Author : James McGrath

“One of us is going to have to make a move, y’know?”

I did know, but that didn’t make it any easier. We’d been in a stalemate for three minutes; our pistols pointed at them and theirs at us. However, the advantage lay with them, as while the two damned space-pirates were clearly enjoying themselves, Marissa, my pilot, and I looked uneasy.

Regret swelled inside of me as I thought of how I had followed the pirates here, but I knew it would lead to the fission core. This object could re-power my antique spacecraft for decades and it was only a few feet from me. If these brigands took it, it could be years before I found another. That would be too late; the ship would be drained by then. I had to act now.

The clamour of a ship exiting light-speed behind me forced me to turn. Colossal in size, it loomed overhead, bearing the emblem of the Space Federation Forces.

“We’ve been tracked!” howled the pirate Captain, his face distorted in fear.

A platform lowered from the keel of the ship and it took little time for two officers to emerge. They stepped towards us, rifles in hand.

“Captain Zhang, you are under arrest for numerous crimes against the Federation,” stated the female force member, “Civilian, please retreat from the wreckage, that core belongs to us.”

Panic gripped me. There was no way Marissa and I could survive a fire-fight while sandwiched between our two opponents. We were going to lose the core! However, by good fortune, Zhang chose this moment to get diplomatic.

“You two!” he screamed, sending searing hot plasma flying past me and into the chest of the subordinate officer, “Don’t let them take me or my crew, and you can have the core!”

Marissa flung herself behind some wreckage to our right to avoid the fire, while I went left.

“Get back to the ship; tell the crew – we get the core!” I yelled to her as I fired a round at the SF reinforcements now leaving their ship, “They’ll go after the pirates, so pick me up then!”

As a volley of fire flew past my position, I couldn’t help but fixate on the fission core that lay a mere metre from my feet. The neon pink hue captivated me as I thought of how some of the crashed ship’s crew must have salvaged it from their mangled vessel. They must have perished with no way to escape this barren planet, but their loss could mean I could continue being a pilot.

There was a whirring above me, and air buffeted my body as Red Jizo came for her cargo. The Federation Forces fired upon her, but only from the ground, worried that using their ship’s weapons could end up hitting the wreckage below. Jizo’s skin was tough, and held firm as a claw was released from the base. For once, it being an old cargo ship was coming in handy.

Just as I thought fortune had smiled upon me, Zhang broke into a filthy grin.

“The core is almost inside your ship, boy!” he bellowed over to me, “And as you can see the SFF are coming close in an attempt to stop your retreat. That thing will cause some explosion! I’m sorry, but their captain has been a thorn in my side for too long, and you should have never trusted a pirate!”

My mouth opened in a scream of protest, as a bolt of plasma tore from the barrel of his pistol and collided with the core.

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