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Chapter 1: Dead Space
I had many jobs as a temp but I never considered myself this title. This title just meant I was a low class space man without a steady job. Instead, I thought of myself as a Space Outlaw. It had a nice ring to it, and certainly I was known throughout space, especially to the Space King.
When I was small, I loved the feeling of imagining myself traversing throughout space and going on different journeys to satisfy my cravings of an adventurous life. The thing was, I was a poor space man without any transportation to the parts of the galaxy. I felt alone in the dead part of space, a poor state where no one could travel to find riches and wonders. I was one of them, but I wanted to be more. I wanted to become somebody worth remembering from, not for living in the Dead Space, but for who I could become. The only problem was, was that I didn't have cash. I didn't even have enough for food. Starting out life was more difficult than I had realized when I was a kid. Life seemed so simple.
That's when I found the Space Temp Agency.
I was working one day in my garden, trying to grow space flowers that bloom only once a month, it was a tricky task that I was given by the temp agency in Dead Space. The job was simple: grow the Space Flowers until it sparkles light colors, and sell it to the merchant of Middle Space. However, the situation in Dead Space was harder than it seemed. More Space People became desperate in times of the Space War. It was harder to live because of the struggles and sacrifices that the Space King decreed. More taxes and more food were to be offered for the war for freedom. Ironic.
Since the Space People became more desperate, more of them started to take on being Space Robbers and Space Bandits. And their small base was located near my garden I was put in charge of. I overheard a couple of conversations sometimes when I was watering the seeds in the Space Ground. They were talking about robbing Spiral Space: a space where Space Miners used to forge beautiful gems into accessories throughout the known galaxy, although now they just mine the gems for weapons.
It was already a week since I started growing the Space Flowers and I still didn't have money. Where was the money anyways?
"Puppycat," the Space Temp manager started, "grow these Space Flowers and only then will you get paid. Here are the gem gloves," he handed over the glistening gloves, "when the Space Flowers start to bud into a considerable size, pick them off with these gloves over your hands."
"Why?" was the only thing I could respond with.
"It's said that once a month these flowers blossom by human contact and glistens with sparkling colors, sort of like small fireworks. You must be careful though, even if they do not catch on fire, you must never have the Space Flowers be touched by contact not even if they are still in the process of growing. Only the gem gloves made from Spiral Space are able to pick them up. Do not lose them."
"How much will I get paid?"
"What!?" I exclaimed. Never in my life would I have earned that much money, let alone hear that much.
"$1000, but you get paid at the very end by the Middle Merchant. Be careful, because if anything happens to his flowers, you are responsible for compensation. I can't guarantee you safety, but I can guarantee you this much. Will you accept Puppycat?"
What else was I supposed to say?
And then the temp manager gave me the bag of Space Flower seeds and I went off working on the flowers for a full month. Although I don't get paid until the end, I had to find some way of earning money to at least survive.
Anyways, it's been a week since I started growing them and there were little red buds poking out from the Space Ground. The picture I was given, that was inside the seed bag, looked larger than what was growing now. I sighed at the thought of three more weeks of just standing outside and watering the seeds. They were growing, but my stomach was not.
"Hey Puppycat!" a voice shouted from the other side of the parted fence, "What'cha doing?"
I turned over and saw BeetleCat leaning his arms onto one of the fence boards and resting on them. He was my childhood friend, who had decided to join the Space Robbers in their upcoming expedition to Spiral Space. I was scared for what would happen if he was caught but he just shrugged and we never talked about it again.
"Beetle," I smiled trying to hide my worried tone, "when are you leaving?"
"In two days," he replied, "you can still join us if you want. ZesiCat says there's always room for you."
"Are you trying to persuade me?" I asked turning back to water the seeds.
"Maybe." Beetle muttered, "How much are you getting paid for this?"
It wasn't because I didn't trust Beetle, I just didn't trust Zesi. If word got around that I was growing these rare flowers, my garden would be torn and I'd have to deal with the Middle Merchant. Compensation was not what I was going to look forward to at the end.
"Just for flowers?"
"Yeah," I said, still gazing towards the ground, "it's still something if not anything."
Beetle got up and jumped over the darkened fence and started to walk towards the flowers. He was inspecting them, not from suspicion but for the way they looked. Beetle always had a certain look whenever he saw something foreign to him. He gazed at them for a while, while I finished up watering the last of the patch.
"What are they?"
"I don't know." I replied, feeling guilty for not telling him the truth.
"Can I touch them?"
"Why?" Beetle asked as I turned my gaze towards him. His mouth was frowned and his eyes were pinned with misery.
"Because if you touch them without proper equipment your lantern on your forehead will burst open and I won't volunteer to help clean your bloody mess." I looked at him with a slight raise in my eye brow.
It took him a few minutes to understand my sarcasm. Beetle was always slow at times. But I hope he won't be slow when he ventures to Spiral Space with Zesi and the others. Now wasn't a good time to stop him, it was too late since he had already agreed to join the pack of Space Robbers.
"Be careful." I sighed, walking to the small well near the side of the house and setting down the battered watering can.
"I will." Beetle replied, turning around. He walked away, showing nothing but the back of his white hair and the ripped clothing he wore.
Things will be different when we leave Dead Space, Beetle. Don't get captured. I thought to myself as he walked into the Space Robber's base.
Night was always the brightest of days in Dead Space, maybe because we never ran on electricity or overuse our light gems. They were hard to come by no matter where you were, but they always shined the brightest and the clearest during the darkest nights. It was like looking at the night sky and seeing the amazing constellations that twinkled here and there.
One day, I will get off of Dead Space and traverse the space and touch a burning star.
I turned my gaze toward the other side of the fence. It was BeetleCat waving incredulously, pausing in front of the worn out fence. A shadow had passed from behind him and out shown RainCat with his infamous green lantern on top of his forehead. We all had this sort of lantern that grew from our foreheads, illuminating a bright whitish, bluish tint whenever the darkest nights were approaching. But for some reason, RainCat was born with a whitish, greenish tint. He was special, but we didn't know why.
"What do you guys want?" I said, picking myself off from the ground.
"Nothing," Rain shrugged, "just decided to bug you."
"If you're only here to bug me at least get over the fence." I shook off the Space Dirt from my worn pants and walked over towards them.
"So Puppycat," Beetle started, "we brought you food."
Beetle brought out a parcel wound in a black cloth and handed it in front of me. I could smell a sweetness. It made my stomach weak and my mouth watery from its mere presence. I gazed towards the parcel knowing exactly what it was and quickly looked back up to them. Their eyes grew bright and then Rain nodded. He knew exactly why I was so hesitant.
"A-Are you sure?" I stammered.
"Yup," Beetle smiled, "Rain and I split this for you. We each got a share already, so go ahead. Take it."
"But why?" I backed a bit, "Where did you get this? You know that you shouldn't spend what you stole right away."
"We couldn't help it Puppycat," Rain frowned, "food is food. You know that we haven't eaten in months. Besides it's from the Down Space Market."
"But why are you giving this to me? Just keep it. I'll have enough cash soon to buy food for myself. I shouldn't eat it."
This was true. With the money I would make, I could easily buy a ton of food and move to Middle Space. But they looked at me with sheer determination. Their lanterns glistened brightly, hypnotically trying to get me to accept the gift. But I couldn't… could I?
"Yeah but Puppycat," Beetle argued, "when was the last time you've eaten?"
"Just about a month ago…" I answered, sullen at the thought of the actual day I ate food.
"That's a lie." Rain shook, "We know you didn't eat for two months because you gave us your food. Now it's our turn, at least take it or we'll shove it down your throat."
I gazed once more at the brown parcel… how I wanted it so badly. I looked up at the two and saw their lanterns growing with great intensity. I grabbed the parcel and opened the darkened cloth to reveal the brown buttery scent. My stomach grumbled at the thought of what was in front of me. It wouldn't hurt to just take one bite, right? It's not like the Space Guards would somehow show up if I just… take this… one… small…
The surge of sourness and then sweetness burned my throat as I started gnawing more on the fluffy bread. Never in a long time had I eaten something so good and so filling. The hint of honey-butter elated from the bread spiked a twinge in my taste buds. I cringed in the thought of losing this meal. I felt a couple tears coming down my eyes, it wasn't two months, but was three months that I hadn't eaten. I ate the whole third of the loaf and gave back the cloth to Beetle.
"Thanks." I sniffled, wiping away whatever was left on my face.
"As you can see," Beetle stated, "we were successful. We stole a bag of gems from a miner who started loading it inside his Space Cart. No one was caught,"
"And no one was left behind." Rain finished, "If you want, there's still room for you. All we're doing is stealing a bag here and there."
"You make it sound like nothing is wrong by stealing." I sighed, crossing my arms. My lantern started dimming, knowing that in fact, I wasn't against the idea of stealing as much as I was opposed to. I had to survive for three more weeks, and I'm already feeling hungrier after the bread.
"Nothing is wrong." Rain argued in a loud hush, "We steal because the Space King won't help us. You know we're at even harder times now that we're at war. We need a way out of this misery. We steal for us and for the people of Dead Space. So are you going to join us? Or are you going to go back to watering your filthy flowers, Puppycat?"