An Olympus Union: Red Scythe Story
“Come now, pilot, we’re going to need to inspect your cargo.”
“No, really,” Tudor Lom protested, “you really don’t. I’ve launched from here often enough, this shouldn’t be an issue. You know I’m just a courier.”
“Yes, yes, we’ve seen you in the past, but regulations have changed,” the dock master was insistent. “If you wish for your ship to leave Mars, you must have us review your manifest.”
“Oh!” Lom brightened up, “I can get you the manifest. Sure, that’s not a problem, hang on.”
Tudor pulled a mini tablet from one of his flight suit’s pockets. Tapping the screen, he went to pull up his falsified manifest documents. Meanwhile, the dock master headed past him, aiming for the ramp. Tudor didn’t notice until he heard boot heals clicking that the man was half way up.
“Whoah, where are you going?” He raced up the ramp to meet the insistent official. “I thought you just needed to see the manifest!”
“Well, of course I need to match the manifest to the cargo in your hold.” Were the man a tad less stiff, he’d likely have chuckled there. “We aren’t able to simply trust the word of pilots. Certainly you understand.”
The dock master shoved past the Red Scythe pilot and into the ship. Looking around, he made his way towards one of the cargo containers.
“I assume this is what you’re transporting?”
Lom was starting to panic. If the dock master went into the container, he’d find the stolen Olympus Union weapons that the Red Scythe had been stockpiling. Not only would Tudor be imprisoned, he’d likely take out his two suppliers along with him. If the OU people on Mars didn’t execute him, Hardbarger would. He needed to come up with a story, and fast.
“Hang on, if you open that, you might ruin the art, and my client won’t pay,” he blurted out. “Are you willing to foot the bill for millions in recompense?”
“Millions?” The dock master pulled his hands away. “What millions? What in the world is this? I wasn’t aware that anything of that value was for sale on Mars. What business are you in again?”
“Well, what I meant was, it was new furniture, produced as artistic furniture.” Tudor was furious at himself. He’d need to work on his lying. “You see, a rather rich client requested a very lovely table to be built for her, out of Martian rock. It’s been inlaid with other minerals that were mined in the asteroid belt. I delivered those, too. The artist sealed the container. If it’s opened before my client opens it, then she’s not going to pay. Then, I’m out the money, but I still need to pay the artist. Who’s going to pay that bill? Are you?”
The dock master took another step away from the container. Lom’s false indignation had been convincing enough. Now, if he could just get the man to clear him for take off. Of course, it was not to be.
“Well, I’m not quite certain how we’ll approach this. What I do know is that you won’t be able to lift of with that aboard?”
“Oh come on, why not? What if you just go ahead and step off the ship and I’ll just fire up the engines-”
“If you try that,” the man interrupted, “I will have you blasted out of the sky!”
Both men were quiet for a moment. Lom did his best to remain calm. Unfortunately, the Olympus Union official was glaring at him. The Red Scythe name was still a hint, a rumor, a whisper in the dark. The right people, or rather the wrong ones, knew how to reach Hardbarger. Tudor didn’t want to connect any unnecessary dots today.
“I’m going to need you to have your shipment removed from the ship. If you’d like, you can have it stored here. Otherwise, I’ll ask you to request transport, to remove it from my launch fields. I’ll return in eighteen hours. Should I find that still here, I’m opening it. And, keep in mind, if you try to sneak out of here, you will be destroyed.”
Tudor watched the man’s back as he left. This was far less than optimal. He’d need to hurry and call for someone to move the weapons off of his ship quickly. This was so far less than optimal. He couldn’t get caught. If Hardbarger didn’t come after him, the warlord Zonis certainly would when his shipment didn’t arrive.
“The boss is going to kill me!”
Gary Bloom is the author of ‘The Olympus Union’ series which follows the battles and lives of the residents of our solar system, centuries from now. His short story ‘Anchor for the Shuttle’ takes place hours prior to the novella ‘Pirate’s Lies’ which features the Red Scythe, a pirate organization operating on Mars and in the asteroid belt. You can download ‘Pirate’s Lies’ for free here. Other story lines and free novellas can be followed on OlympusUnion.com.
(Editor’s note: Hope you enjoyed our first Short Story Sunday column! Each week we will highlight an original story or book excerpt from authors in the science fiction, horror, or fantasy genre. If you are an author and would like to be featured in our column, contact us with a sample of your work at Submit@ScienceFiction.com.)