I’m making my way across the Far Shore to deliver time-sensitive medicine for a real big fish when some raiders decide to pay me a visit. The big fish made the right decision to hire me instead of those clowns from GalEx. Otherwise, there was no chance in hell the package would get delivered. The big fish knew the chances were, hmm, let’s say, fifty-fifty with me. GalEx, zero, no doubt. I’m a private courier. People pay me money—good money—to deliver packages. Packages they can’t trust with the Postal Service, Galaxy Express, Star Ship, etc. They trust me, though, but that trust comes at a cost. I ain’t cheap.

Like I was saying, I’m making my way across the Far Shore when those fucking zealot raiders decide to pay me a visit. They must have been waiting for me at a nearby station. How they knew where I’d be and when I’d be there and that I happened to not have time for their bullshit? No clue. That’s a problem for tomorrow.

It’s just me in my ship, Starfish, a Class D cruiser. She’s an old hunk-a-junk, but she gets the job done. I had a little work done on her over the years, so she’s faster than most ships in her class. Had a few weapons put in, too. She’s not a fighter ship by any means, but you never know what trouble you might run into out there. Protecting the package is what they pay me for, and sometimes that means people who get in the way happen to get turned into stardust.

No clue what I was delivering—I never ask. I’m better off not knowing. It’s a sort of courier confidentially agreement, like what you have with your doc. All I know is that it’s a little metal briefcase with a handle. The case was surprisingly heavy, but I don’t know shit other than that.

I strap the package down in a heavily padded trunk in Starfish’s cabin and start making my way across the Far Shore, like I was saying, when the raiders show up. I’m a few hours from making touchdown, dropping off this package, and treating myself to the finest glass of hex this back-planet destination has to offer.

Mother-fucking-space-pirates. Scum of space. They’ve got nothing better to do than sit around and wait for their prey. Space is too damn big for the SDF to do anything about it. No way they could have coverage across every single parsec out there.

Three ships drop in behind me. I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, two Class Cs and a Class B. They’re thinking to themselves, this’ll be the easiest job we’ve ever done. But here’s the trick, they can’t just blow me to oblivion or the package’ll be compromised. Me and ole Starfish aren’t just target practice. They need to be subtle; they need some tact. These raiders have white skulls painted on the sides of their carbon colored ships. They don’t know a thing about being subtle. They need to take me down but not utterly destroy me. Now that, I can work with that. 

I send out a hailing frequency, “Hello, fellow citizens! How’s your journey across the vast reaches of nothingness going? Light traffic out here today.” The Class B raider responds with a warning shot right at me, eaten up by my shield.

I engage the thrusters full force and try to skate my way out of this predicament. They shoot little blips at my backside, nothing my shield can’t handle. They probably don’t expect such a strong shield for such a small ship. I’m getting some distance from them, thinking I’m in the clear. Then the two Class Cs launch two missiles each, right the fuck at me. Now Starfish’s shield’s strong but not that strong. Starfish sustains minor damage, but my shields are fucked. The profit margin for this job shrinks considerably. Now I’m pissed. This is turning into a real hassle.

I pull back on the stick and twist hard left, turning Starfish around right at them. The Class Cs are sitting ducks, probably shitting themselves, as I unleash a barrage of the Good Stuff. After my missiles hit them, there’s nothing left of the ship to my right. Completely evaporated. The one on the left wasn’t a direct hit, but it was did the trick. There are some scraps for the scavengers floating out there. You’re welcome.

Now I have a policy—hell, maybe it’s even a credo—I don’t just blow ships up for no good reason. Missiles ain’t cheap, first and foremost. And I don’t want myself or my clients to have to deal with law enforcement for no damn good reason. Everyone’s happier with an easy delivery. But I stock Starfish with the Good Stuff precisely for this kind of shit.

The third ship, the Class B, I can’t see that bastard. I run a scan. On top of me. Oh shit. I hear a loud clank above me, and Starfish’s sensors start going nuts. Red flashing everywhere. Sweat runs down my face. The Class B ship shot out a harpoon, and it got me good. My thrusters can’t handle much more max speed, and I don’t exactly have extra fuel to burn. But I floor it, trying to escape the harpoon. It’s some Old Man and the Sea shit. No use, the hook and line are some high-grade matériel.

A light bulb goes off in my head. Instead of trying to run, barely pulling the Class B along, I turn back and head right toward it. The Class B fires some warning shots to get me to back off. They intentionally miss. I know they can’t risk losing the package, otherwise, this would be a total bust for them. They begin reeling in the line, trying to tear me out of my trajectory heading straight toward their ship. But their line doesn’t spool fast enough, I’m heading straight onward. I fire a couple more of my missiles. No dice. Shield’s too strong on this bastard.

Fuck it! I keep my trajectory straight and steady, right toward the Class B bastard. I brace for impact as me and ole Starfish ram full speed into the Class B. Lucky for me, Starfish has a military-grade nose that can withstand just about anything. Even though the Class B’s about four times the size of Starfish, we do some serious damage and take its shields down. I engage the reverse thrusters, fire my last two missiles, and boom! More stardust. The sucker’s toast.

I barely make my way into the port, puttering along with a harpoon stuck into the top of Starfish and the line trailing behind. The fish that got away. The port’s finest mechanics are working on fixing Starfish up right now.

I finish delivering the package on foot. No issues there. You don’t fuck with a courier with a black eye and a small suitcase. I collect my fee, plus a little extra for the trouble. Now I’m here, enjoying this fine glass of hex in this fine establishment.

“Did you learn what was in the package?” the man next to me at the bar asked.

“No fucking clue,” I said.

“That’s a real buncha bullshit,” he said.

“Bullshit or not, drinks on me tonight.”

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Collected in Fleeting