| COURSE FOUR: SCIENCE FICTION
Author: Wyatt Earp
Date: 05-25-12 20:11
The first asteroid hit the Sexy Sadie on the port side of the little rum runner. She tipped, threatened to spiral, and a slight adjustment to the rudder position put her back on course. Wyatt could have let the autopilot handle such a slight ding, but once he'd entered the asteroid belt he'd taken over control. It was a human thing, he knew, the inability to let a computer handle certain jobs, but basically, like all starship pilots, he trusted his gut far more than any damned circuit board. And like all rum runners he had far too few credits to afford a really good in-flight computer. Besides those things carried tracker software patched directly into the Feds control, and one thing that a rum runner didn't need was the Feds on his back. Wyatt might get paid by the Feds on occasion, but his methods, by necessity, had to be unorthodox, and just as by necessity the Feds often had to interfere in order to comply with intergalactic treaties or laws. Even if you tried to dismantle those things they were often backed up by another, even harder to find and disconnect, tracker. Much easier to get a retrocomp that he could trade for parts for, and that he always knew exactly what it was doing and why, and then take the helm when the going got complex.
The rum that Wyatt was after today was a ripe one, a little gender bender that went by the name of Veritas Hues. S/he had been giving Wyatt the slip for weeks, and now s/he was using the old ploy of trying to hide in an asteroid belt now that Wyatt was close on he/r heels. The bounty on her was far too juicy for Wyatt to leave he/r be, or even to try and wait for he/r to get hungry and come out. He decided to risk it and go in after he/r. It was when the second asteroid came hurtling into his field of vision that Wyatt began to wonder if he'd make a mistake. Even as the cold rock flashed by the viewer he caught sight of its tail. It was rigged with explosives. This was no simple asteroid belt. It was a minefield. Suddenly Wyatt found himself in an old-fashioned game of 'asteroids', dodging and wheeling, knowing that if he hit hard enough one he was going to be a goner. Rum runners were built light for speed, not armored for defense.
Finally his human reflexes were no match for the thousands of rocks that fired at him when one mined asteroid bumped another and, exploding, shattered into lethal shrapnel. In dodging one hunk of rock Wyatt's ship crashed into another particularly large asteroid with a particularly nasty lattice of wires and explosives. The last thing Wyatt saw was the flash of light, and the last thing he felt was a piercing pain. The next thing he saw was a wall of white. Actually it was a floor of white because he was laying on it.
He blinked. Was he all there? And where was there? Slowly he rolled over and then sat up. He was cold. Outer space was cold, really cold, but you couldn't breathe there, and you couldn't sit on cold icy ground either. Looking up he saw a grey sky, kinda like Earth on a winter day. In fact the stuff that was currently freezing his fingers was a lot like... snow. Dazed and confused Wyatt brought a fistful to his mouth and thrust his tongue into the fluffy white ball. It tasted like snow, and it acted just like snow as the heat of his skin started to melt it. It was really stupid to have tasted it. Some planets had things that froze other than water. Of course they didn't have breathable atmospheres either, but you just never knew on a new planet. Then the cold really bit into him and he tried to get his hand dry again, before the water turned to ice and froze his fingers solid. Already he could feel his eyebrows stiffen and the hair in his nostrils freeze up.
Where the hell was he? There was no planet anywhere near his last known coordinates, and he sure as hell wasn't still on his ship. In fact judging by what he remembered Wyatt figured his ship had to have blown to smithereens with him on it.
Two weeks later Wyatt knew where he was: always hungry, never fed; always cold, never dying from the freezing temperatures; always walking, never getting anywhere. He'd done a few good things in his life, but he knew that when his soul was weighed against the feather of a virtuous life, it had weighed more than a cannonball. He'd killed more than his fair share, broke numerous laws, and broke a few hearts along the way.
He'd heard of this place, but never believed it, only the stories he heard were all wrong. The truth was: Hell was cold.