The Frontier: Flash Fiction
Hank Williams warbles from the speakers as I tap my replica cowboy boots on the console. A siren pierces the air. I scramble to attention. The console is a sea of flashing red lights. A solar storm!
High Noon is a long-range freighter but slow – she can’t outrun the storm or withstand the solar flares. I’m days from the closest planet and my destination – Tombstone – a convict mining colony. I’m also out of communication range…and out of my depth.
Only yesterday I was a space-Uber driver addicted to old cowboy movies. Today I’m supposed to be delivering freight to the real frontier – home to the galaxy’s most notorious prisoners, including spaceranger, Edy Knell. Wanted for murder and armed robbery but most famous for a bucket-shaped helmet with an eye slot – I’d wanted to see Knell in person, but now all I wanted was to stay alive.
Then hope flickers on the nav-screen. An asteroid belt and a farming station – an Xvine farm! Xvine are bullet-sized creatures farmed for protein. Their normal diet is asteroid dust but they’re partial to verelleum – the fuel needed for long-range travel. I’d heard of Xvine herds destroying entire ships.
I call the station. The voice at the other end asks about my ship then says, ‘Hurry!’
Alarms scream as the storm starts and I enter the asteroid belt – the ship shakes like a bucking bull.
The station comes into sight as a cloud of blue swarms towards my fuel tank – xvines!
There’s a high-pitched squealing as the creatures gnaw through my hull. The ship shudders in protest. Just ahead the station’s docking bay door yawns open.
With a final blast of my jets the High Noon careens into the bay.
I exit the ship on shaking legs.
‘Rough ride?’ an athletic-looking woman in a black jumpsuit remarks, her eyes on my damaged hull.
I wipe my sweaty brow. ‘You could say that.’
The woman disappears from sight then returns with what looks like ship plate armour. ‘This will slow the xvines down.’ She starts patching the hull.
I realise the creatures nearly penetrated my cabin. I have a sudden urge to vomit. ‘Bathroom?’
She points to a corridor without looking up.
After the bathroom I stop to admire a photo of an older couple wearing plaid-trimmed coveralls – the woman’s mother and father? There’s also a cross stitch of a cottage with a white picket fence. Two blue wrens sit on the fence and there’s an apple pie on the windowsill. It seems at odds with the woman in the docking bay.
An engine roars to life – High Noon’s! I race to my ship. My eyes go to the ‘Tombstone Corrective Services’ insignia on the armour she used to patch my ship, then I see her…She winks at me from High Noon’s console then pulls a bucket-shaped helmet over her head.
I watch in stupor as my ship pulls away from the remote station…it seems I’d got my wish.
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Photo by Jeremy Müller via Pexels.
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