How was this thing even in the air? It looked like it was put through a metal shredder and slapped back together. There were holes everywhere and several panels were missing or poorly repaired by an amateur, even the logo was almost incomprehensible. It was a faded yellow with the name “JAGO” in big, bold, slanting letters.
I closed my mouth when I saw Kiko, Tammy and Cashel walk out from it and right on queue a large panel fell to the ground with a thud. I had no idea we were flying in this scrap heap. Tammy certainly is amazing to be able to keep this thing together, and flying another larger ship at the same time. No wonder she couldn’t talk earlier.
She had landed the huge Sola battleship just behind the Jago.
“Ahhhh!” Came a man’s pained voice from behind me. “What have you done to all my hard work?”
He was in overalls and riddled with grease spots. Rei giggled. The man looked mortified as he examined the remains of the ship.
Cashel apologized, “Sorry Jonas, we got caught up in a few skirmishes. We have a big catch from the other day though so you’ll be properly compensated. Tammy already sent you the internal diagnostics and recommended restructure.”
Rei dragged me off again. “C'mon, I wanna show you something,” she said.
I followed her to a rectangular block on the ground and it began lowering. The large platform took us down, and because there were no walls we saw thousands of workers working on hundreds of ships on the first level. And then we passed another level… and another… the lower we went the less ships and people there were, until finally we stopped at a level surrounded by walls. One of the walls was a door and it opened revealing a hallway full of people and creatures all walking to their destination.
“This is the departure zone,” Rei explained as we walked with the flow of the crowd. “I told Aki we would meet her in the lounge so let’s head there.”
We walked for about ten minutes following signs that said ‘Lounge’. Inside was a lot quieter and had a relaxing atmosphere.
We sat down at one of the tables and a hologram popped up. It said, “Welcome…humanoid” and began repeating text in thousands of languages that my eyes interpreted as “Home Planet?” Rei cleared her throat and said ‘Sola’ and a menu appeared.
“It assumes you can only speak your native language,” she said.
She ordered one of the dishes that I always make and we ate. It tasted pretty bland which is how mine would taste before Kiko slipped in ingredients.
She ordered the largest portion. The plate nearly took up the entire table. I’m not sure how she did it but she finished even before me.
“Eh, yours is better,” she said setting her empty plate aside.
“So where’s Kiko?” I asked.
“She went to go turn Vaughan in for the bounty and now she’s probably window shopping in the weapons department putting stuff on her ‘to-get’ list for the next time we drop by.” She said with a bored attitude. “She already bought the ammo we needed but Tammy cut out a portion of Yomen we usually get because someone accidently destroyed the crate that held our vocal transmitters on Epsilon.”
“That was you,” said Kiko as she walked towards us.
“Oh you’re back early!” said Rei ignoring her comment.
“Yeah there wasn’t much to look at today. I guess something’s going on that everyone’s preparing for.”
Rei thought for a moment, “The Millennium Galaxy Race! That starts soon doesn’t it? Like…”
“Next week,” I finished, looking at a holographic ad on the wall. It said, “Watch the Millennium Galaxy Race begin!” and had a countdown with a number 7 being the amount of days left until it starts.
“What is it?” I asked as we watched the clock run down.
“I’m not too sure…” said Rei. Tammy and Cashel walked into the lounge to join us. “Hey Tammy, what’s the Millennium Galaxy Race?”
They sat down as she explained, “A race around the galaxy in which individuals or teams must collect four stones and bring them together in order to win.”
“What do you win?” asked Kiko.
Tammy answered, “The life of a thousand human years and the power to rule the galaxy.”
Rei slapped the table, “Seriously? No joke?”
“Yes.” Her eyes wandered the table like she was reading through something very quickly. “According to the Crux database, this was how Crux was formed. A stone called Vo is said to hold a vast majority of the universe’s power, enabling its wielder to live for a thousand years and possess unnatural abilities. However, after a thousand years the stone will suddenly break back into four pieces and is scattered back throughout the galaxy. The race is held to see who will be the next wielder of Vo.”
Rei was enthralled. “Teams can enter this race?”
Everyone knew what she was getting at.
“Teams are formed before the race to help excel through the competition, but there can be only one winner. An example of this happened to the last winner. They formed a team of three and made an agreement on who would win, but when Vo appeared before them one of them turned on the others and killed a teammate. The other two fought each other and the winner ended up being the person the team had previously agreed on.”
“The team turned on each other?” Rei whispered to herself.
Kiko and Cashel shared the same sad expression, like they knew what the race could do to you.
We were silent for a moment.
“Let’s go home,” said Cashel, trying to brighten up the mood.
Rei paid for our meal by placing a hand on the table and her identification came up. I couldn’t help but look at it. It had a picture and a description of her physical attributes, her birth planet and title: Class 1 Bounty Hunter, but when it came to species it said “human”. I looked at her confused and she smiled and pressed a finger to her lips. What else about her ID was wrong? Were they fugitives or what?
We all made our way through the terminal. Rei pointed everything out to me very quickly as we walked past, so it was hard to remember it all. We walked for what seemed like miles heading even further underground. At the bottom of it all was a network of long tunnels. Cashel flagged a little ship and we got in to head to our destination.
We were going fast, winding through different tunnels until I saw a light at the end. It got brighter and brighter until we emerged from the tunnel entirely. It was the biggest city I had ever seen. Buildings made of metal instead of dirt and as tall as mountains towered everywhere in different shapes and sizes.
“We have a place on the outskirts of the city.” I heard Rei say. I was too busy staring out the window to reply. “We should be there soon.”
We didn’t go too far into the city before stopping at a tall building with platforms at every window. Our ship stopped at a platform at the middle of the building and we all spilled out. Tammy led the way, opening the door to the place where they stayed here on Crux.
It was pretty plain looking and small inside. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust because apparently it only got used once a year or so.
“Well, it’s good to know the place hasn’t changed a bit,” said Rei, cleaning off a chair and sitting on it.
Tammy spoke to me, “Sarth, we only have 4 rooms so you can sleep wherever you want.”
“That’s no big deal. I’ll just find a spot when I’m tired.”
Rei pulled a deck of cards from a cabinet, “Hey Sar, look what I found! Let’s play!”
Kiko, Tammy and Cashel all left to finish errands so I sat at the table with Rei so we could play cards.
“No cheating okay?” I warned before the game.
“Aww, I guess you figured out how I always won,” she frowned. “Fine, I’ll play fair this time.”
A few hours later Tammy came back and had me place my hand on a glass hologram board. My new identification popped up.
My name was now officially ‘Sarth’ and I was given the title: Class 1 Bounty Hunter and added to the crew of the Jago. Everything else was true, no fake ID for me. She even gave me 10,000 Yomens to spend, which was my share from the bounty, minus medical expenses. Then she left again, telling me she had to complete my residence profile for Crux.
I admired my ID again. I suddenly felt like I had a new meaning in life. That I could start anew and make a new name for myself.
“What does Class 1 mean?”
“Oh that?” Rei was stuffing her face with food again. I’m surprised she was still smaller than me. “I’ll explain that to you tomorrow when I take you to the Bounty Board.”
Bounty Board? Learning new stuff every day was exciting so I couldn’t wait until tomorrow. It was already dark outside so I decided to get a good night’s rest so I could wake up early the next day.
“Guess I’ll go to bed then,” I said trying to get comfortable on the old couch.
“’kay, ’nite,” said Rei as she served herself another helping of food.
I didn’t hear any of the others return that night, but apparently they did and Kiko and Cashel left again early the following morning.
Rei and I eventually got ready to leave as well. “Tammy, we’re going to the Bounty Board, will you let Aki know when she gets back?” she asked Tammy.
“Yes,” Tammy replied, “don’t get sidetracked.”
“It’s called sidetracked for a reason,” Rei smiled.
We left and Rei flagged down a shuttle off the platform to take us to the Bounty Board, which was near the Jago in the departure zone. We hopped out of the shuttle and I followed her as she led me through the crowded space port to a large, bustling room with the words, “Bounty Board” on top.
The room was full of mean, gruff looking humanoids and other different species. We stuck out in the crowd because we were the youngest ones there. , so we were eyed continuously by everyone. Some of them even stared and pointed at us.
“Uhh, are you sure we can be here?” I asked nervously.
“Yeah of course,” she answered. “We’re almost there.”
The room seemed to be divided into sections of five different classes. She brought us to the one that was the least crowded and labeled “Class 1”.
“This room has the list of bounties that Crux puts up. It’s divided by how hard a given bounty will be,” she explained. “There are five classes with 5 being the easiest bounties to perform and 1 being the hardest. Obviously the harder ones yield more Yomen, but it’s advised that you be in that Class category or lower to claim the bounty. This is how we make a living.”
I studied the hologram wall, “The Jago is Class 1? The highest level?”
“Yep. You need to have collected a certain amount of Yomen from bounties in order to move up in class.” She put her hand on the large hologram wall and a long list of ship names scrolled down. The Jago was listed as number two with the Breccan at number one by a few million Yomen but they were both hundreds of millions of Yomen away from the rest of the competition. “Not only that, we’re one of the best in the space port.”
It was strange to think that by coincidence, I had joined an elite crew of bounty hunters who regularly put their life on the line with one of the most dangerous jobs in the galaxy.
I saw the amount of Yomen the Jago had accumulated and something wasn’t right.
“If you guys have made this much Yomen, why is it we’re always budgeting like we’re broke?”
“Well…” Rei chuckled nervously. “With every excursion we go on, we usually end up with more damage costs then we make from the bounty.”
A strong looking man, towering Rei in a fresh pressed uniform, walked up behind her. He crossed his bulging arms in front of him as he straightened his posture and gave the back of her head a smug look.
“That’s right. About three months ago they managed to destroy a section of the space port because their bounty got loose.”
Rei rolled her eyes and turned around. “It’s nice to see that some of us are still relaxing around here,” she said sarcastically. “Why don’t you take a look at the board Breccan?”
She slapped her hand back on the board. The Jago highlighted again in second place and then the amount of Yomen went up drastically, switching the Jago to first place above Breccan.
The man scoffed. “We’ve been saving our energy for more important things, like winning the Millennium Galaxy Race.” He said before walking away.
For such a cool-looking strong man, he sure had a pompous attitude.
“Ugh! I can’t stand that egotistical maniac.” Rei spat. “I mean who names their ship after themselves? Don’t be surprised if you hear he’s been in a tragic accident one day.”
I’ve never seen Rei so frustrated. It was quiet amusing. I guess he was more of a rival than an enemy.
We stayed awhile and she showed me how she chose which bounties to consider taking to present to the others. This is how they worked: Rei would come to the board to choose which bounties she thought they should complete, then, after briefing the others, they would all come to an agreement on which ones they should take. After that, Tammy would set a flight plan and the next day they would leave on their bounty hunting tour.
Rei copied information from about 20 different bounties and we headed back to our apartment. Realistically Rei told me that they would take on about five bounties per trip before coming back. When she showed Tammy the info cards, she immediately weeded out 10, leaving 10 to discuss with Kiko and Cashel.
I was taken aback by how fast she said no to ten options. “What’s wrong with those?” I asked.
“I calculated that those destinations would not be achievable based on our financial standings. Secondly, the equipment we have would not suffice for the operation, and thirdly, the amount of data I have on some of them is not sufficient.”
I was impressed. “You calculated all that just by glancing at them?”
I decided to test her skills even further, “What am I thinking about right now?”
She did a glance over at me, “Yes, there are some things I cannot do… No, I cannot read your mind… Yes, I know you think this is weird… yes, I’ll stop now.”
That was kind of creepy. “If you can’t read my mind, how are you doing that?” I asked.
“Basic human psychology. You weren’t thinking that, I made you think you were thinking it.”
My mouth opened slightly under my rumpled eyebrows. “You have that power?” I asked in awe.
“No.” She went back to reading the bounty info cards and added, “You’re just gullible.”
© Copyright 2016 Anon Amous. All rights reserved.
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