A New Space Iteration


    Erick Van Malssen as Torin

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    Erick Van Malssen as Torin

    Post  Admin on Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:11 pm

    The problem, he realized as he gazed down the length of the Emmet 4K Disruptor aimed at his face, was that he was just too damn charming.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if he was just stupid, or had bad karma. No – it was this unrelenting aura of savoir faire that kept getting him into these messes. Really, it was a curse more than a gift.

    The dashing good looks didn’t help much, either.

    “Look,” he began, addressing the hulking thug who held the other end of the gun. “Obviously this is a misunderstanding. I know that; you know that. You boss will know it soon as he gets over this whole ‘stolen cargo’ business. Which, I might add, was not in any way my fault.”

    “Shaddup!” grunted the pirate thug throatily.

    Torin grinned winsomely. “Aw, come on. Look at me. Do you really think I could mastermind the removal of goods from the Bonnie Sue’s hold? Do you really think I contacted the people you robbed and tipped them off? I don’t even know the party from whom you pilfered. The inner mysteries of galactic piracy are far too complex for me to unravel.”

    “I said shaddup!” The disruptor nudged Torin in the nose.

    Torin’s wrists strained a little where they rested, tied behind his back. “You know what I am good at? Parlay.” He nodded, solemnly. “Champion. First class. I could not only get your captain to stop being angry with you swabbies for losing the cargo, I could get you, sir, promoted. How’d you like to be first mate?”

    God, the brute was dumb. It took a few moments. “How?”

    “I cut you in on a deal, that’s how.” Torin kept his voice both casual and hushed. “Untie me, let me have a remora shuttle, and I’ll lead you to the score of a lifetime. You take the credit for the haul. Fair trade for my freedom.”

    “Why d’you need a shuttle?” The pirate’s eyes are narrowed.

    Torin sighed, as though about to present the obvious. “Because, once I’ve got some distance, I can use the comm. on the shuttle to send you messages. You pretend it’s from your exclusive ‘contact’ who will only give the coordinates to you. If I’m on board, the captain will see I’m the one with the information, and you can’t take credit.”

    The brute started to ruminate. Torin could actually hear the stones grinding in the idiot’s head. He had to move fast. “You know what? Nevermind. It’s obviously too complicated and delicate a plan for you. I’ll just ask the other fellow…what’s his name? Farkas?”

    “Not Farkas!” The pirate exploded. “Man wouldn’t know a black hole from his ass. I’ll handle this.” And the rope was being untied.

    Torin smiled disarmingly. “I envy you the wealth and power you’ll soon have, mate.”

    ~*~

    The cackle of triumph rang through the shuttle. Torin punched the auto-pilot on and kicked back, smugly gazing out the viewscreen at the vastness of space before him. Not only had the moronic pirate gotten him the remora shuttle, he’d handed over coordinates to a cache of cargo the Bonnie Sue had tucked away. They’d stolen the goods a couple of months ago from a courier ship. Idly, Torin fiddled with the shuttle’s comm. to bring up the information about the cargo. A crate of electronic home assistants; glorified robotic vacuums, looked like. Startup company called Womack Ltd. made them, hired a freelance ship to bring them to Port Alhambra….

    Torin sat up very slowly and peered at the comm. screen. His eyes moved over the ship’s name again and again. No. It was impossible. There was absolutely no way the ship could be…

    “The Embry-Riddle,” he breathed.

    ~*~

    It was five years ago when his life was turned upside-down by the Embry-Riddle. He had been a fence then, selling hot goods out of Cabildo, Mexico. His runner, a man named Ramos, had first brought the ship to his attention.

    “Brought in a junker and the muchachos won’t scrap it,” the rotund Mexican told Torin, mopping his forehead with a bandana as he walked into the front of the shop. “They’re saying it’s cursed.”

    “Really?” Torin was nonplussed. “Been a long time since we had a cursed item around here. Last one was…what? That ashtray from the estate sale in Veracruz? What’s the story this time?”

    Ramos shrugged slowly. “They say three men died bringing it here, senor. They simply will not take it apart.”

    “Can we do it ourselves?”

    Another shrug. “Perhaps. But they would likely try to stop us and it could become violent. They want us to get rid of it.”

    “Where did it come from?” Already Torin was sitting down at the shop’s terminal, poised to research.

    “Part of the haul off the garbage skow front,” replied Ramos. “The ship was dry-docked in Nicaragua, in a private hangar. The boys took it when they loaded up the skow last week.”

    “Who owns the hangar?” Torin asked.

    “Jeffe Ortiz. Businessman. Criminal. Powerful.”

    It took a few minutes, but Torin found him. “Wow. Business must be good,” he commented, reading the screen. “Fourteen villas on eight worlds, two private islands here, private spaceports in three systems. Why would this guy care about a junk ship over a century old? Is it in good condition?”

    “Eh, not to look at it,” Ramos said. “It is not spaceworthy.”

    Torin looked up, smiling. “What’re the odds Mr. Ortiz will grant me an audience?”

    ~*~

    “So, you have my ship.”

    On the balmy deck of the expansive villa, Jeffe Ortiz leaned to refill Torin’s champagne flute. “You know, I’ve had men killed for much less than stealing one of my possessions.” He eyed Torin. “But you must have known that. And, yet, you still come to me and admit what you have done. Why?”

    “I want to know if the Embry-Riddle is cursed.” Torin was surprised at how sincere the statement was. He hadn’t realized how genuinely interested he was until now.

    Ortiz nodded. “Some say so. It is a very old ship. By rights it should have been dismantled long ago. For some reason, it has gone largely untouched for more than one hundred years. I suspect it is due to the ship’s history.”

    Torin canted his head. “What is the history?”

    “It has none.” Ortiz let the statement hang for a moment before continuing. “That is to say, none which has been documented. There are records of the Embry-Riddle being commissioned and built, serving as a Global Armed Forces frigate in the Galactic Campaign, again in the Crimson War, and then…nothing. Not a date of decommission, no records of title transfer, crew rosters, no historical timeline whatsoever. It became a ghost ship for almost a century.”

    “Where did you come by it?”

    “I found her on an island a few hundred miles south of here while surveying for real estate. I contacted the GAF and they were very surprised to know she was there. They said I could claim her through salvage rights.”

    Torin blinked. “What?”

    Ortiz nodded slowly. “I know. Why would the military dismiss a frigate that had vanished for a century? I expected them to swarm over it. It was as though…as though they wanted to forget she ever existed. My suspicion is that they were the ones who hid her on that island.”

    Leaning back in his chair, Torin exhaled in amazement. “Did you go over the ship? Have her checked out?”

    “I began to,” Ortiz replied. “But then my affairs kept me busy. I put her in dry-dock to wait. But, even in my short examination, I found something remarkable.” He reached into his pocket and drew out a piece of paper, handing it to Torin. “Here.”

    Torin took the paper and looked at what was written on it. “Coordinates?”

    “Marked on the inner hull in a special ink revealed only by a certain kind of ultraviolet light. I visited the location specified – a small planet colonized about seventy years ago. I found a cave there that had nearly eighty pounds of gold bullion hidden inside of it.”

    Torin felt his stomach leap into his throat. “Eighty…pounds?”

    “I believe there are more coordinates on that ship, and I believe they all lead to treasure. Whoever flew the Embry-Riddle when she was a ghost in the galaxy hid vast amounts of wealth all over dozens of systems.” Ortiz’s gaze was intense. “And I want to know who it was more than I want the treasure.”

    Torin matched the man’s gaze. “You told me all this because you want me to visit the other coordinates.”

    “You can keep whatever you find, after I have catalogued it and taken anything especially rare or important for myself. You could become very wealthy in very little time. I’ll finance your travel personally.”

    It took everything Torin had to keep his voice casual. “Mr. Ortiz, I think I’m inclined to accept your offer.”

    A week later, the ship was gone.

    ~*~

    “What do you mean, ‘gone’?!” Torin heaved.

    Ortiz shrugged. “There was nothing I could do, my friend. I received a call from someone in the GAF ranks, demanding the ship. They never legally signed her over to me – our transaction was just a verbal agreement and not one I could ever prove actually happened as it is. And my business affairs cannot afford scrutiny by the military. I had to release her into their custody.”

    “Why? Why did they take her back?” Torin was shaking.

    “They said they wanted to dismantle her. It is their prerogative.”

    Torin pushed his hands through his hair. “It’s not possible. All that…all that treasure. All that mystery…”

    “I am sorry,” Ortiz murmured. “I wanted to learn her secrets, too, senor.”

    ~*~

    And now, there she was. There she was! Not only was she not dismantled, she was spaceworthy! Flying! Reborn as a courier frigate captained by someone named Archer. Torin wildly began digging into logs and records, into transmissions. He found the ship was going to be collecting new cargo from Neville, a planet not far from there. He had to get on that ship. He had to. And, once on board, he would say and do whatever necessary to find those coordinates.

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