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12th July
2012
posted by amber

Highjack

We’d stopped on an uninhabited planet to stock up on water but before we could take off again, an ungainly contraption of space-worthy alloys, crudely worked metal and even wood galumphed over a hill and was on us before we could get ourselves airborne.

Their weapons were not of the latest vintage, which was our first clue as to how long they’d been stranded on the planet. But weapons are weapons, and we allowed ourselves (our own weapons being foolishly stored in their lockers aboard our ship) to be tied with rough fibrous ropes. My crew and a contingent of the ruffians was left with our ship while I had the unpleasant honour of being conveyed on that rattletrap flying machine which retained scant evidence of its original incarnation as a spaceship.

Their settlement was as haphazard as their vessel. Rough-sawn boards, stretched animal hides, topped with solar sheets and the radio equipment which had no doubt alerted them to our presence. A wooden mast elevated one device to prominence above all else – an ovoid metal egg that I recognized from documentation of the First Keplan War – a cloaking ray. Which was doubtless why we had not detected their presence.

The only planet with water in this forgotten sector. They must have expected rescue much sooner than this. Or possibly they had, in fact, been visited before. Without rescue. Hence their belligerent approach to guarantee our cooperation.

I assured them, “You don’t need the guns and ropes. We won’t leave here without you. The war’s been over for a long long time.” Indeed, very few among them could have been in the original conflict.

As more and more ragged people emerged from the rough shelters, I saw that I had misspoken. Our ship wouldn’t hold that many. But we could take a contingent and send help for the rest. I was about to suggest this when their commander said, “You don’t understand. We’re leaving you here. Just as we were left here five years ago when we came by to perform a mineral survey. And the group who stranded us had answered a distress signal. How you achieve your own escape is no concern of ours.”

This story was inspired by the first line of “Haggle Chips” by Tom Purdom, from Asimov’s, July 2010. I had to jettison the first line, however, as it referred to a very civilized highjack, and mine was far from civilized.

1 Comment

  1. Jonathan
    12/07/2012

    Very cool concept.

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