They say you discover what really matters during a time of crisis.

This happened to Simona Boarhand when the Megalith SuperClass Conquistador materialized in front of her second-hand, single-engine Class Eight Liteflyer Halfpint Special.

Simona knew the bigger ship meant her no intentional harm, much like a planetary steamroller harbors no malicious intentions for the unfortunate space-beetle that flies into its path. But there it was, the steamroller, and there she was, the beetle. Simona watched with an oddly detached numbness as her hopper skittered helplessly towards the other ship’s immense bulk.

She judged she had about ten seconds before impact.

She spent the first four seconds cursing and trying to control her shuddering, careening ship. She recalled that the Liteflyer’s previous owner, a Lethsavin bug, had shrugged its shoulders and said with one mouth, “Well, she don’t steer well, and her brakes need some workin’ on, but she’s got a good heart in ‘er,” even while his other mouth coughed innocently into a fist and two sets of eyes scanned her for wealth.

The week before, Simona had gambled and lost her beautiful cruiser, the sleek SkyLark Revenge, to an immense man named Crate. Her debt had run quite a bit higher than just her ship, and Crate was currently flying the Revenge in pursuit of Simona, looking to extract the remainder of his due from her flesh.

It was an odd, sweet revenge that Crate would have to scrape her flesh off the Conquistador first.

In seconds four through seven, a myriad of disjointed thoughts scattered through Simona’s mind:

She wondered who in their right mind would scrawl “Dotty loves Carl” in hurried letters on the side of a behemoth like the Conquistador…

She wondered if Dotty still loved Carl, or if Dotty had run away from Carl, like she was running away from Crate…

She wondered if this was the same sensation the space-beetle felt, faced with the steamroller…

She wondered if she should be filled with terror, or screaming at the top of her lungs…

She wondered if the sound she was hearing was her screaming at the top of her lungs…

She wondered why the large, slow-moving hulk in front of her suddenly looked like Crate, cavernous eyes dead and unblinking, iron lips parted in hungry anticipation…

As quickly as it had appeared the Conquistador winked out, on its way to another hyperjump coordinate in some other galaxy. Simona’s Liteflyer reeled and then steadied itself, moving through the now-empty space where the larger ship had so recently been.

Simona blinked and then started breathing again. She was still alive. She reached for her last chocolate-frosted minicake and vowed to reevaluate her life, her priorities.

Her hand met an empty receptacle.

Simona’s eyes flew wide, her throat tightened, her fingers went numb. The ship’s shuddering attempts to avoid imminent impact had probably dislodged the minicake from its container. It was probably nearby. It had to be nearby…

She searched in and around the console, and finally discovered part of a tread-stomped chocolate wafer on the floor. On the bottom of her right boot, she located the other piece of her very last minicake.

With an elbow she broke the “chocolate emergency” glass directly to her left and pulled the lever inside. The Liteflyer made a hiccuping sound, slowed briefly, then with a loud POP blinked to Fandangle’s Corral, which was apparently the nearest supply station with chocolate-frosted minicakes in stock.

After all, Simona mused, licking crumbs off her finger, there were priorities, and then there were priorities. She didn’t need a close encounter with a Conquistador to tell her that.


M. T. McRowan’s science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories have appeared in over a dozen publications. She continues to write short stories because, despite her efforts to be done with them forever, the little beasts stomp around in her brain until she has no other choice but to let them out. She really, really likes chocolate.