Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

We had endured the slum for generations now. I came from a long line of survivors. Here behind the tattered patchwork fence of our family compound we had fought off countless invaders. But we wouldn’t have to worry about such things anymore. It was almost time.

And the moment couldn’t arrive any sooner as government food drops had been recently cut back even further. Folks were getting desperate.

When father had originally set up shop all those years ago here next to the maglev track with all of its noise and vibration people had thought him crazy. But there had been a method to his madness.

Everyone finally gathered in the courtyard… relatives and close friends, the people I had known all my life. We held hands as father recited a quick ceremonial prayer. I looked over as labor bots rolled the rusty hanger doors aside. It was the first time they had been open in decades. Father turned to the dozens of people in his extended family and shouted, “All aboard!”

The sun shone on the nose of the space freighter with its dusty cockpit windows. It was clearly aimed at the massive steel ramp erected next to the maglev track. It all seemed so unlikely. How could this possibly work?

I for my part held no doubt though, because I was the gunner. I had been practicing all my life. I could lasso a bird at half a kilometer with one eye closed. This would be easy for me.

The industrial transport engine block was already loaded into the starboard zip launch. I took careful aim at the maglev track and pulled the dual triggers. There was a dusty recoil and the thousand-kilo hunk of scrap sailed upward to its apex, and thumped down perfectly onto the huge track high above. Less than a minute later we heard the train.

There was no doubt that the automated system would follow protocol. Sure enough we watched the distant vehicle slow to a halt. We could not perceive the train’s custodial bots as they disembarked to retrieve the engine block. But we watched the shape grow in the sky as the hunk of metal careened back toward the compound. It made a good-sized crater as it crashed to the ground near our main gate.

“She’s on the move boy, get ready!” shouted father’s voice into my earpiece. I did not hesitate or falter, moving over to the portside zip launch seat. Two kilometers of coiled carbon rope attached to a Targathian grappling hook awaited my command.

I had to concentrate as all around me the derelict freighter’s long unused engines roared to life. Through the scope I saw the glimmer of the quickly debarking sonic train, and launched my projectile. There were long and painful seconds before the grappling hook burrowed itself deeply into its target. Then we all cringed and waited.

There was a whip, whip, whip, as the last of the coils unfurled, then a mighty twang as the nearly indestructible rope became taut.

We all felt it in our guts as the ship lurched forward with a metallic scream. In a second we were racing up the long ramp, hot sparks accompanying our progress, and then in another instant we were airborne.

My last official duty of the launch was to make sure that once we passed the speeding train far below I detached the carbon rope. I executed this flawlessly. Soon after I would be able to relax for a spell, and dream of a wonderful new home on a far away world.


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