The space in the ship was getting cramped. Again.
We had four more weeks of isolation until we hit our next planet, and the space food that was left was gross. Despite the station's efforts, living in a ship floating in space was not in any way technologically advanced. Not only that but tensions between passengers always seemed high. It was like an overdramatized reality t.v. show if you can imagine that. So not only was everything breaking every time you breathed on it wrong, but so were all the crew. We were going a bit stir crazy.
This is my thirteenth flight and I hadn’t experienced such a need to leave. I’ve always enjoyed the escape from Earth and the messy, craziness of life. It was weird, but I’m sure it was just an off day. I mean how bad could a three person crew really get?
I got up this morning. Again. I had drifted in and out of sleep for hours, just wishing I were off this floating pile of crap.
Waves of depression hit me in all of this constant isolation, but it was only worth it for when we landed on the new planet. At least I hoped so. I turned over in my sheets, pretending to sleep so no one asked what was wrong.
I couldn’t talk to the other crew about it either.
We weren’t supposed to be depressed. That may sound weird, but we all got health screened physically and mentally before any sort of space travel could take place. I faked both my screenings to fulfill my dream of space travel. But the sadness that soaked into my bones was seasonal I was sure.
Not that there were seasons in space. Aside from that, I was the only first time crew on board.
So I was a newbie that no one respected. Making my experience even more miserable than I imagined. And don’t even get me started on space sickness. I’ve vomited so much on this ship from the sheer nausea constantly coursing through my stomach that I’ve lost some weight. How disgusting is that?
The toilet was clogged. Again.
“Aliaz if you puke one more time in here I swear-” I murmured to myself. Aliaz always seemed to be either complaining or vomiting. And not doing his job.
It’s not hard to fly a self flying ship and he acts like it’s the most challenging job to exist. Try being a renowned NASA scientist at 18 and more recently, a math tech at the ripe age of 20. I was doing calculus by the time that kid learned to pick his nose. Come at me bro.
I made a disgusted noise when I unclogged the toilet and Aliaz’s lunch shot out into space.
“I heard that.” I turned to see Cal washing his hands. I hadn’t even heard the water running. “And you’re lucky he made it to the toilet.” He grimaced.
Cal and Aliaz were bunkmates. Cal always seemed to take the newbie under his wing despite the fact that Aliaz was pretty much incapable of doing anything useful. He even seemed to be chummy towards him despite some other crew members wanting nothing to do with him. AKA just me. The rest of the crew had arrived on planet 5Y7 weeks ago, but needed more supplies and a few more hands, so a small last ditch effort was sent. The three of us.
“Ew.” I shuddered.
“You seem to be doing better than when I last saw you.” Cal also happened to be our ship’s medic. Did I fake an illness to see him? Maybe.
“Oh, uh- one hundred percent. Thanks for everything. You really didn’t have to.”
“I didn’t have to do my job?” His eyebrows shot up in an amused manner and his smile sparkled. He had a nice smile.
I knew Kendra had a crush on me. I gave her sugar pills last time she came to my office. It’s just funny seeing her blush. It’s so obvious. Almost more obvious than Aliaz’s declining mental health. But it’s my job to keep everyone happy and healthy on this ship as best as I can. So I will keep her thinking that I don’t know. And maybe convince Aliaz to take something for his nausea. I took a mental note to prescribe some to him. That kid had issues. And I bet he faked his physical and mental evaluations. Space is not for the weak.
If Kendra would stop flirting relentlessly with my roommate, maybe I’d get sleep. She is so obnoxiously loud. She is literally on the other end of the hall, seriously. The ship is not that big. We can all hear you sing Mariah Carey in the shower and butcher those high notes Kendra.
Four more weeks. I reminded myself after my sweaty, blushy, embarrassing encounter with Cal. I unwrapped the silver foil and shoved a half heated space burrito in my mouth. “Four more weeks.” I said around the lukewarm food in my mouth. A small beeping noise came from the cabin. Aliaz followed, dragging his sorry self towards the source.
“Nice to see you up and about.” I mocked.
“Duty calls.” He shot back.
I could hear Kendra and Aliaz bicker from a room over. I rolled my eyes and moved to join them, putting a smile on my face to hopefully cut the tension. That seemed to work well with Kendra anyway.
All of a sudden, the floor shifted from beneath me with a loud groaning noise to accompany it. Kendra’s screaming voice followed.
“How hard is it to fly a ship that flies itself!” She reprimanded.
The ship shifted again and my head banged into one of the metal shelves. The last thing I heard was Aliaz’s voice saying, “Oh crap”.
“Oh crap.” Our system was hacked I think. I don’t know how or why. I wondered if it was a virus. Had we downloaded anything lately to the system? I swear if anyone downloaded Mario Kart again...
“Oh crap is right.” Kendra shoved me aside, still trying to find her balance. She started frantically typing and I tried to take over since this was my department on board, but she wouldn’t let me.
I sat there useless. I swallowed another wave of nausea as I tried to steady myself. This was some bad space turbulence. The ship rocked back and forth like we were lost at sea.
The fluorescents above us flickered as Kendra cursed at the computer.
Then, the lights went out. I rummaged for a flashlight around the main cabin and clicked it on when I found it. The light was dim and flickering, but it was better than the pitch dark.
“Go find Cal. We need all hands on deck.” I ordered.
“But- I need to find the generator first.”
“Whatever.” We didn’t have time for this.
Aliaz shuffled nervously out of the room leaving me with full attention to the complicated task at hand.
“Actually I-” Aliaz started before he clutched his stomach and rushed to the bathroom.
“Now is not the time!” I threw my hands up, abandoning the computer as the beeping became progressively louder. I turned the corner near the medic wing to see Cal on the floor.
I heard Aliaz dry heave, then “Kendra! Systems are shutting down!”
“Go fix it! I’m dealing with Cal!”
“What if I can’t” He appeared at the doorway of the medic wing quiet and his eyes shining with more fear than adrenaline. Also looking incredibly pale.
“Just go!” I was crying some now and it took all of me to try and keep my composure. What do I do first? How come I wasn’t trained for this? Wait, was I ? I don’t know. What if he’s dead? What should I do?
Get your head on right Kendra.
I was the leader on this ship (self proclaimed but still). I could do this.
I checked for a pulse. When I found one I was incredibly relieved. Now how to get him up?
“Five more minutes Mom.” He turned over. Really? I felt the second hand embarrassment from Cal’s vulnerability. Despite him at he worst he was still handsome. I propped him up and slapped his cheek a bit. His eyes cracked open some.
I opened my eyes to see a relieved Kendra and my head pounding.
“Are you okay?” She asked and I noticed her face was blotchy and wet.
“Are you okay?” I didn't know she was capable of crying. Only yelling at the crew or hardcore blushing.
“Well I hope you aren’t concussed because we have a problem.”
I went to get up and Kendra rushed to help me. I groaned in pain.
“What is it?” I asked through labored breaths. I felt like I was run over by a rover. A very large one with a vendetta against me.
“Not sure. Something is wrong with the ship.” She helped me hobble into the main cabin while inspecting me for any more damage.
“I’m fine.” I shook my arm out of hers and stabilized myself. I wondered if Aliaz felt like this everyday with all the nausea. I did not envy him.
“Hey! You’re okay.” Aliaz was sprawled out on the floor with every manual to the ship scattered around his feet. He looked like a kid coloring on the floor. But I knew not to underestimate Aliaz. He knew more about the ship than the entire crew combined. He just did not act well under pressure. That is where I came in.
“Hey what’s the problem?” I tried to be docile in my tone.
“You didn’t happen to download Mario Kart to the system did you?”
I shook my head no.
“Well that’s the only thing I could think of is someone downloading a file from Earth that corrupted the main port.”
“English please? I only know medic lingo.” I asked.
“I think someone downloaded an outside source to the computer before we left. Something that shouldn’t be there.” Aliaz had a grave look on his face.
“Why don’t we check the loading cams? It will show us what we need to know.” Kendra offered.
“Brilliant. They aren’t connected to the main port so if we get the generator running we can pull up the footage.”
“Hey um, what’s the countdown in the corner for?” I asked Aliaz. His tan skin paled. He clutched his stomach before saying “I think that’s how much time we have to figure this out.”
We were going to die in fourteen hours.
“We are not going to die.” Kendra muttered. I must’ve said the last part out loud.
“We might. Very possible.” Cal added.
I started breathing heavy and quick.
“No, no, no. None of that.” Kendra put her hands on my shoulders and made me calm down.
“Cal, generator, Kendra start prepping footage, I’ll stay here and see if I can stop the beeping sounds.” My voice shook.
They both nodded and went to do their duties.
And all I could do was panic.
By the time I got to the station’s cam room (it was about the size of a cardboard box), Cal had gotten the generator up and running pretty quickly. The lights, fans, and screens all came back on. At least where I was at. I felt some buttons press up against my spine as I squeezed further into the space, shuffling through files like my life depended on it. I guess it kind of did.
I found the date 5/27/34. That was our launch date. I scrolled back a few hours looking for anything out of the ordinary. I heard Cal’s heavy breathing and dragging footsteps before he squeezed in close next to me. I tried to pay attention to the footage but even sweaty and injured Cal smelled so good. I had the urge to put my head on his shoulder. His hand brushed mine and- holy crap Kendra get it together. I tried to ignore our proximity. Then, something caught my eye in the grainy footage.
Cal and I watched the clip in horrified silence.
It was the leader of our mission, Captain Hugo.
“Let’s download to the server now. Ready-” He is seen clicking buttons and swiping on screens.
“Everyone will think it is just an accident. A ship malfunction.” A second man I didn’t recognize came into the frame, looking smug.
“Do you think they will be okay on the new planet?” Captain Hugo asked like he was asking about his own children.
“If the experiment fails we will pull the operation. That is a promise.” The other man said.
“I don’t know.” Captain scratched the back of his neck, seeming to second guess himself.
“Having second guesses about 7TY Captain?”
The footage glitched before we could hear the rest.
I couldn’t speak. I was stunned.
Kendra was silent and in shock next to me as my mouth gaped open.
“You don’t think-” I broke the silence.
“They are sending us to the wrong planet. What about the first round of crew? And what experiment?” Kendra was wheezing with panic. I couldn’t have two panicked crew on board.
I impulsively hugged her, still trying to wrap my mind around this. To process everything. “It’s okay.” I managed weakly. I felt her shoulders relax as she leaned into my chest.
“How are we going to break the news to Aliaz?” She mumbled against my shirt.
“I’m not sure.”
My life was over as I knew it. I cried into space packaged hash browns. They were burnt but I didn’t care. I needed to drown my sorrows somehow.
“Aliaz!” Cal came running with Kendra on his tail. He whipped out a tablet and pulled up grainy footage. I sniffled and put my hash browns aside. I noticed how sad and busted we all looked. It would’ve been funny had it not followed with a horrific video.
“What do we do?” Was all I could manage.
“I think we need to turn back.” Cal suggested.
“With what supplies? Food? Fuel? Sounds great.” Came from Kendra.
“Okay what if we just tried to steer the ship towards the right planet?” Cal tried again.
“We are probably completely off course at this point.” I pressed my head in my hands, frustrated and afraid.
“Or maybe we-” Cal was cut off as the ship started beeping again.
Land cruiser 5. Nearing Planet YT7 in 4 minutes.
An automated voice. One that the ship was never programmed to have.
We all prepped for landing scared out of our minds.
Here we go.
Here we go.
Here we go.
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Bravo!! Excellant story...it was engaging...grabbed my attention from the start and kept it til the very end. Very well written!... 👏👌