provenance: unknown

[Editor's note: This piece is unfinished — it has no ending.]


She was beautiful: One clean, pure form from nose to tail. Ioto had never seen a ship like it.

She had just docked, he thought; she hadn't been there yesterday, and her engines still glowed faintly. A surface-to-orbit vehicle, he figured; she was too big for a rec ship, and too small for a cruiser. But she had no armor. It was puzzling; if she was from on-planet, he was sure he'd have seen her before.

She was resting on her tail, which was unusual. Zero-velocity landings were necessary in a space port like this one, but most pilots still preferred landing gear, and few ships were designed to stand upright. Her hatch was open. The seam was flawless, he'd never seen such precision. Her outer shell — including the hatch — looked like it was less than an inch thick. Ioto was puzzled; no known material that thin could survive reentry.

He wouldn't have time to figure it out just yet, however — there was a commotion on the causeway, where three men were running in his direction, the third one still pointing toward him. This shopkeep was persistent — usually Ioto only got chased a few blocks. Hopefully the ship wouldn't leave before he could come back for another look.

Ioto knew a few of the guards at the exit checkpoints well enough, but didn't want to put them on the spot. The port was multi-leveled, the smaller, shorter berths built atop the same service areas that were set adjacent to the berths for larger ships. Ioto had spent a few weeks as an apprentice repair tech (before he got bored); hardly long enough to earn any Unotes, but plenty of time to learn the underground routes through the port.

Swinging over to the access ladder, he dropped down under the berth and into the service area below. The platform above was grated, and he looked up at the cooling engines. There was nothing there. Where the thrust cylinders should have been, Ioto couldn't see anything but the yellow-orange glow.

Now wasn't the time for sleuthing — it wasn't worth the risk. He turned to head toward the technicians' mess.

Before he could take another step, however, he felt a strong hand grip his shoulder.

. . . .


[If you think you might like to contribute your own ending, let me know! Worthy submissions will be published here.]

Copyright ©2002 Matt Pfeffer


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