It had been 7 weeks since the commander of the Arcial fleet pulled me into his office. Ever since that day, things really started to change in my life, not just in the obvious sense, I was treated like a completely different person by my peers and crew. When the orders for my removal from the cruiser to the Valkyrie and the change in my rank were posted on the news boards, my friends stopped talking to me. The next morning I saw all of my gear had been moved out of my locker and strew throughout the ship and I had to go and collect it by myself. This kept happening day after day, and when I got everything together and brought it back to my locker, there was almost always either a letter from someone who wanted a “You help me, I’ll help you” kind of offer or a death threat. Although that wasn’t the worst of it, as I tried to recover my gear I was ridiculed and shunned by everyone, including my best friend Ali. I couldn’t do anything about it because technically I wasn’t a Head Engineer until I was onboard the Valkyrie, but for Ali to point and make fun at me, I lost control.
I grabbed the nearest person in the hall, which happened to be the shield operator that had forgotten his belt when the commander came for me. At first I decided to throw him against the wall of the hallway and proceed grab his hair and smash his face against the wall till his nose was thoroughly broken. I had knocked him unconscious and his face slid down the wall, leaving a crimson streak as it went, and he made a huffing sound as his body flopped onto the floor of the hallway. Moments later someone put me in a choke hold, unable to escape I slipped into the depths of unconsciousness.
When the commander got word of my little incident he proceeded to arrange a permanent leave to the planet below until the Valkyrie was ready to have me shuttled up. On the surface I didn’t visit any family for one simple reason, I had none. It was all in the “agreements” when you signed up to be a member of the United Planets Armada. In particular, the part about CWP, Cryostasis Warp Protocols. In short, warp travel across one galaxy can take up to 5 years at a time and the ships put the crew into cryostasis, which is when the crew is put into sleep and frozen, to preserve crew training and conserve antimatter for the engines. So when you start taking lots of trips on a ship, all those years of cryo sleep start adding up, and before you know it, everyone you ever knew is dead and gone, never to be heard of again.
I spent 5 weeks in an apartment, that was more of a metal box with a virtual reality immersion rig, a sleeping pad, and a toilet and sink that pulled out from the wall. In all thoughtfulness this was a pretty good apartment, considering most of the population slept in little cubbies in a “hotel” somewhere underground. This became my home for 5 weeks, until the valkyrie got here, and my schedule consisted of; sleeping, eating the supplement shaped into gourmet meals, and plugging in to my immersion rig to help drown out the sounds of the massive robotic factory that resided close by to the apartment.
When I received a letter that I was to take the shuttle to the Valkyrie, I didn’t even have to pack my bags. Working as an engineer on a cruiser wasn’t a glorious job at all, and it didn’t allow for many possessions, or any, at that. So I locked the closest thing I had to home, and dropped the keys off at the deposit box and an iron door opened to let me through.
“Sir!” said a man wearing an officer uniform and carrying a briefcase, obviously military.
“At ease,” I said uneasily, I wasn’t used to having to say that. The irony made a smirk sneak across my face.
“I’m Sergeant Peterson sir, and my orders are to escort you to the nearest shipyard for immediate deployment on the Fleet Carrier: Valkyrie.”
“Ya Ya! Whatever, and cut that ‘Sir’ crap out already.”
We arrived at the shipyard at 1300 hours. My “transport” ship was there, prepped and waiting for me to board. In reality it was a refurbished fighter, painted with the fleets emblem and its munitions were removed. It also had a fresh coat of snow white paint and red and gold accents. The empire would never pay for a paint job like that, meaning the commander paid for it himself.
“Sir.” said Peterson as he handed me the briefcase.
I huffed and took the briefcase, which was surprising heavy. It also had a combo lock keeping it closed.
“What is the combo on this thing anyway?”
“I don’t know sir, my orders from the captain were to deliver it to you when we got to the shipyard. Sir.”
“Well that’s great,” I said out loud. Just more stuff for me to carry, which wasn’t a big deal but it was a little outlandish.
I headed to the front gate of the shipyard and I showed my military issued ID. Security saluted me and let me and Peterson through. I headed immediately to the lift which would bring me all the way to the boarding platform where I would then walk across a little bridge and board the transport.
As the lift took us up, I inspected the briefcase a little closer. It was pretty heavy duty, metal casing, reinforced hinges, the works. Obviously this wasn’t supposed to be opened by anyone but me, so I started try combinations to see if I could get it open. First I tried my birthday.
Wouldn’t budge, so I went on and tried the day I was sworn in to the military.
Still wouldn’t budge, but then suddenly I realized it might be the coordinates of the Arcial fleet!
Click! The briefcase cracked open, and I took a look inside. There was a bunch of papers in there, schematics of the ship, crew descriptions, part manifests, ect. But something caught my attention, a sealed plastic bag. I opened it up and it contained my new military issued ID, a key to my locker, and, two small red dots.
These dots, although not seeming so, are the most significant thing someone like me would see. They attached to your uniform signifying your rank. Red is the highest you can go in your branch. I was an Engineering Commander. But not only did they give you respect, they gave you access to any part of the ship you're assigned to automatically. I removed the sticky backing on them and put them in their respective places on my uniform. I felt an adrenaline rush as well, just as the lift came to a stop.
“Congratulations sir!” said Peterson.
I ignored him and proceed to exit the lift and head towards the ship. I chucked my old ID in the nearest trashcan to me, which happened to be right next to one of the lavatories on the platform. My brain had a little talk with my bladder and boy did I have to piss. So I went to relieve myself.
Not only did the ship have a nice exterior, it had a nice interior too! Normally a fighter was a one seater vessel, but with all of the military hardware removed, there was room for two leather seats. The commander had really outdone himself this time, but it also meant that Peterson was to come with. To be completely honest, I could easily fly a fighter all by myself, but Peterson had insisted that he should fly it. Which isn’t surprising, the commander probably didn’t want his nice paint job all banged up. Especially after him spending his own credits on it.
I fastened myself into my seat and looked at Peterson, he had a stone-cold look on his face, getting me to my destination was obviously the only thing on his mind. I liked it better this way, it gave me a chance to get my thoughts together, plus I wouldn’t have to hear “Sir!” uttered from his lips at the moment.
I closed my eyes, I could hear the blood pounding in my ears. My hairs were standing on end and a single bead of sweat dripped from nose onto my shirt. The anti-matter engine screamed to life. The vibrations ripped through the ship and into my spine. It was time for takeoff.
This story was submitted by Ezra Stahl for the AE Stories Event. Find Details on sending your own Story here.