ESCAPE FROM MNEMOSYNE
A "Smugglers of the Galaxy" Short Story by Daron Patton

Jake Jouster drummed his fingers on the crate in front of him as he waited for the customs officer to finish her inspection of the hold. She was not the most attractive woman in the galaxy and she was becoming even less attractive with each passing moment. Small planets like Mnemosyne could be more of a pain for customs than even military bases, if the wrong people were on the job. This one was taking too much time, being too thorough in her scrutiny of his cargo. Every time the officer turned her back to him, Jouster frowned. She was moving ever closer to the plate that concealed his smuggling compartment.

“So, when you’re done with your shift,” he smiled as she turned to face him, “is there any possibility you could meet an honest trader in the station bar for a drink?” The customs officer blushed as she handed Jake back his forged ship’s documents. “Everything seems to be in order. See you at 1800 then, Mr. Staygo?"

“It will be my pleasure,” Jake beamed.

Solan Bor grinned beneath his power armored helmet as he watched Jouster emerge from the station’s ship repair offices. The smuggler had been in there for some time, meaning that he was probably doing some serious talking and spending some serious credits to get his heavily modified freighter modified even further. Too bad for Jouster most of those credits had come from an underworld deal gone bad.

The bounty hunter stepped back into a small recess in the corridor, tapping his communicator as he watched Jouster stroll past toward the station’s bar. An insectoid visage filled Solan’s comm-watch screen. The bug-man clacked and chattered its chitin-covered mouthparts as Solan’s communicator translated its angry message. Solan simply replied, “Consider it done.”

Jake found Winifred, the customs officer, waiting for him as he entered the bar. At the time he made the offer, Jake had hoped she would have been detained by other business. No such luck. Winifred was in civilian clothes, standing at the opposite end of the place where she was talking to a very wealthy-looking fellow. Jake thought there was something familiar about this guy sporting a flashy golden earring and a fancy purple suit but nothing clicked.

Steeling himself, he kept from rolling his eyes and even managed a smile as she crossed the room to join him. “Mikk," she said with a slight grimace. “I thought you said 1800. I’ve been waiting almost three hours.”

“Sorry, Winny,” he beamed, forcing himself to blush as he responded to the name on his forged ship‘s registry.

“I got tied up getting my ship fixed. They were kind of running behind down there in the maintenance section and I’ve had to stay on them so I can stay on schedule.”

“Then you’re not planning on staying long?”

“Afraid not, Doll.”

“Think again, Jake Jouster” Winifred said as she pulled a blaster from her pocket. “Imagine my surprise when the real Mikk Staygo showed up on our records as having arrived yesterday. He‘s a very wealthy man and also pretty well-known around these parts. You might want to consider that next time you forge an ID.”

Jake looked over her shoulder to see the man in the purple suit lift his glass in a mocking toast. Jake raised his hands and sighed. “You’ve got me. I’ll go quietly.”

Solan Bor’s helmet hid the frown on his face as he watched Jake leave the bar at gunpoint. Another hunter had beaten him to the punch. The bounty hunter’s frown turned into an equally masked smile as Jake and his captor began to walk in his direction. Solan Bor had not earned his ruthless reputation by letting his quarry escape or by letting someone else claim his prize. All the girl added to the equation was a little inconvenience. Nothing more and nothing less.

In his peripheral vision, Jake saw something flash past just as Winifred marched him past a service corridor. He turned to see a man dressed in some sort of power armor standing over Winifred’s unconscious form, her weapon lying beside her. The guy in the armored get-up dropped reached for a holstered weapon as he turned to face Jake. The guy’s plas-titanium helmet rang like a bell when Jake connected with the fire extinguisher he had pulled from a nearby wall mount. The armored man stumbled momentarily, then fell motionless on the space station’s deck.

Jouster bounded up the gangway of his Eon Eagle without pausing to look back. Halfway to the ship’s small control bridge/cockpit, he ran into Felber Krank, his android co-pilot.

“Fel, we need to leave and we need to have been gone an hour ago.”

“I am in the middle of making adjustments to the turbo thrusters your ordered me to install,” the robot protested in a tinny voice as it followed Jouster to the cockpit.

“Look, I’ve got planetary customs and a bounty hunter very interested in making sure we don’t leave. Is this thruster deal going to stop us from blowing this cosmic Popsicle stand?" Jake asked as he strapped into his acceleration seat.

“No,”said Felber as he likewise strapped in to his station. “However, there is a slight chance that they could detonate if thrust ratios aren’t maintained at a steady rate.”

Ignoring the station’s automated warnings about leaving the station without prior clearance, Jake brought the Eagle’s thrusters on-line.

“Don’t worry,” Jake smiled and patted the console. “I’ll treat her as gently as ever.”

“That is what worries me,” the robot chided.

Jake just chuckled as he soared the Eagle silently away from the Mnemosyne station. After all, there was smuggling to be done.

THE END

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Daron Patton was the winner of the Playus Maximus 2004
Short Story Contest - congratulations Daron, good work!

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