MUTINY ON SHUTTLE X569

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“Are you serious?” the woman asked. “You do realize what it means to take control of a space shuttle, don’t you?”

The man nodded his bald head. Like her, he was wearing a blue bodysuit that covered him from his neck down to his ankles. The boots on his feet and the gloves on his hands were black. They were both wearing dark spectacles, which had mini-antenna transmitters attached to the outer edges.

They were standing in a small room, no more than ten feet long.

“Of course I know what it means, Michelle,” the man said. “I want to steal the shuttle from the Captain. Are you with me or not?”

Michelle ran her fingers through her long brown hair. “Gosh, John. This is too much to process. It’s too sudden.”

“How is this too sudden? You know we’ve been watching the Captain make all the wrong decisions for a long time now and we’ve missed out on so much. Do you remember Sector 17?”

“The one that had the gold dust?”

“Yes! Imagine what we could have done with all that gold?”

Michelle shrugged. “I don’t know, but maybe the Captain was right. I mean, our instructions were to report our findings and that’s what he did. The Captain made sure that we reported the discovery to Command Base.”

“And doing so denied us the opportunity to make something for ourselves. Come on, Michelle. Where in the entire fleet is there a commanding officer as naïve and stupid as our Captain?

“We all know what happens in the other shuttles. If someone else had discovered the gold in Sector 17, you and I know they would not report it to Command Base. They’d have kept the details to themselves and tried to see how to cash in on the opportunity.”

“Yes, you’re right, John. We all know that. But then, what could we have done? What can we ever do? Command Base has already placed the Captain in charge of this shuttle and this mission. We can’t just tell him what to do!”

“That’s where you are wrong. We can do just that if we are in control of this ship.”

“But John, taking control from a captain is mutiny. You know what the regulations say about that.”

“Yes, I do. But do you know what we stand to gain when we succeed?”

“Forget about what we stand to gain. Consider instead what we stand to lose.”

“Don’t be so negative! Focus on the prize at hand. Think positively. Just imagine, we can go back to Sector 17 and take some of the gold from there for ourselves. I’m sure we could find some dealers somewhere who’d be willing to offer us a fair price for it. Can you see the potential?”

“I don’t know, John. Frankly, I think it is too risky.”

“Yes, I know all about the risks. I also know ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. If we don’t strike now, we’ll return to Command Base empty-handed, with only a pat on the back for completing another recon mission. And that’s it. Command Base takes over and decides what to do with the gold in Sector 17.”

“That’s how it has always been. We can’t change the rules.”

“That’s what you think! But tell me, how long do we let things continue like this? For as long as we’re assigned to this ship? Or until we become too old to fly anymore? And then what? We retire, only to discover that our smarter colleagues in other fleets have endless wealth and properties that they got from their own discoveries!”

“Look, John – I understand your frustrations with our captain. But let’s not rush to do anything just yet. Let’s give this whole thing a bit more thought, okay?”

“Of course, I can give it more thought.”

“Good. I’d better return to my station before someone notices I’ve been gone so long.”

“Sure. You do just that. We’ll talk later then.”

Michelle pressed a button on the panel by the door. She turned to smile at John briefly before she walked away.

John sighed heavily and looked around the room. For the first time since he and Michelle had snuck into the storage room to talk, he realized how small it was. He pulled open one of the drawers in the wall and looked at its contents. There were syringes, needles, and boxes. He took one of the syringes. He opened one of the boxes and took out a small vial. He lifted it up and looked at it closely. He began to study it as if it was the first time he had ever seen such a vial. John then picked up one of the needles and attached it to the syringe. He stuck the syringe into the vial and drew out some of its contents. Once the syringe was half full, he stopped.

John closed the drawer and walked out of the room, still holding the syringe.

In the corridor, he heard a beep and a ring tone. He raised his hand and pressed a small button on the frame of his spectacles. As he did, a thin wire extended out of one of the antennae until it reached the side of his mouth. “Yes?”

“Where have you been all this time, John?”

John looked at the syringe in his hand. “I just went to storage bay to get something I needed, Captain.”

“And how long does that take? Forever?”

“No, not forever, Captain. I already have it with me.”

“Come to the cockpit immediately.”

“Yes, Captain. I’m on my way,” John replied and continued to walk.

Once he reached the cockpit, John pressed some buttons on the panel close to the door. The door slid open, allowing John to walk in.

The cockpit had two seats for the pilots in front, facing huge windows that overlooked the blackness of outer space. Except for the occasional glint and sparkle from a distant star, there was complete darkness all around them.

“Well, are you just going to stand there all day or what?” Captain Terry asked from his seat.

“No, Captain. I’m sorry. I guess I was just carried away by the view from up here. You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, I did. I need you to get me some new coordinates.”

“New coordinates?” John repeated, stepping closer to the captain.

“Yes, I sent the reference points to you a little while ago. Didn’t you see them?”

“No, I didn’t, Captain. When was that?”

“What do you mean by ‘when’? It’s in your inbox of course. Are you saying that you haven’t checked your email this whole time?”

John scratched his bald head. “I would have, Captain, but I had to get a syringe from storage and since I wasn’t at my desk, I wouldn’t have seen the email you sent me.”

Captain Terry frowned when he saw the syringe. “What? You’ve been away from your desk for so long to get a syringe?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I said, Captain.”

“Couldn’t you have simply asked maintenance to get it for you?”

“Yes, I would have, but then, they wouldn’t have been able to do what needs to be done with it.”

“What are you on about John? What do you need a syringe for?”

“I need it to do this,” John reached down to grab the captain’s arm and stabbed him with the needle. Captain Terry screamed as it pricked his skin and disappeared into his flesh. Out of reflex and surprise, the captain had jumped up out of his chair and glared at John.

“Are you insane?” Captain Terry asked, yanking the needle out of his arm. “What did you inject me with, you moron?”

John smiled and continued to watch as his captain raised the empty syringe in the air, trying to identify what might have been in it.

John watched with glee as the captain dropped the syringe and grabbed his head. He reached forward to hold onto something, anything – but for some reason, he was losing control of his hands. Then he felt the numbness spread through his legs.

Captain Terry found himself collapsing. He fell to the floor of the cockpit with a loud thud.

John walked closer to him and squatted down. From the corner of his eye, Captain Terry saw John pick up the syringe and smile. “Effective, isn’t it?” He grinned. “It’s called monochromine oxide, or MO2.”

Captain Terry blinked, but he could not move any other part of his body. He was helpless as he watched John straighten up and head back to the captain’s chair, dropping the empty syringe on the side table.

“I can see that you’re surprised that there’s even MO2 on your ship, right?” John sat down and swiveled in the captain’s chair. “Well, for your information, I brought it on board and I did it specifically to paralyze you while I take over command of Shuttle X569.”

John saw the captain blink, but he did not say anything.

“Yes, it’s better to paralyze you so that you can watch me taking control of your ship. It would be such a waste if you were dead and not able to see it happen for yourself.”

John glanced at the syringe and smiled. “Did you see the syringe when I came into the cockpit? No, you didn’t. Any other person would have been curious about what was in my hand – but not you, my clumsy captain. No, not you! You’re always so engrossed in things that don’t really matter at all.”

Captain Terry tried to move his body again, but he could not. He was completely paralyzed as John continued. “I never knew that my dream would come true so easily. Look, I don’t want to cause you any harm. That’s why I decided to paralyze you instead. That way, you won’t have any power over me, or any other crew member, or even this ship. I’ll decide what to do with you in time – but for now, I have a shuttle to run.”

John picked up the intercom mic and cleared his throat. “Fellow comrades, crew members of Shuttle X569. This is your comrade-in-arms, Corporal John speaking. I have taken control of this ship. This means that this shuttle is now under new leadership. The former Captain Terry has been forcefully relieved of his command.”

John paused to look at the floor. Captain Terry was conscious, and John could tell from the captain’s eyes that he was angry and frustrated.

“As much as I would love to permanently dispose of him for causing us all to miss out on several lucrative opportunities in the past, I have decided against such a radical move, even though he would rightly deserve to be treated as such.”

Throughout the shuttle, the other crew members started scrabbling to reply to the announcement.

“Is this a mutiny?”

“Yes, that’s what this is, Raphael. So I want to know: who is on my side?”

“You can count me in!”

“I’m in too!” added Wilson. “I never really liked Captain Terry.”

“Did you say you weren’t going to permanently dispose of him?” Kath interrupted. “You should! He deserves to be dismembered and thrown into space.”

John smiled. “I know how you must all be feeling. But like I said earlier, even though he deserves to be treated as such, he might still be useful to us alive.”

“Where is he anyway?” Raphael asked. “Where’s Captain Terry?”

“He’s been paralyzed, injected by a full doze of MO2.”

“How on Earth did you get that stuff onboard?”

John chuckled. “I have my ways Wilson. Just like taking over this ship – I have always had plans.”

“You are very devious, John, but I admire you,” said Kath. “Where did you keep the Captain?”

“He’s here in the cockpit with me,” John looked at the Captain. “Where I can keep an eye on him.”

“Good!” Kath replied. “Because I don’t trust him one bit. Someone so uptight and by-the-book should not be left alone.”

“So, what’s the plan?” Wilson asked. “Now that you’re in charge of the Shuttle?”

John cleared his throat again. “I’m putting us all on the path of prosperity.”

“A path of what?”

“Prosperity,” John replied, glancing at the paralyzed captain on the floor. “And by that, I mean that we’re all going to be rich beyond our wildest dreams.”

There was a series of cheers and whistling over the intercom. “Yes, I can imagine how excited you all are! Trust me, this really calls for celebration,” John grinned. “But we all know that we can’t just stop here and party. No, the celebrations will follow later. Right now, we need to secure our wealth. Are you all with me?”

More cheers reverberated through the shuttle’s intercom.

“And to show you all that I am serious about our welfare, we’re setting our course back to our last point of departure.”

“Where’s that?” Wilson asked.

“Sector 17, of course,” John replied. “We’re going back to the gold in Sector 17.”

“Sector 17?” Raphael said. “But Captain Terry reported it to Command Base? Surely, we can’t go there now.”

“Yes, we can,” John insisted.

“But that would be suicide, John!” Kath said. “They have the coordinates and all the detailed reports on Sector 17. How do we handle mutiny and stealing Command Base resources at the same time?”

“It won’t be a problem, fellow comrades.”

“But as soon as we step into Sector 17, Command Base will find out,” Raphael added.

“No, they will not,” John grinned, “Because they don’t yet know anything about Sector 17.”

“How is that possible?” Kath asked.

John paused to glance at Captain Terry, who was now wide-eyed in surprise. “Because when Captain Terry instructed me to relay the reports and coordinates to Command Base, I discarded them instead.”

“You discarded them?” Wilson gushed. “John, you are man of the year! You already had a plan all this time?”

“Yes, this has been a long time in the making. I just needed the right opportunity to execute it.”

There was more whooping and cheering.

“We’re with you on this, John,” Raphael said. “Just lead us and we will follow you to prosperity.”

“Thank you, guys. I really appreciate your faith in me. I’m not going to let you down the way Captain Terry did. Never.”

“Congratulations, John, so you finally did it.”

“Thank you, Michelle and yes, I did it for all of us.”

“So, what now?” Michelle asked.

“Reset our shuttle’s coordinates to trace back our last route,” John said.

“Are we really heading back to Sector 17?”

“Michelle, haven’t you been listening? Of course we are. Set the coordinates immediately and take us there right away before some other shuttle finds what we did.”

“Yes, Captain,” Michelle said.

“No, not captain. I’m a corporal, remember?”

“But you’re in charge of the shuttle now,” Michelle reminded him. “So you should assume the rank of captain.”

“No, let Captain Terry keep his stupid rank,” John spat. “I don’t need all that formality. I just need my gold.”

Michelle laughed and punched some keys. “We’re all set, John. I have redirected the shuttle back to Sector 17.”

“Perfect,” John said and relaxed into the captain’s chair.

The shuttle began to turn in mid-air. Eventually, it began to fly back down the same route that they had just come through.

As they flew, John checked his monitors again. When he did not see anything of significance, he glanced outside the cockpit windows. Their shuttle was speeding past several moons and planets.

After a while of staring outside, John picked up the intercom mic again. “Michelle, why am I spending so much time watching all the moons go by? Is this some sort of vacation?”

“We’re heading back to Sector 17 as instructed.”

“I know that. But why are we moving so slowly? Don’t you realize that I’m impatient to get to the gold? And I’m pretty sure that there are several other crew members who are as anxious as I am right now.”

“I apologize, John. But what do you want me to do?” Michelle asked.

“Get this shuttle to move faster!”

“But we’re going fast enough, John,” Michelle pointed out.

“Really? How soon is this going to get us to Sector 17?” John asked.

“It’ll take about seven or eight hours if we maintain our current speed.”

John glanced at Captain Terry, who was still on the floor. “That’s not good enough, Michelle. We need to get there as quickly as possible. Take us into hyper-drive now.”

“Hyper-drive? Are you sure?”

“Yes, of course I am sure. I don’t want us wasting unnecessary time and I don’t want anyone else to get to that gold before we do,” John said.

“But if we go into hyper-drive now, our energy levels will be drained by the time we arrive at Sector 17.”

“Then drain the energy levels,” John ordered. “We can always recharge while we’re there. Besides, it is not as if we are going to fight any battles. So why would we need the excess energy anyway?”

“John, as much as I understand everyone’s impatience about getting the gold as quickly as possible, I don’t think that it is advisable to consume all our energy for this,” Michelle said. “We need to keep something in reserve for emergencies.”

“And you think that getting to Sector 17 as quickly as possible isn’t an emergency?” John asked.

“We’ll be there soon enough, so let’s just continue at our present pace,” Michelle insisted.

“And as the commanding officer of this shuttle, I am telling you that we need to get there sooner. Deploy our reserve energy and get us into hyper-drive.”

“But John –” Michelle began to protest.

John shouted. “Just do it! Or else I’ll count you as a dissident,”

“Yes, John. All crew on Shuttle X569 should prepare for hyper-drive. Deploying reserve energy to main processors in fifty seconds and counting.”

John settled back into his seat. As he did so, the seatbelt automatically strapped him in properly. He glanced briefly at the paralyzed Captain Terry. “You don’t think I’m going to get up and strap you down, do you?” John asked.

Captain Terry did not respond. Only his eyes moved a little, as if trying to communicate with him.

“Fine, fine.” John pressed a button on the handle of his seat. As the seatbelt unbuckled, John stood up and walked to where Captain Terry was still lying on the floor. John moved him towards the nearest cabinet. He found some rope in a drawer and began to tie Captain Terry to the cabinet.

A few seconds later, John stood up, satisfied. “There, I’ve done the best I can for you. Now, you sit tight while we enter into hyper-drive,” John said, returning to his seat.

As John’s seatbelt automatically refastened, the intercom came alive with an announcement. “All crew members should be informed that we are commencing hyper-drive protocols in five seconds. Ensure that you are securely strapped down,” Michelle said.

John looked at Captain Terry. His hands and legs had been tied to the cabinet. “Don’t try anything funny while you’re there, understand?”

John then glanced outside the cockpit window and waited. At first, he could still see the familiar stars and moons as their shuttle flew by. Then all of a sudden, all that was visible was a blur, as if someone had suddenly blocked his view of the world outside.

At that same moment, he felt as if something hard had been placed on his face, his chest, his stomach, and his legs. His hands also seemed to have been clamped down by a strange unseen force. They had gone into hyper-drive.

While they were traveling in hyper-drive, all John could think of was the gold in Sector 17.

Just as suddenly as it had begun, the whole process ended abruptly. John gasped and began to gulp in air as he felt his chest being released by the strange force. He wiped away sweat from his forehead as he picked up his intercom mic. “Michelle, what is our status?”

“Hyper-drive was successful, but all our reserve energy levels have been completely depleted and –”

“I said status of the shuttle, Michelle! Who needs to know what our reserve energy levels are?”

“I’m sorry, John. The shuttle is fine. All systems are in good condition.”

“And our position? Where are we right now?”

“Isn’t seeing believing, John?” Michelle asked. “We have arrived at Sector 17.”

“We have?” John asked, almost surprised at his own words. He dropped the mic and looked outside.

Their shuttle was just a mile from the outskirts of what they all knew as Sector 17. It comprised of sixteen planets, revolving around a big black dead star. They were presently located at the farthest end of the system. But even at that distance, they could see the unmistakable glow of the yellow planet of gold at its center, very close to the dead star.

“My goodness,” John gushed. “Isn’t she a beauty?”

“Oh definitely,” Wilson replied over the intercom.

“Don’t you just wish we could colonize that yellow planet for ourselves?” John asked. “I mean, keep the entire thing for ourselves and give it out piece by piece to whoever wants to strike a profitable bargain with us?”

“Who knows – maybe the other planets in this sector have other precious metals too!” Kath added.

“Yes, that’s possible,” John agreed. “There’s also that star in the middle. Even though it’s obviously dead, it could still possess its own fair share of mineral wealth.”

“So, you really think that the other planets here are worth a fortune like that gold planet?” Raphael asked.

John smiled. “Definitely, there’s no doubt about it. It’s unlikely that the gold planet happened in isolation. And you know what that means for us all, don’t you?”

“Our collective wealth has increased based on the number of planets in this sector,” Kath added.

“Exactly!” John agreed. “Now, are we going to just stand here and continue to fantasize all day, or are we going to go get some gold?”

The crew members began to whistle and cheer excitedly over the intercom.

“Alright, engine room!” John called into the intercom mic. “You heard the crew. Take us to the planet of gold.”

“But John, shouldn’t we do a recon first?” Wilson suddenly asked.

“A recon? And waste more precious time while we’re at it? Why would we bother?”

“John, I think Wilson is right,” Michelle added. “It’s standard procedure and you know that? A recon is required every time we set foot on unknown territory.”

“Well, for your information, this is a mutiny and we’re about to colonize an entire sector in a system, one that’s loaded with unbelievable wealth. I don’t think any of this is standard procedure, don’t you agree?”

There was a brief pause before the crew started cheering at what John had just said.

“There, the crew agree with me,” John added. “Engine room, take us to the gold planet immediately.”

Shuttle X569 began to fly towards the gold planet in the center, passing the other planets. Because of how close their shuttle was flying, the crew could see the others planets in some detail without the need of the cameras or external scanners.

“None of these planets seems to be inhabited,” Raphael commented.

“It seems so,” Kath agreed. “Most of them have very rough terrains, seemingly not inhabited.”

“They’d better not be,” John said. “Because we don’t want to have to start negotiating with whoever or whatever is on any of them just to get a hold of whatever resources they might have.”

“We’re already in close proximity to the planet of gold,” Michelle announced. “We should prepare for landing.”

“Alright people! It’s time to get our gear on,” John said as he stood up. He opened a big drawer underneath the console and took out a helmet. As he put it on, he pressed a button on the side and a glass partition covered the front, effectively sealing it. At the same time, the bottom of the helmet extended and strapped itself tightly to his neck. Once this had happened, John began to breathe easily inside the helmet.

As he turned to pick up another item from the cabinet, he caught sight of Captain Terry who was still tied to the cabinet.

“Gosh, Captain,” John smiled. “You must pardon me for being temporarily distracted, but you know what they say about one’s heart being where his treasure lies! I couldn’t possibly have thought about you when my thoughts are too focused on all the wealth we stand to gain from this planet.”

Captain Terry was still paralyzed and could barely move his eyelids.

“What was that you said?” John asked, “No, the last time I checked, your lips were too paralyzed for you to say anything! Too bad. Anyway, you don’t really expect me to let you accompany us on this mission, do you? No way! After all, you had your chance to be in charge, but you wasted it.”

“John, we have landed,” Michelle said.

John looked up. “We have?” He looked outside the cockpit window and smiled. All around them, the soil appeared to be pure gold. The terrain was rocky, with no vegetation visible anywhere. “Oh, it’s beautiful.”

“I just did a sweep and analysis of the molecular structure of the surface,” Michelle said. “The primary element in it is gold, with a purity rate of 99.7%.”

Cheering and whooping erupted all through the shuttle.

John nodded and turned to look at Captain Terry. “You hear that, Captain Terry? 99.7% purity. Can you imagine how much a ton of that would fetch us on the black market?”

“John, are we going to spend all day listening to you talk to Captain Terry, or can we go already?” Kath asked.

“Sure, sure, sure, you’re right about that!” John nodded. “All crew members should proceed to the exit point and prepare to disembark. Everyone should ensure that their helmet is properly fitted and in working order.”

“Yes, that is very important,” Michelle agreed. “The analysis of this planet’s atmosphere reveals that it does not contain any trace of oxygen whatsoever.”

“It’s a good thing that our helmets are fitted with auto-filters so that we can breathe easily,” John said. “Make sure you take your laser guns with you.”

“Laser guns?” Raphael asked. “What do we need those for? I thought we were here just to get the gold?”

“Just for safety, comrade,” John said as he picked up his laser gun. “Just for safety.”

From the cockpit, John could see his crew members filing out of the shuttle. They were all wearing the same type of body suits as him, while wearing their helmets and carrying their laser rifles in their hands.

John turned to Captain Terry. “While we’re gone, I hope that you’re going to behave and be a good boy?”

When John stepped out of the shuttle, he could see his crew members all looking around in awe and amazement. He saw Michelle walk up to him. “This is remarkable, John. This is like a dream. Can you see this? All around is just pure gold. All of this is just pure gold.”

John bent down and scooped up some of the coarse sand from the ground. “Unbelievable,” John whispered, as he looked at the yellow grains of sand in his hand. “So, the entire surface is pure gold? That means we don’t have to waste any expense extracting or purifying it. We can just transport it to the buyers and pocket 100% of the profit!”

Raphael approached John. He was holding a rock in his hands, the size of a soccer ball. “John, are you seeing what I have here? Just this rock alone is enough to make me a millionaire!”

John nodded. “Yes, I can see that. But we’re not just talking about a couple of rocks, comrade. We are talking about an entire planet!”

“Or maybe an entire system, considering the potential resources on the nearby planets,” Michelle added.

“Can you comprehend what we have here?” John asked as he began to walk further out and gesture around. “This entire sector is more than loaded and it belongs to us.”

“Alright, can we save the celebrations for a little while?” Michelle said. “What do we do now?”

John clapped his hands together. “That should not be difficult. I need you all to form teams of two. We need to scrape and dig up as much gold dust as possible. Then each team will load it onto the ship.”

“What are we going to use to carry the gold?” Michelle asked.

“We can fill up our pockets, handbags, and backpacks,” Wilson suggested.

“Come on, we have to be serious here!” John said. “We do have some empty boxes in the main storage bay, right?”

Michelle nodded. “Yes, the old supply boxes. There are quite a lot of them.”

“Excellent. We’ll need a team to start fetching those first,” John said. “Now, this is how things are going to be done. We are going to work together to fill as many empty boxes as possible. There is no competition here, alright? There is more than enough gold to go around for everyone. But it has to be done in a proper manner. What we need to do is to get enough to be presented to the buyers. Once we collect the proceeds, we divide it equally amongst us. Is that understood?”

The crew members nodded in agreement.

“Alright then,” John said. “Let’s start.”

The crew quickly set to work. The empty boxes were brought out of the main storage bay. While some of the crew were busy packing them full of gold dust, others were loading them back onto the ship.

As this was going on, John went back into the shuttle. Inside, he surveyed how the boxes were being lined up in the various storage bays. Nodding his head gleefully, he went to the cockpit and opened the door.

Captain Terry was still paralyzed and tied to the cabinet. John pointed his finger at him. “I just want to make sure that you’re doing well and not up to any pranks. Can you imagine how rich the crew and I are going to be?”

Captain Terry did not respond because his lips were still paralyzed. He only glared back at John and did not utter a word.

John smiled broadly. “Too bad you couldn’t see what was possible when you were in charge. Now I’ll take all the glory!”

As John was about to continue his speech, something caught his attention. From where he was standing by the door of the cockpit, he could see outside the shuttle through the window. On the ground, were some boxes partly filled with the gold dust. But there were no crew members around them.

Frowning, John stepped closer to the window and peered outside.

He saw more boxes littered all around. Some were empty, while others were partly filled. And yet, there were still no crew members.

Momentarily concerned, John adjusted the receiver in his helmet. “Why are we abandoning those boxes out there? Come on, I thought we agreed that this was going to be a well-coordinated effort?”

But there was no response.

“I repeat, we need to fill up those boxes and get them inside the ship.”

Still, no response.

John took another glance outside. When he was sure he could not see anyone, he walked out of the cockpit. In the hallways that led to the various storage bays, he did not see any of his crew.

Now he was getting really worried.

“Michelle? Can anyone hear me?” John yelled as he rushed outside the shuttle.

Outside, he saw only boxes and more boxes, but not a single crew member. The entire scene looked like a construction site which had been hurriedly abandoned, with boxes and laser rifles strewn all around. John returned to the shuttle and started searching every room, calling out for the crew.

“Where is everybody?” John screamed out of frustration.

“They are with us, John.”

Out of shock and fear, John spun around with his laser rifle pointing in front of him. “Who said that?”

“We did.”

John began to step backwards. “Who are you? Captain Terry, is that you? Show yourself, you coward!”

“It is us, the owners of the gold that you wanted to steal.”

“Who? Wait. No! It can’t be,” John said, and began to laugh. “Who said anything about this gold belonging to anyone? It belongs to me and my crew. We came back for it, so it belongs to us.”

“You are wrong, John. The gold is the property of our people. For trespassing and trying to steal this gold, you will suffer the same fate that has befallen your people.”

“No, you can’t be serious, I will…” suddenly John began realized that he could not talk anymore. He tried to speak up but all he heard was a cackle, then a crowing sound that began to emit from his throat. Then he noticed that he could not breathe properly anymore.

Panicking, John tried to raise his hand to press a button on his helmet. But his hands did not move. When he looked down at them, they were all yellow. The same color as the gold sand on the ground. Shocked, he turned to move, but his legs were stiff. They started to turn to gold.

He started feeling heavy and stiff. It was then that he understood what was going on. His entire body had now turned into a huge gold statue. Then he began to disintegrate, until all that remained of him was a pile of gold dust.

 

***

 

Few hours later, Captain Terry discovered that the MO2 was finally wearing off. He started to regain feeling in his hands and legs. It did not take him much effort to get loose from the rope that John used to strap him to the cabinet in the cockpit.

Once he freed himself, he stood up, then walked out of the cockpit and was confronted by several boxes of gold throughout the ship.

Looking around, Captain Terry could not see anyone. He went to the open door and peered outside. There was no one in sight, just boxes and laser rifles littered all over the terrain. Without betraying any emotion, he pressed a button on a panel and the door of the shuttle slid shut.

He quickly walked back to the cockpit and sat down in his seat. He pressed several buttons on his console, then the shuttle’s engines began to rev and hum loudly.

Captain Terry fastened his seatbelt and soon Shuttle X569 was flying again, under his command. As he steered the shuttle off the gold planet and zoomed into the black skies, Captain Terry smiled to himself with glee.

He might have lost his entire crew, but he still got the gold.

 

THE END

Lamees Alhassar