Of course it was going to happen, how else would it have turned out? What began as a spur of the moment decision had devolved into a backdrop of chaotic cries and woeful wails. Jump on the first ship you see, my friend had told me, you won’t regret one moment of it! If I ever saw that bastard again I would wring that bloody neck of his, alas it would have to wait. After all, there were much bigger things to worry about right now, especially the part where I was hurling through space in a flaming battleship with a crew who thought I was their last chance of survival.
“We were beginning to think that the worst had happened,” a man infinitely younger than myself muttered, pacing up and down the command bridge thoughtfully as he ran a hand through his wild hair “four officers assigned to this bloody vessel and they’re all dead. Every last one. Still, I’m a little surprised we found you all the way down in engineering Mr…Aquila is it?”
It took a moment for me to realise what the rambling fool was on about as his gaze was fixed intently upon my chest, drawing attention to the embroidered nametag barely visible beneath the dusty exterior. After climbing aboard this bucket of bolts I simply grabbed the first uniform that came to hand, something which in hindsight had brought me a few odd looks. Perhaps it was the pair of tattered trousers or the shirt stained with engine oil, a look which I’m sure you’ll agree many cannot pull off. However, now that everything around them was literally falling apart, fashion sense did not exactly matter.
“That’s Officer Aquila to you,” I spoke with a false sense of authority, straightening my jacket in a haphazard manner “First Class with honours and biscuits – the good kind too none of that muck you find in the old markets back home. I was um, checking the hypertron capacitor when everything went to hell!”
“Hyper-what?” his new subordinate twisted his face with an expression of uncertainty, and with good reason. My knowledge of spaceship engines only extended to what I had seen in films, ones with good looking people in impractical spacesuits that would have done little to protect them within a practical capacity even if their arses did look good. But that was beside the point – there were people here who thought that I knew the first thing about interstellar travel! Nevertheless, I had to say something before he found out who I really was.
“A hyper…my god man, how long have you been on this ship?” I feigned disgust at his ignorance, shaking my head in disappointment as if he had stolen the last sweet from the tin “No wonder this ship is going to the space dogs!”
The man before me looked down upon the cold metallic floor like a scolded child, failing to call me out on my ridiculous assertions on a ship that I had taken control of in the last five minutes. Not bad for a day’s work if I say so myself.
“Now then, give me a report!” I dived back into my authoritative persona, clasping my hand behind my back as I paced up and down “What facilities are still intact?”
“I’m afraid it’s not looking good,” he replied quickly, desperately trying to regain his composure “communications were the first to go, followed by the engines as I’m sure you know and as for the crew…”
A moment of sombre silence swept over my new acquaintance and I as I pretended to mourn over the crew who did not have the chance to catch me lying through my teeth.
“So there’s nobody left?” I pursued the standing issue, shivering at the thought of being caught out “There’s got to be someone on this damn ship! Is there anything that works on here?”
“Well the tea maker is still operational,” the man blurted out feebly before realising how ridiculous it sounded, his gaze once again falling to the ground “there may be a few escape vessels we could escape on. But command would execute us on the spot if they-”
“Leave that one to me,” I reassured him, a promise that I hoped I would never have to keep “in the meantime, we should try and get out of here. After all, we’re no good to the big wigs back home floating around. Just to recap, where exactly have we been stranded?”
There was that look again, oh god, why did he keep looking at me like that? Everybody knew that these battleships, as flimsy as they looked on the outside, were built to withstand even the harshest of conditions even if it earned them the colloquial term of “Interstellar tombstones”. Nothing could pierce their metallic hides, nothing! Then again, it was easy enough for me to sneak aboard with nothing more than the shirt on my back and I was the clumsiest bugger of the five quadrants. God forbid what someone with motivation could do? I could only pray that we were not stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I’m sorry sir, I would have assumed that you’d know where we were given the extensive briefing we…” he began to explain, only to trail off at the sight of my vacant expression “Officer Aquila, we are on the edge of the void, uncharted territory where neither man or beast dare tread. Even royal authority means nothing out here! Such a bizarre thought I’m sure you’ll agree.”
“We need to get out of here now,” I suddenly found myself urging what could be the last living man aboard the ship, frantically pacing from side to side “the last thing I want is to be abandoned out here. How far are the escape vessels from here?”
“N-not far,” I could hear him stutter, clearly unnerved by my sudden change in demeanour “but the vessels don’t have a very long range. We wouldn’t get far before something snatched us up. You’ve heard the tales…”
“Aye I have,” I muttered, the severity of the situation washing over me like a tsunami of misery and sickening realisation. This was punctuated by the silenced sound of something creaking and crawling carefully above us, one which caused me to hold my breath in anticipation. After all that had happened, we had failed to account for the new pair of eyes eagerly awaiting our next move.
“We’re not alone…”