“The proud USS Intrepid moves closer to the edge of space as we have known it.” Jacobi narrated under his breath. He studied his monitor, searching for any sign of danger as the ship slipped beyond Earth’s solar system.
At the station beside him, Kat laughed. “You’re such a geek.”
“God, if I was anything else…what a miserable life that would be,” he retorted with a smirk. The monitors’ light illuminated his mocha skin and the black of his coiled hair. “Just think! In a few seconds, we’ll be further than anybody’s ever been. In a few days, we’ll have reached Alpha Centauri. How’d we manage to sneak aboard a ship like this?”
From behind them, Thomas snorted. “You two suffered through the Academy just like the rest of us.”
“Suffered?” Kat scoffed. “We’re going to be the first humans to reach another solar system. The first to walk on a planet under a star other than our sun.” Her lips curled into a smile. “Jacobi’s right. This is brilliant.”
Thomas slid his chair to sit between the other two. “Just because we haven’t run into trouble yet doesn’t mean we’re getting there safely. Plenty could go wrong.” He plucked a pin from Kat’s bun. Swatting his hand away, her long fingers went to work, putting the bit of plastic back into place. Her tawny eyes glowered playfully.
Shoving Thomas back, Jacobi returned to his screen. “There’s nothing there, carrot top.”
Drifting back to his own station, Thomas hummed softly. The strange little tune bounced around their area. Fluctuations and star charts covered their screens. Their eyes sought the familiar blips forewarning black holes. Anything else could be easily overcome.
While everyone focused on their work, Jacobi shifted in the silence. His eyes moved like magnets drawn to Kat’s face. He watched the freckles across her nose dance as she crinkled it in concentration. Her olive skin seemed paler than Thomas’s brutal white beneath the artificial light, but her smile stole his breath away. A flush spread across Jacobi’s face when Kat’s eyes jumped to him.
“Shit, Jack!” Her hand stretched, pointing to something on his monitor, but anything else she might have said fell away as the ship shook beneath a foreign onslaught.
Alarms blared overhead. Alien weaponry shredded shields meant for asteroids. Though the pilots attempted to maneuver and run, the engines tore from the haul. Through the tears, bodies flew, spat into the vacuum. Grabbing Jacobi’s arm, Kat tugged him from his seat. She ran down the corridor, leaping over the mess of consoles. Jacobi followed close behind. Another shot threw them forward, but Kat didn’t pause. Pulling on her outer suit, she sealed the helm and threw another to Jacobi. Her hand curled around a hold point, and when the ship shook, only her firm grip on his arm kept Jacobi from flying backward.
Thomas wasn’t so lucky. As Jacobi slammed on his helmet, sealing and equalizing the pressure too quickly, their floor was torn asunder. Thomas’s body snapped back. If he screamed or struggled, no one could hear, but Kat’s eyes widened, and she pulled Jacobi tight to her as he lurched against the artificial gravity failed.
Blood rushed his head. Both eardrums popped, bursting from the contrasting pressure. Kat grabbed his helm. Her lips moved, but any sound drowned in the aching pulse within his ears. She clung to him. The pressure of her hands held him as an anchor against the vacuum of space. Deaf – temporary or not – he could endure. Floating through space, that was the pressing matter. The propulsion systems permitted them to travel in the open ship as others drifted into space.
Life vessels lined the exterior of the ship, and the nearest one was only a few yards away. They flew and crawled forward despite the bodies lifelessly floating around them. The door was sealed and meant for bio-access. With the exposure, the locks could be overridden, but the sky was visible, and that damn enemy ship flew around them without halting sending more and more lasers to tear through the metal. From his memory, the whoosh of the doors echoed as Kat unlocked a pair. His eyes met hers. A breath passed, and they closed them. No one else was coming. The evacuation vessel’s artificial gravity set them back on the floor as they slid into the pilots’ chairs.
The ship disconnected from the main ship, floating slowly into space. Searching through the computer, Jacobi could not find a reason for the slowness until he glanced up at Kat who held a gloved hand to her helmet miming silence and pointing upwards. The attacking spacecraft was like something from a twentieth-century science fiction television show. Black metal in crude edges with what looked to be fins like a fish covered the body. Cannons swiveled seeking targets, but Kat flew them like debris. She kept the craft’s energy output low. Other pods sped out. Lasers slammed into them, scattering their ashes into the growing cloud of the Intrepid’s wreckage.
Flickering electronics, Jacobi kept the signals blurred, mimicking malfunctioning junk. His own scream blared on repeat in his deafened ears. If they survived, he could deal with whatever damage deafened him. For now, Jacobi stared ahead, glancing between the ship above and the debris. His heart raced at the sight of other escape pods, but one by one, the alien vessel blew them out of existence. Hope withered, and then the cannons turned on them.
They lept, flinging themselves to the back of the pod as a laser tore through their hull. They stilled as the world around them shifted. Gravity failed. Head over heels, they both spun, clinging to each other as spheres descended from the ship above. Jacobi swallowed, holding faster to Kat. The metal balls flew through the wreckage toward them. Expanding like a balloon, the metal opened and swallowed them. In the darkness, Kat raged beside him. She pounded against the thin shell, but it held firm.
When the metal cleared away, chains and gravity weighed Jacobi down. Kat stood over him. Vicious and beautiful. He couldn’t see her face. Couldn’t see the beautiful curves of her lips, but his body ached as they took her away. Two aliens in black suits dragged her away. She kicked, slamming her head into theirs.
Another suited alien sauntered toward Jacobi. It was humanoid in shape. Two legs and two arms with an oval shaped head. Blue and white swirled across the black suit. They looked more like a motorcycle gang than an alien armada. Not the rough and rumble sort but the pretentious sons of millionaires playing at being from the wrong side of the tracks. Drumming its fingers against its leg, the alien stepped closer. A section of its suit detached. Two prongs extended toward Jacobi like a taser, and as the alien took aim, Jacobi could only guess it was a weapon. Nothing happened. The alien shook its hand, inching closer. Kat flailed even more.
“I can’t hear anything.” Though Jacobi attempted to keep his volume normal, his voice thrummed in his skin. “My ears blew, I can’t -,” it was a gun.
The laser blasted through his suit. Copper coated his tongue as air flooded him. A mix of gasses swirled around his nose. Something poison turned his cells against each other. Held hostage by suited aliens or behind bars, the remaining crew of the Intrepid watched as he fell. Twenty-four – he counted idly as the world grew dark. There were only twenty-four survivors, and he could not imagine they would be alive for long. Like magnets, his eyes looked to Kat.
“I love –”