Monday, September 14, 2015

Flash Fiction Sequel

The latest Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge calls for a space opera. Since the challenge I did in April resulted in something that qualifies as a space opera, I decided to write a sequel. You can read the original here to catch up on the story. Note that I did change the name of one of the characters. Also there are a few instances of bad language in this piece. If that sort of thing offends you, you may want to read something else.

Tessa had been stuck in her seat for seven days. That was how long she had been strapped in against the lack of gravity, moving as little as necessary in the spacecraft’s small cabin. Even though the ship’s climate controls were functioning, her skin was clammy, sweating and shivering at the same time. It did not help to be seated at the cockpit window, watching a galaxy of stars dance through the endless black. She had no choice but to stay alert, to keep her eye on their course. Khyron was strapped into the pilot’s seat beside her, snoring loudly, suffering no ill effects from the loss of artificial gravity other than an overwhelming inclination to sleep through his shift.

It didn’t matter; she was going to be up anyway. The ease with which she had cut the ship’s power betrayed her in the end. Comfortable enough in zero G to affect the repairs she had planned, once it became clear that the gravity system was not going to reboot all of the terror and nausea the complete lack of gravity engendered in her came rushing in. The only thing she could do was strap herself into the copilot’s seat. That had kept some of the nausea at bay, but none of the irrational terror. Abarophobia sucked.

She couldn’t really blame anyone but herself. She’d planned the prison break that lead her here. She’d connected the stolen ship back to the Verata Tung prison station to keep the landing bay door open, letting one of the station’s malignant AIs hitch a ride on their escape ship. And she was the one who disconnected all of the ships power systems to kill that AI before it killed them. She didn’t know at the time that the artificial gravity would be one of the few systems to fail to reboot, or that half of the navigation catalog would be erased. That had left them with even fewer options when it came to determining a destination. Thankfully Gneedles had memorized the coordinates of most of the star systems in the quadrant. And the ‘ace’ pilot proved more adept than she would have expected. Even the Blarg had proved useful by staying out of the way.

The smell of Blarg fur filled the cabin, little distress to a plant without olfactory senses or a pirate who lived like a frat boy. Probably wouldn’t have bothered Tessa either if not for the pre-nausea she experienced with her abarophobia. Somehow she managed to hold onto her lunch.

An alarm erupted on the flight panel, the orange flash and siren of a perimeter alert. She tapped the light to silence the alarm and checked the scanner as the others stirred to consciousness. There were five blips moving into position around their ship.

“What is it?” Khyron asked.


“Ships,” she answered. “Moving in to surround us.”

“Not that easy.” Khyron grabbed the wheel with one hand and waved the throttle full open with the other. The ship lurched forward as the engines fired, the acceleration creating a blessed moment of gravity.

Do we have the fuel for this? Gneedles thought.

“Probably not,” Tessa answered. “If you can outpace that first ship and bring us around I can get a shot at it,” she said to Khyron as she powered up the weapons.

The stars wheeled across the cockpit in a whirl of light and color as the ship banked hard to port. A formation of small grey ships appeared in her line of sight. She activated the weapons, a bright pulse of blue energy erupting from the front of the ship and slamming into the nearest pursuer. The remaining ships accelerated and broke formation as the first spun back, flashes of light snapping across its hull. “Tough little ship,” Tessa mused as she adjusted her sights to the next craft in formation. The cockpit shook as the other ships opened fire.

“We’re not going to last long in this fight,” Khyron observed. Another explosion rocked the hull. “These guys mean business.”

“It’s like they’re trying to destroy the ship.” Tessa aligned another of the small craft in her sights and fired. “It’s going to be hard to collect the bounty without any bodies.”

They have no interest in the bounty, Gneedles thought at them. Surrender the ship!

“What? Why?” Khyron asked.

They think we’re the Malignant, Gneedles explained. Their orders are to destroy us at any cost.

“Shit,” Tessa said. She swiveled to the com panel and opened a channel.

“We surrender,” she said. A pulse of energy slammed into the ship.

“I don’t think they believe you,” Khyron said.

“Stop your evasions and power down the engines,” she suggested. “Then they’ll believe us.” Khyron sighed as he powered down the ship. “This is Tessa Lek of Nova Sedie, prisoner number T945728. Please hold your fire and accept our surrender. The malignant AI has been destroyed.”

They don’t believe you, Gneedles thought. They think it is a trick. Another bright flash of weapons fire raked across the cockpit windows.

“Surrendering to assholes is always a bad idea,” Khyron noted as he moved to fire the engines back up.

“Shit,” Tessa reached between the seats and pulled on the manual ejection lever. The hollow sounds of bolt explosions echoing through the cockpit.

“What the fu…” Khyron started.

“They can’t assume that we’re any kind of AI after we dump the propulsion system and the main computer core,” Tessa explained. “Pursuing craft,” she spoke into the com channel. “We have no power, we have minimal life support and our computer core has been ejected. Under article 5, section 3, paragraph 9A of the Intergalactic Code we surrender and request to be taken into custody. This transmission is going out in all frequencies and all vectors. The Eyes of God are upon you.” A last flash of energy slammed into the ship as the surrounding vessels went silent.

“Tessa Lek,” a voice crackled through the speakers. “We accept your surrender.”

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