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The golden egg

by Frank Havemann 2 months ago in Adventure / Sci Fi
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and why space piracy is extremely dangerous yet temptingly lucrative

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say.

“They” presumably being people without coms, thought Kara as she desperately tried all the toggles and buttons she could think of, to no avail. She rotated her spacesuit ninety degrees anti-clockwise around her long axis to get a better look. Their skiff, the Rose, was hanging motionless in the background.

Trake’s screams were ear-splitting, like he was being spit-roasted, which to be fair wasn’t too far from the truth. The scout satellite’s defence system was ancient, but effective. Identify object, track object and, once the suspicious object got close enough, harpoon it and give it a good steady hammering of EMPs. SpaceTaser™ is what is said on the box the thing had launched from. What it didn’t say is how to turn it off.

Trake’s screams did make it exceedingly difficult for Kara to complete her actual task, nevermind saving the fool - if he couldn’t stick to the agreed trajectory it was his funeral. Idiots got weeded out quickly in space. She tried to lower the coms-system's volume, but the screams continued. That was the problem with emergency frequencies, they weren’t meant to be ignored.

Kara took a deep breath and started fumbling with her tool belt. There was a solution, it just wasn’t a very nice one. There would be questions, especially after the incident in the shower a few days ago. Trake had even apologised, holding his bleeding, broken nose, and Kara had tried not to laugh, even though his voice had sounded funny, because it wasn’t funny, not really. He’d misunderstood her signals, he had said. Showering is not a signal, she had replied, end of story. And nose.

Kara found the small multi-tool, and extended the saw. She started sawing through the harpoon cable. It was metal, thinner than a finger, but multi-stranded, and the sawing was taking too long. Strand after strand twanged, but progress was slow.

Time, got to watch my time. Her target was thirty minutes, tops, and she was twelve minutes in already. If the satellite had activated its defences, it might have also called for help. Depending on how valuable the data was, who was in the area and on the tier of the security contract, help might arrive in minutes, days, or years. It might consist of a sniffer probe collecting evidence, maybe following the pirate’s engine trail, or it could be a Grimm Security Incident response team in a fully kitted corvette.

Another strand snapped. The sawing was taking too long. Kara abandoned her efforts, and attached her hacking pad into the external data port. How long the tool would take to work through the access encryption was a matter of luck, the mysteries of quantum computing, and whether or not there was a limit on the number of attempts set, at which point her saw blade would come back into play. They might even have to tow the satellite, though her captain really hated that option.

“Would you stop screaming, Trake? I’m trying to work here.”

He wouldn’t. Scout satellite data was valuable, valuable enough for their small pirate skiff to system-hop for weeks at significant fuel-expense trying to track down satellites. Hints about satellite deployment went for surprising amounts of money.

Space was big, as the prophet once stated, and mostly empty. Scout satellites were sent to unmapped systems, scanning for anomalies, valuable elements, or useful planets, ideally habitable new worlds. This could take years, and it wasn’t worth investing in a sub-space relay until you knew what a system had to offer. Getting lucky and finding a satellite that had a worthwhile system fully mapped was worth several years’ worth of pay, fuel, and supplies for a small pirate outfit like Kara’s, if they could find a willing buyer quick enough. Apparently these days some of the bolder pirate clans were selling directly to the development corps. Cut out the middle-sentient.

Kara was keenly aware that being caught would be bad. Not industrial-accident bad, or slow-starvation bad, but potentially very-fast-very-dead-bad.

Ever since the Pirate & Larcency-Alleviaton & Notification Codex (PLANC) had been passed three years ago, pirate life had gotten intense. No more going after small fry, local freighters, or transports, it wasn’t worth the risk. Security companies were authorised to catch, interrogate, sentence, and space pirates in one smooth operation, with a fixed reward of 10% of the insured value of the stolen goods. It was slowly transforming the pirate ecology, with the private security companies either apex-predators, or farming small fleets of pirates, depending on what they thought they could get away with.

Errrrkkkk. She nearly missed the sound notification from her data pad, mingled in the noise on the emergency channel. Trake, tethered somewhere behind her, had graduated from screaming to wailing and gasping with a rhythmic gurgle that suggested he really should be dying any minute now.

Errrrkkkk is not what Kara wanted to hear, not at all. Bing was fine, or Beep, but Errrrkkkk was not good. She was locked out. A small message blinked on the access port.

Access Denied.

Satellite Lockdown.

Please obtain Level-4 clearance to reset.

Kara tapped through the menus on her pad, looking for anything that might spoof a clearance, but this make of satellite was too obscure. She sighed, and inserted her multi-tool to try and pry open the port so she could start sawing again. It only took a minute or two to disconnect the data port, and lever it out to make a gap for her to start fishing for data drives, which usually weren’t too far from the port.

“Here we go,” Kara said to no one, as she managed to find a gap. Small bits of electronics and cabling floated around her, and Trake gurgled in the background.

She pulled her face-plate level with the hole she had created, and looked inside. She pressed the coms button to keep her skiff updated.

“Rose, I’m in. Well, we have circuit boards, black struts, wires, and something… weird,” Kara reported, looking at the shiny smooth gold at the back of the gap she had made. It looked a bit like an egg.

“Arrllghh, arrllghh, arrllghh,” Trake contributed helpfully.

“What’s that?” Navigator Uiiime asked.

“That was Trake. He’s indisposed. Can you block out the emergency channel?”

“Negative. Have you got the data?”

“No, not yet, this satellite is a bit, uhm, different. I think I may have found the drive, but I’ll need to make a bigger hole to get it out.” Kara was fumbling inside the satellite as far as her arm would reach, trying to jiggle or turn the egg.

“Arrllghh, arrllghh, arrllghh,” Trake reminded her.

“Yeah, well, that sucks buddy. Rose, I might need some bigger tools here. The claws maybe?”

The light glancing of the satellite shifted, as the Navigator responded. “Hang tight Kara, we have company.”

Shit. Kara tried to turn, but found she couldn’t with her arm stuck in the satellite. Something bumped into her from behind and a shock ran through the outside of her suit. She should have considered the possibility that Trake would be winched back towards the satellite.

Silence. Her heads-up-display was off, and the pumps had stopped. Having your suit fried was bad. Not as bad as being harpooned, but not great. And terribly bad luck really. It was well insulated, Trake must have made contact in just the right place on her back. Kara adjusted her position, taking her arm out, and pushed a lifeless Trake off to the side.

Kara moved to the side holding on to one of the rails mounted on the satellite, and turned. A large metal-grey corvette was hugging their skiff a few hundred yards away. Shit. Grimm Sec.

Would they be disappointed if she was already dead? She tried to reboot her suit. Nothing. The shocks from the harpoon seemed to have stopped. The whole satellite lay there dead and inert. Maybe it got fried alongside her.

Without the pumps her viewport was fogging up. How much air was in this thing without the cyclers? Five minutes? Maybe ten? She decided she’d rather have another spin of the wheel, but had no way of signalling the Grimm Sec ship. She clipped herself to the satellite handles. And tried to conserve her breath. Really tried to. Nothing at all happened, as the noise of her own pulse and light breathing drove her mad.

“Arrrrrrr, god-damned fucking Grimm Sec fuckers with their…”

Nobody can hear you curse in the vacuum of space, especially when your suit is dead. Kara’s eyelids drooped, and she giggled as her consciousness faded. She missed the six pilot-drones with the neatly embossed G attach themselves to the satellite and slowly push it towards the security vessel. Inside, the golden egg started spinning.

AdventureSci Fi

About the author

Frank Havemann

Frank is from the 80’s and lives in Oxford with family and cats on a rich diet of writing, music, maths and books.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (23)

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  • Leslie Leeabout a month ago

    So thoughtful and creative!

  • V Earnshawabout a month ago

    Nice story, very interesting!

  • C. M. Jaegerabout a month ago

    I appreciate that your story dives right into the action and the world without slowing things down with a lot of explanation. The comedic relief with Trake was also enjoyable alongside Kara's saucy personality. I could definitely see this as a part of movie scene.

  • Carol Townendabout a month ago

    Brilliant story, really well written.

  • Clay Douglass Majorabout a month ago

    Really enjoyed this, great work! I'm partial to pirates, myself! ;)

  • Ben Flynnabout a month ago

    Eggcellent story! Well written :D.

  • Roxane osbornabout a month ago

    I really enjoyed this. It gave me firefly vibes without being derivative. Super fun. Would love a second chapter.

  • Alina Zabout a month ago

    Really good pace, thrills galore, great visuals and fine, dark humor. Well done!

  • Toby Hewardabout a month ago

    Quite intuitive on the adverse harshness of space and what goes on in a vacuum. Here's a little something you might enjoy in your free time. https://vocal.media/poets/run-of-the-river-army

  • Thavien Yliasterabout a month ago

    This was a nice read. It leaves with an excellent cliff hanger. As a member of the audience I'm left wondering, "what is the golden egg (a piece of tech, a biological organism powering the satellite, something the satellite caught as proof of its excursion, new-age biotechnology, etc.), and does Kara survive long enough to be resuscitated?" Also, kitted corvettes? Reminds me of Futurama.

  • Steven Deanabout a month ago

    Great start! Nicely descriptive and enjoyable.

  • Kali Mailhotabout a month ago

    Love this! Please give mine a read :) thank you!

  • Francis Fontaine about a month ago

    Cool story :)

  • Loved this - great read

  • Lubos Pokrivcak2 months ago

    so cool, loved reading it

  • Wifi Mochi2 months ago

    Awesome

  • A.K. Noctua2 months ago

    Nicely done. Enjoyed your take.

  • Magda Thorn2 months ago

    This was a fun challenge and I enjoyed reading your piece. Mine turned out to be a humorous (I hope it is funny) interpretation.

  • Kelly Sibley2 months ago

    Well done.

  • Cath Gart2 months ago

    Love it. Makes for a great first chapter. I'd be very interested to real 'the rest' of the book.

  • Tom Jardine2 months ago

    Nice work!

  • Completely unexpected and original take on the competition challenge. Very well executed- good stuff indeed. Any thought to where you would go from here if this was a 1st chapter?

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