I set the ship down in what I thought was a hospitable spot. New world – new things to kill me. If Saval thinks he was getting any less than 500 units for this he was out of his mind. The terrain was rocky and littered with sand dunes. There was something different about this planet. Every planet I set down on is strange but this one…
My great-grandfather had an antique radio. He said it was so old that it predated hyperspace travel by at least two hundred years. Astonishingly the thing still worked. Granddad said that he used to tinker with it and that he could be in any room of the house and knew if he had left the power on, even if there was no signal. That’s what this place was like. Someone, or something, had left the radio on. I had better get moving if I was going to find anything of value.
I set out in a northerly direction. The dunes made covering distances difficult. They were covered in a red moss. If you weren’t on top of one, you might think the dunes themselves were bleeding. I took out my monoculars and surveyed the area. There were creatures flying over the landscape. This was strange because they didn’t have any wings and gravity here was comparable to that of earth. What was keeping them in the air I thought. They were serpent-like with short fins lining their spines.
“So long as you dragons keep your distance.” I muttered to myself.
I was climbing what was the largest dune yet and something caught my eye. I did a scan. Not close enough yet. I better keep moving or those dragon things might take more of an interest in me. I slid down the dune and landed with a crash. That “feeling” was stronger now. Like a hum but it was less of a sound and more of a sensation. A vibration I felt all around me but not at my feet. I didn’t know if I was relieved that the ground wasn’t shaking or more afraid that it wasn’t. There, about one hundred meters, that’s where the vibrations were coming from. I picked up the pace. If this was an energy source than Saval wasn’t getting his hands on it. I was here for artifacts and what he doesn’t know won’t kill him. I could use it to fuel my ship for months! Maybe I’ll sell off the excess and get a deep space drive. Almost there – I could feel the vibrations in my fingertips now. Just twenty meters more.
All the good feelings were gone. A monolith stood before me with some kind of portal at the base of it. The vibrations were so strong now that when I held my hand out in front of me, my fingers were just a blur. How could this thing create vibrations like this and not sound like a drive engine? It was no louder than it was when I got out of my ship. The way back was a trip I wasn’t looking forward to. I was already exhausted and what was in front of me could either make me rich or kill me on the spot. There was something spinning in the portal. It was like a silvery, liquid metal. There were no visible levers or controls of any kind. Scans came up with nothing. I hate this part of the job. I was going to have to test this thing. I did the only thing that made sense to me. I picked up a rock.
“Well, here goes nothing.” I said aloud as if a band of schoolmates were standing behind me, egging me on.
I threw the orange rock at the portal and flinched. Nothing – Where was the rock? No noise at all. I picked up another rock and threw it at the portal. Kept my eyes open this time. The rock just vanished into the spinning vortex like it was dropped into a pond. Time for the ultimate stupid move. I stepped forward and extended my hand. The tips of my fingers touched the spinning liquid. Jungle – wait what? I was in the middle of a damn jungle! Green all around me. Lush vegetation, flowers and insect creatures. There was a river not five meters away. What the hell happened? I whipped around and there the monolith stood. The same as an instant ago when I was in a desert. The portal was spinning still, but now in the opposite direction. If flushing the toilet has taught me anything, I was on the other side of the planet. Or, a whole other world all together. I grabbed my multi-tool and did a scan. It sang like a bird! There were resources here and they were close! I set my weapon for defence and moved cautiously ahead. The brush was thick and a kind of green you wouldn’t find in a box of crayons. It was almost glowing and yet had a plastic texture. The trees were no different. Tall and bursting with vines and canoe-sized leaves. As I moved away from the monolith I could feel the vibration subsiding. Perhaps that is how it serves as a beacon for explorers to find it? Whatever the case, two steps in this jungle and you’d be lost forever. I turned around a mammoth tree trunk to find a huge deposit. Scans didn’t have a classification but it’s energy output was off the scale! Sorry Saval, looks like this trip was a bust. I set my multi-tool for extraction and collected all of it. Thank the maker for subspace containment canisters. Now back to the portal. I ran back and again, touched the spinning liquid. I emerged on the other side.
“You trying to give me the slip, boy?” A voice snapped and startled me. As a reflex I drew my weapon.
“Saval? What the hell are you doing here?”. I said in disbelief.
“You weren’t answering your comm so I thought you were in trouble.” He said in a curt tone.
“Or you assumed I took off with your loot.” I replied.
Saval, now in a patronizing drawl. “Now is that the thanks I get for bringing your ship here? I am deeply offended by your attitude. I outta blast you into oblivion right now!”.
Damn it, I was going to have to tell him what I found. This was a raw deal from the start. I only owed him 500 units. What I found was worth millions. This could get me to the nexus. The centre of the universe. I can’t let him have it. Saval was going to be angry but with a face that red, people must think he’s always angry. How do I get out of this without getting shot at? As I was trying my best to think on my feet, Saval gave me my answer.
“So what in the galaxy is this thing anyway? Some kind of hidden entrance to a structure or something? Hell, did you find a treasure room boy?” Saval said as he reached out and touched the spinning liquid metal.
In a blink, Saval was gone. I drew my blaster and shot at the Monolith. It crumbled to the ground and the portal vanished with a sizzle. I turned around to see my ship. One of Saval’s goons must have dropped him off at where my ship had landed. Once he figures out where he is I’m sure he will radio for pick up. “I don’t know what happened. The thing must have malfunctioned when you went through it. I thought you were dead.” I’ll say if I ever see him or his merry band of pirates again. It was a shame I had to blast that thing into bits. I won’t be able to use it to go back one day. If I’m headed to the Nexus, that day will never have come anyway.
A approached my ship and put a hand on the hull. She’s been good to me. Got me out of worse situations than this many times over. She won’t make the journey to the Nexus though – wasn’t built for that. I need a new ride with a hyperdrive capable of going the distance. A bigger ship, with living quarters and a lot bigger cargo space. Better guns wouldn’t hurt either. If what I’m told is true, the closer you get to the centre of the universe, the more dangerous life becomes. Part of me wonders how that is even possible. I’ve seen things. Things I can’t begin to explain. Things that keep a blaster under my pillow. Things no man wants to see again. Time to head to spaceport 1973. I have some shopping to do.