Wrong Nebula (fiction)


“I think we’re lost.”

Ripley looked up from her charts. “What are you talking about?”

Jill gestured at the ship’s viewscreen. “This doesn’t look like the right place.”

Ripley shrugged. “Well, it is,” she said. “I plotted the course myself, remember?”

Jill fidgeted. Ripley returned her gaze to her charts.

In approximately two hours, they were scheduled to rendezvous with a Kurgan ship, make the exchange, and then head to Attuan Station to drop off the package and collect their fee.

Dale was still sleeping. Ripley figured she’d give him another twenty minutes. Dale had been her partner in crime—and more—for the past five years. He was the brawn in their partnership. Ripley was the brains. And Jill. Well, Jill was Dale’s idea. She was the daughter of Elder Grenitch, President of Sector Eight, and one of the richest men in the universe. Jill’s connections were supposed to bring them more business, but so far, all Jill seemed to be good at was making coffee.

Ripley’s mouth tightened. She glanced at the nebula on the viewscreen. So pretty, with all its swirling pinks and greens. It reminded her of the sunset views from that house on New Nadroga. She smiled. After this job, that house would be hers. She’d never expected she’d want to retire, but lately, Ripley had found the dark silence of space monotonous and depressing. When she’d started to go out of her way to meet clients near brightly coloured nebulas, she’d known it was time to pack it in.

“Uh, Captain?” Jill’s voice cut into Ripley’s daydreams.

“What?” Ripley snapped. God, she hated that singsong way Jill said everything.

“There’s a ship approaching.”

It was go time.

Ripley hit the intercom. “Dale, you’d better get your ass out of bed,” she said.

“On my way.” Dale’s sleepy voice buzzed through the intercom.

“Jill,” Ripley barked, “go make some coffee.”

By the time Dale appeared, the coffee was ready. He took the mug from Jill’s outstretched hands and walked over to plant a kiss on Ripley’s cheek. Then he stopped and looked at the viewscreen.

“That’s not the Bird Egg Nebula,” Dale said.

Ripley raised an eyebrow. “No, it’s the Lovebird Nebula.”

“Ah,” Dale said, “I must have got them mixed up.” He took a big gulp of coffee and settled into the chair next to Ripley. “So, what’s our ETA?”

It took thirty minutes for the ships to meet, and another ten to get the telescopic docking tunnels connected. Once both ships confirmed the air locks were secure and it was safe to use the tunnels, Ripley, Dale, and Jill boarded the Kurgan ship.

Kurgans were more or less humanoid in shape, but their skin was hard and spiky, and they looked like a cross between a naval mine and a Christmas elf.

After exchanging a warm greeting with Gabbro, the Kurgan captain, Ripley gestured over her shoulder. “So this is Jill,” she said.

Gabbro nodded, taking a moment to size Jill up. Then he looked at Ripley. “You’re sure her father will want her back?”

Ripley nodded. Jill had gone on and on about being a daddy’s girl. “And I’m sure he’ll pay handsomely too.” She felt Dale move to her side.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I’m making the exchange.” Ripley replied, returning her attention to Gabbro. “I don’t expect she’ll give you any trouble, but you might need to restrain this one.”

With a nod of his head, Gabbro’s men lumbered into action. One gently propelled Jill forward, and two others grabbed Dale.

“What the hell, Ripley?” Dale looked at her, a mix of shock and anger on his face.

“I think she knows what happened on Tempis Station,” Jill piped up. “I told you there were cameras in the motel rooms.”

Maybe Jill wasn’t as dumb as Ripley thought.

As Dale sputtered out apologies and begged for forgiveness, Gabbro handed Ripley the artifact. Apparently, it had been used in fertility rituals by a lost race of lizard people. All Ripley really cared about was how much it was worth. This weird, penis-shaped thing was going to pay for her new house.

She thanked Gabbro. Then, without so much as a glance in Dale’s direction, Ripley turned and made her way back to her ship. As she plotted a course for New Nadroga, she thought about glorious sunsets and sand beneath her toes. Ripley grinned. She was looking forward to her new, planet-bound life.

Maybe she’d even take up surfing.

Finally found some time and some inspiration to write a little fiction!

This is my first time participating in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge, which gave me my title and inspired the story. I am also linking up with the Grammar Ghoul Writing Challenge #12, which gave me some fun prompts to incorporate.

Image credit: NASAESA, CXC, and JPL-Caltech (HubbleSite.org)

24 thoughts on “Wrong Nebula (fiction)

  1. And I finally have time to read things 🙂 Love this, especially her down to business attitude. And I have to say, there are days that I wouldn’t mind retiring somewhere alone!

  2. Whoa. This was so well-written. Despite throwing the reader into the middle of the action, I understood what was going on and that ending, did not see that coming!

  3. Ha! I love a good double-cross in the end. You caught me off-guard, and I love that. And oh my, it’s Scifi! Hardly any one writes it. Thanks so much for that. I haven’t done a spaceship story in a while myself. Got to get back to my roots. Great writing as always, Suzanne! Jill was a fun surprise. You cleverly kept me guessing until the end.

    1. So glad to hear I caught you off guard. Sometimes I think my characters’ motivations must be totally obvious – it’s nice when they manage to surprise readers. 🙂

      Yes, you should definitely write some sci-fi – it’s still the genre that’s dearest to my heart.

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