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Science Fiction Fiction Sad

Lieutenant Davic Sphinx had forgotten how uncomfortable his service dress uniform was as he made his way through the huge star cruiser to the captain’s office.

It was a uniform only for looking nice in and for anal higher ups to nitpick: Dark blue, brass buttons, too-shiny shoes and, to top it all off, a white wheel cap carried beneath his left arm. Over his left breast pocket were the ribbons he had earned and over his right, his surname: Sphinx. 

He wondered why the ship's captain had called him to his office. Through the winding corridors of the star cruiser Corsair he made his way passing the various other crew. Technicians burdened with equipment, mechanics in overalls and grease, marines in full combat gear and rifles. One room inlaid with steam-burping pipes and wires led to another room where officers were relaxing.

For a man barely over twenty, his face seemed haggard. His dark brown hair was close cropped and his skin pale from being stuck on a ship for a long period of time. 

These days his first name sounded foreign to his own tongue. It was always his last name now, or his callsign: Riddler. Like most pilots he identified with his callsign, it had become his identity now. Davic. Davic was a foolish boy with no home to come back to, now there was only Riddler. 

One thing stuck out to Riddler as he continued walking: there seemed to be far less people from when he’d first come aboard. How long had that been again? He had lost track of time. There was always one more mission to fly - one more campaign against the Sh’ra. 

Those vicious aliens were the reason he flew. They had taken his home from him, and now his home was the fleet. 

As his shoes continued clomping on the metallic floors as he wound his way around crewmates, his thoughts had turned to the last mission he had flown with Starfire Squadron: It was supposed to be a routine patrol around a rocky moon, not a massive fleet battle, not the liberation of a planet. Just a routine patrol. 

Riddler stopped in front of a large window overlooking the vastness of space: barely any stars. The chatter of crew dissolved as his thoughts continued.

Sh’ra fighters had jumped them, using the moon’s craters to hide from their sensors. Before anyone knew what was happening missiles were being locked onto them. 

Flight Leader Zeus gave orders. “Deploy countermeasures! Break off, stay with your wingmen.” 

Riddler had done so, barely breaking the missile lock and sticking with his wingman Zap. Sh’ra fighters were zooming from the moon’s surface to meet them. Riddler got a missile lock and fired, the Sh’ra fighter deployed countermeasures and opened up with its own guns. 

Riddler returned fire. Plasma from both ships impacted shields in a brilliant display until the Sh’ra fighters shields buckled and Riddler’s shots went right through the cockpit. 

“Splash one!” Riddler called out. 

Zap fired a volley of missiles as the Sh’ra fighter he had been targeting jinked away and deployed countermeasures, but one missile managed to find its target, the shields buckled and the craft was sent careening down to the moon it had originally spawned from. ...But the victory was short lived. 

Plasma was already peppering the young humans’ shields. The two pilots maneuvered as best they could, but it seemed no matter how they maneuvered some Sh’ra was on their tail.

“Get this guy off of me!” Riddler shouted, his voice cracking as he feared this was his last flight. 

As if in answer to his plea the Sh’ra fighter exploded. 

“I’m always having to look out for you hatchlings!” 

“Thanks for the save, Harpy,” Riddler sighed, grateful for the avian alien. 

He continued standing at the window, and could almost see the moon and ships fighting and maneuvering around each other now.

The avian didn’t reply: There was a burst of static and then nothing. That was the start of things. one by one, the rest of the flight was picked off. Riddler kept flying and fighting, and by the time he shot down the last fighter he had a sinking realization that he was all alone in the void in a damaged ship. Oxygen leaking.

Riddler breathed in, glad for the processed, artificial air that now filled his lungs. He saw his reflection in the window and turned away.

If it weren’t for his communications equipment still working he never would have made it back to the ship. His mouth was dry as parchment when he finally exited the fighter, his limbs shaking and mind exhausted. The mechanics all stared at him in bewilderment. 

Usually some mechanic would have a clever quip about Riddler damaging their ship, but that day there was only reverent silence: Riddler was the only survivor of the ambush. After the debriefs, he just sat on his tiny bed in his tiny quarters and stared at the floor. The men and women he’d fought with for so long were all gone now.   

He hadn’t flown in the days following that incident: not much point in sending a lone pilot out - the other squadrons aboard had also taken losses. Riddler wondered if they’d fold him into Lobo squadron, wouldn’t that be something? 

He paused, they wouldn’t transfer him to Meteor squadron would they? He was not a bomber pilot. He’d had to fly escort for them enough times... He definitely did not envy their jobs of attacking capital ships and heavily defended surface targets.

Finally he arrived at the door of the captain’s office - as metal gray as everything else on board - and was granted permission to enter. 

The pilot entered and saluted. “Lt. Sphinx reports as ordered sir!”

The captain was old from years of command: His short snowy white hair contrasting with his dark skin. His face lined with years of worry carrying the lives of others on his shoulders. The captain returned the salute. “At ease.”

Riddler relaxed.

“Do you know why you’re here?” the captain asked.

“No, sir,” Riddler replied. 

“Care to venture a guess?” The captain asked, leaning back in his gray chair and resting a file on his lap.

“Is it being the only pilot left in my squadron?” 

The captain nodded. “You would be correct.” The ships captain looked ponderous for a bit. “I know it’s difficult losing people - especially those you fought with for so long.”

“I’m accustomed to loss,” Riddler replied.

The captain shook his head. “That is something you should NOT grow accustomed to. I have your file here, Lieutenant,” he said, waving the packet of files before putting them back in his lap. “Tasia IV: First planet the Sh’ra attacked.” 

Riddler didn’t break his bearing, but he felt as if someone had touched a sore spot inside of him. He had been lucky enough to be off planet when the attack happened, but he’d lost his parents, the girl he loved, and his home in a single day. 

He stared at the gray wall behind the captain for what felt like a century.

“Frankly,” the captain broke in, “I think taking you off flying status and sending you to psych evaluations would be the best thing to do.”

Riddler grunted. “Sir, I protest!”

The captain sighed. “You’re flying for revenge. I worry it will cloud your judgment: And now that you’ve lost even more to the enemy, I’m really worried. However, you’re still one of our best pilots, and we are short on experienced pilots here lately.” 

Riddler seemed a bit more calm as he listened.

“We’ve been ordered to Starbase Seven for rest, repairs, and resupply. We’ll also pick up fresh recruits. With that being said, you are now the flight leader.” 

Sphinx was taken aback, flight leader? That wasn’t his job: Zeus had always been the flight leader. 

“Sir, surely there’s someone else qualified.” 

The captain frowned. “As I said, we are short of experienced pilots. Most experienced pilots are dead or in instructor roles.”

“You’re saddling me with a bunch of rookies?”

“And you’ll teach them what they can’t learn in training. How to survive, how to fight more effectively. You will be their leader, you will be responsible for them. Perhaps you will take less risks knowing you have other lives to safeguard.” 

Riddler couldn’t believe it. Flight leader. Him. It seemed like a dream, or a nightmare. 

“I don’t think I’m ready for this responsibility. I’m barely over twenty...”

The captain looked sympathetic. “War doesn’t care. I know it's a lot to put on you. But we don’t have a lot of options.” 

“I’ll do my best, sir,” Riddler said, not sure how much he believed in himself.

“I know you will. Dismissed.” 

Again the two exchanged salutes and Riddler headed out the door. 

Me... Flight Leader?

He saw a crewmate cleaning the shining metal floor and saluted her. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to. She stopped mopping and returned the salute. 

Riddler looked in the large window at his reflection.

September 02, 2022 11:56

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6 comments

Kendall Defoe
03:58 Sep 08, 2022

A very interesting conclusion to this. You make the reader want more, and I need to know it's sequel! :)

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M B
15:42 Sep 08, 2022

Ah thank you very much! The characters are from a longer work I have been constantly revising, so hopefully someday the entire story can be told.

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Graham Kinross
04:27 Sep 07, 2022

Fan of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica? This reminds me a bit of both. I feel like you should have started with the firefight though. Action is a great hook to get the reader drawn in. Then you can intersperse it with the how and why. Definitely reminded of the humans fighting the Cylon raiders.

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M B
12:00 Sep 07, 2022

Yep, definite fan of both franchises. Though I liked the original BSG more than the gritty reboot. Perhaps I should have started with the battle, but I have felt like I've been leaning to heavily on action recently, so I opted to start out more character driven. Thanks for the review!

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Graham Kinross
12:30 Sep 07, 2022

The design of the cylon robots in both original and reboot BSG was great. The new ones seemed to be a metaphor for actors losing weight as they are paid more and get personal trainers. I know it’s because the new ones were cgi and the originals were costumes but I liked the design work on both. They were hugely different imaginings of the same initial concept, it’s almost a shame to have named the new one after the old one but I guess that was to grab some old fans for guaranteed viewers. Creating new intellectual property now is seen as ris...

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M B
15:44 Sep 08, 2022

Oh don't get me wrong I did like the new BSG, it had a lot of good stuff going for it. But if I had to choose one to binge I'd go with the original. I'll definitely keep that in mind.

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