A Quantum Jam

Stepping into my Aurora I was dizzy with excitement, or maybe dizzy from that dose of Neon still running through my system. I’m so jacked up right now, but almost sober enough to fly this crate out of here. Still nagging at the back of my mind is a question. THE Question. Why would someone gift me a ship?

I searched the Aurora as best I could in my current state of mind. Half-drunk and still reeling from a Neon party, I’ve got my own issues with concentration right about now. As far as I can tell the ship is clean. No drugs, no alcohol, no obvious dangerous tech lying about.

Apart from the blood stains near the bed in back, I’d say this ship looks pretty clean. What’s the deal? I’ve read that personal message a dozen times by now:

Skotadi, when you wake up, clean yourself up and collect your gift. We have something for you, like we talked about. We think you’ll like it, it’s waiting for you in the hangar. – LoTLHP

“We have something for you.” Clearly this isn’t a gift from a person, but from a group. A group that goes by LoTLHP. Why does that sound familiar? Yet my mobi has nothing on them. No match for LoTLHP.

If only I could remember that conversation with that guy. It was so late last night. He bought me a few drinks to chase down a few other things… Medicine. I remember staggering to my Hab and passing out. But it had to be that guy.

I was so twisted last night that I never looked him in the face. I do remember his sleeve… the cufflink caught my eye. I was pondering swiping it, looked pretty expensive with that emerald stone in the center. Was he wearing a suit? No matter. I’ve got my ship, screw him.

Engines on… Flight Ready…. Take off.

Something’s up. As soon as I left the station, I noticed a ship hanging around. Lingering just out of firing range, it seemed to be waiting for me to leave the safety range. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I decided to plot a course and run the Spooler. Once ready – I punched Quantum Drive…

I’d been in the stream for a few minutes, when the whole thing collapsed, spinning me sidewise in the void of space. The sound of my shields getting tapped by some asshat really put a damper on my newfound freedom.

I started shooting back, but this load out had little in firepower. Reminded me of the old days, only in the old days I had some beefier guns.

“You don’t want to end up like Emperor Xy.ō,” he said laughing. This memory of the last night just flooded me with fear. I was lost, chasing this fragmented conversation. It sounds absurd, but the killer hammering down on me with payload after payload, simply became background noise. I was lost in this memory of that strange guy at the bar. He was talking about the Spirit Wars. Laughing and sipping on a drink. I could barely keep my head up, forcing a smile, eyes almost shut, I giggled in response. Everyone knows the story of Emperor Xy.ō…. how she was obliterated by Kr’Thak. In an instant, the entire line of the Xy.ō were gone. I don’t know why, but that comment made me think of Nancy. I remember her laughing in the sunlight. Real sunlight, on a real planet. Our home. It was that day she was visiting us. I miss those days….

Do you need assistance! Screw it, engaging shooter….

The screaming yell of a pilot on my intercom brought me back to my impending death. Forward shields were gone. Another ship had arrived. He was positioning himself between me and my attacker. Fending off attacks he was throwing some heavy fire around. I tried to make a break for it, but my thrusters threw me right into a volley of explosions. I don’t know if it came off his ship or the attacking one. Didn’t matter. Either way my ship was hit hard. The shockwave pushed me hard right, and I over compensated with the thrusters, shoving me rapidly to the left, right into the attacking ship.

When we connected, something terrible happened. I heard a sound of metal buckling, and his ship cracked wide open. Another volley from my anonymous friend, and the attacker’s ship exploded around me. The red glow painted my cabin in hues of amber, and then I saw the shape of my brand new ship.

Alarms were blaring. I attempted to reengage the Quantum Drive, only to hear, “Quantum Drive jammed.” Damn it! More red dots appearing on radar. What the hell is going on? Why am I getting hammered so close to a station?

There it was, the last thing I’d see of a wasted life – several rockets headed right at my cockpit. Pounding the thrusters, I wasn’t moving fast enough. Too bad I used up all the Neon. Not even a bottle to wash down my last moments. I didn’t feel the explosion, just the push of my ship as it began to sheer apart…. then came the darkness.

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