Saturday, 11 July 2020

THE WARP

In the dotted black velvet of space, a taxi vessel was just leaving a small planet. In truth, it was more like a large asteroid. The little yellow ship gained speed rapidly as it headed into open space. On the door was a circular logo, ‘Z Quadrant Cabs 272’. The traditional black and white checkered stripe ran the length of the somewhat bulky shape. When it was new the heavy lines were no doubt considered graceful if not majestic. But that was some time ago. It was obvious by the dents and scratches it had seen better days. Yet, as taxis go, it surely had plenty left in her, despite a well-used appearance.

   “I say, I’m exceedingly grateful that that was the last run of the day,” said a metallic voice. It had the ring of a peeved British Lord returning on his steed to the estate after a day of dismal foxhunting. The voice went on.

   “Do you have any appreciation at all of the absurdity of this excursion? What in heaven’s name do they take us for? A delivery service? We’ve just transported a box of drill bits! Drill bits mind you, in a greasy cardboard box, to ill-mannered cave robots and other humanoid ruffians in a meteorite mine, whose cost-effectiveness I very much doubt would ever hold up to official scrutiny! And all for the dubious privilege of leaving our home to trek all the way out here to a foreign quadrant!”

   “Come on Bernard, the drill bits are manufactured in our quadrant,” said a female voice with the tired huskiness that indicated the passing of a long afternoon. “Why not use us?”

   “My dear Nova, may I remind you we’re a quadrant taxi. Not a cross-galactic light-year hopper!”

   “They had an emergency and we helped them. It is after all only the neighboring quadrant. And it’s not like we had any other runs knocking on the window.”

   “Are you aware that inter-quadrant freight tariffs are higher? But that won’t benefit us by a penny until we get a cargo license. That means converting our registration! Do you have any idea how much the Department of Galactic Transport charges for such a thing? And the waiting list? Does the word bureaucracy mean anything to you?”


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