The fireball lanced across the evening sky, and Jarik Davin watched it burn up the atmosphere, an idiot grin forming on his cracked and scarred face. His gruff voice resounded across the garage as he shouted for his assistant, Wilson. The robot floated over, its repulsors kicking up a miniature dust storm as it crossed the concrete floor. It focused its optical receptors out the window Jarik was smiling through and asked, “What is it this time, boss?”
“I don’t know, Wilson,” Jarik said, “but I’ve got a feeling it’s something big. Prep the mech. We’re heading out.”
“Tonight? It’ll be freezing out there. I’m not looking forward to having my wires iced over just because you can’t wait till morning for some salvage.”
“Part of the job, little buddy.” Jarik patted Wilson on what passed for the robot’s head. “Now go. I’ll get the emergency supplies and my enviro-suit. We need to get out there before anyone else claims it.”
The robot sighed, an exaggerated effect of its artificial intelligence, and floated off to prepare the mech suit. Jarik grinned again and looked back towards the sky, marking the trajectory of the fireball from space.
This is a good sign, he thought. *I’m finally going to find something worthwhile, I know it. It’s been too long since we’ve had a decent haul out here. *
A half hour later Jarik was in his enviro-suit, a second skin that functioned to retain moisture and cool him down in the day as well as keep him warm at night, and running his mech across the sands of the Karochee Desert. Of course there were other environs he could’ve picked to run a salvage business out of, but none were as large as the Karochee. He also enjoyed the solitude.
Not many people chose to live in a hellhole of burning days and freezing nights.
The mech was a sight to behold. They hadn’t let him keep his machine from his military days for obvious reasons, but thanks to the training he’d received in robotic engineering, he’d been able to build his own. It wasn’t as pretty as the sleek, overdesigned monstrosities they pumped out of the assembly lines for the corps, but it was functional, and that was all he needed it to be. It stood 5 meters tall, with enough room for a comfortable cockpit. The inside was, of course, climate controlled.
Wilson fit into a wall socket, where he provided the A.I. to control the background processes of the mech. He could drive it and engage in combat as well, if he had to, but Jarik preferred to do the fighting himself. When there was any fighting to do, that is. The worst they had to worry about out here was one of the sand dragons getting territorial. Most other creatures avoided something as large and loud as Jarik’s giant robot suit. But just in case they did run into any danger, it was outfitted with a large grappler arm with a cutting torch, and a light sword for close quarters combat. The other arm was a laser repeater, roughly equivalent to a marine’s laser carbine, but far larger. It could hit just as well at a distance as up close, which was why Jarik had chosen that instead of something more devastating but less accurate.
After an hour he found the crash site. The crater was still smoking, and the sand around the impact site had been turned to glass by the intense heat. It cracked under the powerful steps of his mech’s feet, and as he came closer he watched the thermometer on his display jump up.
On the bright side, that means nobody’s here yet, he thought. Now to get inside…
He found the hatch that presumably led to the crew compartments, extended his grappler arm, and fired up the cutting torch. A sharp, blue flame lanced out from the center of the hand, and he ran it in a circle until he’d made it around the door. As he did this, Wilson spoke up.
“Little busy here, Wil. Can it wait?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve been observing this ship since we found it, and I don’t think it’s an accidental crash. There are scoring marks on the hull that indicate ship-to-ship laser fire, and some of these modifications look illegal. If I didn’t know better, and I don’t, I’d say this was a pirate ship, boss.”
“Well, if it is, the government doesn’t have salvage rights, seeing as they don’t own this land. Nobody does. We’re perfectly fine, Wil.”
“If you say so.”
“I do. Aha!” he exclaimed as the hatch was burned through and fell out onto the glass, cracking it like a rock on an ice covered pond. “There we are. Now, let’s get in there and see what we can find, yeah?”
The console receded, the front of the mech opened, and Jarik hopped to the ground, his helmet fogging up from the heat. Wilson disengaged himself from his socket and followed, keeping an eye out for any government ships or other scavengers. None appeared, and they made their way into the dim light of the aperture.
The lights were flickering, it didn’t seem like much had survived the battle or the crash. They did find a couple of bodies, and the lack of flight suits or even proper civilian clothes reinforced Wilson’s idea that this was a pirate vessel. What hadn’t been charred to cinders by internal explosions was threadbare and slovenly designed. Random pieces of armor were tied to each other in the most slapdash fashion.
As they went deeper, towards what Wilson predicted was the cargo hold, Jarik became convinced that there were no survivors of the crash.
If anyone had survived, they must be one tough son of a bitch, he thought. Not someone I’d like to meet out here with just Wilson to back me up.
A large door at the end of the dark hall was opening and closing, its mechanism malfunctioning. Jarik looked around and found a rent piece of metal and jammed the thing open. The panel next to the door sparked, and the gears let out an horrendous screech, but it stayed up, and after giving it a moment they went through.
The room beyond was all corroded metal, painted brown, from what Jarik could tell in the light from his suit’s headlamp. There were boxes strewn everywhere, most of them broken. Various electronic bits, weapons, clothes, and who knew what else littered the floor. It was a wreck, but one box remained tied to the floor with heavy magnetic straps.
The box was large, it wouldn’t fit through the crew door. They could get it home, but they’d have to strap it to the back of the mech, and it would slow them down to the point of crawling back. He deactivated the straps and tossed them aside, finding the panel to open the box. By some miracle it still worked, and wasn’t locked.
“Either these pirates were really stupid, or there’s nothing in here worth taking,” he said.
“Let’s hope they were really stupid,” Wilson replied. “I’ve had my eye on that new VLX-82 model repulsor, and I’d hate to come out of this job with just what these guys had in their bunk lockers.”
The panel hissed open and Jarik waved away the smoke it released. As it slid to the side, a low, blue glow suffused the cargo hold. Jarik’s eyes lit up, and he whistled. This was more than he ever could’ve hoped for.
“Wilson, my friend,” he said in a low voice, “I think you’re going to get that new repulsor after all.”
Inside the box was a Chintamani tooth, the largest Jarik had ever seen. These teeth were the only legacy of the Chintamani the galaxy knew, and even the name was merely some arbitrary title someone had given to the ancient creatures. Nobody had ever seen a live one, but their remains were everywhere, and once the Technomancer’s Guild had discovered how to harness the energies within them, they had become the main source of power for the galaxy.
They ran everything from star ships to home generators, and many people were given to wonder at their ubiquitous nature. Jarik, on the other hand, didn’t care one whit about any of that. All that mattered was this was valuable, and it was his by right of salvage. He looked over to Wilson, that idiot grin splitting his face again, and said, “Go start the mech. I’ll be along in a bit.”
As Wilson scuttled out of the cargo bay, Jarik reached out and took the tooth. It felt warm in his hands, but not the warmth of the fires from the crash. It had an internal warmth that heated his body through his enviro-suit, and he marveled at the swirling clouds beneath its surface. This had been a very good haul. With this tooth he could take care of his living expenses for the next year with enough to spare to upgrade Wilson and his mech.
He took the tooth and hurried out of the burning hulk. The rest of the loot was inconsequential. Nothing on this ship could possibly compare to what he held in his hands. He clambered back into the mech, Wilson fired up the hydraulics, and they stomped off into the desert back towards their garage.
If you enjoyed this story, you can find many more like it on my Original Fiction page, or in the anthology Darkest of Dreams from DimensionBucket Media on Amazon. You can also find more of my work at my website, jimfear138.blogspot.com, including my weekly podcast and audiobooks I've produced. You can also throw me a tip if you like at Ko-fi.