Short Story - Contraband

Coffee, check. News ready to go, check.

With a grin he looked around his empty office one last time to make sure he was the first one there. This was his favourite part of the morning, in the calmness of the office with no one to see he could relax before the day started, and even better he could mark it down on his time card.

Leaning back on his chair with his feet on his desk, he projected the latest news reports up in front of him, blocking out the mundanity of the office around him.

Ok, what have we got here. Pop idol Ida's show last night broke down into another one of her famous hedonistic playtimes… Some kind of massive power outage in the lower warehouse district… Here we go! A tell all interview with Nameid, "Life inside the Box".

Within seconds he was entirely lost in reading through the interview, the spicy details overpowering the thoughts about his own unimaginative life back at home. He was so absorbed with reading the interview (and looking at those enticing vids) that the sound of someone clearing their throat behind the projection almost caused him to fall off his chair. Jumping to his feet he cleared the projection to find his co-worker Ethan standing grinning in front of his desk.

"Looking at some genderfluid softcore before work again are we Arlo?" he said, smirking.

Ignoring Arlo's indignant protests Ethan sat down in the chair on the other side of his desk, casually reclining as if he belonged there.

"So hey, we got something in and I know it's the kind of thing you would want to see," Ethan said, leaning forward and placing a small hardlight containment cell on the table in front of him.

Arlo leant forward, anticipation on his face, and deactivated the field. In front of him on the hard metal base of the cell sat… a small, furry, caterpillar like creature shimmering in the artificial light of the station.

"Umm.. is it dangerous?" Arlo asked, hesitantly reaching forward.

Ethan's brow furrowed a little in thought, "Not to touch, I'm pretty sure? Yeah, it's probably fine."

Arlo reached out, and recoiled at the first touch. "It's… it's cold?!"

"Yeah, it's made of metal."


"Yeah it seems they have a pretty unique physiology, they have a very simple nervous system but a magnificently unique control over magnetism. Instead of using tendons and muscles they just... modulate their magnetic field."

"Christ, how the hell did such a thing evolve?"

Ethan shrugged at this question, "Infinite mysteries of the universe, and shit?"

Both of them looked down at the creature on the table, it was hurriedly attempting to hide behind Arlo's coffee cup. "Umm… what's it doing now?" Arlo asked.

"It's mildly psychic, when you can read and control magnetic fields it turns out the passage of neurons is relatively easy to understand. Just be more careful, don't startle it."

Arlo leant forward again, reaching out a little more hesitantly to pat the creature. The thin metal fuzz surrounding the creature felt almost soft against his fingertips, and it leaned into his touch, gently vibrating. A large smile came to Arlo's face as it began to nuzzle his hand like a cat.

"It's so fucking friendly!" he exclaimed happily.

"Well, what did you expect?"

"I don't know… I guess since it's made of metal I expected it to be.. colder?"

Ethan shook his head at this simplification, "Nah, it's a cute little sucker. You should have seen it with its partner."

"There were two?"

"Yeah, I picked them up last night at the lower warehouse district."

Arlo's eyes darted to his Omnitool. With a sigh, Ethan said, "Yeah, I figured you probably saw the news, seems a pair of these had been smuggled in yesterday afternoon. Some smuggler probably thought they could get a pile of credits for such an oddity."

"Are we safe? How are you containing whatever caused the power outage?"

"Well here's the funny thing, they don't usually have that effect, but when you get two paired up…" Ethan's comment drifted off.

Arlo looked up at him blankly.

"It's when they fuck Arlo. You know fucking, don't you buddy?" Ethan said, his words coming in slightly slow and sarcastically. "When they fuck that magnetic field goes haywire and takes out all the electronics in the surrounding area."

Arlo's eyes widened at this comment, "Where did they take its partner?"

"Oh, that one is being held on the contraband office on the other side of the moon. Gotta keep these two as far apart as we can. Can't risk another one of these events, we were lucky that the LW district is pretty empty right now. We can't have any hover junkers falling out of the sky" Arlo leant forward, inspecting the creature from as close as he dared. "Where did this thing even come from?"

Ethan projected some information from his Omnitool, "I haven't had enough time to look it up, but it looks like it came off transport DS23GE-T2, shipment R83D21A942"

Arlo sat back, suddenly in his element, and within seconds he had information up on the transport ship in question. With casual ease he traced the transport's passage. "Looks like the shipment was loaded on at Chushayashi." His brow furrowed as he tried to place this information. "Isn't that just outside of the Super Sargasso Sea?"

"You mean that place filled with dead ships? I thought nothing got out of that area," Ethan replied, a thoughtful look on his face.

Arlo nodded at him, before looking up at his projection. A frown crossed his face.

"We may have an issue here... according to the ship manifesto, there were meant to be 3"

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