”Turn! Turn now, or else! ” The voice blared in her ears, and the heat-seekers rocketed towards the cruiser. ”The life of your passengers depends on it! Turn! Turn! ”

She didn have to be told twice!

With a deft motion characteristic of an expert pilot, she lurched to the left, and the missiles whizzed harmlessly past. It was all in a days work. She chuckled to herself and took another sip of her tenth can of Electro-Nite 24-Hour Energy.

”Watch out! Its not over yet! ”


Oh, right- they were heat-seeking missiles.

Oh, right- they were heat-seeking missiles…!

She lurched again, but she was too late! They collided with the hull, flinging her to and fro in the cockpit. Everything in her vision turned red. The shields deactivated and her life-meter dropped instantly to zero. So this was how it ended, huh?

Things went black. There was a voice from beyond the abyss.

”Jako! ”

Jako sighed.

”Jako, take that thing off! We
e here! ”

”Fine, Im coming! Im coming! ”

Just as the red GAME OVER message appeared before her eyes, she yanked off her VR headset and chucked it carelessly onto the dashboard. Nine energy drink cans were strewn at her feet, and she wiped a liter of sweat off of her forehead. That was a side effect of Electro-Nite- the labels said not to drink more than two cans per day- but she found that the copious amounts of sweat helped make her experiences in Dangerlactic Online feel more real.

She adjusted the bandana tied around the back of her head and ducked down into the tunnel that led to the S.S. SyKos minuscule exit bay. Her partner- Syldie, a diminutive Polar Elf from Polyluna- stood by the exit hatch, tapping her foot expectantly, bulging forehead vein about to burst. If she tapped any harder, Jako thought she might tap another hole in the floor- there were already two of them from times when she tripped over the front step.

”Jako Hedera Langst, ” said Syldie in a tone that meant I am extremely upset with you.

”Hey, ” said Jako, letting out a half-burp. ”I was just in the middle of a battle, so cut me some slack. ”

e always in the middle of a battle! Don you remember rule number eighty-two? ”

Syldies finger snapped to #82 on the updated Rules and Regulations poster she had printed out last month. The print was so small it was impossible to read, especially with her unadjusted eyes and the 244 items squished onto a regulation-size piece of printer paper, but she remembered the rule nonetheless. Syldie had repeated it a billion times.

Jako will stop playing video games ten minutes before landing and be there to greet the client on time.

Jako huffed. Sure, she had broken the rule, but this time she had a special reason for it-

”This is your tenth offense! ” shouted Syldie. ”I don know what to do with you! ”

”More like, you don know what youd doooo without me. ”

She yawned mid-sentence and rubbed her eyes. It was true- Syldie had hired Jako to do the heavy lifting. Polar Elves were scrawny, after all. There was a rumor that most of them wore those traditional pointy hats to make themselves seem more intimidating. On the other hand, Floran elves like Jako were tall and sinewy, and they would never be caught dead in pointy garments of any kind- not that Jako dressed like other Florans, though. She was an outcast wherever she went, but she also couldn bring herself to care.

”Whatever, ” Syldie spat, activating the exit hatch with her fingerprint. ”Hey, wheres the food? ”

”Huh? Oh, right. ”

Syldie let out a raspy sigh as Jako went back to retrieve the goods. Twelve hours earlier, the S.S. Syko had docked at Minamaxs Meatery, a gourmet hamburger shop in the high-faluting Nova Quadrant, and fetched a heat-conserving box of a dozen specialty sandwiches made from twelve different types of rare meat. Their client was paying them 5000 Novabits- a meager amount for the scope of the job, but enough to make ends meet for two days longer. Two days was the amount of time they needed to get to their next client, who had made an almost unbelievable offer- 890000 Novabits, all to covertly transport one box to a nearby galaxy! When Syldie heard the offer, she forgot all about her full-disclosure policy and agreed to ferry the mystery item immediately. With that kind of money, she could get the ship fixed… or even buy a whole new ship! She had her eye on a beautiful, sleek new smartship model called the Darkmatter 570. Maybe she could hire a more competent assistant, too…

”This is the thing, right? ”

Syldie turned to see Jako with the sandwich box (clearly marked MINAMAX VARIETY PACK) in hand.

”Yes, thats the thing! Are you blind or just stupid? ”

”Takes one to know one, ” mumbled Jako. It didn make any sense as a comeback, but time was of the essence.

”Cmon- lets go see the client. ”

Jako shrugged and kneel-walked through the hatch. One of the perils of working with a Polar Elf: low entryways.

Their current location was a small, metropolitan moon called 72. All of Duogaias moons were numbered rather than named, though some of them had nicknames- for instance, moon 1 was known as the Big Coconut. 72 probably had some obscure local moniker too, but the address on the order form had just listed it as 72. Nothern hemisphere, city of Metro- there was a city named Metro on most planets- Stack District, Bokeh Road, Horizonature Apartments, room 543.

Jako knocked on the door.

An orcish man answered. ”You with the landlord? ” he asked.

”No- we
e here with your burgers. ”

”Ah, the delivery elves! Fantastic. You know what? No need to come in- ”

”We weren planning to, sir. ”

”All the better, then. Just hand over the sandwiches. ” Without even waiting for Jako, he grabbed the box out of her hands. ”Thank you. ”

He reached for the handle and nearly slammed the door in their faces, but Syldie stuck her foot in.

”Sir- how likely are you to recommend us to your friends, family, coworkers, or enemies? ”

”Hmm, ” he groaned, ”Let me think. Uh, what were you guys called again? Psycho Courier Agency? ”

”Its SyKo, ” rattled Syldie. ”Like sicko! ”

”Not much better, if you ask me. Well, Ill think about it. ”

The door closed.

Jako nodded in agreement, prompting a soft kick in the shins from Syldie. It didn hurt- that was why Jako let her get away with it this time, and all of the other times before.

”You know, ” Syldie said, ”Rather than playing that game you spend so much time on, why don you play something useful? Like, for instance, a delivery simulation game. ”

”Dangerlactic online is plenty useful. Like, if we ever go up against heat-seeking missiles, Ill know just what to do. ”

”Hah! ”

”Plus, its a social game. When do you ever talk to people, Syldie? Aside from our clients? ”

”I don need to talk to people. ”

”Great- does that mean youll shut up? ”

She grunted and facepalmed.

”Youll see, ” said Jako. ”Well be dodging heat-seeking missiles someday. And when we are, Ill be the one to save your ass! ”

”You can save my ass by being on time to meet clients. ”

”This will be on a whole different level. ”

”Should I be worried that you
e fantasizing about us getting attacked? ”

”No. ”

”Well, coming from you, that doesn mean anything, does it? ”

Jako only shrugged.

As the cylindrical S.S. SyKo sputtered and clunked its way out of 72s artificial atmosphere, Syldie punched in the ships auto-trajectory, set her alarms for tomorrow, and reclined in her seat, plunging the dingy cabin into darkness.

Jako didn need to sleep, being a Floran elf, but out of consideration for her partner in crime, she put her game on mute and leaned back.

When Syldie was sleeping she could play her second favorite game- Echo! My Resonating Love, a cheesy, steamy dating sim that filled the affection-shaped hole in her heart. If Syldie knew about her romantic tendencies, she would tease Jako- she just knew it. Jako needed more than just Syldies tough love. She didn know where to start, though- none of their clients were ever handsome, and it wasn as if she had much luck meeting people on Dangerlactic, as heavily as she extolled its virtues.

Her parents had only started dating in their 130s.

”Ah, ” she whispered to herself. ”Sucks to be a Florannnn… ”

The virtual human in front of her stood, animation looping, as she removed the goggles, switched them off, and slid open her port window to have a look at the stars. Right now they were just white streaks against a black background- the ship was going so fast it scarcely seemed to be moving at all- but there was still a sort of momentary beauty to them.

She imagined that they were missiles whizzing past the ship, barely missing its hull.

”Yeah, right, ” she harrumphed.

What would it take to get a little bit of adventure around here?

She had know way of knowing it, but in two and a half days, shed find out.

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