written by M. Sydnor Jr.
“Suggestions, Kee!” Etos screamed, sprinting through halls and turning corners. He could make it to the weapons locker, but the cyclops would get to him before he could get a shot off. So, he ran in circles until he tired. But with the wide shoulders of the beast scraping the walls and the claws digging into the ceiling at every turn, Blue was taking a beating.
“Cargo Bay One. Lure the Cyclops there.”
“Done.” Etos did another circle around the ship, then jumped down a chute, the quickest way to the lower level. Once there, Etos ran around the corner to wait for the beast to follow. He heard the thing above him, ripping the walls of his ship, roaring, clanking on the floors. Then, the cyclops forced its way down the same chute.
“Sir, significant damage to section F of the ship. Requires immediate repair.”
“A little busy right now, Kee,” he whispered, then stepped into the middle of the corridor. “Hey! Hey!” He waved his arms to get the beast’s attention, and hustled to the end of the hall. “Kee, open the door to Cargo Bay One,” he said, sprinting toward it.
When it opened, he didn’t run in, he turned the corner down another corridor and hid behind a pillar. He heard it follow and he waited. Panting. Sweating. Huffing and puffing so loud that he thought he was turning into the creature, too. Like it was some airborne disease he’d caught from his wife. He even went as far as to check the front and back of his hands—all good. Then the beast came into view, rushing into the Cargo Bay.
“Way ahead of you, sir,” Kee responded as the door dropped shut. “Now opening bay hatch.”
“Wait! No, Kee.” Etos hurried to the rectangular window in the middle of the Cargo bay door. “Do not, I repeat, do not open the hatch.”
“Just let me think for a minute.” Looking through the window, watching the creature tear into anything and everything it could get its hands on, Etos truly believed Ada still resided somewhere in there. But he had better think faster.
“Sir?” Kee shouted.
“Suck the oxygen out the room. Knock the thing out.”
“Sucking oxygen out of Cargo Bay One.”
He watched as the creature slowed its destruction. It worked faster than he expected. The cyclops dropped to its knees, then passed out.
Etos stood there for a minute, watching it, making sure it was immobilized. “Okay, Kee. That’s enough.”
“Sir, sections F through M need immediate attention.”
“Handle it for me, Kee. I need to locate Phea.” He’d just remembered her and he hustled back down the corridor and climbed the latter next to the now-destroyed chute.
“Sir, section H and L need a hands-on repair.”
“Not now!” Etos roared as he reached the upper level. “Figure it out.” He was beyond frustrated, stumbling, almost tripping over himself as he shouted at the ceiling where Kee’s voice usually came from. “I need a physical presence, not your voice.”
“Nothing—nothing. Just…” He made it to the cockpit and took a deep breath. “Just fix the other issues, please, Kee. I’ll get to H and L as soon as I can. Right now, we need to find Phea.”
“Understood…locating the pod…standby.”
Etos sat in his seat, or tried to. He couldn’t keep himself still. Hopping up and down, looking out the window as if he could see a sign of her in all that space.
“Found her,” Kee informed him. “Ice planet—”
“The auto-pilot offline, sir.”
“Of course, it is. Chart a course. I’ll take us there.”
“Sir. It’s a dead planet. Uninhabitable.”
“Chart the course, Kee.” Etos said sternly, determined.
An hour later, they approached the white planet. All white. So bright that Etos questioned Kee’s data.
As they entered the planet, nearly crashing into ice clouds, cold air fogged his window and blinded his view. He had to rely on the screen. It was bumpy at first, a little shaky, a lot of beeping noises, and Blue took a beating entering the icy and rocky world.
He landed on top of a mountain. Etos was a skilled flyer when he wanted to be. Not Ada-skilled, she would’ve brought Blue down without the bumping and shaking, without a scratch on it. But a landing is a landing. Etos jumped out of his seat and raced down the corridor to the communications center. He suited up, grabbed an extra one for Phea, then jumped out, landing in a foot of snow. “Location, Kee?”
“Pod is twenty meters ahead.”
Etos trotted through the snow, looking for a sign but all we saw was white. White everywhere, and he could feel the coldness eating through his suit. Phea didn’t have a suit on, just the pod for protection. But where was the pod?
Twenty meters later, there was nothing in sight. Only Blue behind him, and he barely saw that with the thick air fogging his visor. “Kee, I don’t see the pod.”
“I don’t understand.”
Etos sighed. Then he turned ‘round and ‘round wondering. As he took one more step, he tripped over something. “Wait…” He dropped the extra suit and started digging the snow out of the way. He found the pod. “Phea! Phea!” he got excited, screaming her name, smiling even. “Phea, can you hear me?” Still yelling her name, still digging. The pod was empty and in good condition with no damage.
He took a step back. “Phea?” he screamed. “Phea, where are you?”
His chest tightened and his blood started to boil. He felt hot, pain, almost a suffering and he wasn’t even thinking about Ada. It was Phea. He had a dangerous thought that he’d killed her by ejecting her into space and then here, a cold dead world.
“Phea?” his voice broke, and he stumbled further away from Blue, distraught. But then he noticed where the mountain started to drop, and saw something other than snow. Leaving the extra suit and helmet behind, he investigated and found that it was a cave. A small cave. And around its entrance, clear signs of destruction that he recognized. Phea’s eye!
He ran inside, and saw the young girl covered in brown dirt. “Phea?” He rushed over, then slid to her side. She was unresponsive. He shook her, touched the top of her head and she was burning up. The skin around her eye was red and reddening around her cheeks and neck. He pressed the side of his head over her heart and heard a beat. Forget about it being impossible, her being alive still, in this frozen waste. He’d found her.
“Kee, I have her. We gotta get her to the ship now.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“I’m going back to get her suit.”
“Sir, the air is not breathable. Five minutes without a helmet means death.”
“To hell with your calculations, Kee. She is alive. Get the Med-Bay ready.”
“Hold on, Phea. Hold on.” Etos rushed out of the cave and trotted back through the inches of snow where he’d dropped the helmet and suit. When he got there, snow had filled the helmet so much that he had to dig it out. He returned to the cave and stuffed her into the suit. Then he took his helmet off, never minding the air Kee spoke of and placed it on her head. He took the cold one, still pieces of snow inside and he put that on his head. He took her in his arms. “I got ya. Kee, we are headed back.”
“Sir, we have a situation.”
Hell! “What now?
“The cyclops is awake.”
Shit. “What’s it doing?” he asked, struggling to talk, carry Phea and walk in the thick snow at the same time.
“Just standing, sir.”
“Okay. If it goes crazy again, knock it out. Keep me informed.”
The rest of the way he whispered to Phea, “I got ya. I got ya. You’re safe now. I’m never letting you go again.”
They made it back on board and he took her straight to the Med-bay, cleaned and ready, thanks to Kee and the Med-Arm. He placed her on the bed.
“How is she alive?” Kee asked.
“Never mind that,” he snapped. “What’s the beast doing?”
“Still standing, sir.”
“Okay. Time to get to those repairs,” Etos left the Med-Bay, looking behind him, worrying for Phea. But there was nothing he could do for her now. He left that to Kee and the Arm. As he started to get tools to work on section H, the alarm sounded. What now? “Kee, report?”
“I detect a ship coming out of orbit.”
Etos turned and ran to the cockpit to confirm what she was saying. “What—who?”
“It’s…It’s the Schloran ship, sir.”
He stopped when he reached the cockpit entrance. “Schloran ship?”
“Impossible,” he said to himself.
“They are right above us, sir. They’ve sent us a word message.”
“On screen,” Etos hustled to his chair, then read the message: We just want the girl. Surrender her to us or be destroyed.
“Would you like to prepare a response, sir.”
The ship’s engines were so loud and rusty that he could hear it hovering above them. “No. Is the auto-pilot fixed?”
“I’ve been a bit busy with the repairs and fixing the girl,” Kee responded.
The emotional response gave Etos pause and he stood from his chair, staring above at the speaker in the cockpit. Then, he shook the feeling to worry about more important things. “Stop the repairs, get the auto-pilot back and fly us the hell away from here.”
“As you wish, sir.”
Etos returned to his chair and brought the weapons system online as Kee prepared them for takeoff.
“Sir, they’re powering weapons.”
“So am I.”
written & created by
M. Sydnor Jr.
copyright © M. Sydnor Jr.