by Martin Maenza
I was working the tower with my good friend, Onbe. It was getting to be toward the end of our shift. This was a usual light traffic period at the port, so we filled that time with some idle chitchat about this and that. Anything to get us through the workday.
“I’m hoping to catch a few magno-ball games when the tour comes through,” Onbe said. He paused, waiting for a response. When none came, Onbe started to snap his fingers in front of my face. “Zac, hey! Earth to Zac!”
“Oh, my God! That tanker!”
My head jerked forward. “Whoa!”
“What is it?” Onbe asked.
The vision had been clear, very clear. They usually never came to me out of the blue like this. I’ve mostly had to concentrate on them before, but this one cried out to me like a warning shot. “I… I don’t…”
The comm panel came to life as a ship approached. “This is Planetary Delivery to shipping port H-Delta-Nine,” a firm feminine voice came across the speaker. “Are we clear on landing pad three? Over.” We knew the voice fairly well; Lela and her crew often passed by this way with drop-offs or pickups.
“I wonder if they’ve gotten that cantankerous robot of theirs fixed. He can be so insulting.” Onbe flicked a switch to broadcast back to the ship. “Roger that, Planetary Express. You are clear on landing pad three. Over.”
“Affirmative.” The ship’s approach registered on our radar screens as it made its descent.
I felt uneasy, a bit nauseous. I stood for a moment and walked to the window of the tower. Something caught the corner of my eye below, and I looked down. Oh, no!
“What are you doing?” Onbe asked as I dived quickly for the console.
My fingers fumbled for the relay. “Planetary Express, Planetary Express!” I shouted into the microphone. “Abort landing! Repeat, abort landing! Over!”
“Copy,” came Lela’s voice. “Though why?”
“Zac, are you insane?” Onbe asked.
Suddenly, there was a loud explosion just outside the tower. Onbe ran to the window where I’d been standing moments before and looked down to where the sound came from. “Oh, my God! That tanker!” he exclaimed as he saw dark smoke filling the air and flames bursting from the wrecked vehicle. “It just exploded on landing pad three!”
Over the comm system came Captain Lela’s voice. “What is going on down there? We saw an explosion from our current altitude.”
My friend turned to me and saw not an expression of surprise but more of one staring off blankly. “How… how did you know?”
“Move it! Move it! We have two minutes!”
I snapped to. Another vision, as clear as the first one. This was getting intense! Something big was going down, and I might be the only one who knew it.
“Onbe, call the Science Police, now!” I shouted as I started for the door.
“What is it? What’s going on?” My friend was clearly confused. He wasn’t the only one.
“I don’t know!” I admitted as I darted out of the room. “But I’m going to find out what!”
I was acting totally on instinct at this point. In my vision I had seen a man in a structure shouting orders to two others, but they hardly looked like they belonged around a spaceport. They did not wear uniforms of the port staff, nor did they look like delivery crews or the like. They had an odd, unscrupulous look to them. Something told me that they were involved with the explosion moments before, but why? I didn’t have time to stop en route to the ground floor to try to focus my future-sight. If these men were involved with the explosion, they were concerned about how much time they had left. Who knew what they could be up to?
I had to find them and stop them from doing whatever it was.
Exiting the tower on the ground floor, I saw the hazmat-bots had already moved in. Spraying foam from the tanks on their backs, they were quickly dealing with the tanker fire. The explosion had to be a distraction, but for what?
That’s when I noticed that the doors to hangar ten were open. A recent shipment of supplies for Medicus-One were stored there, awaiting the morning transport. That had to be what the men were after! I made my way across the facility, trying my best not to be seen in case there was a lookout. I moved around the side, got down low, and carefully peered in a side window.
There were the three men from my vision, loading supplies into the back of a hover-truck. On the floor, unmoving, was the guard. Probably killed with one of the blasters holstered about the men’s hips. “Move it! Move it!” one of the men shouted. “We have two minutes!”
Here I was, unarmed and outnumbered. I knew if I could just delay them long enough that the Science Police would arrive. They could then handle the situation.
Grabbing my comm box, I called up to the tower. “Onbe, it’s Zac!”
“What are you doing?” he asked. “What’s going on?”
“No time for that! I need you to override the door controls on hangar ten now. Close ’em and lock ’em down! Got that?”
“Got it!” Onbe replied.
Satisfied, I peered back into the window as I heard the large metal doors starting to move. The voices of the men started to rise as they realized they were about to be trapped. One pulled his weapon and fired at them, but it did little to stop the inevitable closing. The metal doors clanged shut.
“Damn it!” one man with red hair shouted, no doubt the leader. “Ortz, get on the controls now! Get them open!”
“Right,” the small, dark-haired one said, rushing over to the control panel. In a moment he had the cover off and was working the wires.
Oh no, I thought. Not good. I moved about the side of the building to where the closed doors were. I decided to take a moment and try to see if I could see how this would play out. Using my powers, I tried to peer into the future, the immediate future.
The possibilities danced about my brain. Images first and the occasional snippets of sound. As the focus shifted, some dropped off while others became sharper.
“No, not the engine!”
Two images fought hard to come into focus, each with equal strength.
I was snapped out of my uncertainty as I heard the door locks disengage. The comm box in my hand squawked with Onbe’s voice. “They’ve overridden the controls! Zac? Zac!” The sound of an engine revving up could be heard inside the hangar as the doors slowly started to open.
I barely had time to dive to the ground for cover as the doors burst open, ripped off their track as the hover truck rammed into them. It was like a mad Parillion roc bursting out of its egg! The doors fell broken to the ground; the truck skidded to the side from the impact with the doors.
One man was behind the wheel, another in the passenger seat. The third man ran out of the hangar and jumped in the open back end of the vehicle. “Go! Go!” Ortz shouted.
The driver saw me standing in the path, got a more angry look upon his face, and gunned the engine. The hover truck barreled straight toward me, keeping as low to the ground as possible. He planned to run me down!
I wasn’t a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t think it would have mattered if I was. If I stayed on the ground, I would have been run over or crushed against something for sure. I only had one option, so I took it!
“He’s on the hood!” the passenger shouted as I leaped up onto the flat portion of the front of the vehicle.
“I see that, stupid!” the driver and leader of the group said. “We got to get rid of him!”
The vehicle swerved from one side to another as the driver tried to shake me from my position. I slipped a bit, almost sliding off the front, but my foot caught hold of the front bumper. Keeping my leg straight, I was able to stop the slide. With my hands, I grappled for some indentation or seam or something to hold on to. All the while, the rushing wind formed by the fast-moving vehicle pushed against me.
“Zac? Zac?” Onbe’s voice continued to call on the comm box. No doubt he had observed some of this from up in the tower. There was no way I could respond; doing so would mean moving my hands, and that would cause me to fall to the ground.
“I can’t shake him, Jebit!” the driver scowled. “Do something! Get him off!”
“Right!” the other man said. As I stared in the glass, I could see him pull out his blaster weapon and aim it.
“Idiot!” the driver yelled, slapping it down. “You shoot out the glass, and we’re cut to shreds!”
“Oh, right,” Jebit replied. He opened the window on the passenger side and leaned out slightly. “Let me just get a good shot at him!”
I heard the blaster discharge, and a beam of energy zapped through the air. It barely missed my left shoulder; I could feel the air temperature change about it as the shot whizzed past. There was a second shot and a second miss.
“Zac? Zac! Is that blaster fire?” Onbe asked.
Jebit fired his weapon again. This time, it connected to the upper part of my arm. “Got him!” the gunman exclaimed.
The pain shot through me. It was unbearable! I had to fight every instinct to grab the hurt spot with my other arm and cradle it. But doing so would release my grip. I guessed we had to be going seventy kilometers per hour or more, ever increasing. A fall at this speed, and the increasing height would do even more damage. I could see now why the Legionnaires used those flight belts; mine would have come in handy right about now.
“He’s still there!” the driver exclaimed. “Can’t you hit anything?”
“I hit him once!” Jebit said defensively.
“Hit him again, idiot!”
“We got company!” Ortz shouted from the back.
In the distance, I could hear the sound of the approaching S.P.s, their sirens wailing. Onbe must have gotten through to them. They made good time.
“Forget the guy! Let’s get out of here!” the passenger said.
“I’m in charge of decisions and driving!” the redhead snapped. “You take care of the witness! Now!”
Jebit scowled and leaned back out the window. He hardly took aim and just fired randomly at me.
My left hand lost its grip, the pain above too much for that arm. I felt myself roll and slide to the driver’s side. I twisted about, my right grip still firm. Pain shot up this arm as it twisted about. My feet kicked the hood and side of the vehicle.
“Finish him!” the driver sneered.
“Right, Betes!” Jebit said. He fired again and again. The laser blasts bounced off the hood and whizzed past me. I didn’t know how much longer my luck could hold out.
Then one of the shots punctured the hood!
“No! Not the engine!” screamed Betes.
The vehicle jerked and convulsed, its acceleration dropping fast. The stray shot must have been enough to severe a hose or system or something.
The truck stopped moving forward horizontally and started to plummet down — fast!
I closed my eyes, in part so I couldn’t see the ground rush up on me, and in part to try to see if I could see how things would end up. I concentrated with all my might, but the visions wouldn’t come.
This had to be it.
I began a silent prayer.
Suddenly, my body jerked as it was grabbed.
I opened my eyes to see a dark-haired figure all dressed in red. One of his arms was wrapped around my waist. The other hand held the bumper of the vehicle. As he flew unencumbered, a blue cape trailed on behind him.
“Mon-El!” I exclaimed, recognizing the hero.
“Good thing I happened by,” he said with a smile. “Care to tell me what’s going on?”
I quickly gave him the synopsis of the situation. By the time I was through, he was touching down, back on the ground. While he put me down gently enough, he let the truck thud hard, shaking up the criminals inside.
The Science Police quickly had the vehicle surrounded.
Mon-El squinted at the vehicle. “I think you’ll find the stolen goods in back,” he said confidently, no doubt thanks to his enhanced vision powers. “And this man can use some medical attention.” He looked at my arm; the laser blast had torn through the material of my shirt and into my flesh. “It’ll probably hurt for a while, but you should heal up fine.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“Thank you,” Mon-El said. “You acted very bravely back there, trying to stop these guys from escaping.”
“I… I’m no hero,” I said sadly.
“Today you were,” Mon-El said with a smile. “It’s not just powers or costumes that make a hero. Anyone who goes out of their way to help others, that’s a hero. Next time, though, try not to put yourself at risk too, OK?” He gave me a little wink and then flew off.
I smiled, even as the S.P.s brought me over to a medic. Next time? Who knows? Maybe there would be a next time, or maybe not.
Only the future knows for sure.