“Hull is critically damaged and structural failure is imminent,” said Charon. “If you care about that sort of thing.”
Rufus slammed his fists on the controls. “Yes, we all prefer living. Thank you very much. Uh, no offense.”
Charon rolled his eyes and pointed to a glass column at the rear of the cockpit. “The best way to make a jump is to use the navigation chamber.”
“Hey Cat, dear, would you mind hopping on that?” She was already climbing into the column. Two heavy explosions shook the hull. “Report!”
The ship’s AI stated, “Two craft are in pursuit. They are firing on us.”
“But how are you doing?” Rufus asked.
“Peachy. Systems failing. Crash imminent.”
“Just what I need. A sarcastic spaceship.”
The computer cleared a throat it didn’t have and said, “Well being hijacked isn’t exactly my idea of a perfect Sunday. I was fine back at headquarters but no, someone had to steal me and take a joy ride.”
Charon nodded in agreement, “They’re right, you know. We had it made. Before the heist that is.”
“What would two know?” Rufus said trying several different switches on the control station.
Penny had her spike toed boots kicked up on the communications console. “Well, I know that I’m a certified pilot.” Rufus shook his head. She made a gesture from herself to the captain’s chair. “Want me to take over for a minute?”
“Whatever! I’ll check on Josie and Dwayne.” Rufus handed the wheel over to Penny. She took a wad of gum out of her mouth and stuck it under the console. After flipping a couple of switches, the ship lurched forward.
She smiled and called after him, “You had the parking brake on.”
He punched a wall on his way off the bridge. Taking a few quick turns he started to jump up some stairs. Josie blocked the entire corridor. She was carrying a pair of heavy barrels. She tried to go one way but Rufus tried to go that way at the same moment. He tried to correct himself back out of her way but she did as well. Finally, he backed completely off the stairwell. She said, “Sorry captain. I gotta get these down to engine room two.”
“Are those… Ion cores?”
The bulky woman sheepishly tried to hide them behind her back. “No?”
“Where did you get those?”
“We aren’t even using the Mega Cannon and we need the boost for making the Hyperspace jump.”
He held a stern finger up. “Absolutely not. If you miscalculate the power it’ll blow us all up.”
The ship’s computer droned, “Critical failures detected, decks two through six. Total destruction in ten minutes. Radiation leaks detected… everywhere, I guess.”
Josie squinted. Rufus said, “Fine, but only because we are in mortal danger.”
She smirked and started to jog to a turbolift. She said, “Yes captain.” As it descended to her floor, Dwayne jumped off. She cleared her throat. He rushed back and jumped to give her a kiss on the cheek. Pushing his glasses up, he ran up the stairs past Rufus. The captain caught him by the collar and held him off the ground.
“Uh, yes captain?”
“Why aren’t you are at your post?”
Dwayne’s eyes darted back and forth under his thick lens. He replied, “Well, Josie wanted help with the engine upgrade so I reprogrammed some of the sparring droids to fire the Turbo Blasters while I ran up there.”
The ship shook. Two more explosions rocked the ship. Rufus dropped him. He said, “And it sounds like they are doing a bang-up job.”
“Was that… sarcasm? I can’t tell.”
“Come on,” Rufus said grabbing Dwayne’s ear. Taking the steps two at a time, the captain raced to the blaster array. Two androids were fumbling with the controls of an artillery cannon. They were trying to use the same station at the same time. Rufus shoved both out of the way. A screen over the handles showed two frigates pursuing them. Concentrating with one eye closed, the captain fired off two perfect shots. The ships disintegrated into clouds of glowing atmosphere. Rufus stood up and gestured to the console. “All yours.”
“Captain, we’re all set for a jump. You might want to strap in,” Penny’s voice said through a loudspeaker.
“Copy that, I’ll be right–”
The bottom of the world fell out from under Rufus and Dwayne. Each could taste their own screams. The walls bled colors they didn’t know existed. Each second quivered shorter and longer with an uneven rhythm. The smell of copper washed over them. On the edge of passing out, the colors of the walls dulled to their normal gray. The usual smells of spent plasma canisters and oil returned. Dwayne and Rufus held each other screaming. Both stopped to look around the room before they moved apart.
“Hm, yes, sorry Dwayne.”
“My bad, Rufus.”
The captain said, “Penny?”
“Yes sir?” she responded over the PA.
“Did you let Cat make the hyper jump just now?”
“Yeah, just like you asked. Wait, were you not in a jump cradle? Oh, I am so sorry. I didn’t even wait for you. That must have felt a little weird.”
He shook his head. “Yeah, thanks for that. I’m pretty sure I got some dark matter stuck in my teeth.”
A cheery tone played over the intercom. The ship’s computer said, “There are multiple power failures, severe structural damage, and we just used all of our remaining fuel.”
Dwayne nodded, “That doesn’t sound so bad. Could have been worse, right?.”
Penny chimed in on the intercom, “Uh, Rufus? You better get down here. We have a problem.”
Rufus bit his lip. He said, “You had to jinx it.” The captain took off at a run. He stopped at the top of the stairs, “No pawning your job off on androids. Watch our tail.” He slid down the banister past Josie.
“Hey captain, are we gonna crash?” She asked, “I don’t wanna crash.”
“I don’t know. Did you overload the engines?”
She didn’t answer. Rufus ran back to the bridge. Warning lights and klaxons guided him. Charon looked up dryly from a console when he entered. They said, “Oh, look out everyone, officer on deck.”
“Can it. Where… are we?” Water rushed past the bridge’s windshield.
Cat stepped out from the navigation column. Her familiar, a cat-sized two headed dragon, crawled up her robes to sit on her shoulder. “It’s still Earth, just not ours. It’s a completely different dimension outside of ours at the farthest edge of the reality spiral as we can be.” The captain stared at her with a blank expression. “This planet should be as far away from the Aegis as we can get.” He acknowledged that with a nod.
Penny sat forward in her chair. She craned her head scanning the viewports. “I can’t tell which way is up here.” Flipping a few switches, lights clicked on in front of the vessel. The ship travelled through a red cave. Ahead a speck of light flickered.
Charon said, “I’ve recalibrated the compass and attitude indicator.”
“That can’t be right,” she said taping at the instruments. “This cave is moving.”
A pink stalactite appeared out of the darkness. Penny swerved to miss it but was too slow. The structure hit the ship and dragged across the surface. “What the…”
The mouth of the cave began to fall in with a set of jagged rocks. Rufus shook Penny’s shoulder, “Faster. The cave is collapsing.”
“I don’t think this is a cave, captain.”
Rufus gulped and took a seat. He strapped himself in. “Hey, Dwayne?” There was a pause. “Dwayne!”
“Uh, yes? Uh, sir?”
“Dwayne, fire some rounds off with the Turbo Blasters?”
There was another pause. “At… what?”
“The darkness! Just anything!”
Plasma bolts vaporized sections of the cave. Explosions rocked the ship back and forth. The mouth of the cave wretched open. A sudden rush of water pushed the ship out of the tunnel.
Dwayne said, “Captain! That wasn’t a cave at all. That’s a Levithan.”
“Yeah, we put together the monster part.”
“I’ve never seen one in the wild. It’s really impressive how big it is.”
Rufus cut him off, “What is it doing?”
“Oh, right, chasing us.”
The captain leaned over to Penny. She said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m on it.”
Teeth snapped at the ship as afterburners ignited. Sudden force tossed the crew. Penny pulled the yoke back to herself. The nose tilted toward a dull yellow light. It grew brighter until the ship broke the surface of a lake. Waves rushed out from behind them. Right on their tail, the leviathan jumped after them. Its jaws snapped off a chunk of their rear thruster. Glaring red lights flashed on the bridge.
Rufus asked, “We need to set down. Is this planet inhabited besides that beast?”
Cat shook her head, “This should be a dead world.”
As Penny leveled the ship out, a walled city stretched out in front of them. In the center stood a dark tower.
“What was that about being a dead world?”
Cat said, “No, I was told we’d be safe from the Aegis here.”
Penny nodded at the tower. “Then why is there a Citadel?”
“I don’t… I don’t understand. We need to contact my mentor. He gave me the coordinates.”
A voice said over the communicator, “Unknown… Flying castle? Whatever you are. This is Citadel Command. Identify yourself or be destroyed.”
Rufus smacked the arm of his chair. “We didn’t steal one of the most powerful interdimensional starships to just give it up now.”
Penny glanced over at him. She said, “Comms still on, sir.”
The voice on the communicator said, “Oh, so you are criminals. Cool. Makes my job easy.”
From the tower, two shapes took off. Rufus squinted. He said, “Are those missiles? Prepare for impact.”
Charon said, “They are humanoid.”
“Damn Aegis monsters.”
Charon shrugged and went back to his consoles.
Rufus threw his hands up in the air. He said, “Okay. Shoot…. Think. Think.” He snapped his fingers. “Josie? Did your engine mod work?”
He was answered by a few seconds of kissing sounds. She replied, “Oh, captain. Uh, the mod. Right.”
The captain snarled. “Are you making out with Dwayne while we are in impending doom?”
“Uh, no?” she replied.
“There is going to be a team meeting about this after we crash.”
“Yes, sir. We about fried the engine in the last jump. Another could tear reality apart.”
“Could it make a very small… leap? Just to get us physically out of here?”
Josie paused on the other end. “Yes? But there will be grave consequences to the fabric of reality.”
Rufus waved his hand, “Yeah, yeah. Penny! Prep for another jump.”
“Cat, set course. Preferably somewhere soft.”
She jumped into the navigation column. She said, “There’s a desert on the other end of this continent.”
Rufus said, “Perfect!”
The engines hummed. Every surface rattled. The lights dimmed. Sounds began to melt into color. Time wobbled and folded in on itself. The engines whirled down. There was a loud popping sound.The bridge shook. Charon raised his hand. He said, “Hold on, that happens.” The ancient man rose and walked to a pillar on the side of the room. He kicked it. As he did, the lights dimmed and the engines whirled back to a fever pitch. The ship threw itself forward with a sudden jolt. A man in full medieval knight’s armor crashed against the windshield and slide over the top of the ship. The crew recoiled.
“Woah, did you,” Rufus started to say. His words became the taste of touching a rose’s thorn. The color of a monday flushed across bridge before clearing up. “-see that?” He spat out the taste of his words.
They arrived two-thousand miles in the late afternoon. Below a brilliant blue sky were miles of arid desert. Every system cut off. Every light went dark. For a moment, the entire ship hung in the air. The blue slipped from view. They could only see sand and rocks.
Penny pulled back on the yoke. Heavy creaking noises answered her attempt. She strained and greeted her teeth. Rufus unbuckled his safety harness. He gently kicked off his chair and flew to her side. Helping her, they pulled together. Cat joined them. Between the three of them, the nose of the ship tipped up slightly in time to strike a sand dune. Rufus and Cat sailed toward the windshield. She recited a fast spell to cushion their fall. The ship struck the ground only to bounce back into the air. It floated in the air for a moment before crashing into a sand dune. The ship buried itself underground and came to a stop..
“Uuh, ow. Is everyone okay?” Rufus asked.
The ship replied, “I am completely inoperable.”
“Noted, anyone else?”
Cat coughed, “You’re standing on me.”
“Right.” The captain shuffled off of her. He ran over to check on Penny. Her eyes were wide and her hands were still digging into the yoke that was completely detached from the ship.
Josie and Dwayne walked into the bridge. Josie asked, “Any survivors?”
The others nodded.
Charon stood up and dusted himself off. He said, “Right. Where were we before you stole us. Let’s see.” He pulled out a tablet. Checking it over he asked, “Just one last question. What designation do you want for the ship… captain?”
He looked around. “What’s the current designation?”
“Grand Calamity, sir.”
Rufus looked around the dark control room. Sand trickled through a bulkhead. His crew were bleeding and covered in bruises. A console sparked. It caught fire.
“Yeah… just leave it at that. It seems fitting.”
The End for Now!