Matthew Boughey
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Chapter 1: The Kingfisher Eponymous

A Science Fiction Story

How important is a name? Thinking logically, it is merely a series of letters which we place, one in front of another. (Most of the time completely arbitrarily) to assign meaning to something. Whether that be a person, object or place; the name of something is often of great significance. An identity if you will. A single word which defines everything that something is and can be.

This is one of the few thoughts which sailed through Mr. Nine’s head as he watched his colleagues bicker with Groni, the Kotharian salesmen about how much their new procurement would be setting them back. It was a simple ship they had set their sights on, but one that Mr. Nine knew would keep him and his friends operational for the foreseeable future. It was spacious, had a big gun and plenty of room for improvements; If they could raise the cash. Mr. Nine had done the calculations and determined the exact value they would be willing to pay for the old rattletrap. He had informed his two associates that this was a non-negotiable price and they wouldn’t leave the frozen wastes of Rynek until the salesman had succumbed to reason. Something he didn’t seem too keen on…

Mr. Nine had never really been one for talking, or other beings in general. In fact, the only two individuals he could tolerate for prolonged periods of time were the two currently arguing over electron drives on his behalf. Ajax and Raphael; both were riddled with flaws and yet they remained of great use to him. Raphael was a stocky man originally from New Venus, his wit was sharp as a knife but he was fundamentally a coward. Because of this, he tended towards dealing with the groups more social affairs. His silver tongue is a welcome amenity when you were as antisocial as Mr. Nine. Ajax was very different, he was slightly shorter, incredibly muscular for a Mambonian of his size, and covered from head to toe in thick reptilian scales. He was quick on his feet and fearless, exactly the kind of person you want around when the proverbial shit hits the fan. But both were wasted without the self-proclaimed guidance which he could provide. And so, he had assembled their little team with the intention of going from place to place doing carefully planned low risk jobs for a reasonable yield of currency in return. That was how he had pitched it two years before. In reality, most of their jobs had not remained low risk for long. And often ended with significant amounts of gunfire.

Hopefully, today would not be one of those days, Groni was of a slimy disposition but he was just trying to make a living like everyone else. He certainly didn’t deserve Ajax blowing his jaw off with his Rassette plasma revolver. And they were offering a very fair price. Mr. Nine estimated it would be several weeks before the salesman would receive a better offer, and based on the condition of his workshop he couldn’t afford to wait that long for a windfall. There was useless salvage littering the floor and much of the equipment around had fallen into disrepair. Mr. Nine had also spotted a Tanjo board in the lobby when they entered, a tradional Kotharian gambling game which he imagined had drained a significant amount of the salesman’s funds. No, without this sale, it would be a matter of days before he went bankrupt and turned to more unconventional forms of income. And he couldn’t imagine that going well for him.

Mr. Nine noted Raphael shake hands with the salesman with a sly grin on his face. Ajax finished their business as Raphael returned to him with keys in hand. Although the expression on his face seemed far from happy.

“Is it done?”

Raphael twirled the keys around his finger slowly. Seemingly captivated before he eventually replied:

“Aye, it's done, we even got a low-density shield generator thrown in with it for the same price, it was easy to swing. That guy’s eager to sell.”

Mr. Nine was impressed, he continued to underestimate Raphael’s knack for negotiation.

“So then what’s wrong?”

“It’s the name of the thing, you know how I like giving names.”

The sentence took Mr. Nine back to his earlier thoughts. The name was unfortunate but insignificant. The name of a spacecraft was often dedicated to things from their planet of origin. This particular ship descended from one of the earthen colonies and thus had been donned “Kingfisher”. Mr. Nine admitted:

“Well it’s not the most imposing name but it seems apt for a ship of this caliber.”

Raphael looked at the ship begrudgingly:

“Can’t we change it?”

“No!”

Mr. Nine knew Raphael was the sort to grow attached to things he assigned names too. And he didn’t fancy another ship based heart-break like last time, when their ship “Adeline” was shot out of a low planet orbit on Alkanost Prime by Garisani Pirates. It had been three weeks of Raphael moping around the safe house listening to romantic ballads before he deemed it ok for the group to move on. Ajax had a theory that the name assigned to the ship meant much more to Raphael than he was letting on, but decided it was best not to pry.

There was little time for such sentimentality and so Mr. Nine insisted the ship remained with its current name. As they climbed aboard for a look around. Mr. Nine’s initial assessment was that Groni had lied about several aspects of the ship's functionality. But it was nothing that couldn’t be repaired with enough time and effort. He climbed into the pilot’s chair and begun his pre-flight checks. He wouldn’t know what needed prioritizing until he had conducted a test flight and he was eager to see how the old thing ran.

At that moment Ajax entered the cockpit:

“Here’s your change.”

He declared throwing a handful of shrapnel into their rather sad looking loose change can. The others knew better than to ask where the light fingered rogue had got it. Mr. Nine took it as a cue to hasten his efforts.

“So, where to now?”

Ajax exclaimed. Mr. Nine had a series of locations in mind to go and trade for improvements for their new vessel. He decided the planet of Bothi would be a good start, then they could upgrade their electron drivers to something a little more substantial. But before he could relay his plan Raphael piped up:

“I thought that would be clear.”

He said, walking over to the ships navigation computer and imputing some coordinates.

“We go to Alkanost Prime and salvage what we can of Adeline.”

This statement took Mr. Nine by surprise. While completely stupid and risky for their new vessel, the impulsive adjudicator had an interesting point. This got Mr. Nine’s mind racing. Their old ship had landed intact on Alkanost Prime, and contained several unique and exceptional pieces of equipment. There was their Sporkian Gatling gun, the high-density terrapin shield and how could he forget his favorite Yomnian leather piloting slippers.

If even one of these could be acquired it would constitute as a monumental profit, or monumental driving comfort. But Adeline would surely have been found and completely cannibalized by the Garisani Pirates. The beloved ship could be scrapped and spread to the four corners of the Universe by now.

“What makes you think there will be anything left for us to find?”

Ajax said, clearly on the same wavelength.

“We have to try.”

Raphael said determinately. Spamming various buttons on the dashboard, pretending he knew what he was doing.

“OK,” Mr. Nine said reluctantly. “Just stop pressing things!”

Raphael stopped immediately, smirked triumphantly and in silence retired to his quarters.

“He’s acting weird, right? Like weirder than usual?

Ajax grunted. It was true, Raphael probably had ulterior motives for his passion towards their new mission. But that was an often occurrence which Mr. Nine had learned to tolerate. Besides the possible gain was worth the additional risk. Mr. Nine charged the booster drivers and the Kingfisher accelerated through Ryneks atmosphere with intense haste. The ships vitals all came up green ready for its first voyage.

Next stop, Alkanost Prime!

Fin

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