Friday, October 3, 2008

Space Trucking

Space Trucking

By Scott Wilson

Word Count: 1,955

Ponny Treeper loaded his cargo hold with the assistance of his fellow space truckers. He always had a lot of luck on Venus; they seemed to have a soft spot for his and ensured he always got the highest paying, lightest load leaving the planet. This time was no different. A small shipment of the infamous, Venus Blues tobacco for one hundred thousand credits. 1990 million miles to travel and two weeks to make the run, Ponny would have time to make a quick stop on Earth and visit his dad.
“All done, Ponny.” One of the local land truckers, Tekkie McCall said jovially.
“Thanks mate.”
“When you gonna be back this way?”
“Not soon enough, my friend. I love it here, everyone is so friendly. I am thinking about retiring here in a few years.”
“We’d like that.”
The land trucker shook Ponny’s hand and waved him farewell as he left the loading dock. Ponny walked up the ramp into the cargo hold of his space truck, looked at the small shipment and smiled.
“Are we ready to go, hon.” Ponny’s gorgeous young wife, Canaveral, asked from the front of the truck.
“Sure are babe.”
Ponny closed the cargo door and quickly made his way to the cockpit, and his waiting wife. He met her at the Borealis truck stop a few years back, she was hitchhiking and he went against his personal policy and picked her up.
They had travelled the Milky Way together since and he couldn’t imagine trucking by himself now. He was so happy that he grabbed Canaveral by the hands and danced the moonshot with her before sitting down in the driver’s seat.
“You want to visit you sister on the way to Venus, hon?”
“Not really, I’d rather we just have a couple of days r’n’r all to ourselves.”
“Do you mind if I stop in to say gidday to my old man? We don’t have to stay the night or anything, just a quick howdy doodie.”
“Anything for you babe.”
Canaveral smiled then cranked up the music and said, “Let’s go space trucking round the stars.”
Ponny fired up the rig and they left for earth in a blazing fireball; the greenhouse gases were never really brought down to an acceptable level on Venus and it always made take off a pyrotechnic delight.
“Man those cats can really sing.” Tekkie said to himself, watching the rig take off. It didn’t take much to keep him; he was simple but always happy.
“Why do they call that tobacco Venus Blue? It is as black as the ace of spades.”
“Back in the old days, when Venus was populated by mainly convicts and entrepreneurs, they used to add some of the blue flowers of the tobacco plant to add a sweet aroma to it. It also added a hallucinogenic effect to the inhaled smoke, which is probably why it was so popular. By the time the authorities worked that out, too many smokers were already addicted to the black leaf, so they couldn’t just outlaw it. It used to be near impossible to ship Venus Blue anywhere cause customs kept pulling space trucks over and going through their cargo. Making sure there was no flower in the tobacco. Almost ended up be too expensive to buy as no truckers would move the stuff. Those that would make a pretty penny until everyone started getting in on the game and wanted some of the easy money. Now only a few of us will ship it again cause of the pirates.”
“What pirates?”
“Tobacco still has a high value on the galactic black market you know. There are some space truckers who turned on their own kind to steal the cargo no one wanted to ship. Only our profession has access to the e-charts, manifestos, shipping routes and loading dock land codes, so it has to be insiders who are the pirates.”
“Are we safe shipping this load?”
“Yeh, no worries. My mates on Venus have some great encrypting programs that cloak all of the deliveries I do for them. Anyone checking my manifesto will think I am shipping textiles. Not much demand for that on the black market, so we are safe as houses, hon.”
Ponny pulled a small bag out of his flannelette shirt pocket and smiled at his wife.
“And this little bag of Venus Blue is definitely not going to appear on any manifest.”
The vacuum sealed bag contained enough traditional Venus Blue flowers to add to tobacco leaves for six months of solid smoking.
“Give it hear, babe.” Canaveral said and grabbed at the bag.
“Don’t mix it up here, the sniffer bots will pick it up in a microsecond if you spill any. If you make a rollie over the cargo the minute traces won’t be high enough to register. It will be counted against the weight of the tobacco and taken as residual traces of the flowers when the raw product was packaged.”
“You sound like you have done this before. Why haven’t I ever seen you with any of this stuff before?”
“I haven’t done a tobacco run from Venus since we met. It is the only time when it would be safe to carry this stuff.”
Canaveral took the bag and made her way back to the cargo hold. On her way back, she took her hip flask out of her back pocket and had a swig of Vodka. Canaveral put the open flask on top of the stack of Venus Blue, then dug her pocket knife out of her jeans pocket. Carefully taking a small pouch out of the cargo, she slide her blade into the packet and opened it. The acrid aroma was overpowering and felt like it burnt her nostrils as she breathed it in.
“This stuff is hideous.”
“Pure, unprocessed tobacco from Venus always is hon. Why do you think they packed it with the flowers?”
“They were stoners.”
They both laughed at that remark and Canaveral wasn’t far from the truth. She bumped the hip flask as she chuckled and it mixed with the small bag of flowers and into the open pack of tobacco.
“What are you doing back there? Don’t go starting no party without me.”
Canaveral grabbed at the hip flask. It slipped from her grasp and poured over the top row of porous paper bags of tobacco. Although she had not yet smoked any of the tobacco, she could now smell the sweet aroma as the mixture of Vodka, tobacco and flowers melted into each other.
“Bit of a problem, hon.”
Ponny locked in the autopilot and rushed back to his wife’s aid. The look on his face told Canaveral that this might be worse than she thought.
“No, no, no...” Ponny cried.
Canaveral scurried about, trying to mop the vodka and soaked tobacco up with her jacket. It was only a five hundred-millilitre hip flask, but the amount of dampness seemed to spread far beyond that capacity somehow. She also noticed that the flowers that had mixed with the tobacco grew and spread rapidly. In less than five minutes, the top layer of the cargo had a sea of azure flowing across it.
“What’s happening, Ponny?”
“I don’t know. Venus Blue flowers grow like a noxious weed under the right conditions, but I never heard of them being thriving alcoholics.”
“Ouch, it just bit me.” Canaveral cried.
Ponny looked over and saw a vein of blue riding up Canaveral’s arm, its roots digging in firmly as it inched up towards her neck rapidly. He quickly surveyed the cargo hold until he laid his eyes on the fire extinguisher. Ponny leapt across the walkway and over a stack of tobacco packets and back in a matter of seconds.
“Cover your face.” Ponny yelled as he took aim with the high-powered nosel.
Dry chemical filled the air around Canaveral’s torso, covering her arm, clothes and side of her face, with an ice-cold white chemical powder. It stung like a swarm of angry wasps upon contact with Canaveral’s bare skin.
“Stop.” She yelled.
Ponny released his grip, and the white cloud settled instantly, dissipating into the air without the activating agent from the extinguisher to set it off. Canaveral’s arm was blistering from the reaction of the flowers to the chemical. Not exactly, what Ponny had hoped would happen, but at least the plant was no longer growing up her arm. Canaveral tore at the vines and roots, ripping flesh from her petite arm as she did so. The steady streams of blood now flowing from the gaping wounds on her arm started the flowers grow up her arm again, this time growing into the exposed muscles and tendons.
“Help me, Ponny. It’s burning me.”
“I’m trying hon.”
Ponny looked around for something else to stop the rapid growth of the Venus Blue but could not see anything he thought would work, short of cutting his wife’s arm of with an energy blade. He noticed that the blue wave of petals now covered the entire right side of the cargo hold. The azure wall was majestic to look at and it smelt so sweet, like freshly baked cinnamon donuts. Ponny looked back to his wife. Canaveral held her Zippo lighter to her arm, burning the blue flowers as they grew close to her throat. She was smiling, inhaling the wisps of smoke deeply.
“You know, this isn’t that bad.” Canaveral said, rotating the remnants of her injured arm.
Ponny smiled at his wife, thinking how beautiful she looked, part woman, part flower. He inhaled a deep breath, laughing as the tendrils of smoke wove their way deep into his lungs.
“You’re right. It really suits you.”
Ponny dropped the fire extinguisher swayed and staggered to his wife through a haze of blue, smoky clouds. To him, they looked like a bunch of circus of animals from Earth. He thought to himself how much he felt like sowing Canaveral an old fashion circus when they arrived there in two days.
“Come here darling,” Canaveral said in an enticing voice, “I want to kiss you.”
Ponny embraced his wife in his muscular arms; she leaned right into his grasp and hugged him back. Tendrils from her arm crept up his loose fitting shirt, flowing in waves to his leathery-skinned nape. They kissed heavily, heaving their bodies together in a lovers embrace similar to the kind they shared when they first met. Vines latched on to Ponny’s skin, burying deep into his veins and feeding off of his fluids as he fed off of Canaveral’s love. The ecstasy they felt in each other’s embrace masked the pain of the Venus Blue joining their bodies with it and with each other.
Customs did not board the space truck when it entered Earth’s planetary borders. The autopilot was set to transfer Ponny’s manifest, security codes and a bit of general, stock standard chit chat if required. No officers noticed the beautiful, bright blue flowers covering the cockpit window, or the lack of human occupants from the distance. There was no need to take much notice of such a small space truck, with such an insignificant load. The first person on Earth to notice the blue flowers was Ponny’s father when he opened the cargo hold, eager to see his only child for the first time in many years. He thought it was a tad strange, a cargo hold filled thick with vegetation and no sign of his son, but that sweet smell just made him forget about this small anomaly and board the space truck just the same, thank you very much.

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