Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Confined in a 4-metre cube with nothing but my thoughts for company. Poor conversation and haunting memories by day, convoluted dreams by night. The dreams are too disturbing to contemplate long enough to unravel, so they leave varying degrees of disassociation in their wake. I kind of welcome that. Anything to relieve the monotony. After the first sets of 100 press-ups and sit-ups, I switch to jogging on the spot until my legs give way. Takes a while. I’m in the best physical condition of my life. My instructor would be proud, I think. She’d certainly be surprised. I was never one for excelling at anything. Doing just enough to get by without hassle was my way.
Explaining the reasons for that would take a while and requires insight I don’t possess: family problems, inadequate father figure, who knows?
Back to it. Every month or so I like to do this. Tell the walls my story. Keeps things from coming loose in my head.
Earth got attacked. Nothing major, but it took a lot to stop them. ‘Them’ being ‘Naxon’ – as close as we could get to their pronunciation. From the remains, we pieced together coordinates for their homeworld and reverse engineered their technology. When volunteers for the crazy plan to invade the Naxon homeworld came up short, they drafted a few ‘suitable candidates’ to do ‘non-essential roles’.
Having a qualification in plumbing along with a criminal record, I was deemed suitable for ‘flow maintenance’: bathroom cleaning. Clever PR like that meant ‘Defiance’, our massive spaceship, left Earth with a full complement of heroes and heroines.
By the time we reached Naxdoonif, I had become a trainee gunner/navigator on one of the Condor gunships – after fourteen months of cleaning toilets, it was the only escape option. With eighteen months of simulator training, I strapped myself into the seat, ready for our first raid against the Naxon.
I can’t say whether we were outgunned, ambushed, or just hopeless. All I remember is a period of yelling and screaming while shooting at planes that seemed to be able turn on the spot while doing several hundred kph. Someone shouted about ‘teleport orientation’. I still can’t figure that out.
What I did understand was the second sun that grew in the sky when the ‘Defiance’ blew up. Our home, our support, and the only way back, was gone.
Some surrendered immediately, some fought until downed, some flew into enemy machines or installations. I was up for surrendering: a minority vote. When our Condor got shot down and crashed through a forest, I was thrown clear as it rolled into a lake.
Since capture, I’ve been here. No interrogation, nothing. Just two meals a day, unlimited water, a toilet that auto-flushes at sundown, and a new bar of soap each week. The guards who bring the food aren’t Naxon. These guys have rocks for heads and tentacles for fingers. Over the last few years, I’ve found out they’re from a slave planet, just like Earth has become.
I’m never going home. The guards reckon I’ll be transferred to the Human exhibit at some huge museum-cum-zoo, whenever the Naxon finish building the enclosure. They have small groups of every race they’ve conquered on display. It’s an educational thing.
The possibilities of that are the stuff of my daydreams: meeting a pretty woman, making the best of our exile, and all the usual ‘last hero’ fantasies. Deep down, I know I’m going to end up on my own, cleaning toilets. But, until that happens, I’ll let the daydreams make me smile.