I’d always had poor timing. So much so, that it didn’t surprise me anymore when things go wrong. Sitting before a communication beacon in the middle of nowhere, way off any normal transport route, I almost expected I’d have an unexpected visitor drop in. And sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed when a white flash filled my viewscreen.
The other vessel had all the looks of a pirate ship, with the blast-marked hull plating and barely operational lighting. But there was no reason anyone would try to set up a trap for unsuspecting victims here. This was a brand new communications beacon location, so most wouldn’t bother traveling here, not unless they were lost, or trying to steer clear of regular routes as I was. And if this ship was in fact trying to rob me, they would be sorely disappointed by the fact I had nothing in my cargo hold.
“No incoming transmissions?” I asked my ship’s computer, Jeanie.
“Nothing,” she confirmed. “The other vessel is approaching its listed weapons range.”
I had to assume that they were indeed pirates, and not very bright ones, for sure. “I’d better let them have the bad news.”
“Transmission channel open.”
I sat up a little straighter in my captain’s chair. “Whoever you are, I have no cargo.”
“They’ve entered weapons range.”
Still no response. I watched the ship approach and had a gut feeling to run screaming at me. Just before I tasked Jeanie to set an escape route and take us to hyperspeed, a window finally opened at the left side of my forward viewscreen.
And it was at that very moment I realized poor timing and horrid decision-making skills had nothing to do with this encounter.
“Jaysen Ro,” I muttered.
I’d thought I’d seen the last of those demonic eyes, pure and haunting blue lenses that filled both sockets. Even across the vast amount of space between us, I could almost imagine the stench of his breath as he spoke. His gravelly voice morphed into a snarl. “Miss me?”
“How’d you get out? You were arrested.”
“You can’t get rid of me that easy, scum.”
I quickly scanned the entire image of the other bridge. Two grungy males who barely looked old enough to be called men sat at a pair of forward control consoles. The rest of the room was empty, aside from Ro himself.
But this wasn’t the time or place for a reunion. “Jeanie, get us out of here!” I called out in a panic.
She mimicked my tone. “Hyperspeed system is offline. It appears to be a jamming signal.”
My opponent feigned a hurt look, sticking out a pouty, gnawed lip for emphasis. “You don’t want to hang out and play?” Then, he jumped up from his chair and pointed a long, fungus-infested nail at me. “Too bad, dead man!” And to his crew, he yelled, “Fire all available weapons!”
* * *
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