Midnight Sun: Monbulk's Monopoly Part 1 of 2
Written by Matt Hamilton, Edited by
Some call it a cemetery, a desolate graveyard littered
with rotting corpses. Others see it as a land of opportunity, and search for
hidden prizes lost within.
I call it income.
Name's Monbulk. I have been running this lot since . .
. well, long before I can remember. It is probably the biggest shipyard in this
sector of the galaxy, stretching more than halfway across this world. I buy,
sell, trade and repair starships for some of the most colorful characters you
are ever likely to meet.
You are right: It was not always like this. A while
back, I had a competitor on this world. His yard was equally as large as mine
and better run. His secret? Well . . . that would be telling - it is my
Midnight Sun: Monbulk's Monopoly Part 1
For earlier adventures of Midnight Sun, see our Midnight Sun Archive
Cerabel watched the world below on a monitor
with a furrowed brow as the ship touched down. The on-board computers had
brought them here when they had requested it take them to the nearest place
capable of repairing spacecrafts. Of course, their ship was in perfect working
order, having just recently been stolen from active duty in the Kree Empire.
However, if they were to keep out of reach of their pursuers, it would be
necessary to make some changes to the vessel.
Midnight Sun had theorized that the Kree
would have some method of tracking stolen ships, just as they had been able to
trace his movements. I hope that this world would have the technology to
outsmart the Kree, and disable the devices on both parties.
At first glance, however, things did not look
The surface of the planet almost looked
post-apocalyptic. It seemed to be in a state of permanent dusk, covered as it
was by dense cloud. Or smog, perhaps; it was hard to tell. The landscape was
pocked with old starships, some of which looked as if they had crash-landed and
abandoned. The computer on board their craft had assured them that this was a
shipyard with a strong reputation, so they had swallowed their fears and
instructed it to land.
Once land-bound, the two disembarked and
headed towards the only building in their vicinity. If not the main outlet for
the yard, it should at least have some sort of communication device with which
they could contact the owner.
As it turned out, the owner was waiting
"Monbulk. That is my name. I own this
yard, so I am the first face any customers see. I saw your ship landing on one
of my security cams, so I used a transporter to teleport here. Now . . . what
can I do for you?"
Midnight Sun maintained constant visual
contact with the large creature while Cerabel stepped forward. Monbulk was
dressed in a bizarre mix of fatigues, armour, leather and furs, with glimpses of
his dark green skin visible in patches. His head, set deep within his abdomen,
housed several eyes, randomly spread across his face. He spoke from a mouth in
the middle of his chest.
Cerabel spoke confidently, despite her
obvious discomfort at having to deal with this strange creature. "We need
some modifications to our ship. No questions asked."
"Unasked questions are my specialty,
Miss," Monbulk replied. He clapped two of his hands together and wrung
them. "What sort of modifications did you have in mind?"
"We've had a disagreement with the
former owners of our vessel. They . . . want it back. We think that there is
some sort of tracking device on it, and we need it disabled. While you're at it,
it probably wouldn't hurt to make some changes to its exterior, just in
Monbulk nodded in his own peculiar fashion,
then asked the question the two travelers did not want to hear. "And how
will you be paying, Miss?"
Cerabel looked back at Midnight Sun
questioningly. She did not even bother using her telepathic powers to ask him
for an answer. They both knew that they were penniless, one a fugitive and the
other a runaway. "We don't have money," she said, "but we have
cargo. You can look over it and decide if any of it's valuable to you, if you
Monbulk's mouth spread across his chest in
what could only be a wry smile. "Sounds tempting. I will tell you what. I
will be lenient with what I take, in response for a small favor. Do me this
favor, and I will make your modifications and then some. Do we have a
Once more Cerabel did not bother to consult
her ebon companion. "Tell us the favor, and we'll decide."
The three sat down at a large table Monbulk
reserved for special occasions. He offered the pair a drink, but Cerabel did not
trust him, and Midnight Sun preferred not to remove his mask. He dare not let
Cerabel see his true face, for he knew how disfigured he was beneath it. The
Kree's resurrection procedures had not been kind.
The shipyard owner fixed himself a drink,
then straddled a chair and began to speak. "On the other side of this
world, there's another yard just like mine. Maybe not as big, but they do a lot
more business, and have a lot less problems. As far as I can tell, they are not
charging any different to me - so do not get any ideas - but they are a lot more
comfortable than I am.
"A while ago, I sent a recording drone
around there to try to work out what exactly they're doing differently to me. A
bit of industrial espionage never hurt anyone, right?"
Neither of his visitors answered.
"Right. Anyway, what I discovered
sickened me, and it might just sicken you, so steady yourselves.
"The drone was caught and dismantled,
but not before I caught sight of one of these little guys." Monbulk flicked
a switch on a handheld panel, and a hologram appeared in the air before them. It
depicted a small, rodent-like creature, standing upright and conveying a sense
of innocent intelligence in its large eyes. It wore some sort of harness, and
held in one of its hands some sort of tool.
"These are gormites. They are the native
inhabitants of this world. Only thing is, they are now working for the monster
round there. He has got them wired up to some sort of mind control device, and
he slave-drives them until they die of exhaustion. I saw three-drop dead before
my drone was discovered.
"Anyway, it's true that without this
help he'd probably go under, and I'd end up being the head-honcho on this world.
I do not deny that. But it is the misuse of these innocent creatures that hurts
me the most. Someone has to do something, and you look like you've got the
If Monbulk was lying, it was impossible for
Midnight Sun to tell. He had had too little dealings with non-humanoid aliens to
notice any of their nuances. Instead, he would have to take him at face value.
And it was indeed a foul act on behalf of this rival owner if what Monbulk said
was true. M'Nai would take pleasure in freeing the slaves and teaching the
tyrant a lesson.
Cerabel, as always, knew exactly what he was
thinking. "We'll do it," she said. "While we're gone, you make
the changes to our ship. Provided it is flight-worthy by the time we get back,
we will be happy. Just get us transportation in the meantime."
She stood, and turned to walk out.
Bemused, Midnight Sun could do little but
The unlikely duo could do little but stare
open-mouthed at the interior of their temporary means of travel. It was a stark
contrast to the sophisticated Kree scout-ship they had become accustomed to.
There was barely enough seating room for the two of them, and the controls
seemed to have been thrown together from a plethora of different craft -
intended, perhaps, for at least a dozen different physiology's.
Still, they would need the ship to complete
the task at hand, in order to pay for the modifications to their vessel. As
shifty as Monbulk had seemed, they had to trust him with the Kree ship until
their return. Surely, he would not have built his business to such a scale if he
was underhanded. Time would tell.
The primitive rockets began to fire behind
them as Bel pulled back on a control stick. The thrusters seemed so close that
Midnight Sun could feel the warmth through the back of his seat. A little
disconcerting, to say the least. Slowly they ascended, then shot forward through
the atmosphere, well on their way to Monbulk's tyrannical competitor.
The pair watched the world spin below them,
like some giant Catherine wheel, through the transparent floor-panels. Monbulk's
shipyard was indeed huge - it seemed to occupy a major portion of the landmass.
For a time, then, there was ocean, which gleamed sapphire-blue in contrast to
the dismal landscapes they had just witnessed. After about an hour of seemingly
endless ocean, grey-brown land appeared once again, and with it came the pair's
first glimpse of the other shipyard.
Even from this altitude, it was clear that
this business was a much tighter outfit than Monbulk's. The ships, both intact
and piecemeal, were laid out in an orderly fashion, like books on a tectonic
shelf. As they slowly descended, the details of the yard's outskirts became
visible. First, the ships themselves, then the roads between them, and, once
they were only a few hundred feet above the surface, the enslaved race of tiny
creatures scuttling about among them.
Midnight Sun was unsure as to their choice of
landing position, but it seemed that they had no other option - the shipyard
stretched right to the shoreline, so it would be impossible to land outside it.
No doubt they had been detected, and monitored as they landed.
«A welcoming party will arrive soon, I'm
sure,» he related to Cerabel. «Since the owner knows that our ship has landed,
we must keep at least one card in our sleeve.»
Cerabel had never played cards, but she
recognized the allusion. "What do you suggest?" she asked, aloud.
«As much as it pains me to leave you alone
with this monster, I must remain hidden. If he is convinced that you've landed
here alone, then it will give me time to find the mechanism he is using to
control the slaves.»
Cerabel nodded, also uncomfortable with the
idea of meeting the owner of the yard by herself.
«It must have been dawn at Monbulk's yard,
since it appears to be dusk here. I am going to stay on board until the sunsets,
then see if I can sneak out unnoticed. Hopefully you can keep him busy, perhaps
looking at prospective purchases, until I . . . let you know that I'm done.»
"Agreed." Hurriedly, the two began
preparing for the arrival of Monbulk's counterpart.
There was a brief moment, perhaps only a
minute or two, between the setting of the sun and the activation of the
shipyard's lighting system. Midnight Sun used this window of time to exit the
craft undetected, and made his way quickly to the unlit cracks between the
hulking wrecks. He was there when the procession of tiny creatures arrived to
meet Cerabel. Each was about a foot tall, and each wore the harness he had seen
on Monbulk's observation monitor.
M'Nai waited a few minutes to ensure that the
welcoming party posed no threat to his partner, then snuck off to find the
yard's owner. The path on which they had landed seemed to stretch back to the
horizon, but it was logical that the main offices would be in that direction. He
moved at a superhuman pace, yet made no sound as he dodged between the metallic
So many broken vessels. What had become of
their owners? Killed perhaps, by pirates who would sell the salvaged ship to
this very business. Now they were tended to by these tiny, enslaved creatures,
and perhaps a mechanical drone or two.
Thanks for reading the first story of this two part storyline. You can read Matt Hamilton's previous story of Midnight Sun and the Midnight Sun Archive Page! Now leave us your comments below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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