John’s SciFi Space Short Story
The bridge of Samson’s Revenge was impressive. Besides the modern layout and the luxurious cushioning in the furniture, the controls and displays featured a virtual screen. Something Gabriel had never seen. No wonder they reluctantly handed it to me, she thought with a snigger. She had a reputation for bringing back ships in a less than pristine state. In fact, she was renown for reducing the life expectancy of any spaceship. And it was fast. Instead of the three days it would’ve taken to fly to Kish, Sampson’s Revenge only took two. For protection, it had all around shielding built into the hull, forward and aft muon cannons, and included ports for photon missiles. They had armed it to the hilt, something she hadn’t expected the CIA to approve. They must’ve encountered some tight spots and decided they needed more firepower. Or they expected her coming along one day and wanted a ship left once she finished with it.
Once she received permission to land, Gabriel spiraled her descent through the atmosphere of Kish and to the terrestrial spaceport. The planet itself looked like any other habitable planet; blue oceans and continents with vast plains and forests, and towering snow-capped mountains. Large glaciers occupied the polar regions. Most of the population inhabited the equatorial zone. It had a mostly tropical climate with patches of Mediterranean temperatures interspersed in between them.
The humidity hit Gabriel as soon as she disembarked from her spaceship, shielding her eyes from the harsh tropical sun. She had no difficulty exiting the spaceport, since anyone she met stared at her appearance more than her credentials. She found a local taxi service and keyed in Akkad Antiquities. Once the navigation located the company’s offices, the taxi zipped off towards it. Since navigation predicted several hours before they arrived, Gabriel took a nap, as there was little to interest her. When you had traveled as extensively as her, every planet resembled each other after a while.
The taxi service landed in the drop-off zone in front of a massive skyscraper. She paid the fare and got out. The building impressed her, and she wondered what company that delved into antiquities had the wealth to build such a structure. They emblazoned Akkad Antiquities across the façade with a pyramid symbol next to it. Not wanting to stay in the uncomfortable outside conditions any longer than she had to, Gabriel scaled the entry steps and entered. A receptionist sat at her desk a few meters away, so Gabriel approached her. She wondered whether it was human or an android, but discovered the humanity of the being moments later. Her footfalls echoed throughout the foyer as she walked through it toward the desk. The receptionist looked up and smiled.
“Welcome to Akkad Antiquities.” The blonde hair and exquisite facial features provided Gabriel with a sign of the preferences of the person in charge. The slight blush acknowledging potential competition for attention gave away the receptionist’s humanity.
“Thank you,” Gabriel said with a friendly smile. “May I speak with the head of Akkad Antiquities?”
The receptionist gave her best ‘bearer of bad news’ smile. “I’m afraid Mr. Le Fu is a very busy man. It’s impossible to talk to him without an appointment.”
Gabriel responded with her ‘I don’t give a shit’ smile. “I’m sure Mr. Le Fu will see me if you tell him I’m here about a particular crate sent to Babylon space station.”
The receptionist gave her a condescending glare. “Who may I say wishes to see him?”
“One moment, please.”
Gabriel nodded and directed her attention toward the artwork scattered throughout the foyer. Various statues decorated the perimeter of the space. They were of earth Greek origin judging by the style and obvious age of the granite carved antiquities. Ambling from one statue to the other, Gabriel inspected the carvings with admiring appreciation for the skill of the sculptor.
“Excuse me,” the receptionist said, with a volume designed to get Gabriel’s attention.
Gabriel glanced around and raised an eyebrow.
“Mr. Le Fu will see you now. Please take the elevator to the 66th floor, and his secretary will meet you. She will escort you to Mr. Le Fu’s office.”
Gabriel smiled and nodded. “Thank you.”
She took the elevator up to the 66th floor. A view of a large glass panel barrier confronted her as she stepped out of it. The sliding glass doors had 666 emblazoned above them with black lettering. How quaint, Gabriel thought. A woman stood waiting, more stunning in appearance than the one downstairs. If nothing else, Mr. Le Fu has an exceptional taste in selecting his female employees.
“Please follow me.” The woman turned, escorting Gabriel through the glass doors towards a plush conference room. They entered. “Please wait.” She left, closing the door behind her.
Gabriel headed for the floor-to-ceiling window to gaze at the outside scenery. The 66th floor panoramic view was impressive. It extending over the city and offering a vista of the mountains in the distance, although the haze from the humidity obscured them somewhat.
The door opened behind her. Gabriel turned. A man almost 2 m tall stood in the doorway. He wore a black suit with a red polo neck shirt. It complemented his jet black hair and beard impeccably trimmed to pencil thin risers up to the hairline. His black eyes, wells of darkness, stared at her as he displayed a sinister smile. “Good morning, Ms. Angelis.”
“Good morning to you, too, Mr. Le Fu.”
“Ric. You can call me Ric.”
“Ric Le Fu. Interesting.”
Maintaining his menacing but otherwise nondescript smile, he said, “Please have a seat.”
Gabriel obliged him and sat in a soft cushioned high-backed chair facing towards the door. He sat opposite her and folded his hands on the table, his stance relaxed, and stared at her.
“And how may I help you?”
“I’m here tracing the movements of a certain crate you recently freighted.”
Ric raised an eyebrow. “Why is a crate of mine of interest to you?”
“They damaged it during unloading.”
“And? I fail to see the significance of any damage requiring a need to investigate the crate’s origins.”
We could play this game of avoiding the topic all day, Gabriel thought. “They damaged it on Babylon space station just before the massacre of football supporters there. It seems more than a coincidence.”
“You mean when that man went berserk? Why blame his actions on a damaged crate?”
Gabriel sighed. “It’s not the crate that interests me. It’s the contents.”
“I believe it came from Umma. Is that the contents’ origin, or was Umma just a transfer point along its way from its source to its destination?”
Ric frowned in thought. “We packed the crate at Gehenna. We have an archeological site there and discovered an artifact we wished to transport to a secure location.”
Gabriel raised her eyebrows in disbelief. “On a commercial freighter?”
Ric shrugged. “That was all we had available.”
“And what was this artifact?”
“A statue,” Ric said with an amused grin. “I’m not at liberty to divulge anything more until we have assessed it.”
Something didn’t seem plausible to Gabriel. When she looked in the crate, it was empty except for the residual odor of evilness. “Are you sure it was a statue?”
With the same amused grin, Ric replied, “That’s what they told me.”
He was stonewalling her. He knew it wasn’t a statue, but he could afford to stick to that story since she had no proof of it being otherwise. “Very well. Please give me the details of your archeological site. It seems I must fly there for my answers.”
“Are you sure that’s a worthy use of your valuable time?”
“It is, unless you can tell me anything further.”
“As you wish. I’ll have my secretary give you the information as you leave. In the meantime, would you honor me by partaking in dinner tonight?”
Gabriel gave him her fakest of smiles. “I’m afraid I’m too busy, but thanks for the invitation.”
“I’ll survive. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, but I must leave now.” She rose and started toward the door.
Ric stood and opened the door for her. “It’s been enjoyable for me, too.”
Gabriel nodded and headed out.
“Good luck,” Ric said from behind her.
She gritted her teeth firmly to prevent her blurting out the reply she wanted to say to him.
To be continued…