My arms embrace him tightly. I rest my chin on his shoulder, humming softly into his ear as we rotate slowly, cradled in the soft embrace of zero-G. My hand involuntarily strokes up and down his back, a remembered reflex. I love when he sleeps so close to me, his presence comforts me. Unlike most nights he’s unusually quiet and the fact his restlessness is gone is a welcome change. My shirt sticks to my skin strangely- it’s the only minor irritation in an otherwise peaceful moment.
Everybody else floats around us in a semicircle, deep in their slumber, bobbing quietly in the semi-darkness their bodies resisting the tether to the floor. Moisture is collecting in the air, droplets floating lazily. ‘Must be all the humidity from so many people in one space’, I think as I watch one droplet coalesce with another not far from my face. I pull back slightly studying the handsome face in repose, long, dark lashes fanning across his cheekbones, lips slightly parted. I remember the day I first saw this face.
Two weeks ago…
We were both hired and taken on board from the same planet. The ship’s captain was very vague on the reason for replacements but I found out soon enough two of their regular crew were dispatched via a Cutlass Red to the nearest Hope-class Endeavor. Rumours among the crew were an immunovirus requiring long term isolation and treatment.
Our eyes met for the first time across the room, at our first meal with the crew. His eyes are blue, an incredible hue of cerulean. His name is Caleb. I fell fast and I fell hard. I would like to think that it was the same way for him.
Between our duties and sometimes during, we managed to steal moments together. Ok, sometimes longer but who’s counting when you’re madly in love. My favourite place to spend time with Caleb was the Core room. A very clinical room where all the samples were kept and analyzed. No one ever went down there much. The best part was the light dusting of particulate that clung to every surface making it sparkle in the right light. It felt almost magical to me, probably why it appealed to me the most, an echo of our relationship. It was here that Caleb broached the subject of his plan.
One week ago…
I lay on the floor rotating my arm slowly, watching the particulate on my skin reflect the muted light. Caleb has my head in his lap, playing with my hair. “What if we made this ship ours?”
I stop rotating my arm and tilt my chin up, meeting his eyes. I try to gauge his sincerity by studying them. He just stares back at me, his expression remaining unchanged. ‘Holy shit, he’s serious.’ I push myself up into a sitting position, turning to face him. “All right, just to be clear, what do you mean, ‘Make it ours’?”
“Exactly what I said, if we can somehow get rid of the crew…” he pauses in a moment of thought. “We could make this ours, just ours, we could sell it or better yet hire a crew of our own and captain it ourselves.”
“Where’s the crew going to go?”
His calculated look made me nervous, “Wherever we want them to.”
Pulling myself up with the edge of the counter, I dust off my arms and pants – stalling for time. My mind is going round in circles trying to catch up to where Caleb’s is. I need time… time to think. “I gotta go, I’ll catch you later.”
I turn on my heel and rush out of the room, not bothering to look back, even when I hear my name echoing down the corridors after me. “Tash!”
I reach my cabin, slamming the hatch behind me. Leaning against it for a few moments as I catch my breath, ‘Shit, shit, shit. What the hell is he thinking? Mutiny? What exactly does he mean when he says we’ll do whatever we want with the crew?’ All these questions and more race through my brain, propelling my feet into action. I pace the small cabin restlessly.
‘Ok, let’s organize my thoughts here. I love Caleb, right? Yes. Do I want to be with him? Resounding yes. Then what’s the problem? I saw a momentary flash of darkness in him when he mentioned setting aside the crew. Did he mean kill? Maybe.’
It was a decision I couldn’t make without further thought. I avoided Caleb most of the rest of the week, every time he came down a corridor toward me I turned the other way or down a side corridor. I got pretty good at ducking him.
I was looking at the stars outside the window when he finally caught up to me, thinking how they resembled the particulate from the Core room, spread across a black blanket. He leaned against the wall, close but not quite touching me. I don’t bother to look at him, I’ve made up my mind, “When do we do this?”
His arms surround me and I feel all my worries evaporate. This is the right decision. This Orion will be ours and will be make a life for ourselves, whatever happens.
I catch myself before I visibly show him how he’s startled me, “Caleb, how are we going to pull this off with so little planning?”
“It’s planned, I was just waiting for your word.”
“I have one concession, I want to put the crew off safely somewhere or release them in the escape pods.”
He seems to think this through for a moment before nodding in agreement. With my one demand met I close my eyes and just enjoy the feeling of being reconciled again. This is where I want to be for the rest of my life.
My palms are sweaty as I follow Caleb up to the cockpit, everyone is there presently, the ship is prepping for a jump and the captain wants all crew in one place. I look down nervously at the Arclight tucked into the waistband of Caleb’s pants. He didn’t outline this part of his plan to me until this morning but he says it’s only going to be used to ‘encourage’ their cooperation.
The cockpit door looms ahead and I try to swallow the feeling that I’m going to puke at any moment. Caleb is going to be doing all the talking, I just have to back him up if needed. With what, I don’t know. All I have on my person is my boot knife, a lot of good that’ll do against four other people.
Caleb’s hand reaches behind him and pulls the Arclight free, holding it behind his back. Four faces turn toward us as we enter, Caleb doesn’t hesitate, the Arclight comes out pointed in the general direction of where the other four are standing loosely grouped.
“Ok, so I’m thinking you guys have a general idea of what’s going on,” Caleb’s voice is even. He almost sounds like he’s done this before, “We’re taking this Orion and all four of you are to quietly make your way to the escape pods, no questions asked.”
Looks are exchanged between the captain and Chet, the mechanic. Their eyes are talking to each other but I don’t know what they’re saying. I feel nervous, this unspoken exchange doesn’t seem panicked like they aren’t too worried about the gun pointed in their direction.
I’m about to say something to Caleb when everything happens all at once. The mechanic rushes Caleb making a grab for the gun, his mistake. Caleb fires, the shot point blank into Chet’s chest, his body falling dead to the decking. It’s not until his body hits the floor that I realize Chet was just a diversion, the captain has produced an LH-86 from somewhere. Caleb realizes his mistake just as the captain levels the pistol at him, both guns go off, the captain’s multiple times.
I’m frozen to the spot as I watch Caleb’s body jerk like he’s having a seizure. The Arclight dropping from his hand as his knees buckle. I rush forward catching him as he tips backwards about to hit the deck. Two sets of feet rush past me on their way out the door, racing to escape.
I pull Caleb toward me crushing him to my chest, an animalistic howl claws it’s way out of my throat and echoes through the room. I feel my shirt turn warm and damp, Caleb’s blood soaking into my clothing. Hot tears track down my cheeks, spilling into Caleb’s hair. I don’t know how long I sit holding him, stroking his hair gently, rocking back and forth.
My tears eventually run out, leaving me feeling raw and dried out. My arms begin to ache, the muscles spasm as I refuse to allow my burden to drop to the floor. Eventually gravity and fatigue win out, I slowly lower Caleb’s upper body to the deck. His face is so peaceful it breaks my heart.
I feel a fresh wave of tears clog my throat, I clear it in an attempt to ward them off. A slow burning anger begins rising through my body, a warm flush starting at my feet and rising up to my face. I finger the blade hidden in my boot, flicking the safety strap open and sliding it free of it’s leather sheath. I stare at the matte black blade, turning it over in my hand, feeling the grip stick in my hand. I run one finger along the serrated top edge, Caleb’s blood leaving marks as I go. ‘These bastards are going to die.’
I lean over and press my lips to Caleb’s, a promise of revenge. I coat the blade in his blood – as his mingles with theirs it will be the kiss of vengeance. Standing up, I gaze at the two bodies already lying prone on the deck. They were just the beginning.
First things first, how to find and kill the two that got away… how do you incapacitate people who are on their own familiar ground? You take away their “normal”. I head to the engine room, our original plan was to knock out the gravity if it was necessary and crew didn’t go quietly. Well, they definitely haven’t gone quietly.
Once I stand inside the engine room I survey the various panels that are lit up prettily, lots of green. I find the one that controls the gravity generator, I’m about to slide my finger across the control to shut it off when a better idea hits me. I spy a heavy iron of some sort, setting my knife down I heft the elongated instrument into my hands, I plant my feet for balance and swing it as hard as I can at the control.
It arcs perfectly into the exact spot I need it to. Sparks fly and the panel blinks uncertainly before going out entirely. I feel my feet leave the ground, my body becoming weightless as the generator goes dead. I release the tool, allowing it to float away from me. My knife floats up to meet me and I let it rise into my open palm, gripping it tightly once again.
The hunt is on. I pull myself across the room trying to decide where the last two remaining crew would hide. Familiarity comforts people in times of stress or fear, where would Peter and Yasmin hide… ore storage would be a good place to start.
I pull myself along through the corridors. Even Caleb didn’t know this but I grew up on Spider and the gravity was forever going out, it used to be a game to us to see who could make it through the halls the fastest. I swing my body into the large storage room, surveying the inside. Lots of containers sway against the safety netting keeping them in place, but the dozen that are anchored to the floor catch my eye.
“Yasmin.” I try to use my friendliest tone possible. I push off towards where the containers are situated grabbing the edge of the closest one. “Come out, come out, wherever you are.”
I float across the top of the containers, dragging the tip of my knife across the lids. The scrape grating to the ears, the blade pinging off the lip as it hits the edge. Scrape, ping, scrape, ping, across all twelve containers. Once more maybe.
I turn and pull myself back across, continuing the pattern. I get halfway when I think I hear a faint noise, a sniffle, maybe a sharp intake of breath. Whatever it was, I’ve found her. I’m about to unseal the container when a hand grabs my shoulder whipping me around.
I bring the knife up ready to defend myself. What I see stops my heart cold, Caleb is floating in front of me a few feet away. The bullet holes that riddled him have stopped bleeding, I can’t believe my eyes. “Caleb.”
A slow smile crosses his face, “It’s me.”
I feel tears stinging my eyes, “I thought you were dead.”
He floats toward me reaching his hand out, his thumb rubs across my cheek catching the single tear that’s managed to escape. I swallow the lump in my throat and reach towards him touching his chest where three neat holes puncture his shirt. “I should get you some medical attention.”
“I’m fine, I’m here to help.” Caleb answers indicating the container I was about to open. I turn back to the container I’m grasping, planting my feet against the side of the container I wrench the lid up. I hook my foot under the lip waiting for the lid to float free, huddling inside the container is my intended target. Scared, wild eyes staring back at me.
The lid floats free and Yasmin begins to rise her arms flailing for purchase, her tiny frame coming ever closer. I don’t hesitate, I grab her by the shirt front as she struggles to get away. My blade bites into her neck, one side to the other. Her eyes register a moment of shock, her blood pumping out of her neck as her heart beats it’s last. I watched detached as the red liquid wavers through the air, small molecules of red blood cells coalescing with others to make bigger ones.
I see Caleb’s hand reach out and capture one floating by, crushing it in his hand so it smears. His hand stretches out and he runs his thumb down my cheek, leaving a red mark behind. “One.”
I smile, feeling slightly vindicated. Slightly, not completely. She will join her traitors in internal damnation. I tuck my knife into my belt, undoing Yasmin’s and pulling it free of the loops. Wrapping it around her feet I tie it off, easier to transport her to the cockpit.
I pull her behind me maneuvering through the corridors, Caleb following us. I see a flash of movement ahead of me as Peter comes uncontrollably hurdling into the corridor I just turned into. He sees me and his eyes take on that of a frightened animal. “There he is.”
Caleb’s voice says in my ear. I release Yasmin, pulling my blade I place it between my teeth tasting the coppery sweetness of revenge. Peter is trying his best to propel himself in the opposite direction…I’m faster.
I catch up to him about halfway down, his clumsy attempts at trying to escape are actually slowing him down. I grab the pipes overhead and throw my ankles around his neck, pulling him in closer. I cross and lock my knees, squeezing with my thighs in a choke hold. He desperately claws at my legs, trying to get free. I slide the knife from between my teeth, the width of the blade inserts perfectly between his chin and my thighs, warm liquid soaking my pants as I pull it across.
Peter’s struggles lessen slowly as his life force drains away, his limbs eventually going slack. I release him allowing him to float far enough away from me so I can reach his belt. Once I have it securely fastened around his feet I pull him back down the corridor to where I left Yasmin. Caleb also waits for me, a proud smile spread across his face.
“I did this for you, I thought you were dead and all I could think about was getting back at them.”
He reaches out a tentative hand I feel his gentle caress on my cheek before he pulls away. “Bring them up to the cockpit and I’ll meet you there.”
He glides off down the corridor ahead of me and I grasp both belts in one hand and pull myself after him, the unwieldy bodies bumping into the walls slowing me down. I eventually reach the cockpit, I look behind me, besides the two bodies I notice I’ve left a trail of bloody handprints on the wall marking my journey.
Caleb rotates slowly in the middle of the room, surrounded by red raindrops that hang in the air. His injuries must have got the better of him, must have decided to sleep awhile. I go around the cockpit tethering the bodies to the floor, including the captain and the mechanic.
One last thing to do, Caleb needs medical attention. I need to activate the distress signal, browsing the consoles I find the right one, I activate the beacon. A yellow light flashes back at me methodically, the cockpit lights dimming to emergency lighting. Satisfied I float my way back to where Caleb is, I pull him toward me into a close embrace, now we wait.