Somewhere, unknown to the rest of the universe, sat a lone metallic escape pod, stranded in the center of a basin. The machine in the midst of untouched wilderness created an interesting contrast of industrialization versus nature. The rain beat down on it intensely, creating a continuous drumming rhythm. Inside the pod was some man, sleeping uncomfortably, yet soundly. A bolt of lightning struck somewhere within the vicinity of the pod, whose eruption woke him up.
He slowly opened his eyes and was surprised to find his current situation. In a panic, he jolted out of his seat, momentarily forgetting what had just happened, only a few hours ago. Piece by piece, he tried to reconstruct the memory of how he ended up in that pod.
The vast void of space provided the perfect conditions for the bright stars, lightyears away, to glow beautifully. Seeing such a sight was a rare commodity for those living on Haskel. The night sky would normally be a plain, bleak dark with the occasional appearance of the twin moons Grand-Deliecanth and Grand-Koundore. Through the thick shell of the shuttle, the presence of the stars was felt by all of the passengers, although most of them didn’t seem to care, including the man in the purple suit.
Gosha Aleksy sat on the far back seat of the port side. A man of about six-foot one, his short brown hair complimented his pale blue eyes well. His face was perfectly clean-shaven, a habit he found gave him good luck. He readjusted the collar of his suit, as it had become uncomfortable, which was a deep purple, complemented by a red tie. That, and the gray bag he carried, were all made from the most premium of cheap, synthetic fabrics.
The ship was a CAS-3 model, one of the most common types out there, designed for easy and quick transplanetary travel. Like all of CAS’s designs, it was capable of creating an artificial gravity as well as reaching light travel, although the latter wasn’t nearly as effective as in larger models. Roughly sixty deep blue seats lined the perimeter of the ship. The sides of the ship were adorned with plenty of windows that provided great but underutilized views of the stars beyond as the lights from above shone, occasionally flickering.
“Pol-Aster, home of tomorrow, today! Plan your visit now!”
Above the entrance to the cockpit was a monitor running through advertisements, mostly pertaining to how great of a city Pol-Aster, his home city, supposedly was. It displayed towering skyscrapers and the latest innovations and entertainment hailing from the city. While nothing shown was inherently wrong about the city, there definitely were the monstrous skyscrapers promised, and the city was a hub of information and entertainment, it failed to showcase the reality of its daily life. Beneath the glamor and splendor of the skyscrapers and the hoard of information and entertainment the city beheld was a haze of stagnation and mindlessness only a local could know. The conditions of the city were nothing short of awful, and things weren’t much better anywhere else on Haskel either.
When one commercial ended it immediately shifted to the next, this one about Infin-7. As Gosha sat there watching, he couldn’t help but feel that being “the leading corporation in just about every major industry,” as the commercial boasted, wasn’t the dazzling thing they claimed it was. Just about all who weren’t part of the corporation’s upper echelon despised Infin-7, but really, it was irrelevant. No one did — or rather, could do — anything about it, since they controlled the inner workings of opposition groups too.
This was best showcased by what was shown on the monitor next. It was a brief news segment about one of the current candidates running for minister of Pol-Aster, promising to improve the state of the city while showcasing his custom-made tie that read “Down with Infin-7!” in red text over white. The man who was a high-level executive at Infin-7 talking to the news station that was owned by Infin-7, who were all praising his tie and plans for Pol-Aster, which might as well be owned by them too. This same pattern repeated among the majority of the cities around the planet.
Through their control of the media, they themselves promoted the idea of opposing them in appropriate and controlled ways which would do nothing to actually challenge their system, since the idea of getting rid of Infin-7 was a lucrative market itself. Most people who claimed to not be bothered by them only did so to make themselves feel superior to those who claimed otherwise, or out of a fear that change would only make things worse. Just as quickly as it appeared on the monitor, it disappeared, now displaying some other new irrelevant product.
Unfortunately, despite all of the hatred he felt towards the company, he was currently employed by them, and traveling on the ship was a part of official business. He wasn’t forced to work for them or anything like that, he did it out of his own volition. While he was fully aware of their awful practices, it was easier for him to not even try to defy them in any way. Not like there was anything he could do, and as long as he worked, he had food to eat and a roof over his head. At points, he doubted himself on whether or not they were truly an evil company after all because of this.
He noticed his bag was starting to slouch over, so he readjusted its position. The contents could briefly be seen: a Sakura Industries silenced pistol and photon saber, his two primary weapons for his duties. He cautiously peered, around making sure no one caught a glimpse of what he was carrying. Smuggling it through security was a bitch enough already, having to deal with getting caught now that they were well past the exosphere would certainly compromise his assignment.
His current job was simple: kill the man sitting across from and one seat to the left of him.
He relooked at the information given to him by the secretary in red on his comms device to confirm, and yes, it was him: Ent-Billiam Zuberi. The photos and physical description perfectly matched up. As a betrilan, Ent-Billiam absolutely dwarfed Gosha in size at eight-foot two, not even taking into account his massive tail. His exoskeleton was a sharp green which contrasted his light red eyes. He bore a strong resemblance to both a beetle and a mantis, yet also stood on two legs, like most of the dominant species. Around his neck was a necklace latched onto a special stone charm with a faint green glow.
He recalled the meeting he had the other day, which had all of the information discussed copied to a file on him. According to the file, he was the founder and president of a startup food distribution company on the planet of Jaszyk. Unfortunately for him, that happened to be the next location of Infin-7’s expansion plans. Curiously, in his statement, he was told to claim items that he may be carrying on him. He assumed this was just referring to confidential documents he may have.
Gosha put his device away and looked around the cabin. Normally, these types of transplanetary flights would be filled with passengers, but this ship was only about half empty. Due to a recent company hack, the autopilot systems have been almost completely down, requiring physical pilots once again, and many feared the errors that a person would make.
As he boarded, he noticed that the pilot’s name was Charon Areheg, ID #P3M3S2. Being a torelini, his head was large and bulbous with an egg-shaped nose. The skin of his tentacles was a blend of green and cyan, while his eyes glowed yellow with rectangular, maroon pupils. Wearing the standard brown uniform for pilots of his type, he had welcomed Gosha and the others on board the ship, named “The Square”.
He took another look around him. No one else in the cabin seemed to be remarkable to him. They were all of alien species he had seen before and none were of any interest. Despite them all having vastly different body shapes, sizes, colors, etc, they all blended together like one large gray mass.
It was only when taking one last look around that someone stuck out to him. On the starboard, there was a female of a species he knew very little about. She resembled a bird and had a pair of large white wings that were black at the tips, as well as at a few spots throughout. Unlike the birds he had seen in photos, the ends of her wings seemed to form fingers. Like her wings, her hair was also white and was about shoulder length. Tail feathers of the same colors could be spotted behind her, as well as bare talons tapping to the music on the metallic floor. There was a red band wrapped around her right ankle. She wore very plain clothing, only a white, sleeveless button-down shirt and short, moss-colored pants that covered legs containing feathers of the same colors. She wore earbuds that rested in ears that came to a short point, listening to music, and slowly nodded her head with the beat, eyes closed.
He had no idea why she stood out to him like she did, but it was likely due to him being completely unfamiliar with what species she could be.
Wonder what she’s listening to, he thought, as he put in his own pair and slowly closed his eyes. The ship entered light travel shortly after, removing any sight of Haskel.
A sudden jerk in the ship woke Gosha up from his nap. The brief dream wasn’t as interesting as some of his others, just the standard abstract events, although this time much shorter. He looked around and saw that a few others seemed to have awoken with him. The bird girl was still enjoying her music, eyes closed, undisturbed. A movement like that usually would indicate returning to normal ship functions after light travel, meaning that they should be approaching the destination planet. He peered out the window to the right of his seat to check, which was something he never tended to do while traveling.
He was right in his suspicions that the ship had exited light travel. The stars in the distance moved at a normal rate for flight. However, Jaszyk was nowhere to be seen, nor any planets at all. All that could be seen were the stars beyond, and what seemed like tiny, glistening debris. There was a large star nearby, but it was still far enough away that it couldn’t have done any sort of damage to the ship. He took an earbud out to listen in, to see if he could learn something about the situation.
“This is your captain speaking,” echoed from the speakers. “Something seems to have interrupted light travel mode. Please wait momentarily as we address this issue,” was heard over the speakers. It was then repeated in an alien language Gosha was not familiar with.
“Ugh, I knew this was going to happen,” groaned the passenger sitting a few seats down from Gosha.
“Shouldn’t have trusted not having a computer control the flight,” replied another passenger sitting nearby. “And the captain, can you believe him; thinking he has something to prove by speaking in something other than IGS?”
“Either he thinks we’re idiots or he just wants to feel superior.”
Both of them were betrilans like Ent-Billiam, but they were a short seven-foot, a more light burgundy color, and possibly female. He couldn’t really tell, since betrilans lacked major sexual dimorphism. Their voices both had heavy vibrato; almost hard to understand at times.
There wasn’t really much he could do. They were all stuck in there together. The only thing he could do was listen to some more music and wait. He popped the bud back in and closed his eyes again, hoping that they’d be there by the time he opened them.
“Sure is annoying, huh?”
He opened his eyes not a minute after he closed them. It was the person sitting to the right of him. The man was a mano, a species known for their short stature, usually somewhere around four feet or so. He had rough, juniper skin that got darker around the elbows. In place of hair were two thick tentacles that wrapped around each other behind the head. He wore a silver suit that faintly reflected the lights of the cabin off him. His eyes were a bright blue, but not as pale as Gosha’s.
“Yeah. Sure is.” He had no desire to talk to him. He closed his eyes again after answering, hoping to give a hint.
He didn’t take it. “I’m headed home to visit my family.” Gosha remembered that manos were infamous for not picking up on those sorts of cues. “Hope this doesn’t ruin my plans too much. Whatcha traveling for?”
“Say, you’re a human, right?”
“Yeah.” He really wished the ship would start moving again.
“Don’t see many of those often. Strange, huh?”
“Yup.” He nodded his head frustratedly at every reply.
“You know why that is? Ever meet another one of you?”
“I’ve met a few here and there. Don’t know why we’re so uncommon.”
He briefly stopped his nodding to contemplate what he was just asked. This question always sat in the back of his mind, but it rarely got asked to him. Why were there so few humans out there? It was rather strange, considering it had always felt as if humans were involved in just about everything, especially in important historical events that defined eras, only to fade out amongst the populace. Maybe they just weren’t as common as he was initially led to believe.
“Well, it seems like you might want to get back to your music. I won’t keep you from it any longer.”
Finally, Gosha thought.
“By the way -” Gosha was really annoyed now. “- what’s your name, Mr. Human?”
“Well nice to meet you, Gosha. My name is -”
A loud thud thundered through the cabin, startling everyone. Immediately, the lights shut off, plunging all of the passengers into darkness. The murmurs from the other passengers got louder. A few seconds later, the emergency systems went off, bleeding the cabin in a red light with a piercing siren.
“This is your captain speaking.” His voice was an uncomfortable monotone with a slight hint of uneasiness. “Please remain calm and head for the escape pods. They are located at the rear of the ship. I repeat, please remain calm. I will soon arrive to assist those who need any.” Like before, it was repeated in an unfamiliar language.
Gosha got up and peered out the window. Somehow, they were right next to a planet, despite there being absolutely nothing nearby just a few minutes ago. What could they have even hit? An asteroid? Another ship? There had been nothing out there just before.
Despite the clear instructions from the captain, the passengers were not calm. They were all rushing towards the back of the ship, desperate to escape. Charon exited the cockpit to help guide the passengers. He would be the last one to escape, if there were any more pods left for him.
After waiting behind the clamoring crowd, Gosha finally reached an unlaunched pod.
“Umm, excuse me?”
He turned over. It was the bird girl. He could now see that her eyes were yellow with black pupils. They glinted orange at steady intervals, in time with the red lights that washed over them.
“Can you help me with this? I’m not too familiar with this sort of stuff.”
“Uh, yeah. Sure.” He hoped that Charon would help her instead.
Do I look like the type of guy that would be familiar with it? he thought. Then again, I probably have had to use these more than the average passenger.
Behind her, he could see Charon guiding other passengers, including Ent-Billiam. He tapped the screen and hit a few buttons, opening up the hatch for her with a loud mechanical noise. “Just press the flashing button over there once the door is shut and you’ll be good to go.”
“Th-thanks!” she said, hesitantly stepping into the pod.
He repeated those same actions on his own pod and got in. From the inside he shut the hatch and pressed a button, sending the pod off into the maw of the mysterious planet.
The inside of the pod was nothing fancy: just a small and simple square room made of barren metal. It sort of reminded him of his apartment, just a bit tinier, and without his singular plant friend, which he named Daniel. The pod definitely didn’t try to make itself look appealing, a stark contrast from the rest of the ship. Through the singular circular window on the door, he could see the bird girl’s pod launch followed by what he assumed was Ent-Billiam’s.
For the moment, he was just floating in space. Nothing weighing him down. Nothing propelling him forward other than the residual momentum from the initial launch. Something about that brought peace to him. Floating carelessly through the void. Then the thrusters ignited and he was headed towards the planet below. From the window, it looked like the ship was getting pulled in by its gravitational field. Soon, the hunk of metal would collide with the nubilous, foreign surface below.
There wasn’t much he could do now. He slipped in his earbuds and resumed his music from before he was interrupted. He hoped that the planet was inhabited. He also hoped he would be able to find Ent-Billiam again so he could finish the job.
Most of all, however, he wished that he hadn’t forgotten his bag on the ship.
Please log in to leave a comment.