Tem Rondo looked out over his home, a junkyard stretching toward the horizon in every direction. The immense carcasses of spaceships were laid to rest here, their broken hulls decaying under the red sun and acid rainstorms, abandoned and forgotten.
When Tem saw the woman arriving, he knew she was special. She landed in a private ship, not one of the usual shuttles or freighters, something Tem hadn’t seen in all his years here.
“You are to guide me.” It was a statement, not a question.
Tem nodded. “What are you looking for?”
She started walking, and Tem followed. He had to steer her clear of danger: the junkyard people, crawling fog, avalanches of metal. Other than that, she found her way just fine, purposefully and securely.
“This is it.”
It was a battleship from the Geiger-LAB-War, its massive hull scarred and perforated where enemy bombers had dropped their payload. Across the prow, the ship’s name was visible in huge yellow letters: DESOLATION.
“Inside this ship, there is a strongbox. Guide me to it, and your job is done.”
It took all of Tem’s skill to navigate the empty arteries of the warship’s corpse, traversing halls and corridors until they finally reached the vault.
“Here is your remuneration, Mr. Rondo. Your job is done.”
Tem walked away but stopped when he got out of sight. After some climbing, he found a hiding spot and heard an emotionless voice from below: “You have ten seconds to state the answer. Nine. Eight.”
“Desolation.” The woman sounded confident, all alone in the remnants of this forgotten vessel.
The box asked questions. Every question about a different area, a different time, a different sector of the galaxy. Some questions in languages that Tem didn’t recognize, as ornate riddles, referencing nursery rhymes or specific local legends. Tem knew one answer, and he couldn’t have given it before the countdown ended.
A clicking noise, and the box fell silent. The woman reached with gloved hands and retrieved something.
Tem had seen enough. He climbed back down toward the ship’s exit. Almost outside, he heard footsteps and felt a burning sensation between his shoulder blades, followed by spiking pain.
“I’m sorry. You cannot move, and in thirty-seven seconds, you will die.” The woman appeared from behind Tem. “You may not understand, but I cannot afford to trust you.”
“How did you know… these answers?”
“There is a procedure to store data in human genes. The knowledge of generations, passed down in DNA, manipulations too complicated and expensive for you to think about. There are others like me, families that can afford genetic enhancement. Locks like this are made for us. You cannot acquire such knowledge in just one lifetime.”
Her shape blurred, and Tem knew he was close to the end.
“We are improving with each generation. Soon, we will be beyond human. Until then, we have to protect ourselves. Once again, I am sorry: but your death is necessary.”Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in