Oops, I should’ve posted this yesterday. Sorry everyone, the World Cup got the better of me ^^;
I know, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a longer piece of fiction that was not fan fiction – and this despite the name of my blog. Almost four months, actually. Aiye! Today is once again a modified answer to Nika Harper’s WordPlay challenge. The topic was “pirates” and the prompts were “deception” and “chasing shadows”. The original version can be found on the Geek & Sundry forums. Feedback welcome!
The Hexacon Report
3rd Thermidor 16.773,8.5120 Near the Intergalactic Junction no. 3.X/A
We’re running out of fuel. We paid for 90,000 gallons at our last stop on Parathon, but it seems like we were tricked by the vendor. Otherwise we’d still have enough fuel to outrun those pirates. We didn’t notice their ship until this morning, and even then it was on our radar for just a few seconds. They must’ve been following us since we loaded at Omnacore HQ last week. Waiting for their chance to board our ship.
The oath of Omnacore has never weighted heavier on me. I’ve always been a loyal captain, but at this point I’d rather save my crew than the Crystal Orbits in the cargo bay. No matter how rare they’ve become, they shouldn’t be more precious than our lives.
Alas, our lives are only precious to us. Omnacore couldn’t care less. Those pirates couldn’t care less. I can only hope that we’ll be saved by some miracle.
And that’s it. End of fuel supplies. We’ll be drifting until we either get too close to a planetary gravitation field or someone finds us. I don’t know which option would be preferable.
My ship’s never been so dark. We’re trying to save energy by turning off most of the lights. Everyone’s pretending that it’s alright, but I can tell that they’re scared. Why else would they choose to spend so much time together in the same place?
It’s getting darker every day, almost like the shadows have taken over this ship. They’re piloting it, inspecting the cargo, cooking our meals, kissing us good night.
Am I going crazy? Is it possible that the pirates are already on my ship? Sometimes I can hear voices whispering, but when I turn around there’s no one to be seen. Claire says she’s seen a ghost last night. Michael said he almost drowned in water that disappeared one second later.
Oh my Protector. No, I’m not going crazy. These aren’t ordinary pirates. These are Shadow Travelers!
Audio message <start>
“They’re here! The shadows are alive! Please help me! I’m the last one, but I fear I can’t– *gasp* It’s the Crystal Orbits! The Crysta—”
Audio message <end>
“Found anything, Commander Roven?”
“The same message we always find: it’s the Crystal Orbits.” The woman in the dark blue suit of the United Systems of Ooran sighed, then took out her communicator. “This is Commander Stella Roven. We’ve found the Hexacon, unfortunately no survivors. Cargo missing. Detailed report upon our return.”
“I say we plant a decoy. Send out a group of neuroids with a few Crystal Orbits and BOOM!”
“And how exactly are you planning to catch those shadows? We’ve been chasing them for more than a decade now and the closest we’ve ever gotten to them was—what? A short blinking on our radar? They don’t go for neuroids, they know they can’t be scared.”
“What do you mean?”
“That’s what the Shadow Travelers want: fear. They don’t care about the Crystal Orbits. They feed off fear. Human fear.”
“How do you know?”
“Chev, there’s a reason I’m a Commander and you’re just a Sub-Lieutenant. I’ve got battle experience. And now let’s get out of here.”
Stella and Chev climbed back through the long metal tube that connected the Hexacon to their USO Army ship. To the outside viewer, the old cargo ship looked almost peaceful: silver radiation protection screens glistering in the light of the nearest sun. The army would collect the evidence and then scrap the ship, selling every possible (and especially impossible) piece for the highest price. The governments might not have much money these days, but cargo ship owners had.
“We’re lucky they lost their cargo – otherwise we wouldn’t have enough fuel to tow them back.” Perce, the ship’s Chief Operator was going through the details with Stella. “But it’s still gonna take us two days to get back to base.”
“That a problem?”
“Not for me. But I thought you were supposed to be back for the ceremony…?”
“Well, they gotta decide what’s more important: chasing the Shadow Travelers or honoring their officers. I know which one I’d pick.”
“You should still call them.”
“You already sound like my mother…”
“I’m not female at the moment. Not enough water around here.”
“You don’t need to be female to sound preachy, you know.”
“About last night—“
“There is no ‘about last night’ – I thought I was clear on that.”
Perce tried to think of something to say, but then decided against it. Stella was in full-out commander mode. There was no point in trying to get on a more personal level. Maybe when they were back on the base. “I’ll be on the bridge then.” Perce turned to leave.
“Send Rem, I have a few things I’d like to discuss with him.”
As the pneumatic door to her office – whether you could really call that was still under debate – closed, Stella closed her eyes and leant back in her chair for a moment. “All for the glory of Ooran,” she murmured to herself. It seemed like she had joined the army hundreds of years ago when in fact it had only been around 15 years. But traveling through galaxies and – mostly – black nothingness, time got more or less meaningless. Stella had sworn to protect her home from any enemy, but every time she got news from home she felt like she’d failed. Another corruption scandal, another revolution, another dictatorship, another war – every drop of blood on the soil proof of the Army’s and her own ineffectiveness.
And now they had found another ship that had fallen victim to the Shadow Travelers. Just what she needed – invisible space pirates who had killed numerous crews, had stolen even more Crystal Orbits and yet had managed to never get caught. Chasing them was good if you wanted a thank you letter from Omnacore, but it didn’t get you considered for higher ranks in the Army. They were an invisible threat you had to live with – kind of like the possibility of death when you crossed a street during rush hour. Stella would send the report about the Hexacon to HQ, but she wasn’t planning on doing much more about it.
(to be continued – maybe)