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Title: Cruel Malfunctions

Horys Khar, 182 years of age and weak with natural atrophy, held onto the arms of his chair as tightly as his feeble hands would allow. The instrument panel in front of him flashed warning signals at him. The cramped cockpit of his tiny and battered merchant vessel, the Harbinger, pulsed with red light.

“Stabilise.” Horys said as a shudder passed through the ship.

The computer answered. “STABILISER MALFUNCTION. RECOMMEND IMMEDIATE SUB-LIGHT ENGINE SHUTDOWN.”

“No way! I’ve already shut down the Variance Drive. We have to get this cargo to Fhumhani by tomorrow.”

“AT SUB-LIGHT SPEED THE JOURNEY TO FHUMHANI WILL TAKE FOUR YEARS AND THREE MONTHS. IT IS POINTLESS TO RISK FURTHER DAMAGE TO THE SUB-LIGHT ENGINE.”

“What about the half a million credits? For the first time in my life I’ll be rich!”

“WEALTH ACCUMULATION IS IRRELEVANT AT THIS TIME.”

Horys could not believe what he was hearing. He sat up straight, wincing as a sharp pain shot up his buckled spine. “Haven’t you learnt anything from what I’ve said over the last century? Money is everything. My quest for vast earnings is what keeps me going. With that half a million I’ll finally be able to mechanise my withered physique and customise you into a mean looking ship brimming with weaponry and power.”

“AUTO-REPAIR OF THE VARIANCE DRIVE WILL NOT BE COMPLETED FOR 34 HOURS. THE DELIVERY DATE CANNOT BE MET THEREFORE THE CARGO WILL NOT BE DELIVERED BY THE LATEST TIME SPECIFIED ON THE CONTRACT. THE MONEY WILL NOT BE PAID. IT IS POINTLESS TO RISK DESTRUCTION OF THIS VESSEL ANY LONGER.”

Horys slammed his fist into the instrument panel in frustration. He heard a crack. Less than a second later a flood of pain reached his brain. He yelped and looked down at his wrist. Broken, and for the third time in two days. “OK.” he said despondently. “Shut it down. Engage auto-repair.”

“DONE.”

The whine of the sub-light engine faded rapidly. Silence filled the Harbinger. All was still. Horys, depressed beyond belief and as bored as golf caddie, stared out of the forward view port. Ahead, only a million kilometres away, was the brown disk of Myre, an insignificant bog-ridden world of no consequence to anyone anywhere. The planet’s moon, grey and pointless, was even more insignificant. It was the final waypoint on the journey to Fhumhani and usually would have been passed by in a second. Not today though.

What a place to breakdown, thought Horys. What a totally dreary and murky place to have all your engines fail on you. What a place at which to realise that you’d lost half a million credits and that bionic body parts would no longer be fitted. What a place.

The Variance Drive detonated...

 
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