Stories Hub / Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Three Square Meals Ch. 01

Three Square Meals Ch. 01

by Tefler 12/20/15

John smiled as the mine owner plugged in an auth device to his Ship's logging manifest and pressed a couple of buttons confirming the transaction. John was right on the outskirts of the outer rim and currently landed on a mining colony known as Karron, a huge asteroid in the process of being hollowed out to extract the mineral wealth stored within.

John cast his mind back to that eventful day over 2 months ago. He had been back in the Core Worlds having a drink at a local bar, well known for its tolerant attitude to the odd and eccentric. His companion was a drunk deep spacer he had befriended years before.

The gnarled old spacer was called Jonah, or 'Mad Jonah' to the other regulars in the bar, who strongly suspected the poor unfortunate had gone space crazy years ago. John liked the old timer though and would spend hours listening to his wild stories of incredible sights beyond the outer rim. On this particular night, Jonah had recently returned from his latest jaunt into deep space and had been recounting a lurid time spent in a brothel on Karron.

"I tell you John, those worm girls have magic hands! I ain't never felt anything like what these pale skinned jezebels could do to a fella!"

'Worms' was slang for the residents of mining colonies, who often received no sunlight for years. Living underground in homes with no direct access to the Sun, resulted in most miners being pale skinned to the point of albinism.

"You should head over there youngster and see for yourself. Tell Madame Trixie I say hi!" Jonah said, coupled with a theatrical wink and a guffaw.

John nodded obligingly, having no intention of heading that far out on the rim. He had initially objected to being called youngster, having just hit 40 last month, but he supposed everyone must seem young to the octogenarian and let Jonah continue.

"Ahh if only I were a younger man, I would have stayed there longer, but I figured I best skedaddle before those strumpets were the death of me. The ticker isn't quite up to as much exertion as it used to be." Jonah added with a snicker.

Suddenly Jonah's booze induced stupor seemed to temporarily clear and he leaned into John conspiratorially. The old man's breath was toxic enough to be classified as a bio-hazard.

"It might be worth your while heading there besides those worm gals, youngster. One night I was hanging out in Madame Trixie's parlour and a couple o' them miners came rollin' in havin' drunk up a storm. They were out celebratin' and lookin' to round out the night with some pleasures of the flesh. I got to chattin' with those fellas and seems like they had stumbled on a whole heap of Tyrenium."

At this, John's ears pricked up. John already had pointy ears due to his unusual parentage, but his already pointy ears manage to prick up nonetheless.

Tyrenium was a key component of plasma cores, used to power top of the line military grade ship weaponry. It was sufficiently rare and in such huge demand that the price for a ton of the element was astronomical to the right buyers.

John had stayed with his old friend for as long as could be considered polite before bidding him farewell. He sprinted back to the dock where his Freighter was parked, his heart hammering with excitement. He knew he had to move fast on this one. John dashed across the boarding gantry, quickly tapping the access code to the airlock to gain entry to his ship, the 'Fool's Gold'. His hands were shaking as he entered the navigation coordinates to Karron and he forced himself to take a deep breath to steady himself so that he could be sure there were no mistakes when plotting his course. The route he was taking would take over a month and travelling this far to the outer rim held many hazards for the unwary...

The mine owner, Seb Mortimer, cleared his throat pointedly and John was brought out of his reverie. The deal was now struck and John shook the man's proffered hand. John had ransacked every rainy day account he had to fund this transaction, every last credit of his life's savings were now sunk in to this deal.

John had managed to purchase 10 tons of Tyrenium at a ludicrously cheap rate, but it was still expensive enough to bring a huge grin to Seb's face. John suspected that being this far out on the borders of known space, Seb was unaware just how valuable this element could be. Then again he undoubtedly didn't have the exotic military connections that John did. The two men shared an amiable drink of whisky to seal the deal, before John left the mine owner's office to oversee the loading of his cargo.

John strolled over to the waiting trucks that had been loaded with his haul of Tyrenium and nodded to the driver as he climbed up into the cabin of the lead vehicle. The huge truck roared into life and John felt the thrumming of the powerful engine as they pulled away.

Karron was a bleak and inhospitable colony, being so far away from the centre of human galactic civilisation. The brief journey from the mine to the star port provided a grim tour of the dark, grubby and dilapidated slums that had built up in the hollowed out asteroid. John felt glad that he would be leaving this depressing place in a couple of hours.

He was in such a hurry to leave, that he never did get a chance to visit Madame Trixie's and John wondered if the establishment really would live up to his old friend's claims. Mad Jonah did have more than a few odd tastes though, so he figured he probably wasn't missing much and certainly avoiding plenty of potential mishaps by giving the place a pass.

The trucks promptly arrived at the star port and after a quick dialogue with the guards and the deck officer, the industrious miners had loaded the cargo of Tyrenium aboard the Fool's Gold. John waved the miners goodbye and sealed the cargo bay doors. He set the controls in the Cargo bay for auto-decontamination and then strode purposefully to the cockpit.

John slumped in the pilot's chair and punched in the course for home, before activating the auto pilot to disembark from the asteroid. The ship's engines roared into life and the old freighter seemed to groan in protest as it took off. It slowly cleared the rough hewn entrance to the docking bay, cruising out into the welcoming blackness of space. John let out a big sigh and was finally able to relax now that the deal was done and he had the cargo of Tyrenium secured safely in the ship's hold.

He stared out of the cockpit as the ship groaned and lurched into hyper-warp. Surprisingly he still felt twitchy, which he assumed was due to the adrenalin wearing off after the excitement of brokering such a life changing deal, so he stood and headed to his cabin to take a much needed nap.

John unbuckled the harness to his heavy pistol and carefully unholstered it, before placing it on the rack of weaponry in his cabin. He pressed his thumb to the lock and the door on the weapon locker swished closed. Deep space could be a dangerous place, with marauding pirates and the occasional misunderstandings with aliens, so it was sensible to be prepared in the case of a hostile boarding action.

The cabin was meticulously clean, courtesy of one of John's personality quirks. He liked to keep his ship obsessively tidy and couldn't abide leaving mess anywhere. The rooms and corridors of the ship were kept spotless, which was handy with avoiding contamination, but took plenty of hours to maintain. After a soothing shower to clean away the dust and stink of the colony, John collapsed onto his wide bed on crisp, pristine sheets and fell asleep.

Several hours later after a nice relaxing sleep, John awoke feeling horny. He was hard as steel and ready for action. This came as quite a surprise, as John had spent years meditating to avoid getting into these kind of states. With his parentage being what it was, he couldn't be too careful. He sat up and assumed a meditative pose, clearing his mind and focusing on being calm and at peace. The horniness abated as did his erection, so John got up, got dressed and went about his normal routine.

A couple of days passed, with John awakening each morning to a rock hard surprise. Each day it was getting more difficult to maintain his self control, but he went through his meditation rituals and gradually calmed himself. He had been travelling for four days now, having left Karron far behind and he decided to check on his precious cargo.

The door to the cargo bay opened with a self satisfied clank. Down in the cargo hold everything seemed ok, but John felt on edge. Standing on the gantry overlooking the ship's hold, he felt alert, focused, pensive, wary; he had great instincts and they were all telling him that something was wrong. He backed out of the cargo bay and hurried to his cabin to collect some weaponry. John grabbed his broad muzzled auto shotgun, perfect for up close work in the confined quarters of a spacecraft and slammed in a clip. The autoshot hummed to itself happily for a few seconds as he flipped the power button on the grip and a holographic targeting grid appeared above the weapon. John turned back into the corridor and jogged briskly back to the hold.

Inside the cargo bay, John flicked on Infrared on the scope and did a quick sweep of the hold with his shotgun. He could see nothing untoward in the targeting grid, looking for any telltale signs of red, signifying heat, and seeing only cool shades of blue. He turned to the adjacent wall mounted panel and cranked the illumination of the hold up to maximum. Careful not to look up at the blinding overhead lights, John searched the room thoroughly. It was not until he returned to the doorway panel that he noticed a faint dusty scuffmark on the other side of the door. Having meticulously scrubbed that section of floor in an OCD fury before landing, he knew that someone or something had come aboard with the cargo at Karron.

John resealed the cargo bay and began to sweep the ship. The Fool's Gold was not huge, having only the cockpit, his cabin, the hold, a secondary cabin, his recreation room and the ships storage. He found no signs of life in the cabins or cockpit and there wasn't anywhere to hide in the recreation room, consisting as it did of a dining table, a comfy sofa and a small but functional kitchen. That meant his interloper was in the storage room. John took a deep breath and readied himself for action before stepping into the doorway of the final room. Raising his auto shotgun, he looked through the scope and the targeting grid depicted the room in expected blues, with the occasional red glow from the overhead lights. He turned slowly, carefully checking any potential hiding places through the scope, until he finally faced a storage compartment near the back of the room. A telltale red glow was edging the door to this particular compartment, signifying a warm presence inside.

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