Cargo Serial, Episode 1

A science fantasy serial.



September 2023


“Please. You don’t need to do this.” Rebecca wrung her hands nervously, following the massive wolfman around his quarters as he prepared.

He looked at her, then squinted. “Why are you so frightened?”

“I’m like, your plucky sidekick. Remember? Just here for comic relief?” She held her hands out expressively, then dropped them. “What happens if something happens?”

He didn’t respond.

Rebecca waved her hands, frantic. “I’m not an Evo or Order. There’s nothing special about me. I’m just some dork out in the middle of space working on her PhD thesis. I can’t survive without you.”

“You require no special abilities to survive, Becca.”

“So’rn, please,” Rebecca pleaded. She looked at the wall display screen that now showed the wreckage her wolfman was about to crawl through. Miles of jagged metal just waiting to poke a hole in his pressure suit.

So’rn followed her terrified gaze, stripping out of the last of his utilitarian garb. He held up a large white jumpsuit expectantly.


“Help me get into this.”

Sighing, she started pulling the tight-fitting jumpsuit up his legs, pushing his thick, black fur down as she went. “Our space suits are a lot looser.”

“This is just a cooling liner.” So’rn shrugged his arms into the suit and Rebecca helped pull it so he could clasp it shut. “It is supposed to be tight.”

“Hundred-thousand-year-old society and you haven’t invented auto-fit yet?” Rebecca took a step back, looking at him critically.

“Some of us prefer the older models,” So’rn grumbled. He pressed a wall-plate, then stood back as a closet opened.

“What is that?” Rebecca gaped.

So’rn glanced sideways at her. “Chaser armor.”

She ran her hand down the alien armor, admiring the ridges and plates. “It’s so organic. Are these ablative plates?”

So’rn raised a brow. “You are familiar with armor?”

“Dad drove a tank.” She shook her head. “This is a lot more sophisticated than a tank, though.”

“With good reason. I am a Chaser,” So’rn said, extracting the armor from her rapt attention. “Hold this.”

Rebecca helped while her wolfman donned the armor. She marveled as the seams vanished when the armor pieces clicked together, becoming molecularly one. “Chaser.”

So’rn glanced at her, recognizing an implied question. “We chase deviant Gatekeepers. Like your Steven.” He snapped on a head-gear ring. “He is lucid, however, and is not a threat. The others are.”

“This helps?”

“It gives us an extra moment to evade their attack.” So’rn looked in the air and waved at something.

Rebecca touched the armor again and saw the user interface for it floating around them. “They’re that dangerous?”

So’rn stopped and regarded her sorely. “Becca, worlds have been lost to deviants. You’ve been to Senin, right? Saw the history report? A deviant did that.”

“Oh.” Rebecca stopped asking. Apparently, deviants were a sore issue for So’rn. Still, what was a Chaser doing on a freighter? She looked at her friend, wondering if she should broach the subject. But he still seemed to anticipate her question.

“With the threat of the Venda, it seemed prudent to assign me to this circuit.”

“Just you?”

So’rn scowled at her.

“Sorry. I thought you chased deviants.”

“Venda tend deviants.” He stretched in the armor. “So, we engage in combat with them, too.”

Rebecca looked out the window display. It wasn’t an actual window, but looked like one. So’rn followed her gaze. “Do you feel better now?”

She turned to face him. “So you have armor. You could still get crushed. Or something worse.”

“There is a risk to any action we undertake, Becca. This is worth that risk. And my armor should give me an edge out there.”

“Can’t our rescuers look at the projectile?”

“If those who sent the projectile reach us before we are rescued, knowing who they are will increase our likelihood of survival by an order of magnitude.”

Rebecca looked down. So’rn lifted her chin. “I’m going to get a rock. That’s all. I need you to help.”

“Okay.” Rebecca sighed. “Sure. A rock. In the middle of a minefield.”

So’rn cocked his head.

“You know. Mines. Bombs you set to keep people out?” She pursed her lips, forgetting she was speaking Common. “I guess there’s not a word for that.”

So’rn grinned. “Don’t fret. We have our toys too.” He turned on his heel and left the apartment.

Rebecca had to trot to keep up. “Yeah. Toys.”

“I’ve mapped the field and found a chunk close to one of the access ports.” He waved his hand and Rebecca saw a representation of the asteroid chunks in the wreckage. An airlock on the external hull was highlighted, as were several boulders that littered the fuselage around it.

“Huh. They’re affected by the ship’s gravity flow too.”

“The effect extends outside the spacecraft a little.” So’rn pointed. “That one looks good.”

“There’s a tangle of sharp metal junk all around it.”

“I’ll be careful.” He looked at her. “I’m not foolhardy, you know.”

“I’m starting to wonder about that,” Rebecca grumbled.

“Wonder about what?” So’rn stopped and tapped a panel. “Here we are.”

“What do I do?”

“You’re my backup.” So’rn pressed another wall-plate in the room they had entered. A closet emerged from the wall. “Put, um,” he squinted at her, then pointed, “that one. Put that one on.”

Rebecca looked at rows of actual space suits neatly hanging. “Do I need a liner too?” She pulled at her blouse.

“Not necessary. This isn’t armor. Just put it on.” So’rn extracted the suit and examined it. “It is auto-fit and close to your size.”

“Oh.” She kicked her loafers off and stepped into the suit. So’rn sealed it for her and clicked on the headpiece ring.

“Your helmet will deploy automatically, but here is a manual deployment control.” He put her hand on a control surface.

“That’s… what if I hit it accidentally?” She toggled the control and her helmet seemed to materialize from the neck-ring. The visor was opaque, like So’rn’s, but she could see everything perfectly from within. Another toggle, and it retracted.

“It will not respond if you are in an inhospitable environment,” So’rn grinned. He couldn’t help but be impressed by the questions she was asking. “Okay, I assume you know how the lock works, right?”

“I’ve been in one during transfers a few times.” Rebecca fiddled with a control panel on her arm and looked up in the air at the settings floating around her. She activated one and her suit resized itself to more comfortably fit her. “If you expect me to go out there and drag your crushed butt back,” she stopped. Shaking her head, she pointed at the door. “I don’t want to go out there.”

“You’ll operate the return cable.” He tapped another panel, and a winch emerged from the wall by the door. He clipped the cable to his armor. “Just pull on that lever and it’ll retrieve me if there’s a problem.”

“What if you’re, like, stuck? Crushed?”

“Then it will retrieve parts of me.” So’rn gave her a toothy grin. He sobered at her horrified expression. “That was humor. You Terrans have a very dark imagination.”

“You Camdyn are really annoying,” Rebecca grumbled.

“That we are.” So’rn pulled up a virtual control and activated it. The door to the room snapped shut, and the room seemed to lift.

Rebecca walked to the door and stood beside the winch. “I don’t like this, So’rn.”

“I’m not going to get injured. The thought of you nursing me is motivation enough.”

“Pfft, you only wish.” She hit a panel next to the door. Her visor deployed automatically while the air was removed from the room. After a brief moment, the door opened, revealing the expanse of their little section of the space-freighter. She watched So’rn exit, stepping through a thick layer of dust. “I thought we had this cleaned every transit.”

“This is from this transit,” So’rn said, looking down. The downside of having gravity on the exterior of the vessel was the inevitable buildup of dust. He looked up and pointed. “We have a much better view of that now. Look.”

Rebecca followed his gaze and nodded. This transit had a supermassive black hole. They were far enough away that it wasn’t a threat to them. Their trajectory was already pre-programmed to account for the gravitational pull. “That’s why this transit is such a gold mine.”

“Gold mine?”

“A rich source of resources.” Rebecca clarified. “You guys can mine this for centuries and not make a dent. Dust, rocks, planetoids, all pulled into that accretion ring. Easy pickings.” Part of her thesis covered the astrophysics being represented here. She looked at her suit sensor readings. “And radiation. Hurry up.”

She watched So’rn navigate carefully around wreckage that was strewn across the fuselage of the space freighter. The edge of the chasm created by the projectile was close, and the distorted metal raised up like a vast, frozen wave. The sheer size of everything intimidated Rebecca, and she shivered a little. The engineering section alone was over fifteen miles long. The cargo section was over eighty-five miles long. She felt like a little flea standing by the door as she watched So’rn pick through the dust looking for samples of the asteroid.

“This is odd,” So’rn said.


“I already looked at this chunk.” He held up a fist-sized piece of the asteroid. “Not enough mass for a good radiation read.” He tossed it and kept feeling in the layer of dust. “There should be a larger piece right here, but it’s moved.”

“That’s a little creepy, So’rn.” Rebecca fidgeted, glancing at the handle of the winch.

“It is peculiar.” He stood up straight and turned around in a circle, looking down at the dust. “I’m not detecting any magnetic resonance, and yet the fragments seem to be aligning themselves as if there were.” He bent over and lifted up a much larger fragment. “Here it is.”

“Good. Now get back here.” Rebecca tugged on the safety line.

So’rn looked out into the chasm created by the asteroid. “It’s different when you’re actually looking at it out here.”

“I’m sure it – So’rn!” Rebecca screamed.

So’rn looked back at her, then around as a large black wave seemed to rise out of the surrounding dust. The chunk he held liquified and joined the wave that enveloped him. He writhed, trying to dislodge the black liquid while it attempted to find a way into his suit.

Rebecca pulled the lever and started pulling on the cable when the winch wasn’t turning fast enough for her. “So’rn!”

“No! Don’t pull me in!” So’rn waved a hand at her. The entirety of the liquid that had blanketed him abruptly left him, following the cable toward her.

Rebecca pushed the lever up and tried to jump back just as a mass of blackness suddenly fanned out and engulfed her. She fell back, hearing a distinct scream through her suit. Whatever it was, it was trying to get in. Suddenly, her headpiece retracted. Rebecca screamed into the vacuum as the blackness seemed to instantly fill her suit, immersing her.

Her last thought was a combination of emotions she had no idea existed.

Then, nothing.

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