“Kleinit, he’s waking up.” A strange mechanical voice grated against my ears as I began to stir. Head pounding, I let out a soft groan.
“And?” The second voice was gruff and throaty, presumably Kleinit.
“Can I kill him?” The first voice was closer now, and as I tried to open my eyes I was met with a wall of black fabric draped millimetres from my eyes.
“No” Whoever Kleinit was, I liked him immediately. Trying to lift the blindfold from my eyes, I realized my hands were bound in place behind me.
“Just a little bit?” Standing up and running seemed like the best option from whatever murderous thing was coming, but my legs were bound as well.
“Seriously Mr. Banana?”
The absurdity of the name didn’t match the menacing robotic voice I was hearing, causing a small snicker to escape from my mouth. Small fingers scraped my face as the blindfold was roughly pulled from my face. A monkey, snarling, stood above me, one hand clasping the blindfold. Around his neck was a collar with small blinking lights. His hair was matted and unkempt, but it added to his aura of intensity. Beady eyes shot figurative lasers at me.
“Wanna laugh at me to my face, you little shit?” His mouth didn’t form the words, they came from his collar, lights blinking in harmony with the words. A gun was pointed at me in his other hand. I was surprised his eyes didn’t shoot literal lasers at this point.
“Sorry, Mr. Banana!” I responded, unable to take my eyes off the gun. I was so focused on the gun, I couldn’t see in his face if he forgave me.
“The only reason you’re still alive is Kleinit,” he muttered as he climbed off of me. The weapon returned to it’s sheath across his back. “Kleinit! Do I leave him here until we land on the planet?”
“Nah, bring him up. Where’s he gonna run to? We sold the spacesuits for gas two weeks ago.” Mr. Banana’s frustration was clearly draped across his shoulders as he untied my feet.
“Soft old man, letting the mark walk around. Who cares if he decides to run? Mr. Banana does, but his voice doesn’t fucking matter does it.” Not looking back, he pulled on a rope tied to my neck, yanking me to my feet. Barely managing to keep my feet under me, I stumbled out of the small room after my captor. A hallway encased in metal and piping opened in front of me as I struggled to keep pace with the nimble monkey leading me.
“Welcome to the Queen’s Crown.” Mr. Banana announced as he pulled me through another doorway into what was the cockpit of the spacecraft. “A pretty unimpressive hunk of metal, but it’s home.”
The cockpit was grungy, an array of lights set above the windshield the only light source in the room. Cluttered, with various mechanical implements scattered around, I noted many roughshod patch jobs only half done. The dashboard was a complete mess, various dials pulled from their rightful places to make room for aftermarket modifications. Most of it seemed highly likely to stop working if you took too deep of a breath.
“Modest, monkey. She’s got rocks still.” Kleinit’s voice rumbled from the captain’s chair, however he didn’t turn around to greet me. “This is the cockpit kid. You ever been off planet before?”
“No, but I’m just about done my C-class engine course. I want to be a mechanic on smaller ships like these. Always dreamed of flying the beyond back at the orphanage.” My voice wavered as I responded, and I took a deep breath to steady my shaking knees. Despite my first impressions, the cabin didn’t fall to pieces from the deep breath. “Why am I here, bound up?”
“See there’s this owner of a planet,” Kleinit began. Mr. Banana cut him off, his mechanical voice loud, echoing in the room.
“He has a pharaoh fetish! Pharaoh fetish!” Cackling, the monkey threw himself back into a chair, writhing with laughter.
“Yes, he’s human, like you. Loves the idea of ancient Egypt.” Kleinit continued the story over the hysteric’s of Mr. Banana. “He’s placed himself as Pharaoh of his planet. Calls himself Lord Tut.”
“How does that relate to me being here?” My breathing started to pick up as the situation began to set in. Off world, with two people I didn’t know the second thing about, being taken captive for some crazy owner of a planet. I swallowed what little saliva I had in my mouth, trying to settle the knot forming in my stomach.
“We’re what you’d call Cleaners. We deal with problems. You’re a problem for him.” Kleinit’s measured, business like tone was meant to be reassuring, but at this point it was grating at my nerves.
“How? I’ve never heard of him, let alone interacted with him! I’ve been stuck on a backwater planet for years, never leaving it!” I tried to throw my hands up aggressively, but the restraints on my wrists stopped me from going past my shoulders. Pain caused my face to contort and I dropped to my knees, feeling that sickly feeling of despair and uncertainty slither into my chest. Kleinit’s chair rotated towards me as my knees hit the deck.
He looked human. Short, but still carrying a lot of strength in his build. His nose looked like it had been built on the battlefield, bent out of shape multiple times. Dark and piercing, his eyes examined me beneath a brooding forehead. What caught my attention the most was his robotic right arm. Gently reflecting the cabins many small lights, it was more advanced than anything I had ever seen. No fake flesh adorned it, unabashedly metal, it was easily worth more than three quarters of this ragtag spaceship.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Anern.” I couldn’t meet his gaze, my palms were sweating heavily. I wanted to wipe the sweat from my eye, but couldn’t with how my hands were bound.
“Anern, I don’t ask questions. I nod my head, say ‘yes sir.’ Then I do what they asked.” With that bit of dry lack of information, he turned back to the infinite night outside the windshield. “Buckle up now. Almost there.”
Struggling to gain my footing once more, I managed to sit myself in a chair beside the still wheezing monkey. ‘Pharaoh fetish’ being giggled under his breath, he clamoured over me, locking me into place with a standard four point harness. A dull cloudy planet came into view as Kleinit turned the Queen’s Crown.
“Mr. Banana, prepare for entry. Retro thrusters thirty percent to start.” As Kleinit worked the lower controls beneath the windshield, Mr. Banana swung above him. Lights and switches were flicked by all his appendages with rhythmic practice. I had never reentered a planet’s atmosphere before, but I sat back, a small smile tugging at my lips. This is what I had been working towards. No matter the situation, I would get full enjoyment out of the free fall towards a new planet.