A spaceship by a yellow nebula.

Catch of the Day

A freighter and a fighter tango. 

This week I'm starting with a little story, and on Wednesday and Friday I'll talk a bit about how I wrote it, the choices I made as a sci-fi writer and why. Just to try something different. Hope you enjoy!

Zip! Zazz! Kapow! The triple-pointed dagger slashes through the sky, engines flaring as it closes with the lumbering brick calling itself a freighter. Knock out the big ship while it's low and its valuable cargo will crash oh-so-gently into the swirling dunes below, ripe for the plundering.

Sensing its imminent demise, the freighter's captain pulls a surprise. Twisting a heavy dial on the bridge, the one-eyed, crag-faced scoundrel ignores the pounding his heavy hull is taking from that needle-nosed fighter and activates his wings. The freighter, with a gnashing noise, unfolds eight thin lines from its sides. The brick now looks like a dragonfly.

Still, the fighter's settled in right behind the big four rockets, their blue fusion matching the sky and presenting a wonderful target. Whatever those new things are, the fighter figures she's got this one. She presses on the trigger, feels the gasses pump from the fighter's belly to the twin cannons nestled between her three points. Hot energy ionizes that gas and spits its out as lethal light, ready to scorch, melt, and obliterate the freighter's only means to move.

Except those big engines go dark, the fighter's opening salvo sinking into the freighter's shields and their invisible net. Maybe the captain's come to his senses, decided to land the ship and give him his cargo in order to save the craft. Not that it'll work: her crew will take the freighter too.

She grins. It'll be a good payday.

Those wings on the side move as the freighter judders, its momentum playing out. In a second it'll start its plummet. The fighter stays back, ready to lay in if the freighter decides to reignite the thrusters. Instead, those wings form a slope on either side, the front wings going high and the backs going low. The fighter pilot's uncertain. Should she swing left or right and shoot those?

But what if they're weapons? A trap?

The wings break orange, metal unfolding like a butterfly breaking its cocoon. The pieces pull back, revealing not just a line but instead a half-shell, each one hiding a molten line. Those lines go from smoldering ember to bright white in the time it takes the fighter pilot to ask what the hell is going on.

The freighter jumps forward, hops up, the brick turning left as it rises. The fighter pilot follows until the blaze backwash hits her craft, flames flickering up her cockpit. Alarms cry, the kind saying she'll be piloting a charred stick if she doesn't take a dive.

So dive she does, bombing back towards the sandy surface. By the time she pulls up, her narrow fighter kissing the wind-blows grains, the sky's clear.

Another catch missed. Another promising payday gone.

Then, on the horizon, a flash. Metal catching light and rising. Not as big as the freighter, but a predator doesn't always get to choose their prey. She spools up the engines, sets on the new target.

And hunts.

A.R. Knight

A.R. Knight