Excerpt for Swallowed by a Space Worm by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Swallowed by a

Space Worm

Brett P. S.

Copyright © 2017 Brett P. S.

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents






Chapter 1

Count Your Stars

Roy Gardner sulked back in his captain’s chair while he fiddled with the armrest. He couldn’t manage to get it just level, though if he fiddled with it enough, it might …

“Captain, a request,” Deanne chimed in across the comm channel.

“For the last time, Deanne, we’re not upgrading the aft thrusters,” Roy said, grimacing.

He slicked back his black, thinning hair, feeling the bald spot on the back of his head. He and the Zeta had spanned four sectors of the Milky Way, but the one demon that continued to plague him was male pattern baldness. He huffed and sunk into his chair, clasping his hands while he stared out into the viewport, a picture of empty space for lightyears on end. He watched starlight shimmer as the Zeta traveled faster than the laws of the Universe normally permitted.

“Oh, I’m over that,” Deanne said. “But I do think the Zeta could use a fresh paint job after our last scuffle.”

Roy propped himself up. “I’ll make a mental note next time we dock, but I’ll tell you what we really need is a decent payout.”

Deanne paused. “What about our last shipment? I thought Anth-metal sold well.”

“Oh, that,” Roy said. “Are you aware that Anth-metal rusts in a standard atmosphere?”

Deanne gathered her thoughts. “Right, I forgot. Well, at least we recouped our assets.”

“Barely,” Roy said. “And that was without my … self-improvement fund raiser.”

“Still going on about that?” Deanne asked. “You’re handsome the way you are.”

“Noted,” Roy replied sarcastically. “This job is fool proof though. Count your stars, Deanne, cause after this drop off, we’ll get your paint job and my new head of hair and still come up in the green.”

“Roy,” Deanne started, her words trailing off. “Captain, what exactly did you pick up this time?”

Roy smiled. “That’s my little secret. Let’s just say I’d like to avoid contact with the Federation until we drop this puppy off on Solus.”

“This isn’t illegal, is it?” Deanne asked.

Roy folded his arms. “Not technically.”

A particularly long silence passed on the comm in the form of static. Roy looked up at the speaker mounted on the ceiling, as if examining Deanne’s source but to no avail. He resigned himself to wait, an awkward lack of discussion. Granted, he did go over her head with this one, but it sounded too good to pass up.

“I guess I don’t have a choice,” Deanne said. “We’re already half-way to Solus anyway.”

“Now that’s the spirit,” Roy said eagerly, swallowing the lump in his throat. She’d have some choice words after they dock. “Everything will work out. Trust me.”

Roy heaved a sigh of relief as he wiped the sweat gathering on his forehead. He’d dodged a bullet for now. He only hoped that things would work out after the payout. The deal sounded almost too good to be true, and Roy couldn’t help but feel something in the back of his head, a lingering thought, like someone or something telling him he made the wrong call. Was this what a conscience felt like? It wasn’t a pleasant sensation at all, no sir.

Roy’s concentration broke as the Zeta dropped out of FTL due to a massive celestial body in its path. The sudden transition overloaded the inertial dampeners and threw him across the bridge. He forced his head up as pulsing warning lights flowed around him in reddish hue. Roy saw on the viewport, something vast, larger than any kind of world he’d ever laid eyes upon. A gaping hole enveloped the Zeta and soared over his head.

“Evasive maneuvers!” he shouted.

His words fell short of anything of merit, however, as a set of celestial sized jaws enveloped the Zeta. Blackness followed, a deep blackness.

Chapter 2

Varaxian Worm

Roy picked himself up and gathered his composure while he stared at a black viewport screen. His senses heightened, what little good it would do him at a time like this. He hurriedly paced over to the console by the viewport and switched the settings to a different light spectrum, something that could detect more than visible light. He turned the dial and stroked a set of keys, and the viewport lit up with colors of blue, red and yellow in various spots around them.

“Good idea, Captain,” Deanne said. “I’ll run some scans using Thermal.”

The location he found himself inside appeared vaster than ten cities, definitely more than a space station like Solus. He panned the horizon, which faded into the depths of the creature. However, he could see the walls to his right and left, thick, bumpy gelatinous structures that curved across from end to end with a convex ground. There was no light inside wherever it was they found themselves.

“Anything yet?” Roy asked.

“I’m picking up massive lifeform readings,” Deanne said. “Like, all over.”

Roy slammed his fist against the console. “Turn us around, Deanne. Let’s inspect our entry point.”

She happily obliged, hurling the Zeta around a full 180 degrees to view the gaping hole they’d flown through. Roy stared at the viewport screen to make out the depth and shape of what he saw, and it appeared to him as if their entry was closing. He barely got the words to his lips before a resounding clang and thud sounded as the top and bottom lines of their entry point caved in completely and smashed together into a single crack that spanned hundreds of miles in diameter. He swallowed the lump in his throat and chose his next words carefully.

“Deanne,” he began. “Do your scans reveal an exit?”

Silence. Deanne left him hanging. This would present some problems. Roy stepped away from the console and straightened the collar on his jacket in time to see the door to the bridge slide open, an angry dark-haired woman on the other side. Deanne strode across the bridge, past his Captain’s chair and up to him. Roy smiled something fake and prepared a greeting, but he barely managed a fumbled phrase before Deanne clocked him in the jaw. Roy went down, clutching his face.

“What was that for?” he exclaimed.

“You twit!” Deanne yelled. “This is your fault! You dragged us inside a Varaxian worm!”

Roy adjusted his jaw but elected to remain on the floor, else she might be inclined to smack him again. He probably deserved that one. Boy, did it hurt. Roy lifted his gaze to meet her line of sight, staring at the scornful face of a dark-haired woman, tablet in one hand and clenched fist as the other.

“I don’t see how it’s my fault,” he said.

“Roy,” Deanne said. “Do you presume to know how many Varaxian worms actually exist in the Galactic sectors?”

Roy rubbed the side of his face. “Couple dozen, I think.”

“How astute, Captain,” Deanne said, folding her arms. “Then you know there’s effectively zero chance we’d ever run into any. Hunters have to go looking for them, searches spanning solar systems decades in the making.”

“I see your point,” Roy said, standing up. “But your premise only makes our encounter extremely unlikely. You haven’t explained how this is my fault.”

Deanne grinned an evil sneer, the kind he hadn’t seen from her in years. Roy choked a little inside while she stared him down on his own bridge in his own ship. Then again, it really was her ship, considering who kept it in working order. Roy took a step back, and she met his movement in turn.

“Let’s have a little look at that precious cargo you talked about so much.”

Chapter 3

Precious Cargo

Roy stepped through the entrance to his cargo hold once the steel door slid open. The room lingered in darkness, lit subtly by ambient sources placed at two-meter intervals around the ceiling. Deanne followed close behind. She walked a few paces ahead of him and strummed her fingers across the screen of her tablet, causing the cargo hold to light up something fierce. He covered his eyes with his hand to shield them from the abrupt change, allowing his eyes to adjust to the new lighting.

Once the golden hues faded and the cargo hold glowed with details, Deanne pointed to a shipping crate near the edge of the hold. Steel walls surrounded them. Over in the far left corner was a plastoid crate, shut tight with a security code lock. The configuration eluded him, and the client didn’t exactly hand him a passkey when he picked up the package.

“I’ve got a hunch about what’s inside that crate,” Deanne said. “But before I bust it open, do you have any answers for me?”

“Now hang on a second,” Roy said, positioning himself between her and the crate. “Hold it. You’re talking about tampering with the cargo. Who knows how that might alter their condition?”

“I’ll tell you what I do know,” she replied. “Unless I see what’s inside, our chances of escaping the belly of a Varaxian worm are effectively zero.”

“Huh,” Roy said, taking a big gulp. “Well, when you put it like that.”

“Are you sure you don’t know anything about the cargo, Roy?”

“I’m just a middle man, Deanne. Point A to point B.”

“Works for me.” Deanne smiled and grabbed a crowbar from the wall next to her. “Here goes!”

She wedged the piece between the crate cover, lifting the lip gradually. She strained to push it apart, and she was making headway, but …

“Oh, hell,” Roy said, sighing.

He grabbed hold of the crowbar and pushed down. With their combined strength and one final heave, the lid popped off, shattering the hinges in the process, something no adhesive onboard would fix. He cursed beneath his breath as he threw the crowbar down and pushed off the lid.

Roy peeked inside, his face lit up at the sight of a gemstone larger than his head. The core looked like coarse stone, with spikes of amethyst jutting out in every direction. He could barely see a pulsing aura to it, as if some kind of energy traveled from the core to the ends, coming off the tips in a thin light wave.

“Figures,” Deanne said.

“What is it?” Roy asked. “Is it dangerous?” He paused. “Is it worth anything?”

Deanne rolled her eyes. “It’s an egg.”

“Never seen one like that.”

“I’ll let you guess who it belongs to,” she said, frowning.

Roy paused in thought. “The client, obviously.” Deanne shook her head, and Roy pondered a little harder before it hit him. “Ah,” he said. “Mom’s not happy, is she?”

“Afraid not, Captain.”

Chapter 4

Let’s Be Real

Roy watched Deanne lug the crate stuffed with the worm egg. She slid it across to the stern of the ship, right where the cargo hatch would open. Roy jumped as the plastoid surface skidded across the corrugated floor with a grinding scuff. He gestured with open hands, finally clasping them together as he knelt on the floor.

“I’m begging you,” he said. “Please, don’t do this.”

Deanne kicked the crate into position with one swift knock from her boots. She folded her arms, hiding the tablet underneath her elbow as she glared at him just a little menacingly.

“You want to see another sunrise, don’t you?”

“But,” Roy said with a pause. “Meal ticket …”

“Roy, that … thing will follow us across the Galactic Sectors. You won’t make it two lightyears before it swallows us again, and that’s if we even escape from its belly in the first place.” She glanced down at the crate before meeting his gaze. “Besides, now that I’ve broken the stasis lock, this little baby might hatch soon.”

“You’re kidding me,” Roy said, looking away. “I was going to get new hair and everything. Easy street for the next five years, babe.”

He caught her out of the corner of his eyesight. Deanne walked up to him across the corrugated floor and placed a hand on his shoulder. She patted down a few times before she lifted it and strode past him. The sound of footsteps halted, however, followed shortly by her final say.

“Let’s be real, Captain,” Deanne said. “You’d have lost it all in six months.”

Chapter 5

Handsome Devil

Roy strapped himself into his Captain’s chair. He fitted his signature jacket up tight and slicked back his thinning hair. Handsome just the way he was. A loser is what he was, nothing but a petty smuggler aboard a half-derelict vessel. He considered himself lucky to have anyone with time and money put up with his lax attitude, let alone Deanne.

He sure was lucky, but he shoved those thoughts to the side and brought up the console aboard his armrest, fitted with buttons and knobs. Roy glanced out through the bridge viewport screen, a sea of blackness and vitals as far as he could see. He grabbed hold of the manual pilot controls on his console, one hand on the joystick, the other on the weapons systems.

“Question time,” he said. “What’s the physiology of a Varaxian worm? Any vitals?”

“None,” Deanne commented over the comm channel. “It’s an interstellar creature. It only needs to feed once every thousand years. No organs to speak of.”

“Well that presents a problem. We can’t kill it?”

“Killing it was never an option, Captain,” she said. “However, if we agitate the lining of its belly, we might cause it to unclench its jaws for a brief moment.” She paused. “It won’t be long, but it’ll be enough to fly out if we time it right.”

“That’s if the sorry beast chooses to open wide in the first place,” Roy said. “How many times has this worked?”

“Records exist, Captain.”

“That didn’t answer my question, Deanne.”

Deanne sighed. “Chances are slim, but it’s all we have.”

“Works for me,” Roy replied, sulking. “Not as if I have a choice in the matter.” He peered at the viewport screen. “You know, I think I found the perfect sore spot, right underneath the left lower jaw.”

“FTL is primed. We’re only going to get one shot, Captain, but before you do anything, we need to jettison our cargo.”

Roy sneered. “Come again?”

“It’s imperative that we leave without her egg in tow,” Deanne said. “We won’t get very far with it onboard now that she’s found our ship.”

Roy ran his hands across his face. “Can’t I at least think about this? You should see the check this fellow …” His words trailed off as Deanne interrupted.

“Captain, there is no choice, unless you want to spend the rest of your days inside the belly of a space monster.”

“Well, I mean, there are …”

“Captain!” Deanne shouted.

Roy sighed and sunk deeper before he straightened his posture upright. He placed his hands on the console, one on each control. He breathed deeply through his nose and began his transition into character. With a stern voice and a bit of a grumble, he spoke.

“Do it. That’s an order.”

“Yes, sir!” Roy heard something clank in the stern of the ship, near the aft thrusters. “Package deployed,” she said. “Now give that beast one giant tooth ache to remember.”

Roy gripped down hard and fired a set of laser cannons newly equipped to the Zeta. The crimson streams tore a swath through the flesh of the creature, barely a peck on the surface. He pressed down harder and raised the penetrating power of the laser cannons. Steady streams of heat gushed out as Roy curved the Zeta in tandem.

“What are you doing?” Deanne asked.

Roy smiled. “Just leaving mommy dearest a little something to remember me by.”

Roy finished his line work in time to catch the jaws of the creature opening. The movement wasn’t like the kind a person might expect. For something as distant as an asteroid in a planet’s upper atmosphere, the jaws moved with extraordinary quickness. They cracked for a brief moment, just as Deanne had suspected, but without a wink of hesitation, she pushed the Zeta into FTL. The worm’s mouth vanished into starlight as the Zeta presumably pushed past the teeth and gums. The Zeta hadn’t exploded, so that was something. Roy unstrapped himself and patted down his jacket and face. It was all there.

Roy turned to catch Deanne bursting in through the sliding door. She ran down and looked as if she were about to sock him again, but she paused, smiled and held out an open hand. Roy took it eagerly and shook. The two of them shared an exchange of pleasant expressions, and for the first time in a long time, Roy was happy to cut his losses.

“I never want to do that again,” Deanne said.

“Sure,” Roy replied. “From now on, I’ll run my packages through you first.”

Deanne looked past him and through the viewport screen. “What exactly did you carve?” she asked. “Some kind of design?”

“Just a message,” Roy said. “A little something for anyone who finds themselves in the creature’s belly in the next thousand years or so.”

“That didn’t answer my question,” she said.

“Hey, what I wrote is between me and the worm.”

Deanne folded her arms and took a step back, sizing him up. He’d never tell, not her of all people. Sometime though, long after he’s dead and gone, some unlucky jerk is going to find himself in the belly of a multi-millennia old titan, and he’s going to read the scars by the inner jaw and know who’d been there before.

“Some Handsome Devil.”

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