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A Space Cowboy and his Horse

by Mark Stigers about a month ago in Series
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Episode Two: To meet the Boss

A Space Cowboy and his Horse

The asteroid belt was nothing like I thought. I thought there would be asteroids to dodge. No, they are far apart. All the large asteroids belong to someone. Small rocks to the size of a building, you scanned each for valuables. When you found something, you kept it. Trigger could carry five tons. Then we had to unload at Glory. They paid you for what you had found. What you hoped to find were rare earths. What you came back with were metals. They usually paid just enough to do it again.

“Trigger, are we done chewing up this rock?”

“Yes, Randy, we got 37 troy ounces of Gold and topped off with Copper ore to five tons.”

“Okay, Trigger, that will pay for the trip around the belt. What is the best probability to follow the vein?”

“Randy, I suggest we come to 79.4 degrees relative with a 5 % declamation and proceed slowly. This is a pretty rich vein. 63 % chance that we run into more metals. We can always dump Copper, come back for it, and take more Gold.”

“Trigger, we are near the core of something. I can feel it.”

“Randy, there is an indication of Rhodium splattered throughout this sample.”

“Trigger, can we refine it?”

“No, Randy, the ore will have to be brought back and refined.”

“Trigger, how many trips?”

“Seven, each with a payout of about $750,000.”

“Trigger cut us off a piece, stick it in the hold, and dump the Copper. Get me a hard copy of these coordinates.”

The printer output a piece of paper with these coordinates. I cut out just the writing and rolled it into a little tube. I put it inside a hollow bolt. I went over to a place where the framing was bolted together, took out a similar bolt, and replaced it with this one.

“Trigger plot a course in the navigation computer back to Glory. Take a course with at least five variants. To make it impossible to trace our point of origin. Then erase these coordinates from all records and purge all buffers that could contain this information. Execute.”

Trigger’s path took three weeks. I needed a weapon that no one knew. The only thing I knew about that few others knew was cattle. How do you keep the prize bull under control during mating season? Let me give you a clue you don’t use a cattle prod. The bull will try to kill you. I had been experimenting with using a pleasure field on the bulls. I found that a field with a specific modulation caused pleasure. If the bull was particularly agitated, this field stopped them in their tracks. I set up a system on my silver belt buckle it would fire five times for five seconds each time. Then the battery needed a recharge.

When I got to Glory, no one knew what I had. I sold the Gold with little problem. When I made arrangements to smelt just about five tons of ore, that attracted some attention. I got interest from the syndicate. A rather sizeable apish man paid me a visit.

“Dude, it would be horrible if your ship did not make it back from the next trip. Give us the coordinates to the find.”

“Yes, it would. I think you need to commit asexual reproduction.”

“You don’t know who you are dealing with, dude. We will get the information.”

He took a swing at me, but I ducked. His fist hit the bulkhead, padding with a loud thud.

“Now, there is no need to get violent, friend.”

“Dude, tell me what I want to know, or I pound you into hamburger.”

I fired the pleasure field for five seconds. The big man stopped moving and just smiled and moaned.

“Dude, what did you just do to me. Do it again.”

“Get the hell out of here. Or it’s the pain field.”

“Dude, we will get the information.”

He turned around and left.

I set up a pleasure projector for the hatch of Trigger. If you tried to open it without first turning off the circuit, you got zapped for five seconds. I hooked the power supply to the shipboard system. It would last for days.

I grabbed my best Stetson hat, and I went to the bar to see what was happening. It was very dark. Ghost Riders in the Sky by Johnny Cash was playing as I went to the bar.

When the bartender came to me, I said, “Two shots of whatever passes for whisky here.”

I did one shot, and it was liquid fire down my throat.

“Smooth,” I said.

I did the other shot.

I started to walk away to see what the rest of the place looked like when a nice-looking woman came up to me and said, “I do like fresh meat. What’s your name, cowboy?”

“Randy, what is yours?”

“Randy, they call me Sugar.”

“Can I get you a drink, Sugar?”

She looked at the bartender and said, “Harry, get me a dark rum and coke.”

“Sure, thing Sugar. On whose tab? Your's cowboy?”

“Sure, give me a beer, too. Hey Baby, what do you do for fun around here?”

“Not much, zero-G dancing.”

We sat at a table and put our drinks down.

I said, “Let’s dance then.”

Sugar did not have a lot to say. We just danced and drank for about three hours. Sugar showed me all the moves.

I was getting the hang of it when Sugar said, “Look, Randy, it’s been fun, and I have really enjoyed myself, but I have to go now. Maybe we can do this again sometime.”

I figured I gave them enough time. Sugar was supposed to keep me here while they ram-sacked my ship. That’s if they got in the ship.

The hatch was open when I got back, but the pleasure field was still active. I turned it off. Then, I entered Trigger. The place was a mess. I glanced at my bolt, still there. I played the security video to see what was up.

They had not breached the main hatch until they brought a robot. When the robot entered Trigger, they used it to search the ship. Taking fifteen minutes to open the safe, the damn robot threw my title to Trigger and banking information into the mess. When they found nothing, the robot did something to the computer. After that, it left.

I went over to the computer console and removed a panel. I pulled out a thumb drive in a small void by the computer mount. I stuck it in slot zero.

“Trigger reformat the main drive and load operating program from slot zero only. Let me approve any downloads.”

That would keep the computer busy for about an hour, and this would get rid of any planted programs and viruses. The planted bugs were another story. I went over to the hidden gun locker and opened it. I checked the three sawed-off shotguns with their space loads. The shells would fire in a vacuum, but the kick could send you backwards if not braced. The load was my little surprise, hard rubber pellets and rock salt. The gun held a lucky seven shells. I had a whole lot of boxes of ammunition. I had a 9mm Glock. It contained 20 shots, a US Space Force issue. I had quite a few loads of that. Plus, I had my big pocket knife. The situation looked ruff, so I took the knife and closed the panel. If the robot planted a bug, they would have to come back and check the gun locker to look for the coordinates.

I locked the hatch and turned on the pleasure field and sensor. After the computer system came up, I removed the thumb drive and put it in its covey hole. I replaced the panel. I stuffed some pillows under the covers on the sleep shelf to look like I was sleeping there. I got in the restroom and partially opened the door. I turned off all lighting, sat down on the closed commode, and waited.

The sensor for the pleasure field went offline at 02:56. The hatch opened slowly without a sound because they must be using an active sound reducer and night vision. Quietly, they came up to the sleep shelf. I grabbed an overhead beam in one smooth motion and slammed my feet with the heavy magnetic boots into both. They bounced off the bulkhead. And free-floated in the small space. I punched the closest one, grabbed my knife snapped it open, and pinned the other to the bulkhead with my fist. The knife blade came to just under his jaw.

I said, “What’s the happs, gentlemen. Fling the hardware down, or I give ugly a new place to stick his tongue out.”

They tossed their guns down, and the weapons bounced off the floor and into the cabin somewhere.

“Nothing Fred and I were on our evening constitutional, and we thought we pay you a visit.”

I said, “Did someone suggest you visit me?”

“Yeah, the Boss.”

“Well, take me to meet the Boss,” I said.

“Oh sure, we’ll take you to the Boss, for all the good it will do you, come on Fred.”

“Gee, Frank, I don’t think that is a good idea.”

“Shut up, stupid!”

“Yeah, sure, Frank.”

I said, “Lead on, gentlemen.”

After we walked through about a mile of passages, by ship docks, and contained spaces, we came to the heart of Glory, eight intersecting passages into a large area with trees and a small pond in a grassy green. We went to one of four doors that opened onto paths on the green. We walked up to one entry.

Frank pushed a call button on the intercom, “Let me in. It’s Frank and Fred with Randy.”

The door buzzed. Frank and Fred entered.

“Come on, Randy, and meet the Boss.”

We walked down a wood-paneled hall to a door marked Boss.

A secretary with Ms. Halbert on the name tag on her desk said, “Go on in. You are expected.”

It was not what I expected. There is no desk or chairs—just an ample open space with a light on a small stage. Frank and Fred stood by the door.

Frank said, “Stand in the light and talk to the Boss.”

I stepped into the light, not knowing what to expect. I couldn’t tell if a man or a woman spoke.

A voice said, “You are becoming quite the problem, Randy.”

I said, “Thank you, and you are?”

“You can call me the Boss, Randy.”

“Well, Boss, we seem to be at odds over my future. I want to go back and mine some ore. You seem determined to take it from me.”

“Randy, that is the way it is out here. I let you find a load. I take the rest. You will give us the coordinates.”

“Why should I, Boss.”

“Randy, do you want to continue to prospect out here? You will submit to me because I run the whole show. It’s my refinery, my metals market, my everything. Who owns you, Frank?”

“You do, Boss.”

“Randy, I own everything, submit.”

“I see, Boss,” I said, “I bet you I know something you want but can’t have.”

“Randy, I can have anything I want, and my desires are few. What do you offer that I can’t have or buy?”

“Well, Boss, it's like this simple friendship. I’m not somebody you own, but I can be your friend. Someone to share your good times. There is great value in a friend. Money and power are not everything.”

“I have no friends because I’m different. Behold me and say you’ll be a friend.”

The lights came on, and there was a computer terminal on the far wall.

“Randy, what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to show you how to play cards.”

“Don’t be foolish. I know how to play poker and 21. If I want, I can look any game up.”

“Those are games. Let me teach you cards. No one plays like me. I’m the best that’s ever been ….”

Series

About the author

Mark Stigers

One year after my birth sputnik was launched, making me a space child. I did a hitch in the Navy as a electronics tech. I worked for Hughes Aircraft Company for quite a while. I currently live in the Saguaro forest in Tucson Arizona

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