"We've Come A Long Way" appears in Outlaw Galaxy 4: Little Wind and Other Tales, available for free at Smashwords, Payhip, Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Apple iBooks store, as well as a direct download. Sorry Amazon Kindle people, but Amazon insists on charging 99 cents for this collection. I hope you enjoy this story! (If you like it, "Tip Jar" contributions can be made at paypal.me/outlawgalaxybill.)
It is a time of legends and myths, of technology and magic,of epic struggles and journeys to the stars...
A time when great heroes confront the forces of darkness...
A time when adventure beckons across the Billion Worlds of Outlaw Galaxy!
Brandt chuckled. "That's not what I'm talking about." He finished his drink, savoring the rich flavor of this local brew. He felt the burn on the way down.
Ghaz shook his head as he gazed around the lounge, continuing on as if Brandt hadn't said a word. "Not a lot of pilots could lay claim to Vistrik to Wynnsparrle in three days. No, not many at all."
"I'm sure you're right, Ghaz," Brandt said as he looked out across the lounge. There were plenty of pilots here, sitting, eating, drinking, chatting, going through the motions without any real enthusiasm or interest. They, like Brandt and Ghaz, were just waiting to move on as soon as their ships were refueled and loaded with crates and containers destined for planets in other systems. They were all vagabonds, stopping here and there on worlds scattered across hundreds of light years, never staying anywhere for long.
Brandt turned back to the viewport and stared down at the planet. "That's not what I was trying to say, Ghaz. Think about this. Who knows how many millennia ago, we were just primitives. Imagine what life must have been like. Huddled around fires, living in caves, wearing animal skins, hunting with spears. Fearing the night and the dark. We must have been little more than animals ... and yet somehow we made this incredible journey. We invented tools, medicine, technology ... developed art and literature. We grew. We somehow got to the point where we left the world that gave birth to us ... in fact, we left so long ago that we don't even remember which planet it was. And now? Now, we can jump from one star to another in a few hours. We've spread across ... how far? Perhaps the whole galaxy? We can engineer life-forms, build intelligent machines ... transform entire planets." Brandt paused, then smiled at his partner. "Like I said, we've come a long way."
"Hm." Ghaz shook his head.
Brandt stared at his partner. The expression on the man's face made Brandt wonder if his partner was inspired ... or frightened and ready to ask, "Who are you and what have you done with my partner?"
"It was just a thought," Brandt muttered, backing away from his observations with a weary shrug.
Finally, Ghaz smiled and emptied his glass, tipping it towards Brandt in a polite salute. "Never knew that underneath those calloused hands and behind that crooked smile lurked the soul of a philosopher ... a poet."
"A poet? Never thought of myself that way." Brandt cocked his head to the side and grinned proudly. "But I think I like that." He looked down at his empty glass and, with a satisfied smile repeated, "A poet."
Ghaz glanced at his chrono, then looked up at his partner and eyed the empty glass. "Our ship's supposed to be ready within the hour. You okay to fly?"
"What? A man can't have a profound thought now and then?"
"Just checking," Ghaz said with a wink, not mentioning the many arguments and fights when Brandt had been ... well, describing his behavior as less than philosophical would be stating it politely.
"I'm fine." Brandt shrugged, as if following Ghaz's train of thought. "I don't think about things like that too often, but sitting here, gazing out at that planet and all of those ships ... well, our ancestors couldn't imagine what it would be like to live in a time when jumping from one star to another was ordinary. Oh sure, there were maybe a few who looked up into the sky and saw the stars and dreamed ... but us? We're about to jump to another star and our biggest concern is getting our ship loaded so we can get to Abaater on time and get paid. We have come from such humble origins ... ." Brandt shrugged again, then looked at his friend. "It's awesome when you think about it, that's all. Don't you ever think about that?"
Ghaz was about to shake his head and admit that, no, he hadn't ever thought about anything even remotely like that.
Then, from the back of the lounge, there was the din of rising voices and a flurry of sudden movement. Three men and a couple of aliens Brandt couldn't identify jumped to their feet. The room fell silent as the argument's intensity increased. Arms waved and fingers pointed and faces contorted in anger. Brandt glimpsed an all too familiar swish of movement as the participants reached for their blasters. Brandt and Ghaz were among the first to dive beneath their tables.
Blaster pistols whined. Flashes of light lit the murky tavern in strobing pulses. The smell of ozone filled the air as energy beams exploded off walls and tables. Brandt nodded towards the entrance. "I think it's time to go."
Ghaz gave a quick nod. The pair crouched low, scooting across the floor on hands and knees, using tables, chairs and other patrons for cover as they crept towards the door.
As they dove through the entrance and emerged into the safety of the StarStation's main courtyard, Ghaz glanced back towards the tavern and the sounds of battle. "We may have come a long way ... but we've still got a long ways to go." He let slip a grin and elbowed his partner in the ribs. "Maybe the poets will show us the way."
As Ghaz disappeared into the crowd, Brandt smiled. "Or maybe, eventually, this journey will make poets of us all." He winced as more sounds of blaster fire echoed from the back of the tavern. "Maybe someday."
Some of the Outlaw Galaxy books now available:
Outlaw Galaxy 4: Little Wind and Other Tales. Short story collection available at Smashwords, Payhip, Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Apple iBooks store. About 15,000 words or 45 paperback pages, reading time: about one hour. FREE! 99 cents at Amazon Kindle.
Outlaw Galaxy 3: Hunter's Truth and Other Tales. Short story collection available at Smashwords, Payhip, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook or the Apple iBooks store. Read a sample. About 18,500 words or 53 pages, reading time: one hour. 99 cents.
Outlaw Galaxy 2: Fugitive Among the Stars. Read a sample or check out the book at Smashwords, Payhip, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook or the Apple iBooks store. Novel, about 72,500 words or 207 pages, reading time: five hours. $2.99 at most retailers.
Outlaw Galaxy 1: Trip and the Space Pirates. Available at Smashwords, Payhip, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook or the Apple iBooks store. About 73,000 words or 210 pages, reading time: 5 hours. $2.99 at most retailers.