Salvatore Ambulando’s Detritus: A New Pope and the Bureaucracy Strikes Back

Darius dropped to his knees and ripped the cover away from the manual door controls, tossing it aside. Leaning to his right, he looked down the long corridor and saw that his pursuers had yet to circumnavigate the pile of synthore he had dropped in front of the door to the cargo bay. Quickly, he removed the safety pin from the crank and started turning.

Sweat dripped off his nose and soaked into the sleeve of his flight suit. As he turned the crank, the door slowly dropped inch by inch. Just to make sure, he slammed his palm against the automatic controls again, but his pursuers had done their homework: the ship was under their control.

Darius thought to himself that he might still make it out of this. If he could get to the cockpit of his ship, he could override anything they had done and return the ship to his control. If only he could get this door shut.

The sound of plasma rifles being fired echoed down the corridor and Darius stopped. The door was about halfway down and he peered through the opening to see what was happening. After a moment of silence, Darius heard the sound of the synthore being melted by the plasma blasts. The distinct popping sound of the air pockets in the material gave it away.

Darius turned the crank faster, desperately trying to get the door down before they got to him.

The door was a quarter of the way down when he heard the guttural language of his pursuers moving down the corridor. He didn’t bother looking down the corridor to see them, he just turned the crank as fast as he could, sweat flying from his arms and his brow.

A loud alarm sounded and Darius jumped, realizing after a few seconds that the sound signaled the door had shut completely. Standing, Darius heaved a sigh of relief, only to gasp back in most of his exhalation. One of the reptilian creatures was glaring at him through the small window of the door.

Darius turned and sprinted for the cockpit. His pursuers could just as easily open the door manually from their side. Their species’ strength was considerable and most likely it would take them less time than it had Darius.

Skidding to a halt through the cockpit doors and before the main controls, Darius quickly ran through the security protocols: scanning his retinas, entering three separate decryption sequences, speaking his name and rank, solving a puzzle lock using a memorized key. Finally,  controls were restored and Darius turned around triumphantly. One of his pursuers was twenty feet away from the door to the cockpit.

Darius punched the door controls and the dual steel doors slid shut just as the creature stuck his arm through. The doors severed the arm at the elbow and it fell with a wet thud to the floor.

Darius sighed his relief and began shutting down life support in the rest of the ship. In about ten minutes, the only habitable place on the ship would be the cockpit. They’d have to exit his ship the way they came.

Slumping down in his chair, Darius closed his eyes and waited for his engines to heat up.

Behind him, the severed arm began to grow, from elbow to a shoulder, a shoulder to a torso, a torso to legs, another arm, and a head. The Frezklik that grew from the arm shook his finned reptilian head to clear its newly formed mind and tensed his body as bones cracked into place.

“Darius Taloni,” the Frezklik bellowed officially. Darius jumped from his chair and spun around in horror. “By the power vested in me by the newly elected Galactic Pope, you are hereby charged with Illegal Docking with an Unauthorized Vessel, Failure to Show Certified Identification, Illegal Use of a Communications Device, Illegal Entry of a Private Restroom with Intent to Defecate, Littering, Loitering, Improper Use of a Cargo Hauler, Intent to Solicit Sexual Entertainment, Improper Use of a Holosex Booth, and Refusal to Render Aid to Licensed Beggars.”

Darius gulped.

The Frezklik pushed a button on his wrist unit, which had been attached to the arm he had stuck through the door. A waterfall of paper began to stream out of it into a pile on the floor of the cockpit.

“You will be given a warning,” the Frezklik stated. “You must report to Gallus XII before the end of this month and sign documents acknowledging your receipt of this warning.”

“Gallus XII is five hundred light years away!” Darius cried in disbelief.

The reptilian clicked another button on his wrist unit and the tail of the printout disconnected and fluttered down to the pile with a flapping sound.

“Then I suggest you start flying,” the reptilian law enforcement officer said, baring his sharp teeth in a grin. “Have a pleasant day period.”

Activating the inside door controls, the Frezlik let himself out of the cockpit where he was met by the rest of himself. The two melted together and strode down the corridor where the remainder of the squad waited to depart.

An alarm chimed from the ship’s console.

“Fuel depleted,” the ship’s computer stated.

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