(This wasn't meant to be a series, it was meant to be a short flash piece, something quick and written off the cuff. It was inspired by a sci-fi story and start of a novel that my brother sent me. I don't know how many parts there will be but it will be continued and soon. )
Johnny wasn't sure what he'd found in the Scrapheap but he had a feeling it was important. There was always things to find in the Scrapheap, a graveyard of ancient spaceships that had all crashed in the same area. Hundreds and hundreds of them across miles of rocky terrain. Nobody knew how to use them anymore, if any were even still capable of flight.
You could find some good scrap in the Heap, if you scrounged long enough. Though it'd been picked over by scavengers and looters time and time again, Johnny usually managed to find an old trinket or two that'd get him room and board for a week at Sallie's.
He knew the Heap well, a veritable jungle of steel machinery, filled with rusting hulks, extinct creations of man. There were labyrinthine passageways, mazes of metal to get lost in. Hills, valleys and mountains of shining glass and metal, all useless but for the treasures within. Johnny knew the hot spots that had been picked clean and the deeper zones that hadn't seen a human hand since the crash centuries ago.
Nobody in the nearby village of Terra knew what had caused an entire armada of ships to fall in such a way centuries ago and many thought the place cursed because of it. Others claimed Terra's ancestors came from these very ships and considered the place holy.
Well, Johnny had spent half his life there. He'd seen more skeletons and rotten corpses than he could count. Nothing seemed holy about it. As for curses, his livelihood came from scrounging the place. If there were spirits, they weren't so bad and he thanked them now and again, when he thought of it.
There were dangers, that kept most folks away. Scavengers and looters could be cruel. Losing yourself or getting stuck in a ship, dying to dehydration. And there was something else. Something Johnny had felt more than seen. A presence that lurked near a particular ship, the same model of a ship that stood in the center of Terra. Johnny wanted to check it out but he'd always been cautious and the presence had kept him away. He wasn't sure what the thing could be, a man living out there? Some creature from the jungle come to investigate?
On the day he changed the world, the presence was gone. He watched the ship for awhile, watching from the cockpit of another ship, using old-tech binoculars. Nothing moved for hours. It was gone, had to be. Maybe the creature had gone back to the jungle. Maybe the man had died. Regardless, he was going into that ship. He popped his binoculars into his pack and slipped it on his shoulder. He checked the handgun and flashlight at his side. The sun showed mid-morning as he slipped out.
He had to scramble over a pair of behemoth-sized spacecraft, huge transports and slid down the side onto the roof of the vessel he wanted. It was smaller than the behemoths, though still large. The model in Terra could be seen from the flatlands miles around.
There was a hatch on the roof with a datapad beside it. Johnny crouched down and set his bag down, pulling out a hand-sized keypad. It had a wire with an input on the end that slid right into the datapad on the ship. The keypad was the reason he fared well in the Scrapheap where as others did not. Getting into the spaceships wasn't as easy as just opening the door. It required a code or code-breaking software and not many had either. The only guy Johnny knew who could make anything like it was Glen, the techie in Terra and only Hal's men got them. Hal didn't want anyone else getting access to old-tech. Luckily, Glen was a friend of Johnny's.
The keypad beeped and the hatch slid open, albeit with a rusty screech of metal.
Johnny put his pad into his bag and put it over his shoulder. He held on to the edge of the hatch with his fingers and let himself down. There was another hatch but a simple lever within opened it. He dropped to the floor of the ship. He grabbed his flashlight and flicked it on, illuminating a hallway he was in. Though it was daylight outside, none of that reached the insides of the ship save for the open hatch. Johnny made his way toward the bridge. He found corpses in spacesuits, long since rotted away. The screens above the ship's controls were broken and black. He hit a few of the buttons just for fun, a tradition of sorts, that he had. Nothing happened of course. His hand passed across something sticking out and he gripped it, pulling out a datachip that had been sticking out of the command console. He whistled. Datachips were highly valuable. Ancient knowledge came at a premium price. He couldn't help feeling this was something big.
A flashlight flashed at his back, splashing light around him.
"Turn around slowly," a female voice called out. "I have a pistol aimed at your skull."
Johnny palmed the chip up his sleeve as he turned around, hands up in plain sight. He held his flashlight pointing to the side and kept his other hand open. "I'm not looking for trouble," he said.
"You shouldn't be looking around the Heap, then."
"Can't help myself." He took a step toward her. "Curiosity, I suppose."
"Don't move," she said.
He couldn't see much beyond the bright orb of her flashlight. "Could you maybe point the flashlight out of my eyes, at least?"
He sighed. "Can't we settle this without harm? You don't want to kill me and I don't have anything worth killing for anyhow."
"I'm just supposed to believe you and let you walk?" The light came closer as she walked toward him. "Scavengers are just robbers by a different name."
He shook his head. "Not true, the thugs just give us true scavengers a bad name."
She stopped, close and shined the light down at the ground, still aiming the pistol at him.
He could see she had short hair and wore black goggles. He didn't see anything else because she hit him in the face with the butt of her gun. His head rocked back.
She hit him in the stomach, hard.
He bent over, gasping for air.
She hit him in the head again, knocking him to the ground. "Nothing personal," she said. "Guess I'm a thug, not a true scav like you." She took his pistol and his bag. She even took the cigarettes and matches from his coat pockets.
Johnny's head rang. He could smell and taste blood. By the time he could get up, she was gone. He felt across his scalp for a split but all he found was a very tender bump. He wiped blood from his nose before pinching it to stop the bleeding. "At least she left me my flashlight," he muttered. When he stood, something fell out of his sleeve and hit the floor. He reached down and grabbed the data chip.
Something heavy hit the roof and walked across it.
Johnny felt the hairs on the back of his head stand up. He heard something drop down the hatch. He slipped the chip into his pocket and flicked off his only weapon, the flashlight.
The presence was back.
(pt. 2 here)