Here’s a little flash fiction piece I jotted down the other day…
One Last Run by Paul Nevins
“One last run”, he said, “one last run.”
A smarter man would have turned down the job, but then again, a smarter man wouldn’t have been running guns and drugs up to Space Station Alpha One in the first place. Common sense says I should have turned and walked when Little Boss offered me the gig, but, I am who I am, and I do what I do, so I took the job, — and the money, no questions asked.
I knew the risks involved, I’ve been working for Little Boss for ten years now, ten years today, as a matter of fact, so, no surprises there. It’s a tight little operation, my part of it at least, only a few of us involved, strictly pick-up, shut-up and show-up. I see two, maybe three faces throughout the whole exchange, and those are same faces I have been dealing since I’ve been running dark. Ten years on, and I’ll still don’t know their names, but they certainly know mine.
Maybe I do it for the rush of it all, I don’t know. I can’t say I do it solely for the money, I mean, there’s plenty other ways to turn a quick buck other than smuggling. Maybe I’m an adrenaline junkie, I don’t know. All I know is I’m up to my elbows in alligators sitting atop a cargo belly full of zapball stingers and synthetic bleeze, with a pair of Lunar Rangers crushing my groove , one over the com-link and another flashing his lights off my port side.
I’ve got to do something, and fast.
The problem here is not so much the illegal contraband I’m carrying, but the fact I’m piloting an unregistered and uninsured spacecraft without an operator’s permit. I’ve got money issues, what can I say? Once they scan my wrist chip and check my stats, it’s all over for me. By the time they make their way down to the cargo hold and make their big find I’ll already have been shipped out to the penal ward on SS Alpha One, –and once the people I work for get wind of my arrest, –and the loss of their property, it’s lights out for this space cowboy. No matter where I am, or where I hide, they’ll find me. And, if they don’t find me, they’ll find my family.
I can’t let that happen.
Run. That’s my first thought. Break contact and make a mad dash back to Earth. Right now, it’s looking like my best option. The few seconds I’d bought myself by not responding to either the radio or the Ranger are coming to a close. If I’m going to do this, now is the time. I’m well aware that the chances of out-running and evading the Rangers are slim to none, — hell, you can’t out run a radio, not out here at least, but it’s the only chance I’ve got.
So, that’s that.
I’m off to the races.
And, as I’m inputting a new course and speed into my onboard Nav system a woman’s voice cuts through the usual radio chatter.
“Unidentified Cargo Container ZY-456. You are hereby ordered to follow the Lunar Ranger on your port side to the security bay at KRONOS Station. Do you copy?”
Kronos Station, I thought, why Kronos Station? Kronos is corporately owned, the LR’s have never set up shop in a free zone before. What gives? Why in Hades name would they want me to dock there? Why…?
My ship was hit. A distinctive metallic thud followed by an ear-splitting ping reverberated throughout the hull and any thoughts I had of running went by the way side. I’d just been tagged and tethered by the Lunar Ranger off my port side and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I’d taken too long.
The jig was up, the fish was on the hook.
There really wasn’t but one way I could let this play out. Only one way I could keep my family safe from the men I work for and that was to take it to the grave. If I entered the security bay as a D.O.A. word would spread, of that I am certain. Little Boss had eyes and ears all over the docks and bays. Word would get out, I just prayed it would get out in time.
I kept my eyes glued forward as Kronos station loomed larger on the horizon. Every second brought me closer to my demise and I reached under my seat and pulled out the square sterling silver ring box I hoped I would never see again. I opened the lid and stared at its contents.
Two lonely white capsules.
Has it really come to this?
I closed my eyes and thought of my ex-wife and my daughters. I’d never have the chance to make up for the damage I’ve caused. All the years I’ve lost. Chalk it up as yet another promise to them I will have broken. It looks like I’ve blown it once again.
Gingerly, I pick up one of the two and hold it up in front of me and lightly roll it in my fingers. I marvel at its power. How can something so small take me down so fast? Doesn’t matter, I just pray that it does.
Forty-three years I’ve been drawing breath and to tell you the truth, when I woke up this morning I thought I was good for another forty-three, easy.
I guess sometimes you never can tell.
Kronos was a few minutes off the starboard side and I was in tow and therefore able to get up and move around. I scurried about the cabin, deleting files, initiating a data dumps, falsifying records, — the standard stall tactics. It wouldn’t help me much, or stave off the inevitable, but every little act of defiance might help the ex and the kids somewhere down the line. I’m praying Little Boss will see these acts for what they were intended. He pays good money to know.
I sat back down in the captain’s chair for what I knew would be the last time and picked up the silver ring box. I opened the lid and stared at the capsules. Such an innocent looking death.
Kronos loomed larger and my grand exit was only minutes. There’s more than one way to escape, I suppose. I put the capsule in my mouth, but I didn’t bite down. Not yet.
The door to the cabin is thrown open and two Lunar Rangers, armed to the teeth, burst in and drag me from my seat. I’m thrown face first to the ground and my arms are twisted and forced behind my back. In a nanosecond I am yanked back up to my feet and forced back out of the cabin.
Not a word has been spoken.
I am directed toward the hatch and I realize this is it. This is the moment. I have no choice.
I push the gel-capsule around in my mouth.
It has all come to this.
Damn. Damn. Damn.
As I’m lead to the open hatch I close my eyes and bite down hard.
“SURPRISE!” I hear a familiar voice call out.
My eyes fly open. Standing in front of me, holding a cake that reads, “THANKS FOR TEN YEARS OF LOYAL SERVICE” is Little Boss and his posse, — along with my ex, and my kids, and my friends and…