Lisa poked around the other shops and stalls of Anchorhead just in case there was something else around that struck her fancy. She found a satchel that would come in handy – while her new outfit had some shallow pouches that could possibly pass as pockets in a pinch, they weren’t deep enough to be useful – but she passed up the vendors selling weapons. Currently she didn’t think such an extreme was necessary and hoped that would remain the case. Eventually she came upon what looked like a junkyard. Glancing at all the scrap metal through the fence, she was going to pass it by when something compelled her to take a closer look.
Leaning against the fence, she spotted what looked like a ship partially buried underneath heaps of scrap. It was battered and beaten up but she had an odd feeling about it; like somehow she was meant to find it. Could this be why she was here? She didn’t have the knowledge to fly a ship like that, but something told her it didn’t matter. She made her way to the entrance of the junkyard. There was a sign hanging on the fence, however it was written in a language she couldn’t understand.
Almost the very second she stepped over the threshold into the yard proper a tall alien exited a shack in the corner. He looked as if an ostrich had begun to turn into a man and stopped part of the way through the process. He was at least six or seven feet tall and his legs were decidedly avian with the bent-back knees and two-toed talons. Black and white feathers protruded from his arms and chest and poked through the shorts and tunic he was wearing. His neck wasn’t as long as that of an ostrich but longer than a human would have and his nose and mouth were more beak-like than mammalian.
“Achuta!” he said in what Lisa now knew was Huttese. “My pee kasa Ref’no Imam.”
His thoughts were a mixture of Huttese, Basic and what she assumed was his species’ language. The combination of those and the inflection of his words told her that he was giving her a greeting and his name.
“Hi,” she said. “Is this a junkyard?”
“Tagwa,” he replied, then switched to accented Basic. “Welcome to Stet-Tor Scrap Yard. Ref’no Imam at your service.” The ostrich-man bowed to her. “What can I do for you?”
“I was looking in from the street,” she answered. “What’s up with that old ship you have in the back?”
“Ship?” Ref’no consulted a small device he held in his hands. “Oh, that old thing? It’s junk, even for this place. Once upon a time it was used to shuttle cargo and passengers from space dock to planet side but the line was put out of commission ages ago. I can’t sell it and it’s too old for anyone to want it for parts. All it does is sit there and take up space.”
“I’ll take it.”
The bird-man’s beady black eyes blinked in surprise. “Haku? Why?”
“That thing hasn’t flown in years. It doesn’t have hyperdrive or weapons so it’d take forever to get anywhere from here and you wouldn’t be able to defend yourself if you did. If you’re looking for transport, I have better selections.”
Lisa shook her head. “I’ll pay you for it.”
She had a feeling that if Ref’no had had eyebrows, he’d be raising them. “Oh?” He squawked out a laugh. “I’ll tell you what…if you manage to get that hunk of junk flying, you can have it.”
His thoughts told her that he really didn’t think the ship would fly and then he would charge her an exorbitant amount for it once she realized that fact. Buying that ship even for an inflated amount wouldn’t hurt her financially in any way, but now it was the principle of the situation.
“That’s a deal,” she said and marched further into the yard to find the ship.
Ref’no watched her leave, muttering something in Huttese under his breath and shaking his head.
It took ten minutes for Lisa to make her way to the back of the junkyard where the old ship was sitting. With as bad as it looked from the street, here close up it really was in a sorry state; she actually understood why Ref’no Imam couldn’t make any money off of it.
She couldn’t really tell the size of the ship due to its back end being buried underneath piles of garbage, but it looked rather on the small side. The paint had long since faded or had been scraped off so the hull was predominately gray with faint hints of blue and white peppered on some areas. A large window in the front let her look into the cockpit, revealing two seats and a dark control panel. There was a separation in the hull on the right side of the ship indicating a door, but she didn’t think it would open without power.
She was so focused on examining the ship that she jumped when she heard a series of high-pitch “whoops” behind her. Turning, she looked for the source of the sound and had to look down, spotting what the locals around here called a droid. Its photoreceptors – what passed for a head and eyes – were mounted on a long, thin and rusted telescopic stalk that extended down into the junk where she assumed the rest of the body was located. The way it was looking up at her, it somehow managed to look sad.
“Hey,” she said softly to it. “Were you trying to get my attention?”
The droid bobbed its photoreceptors up and down in an approximation of a nod, beeping.
“Sorry,” she said, sitting beside the buried droid. “I don’t speak that. But if you were wondering what I was doing, I was checking out that ship behind us.”
The droid’s photoreceptors inclined up to look at the ship indicated, then beeped in a way that sounded like a question.
“If you’re asking why…” she began, then paused and shrugged. “I don’t know exactly. It’s like it’s calling to me even though it looks like there’s no power.”
The droid emitted a few fast beeps, nodding its photoreceptors.
Lisa raised an eyebrow. “Is that your way of telling me it still has power?”
Again the machine nodded, accompanied by more excited beeps.
Her wings twitched. “If I get you loose, could you fly that thing out of here?”
The droid nodded so enthusiastically it started to shift the trash it was buried in. Lisa took that opportunity to knock the loose junk away, then proceeded to dig the droid out. Once unearthed, she saw that the machine was about three feet tall and the stalk its photoreceptors sat on continued down and connected to a rusted and broken treaded base. It had two arms – one with a claw hand, the other also broken – and four empty sockets on its stalk.
She eyed the droid’s condition. “You’ve been here a while, haven’t you?”
It looked at itself and nodded again, beeping sadly.
“Well, don’t worry,” she said, kneeling at its side and giving its “head” a pat. “You can come with me once you get the ship going. I’ll even try to find somewhere to have you cleaned and fixed. Can you move on your own?”
When the droid tried, it was shaky but successful. The problem was getting it from its pile of trash to the pile of trash the ship was on as there was a bit of a gap between them. The droid had to be over her lifting limit, so carrying or levitating it was out of the question. After searching for a while, Lisa found a thick, sturdy piece of metal she could use as a bridge for the droid to cross.
As the droid slowly made its way across the makeshift bridge, it turned its photoreceptors down onto something below it. It started beeping and pointing with its good arm. Lisa, who was holding the metal down so it wouldn’t shift with the movements, shook her head.
“Beep at me after you get across!” she ordered.
Another beep and the droid finished its journey, then immediately started carrying on and pointing again. Lisa looked down but had no idea what it was indicating. Urged by the droid, she got down off the junk pile and started searching through the debris below, holding up various pieces of scrap only to receive negative and angry beeping.
She sighed in frustration after being at this for a few minutes. “Ugh, what are you trying to tell me?! This? This? This?! Great Orion, give me a break!” She held up what looked like a small circular monitor and the droid finally beeped an affirmative. “About time!” she said, flapping her wings twice to ascend to the top of the pile her companion was on. She held up the monitor. “Why did we go through all that for this?” The droid beeped a lot and she waved her hand. “Never mind. I can’t understand you anyway.” She tucked the gadget into her satchel. “Okay, so, what about getting inside this thing?”
The droid beeped once again and held up its good arm, snapping its claws back to reveal what looked like a plug. It placed the wires into a node against the hull of the ship Lisa hadn’t noticed. There was a zap! and then a low hum she would not have heard were it not for her enhanced hearing. Peeking into the window of the cockpit, she saw the control panel was now very dimly lit.
“Nice,” said Lisa approvingly. “So how does it open?”
This droid sure did a lot of beeping. It took its good arm and rotated its claw hand to gently place it on the hull of the ship, looking at her expectantly. She searched the bulkhead, trying to find a palm panel or something similar that would trigger the opening mechanism. Seeing nothing of the sort, she leaned on the side of the ship where the door was to examine the hull and the moment her hand touched the metal there was a hiss and the door opened like a drawbridge, forming a ramp that the droid could use to enter it.
“Ah,” she realized. “Touch activated anywhere on the door panel?”
The droid nodded and unsteadily rolled up the door ramp on its broken treads, Lisa following behind and the door closing behind her. Now that the power had been activated, the interior of the ship was dimly lit by lights in the wall. The cockpit was immediately to her right with its two seats and controls. Down to the left was a short corridor that led to an area that had to be the cargo hold and between the corridor and the cargo hold was a ladder that Lisa found out led to a small loft used for sleeping. There were two floor cots, one on one side of the room and one on the other side, and both of them looked to be sized for humanoids. These ships had to have been once manned by people who didn’t mind sharing a room. The cots had no bedding and the mattresses were covered in a layer of dust.
She met the droid back in the cockpit where it had plugged its good arm into the control panel. It glanced in her direction when she came in, looking up at her and beeping in what sounded like an awed manner. Lisa was confused at the reaction for a moment until she realized it was because her wings were glowing in the slight darkness of the ship, making her look ethereal.
“If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, stop it,” she said to the droid, pointing an admonishing finger. She didn’t know if this galaxy was familiar with angels like the people of Earth were, but she felt she’d better nip this in the bud right now just in case. “It’s dark in here. They glow in the dark. Nothing special.”
The droid beeped and went back to work. She wanted to ask it what it was doing, but didn’t bother since she couldn’t understand the thing anyway. She assumed it was trying to get the ship started. While waiting, she sat in one of the chairs in the cockpit and fiddled with the gadget the droid had made her pull out of the trash.
Before long, Lisa realized that the suns were starting to set. “Huh,” she murmured to herself. “I wonder if he forgot about me.”
The droid – should she give it a name? – looked up from his work and beeped what she, again, assumed was a question.
“The guy who owns this place. Ref’no Imam or however it’s pronounced.”
The droid made a sour sound and shook its head, going back to its task.
“Don’t like him?”
The sound that next came out of the machine sounded so much like a vehement “Nuh-uh!” that Lisa actually laughed.
“Well,” she chuckled, “get us out of here and you won’t have to worry about him anymore.”
The droid beeped once more and then, as if on cue, the interior lights fully illuminated and the engines roared to life. There was some groaning and clattering as the ship ascended, knocking the garbage it had been buried in away. The droid’s good arm manipulated the internal controls some more and the ship shuddered, jerked, and started to slowly accelerate.
Lisa’s eyes widened as she saw something out of the cockpit window. “Hey, pull up a little or you’ll hit the fence!”
The droid looked up and bleeped in alarm, twisting its arm quickly and causing the ship to climb. There was a dreadful noise of metal scraping metal as the ship grazed the fence, just barely clearing it. When Lisa looked down, she smiled at the dumbfounded bird-face of Ref’no Imam as they sailed away from Anchorhead.
End chapter two.
Back *~*~* Chapter One *~*~* Chapter Three