Fiction Friday: Space Hackers

I found this gem searching through the archives the other day. A snippet of dialogue from a space mob story that, yeah, came to me in a dream...


Tetch crossed his arms, blocking escape with his formidable bulk. "What's wrong with you? Scudge off before I call the authorities."

The kid leaned against the formless hulk he'd been moments away from cracking open. "On this planet? Which ones—the police, or the mob? Either way, good luck concerning them with us grabbing goods off a few careless offworlders."

"For your information, this isn't goods." Kerrin adjusted her controls, unwinding the rest of the code. "It's a ship."

The kid started as the mass behind him took shape. His eyes shone. "A ship! Man, I knew I should have worked faster. But your girl is cute, so I felt bad."

With a diffident shrug, he took off towards the back door of the diner.

Tetch and Kerrin looked at each other.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Kerrin asked. Tetch rolled his eyes, then raised a commanding hand. "Wait."

The kid stopped. "What? Your interruption has already bunked the living I planned on making today."

"Making a living. That's what we want to talk about." Tetch gave him a hard look. "It's pretty impressive what you did, and—"

"I hope not." The kid returned the hard look. "Like I said, I was messing around. If I'd put in even a modicum of effort, you guys would be shipless now."

Aylee had remained silent through the 'cute' comment, but could take no more. She scoffed. "That's impossible—"

"We need something impossible right now." Tetch waved off her brimming retort. "You know about the Protectorate ship? The big one?"

The kid's expression blanked. "I've heard of it."

"We're taking it down." Tetch's intense gaze stifled the laughter bubbling on the kid's lips.

"Yeah? Why?"

"It's a long story-" Tetch looked at Kerrin, who was more than happy to jump in. "We're freeing the universe from oppression."

A clutch of lowriders growled past. Silver helmets obscured the faces of the gang. A sudden change in speed, accompanied by loudly gunned throttles, made it clear to the crew they'd been spotted. Not good. The kid tried to hide his growing agitation. "How noble. What's in it for me?"

"With the money you'll get, you can buy a ship the size of this planet." Aylee spit on the pocked tarmac near her feet. "Not bad for a two-bit chump who can't even pinch a junky little cruiser off the street without getting caught."

The kid raised an eyebrow. "Bullshit. If you could afford that, you wouldn't be eating at the Death Meat Diner."

Tetch shifted his weight. "We can't. But we know someone who can. There's only one catch."

"Sure. And Death Meat is 'only' a euphemism." The kid took a step back. He licked his lips, eyeing the now empty street behind them.

"If you fail, you die," Tetch said. "The Protectorate isn't known for offering jobs to punks who screw them over."

The kid's muscles flexed, and for a moment he looked ready to bolt. Then he relaxed. "Okay. I'll do it."

Tetch and Kerrin exchanged glances. Kerrin grinned. "That was easy!"

"Does your life have so little value?" Aylee asked. "We want someone smart, not on a suicide mission." 

"My life is all I have, so yeah, it's important." The kid contemplated a small icon tattooed on the inside of his wrist.  "But what good does it do me here? I'm either gonna scrape my way up through petty theft, with drugs, booze, girls, and bullets my downfall on all sides. Or I'll get pressed into the Protectorate. Correction - I'll suicide switch as they're dragging me away."

Aylee made a face. "I don't like this."

"Too bad. We're out of time." Tetch leapt onto the ship's boarding ramp. "Kid - what's your name, anyway?"


"It would be. We've got some reconnaissance to do. We'll meet back up with you later." Tetch disappeared in the dimly-lit interior.

The kid pulled Aylee aside as she walked past. He highlighted his number on a flyer from his legit business – a game store - and handed it to her.

"Here's my number." He gave a cocky grin. "Call me."