Author: Steven French
“They came out of nowhere” is what survivors of battles always say. But it’s true, they did. Somehow the enemy managed to open up warpgates without the usual tell-tale emissions and we barely had time to register their presence, before they were upon us.
Next thing I knew the Abandon Ship siren was ringing in my ears and everyone was scrambling down corridors for the escape pods. At the time it all seemed completely unreal – there were no explosions, no fires or smoke or electrical sparks spraying all over the place, no shudders as the ship came apart. There weren’t even any screams or cries, just the sound of feet pounding the deck, and panting breath. Most people ran towards the multi-person pods and I did too, chasing after the other assistant navigators but at the last moment an ensign dived in before me. As the doors closed I caught a glimpse of one of my friends shrugging and making that ‘Sorry bud!’ face.
So, I grabbed the first single-person escape pod that was free, strapped myself in and punched the ‘eject’ button. Through the view screen I watched the ship recede, at first sighing with relief and then gasping in horror as it blew apart, sending an expanding sphere of debris ripping through the pod swarm. Including the one with all my friends. I guess mine narrowly escaped total destruction by pure chance but still it took a hit that damaged the comms array and wrecked the view facility.
However, with the adjustable deep sleep programme I was able to survive for months. Until the programme was interrupted by the rescue protocols and I was brought back to consciousness. Feeling gravity once more I pressed the ‘Yo! there’s life inside here!’ alert but maybe that was damaged too because there was no response. Comms were still patchy but the translator was working at least and I caught snatches of conversations:
“… good find! This’ll definitely be worth something …”
“ … open up?”
“No. Best to wait.”
“Hey!” I shouted “There’s someone in here.” I pushed the release handle but nothing happened. I tried pounding on the walls but still, nothing.
After a long while, the on-board AI suggested a return to deep sleep and I agreed, to save resources.
Now, I’m conscious once more after the programme was interrupted by some further change in the local environment and again I can hear bits and pieces of an exchange outside.
“ … bid for this damaged but still beautiful piece of tech? Shall we start at 35 thousand?”
Thirty five thousand what? And there’s bidding? What is going on??
“ … fifty thousand? Any advance on fifty thousand for what is surely a much sought-after collectors’ item? Fifty five? Thank you, my friend …”
I’ve tried pounding on the walls again and screaming that I’m alive but it’s made no difference. Now I can hear different voices, close by.
“… open it up? See what’s inside?”
“Are you crazy? It’s worth so much more unopened – a genuine escape pod that survived the war more or less untouched. Think of it as an investment for the future …”
With deep sleep and recycling, the pod could keep me alive far into that future. Alive and in mint condition.