This story is by Caleb Ross and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I’d have to be suicidal to want to try driving that silvery shiny new death trap.
Victer’s message was clear enough though, “It’s more money than you’ve been paid for all the test drives you’ve done to date Nadiah. All you have to do is take her down the track a couple times and bring her back.”
The only problem?
The speed range is the only problem.
For one minute thirty seconds I have to take that sexy monstrosity to its maximum speed and keep it there.
Why is that a problem? Two words: Teleskip Engine™. There have been seven iterations of the craft that is now sitting in the number one launch bay surrounded by all manner of geeks and or nerds with an engine inside them bearing that name. None of them has ever launched and returned to the bay without injuring or killing someone.
It always starts out with the smoothest ride you’ve ever had. Engine runs nearly silently up and down all the twists and turns. Then you hit the speed range thinking, “this baby can probably take it from zero to ninety million kilometers per second just like that.” That probably excites you heck it excites me too but that engine is experimental meaning that the people who built don’t actually know what’ll happen if you take it to maximum speed. If they did you wouldn’t be getting to drive it so early. Not being the least bit frightened by the thought of driving this spacecraft despite knowing how unpredictable it is the reason why people like you and, for awhile, me do this ridiculous job. Made exponentially more ridiculous when you add a layer of criminality to the mix.
Torres messaged me shortly after I got the I.M from Victer, “Give it to me Nadiah, and I’ll pay you twice what Vanquish is paying you. All you have to do is arrange a little accident. My guys’ll pick her up, you’ll be rescued, and that’ll be that. You’ll see the credits in your account when you wake up the morning after.” To be perfectly honest I’ve been offered more the next morning to do things a lot less dangerous than this but I ain’t complaining. I’ve been involved in several ‘accidents’ in may career as test driver for vanquish and up until now the authorities didn’t seem to suspect anything. That was before the cops started monitoring my work I.M account and posting a cop spacecraft near the speed range whenever I’m up to test drive. As of right now I’d be looking at twenty years on a penal colony for multiple counts of corporate theft and conspiracy to commit corporate theft. All that because of a couple accidents on a test range could you imagine?
I’ll admit this one is going to be hard to part with. The way that they emblazoned this cool ancient looking art type stuff onto the outer hull makes it look like a sculpture. For me that cold metal is just another reminder that I could never own something as nice as this thing if I did test it to make sure it’s not literally as killer as it looks. Polished and lacquered hardwood interior plush climate controlled black leather seats front and back. Not a single physical button in the entire thing. All of it touch screen or voice activated. Then again the thieves will only want the engine so I could wind up stranded inside a beautiful wood cabin stuck inside an extremely expensive dinner plate until the rescue teams come through. Oh happy day.
The moment I push the engine start button the experience that is this spacecraft begins. A beam of light travels across all the interfaces and stops after it finishes drawing the operating system and firmware. I start to take the craft down the track at a decent cruising speed. The ride is as smooth as I was told it was. I can’t feel any grind or vibration. The real test is the final leg of the test track. Where I’ll have to decide whether to fake an accident or carry out the test as planned and hope I don’t become the unfortunate victim of a real accident. I can see the cop craft sitting right next to the speed range just in case. Once I’ve arrived on the long stretch of track the cop craft starts to follow me down. Whoever’s in there knows that if I’m going to make this thing disappear I’m probably going to do it somewhere along this stretch. As usual I have no idea where Torres’s people are but I know they’re waiting to see what I’ll do just like this cop is. So why don’t I surprise everyone and take a chance? I set the engine to maximum output before I can stop myself and push the accelerator all the way down.
My eyes are filled with white. Everywhere I look it’s the only thing I see. The last thing I remember was trading paint with two other spacecraft before I Teleskipped. I guess this means I didn’t survive.
“You are still alive Nadiah.” Says a disembodied voice.
“God is that you?” I ask.
“No I am ZeeMo.” It says.
“Well then where am I? And where are you?” I ask sitting up to take a good look around.
“You are inside my box. I exist everywhere in this dimension. You are lying down on me looking up at me and inhaling me as we speak.” ZeeMo’s box is relatively small. No windows. No doors just a relatively small pure spotless white space. Needless to say my first reaction is to figure whose playing this slightly creepy joke.
“Is this some kind of prank?”
“No it is not.”
“Then how did I get inside your box?”
“A minor malfunction in your Teleskip™ engine caused you to be hurled through time and space. Somehow or another you landed here inside my personal domain.”
“How do I get back to my dimension?”
“You must make a choice.”
“One of two choices.”
“Okay what are these ‘choices?’”
“You must choose between existing for all eternity as a ghost unable to be seen, heard, or felt by any living being in the universe or allowing the same fate to befall every human being in existence currently apart from yourself.”
“Because if you do not you will live out the rest of your life from the confines of my domain.”
“Well….What’s in it for you?”
“Nothing in particular.”
“So you’re going to make me choose between turning every human being besides me into a ghost or turning myself into a ghost for no reason in particular?
“That is accurate.”
“You do realize how crazy that sounds don’t you?”
“That is merely your opinion.”
“And you’re sure there’s no other way out of here?”
“I am certain of it?”
“How do I make a choice?”
“By pressing one of the two buttons placed behind you marked with a single word in your language.” Turning around I sure enough find two small pillars with buttons on them. I walk around to see what the words on them are. ZeeMo was right the choice making is pretty straight forward. If I press the Live button I live and if I press the Die button I die.
“Are you sure you don’t want to just let me out of here? I haven’t done anything terribly wrong in my life you know? Sure I’ve taken the lord’s name in vain and sweared and had sex out of wedlock and stolen a few things here and there but other than that I’d say I’ve stayed on the straight and narrow most of the time. Wouldn’t you?”
“The life you’ve lived up to this point is not my concern. If you wish to leave here you must choose one way or another.”
“What if I pressed both buttons at the same time?” I ask with my hands hovering above both buttons.
“You would press the Live button first.”
“No I would press them both down at the same time.”
“You may think you can press them both at once but you cannot. One of your hands is already hovering closer to the Live button than your other hand is hovering to the Die button.”
“No it’s not….” ZeeMo doesn’t respond. I know where my hands are so I know that both of my hands are at equal heights above the buttons. I bet that if I press them both at the same time it’ll let me out of here. ZeeMo’s just me telling that to shake me up. If I can fly a nine o nine through the Hacedonian debris field at max speed without getting on a single scratch then I can press two buttons at the same time. So I slap the Live button.