“Stupid, Stupid Keith.”  Keith whispered to himself inside his new hiding place.  He wasn’t sure exactly what it was but he thought it looked like the carapace of one of the Rojean.  It smelt a lot like it too.  Although, essentially the whole damn planet smelt like rotting pieces of Rojean.  Or maybe it was just Rojean.  The Rojean were a disgusting creature, they  looked like turtles with extra appendages.   They had two legs, long and skinny, bent backwards like bugs legs.  They used these to jump huge distances.  It was cool and frightening.  They had four arms, two distinct sets.  The first set was the lower arms and resembled humans, the second were like the fore-limbs of a praying mantis.  Scary as hell, and sharp as hell too.  Their heads were an oval-shaped with large eyes and no ears.  Generally they Rojean were like every nightmare you had mated with every horror movie you could think of.  But their looks were a lot easier to get over than their smell.  When the Rojean readied for death the left the carapace and wandered into their municipalities death pits.  Voluntary mass graves really.

Keith now sat inside of one of these shells, hiding from the large creatures as they hunted him down.  Apparently they thought of him as a tasty treat.  Keith knew he would be staying hidden for a while and took this time to review his entire situation and what a moron he was for getting into it.

Keith knew there was a reason things were the way they were.  He understood that usually someone had come to the conclusion that a rule was needed only after it was demonstrated something unwanted would occur without the rule.  For the most part Keith played by the rules, he didn’t mind that, the odd one he understood he could move the line on a bit.  So maybe he flew his ship a little faster than the posted solar system speeds.  And yeah he had been known to trick a barkeeper into one drink long after last call, but for the most part he followed the rules.  So his whole life he had not been bothered by the Forbidden Zone or even been a little bit interested in what it held.   He figured for the humans to carve out a huge chunk of space and call it off-limits to all, including the military, it must have really demonstrated some catastrophic adverse affects.  So for most of his life Keith paid the zone no attention and went about his way.

Keith had started his adult life out in a way his father had not approved.  His father was decorated soldier who had fought in the great “Solar Wars” in his early twenties.  After that he had stayed on with the military and then entered politics.  He was Boreal’s (their home planet) Praetor, and did an excellent job of helping the United Galactic Planets keep the peace and aid in the galactic economy.  Boreal was a very wealthy planet but unlike most wealthy planets, it had the highest enlisting rate, the people wanted to protect their freedom.  Keith’s father had helped establish this culture of military by celebrating the military holidays and even adding some to the local calendar.  Keith was expected from a young age to join the military and follow in the hold man’s footsteps.  Keith however decided on a different plan.  Instead of attending Military College like most of his classmates, Keith decided to go out and make some money.  Truthfully he thought he would get a job, make a ton of cash early, and then leave for a different planet.  Unfortunately the only planets accepting immigrants from Boreal where far away and the immigration processes were expensive.

So Keith left high school and hit the road looking for a job.  It didn’t take him long, Keith was always full of personality and confidence.  He landed a gig with GalacticChev, selling personal spaceships.  Most families on Boreal had personal spaceships, they were similar to Earth’s cars.  The personal space travel industry had only been around for thirty years and it was starting to really gain in popularity.  The idea of having a space vehicle you could land in your parking stall at home and then take up and make the hyper jump to a nearby solar system was exciting.  It opened doors.  At best, even the most efficient models could only jump one solar system at a time and the United Galactic Planets had set up fueling stations all over the place, and were making a killing on it.  Keith enjoyed the thrill of selling these vehicles, and he was good at it.  When you entered his store you would be greeted by his smiling face and then a set of questions.  Once you answered the questions, Keith was able to know exactly which car was right for you.  Even if you came looking for a sporty ship, he knew if that was right or you need the ship with better cargo.  He knew your needs better than you did.  He was skilled at convincing people they were ready to enter the personal space travel world too.  Few objections slowed down Keith and he had you sitting in your new spaceship in no time.  He made his bonuses every month and was the company’s top earner, not just on Boreal but amongst all plants with a GalacticChev.  Keith could have sold Earth’s Ford Pinto and  made you love it, after the whole explosion issue came to light.

Keith won a number of awards with that first job. He was top sales person five years running.  He saved his money and bought a personal freighter.  Spaces version of a cube van, and quit his job.  He took a new job selling construction tools to businesses throughout the known universe.  Jumping from solar system to solar system and even into galaxies few others would have been to.  He sold to every alien race.  He sold human tools to most but added some specialty alien tools to his company’s product line.  He was a star in this gig too.  He found great prospects, made huge sales and continued to find ways to keep selling new products to these companies.  But the great galactic recession had taken hold of almost every race.  No one really understands how so many systems economies started failing at the same time,  but it happened and it was getting hard to sell the tools.  A lot of his long time clients had even shuttered their businesses.

With this new economic reality Keith made a decision.  He needed to branch out and find untapped markets.  The ones he was selling to, were running into competition issues.  Too much competition and too low of pricing because of it.  Profits were bottoming out and he wasn’t making what he was used to.  So Keith sat in front of his projected map, looking at places few others would have dared make sales, and that is when it hit him.  The Forbidden Zone was perfect.  No human travelled there  ever, and very few other alien races made the trip in, fewer came back.  They would be without so many of his tools, and all the stupid war stories his father told and political talks had taught Keith there was ways into the system undetected.

Keith loaded up the ship with tons of tools and headed into the system.   He bounced from planet to planet doing scans to see where his tools may best be used.  He needed advanced civilizations to best sell his tools.  He finally settled on a small planet that was home to the Rojean.  He landed in a quiet area and unloaded a couple of his best sellers.  Things he knew everyone would use.  As he unloaded he heard a weird noise, like  clicking, as he looked up, there stood four massive Rojean above him, clicking at each other.  He tried to talk to them through his universal translator but they didn’t listen.  They lunged at him and he quickly escaped into the town nearby.  As he ran past Rojean he got weird looks and he realized he couldn’t run forever, so he did what any self-respecting human would do, he hid.

Now Keith sat in his hiding place and wondered why he had decided to do this.  He loved selling, he didn’t really care about the money, he just wanted to be the best at what he did. But here he sat reconsidering this approach to his occupation and thought maybe he could settle for second place going forward.  He also wished it was one of those old stupid human movies, you know where guys like Hans Solo carry a weapon.  In the United Galactic Planets that would never be allowed.  For obvious reasons.  So here he sat in the carapace of a dead Rojean, a giant bug-turtle, unarmed, likely to be dinner for some of these creatures and no way home.  To top it off he didn’t even get to run his presentation once.  Like always he had practiced it many times and now it wasn’t going to help at all.  He sat there and tried to plan, he could here the clicking language outside, but he wasn’t a planner, he was more the guy who sold the plan.   Someone was supposed to do the planning for him.  He again wished he had done some military service, it would have helped with the whole evading his enemy thing.

As the sun set, it started to get very cold.  Keith had not dressed for the cold and so he sat shaking.  When he couldn’t stand it anymore he stuck his head out slowly.  The Rojean were nowhere in sight.  What was once a bustling town, now was empty.  He could see the smoke billowing from the structures around the town, and he realized that the Rojean had gone home to stay warm.  This was his chance.  He made a break to his ship, and had never run so fast.  When he arrived there, the ship had been ransacked and anything valuable had been taken.  Even the expensive galactic radio he had installed was gone.  Like the Rojean were ever going to listen to human radio.  He got in and fired up the ship, fortunately they had left the ship operational.   He got out into space, sent a distress call and made the hyper jump to as close to the edge of the Forbidden Zone as he could.  When the military saved him, his father was going to be pissed!  Again!