What a David Does

Submitted into Contest #238 in response to: Write a story including the line “I can’t say it.”... view prompt


Science Fiction Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Alarms blared and an amber warning light flashed beside the airlock of the spacecraft Grace. Joshua David stood steady and still beside it. 


Joshua spun to face the cry, and saw a girl running towards him, brown hair flying behind her. An older boy was chasing after her. 

“Lindsey!” Joshua opened his arms wide, and the girl ran into them. 

“Daddy, what’s going on?” His daughter’s voice was muffled against his chest. 

He hugged her hard for a moment, then let go and pulled back. He knelt in front of her and took her hands in his. “Lindsey, I need you to go with your brother, and do exactly what he tells you, okay?”

Lindsey started to cry. “Is everything going to be okay?” 

“I hope so. But right now you need to go.”

“Come with us!”

“I’m sorry, Lindsey, I can’t right now.” Joshua glanced up at Adrian, whose hands were held out a little, reaching for his sister. Joshua gave him a brief wave to back away, then looked at Lindsey again and squeezed her hands in his. “Look at me, Lindsey. What do we say when things are tough and we don’t want to do what needs doing?”

“I can’t say it,” Lindsey sobbed, tears running down her face. “I’m scared.”

Joshua took Lindsey’s tear-streaked face between his hands. “Yes, you can. I know you can. Look at me and say it. Things are tough and we don’t want to do what needs doing, but…”

“That’s what Davids do,” she replied, whimpering.

“Good girl. I knew you could.” He stood up and beckoned his son close. “Adrian, I need you to take Lindsey to our quarters and stay there. Don’t come back here, and don’t let Lindsey come back. I’ll come and get you when I can, or someone else will. Okay?”

Adrian nodded. 

“That’s my boy. I love you, Adrian.” Joshua gave Adrian a quick hug. “Now go, and I don’t want to see you again until this is over. Stay safe.” Joshua watched until they were heading down the hallway. 

The airlock hissed open, and Joshua turned to face it. 

The boarding party charged through, clad in full safety suits with tanks of atmosphere on their backs. With weapons at the ready, they stationed themselves in two loose lines reaching out from either side of the door. Since the faceplates were transparent, Joshua was able to watch the forward-most woman bark something into her comm system as her gun panned back and forth across the room and the uncomfortable welcoming committee.

Through the airlock stalked a man heavier and broader than Joshua, but with a face he knew well, despite the helmet and heavy ginger beard obscuring it. 

“Richard,” Joshua said, hands clenched at his sides. 

The man fiddled with his suit, and his voice suddenly blared from a speaker. “Would you look at that,” Richard sneered. “The deserter got himself a captaincy. My most respectful greetings, Captain David.”

How did Richard know he was the captain? Oh, right. The nameplate on his own safety suit. “What do you want?”

“You know what I’m here for. Take us to the passenger quarters.” 

Of course. They had already sent a threat to breach the hull. Whoever was still on the pirates’ ship, or even on the outside of his, could still do it once their team was in here, since they were wearing full suits. All the passengers were essentially hostages— 

Including his children. 

Adrian and Lindsey weren’t crew. Only crew wore safety suits. Adrian and Lindsey would die with all his passengers if the hull was breached. 

“Come on, Josh,” Richard said, waving his gun. “Take me where the loot is.”

No choice but to let Richard and his rogues despoil the Grace

The space pirates banged in and out of rooms as the frightened passengers were forced at gunpoint against the walls. Children cried, and Joshua struggled against his anger as he walked with Richard, his heart going out to these poor parents who could do as little to protect their children as he could to protect all of them. Any sudden motion he made could be taken as an excuse for the pirates to open fire and kill everyone. 

Away from the chaos, in a hallway leading to the crew quarters, two of the pirates appeared, dragging two figures with them. 

Cold dread churned Joshua’s guts.

A pirate’s voice crackled from his suit speaker. “Found these two in the captain's quarters. This one started fighting us.” He threw Adrian to the ground, and the boy looked up, a bruise already forming on his face. 

“Well, this kid sure looks like you,” Richard said, grabbing Adrian’s face with one gloved hand. “I wonder, who does he belong to, and why was he in a crew-restricted area?” 

“Let go of him,” Joshua said. 

“You know,” Richard said, letting go of Adrian and pulling on a fistful of Lindsey’s hair to make her look up, “I’m still not sure why you left.”

“Get your hands off of her right now,” Joshua spat. 

Richard dropped Lindsey’s hair and turned to Joshua. “Seriously, why did you leave? Things weren’t bad. I got our old captain…’s place. You could’ve been second in command. But that’s not your style, is it? You’d rather not take orders.” He turned to his men. “Get everyone together and start heading back to the ship. I'll be coming soon.”

“You know that’s not why I left,” Joshua said.

“All that God stuff can’t be the reason. Nobody believes in that.” 

“I do. I was just reading the Bible earlier today—those books you and I used to steal and rip up, remember?—’And when the wicked turneth himself away from his wickedness, which he hath wrought, and doeth judgment, and justice: he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth and turneth away himself from all his iniquities which he hath wrought, he shall surely live, and not die.’ That’s from the book of Ezechial, chapter eighteen, verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight.”

With no warning, Richard kicked Adrian.“Shut up about your God stuff, Joshua. You’re not better than me or any of us. You did the same things we did. You and I were buddies. We got up to the same stuff. Bet your precious kids don’t know about all that.” He pointed his gun at crying Lindsey. “You’re his, too, aren’t you?”

She nodded silently.

“Didn’t know your daddy used to be a pirate, did you?” When Richard didn’t get a response, he kicked Lindsey. “Answer me!”

Lindsey shrieked. 

“Lindsey,” Joshua said. “I know things are tough right now.”

“Sure are,” Richard snorted. “I decide I’m tired of your idiocy, and you guys are all dead.”

Adrian lifted his voice. “I knew. He told me.”

Richard turned to him. “Oh yeah? How ‘bout you come with us, then? He can’t stop us. No one can. Doesn’t your old man hold you back, tell you you can’t do things, make you mad?”

Adrian looked up at Richard, meeting his gaze. “Yeah, sometimes.” 

Something tugged at the back of Richard’s safety suit. He whirled, and found himself looking into Joshua’s stern face. Richard seized his old friend and slammed him against the wall. What’d you just do?”

“Ripped open your safety suit. No patch is going to cover that. If your people outside breach the hull, all the passengers will die, but you’ll die, too.” 

Richard looked down, and saw a utility knife clutched in Joshua’s hand. 

“You idiot.” Richard slammed Joshua against the wall, over and over and over as Lindsey screamed. Then he dropped him and thundered down the hall towards his ship, where the rest of his crew had already gone. 

"We need to get to the cockpit!" Adrian said. "Help me get Dad."

"Is Daddy okay?" Lindsey asked as they dragged their father down the hall.

"I don't know."

Joshua could hear Lindsey and Adrian talking. He struggled to speak, to move, to tell them to just leave him and get to the cockpit, which could be sealed off from the rest of the ship. Everyone else was probably already there, or in one of the other sealing compartments. He was slowing them down. Joshua finally got a word out into his microphone. "Just…"

"No, Dad, I'm not leaving you," Adrian said. "Things might get tough, but we do what needs doing, because that's what Davids do."

February 24, 2024 04:53

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Michelle Oliver
10:22 Feb 25, 2024

Can tell you love the sci-fi stories. This is a great slice of life a part of a bigger whole, I think. I want to know more. Do they escape? Do they survive? I hope so.


Thanks for reading and commenting, Michelle! I’m glad you enjoyed this. This is the first time I’ve completed a sci-fi story like this. I guess it was a bit of an experiment. A sequel is definitely something I can consider. P.S. I’m still watching for more of the Dying Sun stories. Hoping one will come soon!


Michelle Oliver
09:51 Feb 28, 2024

Maybe… if the right prompt comes along


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Jubilee Forbess
14:41 Feb 24, 2024

I love the vibe of this! The repetition of the "that's what David's do" mantra is really strong and helps carry the story. I love the redemption arc for the past pirate, that's clever. It reminds me of the movie Hook, have you seen that one by chance? Anyway, this was a great read and I appreciate you putting it out here for us to read. The ending makes me want to know more!


Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Rhondalise! (I love your name, by the way!) I’m so happy that the family mantra worked. I wasn’t sure if people reading it would think it was too much, but I thought it fit. That redemption arc took a bit of work to contrive. At first all I was working with was the idea that there was a crisis. I decided to make it a pirate attack, rather than just an asteroid crash or some such accident, and then I realized the stakes would all be much higher if there was some kind of personal connection betwe...


Jubilee Forbess
03:52 Feb 28, 2024

No worries! I loved it, would be happy to read more. 😊 Great take on the prompt.


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Thank you for reading. Critiques, feedback, and comments are greatly appreciated.


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