Caveat Ereptor

by 

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

As far as pirates went, Jack Hoorn was not the brightest star in the constellation. To be sure, what he lacked in reason and forethought, he made up for with guile and spontaneity. Even as he presented his stolen security clearance to the guards at the Telsela Research Station orbiting Proxima Centauri, he had no real plan. All he knew was there were valuable things there, and he aimed to steal a few. He moved though the corridors with an air of entitlement, pausing at all intersections hoping to overhear a conversation between some careless individuals. He hit the motherload when he spotted two laboratory technicians guiding a lev-sled toward him. One man was berating the other because he had almost toppled the one meter in diameter sphere they were transporting. Hoorn almost had an organism when he heard the man say, “Dammit Ed, that prototype cost over one billion credits”. If someone paid a billion to make something, he reasoned, they’d spend millions to get it back. He pulled out his phaser and stunned the two technicians. Then he grabbed the sled controls and started racing down the corridor with his booty. As he hefted the sphere onto his ship, the station’s intruder alarm sounded. “Too late, losers,” he boasted as he took the pilot’s seat and fired up the impulse engines.

His speedy little ship streaked away from the station, but was quickly pursued by a dozen security craft. Hoorn smiled at the large scale pursuit. It meant his prize was definitely valuable. He set a course for Sirius and punched her into warp. In mid-course he reprogrammed the ship to divert to Tau Ceti. After traveling a few more light years, he set a new course to the crab nebula. He was confident that no security ship could follow him through three jumps, and if they did, he could duck into the ionized mass ejecta of the onetime supernova and become invisible to their sensors. After returning to normal space, he piloted his ship into the Helium-rich torus cloud, and shut down everything but his passive sensors and life support. To his surprise, six ships, flying in a tight delta formation, arrived seconds later. Damn, he realized, the Varangian Rangers. He may have underestimated this foe. He shut everything down, including his stolen antique electronic watch.

“Spread out into a reverse diamond arrangement,” ordered the wing commander. “Establish a perimeter of half a billion klicks.”

“I have him on sensors, sir,” announced a seasoned sharpshooter. “Give the word, and he’s toast.”

“Negative, Lieutenant. He’s already toast. There’s no way that moron knows that he stole a star buster. That radiation cloud he thinks he’s hiding in has probably already activated the automated detonation sequence. At this very moment, the device is probably flooding his ship with fusion juice. Just set your recorders on maximum resolution. Let’s at least get the lab boys some useful data.”

Back in his ship, Hoorn was sweating profusely, so he partially unzipped his flightsuit. That’s when he noticed that the sphere was humming. He stood up to investigate, but was overcome with a wave of intense nausea. He collapsed to his knees and began to vomit. The cockpit began to spin as he crumbled to the deck. Even with his eyes closed tight, the light was blinding. The hum became a roar.

“There she goes boys. Pull back at point five cee. Keep recording. This will be quite a show.”

 

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