Avalon [Flash Fiction]
Personal Log: Captain Aloysius Wren
There’s a saying my great-grand-pappy liked to churn out when things weren’t going his way: Up shit creek without a paddle. It’s a saying I’ve only had to use three times in my life—until today. As figures of speeches go, it’s a pretty damn apt one right now.
I’ve nobody to blame but myself. Shouldn’t have tempted fate by taking a shortcut through the Voltire Nebula. Ten days off our journey versus the possibility of crossing paths with pirates. Sounded like a no-brainer at the time. Figured we could sneak past any smuggling ports or listening posts. Avalon’s small and quiet. Should’ve been easy, but I guess someone looked out the window at the wrong time and made a visual on us.
They chased us halfway across the Nebula, three huge, battered old Kyrian cruisers. Normally, a ship as small as Avalon wouldn’t hold much interest for pirates, but I guess when prey wanders willingly into the lair of the beast, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a bountiful feast or a meagre morsel. There was no chance of us outrunning those cruisers on sublights, so the second we were far enough from the Nebula’s gravimetric distortions, I ordered the jump to hyperspace.
In the long moment between space phases, when everything around the ship seemed to stretch out like a band of elastic ready to snap, I thought we were going to make it. I could feel the hyperspace pull in my bones, and my heart soared with relief.
One of the cruisers got off a final shot just as we jumped to hyperspace. Sheared the starboard tachyon sail right off, which almost took the ventral fin with it. The fin was hanging loose by a thread of fine control wires, but we somehow managed to hold on to it. A blow like that, to a ship bang in the middle of a tachyon stream, should’ve been lethal. We should’ve gone hurtling out of the stream, ripped apart as we slammed back to sublight, scattering our molecules across a half-dozen systems.
Maybe we’re lucky. Maybe there really is some ancient devi watching over us, as some of the Avalon’s more superstitious crew-members claim. All I know is, Baines managed to keep us in the stream long enough for us to flounder our way here. If there was an award for most ballsy pilot, I’d make sure Baines won it.
Thanks to those Kyrian dogs, we weren’t able to fully stabilise when we finally exited hyperspace. The geocomputer miscalculated the distance to the planet, and we emerged much too close. Talbot managed to winch the sails in before they could be ripped off by an uncontrolled atmospheric entry, but the sublight stalled, giving us zero ability to back-thrust.
If this was any planet other than Aldessa, we’d all be corpses right now. Baines turned Avalon’s nose into the fall so we hit the ocean like a dart. I heard the hull scream as it tried to compensate for the sudden burst of pressure, as pieces were torn off by the stress of the impact. The aquadrive flooded, and we sprung a leak in the aft cargo hold.
Those devi again. The Liirkans dispatched one of their living submersibles to tow us up to the surface. After a day’s worth of deliberation—during which it was all hands on the galley pans to bail out seawater—they granted us special permission to step foot on their sacred ancestral island. A rare occurrence, for off-worlders to be allowed to walk on the only piece of dry land on the planet, but to be honest, I think they were hoping we could make fast repairs and get back into space.
That was four days ago. It’s hard to make repairs when you have no spare parts, no dry-dock, and only half the tools you need to get the job done. We try to respect the Liirkans’ cultural heritage by giving the crumbling temple a wide berth, but the waste disposal unit’s on the fritz, and I’ve no idea what we’ll do if that fails. Piss into the same pans we used for bailing, I guess.
At least we managed to make our delivery. The Liirkans are pleased we got their crate of rare Kittiki marsupials here in time for their crowning ceremony. Don’t know what part the marsupials are supposed to play in the ceremony, and I think I’d rather not ask.
So. Here we are. Up shit creek and missing not only a paddle but a functional aquadrive and a tachyon sail. Even if we manage to fix the sublight and limp our way into space, I’m not sure how Baines is going to get us back into a tachyon stream without the starboard sail to balance Avalon out.
Great-grand-pappy had another saying. Every cloud has a silver lining. I’ve been trying real hard, these past four days, to find that elusive silver. All I can say is, at least we’re all getting nicely tanned.
#BlogBattle happens again!
Genre: Science Fiction
Was really torn on whether to hang back with last week’s Chuck Wendig inspired flash fic and use it for both challenges (because I’m super lazy), or to write something new. Went with the latter. If you’re a fan of 1) competitive writing, 2) flash fiction, 3) being challenged, 4) reading awesome stories, then check out Blog Battle and join the fun!
I will be on vacation to Mars for the rest of the week (gotta check on how my nanites are doing!) so I’ll hopefully be back in time to peruse the other stories and throw some votes around.