1534 words (6 minute read)

Chapter One

Dax sat drunkenly snoring up a storm, dead to the world. He had propped his boots up on the control console in front of him and reclined the pilot’s seat as far back as possible. It wasn’t nearly as cozy as his bunk, but it was serviceable enough when he was too drunk to bother stumbling to the far end of the ship. This also created the perfect angle for cradling a liquor bottle at crotch level. Perfect, that is, until the ship began to rock, sending it flying to the floor.

The continued turbulence woke Dax to the fruits of his labor.

"Ugh. Son of a biiiitch," he moaned, attempting to rub the hangover away through his temples. He gazed over to the bottle on the floor. Cheap-ass Verdasian wine, he thought. Never again. The ship lurched some more, and Dax sat up, steadying himself. What now? A flashing red light on the console caught his eye.

"Samm?" He turned to his side, expecting an answer. Nothing. The protracted mechanical cylinder, branded “SAMM” along its side, hung lifeless from the ceiling. Annoyed, he focused his eyes back on the blinking alert. The distant rumbling from outside was growing to an unnerving roar now. A few quick taps on the console and the cockpit shutters began to open. Instantly, an incredible light flooded the ship, blinding Dax. The nose of the Crichton glowed hot orange and white, burning up from the steep, high-speed entry into the atmosphere.

The legendary Commander Dax Harrison was crashing into a planet.

"What the fu--AHH!" The ship rocked again, knocking him out of his seat. Scrambling back up, he yanked hard on the yoke to little avail. “Samm, where the hell are you?!” He tapped frantically at the console, searching for the SAMM restart. “Need a little help here! Wake up!” A few more taps and the lifeless cylinder lit up with a holographic display surrounding it.

“Commander,” the artificial voice replied cheerfully.

“Hi there,” Dax replied cheerfully. “HELP, YOU IDIOT!” Immediately, SAMM’s systems kicked into gear, assuming control and leveling the descent. In the seconds it took to do this however, Dax braced for impact, scrambled to think of a god to pray to, and quite possible peed a drop or two.

“We are now approaching our destination within acceptable speeds and vector, Commander.”

Dax slumped back into his chair, catching his breath and wiping a bit of panic sweat from his brow. “What the hell was that?!”

“The M-class planet Saleon. Also known as Celestial Body—“

“Yeah, I know it’s a planet. Why the hell were we crashing into it? What happened to the auto-pilot?”

Ever the efficient AI, SAMM was already searching the logs. “System records show auto-pilot function was disabled two hours, 36 minutes ago from the primary command console.”

Dax glanced at his boots, then over at the console, ashamedly making sense of it.

“I would have corrected our course,” SAMM continued. “However, that was approximately one hour after you shut down my systems as well, stating that I was ‘killing your buzz’.”

Dax rubbed his temples, the explanation amplifying his hangover. “All right, all right, fine. Just, get us on the ground.”

“Commander, due to our increased speed, we are approximately one hour early. Might I recommend a shower and perhaps a shave?”

They just HAD to give him a personality, Dax thought. “What are you trying to say, Sammy? I’m not pretty enough for a cargo run?” He asked as he looked over to a small mirror on the wall, double-taking as he realized SAMM might have a point.

“I simply would imagine your adoring fans may expect someone a bit more… presentable.”

Dax sighed heavily, mentally preparing for the oncoming routine. With much grumbling, he headed back toward the ship corridor. “Right. Just land us at the station. I’ll be out, eventually.”

 

The SSV Crichton soared across the lush, natural landscape of Saleon. Crystal blue waters and expansive forest lands stretched far into the distance, breaking only for the equally stunning snow-capped mountains in the horizon. The only smudge in the postcard-like view was the Crichton itself. The small cargo vessel had seen better days. Better decades, actually. But the Alliance didn’t necessarily dole out the fresh paint jobs and replacement parts for an old hauler like this. Such was the trade off if you wanted to coast your way into retirement, and Dax was perfectly content staying off the Alliance’s radar until then.

The viewscreen in Dax’s bunk intercepted an auto-play transmission. He tuned in and out, half-listening to the narrator as he continued shaving.

“With four major settlements, the planet Saleon is home to both booming industry and magnificent natural beauty.” He peeked over and caught a glimpse of the images designed to capture tourist wallets. Hmm, not bad. Dax had business here, but this was the first time he’d had the opportunity to visit himself. Maybe this cargo run wouldn’t be so boring after all. Turning to a marker board on the wall, he jotted down Saleon under an ongoing list of possible retirement locales.

Minutes later, SAMM landed the Crichton at Saleon Outpost One, and Dax was immediately met with a small group of officers in the hangar bay. Leading the pack was a young deck officer, attempting and failing to hold back his enthusiasm.

“Commander Harrison, welcome!” The greeting was awkwardly loud and accompanied by a salute so vigorous Dax thought he might have bruised his forehead. Oh, great. A super fan. Nevertheless, Dax switched on the commanding charm.

“At ease, Officer--?”

“Merris,” he continued. “And Commander, if I may say so, it is an honor to have you here at Saleon One.”

“Well, it is my pleasure to personally see these goods delivered to one of the finest colonies in all of the United Territories.” Dax maintained a smile through gritted teeth, as Merris glowed at his idol’s acknowledgment.

“Please, right the way, sir.” He signaled the other men to attend to unloading the supplies, while he and Dax made their way off the platform.

 

Dax took in the gorgeous surroundings of the main promenade. The settlement was a giant tourist trap resort. Where there wasn’t a hotel, restaurant or other luxury business, there was a viewscreen advertising for one. Dax also noted an expansive tech boutique along the way. He tapped the communication pin on his uniform.

“Hey Sammy, tell me again about those servo upgrades you were looking at.”

“Well, the 9700 series is quite exquisite but currently overpriced due to demand. The 9450 line, while not as efficient, would be a suitably budgeted improvement.”

“The 97s it is.”

“YOU’RE A WONDERFUL MAN,” SAMM shouted. “I mean, thank you, Commander.”

Dax smirked. “Don’t say I never did anything for you.” Dax’s reputation proceeded him as he and Merris made their way. Onlookers whispered at his passing and gazed at the legendary hero. Dax returned with nods, smiles, and glances back, paying special attention to some of the more beautiful women passing by. What a ham.

“As you can see, Commander,” Merris continued. “We are the largest and most popular of the Saleon colonies--“

“Uh-huh,” Dax replied occasionally, feigning interest as Merris rattled on.

“Business really has boomed in the last year, and with your endorsement for the new resort, which again I thank you immensely for so graciously agreeing to, we can expect a doubling if not tripling of our previous margin.”

Dax stopped in front of a gorgeous water fountain at the center of the promenade. He always did appreciate faux Greek statues and their proclivity for topless marble women. “Say listen, how long is this deal gonna take? Not to rush things. I’ve just got a lot of important things to take care of during my stay,” he said as he decided which casino to visit first.

“Oh, absolutely, Commander. We’ll have you in and out of the studio in no time flat!”

Moments later, Dax was barging into the foyer of Zellev’s, the most popular, most lavish resort on the colony. Instantly, a crowd of rabid fans swarmed from the ground floor casino. Screaming ladies, photographers, a gentleman offering a tropical drink with an umbrella in it, and so on.

“Thank you!” Dax gushed. “Thank you, everybody!” He slowly made his way through the sea of people, shaking hands and smiling for the cameras as Merris fell behind.

“If we can make our way, Commander,” Merris shouted over the cacophony. “We’ll need you on Level 3 in about twenty minutes.”

Dax sipped his complimentary drink. “You know, Dennis, I think I might actually take some time and have a look around. There’s no rush, is there?”

“Merris!” He politely corrected. “Um, not at all, Commander! I’ll have the crew standing by at your convenience.”

“Terrific. Appreciate it, Dennis.” Dax carried on with the crowd, signing autographs and schmoozing.

Next Chapter: Chapter Two