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Rebecca Rector
Science Fiction/Middle Grade

“Out of the way, boy.”

Two uniformed men shouldered me aside and swaggered into the Galactic Deliveries

I stumbled on the crowded sidewalk. The blaster skates hanging around my neck swung
out and almost smacked a spindly old lady. “Sorry, ma’am,” I said.

She shook her head and hurried away.

My stomach growled and I ignored it like always, studying the starry GD logo floating in
front of the Galactic Deliveries door. Was it safe to go in?

Uniforms were never good. Never met any that lived up to the brightness of his shiny
buttons. Especially here in Earth Port City.

But it was my first day on the job and I didn’t want to be late. Besides, it wasn’t like I’d
done anything wrong.


Take care of Us. Let the rest hang. That’s what Ma and Pap taught me and that’s what I
did even though now it was just Take care of Me. Cause Ma and Pap were gone. Dead.
I squared my shoulders. That was all behind me. I had this delivery boy job now. As long as those
uniforms didn’t haul me away.

The boom of a booster K4 lifting off from the spaceport shook the whole street. Door
armor fused protectively over the shops until pebbles and debris stopped pinging against the

The Galactic Deliveries’ armor irised open, and the two uniforms strode out. I pressed
myself so tight against Patel’s Donut Shop that the bricks dug into my shoulder blades.

“You think we did right?” the bald uniform said, as they shoved their way through the
crowd. “Putting it through a regular delivery service?”

“You want to get shot up? Course we did right. Let someone else take the risk.”

Shot up. Risk. What were they talking about?

An oily-haired businessman strode along like he owned the place and knocked into me.

“Hey!” he yelled, like it was my fault.

The uniforms turned toward the noise and Oily Hair rushed away, leaving me exposed.

Bald Uniform reached for his weapon and that’s when I saw it. The blue lightning bolt on
his cuff. Not just any uniform. Elite Securities! If they thought you were going after their stuff,
they acted fast. Asked questions later. If you were still alive.

I quick raised my hands and froze. My blaster skates hung heavy as a noose on my neck.

Around me people rushed into the street or back the way they’d come.

“What do you think you’re doing, boy?”

Bald Guy sighted his weapon on me and I tried to melt into the front of the donut shop.

“Nothing! Stumbled!”

“Not a very good pickpocket, are you?”

“What? No! Going to work. Wasn’t trying to-”

“Work?” The second guy looked me over, from ragged hair to bare feet. He sneered.

“Dirty kid like you? You steal those skates?”

“No!” Found my skates in an abandoned house before those scavenging freegans picked
it dry. Almost fit me, too, and they were top quality. Made of Velancore, tough and light, despite the weight of the blaster cells and traction belt.

And I wasn’t dirty. I’d washed up this morning in the men’s room at the old subway
station. “I pick up deliveries. Don’t steal.”

Much. Unless I needed food. Which was almost always.

Bald Guy snorted. “Listen to that accent! Hick from the hills.” He waved his weapon.
“Hand over the skates. I’m confiscating stolen items.” He laughed.

“No!” I couldn’t make deliveries without my skates. Couldn’t make money. Might as
well shoot me right now.

The other uniform grabbed Bald Guy’s sleeve. “Let it go.” He glanced back at Galactic
Deliveries. “We don’t want to be seen here.”

Bald Guy glared at me. “Forget we were here or-” He left it hanging, holstered his
weapon and they were gone so fast it was like I’d imagined the whole thing.

I went cold as all the adrenaline drained outta me. Sagged with the relief, then
straightened cause I knew I was a clumsy idiot.

Rat-blast it. What was I doing, stumbling around like that? Didn’t use to stumble in the
hills. Could go all day without tripping over a single branch or stone.

My hands were still shaking when I shoved open the door to Galactic Deliveries and went

The noise hit me hard and I thought someone’d been shot. But then the shouted words
began to make sense.

“Mine, give it here, Vera!”

“Me, Vera!”

A bunch of messengers crowded round Vera’s circle desk, pushing and grabbing at the
edge, their blaster skates sliding under ’em. No blood. No broken bones. Elite Securities hadn’t done nothing bad here.

“What’s up?” I nudged Marlowe. Didn’t have friends. But Marlowe was okay. Kinda
goofy with his face paint, but okay.

He turned his blue face to me. Today he’d added a bright yellow sun on his forehead and
a cloud on his nose. “Hands Only just came in,” he muttered. His grey fuzzy hat slid sideways as he shoved his shoulder into Mannie’s back.

Was that what the Elite Securities guys had been doing? Dropping off a delivery? But
that didn’t make sense. They were hired to protect things, not give them to someone else.

Then it hit me what Marlowe’d said. Hands Only! HO deliveries meant extra money.
Danger pay. HO’s blew up if the wrong guy opened it. Nobody ever blew up a HO that I heard
of. ‘Cept that story about the rookie delivery boy…

Older couriers always got the HO’s. Not a chance I’d get it. Not a chance. “Vera, give it
to me!” I shouted, elbowing my way into the crowd.


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