FEAR & LOATHING FOR DISTANT WORLDS 2 - VIII
The decision to flee came suddenly - or perhaps not. Maybe I had planned it all along. The bill was a factor: we had been running a tab of 10,000 credits per hour for 56 consecutive hours. I had no money, or desire, to pay it.
It was likely our last port of call, and my co-pilot and I had been acting accordingly. Caravanserai Station, perhaps the last true bastion of humanity before plunging headlong into the brightest part of The Black.
Everything was a blur - almost all the way back to the Omega Nebula.
Had we really slipped through a Rust Net of stardust before some cosmic hand snared it shut, or was that just the Rush of Aganippe?
Perhaps the beautiful vistas of star, nebula, planet and ring had all actually just been the convulsions of a mind mixed with equal parts Wolf Fesh and Harma Silver Sea Rum?
That would explain why a Collection of Wonders could leave pilots of our - calibre - sorely wanting. Watching the entire galaxy fold in upon itself, twisting into a grotesque smear of light that writhed and expanded beyond comprehension is a mind-altering experience for some, but a commonplace occurrence for those who understand the finer side of consciousness-expanding hallucinogenics.
The basecamp at the Llyn Tegid Nebula was like something out of bad Onionhead trip: Was our Phantom really eaten whole by a hungry Orca, or was that a simply a side effect of a drug-addled mind?
If so, it would also explain our miraculous escape: Shooting out of the blow-hole in an SRV, nearly achieving orbit, and then returning to the surface with a graceful landing that only cost 99% of the rover’s integrity.
That had been an especially lucky break, and now I had to pray for another. My attorney/co-pilot was nowhere to be found - the swine seems to have already made good his escape. Probably booked passage out to Colonia while I was asleep, leaving me here with a monstrous bill and no way to settle it.
The weasels were closing in, I could smell them. Or was that the desiccating room-service remains: three dozen limes, charred synthetic sweetmeats, half-eaten savouries, and local “delicacies” far too outlandish to actually be consumed?
It was time, well passed time truly. The Fleet would be issuing the next waypoint at any moment, and here I was 1000’s of light-years from the basecamp we should have reached days ago.
I hoped to slip out unnoticed, we had booked our accommodation for another 24 hours after all, so as to facilitate such a departure. All I needed was just a couple of un-interdicted high-speed hours to put myself as far away from this backwater of humanity and the Sword of Damocles threateningly hovering above me.
I opened the hatch to make my escape, arms piled with hastily stuffed luggage and unspoiled entremets. Standing before me was a small uniform, flanked by two much larger ones.
“Ahh, Mr. Duke, just the man we were looking for”. The small uniform was from Station Administration, the larger two Security.
“Well,” I sighed, suddenly slumping. “Many fine books have been written in prison…”