Space always seemed so infinite to Carson, massive in a way that she couldn’t truly comprehend. Ever since she was a child sitting on her father’s lap as he told her stories about far off solar systems she dreamed of visiting, Carson knew she wanted to be among the stars, the planets. She wanted to explore the massive expanse that was outer space. Unconsciously, she reached for her father’s data-tag hanging off the chain around her neck and held tight onto it. There, at that moment, she felt her father with her and imagined that it was him sitting next to her in the co-pilot position instead of Kassian.
“And so I told her that I wasn’t lookin’ for anythin’ real, ya know? I was just lookin’ for a lil bit’a fun ‘fore I left Spitzer Base,” Kassian was saying, jolting her away from her daydreams and back to reality. “And that leeta had the balls ta say that I was playin’ with ‘er feelin’s! I told her from the beginnin’ that I wasn’t lookin’ for squat.” Carson rolled her eyes and held back the urge to inform her superior officer and co-pilot that the situation he found himself in could have easily never happened had he followed the Federation’s rules in the first place and didn’t have relations with anyone, same species or not, in the military. She’d told him time and time again that his ways were going to get him in trouble, but he never listened. They’d been piloting together ever since she had earned her status as a Warrior First Class three months ago. The Warrior Corps was one of the most elite regiments in the Federal Fleet, only the best of the best fighter pilots were accepted into their ranks. Sometimes she had a hard time understanding why Kassian was among their ranks, but all doubts were erased from her mind whenever they went into battle together. He was one of the best pilots she’d ever seen, though she’d never admit it to him in person. That would only expand his already massive ego.
A light began flashing on the left side of the panel in front of her and a loud beep sounded across the entirety of the ship. Something was forcing them to drop out of Faster-Than-Light speed. The ship shuddered and Kassian did his best to keep the ship as stable as possible as Carson worked to figure out what had knocked them out of FTL. “What the livin’ hell was that?” Kassian exclaimed as the ship came to a stop somewhere in the Xavian solar system.
“I’m not sure, Kass… nothing was on the scanners then all of a sudden we were forced out of FTL.”
Carson was trying to figure out what exactly had happened, but she wasn’t used to flying a freighter halfway across the galaxy. While both she and Kassian could fly it, there wasn’t a doubt about it; the systems in it were more archaic than the XX-Ajax she was far more used to flying. When she had asked her superior officer why they were flying a 20 year old Freighter to Casimir Base rather than having a Freight pilot fly it, he’d danced around the subject with a line about it being classified and that the Freighter they’d be flying had such outdated tech, no one would be looking for it. Carson had raised an eyebrow but did as she was commanded. All she knew was that they were transporting a new Warrior-Class ship to Casimir Base for testing. Kassian had attempted to extract more information on the new ship, but their commanders were tight-lipped.
“Yer sure there’s nothin’ on the scanners?”
“There’s nothing there, and there’s nothing wrong with the ship.” Carson ran a hand through her dark hair and sighed. Carson and Kassian sat in silence for a few moments, the only sound was the humming of the ship’s engine.
“Shit,” Kassian said breaking the silence. “Shit, shit.” He slammed a fist down on the arm rest. “Shit.”
“Care to explain?”
Just as Kassian opened his mouth to respond, the alarm system sounded. Kassian and Carson jumped into action, attempting to figure out who they were being hailed by and why their system hadn’t picked up the other ship. “I’ve ‘eard rumors of it, but I never thought that anythin’ like this could ‘appen, ya know?” Kassian shook his head and grasped the bridge of his nose between his pointer finger and thumb, closing his eyes.
“What is happening, Kassian?”
“Some of the guys were talkin’ at the pub the otha night ‘bout the rebel’s science-guys makin’ some progress with their FTL drives. They heard somethin’ ‘bout them bein’ able ta knock ships outta FTL with some cloaked ship er somethin’. I didn’t believe ‘em because that’s crazy, ya know? But like this shit is startin’ ta make me think otherwise.”
Carson just stared at Kassian in shock. “You didn’t think to mention that, I don’t know, when we dropped out of FTL!” She shook her head, about to say more when static crackled over the com system as whatever ship was hailing the Freighter attempt to breach the communications system. The speakers crackled more from disuse before a sharp, ear-piercing screech caused Carson and Kassian to cry out in pain, clutching their ears before it abruptly stopped.
A woman cleared her throat, “Hello? Is this thing working...ah yes, okay good. We haven’t had to use this system in years. Your com system is more than a little outdated.” Carson and Kassian shared a glance. What the hell was happening? “Anyway, let’s get down to business, shall we? You lot are carrying a very important ship aboard that Freighter, and while your dear old commanders thought that you’d be safe in this unmarked Freighter, they were sorely mistaken.”
Kassian reach forward and pressed down on his com button. “Ya know darlin’, yer goin’ ta bore us ta death here if you keep up this rate. How ‘bout ya just get ta the point?”
They heard the woman take a deep breath over the com system and Carson could hear the agitation steaming from the unseen woman. If there was one thing that Kassian was good at other than being a pilot, it was pushing people’s buttons. “I was getting there Officer Jones.” The color drained out of Carson and Kassian’s complexion. The assumed rebel ship knew who they were. No one was supposed to know about this mission. A few of their friends had known they were going off base for a mission, but no one knew what it entailed. Their involvement was top-secret and only a few people other than themselves knew about it. “Yes Officer Jones and Officer Forst, I know who you are. Now, I want you to turn over the Warrior-class ship you have on board, and we’ll let you both go on your merry way peacefully. Sound good?”
Kassian turned to his right and stared Carson directly in the eyes. She knew what he was about to say and what they were about to do. She knew what she was going to have to do. “We can’t let these loonie-buckets have this ship. We’re gunna have ta fight an’ fly our way outta this one. You’re in charge of weapons.” Carson nodded, her lips in a tight line. Kassian turned back and slammed his hand down on the mic’s button. “Now listen here Miss Rebel-lady, there ain’t a chance in hell of us givin’ over anythin’ of ours ta ya loons. If ya actually thought there was a chance of that happenin’ y’all really dunno much, do ya?” He chuckled before nodding to Carson who leaped out of her chair and hurried out of the cockpit and down the hall. She climbed up the ladder into the weapon’s chair. Over the com’s loudspeaker Carson could hear Kassian still speaking with the rebel ship’s commander. “Now here’s what yer goin’ ta do, lady. Yer goin’ ta let us go on our merry way wit-out givin’ ya what we have on board, and we’re goin’ ta forget all this business happened, okay?”
Kassian turned off the overhead com and used their telecom device on their earpieces to relay to Carson that she should ready weapons. “Good luck, Carson,” Kassian said before switching back to the ship’s com system. “Well if you ain’t goin’ ta give us the courtesy of respondin’...” Kassian trailed off. The rebel’s ship had locked weapon’s onto the smaller Freighter.
“Officer Jones, if you aren’t going to give us the ship freely, you do realize we’re prepared to shoot you into oblivion, right?”
“And, Miss Rebel Captain, you do realize how hard that’s going to be, correct?” As the words left his mouth, Kassian cloaked the Freighter and cut off communication with the other ship. Carson figured the rebel’s ship would still be able to somewhat track them, but they more than likely wouldn’t be able to aim their weapons at what they couldn’t see. Carson, as Kassian began to pilot the Freighter away from the rebel ship. They’d have to get far enough away from the rebel ship in order to be able to jump into FTL.
The rebel ship was preparing to fire, but so was Carson. She locked onto where she assumed the propulsion system of the ship was located. “Cass, I’m locked onto the rebel’s ship. When you’re ready, give the order.” The rebellion’s ship began firing, near their location but not accurate enough. They missed every shot. Carson raised an eyebrow. They couldn’t be that horrible of a shot, could they?
“Hold on firin’ fer a sec.” Kassian’s voice rippled through the speaker in her ear. “I don’t think they know where we are. I don’t think they were trackin’ us after all.”
“So someone told them our path?”
“That’s what I’m thinkin’.”
“If I knew that, I woulda told you already, Carson.”
Suddenly, an alarm went off on the ship, blaring in Carson’s ear drums. “Kassian what the hell is that?”
“Its sayin’ we’re on some sortta collision course but there ain’t nothin’ ahead of us. I’m literally lookin’ at open space and nothin’ is poppin’ up on the scanners. I can’t even tell how big whatever the thing is the damn alarm is goin’ off about.”
“Could it be another ship?”
“Not sure...I don’t think so. I’m goin’ ta try ta -” Suddenly, the ship began shaking and Carson was nearly thrown from the weapons chair. She could barely contain her grip on the armrests. The ship was shaking like it was about to fall apart. She looked down at her scanners and realized that all of the ship’s systems ship down, and, just as she noticed the systems were down, she felt them begin to fall. Falling towards what, Carson wasn’t sure. All she knew was that something was wrong with her ship and from her position in the weapon’s chair, there wasn’t anything she could do.
“Kassian! What the hell is happening?” she yelled into the microphone, desperately hoping that he had a better understanding of what was going on that she did. She cursed that she was stuck in the weapon’s chair. She would’ve been far more help up in the co-pilot’s seat, but at the speed they were falling at, there was no way she’d make it to the front of the ship.
“Carson!” Kassian’s voice came through the mic, but static muffled the words. “I don’ know what’s happenin’. All the systems shut down an’...holy shit!” The mic cut out and Carson began panicking.
The mic crackled. “...I don’ know where it came from. The whole damn planet just appeared outta nowhere!” The mic crackled more. “There musta been a electo field ‘round the planet er somethin’ er a cloak er somethin’.”
“Can you get systems back online and make the jump to FTL? It’s dangerous, but it’s our only option at this point. ”
“Don’t ya think I’m tryin’ ta do that?”
She cursed under her breath and her hand reached up and she felt for her dad’s data-tag. She grasped it and held it tight in her grasp, taking a deep breath. She thought of her family, her parents, sister and brother, and how much she missed them and how much she wished that things would have worked out differently, especially between her and her sister. But she couldn’t change that now, no matter how much she wanted to.
She left like they had been falling for hours, but she knew that it had only been seconds, minutes maybe. Then, suddenly, she heard the sound of the system coming back online and almost immediately Kassian’s voice began echoing in her hears. “I’m goin’ ta try to slow our descent! We might still make it outta this, Carson!”
She nearly cried out in joy, but held it in. They weren’t out of the woods just yet. She knew they were getting close to the surface. She could see it on her scanners. They were getting closer and closer to the surface of the planet, and she could feel the ship trying to slow down. She knew in her heart that it wasn’t going to be enough. There was no way that they’d be able to slow down enough. They’d been falling for too long, too fast.
Alarms were sounding all around, lights flashing. And then there was Kassian’s voice, “Brace yerself for impact!”