After a long time working exclusively on Kressidia with the occasional haiku or poem I wanted to take a break and write something else. This might be part of the history of Kressidia…the future I’m heading to with it… we’ll see. At any rate here it is. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know if I should do more with it.
Jaseem slumped in her seat on the shuttle craft. She held her injured left arm with her right. It had stopped bleeding but throbbed inside the bandage the armory officer had wrapped it in. To say the mission hadn’t gone well was an understatement. Fargo, the pilot, was desperately trying to put some space between them and the planet below. The little Derlanger fighters, following them and trying to blast them into space, were a lot more deadly than their size might suggest.
Sparks blew past Jaseem’s head. Despite her pain she stood up to see what she could do to repair the conduit that had just overloaded. She was the only engineer on the shuttle. The head engineer had wanted to come on this mission but it was believed to be routine and the captain felt he was needed on board ship to oversee the repairs from their last encounter with a hostile species whose name they never learned. It had been an interesting few days.
“There’s nothing I can do Captain,” said Jaseem flopping back into her seat. “It’s completely fused.”
“Don’t worry about it. Fargo can you get us out of here?”
“I’m trying sir!”
Fargo was the least hurt but he was young and more than a little scared. They all were.
Mathison, the armory officer, sat behind the pilot’s seat at his console trying to fire back at the fighters but the shuttle wasn’t made for war. It had limited armaments and shielding. It was made for ship to planet hops and shuttling personnel. It was slow and not very maneuverable but Fargo was giving it his best. He was a great pilot. He was making the fighters work for every shot but they were clearly outgunned.
The next shot hit the engine square on. The lights in the shuttle went out. Their inertia kept them going but they had no control at all. “We’re dead in the water, Captain,” said Fargo shaking his head.
Jaseem jumped up and started pulling the deck plating up hoping she could reach the auxiliary engine to reestablish power. The captain was getting the tool kit out of storage. Mathison was pushing buttons on his console trying to get information from the computer. The black and swollen bump on his head had started bleeding again. He distractedly wiped the blood out of his eye.
The fighter had stopped shooting at them. Apparently the fighters censors worked. Why they didn’t finish them off was a puzzle. Maybe they were wanted alive. They still didn’t know what the Derlanger wanted or why they had attacked them on the planet.
The captain handed the tool kit to Jaseem. He stopped and looked at her and said, “You’re glowing.”
“I’m bio-luminescent,” she said opening the tool kit and extracting the spanner. “I always glow. Humans usually can’t see it in the light.”
The other two men turned and looked at her.
The captain smiled his quirky half-smile. “Must be hard to sleep.”
“Usually my species sleeps in the daytime. We see better at night than humans. Captain is there a screwdriver in that kit?”
Although Mathison didn’t say anything, Jaseem could sense his arousal. He was always aroused around her but he believed that shipmates shouldn’t fraternize. It puzzled Jaseem who was used to a culture where sex was an everyday and open experience. When you are a telepathic species, privacy is a very difficult concept.
Fargo at his console and said, “Captain I think I can use the O2 tanks to maneuver us a bit.”
By releasing the oxygen from the outer tanks he slowing coaxed the shuttle toward the smaller moon. The fighter had turned back toward the planet. Jaseem could feel Fargo’s puzzlement while she worked to establish power.
Jaseem sensed Fargo suddenly getting very tense. “Captain, look.”
Jaseem kept working but everyone on board suddenly gasped. There was a Derlanger battle cruiser bristling with armaments and looking like a giant poisonous insect hunting for a meal. Jaseem didn’t have to look up, she could see it in the heads of the men. That’s why the fighter had broken off.
“We’re dead,” said Fargo in a flat voice.
“Censors are down, sir,” said Mathison hitting his fist on the console in frustration.
The shuttle filled with a high-pitched shriek and a series of clicks followed by another high-pitched shriek.
“Communications still work,” said Matheson.
“Too bad we don’t speak Derlanger,” said the captain wryly. “Send out a distress signal. We can let the ship know where we are, at least.”
“They’re light years from here sir. I don’t think we can count on them to get us out of this.”
“Send it anyway.”
“Can’t you understand them, Jaseem?” asked Fargo.
“No, I don’t speak any of the languages of Derlanger,” said Jaseem without looking up.
“Can’t you understand them through telepathy?” asked Matheson.
“My telepathy only works in a shared environment and then not with all species. I’ve never been near a Derlanger long enough to know if it would work.”
“This might be your chance,” said the captain smiling grimly.
Jaseem could feel her forehead beginning to flash a pale white. It always did when she was really frightened. She was having trouble dealing with her own fear and the jumbled emotions of the men around her. The captain was trying to sound brave for the men but Jaseem could feel his fear too. They had heard stories about the Derlanger warriors and what they did to people who got on their bad side. And today the captain and his crew seemed to be on their bad side.
The communications console shrieked again and everyone covered their ears. “Apparently they think we’ll understand them better if they talk louder.” The captain always tried to make a joke when the crew was tense.
“I’m sending friendship messages on all frequencies but they don’t seem to be in a friendly mood,” said Mathison still working furiously at his console.
“They probably can’t understand us any better than we understand them.”
Jaseem reached for another tool and glanced up and shouted, “Captain, look! It’s the Odyssey!”
They all looked out the starboard side window. Rapidly coming toward them was their own ship, the Odyssey. Easily a match for the Derlanger ship, the aliens wisely started moving away. Before Odyssey could get close enough to fire at them they disappeared into warp speed.
The men all let out a yelp and started laughing the way humans do when tension is being released. Jaseem closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could feel her skin tingling and she knew she was glowing soft pink with flashes of blue around her neck. Happy relief.
“Captain, are you alright?” the first officer’s Scottish burr came over the communications console.
“We are now, Dreyburgh. The engine’s out. We’re going to need a tow in.”
“I’ll get right on it, sir. It looks like you had an interesting time.”
The captain laughed, “You could say that.”