Episode 1: Into the Black
written by M. Sydnor Jr.
Phea grabbed on to the straps of her chair as she looked at the blackness in front of her. Not a star in sight. She closed two of her eyes, but the shaking…the constant alarms blaring on one after another seemed to force that third one open. It was loud and wild, and for a second, her life flashed before her eye. She had control over it, but she was scared shitless. That eye wanted to release all the energy into the cockpit, through the window and into space, but she held on to it. Death was coming, she knew—accepted it even. It was knocking on the door and all she could think about was her people being together, free from the radicals that wanted to sacrifice her. It was worth it.
Then, the alarms stopped and the shaking and quaking reduced to vibrations. She opened her other eyes and looked over at Etos. “Is it over?”
“No!” He grunted, struggling with the helm. “Kee, I don’t have control here.”
“It is the space, sir. The mechanics are useless here. We have to wait until we are on the other side of the darkness.”
“And what’s on the other side?” he asked.
“Standby,” she responded. “Unknown.”
That can’t be good. “How much longer until we’re through?”
“Unknown,” she replied.
Etos groaned and gave up on the controls, pushing to the back of his chair and folding his arms. Then, he looked at Phea. “We’re going to be okay.”
“What is this? I don’t see anything on the charts, just emptiness.”
“A black hole.”
“Are we safe?”
What does that mean? She unstrapped her belt.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m checking on my people.” She lifted from the chair and stumbled over.
Etos quickly released his buckles and helped her up. “Blue is still unstable. You must stay in your chair.”
“And what about my people, Etos? They don’t have chairs down there. I need to know that they’re safe.”
Etos returned to his seat as Phea stood before him, waiting for his permission, it seemed like.
“You begged me to take you away from your people, you remember that? You left them to live a life with us here on the ship. Strangers. Uridians. Don’t you stand there and pretend to care about them now. You only care about yourself.”
His words stung, especially coming from him. Why would he say such a thing? Was it because of his wife? She couldn’t tell, but she stomped away before he could see a tear leave her eyes. She mastered her balance throughout the quaking ship, and down the ladder to the lower levels. When she made it to Bay Four, her face was damp with tears. Perhaps Etos was right. Yeah, it was chaotic when she moved them from the Schloran ship to here. There was no time for conversation but with everything calm, sort of, how would they receive her now? Their liberator? Their captor? Would there still be some amongst them that would see her sacrificed.
More negative thoughts coursed through her mind than positive. But pride made the decision for her. “Kee, open Bay Four please.”
“Opening Bay Four.”
Ada, I feel you with me—with us. Guide us to our new home. Keep us safe.
The vibrations stopped, and the minor beeps in the background ceased. Etos opened his eyes from his prayer and looked out to a familiar darkness, with stars. He dropped his view to the panel and pulled up the star system. “All right, Kee. We’re back in business. Where are we?”
As he waited for her response, he tried to steer, but he still had no control. He struggled again and again before he gave up and realized Kee hadn’t answered his question.
“Kee? Kee, do you copy?” Etos unstrapped from his chair, stood and turned to leave.
In the doorway of the cockpit, he saw an elderly man under a brown cloak. The man stood with his palms up and his yellow eyes piercing him.
Etos immediately snatched the firearm attached to the side of his chair and pointed it at the man. “Who are you?”
The man smiled, his palms stayed up and his feet remained flat. He didn’t look scared, he looked pleased. Then, Phea came jumping in front of the old man. “Etos, no!”
He dropped his aim, “What is this?”
“I brought him here to talk to you.”
“I don’t want to talk, Phea. Put him back in the bay with the others,” Etos rumbled.
The elder stepped forward and dropped his palms. “So, you imprison us?”
“I saved you. You’re welcome.”
“The others, the ones you killed, they did not mean us harm,” the elder claimed.
Etos gripped that gun and was ready to aim it again.
“But we have different agendas, of course. Different beliefs. Unlike the others, we do not wish to sacrifice Phea.”
Phea came forward and looked out the window. “Are we out of it yet?”
“Yes, but I still don’t have control and Kee is offline. I’m going down to check her system.” He walked between the two Schlorans and looked back at Phea when he made it to the corridor. “Watch him and don’t let him touch anything,” he ordered her.
But she just stood there with this dumb look on her face; biting her lips and scratching her head, deliberately avoiding eye-contact.
Etos couldn’t leave without knowing why. “What is it?”
“You say Kee is offline?”
He stepped back inside the cockpit. “Yeah.”
“Don’t be mad,” she said then took a step back. “I let them out.”
“I let them out. But I told them they were confined to the lower levels. They were cramped in that small room, falling over each other. I had to free them, Etos. But I assure you they didn’t touch a thing.”
“Oh, you assure me?”
“Yes. Trust me, Etos.”
The elder stepped forward. “Truly, sir. You have nothing to fear from us.”
Etos was building up to an explosion of justifiable anger. His hand gripped the weapon, and he was about to storm off and order every last Schloran, man, woman or child, back into the Bay. But the sudden beeping on his panel interrupted his fury, and he hustled back to his chair. Etos didn’t have control of the ship before, but now it was being pulled into a nearby planet’s gravity. “Oh shit!”
“What?” Phea raced to his side.
“We’re being pulled in.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means get in your seat and strap in. It’s gonna get bumpy. A lot bumpier than before.” Etos turned to the elder. “Hey, old man.”
“Okay, Tigus. Take a seat, strap in.”
“My people must be warned,” Phea shouted over the growing beeps and intensified shaking.
“It’s too late,” Etos pointed at the blue rock filling up his view.
But she ran off.
“Phea,” he screamed. “God dammit, that girl is so stubborn.”
“She is Schloran,” the elder stated, taking the co-pilot chair.
Etos sneered but didn’t have the time for comment, he had to find a way to control Blue or the ship, along with its passengers, would explode on impact of this mysterious planet’s surface.
“May I be of assistance?” Tigus asked.
“Yeah. Sit there and shut up.” Etos gripped the handles, and used all of his strength to will Blue away from its deadly descent.
The beeping increased in speed and volume but Etos blocked it out to pay full attention to the view of the ocean gracing the window. Beautiful, he thought. And for a tiny split second, it reminded him of home. His home back on Uridia was near the water, and he and Ada frequently walked to the beach on mornings to swim with the Troffs. If it weren’t for the disturbance near his feet, under his panel, he’d likely ride that lovely memory to his, and everyone else’s, demise.
“Hey?” Etos screamed at the elder kneeling down, messing with the console.
Tigus’ hands were fiddling with wires that were pulled from the walls, underneath the console and helm where Etos held on for life. Then, the old man crossed one wire with another and scooted away from the console and returned to the chair and strapped in.
The beeping had stopped. Etos was about to voice his anger until the helm pulled with him. He had control now, but did he have time?
The ocean water splashed the window as Etos pulled with everything in him to avoid the hill ahead. Blue obeyed, but slowly, and the peak of the mountain rushing at them climbed out of view. They weren’t gonna make it over. So, Etos did the only logical thing.
“Brace, old man!” He released the helm and the ship slammed into the ocean.
written & created by
M. Sydnor Jr.
copyright © M. Sydnor Jr.