Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

The piles of scrap starship parts stretched off toward the horizon in every direction. I’d lived on the junk planet for almost five years now, but my escape was imminent.

I wound up here like so many others, stranded in orbit with a broken ship, unable to pay the outrageous prices the thieving proprietors of this wasteland demanded. Finally I had crashed, and by the letter of the law my damaged ship had become their property. Fortunately the same laws also forced them to grant me refugee status.

They had chased me, as they did all other refugees, into Zone 470, a place where the junk was extremely old and deteriorated, and of little value. Yet my small band and I clung to life here, making valuable reconnaissance runs into other zones. Now finally we had our warp drive.

I stood back with Zeptag the three foot tall Rodachian. “What do you think?” he asked me in broken common.

“I think it looks like a pile of garbage,” and then added, “And I think it looks like freedom.”

With our limited resources one of the biggest challenges had been to put together a craft large enough to hold all of us. Zeptag’s genius with fluidics had been our savior as he had been responsible for bringing a two-century-old hover crane back to life. Without it we would have never been able to assemble the heaviest pieces.

My old maintenance robot Freddy was putting the finishing touches on some welds and the others were busily loading our meager supplies. I shook my head as I gazed upon a Croanthan freighter cockpit scabbed onto a Zachtarian troop transport hold. You could tell it was Zachtarian by the faded remnants of the yellow patterns they seemed to paint on all their ships, save for the dull gray side heat shields pillaged from an old Hoolyichie battle bird, of course heavily modified to fit. But what really scared me was the thruster cluster on the underbelly. It had been everything our old hover crane could do to bring the heavy Tenzonite engines across miles of terrain under the cover of darkness. But they were ancient, and even with Freddy’s reinforcements I wondered if they would hold together long enough to get us off the ground.

If we could only make it into orbit we would be safe. The warp drive, still with half-charged batteries, was our biggest prize. It was Rodachian, pillaged from Zeptag’s old ship at incredible risk.

Now we all piled aboard. I crossed the rusty deck plates and took the captain’s chair. All lights were green, save for the rear escape hatch alarm, but I knew it was faulty and welded up tight by Freddy so no risk there. I flipped the ignition toggles and ran my hand over the screen. “Here we go kids, it’s now or never.”

The old Tenzonite engines belched to life and every fastener in our makeshift craft tried to rattle apart, still she seemed to be holding together, for now.

Freddy warned, “Here they come, over the south ridge.”

The dust rose in the distance as the junk planet proprietors raced toward us. I increased the lift and surprisingly, as she shuddered once more, even harder than before, our makeshift tub began to slowly rise into the air. Now our pursuers were close enough to see, and they were setting up an ion cannon. I shoved the thruster lever forward and as the hull strained and old metal shrieked in protest I closed my eyes and uttered, “Come on baby, you can do it.”


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