Thursday, August 28, 2014



by James McShane

The sheriff nurses his wound and throws you a look that suggests you’re off his Christmas card list for the foreseeable future. You shrug. You weren’t the type for Ho-Ho-Ho anyway. You have an important decision to make, though, and with Garlock on his way, you don’t have much time to think things through.

“As far as I can tell, sheriff,” you say, “you have two choices.”

“And what are they, pray tell?”

“You can stay here and die; or leave and possibly live.” You shrug. “Your call.”

The sheriff  hightails it out the saloon door. You then begin the process of dismantling the saloon’s interior and turning it back into your ship, by simply tapping the bottom of a beer tap with a serving spoon. This act opens a drawer beneath the counter, revealing a big red button that reads: Disengage Saloon Interior. Simple really. Once you press that, it’s all systems go.

The entire procedure takes about three minutes. Then another button gets pressed, the one labelled Lift Off, and within a moment, you are in the air and on your way to the mine. If the sheriff and everyone else got clear, good for them. If not, you’re not going to lose any sleep.

You look to the floor and see that Sally is out for the count. The activities of the last hour or so must have taken its toll on the young female. You wonder what you’re going to do about her, but eventually decide to leave her for later. It’s now time to remove all dead weight from the ground – and do it quickly. While Sally didn’t give you an exact schedule, you assume that Garlock won’t waste any time in getting here.

You make it to the mine quick enough. You manoeuvre the ship so as you’re above the entry point and you aim the ship’s guns there. You set phasers to kill.

“So long, suckers,” you chortle.

And then it all goes pear-shaped.

Not only has Sally woken up and is now pointing her own phaser at you (you should have taken the time to check her underclothes – women of all species have been known to hide anything in their pantaloons), but there is a rumble coming from the inside the mine.

“Open a radio channel,” Sally says. “You might be interested in what you hear next.”
Seeing that you don’t have much of a choice, you tap yet another button and a screen appears in front of you. A shimmering image appears, but it doesn’t take you long to realise that it’s Nee-Lin, the leader of the slave group down at the mine.

“Rachorin,” the former slave says. “I see you’ve come back to rescue us.” The sarcasm drips fiercely from his lips. “But you needn’t bother. We’ve worked out our own escape plan.” With that, the rumbling down below becomes more intense, and within minutes, the mine’s exterior falls away and you finally understand that while you were ministering the town’s inhabitants, your slaves have been building their own ship, using – be damned – the very material you sent them to mine.

Talk about taking your eye off the ball.

Or your eyes off the balls.

“Are you coming, Lestine?” Nee-Lin calls Sally by her given name.

“I thought you’d never ask,” she says. She gives you a quick peck on the top of your head. “We could’ve been good together,” she whispers. “But no, you always had your own agenda.” Then it’s her turn to shimmer, as Nee-Lin teleports Sally/Lestine back to the mine that is now an escape ship.

Your number is up. You look at the screen for the final time as a group of missiles head your way. If you had a god, you’d pray to it. But you don’t, so you don’t.

Time to die. 


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