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Chekhov’s Phaser

Chekhov’s Phaser

I never planned to end up here. I’ve never planned anything, really. All my life has been like that: I see an opportunity and I take it. Sometimes that works out better than other times. So why should this be any different?

I’d just been by docking station three, slipping a few hundred wadded euros off the shifty captain from that rust bucket Lunacy. What a stupid name for a cargo ship. Why do ships’ captains feel compelled to name their barges with some clever pun, anyway? Lunacy, indeed.

About a month before, I’d caught them dumping their trash out their airlock after their last trip off the base. They thought they were far enough off the rock that no one would see, but I just happened to be ogling a brand new BMW private shuttle through the scope when I saw them do it. If I’d followed procedure and called it into the ILSOC, the International Lunar Station Oversight Committee would have slapped that scow with a fine that made the wad I’d stuffed in my own pocket look like milk money. And the dark circles under the captain’s eyes I’d seen the last few times they dropped their cargo off made me guess that he didn’t have the kind of dough to cover a fine like that. The cash in my pants told me I’d guessed right.

He’d been paying me off every time they came through here to keep my trap shut so they could just open theirs and avoid the dumping fees back Earthside. It was typical for that kind of operation – an old junker repurposed for cargo transport to try and get in on the lunar cash cow. I’d been inside Lunacy a couple of times when I was making nice with a sweet young thing who’d been working on board for a while. It was amazing their shipments didn’t grow legs, the security on board that boat was so bad. No one ever noticed me, though. It seemed like anyone could come and go as they pleased, and for a few nights, I was very well pleased, indeed.

I was off to my quarters to add these recently acquired bills to the little stash I had going, when my beeper went off. I jumped at the noise, and pulled the little phone from my other pocket. I could see on its display that it was a call from my boss, Laura. I was technically off duty, but I answered the call.

“Natalie?” A voice that was definitely not Laura’s boomed through the tiny speaker. I thumbed the volume down a bit.

“Yes,” I said, warily. “Who is this?”

“This is Jerry Cornwell speaking,” the voice said. Oh, shit, I thought. Jerry Cornwell was Laura’s boss. I’d never even seen the guy. “Could you pop by Ms. Baine’s office please?” His voice made it clear that it was not a question.

I gulped nervously to myself. “Sure,” I said aloud, turning away from the habitat section of the converted old mining station and toward the management offices for the resort. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

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Image: “Phaser, TOS” by Roxanne Ready

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