on the courts? That’s insane. He was still deciding if he should get out of the cockpit or stay put, when he reallized the commotion and flashes were moving his way. Not long after three figures broke free from the crowd, running in his direction. With horror he watched them fire blindly behind them. Is that…Oh no, Oh shit. As the running figures got closer he started to make out details. He started to recognize them. It were definitely the men he had been waiting for. He sat frozen on the spot, as he saw the men get closer, followed by other men in uniforms, who were shooting back at his fare. As he watched, one of the men was hit in the back and fell to the ground. The other two, fired wildly at the cops, yelling and screaming, getting ever closer. But some of the guards were closing in on them.
Xeno found himself wishing he had taken the solicitor’s advice, while he quickly ran trough the start-up procedure. Maybe it was not too late to get away. A second man was shot down. While his engine roared to life, he watched two guards tackle the third. He saw the other guards come in, running, weapons drawn, yelling and pointing in his direction as he lifted off and turn the ship around in one of his tightest turns yet. Oh shit oh shit…
Xeno didn’t get far. A small fleet of much faster, law enforcement vessels were blocking the exit of the dock, their weapon bays open, fire power all charged and aimed on Xeno’s ship.
Ex’rel’s communicator was blinking. He leaned back in his office chair and answered it. A holographic projection of Xeno’s defeated face promptly appeared.
“Greetings,” Ex’rel said pleasantly, “I was expecting your communication.”
“That’s great Ex’rel,” replied Xeno darkly, “You know they are only giving me one.”
“I understand,” the See’er nodded. “I am offering my full services. But I do hope you realize, my friend, that my advice is no longer free.”