Jala Jones, Queen of Space!
Chapter 4: My First Planet
(hey if you haven't read my previous adventures you can find them by clicking on this sentence. Oh, I never wrote chapter three because it was super boring. Just cope, yeah?)
People often ask me, “Jala, what's your secret? How did you become the Queen of Space?” and I always tell them the same thing:
“If I told you it wouldn't be a secret any more, now would it?”
I mean honestly. Why would I give them a shortcut when I worked the long way to get here? But maybe if you read along with my adventures you'll get a better idea of how I work. I mean, it's no big secret. Just decide what you want and keep going until you get it. It's gonna take some twists and turns to get there but so what? That's how life is.
Anyway here's a good story that makes my point for me. It's about how I took over my first planet and kinda sorta became a pirate for a little while. Hey, side note: the difference between a pirate and a queen is mostly publicity.
Anyway, how I got my first planet. It all started because I wanted a new bed.
I had been working for Mom and Dad, being a good little hauler, delivering things where they were supposed to go instead of where I wanted to go and everything.
And yeah, my hauler was pretty sweet. But the bed was just the worst. The gravity field nullification system was glitchy, so you could put it on “regular” gravity, or on “full null” which means you're sleeping in the middle of the room and drifting into walls and stuff. And changing the ship's gravity instead of just my bed wasn't an option, at least not after that first time I lost an entire cargo bay full of eggs.
So I had been sleeping with full gravity, like some kind of Terran. One morning I was all stiff and sore when I got up and found Kibbet in the lounge.
“I want a new bed, Kibbet. I don't think 0.2G is too much to ask from a bed, is it?”
“I sleep in a small box with the word 'Fluffy' on the front, you're asking the wrong sentient life form.” Kibbet said, but he's always joking around like that. His box said “Kibbet” of course. At least, I think it did. Anyway. I called my dad.
“Hey Daddy, I want a new bed with better gravity nullification. What's the best bed I can afford right now?” See what I did there? Smart. If you want help from the accountant of a giant shipping company, phrase your question like an accounting problem.
“Oh yeah, the egg thing, I remember,” he said and agreed that a new bed was probably a wise investment.
He made accountant noises for a while and gave me a model number that I looked up. Gravity nullification controls down to a hundredth of a G. Good enough for this girl! I told him to ship it to me on a Light transport since I'd be in deep space for another three weeks. He said two day rush wasn't possible, but it should get to me in four days. Fiiiiiine. Also I ordered a small bed for Kibbet that was more “dignified”, but he said with his body mass he doesn't need G-nullification. Or maybe I said that. Anyway this story isn't about my bed, specifically. It's about what happened to it.
Four days later, no Light transport. Those robots are dumb but they're not that dumb. I waited an extra day, to show my mom I'm patient, then called her. This wasn't an accounting problem, this was a logistics problem, and my mom is in charge of those. It's great to watch her get on the case to solve them.
“The transport reports being collected, Jala honey,” she said and gave me the coordinates. I gave her my coordinates. They weren't the same. She made angry CEO noises and said she'd call me back. But she didn't. She just sent a single word via text.
And said that, since I hadn't paid for pirate coverage it was my own responsibility and now she and Daddy wouldn't send me a new one for free.
What happened next works best as a montage. Imagine me and Kibbet, with very little to do, for weeks. Imagine us calling other haulers, getting the lowdown on pirates in the area, especially ones that steal Light carriers. Imagine us learning how Light carriers work, so we can understand how they steal something traveling at C9.1. Cut to us triangulating where they would be operating, their base, based on the radius of the sphere of their depredations.
Now back to real time. I'm standing at the console, looking serious. “Kibbet, let's go blast those pirates out of the sky!” I say, looking serious-er.
“With what, Jala? This is a hauler, we don't have guns.”
“Well, could we put some on?”
“Not enough to take out a pirate fleet.”
Another quick montage. I drop off my cargo, but don't take a new contract. I've got a bed to reclaim. I consider trying to buy my bed back but that seems lame. Paying pirates just encourages them to be pirates! So there must be a better way. I think for a while and realize something. My hauler was made custom, for me, by my daddy. So it's three things:
- Heavily armored
- Just huge
- A fully licensed and authorized delivery vehicle.
And even pirates need to buy things once in a while. That's why they steal all that money. We could just sign up to bring their latest food shipment or whatever. And if they think I'm being sneaky instead of just delivering stuff, well, I'm fast and have lots of armor. I could get away.
“Kibbet, let's...sneak onto their ship and steal my bed...those pirates out of the sky!”
“This is a very stupid plan, Jala. Also ungrammatical.”
“What's the problem? We'll go board the ship, get my bed, and leave the pirates going 'huh? Wha? Durr duh ugh!'”
I did my best not-too-bright pirate impression but Kibbet wasn't in the mood. he argued for a while but I wasn't listening, I was speeding up. I had a delivery to make! Or a bed to steal. A bed to steal back. Something. Anyway I liked the idea of getting paid to steal my bed back.
I should probably tell you about the pirates we were attacking. They were called the Dark Wave, which...ugh, such an overcompensating name. They were led by a mysterious captain who was never seen without her mask, called Crimson Anne. Not even her crew knew what she looked like. Her mask struck terror into all who saw it, for she rarely took prisoners.
And while we were sneaking up behind their fleet (inasmuch as one can sneak in a giant hauler) she was laying siege to a planet that hadn't been paying protection money. They'd blown up four of her frigates, and she was angry.
I didn't know any of that at the time. all I knew was that her capital ship was near the back of the formation and I was going to dock with it and offload a bunch of celery or whatever it is pirates eat.
Anyway that part worked fine. We docked, Kibbet and I ran through the docking bay in our space suits, and headed to the captain's quarters. With two robots following we burst in, and there was Anne, sleeping in my new bed! And she had the gravity at normal. What is even the point??
Again, this story isn't about my bed.
“Huh? Wha?” Said Anne. She might have said “Durr duh ugh!” but I put a gag in her mouth to keep her quiet while the robots carried her out of harm's way. I didn't want to hurt her, I just wanted my bed back!
Anyway we tied her up, and I had the robots put her in the hauler's bio-stasis field in my cargo hold. While I was waiting for them to come back so they could get my bed the comms screen beeped.
Well this was awkward. I looked around and saw her mask. I put it on, figuring I could stall until the robots got back. I answered.
“Captain, the planetary president is on the line,” said...a pirate. (It was Gilae, but I didn't know his name at the time.)
“Very well, I'll talk to them from here,” I said, and the mask had a voice modulator, so that was weird.
Suddenly the screen changed. A very worried official gentleman (Anders Andersson, again, walked into this situation blind, didn't know his name at the time) was on screen. He looked terrible, poor guy, but I guess getting bombed from space will do that.
“Captain, I have spoken with my government. We can't bear these wanton and cruel attacks...the people have spoken. We surrender, entirely.”
Well, this was really awkward. I mean, I didn't want a planet! But I didn't want to go get Anne back and let her take over this planet! She would have been terrible to them. And the robots weren't back to get my bed, so I couldn't just leave!
I nodded, slowly, to buy time. Finally I said, “Very well. We accept your surrender and will call off all attacks immediately. I will come down to your capital when preparations are complete.”
I looked at the smaller window in the corner of the screen where Gilae was watching and he nodded. “all attacks have ceased, Captain.”
Where were those robots? I didn't know it at the time, but the silly things were actually delivering the groceries instead of helping me steal my bed. Do you know how long it takes to deliver an entire pirate fleet's groceries? Long enough for your brand new First Mate to tell you that the shuttle is ready to take you down to the capital city, I can tell you that much.
So, I went down to the surface. News cameras from every major network were hovering, following, recording. I accepted the key to the planet, and the governmental sash, walking around like I owned the place. And I figured, why not? They're willing to give in, I'm willing to be nice to them, so maybe I should own the place.
I walked up to the podium to make my speech.
“President Andersson, In this, the start of a new age, I promise that you will be protected by the might of the Dark Wave. And as I accept your surrender, it is time for me to surrender...my anonymity. I will be known as Crimson Anne no more. It is time for you to see the true face of your new leader. Let everyone bear witness that Crimson Anne is really—”
And here I took off that mask, and looked all dashing at all the cameras that were in the room.
”—Jala Jones, Pirate Queen.”