(OJ Note: The space adventures of Kirk Sandblasterbegin here, in this tale of adventure, plunder, and general anarchy. The Kirk Sandblaster books are fun to write, and have a rich universe to them. This is how it all began…)

 

Against the deep, dark blackness of the Dilure Quadrant, several tiny stars shone brightly like little candles celebrating a very old birthday. Some were still, twinkling against the vast emptiness that housed them, while others zoomed and raced light years away. Some would look out on this sight and feel at peace, in awe of the wonder of it all. They’d marvel at the possibilities that the stars would represent, and the sheer size of the Universe that held them.

To a tiny Ctolian like Pikpik, it was just an irritating reminder of his failures.

He had been a star-miner, part of an elite group who travelled to the stars that shone brightest. They discovered the suns that lay behind the glow, excavating them for precious resources that could go to anyone from energy barons to jewellers. It was a sweet gig, and one that Pikpik did very well. Until he got laid off.

“Budget reasons” was their explanation, but after drowning his sorrow with Xubton Juices he returned to his modest Space-Villa to find his boss in, well, “relations” with Pikpik’s wife.

Since then Pikpik had been travelling the Dilure Quadrant with nothing but his tiny vessel and a few meagre belongings. As a Ctolian, he was mere inches in height to a Human eye and looking much a squashed turtle; looks which couldn’t compete with his boss’s Horgorian ancestry. All muscles and hair and… size. But his tiny stature meant he could travel the Universe, un-noticed and un-bothered, giving Pikpik time to let off steam and make plans for his new future.

But each star, each shining beacon of beauty, made him even madder.

He was determined to turn back and show his boss what a Ctolian was capable of. True they, as a species, had never been in combat. Rather, they were mostly being blown away by massive gusts of wind. But he’d seen many Holo-Shows, and picked up a few tricks. Yes, Pikpik would turn his vessel around, take back his wife, claim his Space-Villa and, glat it, take that big Horgorian’s job to boot!

He would have, if when he turned around his vessel, he hadn’t run into a much larger ship that punted him half-way across the Quadrant.

The ship in question was The Bounty, a ramshackle Frankenstein’s Monster of a spacecraft that wouldn’t even get 30 Tetras in this Universe. Only a fool would buy one, and only a bigger fool would fly it at such speeds that it’s panels would flicker with the threat of disintegration, leaving behind a skeletal structure in the Big Empty known as space.

Inside, the fool in question was Kirk Sandblaster, and the bigger fool pushing The Bounty to the limit was his sidekick-come-partner, Xlaar.

And behind them, the reason they were pushing this craft to a dangerous level of speed and pressure, was a fleet of Ghurian plunderers, whose use of lasers and electrolyzers showed a certain lack of delight.

Looking at The Bounty’s rear monitor, Kirk Sandblaster smirked.

“Looks like they’re giving up!”

Sandblaster was a human, in the middle of his 30th year and with all the gusto that that provided. He slicked his slight quiff to one side and took a seat back in a chair, humbly labelled CAPTAIN.

“You need an extra pair of eyes!” Xlaar growled, frantically working at the controls with each of his four arms.

“That’s why I have you!”

Xlaar was a Zaarian, a race of lizard-like creatures blessed with two heads and four arms. To compliment their weak, slender frames, they often dressed in muscular powersuits, with Xlaar’s crimson one suggesting a high rank within his particular tribe.

Right now though, he was pretty far from home and doing all the work while his cocky comrade popped open a bottle of Cartereli Ale and put his chair in recline.

“I think some music would go down well right now, don’t you?”

“How about you give me some glatting help!”

“Why? We’re fine! You saw their ships ease off…”

“In my experience there’s usually a reason for that!”

“Pfft, relax… I’m sure nothing will go…”

Before Sandblaster could finish, a bright fire passed through The Bounty’s cockpit window. All six eyes of its crew looked out as something glistened the black with a burning arc, curving wonderfully before them.

“Would that be your reason?” Sandblaster asked.

Both Xlaar’s heads nodded.

The creator of the fiery arc was a Xdian Trailblazer Missile, and its trail was blazing towards The Bounty.

Xlaar immediately threw all hands on the controls and contorted the ship quickly enough so that the missile flew past. But it was not enough. It was locked on and ready to quickly transform The Bounty into several tiny pieces if they didn’t do something. In between losing his footing with Xlaar’s crazed steering, Sandblaster had a Eureka moment.

“I have a plan!”

“Does it involve helping me steer?”

“No.”

“Then forgive me if I start getting nervous!”

“Don’t be, it’s a phenomenal plan!”

With that, Sandblaster jumped up and ran to the rear of the ship. Xlaar shouted in confusion behind him as the Trailblazer flew past again and made a nice little looping effect before missing once more.

Just.

Sandblaster entered the ship’s rear dock, still filled with various knick knacks and junk that he’d been too lazy to remove. Not that he’d admit that to Xlaar, instead saying that it was “all part of the plan”. But the plan was in its infancy, and not wholly guaranteed. He grabbed an O2 mask from the wall and attached himself to a pole on the wall. As The Bounty lurched around, Sandblaster moved various crates and piles of scrap towards the rear bay doors, and took a moment to look proudly upon his work.

The ship threw itself to the side again as Sandblaster heard a whizz outside.

“Time to take out the trash!” Sandblaster muttered, before looking sad that no-one was around to hear his quip.

He reached across to the primitive controls for the bay doors, punched a few buttons and then took a deep breath of O2 as they opened to reveal the great black beyond. Instantly, the anonymous crates and various bits of metal flew out the back, floating idly behind them.

And just like he had planned, Sandblaster watched as the Trailblazer made one last burning turn, threw itself towards its target, and blew up against what looked like an old arcade machine.

The blast rocked the ship a little, but Sandblaster was pleased with what he saw, and punched the doors closed. However, what he hadn’t noticed was that the impact of the explosion had dislodged the pole he was clinging to, and with the suck of space still fierce, it spun around and went to join the rest of the wreckage, taking Sandblaster with it.

Before he was completely taken outside, Sandblaster managed to grab hold of The Bounty’s bay doors. They were shutting slowly, and jarred at points as the old hydraulics shuddered to life. As he desperately tried to pull himself in, Sandblaster looked out into the black and saw the Ghurians had caught up again, deftly knocking aside his man-made obstacle course.

Finally, as he felt the belt of his trousers start to give way, the doors reached where Sandblaster was holding on, and he managed to throw up a leg and climb back in. After a crunch of metal on metal, he fell to floor as normal gravity was restored.

As he re-entered the cockpit, Xlaar’s right head looked at Sandblaster suspiciously.

“Nothing to it.” Sandblaster shrugged.

“Yeah, anyway, they caught up! What now?”

“We out run them again. I mean it’s not like they have another one of those missiles is it?”

A familiar whizz passed them in stereo as they looked out, seeing a rather wonderful looking double rainbow of burning pain arrive on the scene.

“No Kirk, they have TWO!”

Sandblaster stroked his chin and took stock as the missiles danced around menacingly in front of them.

“Maybe we should turn on Navi for help?”

Xlaar shot a glare of such intensity that only came with having four eyes. “Don’t you dare turn on that pompous pile of…”

Sandblaster pressed a button, and a jaunty voice echoed through The Bounty.

“Well ring-a-ding and hello Dolly! What can I do for you fine adventurers today?”

“SHUT UP!” Xlaar responded.

“Navi, we have 2 trailblazers looking to knock us out the sky, any suggestions?”

“Well sure as Shirley I can tell you that! Just need to make a few calculations! Anything else while I dot the i’s?”

Xlaar shook his heads scornfully. “Yeah, how did we end up in this mess?”

“Good question! It all started in Earth Year 2012…”

In a moment, Sandblaster and Xlaar looked at each other, realizing what they’d just done.

“NOOOO!”

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