Blowing Smoke With Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker (May 21, 2021)

                                          Blowing Smoke

                                            By Jeff Baker

            “It looks like smoke,” Jonny Kilbassie said.

            “I know,” Big Dave said. “That’s why they call it the Cigarette Nebula. The wonder of this part of the Galaxy.”

            Big Dave, owner of Big Dave’s Stellar Rentals, is nothing if not persuasive. The Nebula looks like a thin curl of grey smoke frozen in place, hanging against the stars.

            Jonny Kilbassie is not interested in the tourist spiel, he is more practical.

            “How much for a cruiser?” Jonny asks.

            “The big one or the small one?” Big Dave asks.

            “The small one,” Jonny says, on account of how he is trying to save on resources and the smaller cruisers are a lot cheaper. But Jonny Kilbassie is still in need of immediate transportation.

            “You want it with or without the map?” Big Dave asks.

            “The map comes extra?” Jonny says, somewhat perturbed. This is something he has not considered. Every added expense is an added drag. Also, he has a valise of ill-gotten gains from his most recent exploit as well as the knowledge that the authorities as well as the survivors of said exploit will doubtless be looking for him and it is best if Jonny Kilbassie is nowhere around when they find out where he has been.

            “Done.” Jonny says. And with that, Big Dave supplies him with his small cruiser, his star map and a modicum of fuel. With that, Jonny sets off to hide on an out-of-the-way planet on the other side of the Nebula. But what happens to Jonny Kilbassie we only find out from his log book and from the testimony of Big Dave.

            Jonny’s star map is the cheapest one available. It, therefore, does not automatically update without Jonny paying an additional subscriber fee which Jonny is not aware of. The group of planets he is planning to hole-up on do not exist anymore. It is a long trip across the Nebula and there are no available fueling stations.

            This is the story we put together when Jonny and the star cruiser are found floating on the other side of the Cigarette Nebula, both of them cold lumps. He should have opted for a larger cruiser with a bigger fuel tank and an upgraded map, but Big Dave, whose family had been on the losing end of one of Jonny Kilbassie’s earlier ventures. opted not to press him on that.

            As Big Dave says: “The Customer Is Always Right.”


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