Speed Racer

I miss the Renegade, I thought to myself, as we inched through space.

Inched was a relative term, and I had quickly come to remember how much I detested civilian class vessels. It had been a long time since I had worked with a private corporation, and it was proving tiresome already.

My primary responsibility was to identify, redefine and implement every process within the corporation, from accounting to project management, to pilot training, and everything in between.

I liked it to individually sorting and labelling every individual hair on a human head, figuring out the purpose and importance of each strand, removing the ones that were gray or with split ends, then moving on. Unfortunately, I had to include every single hair in my work before I could pull them all together into a tight, strong braid. I was a corporate stylist. I chuckled at the analogy.

“We’re almost there, sir.” Donovan said cheerily. I wanted to say he was a decent pilot, but given my experience, let’s just say he’s a pilot. I wanted to be nice, but a spade was a spade.

“This is shuttle GC-101-8A requesting route clearance and authorization.” I said over the comm to the traffic controller tower; standard protocol for all civilian ships. Space was a dangerous place, as I well knew, and civilian lanes were limited to the safest passages away from any pirate or capsuleer activity, usually.

“Permission granted, shuttle GC-101-8A. Fly safe.” the controller replied.

“Alright Donovan, I know you’ve been itching for this, so show me what she can do.” I said.

In my review of corp assets I had quickly come to realize that of the hundreds of junk heaps lining the hangars for parts and scrap, there were only three or four ships that were flight ready. Of those few, Donovan had been boasting about this particular shuttle from the beginning.

“You’ll see. She’s fast, sir. Just like I said.” Donovan said, eyes beaming.

We slowly eased into the slowest of the commuter lanes, and I cringed for fear of collision as proximity alarms blared continuously throughout the pilot cabin. I sat down in the co-pilot’s seat and strapped myself in, but as casually as possible so as not to undermine Donovan’s confidence in his ship.

“We’re approaching full velocity, sir.” Donovan said, his boyish grin spread wide across his face. I looked at the dashboard sensors. We were moving at 80 m/s. I sighed audibly.

The shine in Donovan’s eyes evaporated instantly with my carelessness, but I no longer cared. How was I supposed to make us profitable when our processes, our equipment, was all junk?

“Alright, get over it. Show me what she can do in warp.” I said.

Instantly, he was a twelve year old boy again, eager to please. “You won’t be disappointed, sir. This is where she really shines.”

We’d been through this same routine on every other flight we’d been on as we inventoried our hangars. And every single time I had foolishly allowed myself to get excited, only to be filled with disappointment afterwards.

“Coordinates verified. Ready to enter warp on your mark, sir.” Donovan said. I was impressed. If anything, they had started to at least learn some proper terminology.

“Mark.” I said flatly and felt the weak yet familiar sensation of warp. I looked at the dashboard sensors once again. We had achieved our maximum warp velocity quickly: 0.06 AU. Seriously.

“Does that actually qualify as warp?” I asked Donovan, though I doubt he heard me. It felt as though the entire ship was going to shake apart, and I quickly raised the volume of my voice to be heard.

“Abort warp!” I yelled.

Donovan reacted quickly and dropped us out of warp. The familiar emptiness of space greeted us. How many times had I lost myself in thought against this same backdrop? Too many to recall.

We quickly pulled up our coordinates. A quick micro-jump should take us back to the civilian lanes, and we could be back to the corp within an hour.

“Alright, lay it in.” I said, anxious to get back.

“No can do, sir.” Donovan said, pointing to a blinking indicator on the dashboard. “We’ve fried the warp core.”

I didn’t react. At all. No expression. No movement. No breathing. I simply froze. The idea of being trapped out here for one second longer than I needed to be was not something I was ready to endure.

“Well, we won’t get any closer just sitting here.” I finally said. “Let’s slow boat it.”

Nearly twenty hours later, we arrived back at corporate HQ. I left without saying goodbye to anyone, and enjoyed a long, hot shower.

Aura informed me I had one missed call. Nobody ever called.

“Replay message.” I said while lathering up.

“I’m in trouble. I didn’t know who else to call. Get back to me.” a smooth, unmistakable voice said to me. The sound of her once again sent shivers up and down my spine, but the urgency and brevity of the message raised my concern.

What had Mynxee gotten into this time?

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