A Short Story: An Unexpected Delivery - Part Two

in #creativecoin4 years ago

Jake was standing on the table, syrup smeared from mouth to hairline. Normally he would’ve been in trouble for both things. Today I was more interested in the second tarantula clinging to the bulkhead above the cooktop.

Jake squealed again. “‘pider, Mom, ‘pider!”

I decided there was no way he’d been bitten and maneuvered him back onto the bench. “I see it,” I said, juggling Ellie more securely onto my hip. “Where'd it come from, Jem?"

“The exhaust vent over the cooktop,” she answered from the intercom.

Realization hit.

“Spiders are cold-blooded,” I said aloud.


“That’s why we haven’t seen them until now,” I said, frowning at the vent. “They've been too cold.”

Space travel was notoriously chilly, especially if you were a cheapskate and kept the heat low. But one of the first signs of approaching planetfall was increased solar gravity causing the warp engines to run hot. Even with state-of-the-art shielding, entering a solar system caused the interstellar drive to shed more heat, especially into the cargo bay. If there were spiders in the bananas, I bet the first thing they’d do once the new heat un-paralyzed them was to search for a warmer climate. The vent ducts would be a perfect destination. Cooking breakfast had probably drawn them like a magnet.

The high-pitched ding of an approach alarm went off. There wasn't time to do any more detective work on this problem. I just needed to take care of it.

“Sorry, Sam,” I said, and picked up the frying pan to commit my second act of arachnicide for the day.

One of the things the first colonists dreamed about when they charged hopefully off into the stars was a Star Trek-like universe populated with “type M” planets just waiting for them to breathe the properly balanced air.

Kendahal was a pretty good example of what they got instead.

It looked warm enough from space, a fairly mid-sized planet a little smaller than Earth-norm characterized by a sort of sand painting effect from various shades of red and yellow patchworking across the continents. But despite the desert colors, the surface temp hovered around twenty-five degrees below zero at the equator and the smallish oceans were continually frozen over. One of the reasons Human life could try colonizing this rocky icefield was the presence of water, frozen or not; but it wasn’t exactly Eden. And the air was definitely not good for your health unless you liked breathing mostly hydrogen.

Harsh surface conditions meant colony life existed mostly underground and the main trade center was no exception. We made landfall near the eastern coast of Serenity Bay, our destination a defunct volcano housing a bustling spaceport in the network of empty lava tubes. We were assigned a berth about fifty miles down…though it might’ve just seemed that long because I hadn’t piloted a big rig in such tight quarters before. Maneuvering into position between a couple of giant tankers reminded me of my grandparents’ reminiscences about parallel parking. With half my brain still watching for spiders, I’d done better touchdowns in my life too.

“If you’d updated my software package I could’ve done that,” was Jem’s acerbic comment.

I worked my jaw to unclench my teeth. “Noted. Anything on the movement scans?”

“All quiet,” she said. “Except your young. I don’t think they appreciate safety belts.”

“Tough.” I set the boards to standby. “Where are we in the inspection queue?”

“Still waiting assignment.” She was silent a second, probably the time it took to scan hundreds of online news bits. “It might be awhile – there was some kind of local holiday two days ago and stuff stacked up.”

Under normal circumstances I might’ve fretted about the delay with a delicate cargo like fruit. Today I had bigger fish to fry. Spiders to squash. Whatever.

“We need to build an irradiator,” I said.

“You need a radiation source and you can’t even afford a software update.”

I unlocked the overhead bin that housed David’s toolbox. “We’ll use the engine core.”

“You’ll blow us up!”

I tugged the box down and nearly dislocated my shoulder. “Listen Jem,” I said in the tone that made my kids sit up and listen. “I’ve ignored my parents, child protection laws, business licensing requirements, IRS warnings and two lawyers to make this delivery. Spiders aren’t going to stop me either.”

“Are we nuking the bananas, Mom?” Sam asked from the doorway. I realized absently that the sounds of Ellie and Jake’s favorite “Tales of Peter Rabbit” cartoon were echoing up from the conversation pit. Sam knew how to play his distraction cards well.

“Unless you can think of another way to get rid of hidden spiders really fast,” I said.

There was a sudden chime from the console. “About that,” Jem said, her tone studiously casual.

I glared at the fish-eye. “What?"

“Inspection notice,” she said. “Someone must really want those bananas. Mr. Gordon Abdullah Jr. will be here in five minutes.”

Barely enough time to brush my teeth, let alone build anything. “Error report. The airlock’s not working,” I said, unable to think of anything better. “Such an inconvenience! We need at least an hour to fix it.”

“That’s it? That’s your brilliant plan?”

“Got anything better?”

“Yeah, just give the guy your paperwork and move on. It’s not like you skipped the cargo filter.”

“Doesn’t matter. Anything goes wrong, we’re stuck here for a hundred years. Broke.” I brushed past Sam into the corridor. “Send the error report and find me a schematic for a portable irradiator.”

Author's Note: I wrote this years ago for a short story contest my sister @annaleigh was having. It may still be published online but I'm not sure. I've broken it into three parts since it's too long for one Steemit post!

Photo Credit: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/german-supermarkets-got-a-surprise-shipment-of-cocaine-with-their-bananas

Lauren Turner, Wife, Mother, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, Blogger and Caretaker of Civilization

howdy again lturner! That lady is strong! I like her, she knows how to get things done, did you base her personality on yourself?

I'm loving this story @lturner, it's too late for an upvote, it would be
I wrote (or should I say my Mama wrote, and I posted and illuminated)
a serialized version of her life story up to the point just after I was born.
It was posted on Steemit (and again in Weku last year) in something
Like 5 installments, complete with old family photos etc...it was all
True. Mama had written this down on lined notebook paper, typed
In all CAPS front and back, then stuck it in her bible and forgot it.
When I found it, she gave me permission to keep it and do what
I wanted. She died in 2002. She'd be 103 yrs old now.
I wish there were a convenient and accurate way to search for
Older posts; I think, you being a mother, would enjoy the read.

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