by James Rumpel
Part 1 appears in this issue.
When Cam had first acquired his ship, he had intended to name it The Planet Hopper. However, since he was in an eternal state of financial deficiency, he had not been able to afford to have that many letters engraved on the side of the vessel. The constant need for funds was going to end soon. Cam positioned The Plopper so that he could get a better look at the humongous Earth ship.
“Well, this has been incredibly easy, so far,” he announced. “The authorities accepted our forged papers. We found the ship with relative ease. It doesn’t seem to have any sort of defenses. All we need to do is find a way to board the ship, and we’ll have our treasure.”
Jumon wasn’t quite so confident. “What if there are guards or booby traps inside?”
“I’m sure we’ll have to deal with something, but I have a good feeling about this.”
“I hope there’s food. I ate the last of the sandwiches my mother packed. I’m getting sick of dehydrated nuts.” Jumon, despite his massive size, had proven to be quite the crybaby. “And there better be some refined fuel. This stuff you’re using stinks.”
Cam had been unable to afford processed fuel and had been forced to use what was left of the unrefined stuff from a recent smuggling run. The fuel worked nearly as well as the refined version with the exception that it smelled like rotten eggs soaked in manure and fish oil.
“At least I had enough left to make this trip. Quit complaining. We are about to hit it rich.”
Cam maneuvered The Plopper so that he could see the broadside of the other vessel. The treasure ship had been easy to locate. It was a large, cigar-shaped monstrosity that looked positively ancient when compared to Cam’s sleek interstellar craft. There were a series of odd symbols painted on the Earth ship’s side.
“I don’t know that language,” said Jumon.
“Me neither,” replied Cam. “Put it into the ship’s computer and see if it can come up with a translation. I’m going to try to move closer and try to find a docking bay.”
Jumon leaned over to take a picture of the symbols so he could input them into the computer. He unceremoniously knocked Cam in the back of the head. The cramped quarters of the cockpit had not helped either of their moods during the month-long journey.
“Hey, watch it,” yelled Cam. “I’m trying to fly here.”
Cam was surprised when he was unable to find any means of docking with the alien vessel. There was an obvious door, but no way to attach his ship or balance the atmospheres of the two crafts. “What kind of interplanetary ship doesn’t have a docking bay? These Earth beings must be really backward. We might have to use the spacesuits to get on their ship.”
“Oh no,” whined Jumon. “My suit is way too tight.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have eaten all those sandwiches.”
* * *
A short time later, Cam and Jumon were floating near the exterior door of the Earth ship. It appeared that the hatch could not be opened from the outside. It was devoid of any handle, keypad, or any other traditional means of entry.
“We need to get inside that ship,” stated Cam through the spacesuits built-in communicator. “I just don’t know how we are going to pull it off.”
“Okay,” replied Jumon.
“Okay, I’ll pull it off.”
Cam watched in amazement as Jumon dug his fingers into the gap between the hatch and the vessel. The massive Sofran then planted his feet against the side of the ship, his spacesuit bulging. Cam could hear every grunt and groan through his helmet’s speaker. Grrrrrrrr
Suddenly the door pulled free. Jumon, door still in hand, was sent tumbling into space. Fortunately, he remained tethered to the vessel and was kept from floating away.
“You’re lucky that rope didn’t break,” called Cam. “Now, come back here with that door, so we can close it behind us when we enter the ship.” Cam pulled the line, helping Jumon make his way back to the open doorway.
“It looks like the inside doesn’t have any atmosphere,” announced Cam when Jumon finally reached his position. “This must be an unmanned ship. That is weird. What kind of planet sends an automated vessel to explore the galaxy?” He prepared to pass through the open doorway.
“Maybe they have robot guards,” suggested Jumon.
Cam paused. “You know, you opened the door. You should go first.”
Jumon handed Cam the large metal door and entered the ship. When Cam followed, he placed the door back in its original position. He was pleasantly surprised when it locked. Jumon would have to break it open again, but at least now they were safely enclosed inside the Earth ship.
Cam floated forward and bumped into the brick wall that was Jumon’s back.
“We need some light,” said Cam. He pulled a flashlight from his utility belt and turned it on. He shined the narrow beam throughout the small room. The area was completely empty.
“This should be the cockpit. Where are the instruments and computers?” asked Cam.
“Maybe they put the bridge in the back of their ships?”
Cam’s flashlight found a large set of double doors on the far wall. “Well, let’s see what we can find. I hope that’s the cargo hold.” He advanced toward the doors and grabbed the handles.
“Maybe that’s where the robot guards are.”
Cam stopped. “Why don’t you go first. I might not be strong enough to open it.”
“Okay,” said Jumon. By this time, he had taken out his own flashlight. This set of doors was not locked and gave way easily. Jumon looked into the newly revealed area and froze.
After a moment, during which Cam closed his eyes and listened for laser fire and screams. He peaked his head around Jumon’s massive body.
Cam’s jaw dropped. He stood, mouth agape, staring into the hold. Slowly, his look of shock transformed into a huge grin.
The entire vessel was filled with translucent jewels. Millions upon millions of the identically shaped gems reflected the beam of Cam’s flashlight. He grabbed a jewel which was floating nearby. The soft material crinkled in his hand. The clear cylindrical treasure was hollow and had a small opening on one end. It had a label of some sort wrapped around it. There was more of the strange language written on the label along with a picture of a landscape. The image showed green vegetation with a blue path winding its way through the plants.
Cam looked at the multitude of gems before him. “You know something, Jumon. I think we are going to be very wealthy.”
* * *
Hours later, The Plopper, with the Earth ship in tow, was well on its way to a secret rendezvous point. The black-market dealer Cam had contacted was uncertain what type of treasure Cam had described. The dealer would not make an offer until he had the opportunity to inspect the gems personally. Cam was certain it was going to be a very generous offer.
Cam and Jumon were having a celebratory meal of dried nuts and water when the ship’s computer beeped. Jumon glanced over at the screen.
“The computer finally has translated the writing on the side of the Earth ship,” he explained. “I don’t know what it means.”
“It might be the name of the ship,” said Cam.
“Maybe,” responded Jumon, “but Waste Management: Water Bottle Disposal sounds like an odd name for a vessel.”
Copyright © 2020 by James Rumpel