written by Fyren
“Let’s get back to work” I say aloud to my ship, patting a landing gear. I let out a long sigh of relief, having just woken from a long hangover. My celebration of returning back home may have been a tad too much. My passengers are slowly making their way on board, shuffling up the ramp. There are several prisoners that are being relocated, a wealthy businessman and a few of his friends that want to just visit a few places, and Coralie Roth, a general of the local military who is in dire need of a vacation.
I get the prisoners situated first. I then show General Roth to her first class cabin, the finest quarters on board. Finer even than my own. The view from my best cabin is absolutely spectacular. Positioned on the top of the craft, the General will be able to enjoy a huge viewing area akin to the planetary ‘skylight’. “If you need anything at all, just use this panel here. It goes straight to me in the cockpit. I hope enjoy your time here.” I tell her as she begins unpacking her things.
With everyone on board, we head out for our first destination, to drop off the prisoners. They are being relocated to a planetary base a few systems over. The ride is smooth and uneventful. As soon as the last prisoner is in the hands of the guards at their new home, my left console lights up. “Dammit” I exclaim. I make that offer just to be nice, I didn’t expect her to actually take me up on it. The message ticks across the console. General Roth apparently has received news that some of her troops are engaged in battle, at this very moment. She wishes to visit them on the front line for… morale? I point the ship in the general direction of the Firen system and get up from the controls. This should be done face to face.
“Ah, greetings Commander.” the General says with the friendliest face I could imagine. “Did you get my message?” She continues to inquire. “Yes, yes I did. That’s why I’m here.” I say in a very flat tone, trying not belie my annoyance. I expect some sort of continued pleasantry or an inquiry into what the problem is, but General Roth just stands there at the door to her cabin, staring and smiling. Her eyes don’t quite match the smile at her mouth making me a bit uneasy. “Ummm… So, you want me to fly to a combat zone? The front lines of a battle?” I ask her. It is less of a question and more of a plea to reconsider, giving her an easy way to backpedal. It’s a long shot. “Yes, we will just do a fly by and I will make some short range communiques to my troops.” she says, the smile never fading for even an instant. This lady gives me the creeps. I’m not sure I can really dissuade her, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. “You are aware this is a passenger vessel, right? We are unarmed and unarmored. We could die doing this.” I plead with her. Her eyes seem to leave no room for discussion. They are commanding, yet empty and dead. And that smile… too friendly for someone asking me to potentially fly to my death. “Danger surrounds us always. I am no stranger to situations that my cost my life. This, however, I assure you, will be completely safe.” she says.
I know it’s a lie. There’s no way this can be completely safe. Regardless, I nod my head silently and head back to the flight controls. Only a few minutes later we are dropping from warp on the coordinates where the battle is meant to be. My scanners and instruments are going nuts. Signals flying in from every direction. I look out the window of my cockpit to see the battle unfolding right in front of me. No less than 30 ships flying circles around one another. Lasers are piercing the blackness of space. Explosions are sending shockwaves through a nearby asteroid belt. Missiles are careening towards their targets and missing just as often as they find their mark. “Missile Lock Detected” the monotone digitized voice of the ship’s computer warns. Without thinking I whip the ship into a barrel roll. Just in time. The missile would have collided with my right wing, but just missed. I engage the reverse thrusters, backing us away from the violence but keeping my eyes on the action looking for any more incoming threats.
“Do what you need to, and do it quickly!” I yell through the intercom. I didn’t take the time to adjust the settings of it, so my words are blasted throughout the entire ship. Including the business man and his friends in the other cabin, who promptly begin losing their minds. My anxiety at being so close to so many weapons is starting to get the best of me. My hands begin to shake on the controls. My breath becomes shorter and more hectic, no longer in a regular pattern. My eyes keep darting to the console waiting for the all clear from the General.
A ship from the ongoing battle notices us floating on the edge. I see the heavily armed gunship swing around to face in my direction. I don’t wait for the go ahead, I’m not a soldier. I target the nearest system and spin up the frame shift drive. I’m not dying for anyone but me. The gunship is closing in, but he won’t make it before we warp right on out of here. The warp bubble begins to form around us as the familiar countdown begins, signalling that the drive is fully charged. Just as the countdown reaches 1 and the drive engages, my left console lights up with a message from General Roth. “All clear, get us out of here” it reads. I can’t even finish reading it before my head is whipped back against my pilot’s chair and we are whisked away to safety.
The rest of the trip passes with no further incident. I go to apologize to the businessman who had to endure the combat situation, when he was just looking for a gentle cruise. As the door to his cabin opens, I find General Roth already there, smiling in her usual way and explaining the situation to them. They are sharing some champagne around and laughing and joking about the whole thing. “Sor.. Sorry to disturb you.” I stammer and head back to my cockpit. At least they can laugh about it. As we pull back in to Kronecker Dock at the end of our time together, I am still silent. Not for the danger I managed to evade, but scared for the next time it happens. Next time will be easier, it won’t be so scary. That’s what these experiences do to a person. It makes you harder, braver, more eager to face the dangerous things. I’m not that person and I never have been. I fear though, that I may soon become that person.