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The Golden Crate

by Ulysses Ai


This is the third instalment in the series starting with Wrong Way Go Back, though it works as a standalone gamebook in its own right.


Background
The Golden Crate Cover Illustration
Artwork © Ulysses Ai
Looking in the mirror, you adjust the collar of your dark blue uniform. It is a rather impressive uniform for an operations assistant; and a small morsel of pleasure after a recent series of crushing disappointments. After freeing Earth from the grip of the spider-people of Arachnon, you reasonably expected accolades and rewards. Unfortunately, your efforts went undocumented, and you received nothing! But then you met HER. So beautiful, so helpless. You fell in love with her on the spot. Who needs the adoration of billions when you have the love of a lovely maiden? All you would have to do is escort her home; and then her grateful (and wealthy) father would reward you.

You were on Earth at the time and expected merely to have to walk her home; at worst to catch a taxi. But no, the lovely maiden informed you that she lived on Amorphonon 12. No matter! You would go to the ends of the universe for your love. So you sold everything you owned to have enough funds to purchase two tickets to the Amorphonon system, home to an intelligent species of shape-shifters. That should have been your first clue, but you were blinded by love. Upon arrival, and escorting your lovely to her palatial home, you soon discovered that the woman of your dreams was in fact a shape-shifter named Barry. He had run away from home in a fit of rebellion, and then ran out of money. He needed a way to get home; and then you came along...

Barry's father is indeed rich, a merchant prince among his people, and offers you a position aboard one of his trading ships to show his gratitude for returning his son to him. Being unemployed, and marooned by a lack of funds, you agree to this offer. So it is you sign up for duties aboard the Golden Stream. Barry is most apologetic for deceiving you, but tells you he genuinely enjoyed your kisses. This hardly makes you feel better, but a moment later all of your unpleasant memories are forgotten as you lay your eager eyes on HER!

Even though Barry's sister (a real female this time) is a shape shifter, and that her true form is more like a blob of jelly, you find yourself falling in love again. That light in her eyes is real! The warmth of that smile that makes you melt cannot be fake. Barry tells you that although his sister Pomplompotom does not have a boyfriend, their father is very protective of his precious daughter, and would not let her go out with just anyone. Reminding yourself of your heroic, albeit undocumented record, you approach lord Gablentite to reveal your interest in his daughter. The merchant prince doesn't quite see things your way, even after you tell him about the Attila and your heroics on Earth. He politely refuses your request and dispatches the Golden Stream to a trading port on the other side of the galaxy. Lovelorn, you begin your duties aboard the trading vessel. The Golden Stream makes a series of stops, picking up and unloading goods. Your job basically consists of overseeing the loading-bots. Whenever you try to assert yourself, they meekly obey, but go back to doing things in their own way as soon as your back is turned. They beep politely when you tell them of your adventures, but you suspect that even they do not believe you.

Finishing your inspection in the mirror, you leave your small cabin and begin to make your rounds. The ship is carrying some Palkasian Ale, and the last thing you need is a hold full of drunken space-rats. Last night you laid out several traps. Seemingly no more than a metal box with one side missing, the traps attract prey with whatever bait is tossed inside. Once something enters, heat rays vaporise everything within. Checking the traps, you find they have all been deactivated, and the bait is missing. You curse the space rodents, although in one of the traps you do find a polite thank-you note. As you consider your next step in your campaign against the space rats, you feel the ship shudder. Moments later the ship vibrates again. Curious, you leave the hold. Even as you walk down the corridor, the lights go red. It is a red alert! You dash up to the nearest wall screen and consult the information displayed thereon. The ship is under attack!

You manipulate the controls to find out what is going on. You quickly learn that a small vessel has somehow boarded your cargo ship. Accessing surveillance, you scan through the decks until you see them. "Wa!" you exclaim. The space pirates wear space-black fatigues, clad in black body armour and armed with blasters. On their shoulders are badges of a planet with a red P superimposed over it. The Parentbotians! Has your parent-bot been revived somehow? Not waiting to see more, you turn and flee back into the cargo hold. Looking for a place to hide, you desperately open a crate of dehydrated Brussels sprouts and dump out enough of the packets to jump into the crate and hide trembling within. About 10 minutes later you hear someone poking around outside. You jump when you hear a voice speak from right next to your crate.

"Hey, Kel! Check this out!"

Footsteps approach. "What?"

"Brussels sprouts! There must be more in this crate."

"Yuk! You like them?"

"Well, actually I lost all my tastebuds as a kid. Science class. Incident with a Bunsen burner. But Brussels sprouts are very healthy!"

"We've captured the ship. All of this stuff is going to end up back at the base anyway. We can claim what we want then. Remember why we're here. Big Bob told us to find the 'special delivery' at all costs."

"What is this 'special delivery' anyway?"

"How do I know? Come on; let's get out of here. I think I saw a space rat. The thing was a big as a dog..."

The footsteps recede. Special delivery? Thinking back you do remember picking up a crate on Jaramborak 4. A small, golden crate that was delivered under guard to the captain's quarters. When you asked about it, you were just told that it was something for your employer, lord Gablentite. If you could stop the space-pirates from stealing it, then perhaps your heroism would convince Pomplompotom's father to give you her hand in boyfriend-girlfriend-ness. However, the nerve to emerge from the box eludes you. You feel the ship start to move and make the queasy transition into hyperspace. A few hours later the ship drops back into normal space, and after some shuddering all goes still.

While remaining in the crate indefinitely is an attractive prospect, given how safe and warm you feel while you are inside it, two factors prompt you to leave: i) you need to go to the toilet, ii) boredom. When you emerge, you see that the entire hold is still full of its cargo, but there are no sign of the pirates. Cautiously, you make your way out of the hold and (after a brief detour to a lavatory unit) seek out the nearest wall screen. On it is a forward view from the ship, showing an uncomfortably large star, and superimposed over it are the flashing red words:

STELLAR COLLISION IMMINENT. PLEASE INPUT COURSE CHANGE


Not again! Checking to make sure you have your ID with you, you dash to a lift. You go up to the command deck and through the plush halls to the bridge. As soon as you step through the doors, heat washes over you as an orange glare blinds you. Someone has set the bridge on fire! Realising escape is in order, you carefully make your way to the nearest evacuation bay.

You had not yet spared a thought for the rest of the crew, but as you enter the evacuation bay you find one of them here; a large blob of featureless reddish jelly lying motionless on the floor. You didn't socialise much with the rest of the people on board. They had heard about you and Barry. Apparently it was hilarious for crewmembers to turn into beautiful women and invite you back to their cabins. Then just when things were getting interesting, they would shape-shift into something disgusting. After the last time, when you ended up kissing a giant maggot, you decided to avoid the rest of the crew altogether. Additionally, falling for the same ruse more than three times would be start to be embarrassing. But looking down at the blob of jelly on the deck, you feel sad. Having no experience of religion or spirituality, you don't know what to do or say, but feel you must do something to honour the dead. You salute the blob.

"Abracadabra," you say reverently.

The blob starts to squelch and ooze in response to your voice. It is still alive! Out of the reddish jelly a human face forms. "The Golden Crate! You must get it back!" the shapeshifter says urgently.

"Why? What's in it?" you ask curiously.

"A great treasure," the blob gasps dramatically. "You must find it and take it back to Amorphonon 12. You will be richly rewarded. Given anything you desire. The fate of our people depends upon it. Go quickly!"

The face fades away as the blob oozes back into a shapeless mass. You sense that it is truly dead now. You look at the nearest escape pod, ready to take you to safety. Yet again heroism has presented itself to you. And this time you will not fail! You will retrieve the crate, and return it to Amorphonon 12. You will be given a hero's welcome, offered anything you desire. And your choice? That Pomplompotom become your girlfriend!


Additional Information
You start unarmed, but you may acquire weapons later. As usual, you can choose the one that you will use in battle by selecting in the list of possessions and clicking on USE.
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