Category: Bravo-Four-Zero



“Is that everything Pinky?” asked Rog, a bit more sullen than she had ever seen him. Pinky blinked her big eyes in the affirmative as if unable to speak and Rog wondered if he needed as much as wanted the mech to feel, to feel what he felt too numb or too angry or too confused to process. “That’s all. Tell Goldie I appreciate everything the two of you have done. Are you sure we’ve retrieved everyone’s personal effects?”

“Yes Mr. Rog. Everything is present and accounted for,” responded Pinky, her normal silly playfulness clearly absent.

Rog sighed at the irony of that thought coming from a mech. Everything, he mused. Everything indeed was not accounted for, not present. What had happened to Kyra, Em and Von was anyone’s guess but one thing was clear—they were not on Bravo. Nor were there any clues; no note, no sign, no transmission, no nothing to indicate what might have happened. For all intents and purposes, Kieran might just have well swooped down and scooped them up into the heavens. Wouldn’t be the first time; still, only one small problem with that theory–Where were the bodies?

“Will there be anything else Mr. Rog?” asked Pinky.

Rog shook his head.

Pinky hovered to the exit. Rog waited for her to leave before he opened the box in front of him, almost embarrassed to sift through someone else’s personal belongings. He was sure his father would not have approved. Not your place, he would have said in a solid tone that needed no further explanation.

Thoughts of packing this up and sending to next of kin flashed through Rog’s mind and he smiled, again at the irony, of how wonderful it would be if there were next of kin to notify. Everything is relative he thought as the smile faded as quickly as it had come. There were no next of kin, for any of them, which also meant their was no father to tell him what to do or not to do.

The first box he picked up was unmarked. Inside he found several sketches, which told him this belonged to Em and his thoughts flashed back to their mission together on Neraj and the time they spent waiting for the Tear to open again. It was the first time she had shared her art with him, the first time she had opened up, talking about her father and sailing the open sea. Em was as sweet and innocent and genuine as they came—and tough too, he learned later, which only made the nagging thought of what had happened all the more painful.

Picking up the first sketch, Rog sighed. Bravo. Unfinished. Everything always seemed to be unfinished. Always a loose end here, a regret there, be it word or action. And now Bravo. Rog walked to the port window. There she sat. Silent. Quiet. Dark. They would be leaving soon and Bravo would not. Rog felt his heart beat and he looked at her golden hull as if Bravo was looking back at him as a puppy does with eyes that say don’t leave me. And it was or so it seemed. Bravo was home, had been home for more than eighteen months and in a few hours, like Hyneria before, she would fade from sight, abandoned, rejected, useless.

Rog looked down. Em’s sketch was crushed in his leathery hands, the damage done. Where is home he thought, as images of Yul popped into his head.

“Rog,” commed John, “we’ve got an incoming message. You might want to see this.”

Categories: Story, Rog, Pinky, John Discovery, Bravo-Four-Zero

Letters

Em walked across her quarters and stood in front of her window. Like all the other quarters on Bravo, the entire forward wall of her main living area was a window to the universe. Em soaked in the magnificent view and took a deep breath, her chest rising with the slow sure steadiness of the morning sun. Standing in front of the window was as close to standing on the bow of her father’s ship as she could get. The resounding smack of the bow embracing each wave remained ever present in her mind’s ear. Only the fresh cool salty sea spray kissing her face and the warm southern breeze teasing her hair were lacking.

One other thing was missing. Like the memory of her first kiss, Sam had joyfully followed her everywhere onboard her father’s ship. The memory of him sticking his nose in the air over the bow with the wind blowing his hair back behind his ears always brought a smile to her face. All he needed was a scarf and goggles and she was sure he would have taken flight. He seemed to enjoy sailing the Nusian seas as much as she did. She missed his soft fur rubbing against her tanned leg, the wagging of his tongue and the joy and happiness he brought with his unconditional love. Sam was about the best pampus a girl could ever want. He would have liked the view on Bravo. If only she could see his tail wagging with enthusiasm one more time.

Em had placed her desk just a few feet in front of her massive view of the cosmos. Moving around the backside, she pulled out the silver aeron chair and settled into the supple leather seat, her elbows on the desk, her hands under her chin. The deafening silence in her quarters, of space travel in general, seemed to taunt her, a stark ever-present reminder she was not on the sea, not home. With an unconscious sigh a measure of tension escaped into the stillness. She opened the top drawer and pulled out a single sheet of paper and began to write.

Dear Father,

I’m sorry it has been a few days since my last correspondence. So much has happened in the last week I hardly know where to start. Rog has been terribly injured in a confrontation with our captives. We are fearful his wounds may be fatal. Trev has done everything he can, but we need outside help. Mairi has been abducted and Kyra and Von have left in the Pod to find her. Yul is beside herself. You know how she hates being helpless. Trev seems rather depressed. We are all under a great deal of stress. If only you were here, I know I would find the comfort I seek.

I know I say it all the time, but I miss you terribly. Please tell Sam I miss him too. Every time I stand in front of my window I feel as if I’m transported to the ship and I would be lying if I didn’t say my heart sinks just a little lower knowing with each passing day we move further and further apart. Soon, I hope, we will find a place to settle. And then father, you and Sam can come and join us. Just you wait and see the welcome party I have planned for you two. Believe me, I’ve had plenty of time to prepare every minute detail. I’d tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

I’d better get some rest now. You know how Pinky gets if I stay up too late. Besides, with all that is going on, I want to be ready if they need me. I love you father and I think of you every day. Give Sam a rub for me and make sure you take him with you to the bow. He so loves to stick his nose in the breeze.

Love,

Em

As she did most nights, Em folded the paper in precise thirds, just like father had taught. She no longer needed to measure. She slid the letter into its envelope, turned it around and sealed it with a kiss. Flipping it over, she laid the letter on her desk and gently pressed it down, running her fingers from left to right with firm pressure. Her letters were sealed like the bunks on her father’s ship; one could bounce quarters off them.

Reaching again for her pen, Em addressed the letter and in the upper corner where postage would normally go, she wrote the number 163. She hesitated just for a moment, her eyes scanning the missive, weighing it in her hands as if somehow she could mentally imbue the correspondence with the essence of her love. Kissing the letter, she opened the left hand drawer and placed the letter neatly behind number 162. Each letter stood silently at attention, all in proper order, all waiting patiently like stone soldier on station, waiting for their call to action.

Categories: Story, Emy, Letters, Bravo

Bravo-Four-Zero

Reentry

Reentry from hyper-space travel elicited two immediate reactions from every deep space crew. Check the coordinates and check the systems control panel. Since this crew didn’t know where they were going in the first place the coordinates didn’t much matter and even if they did, they would have revealed nonsensical information within the uncharted territories. The systems panel was another matter.

Going into hyper-space always carried with it a sense of fate with a heavy dose of prayer. Two potential fatal dangers accompanied every trip—explosion and implosion. Wrong coordinates and the ship could potentially be blown to smithereens upon reentry into the same space as another object. If the coordinates were good, implosion, from a vessel stressed beyond its fatigue levels, and hyper-space placed as much fatigue on a ship as the most violent combat maneuvers, was a real possibility. Older vessels, for this very reason, seldom used hyper-space travel except as a last resort.

The only good news regarding these two dangers is that if either occurred, the occupants would never know. Death would come quicker than the mind could process any awareness that something had gone wrong, like going to sleep and never waking up is how the textbooks described it. Of course, since no one had ever lived to tell what it was like, many felt these explanations simply served to comfort and give courage to those brave enough to travel at risk. How one really died in these circumstances remained unknown and unknowable. Those who traveled deep space were well-paid and no one resented that fact. No risk, no reward as they say.

Bravo-Four-Zero, however, suffered a different fate, a fate both better and ironically, perhaps worst than never waking up, of going peacefully into the night. The crew was alive, but the systems panel was blinking and screaming that virtually every system onboard was in crisis.

Each onboard system was monitored on a single panel. Bluish-green was good—reddish- orange was bad. The entire cabin glowed an eerie red with the massive blinking red panel. Seems the crew was going to die, but no such luck to go peacefully. They were awake, aware, and scared out of their minds.

The Chapel

Doubt, fear, worry. Not on the flight manifest but certainly as onboard as any Hynerian.
Space is a cold silent deadly place. Only a thin metal wall and a bit of technology stands between life and death. One systems malfunction, one failure of a simple mechanical part determines who lives and who dies. Weighs on the mind. Preys on the soul.

What does tomorrow bring? Where are we going? Will we ever get there? Why does the universe seem to conspire against us? Are we strong enough, bright enough to survive?

Who has not asked these questions. On Bravo-Four-Zero, they banged around the vessel like a steel hammer inside an empty, tumbling, fifty-five gallon drum. Echoes of thought unanswered; a non-sound as tangible in the mind as the knots twisting upon knots in each passenger’s aching tired fatigued muscles.

Hynerian canon worshiped two gods and eight precepts. Love. Joy. Compassion. Peace. Faith. Hope. Truth. Mercy. Moving at the speed of light into parts unknown, prayer poured forth minus the filters of reason and doubt, beyond prejudice, without limit. The chapel became the meeting place of choice.

No One


No one aboard Bravo-Four-Zero had experience in deep space flight or proper navigation in three dimensions. Staring at the crystal navigation globe supplied in every Hynerian vessel, no one could make heads or tails of the mirror-like images that told of the universe before them. The images looked all the same.

Of course, since they were heading into the uncharted territories no one could really understand why it mattered. Still, there was a sinking feeling that without at least knowing where they had been or how to read the crystal, they were doomed to go in circles like a baby pampus following its own tail. Every Hynerian had grown up with a pet pampus, and everyone had had their laughs watching the ignorant silliness involved in pampus tail chasing. Somehow, no one was laughing now.


Happens every time. No one knew how to read or understand the crystal navigation globe, so it was only a matter of time before someone decided pushing a few buttons was in order. Almost immediately the crystal responded to a certain series of key strokes, which to this day no one can remember exactly what they were.

The globe began to glow yellow and orange and red where before the cooler whites and blues had been. Not only did the sphere change color, but it also changed shape. The smooth glass surface gave way to what appeared to be a contour map, the meaning of which no one could surmise. Wonder, however, quickly gave way to fear as the ship whip lashed the crew, lurching forward with purposeful intent and changing course with such violence as to throw anyone and everything not secure tumbling to the floor.

Bravo-Four-Zero was moving with purpose and intent at full speed ahead. Just where they were headed, no one knew.

The Healing Planet


Entering the uncharted territories turned even the stoutest of Hynerians into the equivalent of jiggy jello on a hot plate, which is to say, going uncontrollably everywhere and going there fast. The inhabitants of Bravo-Four-Zero had no choice, yet the fear of the unknown, the fear of childhood campfire horror stories, in short the fear that firmly rooted itself in the imagination, tended to suffocate it’s victims like an anaconda with time on it’s hands. Fear like this permeated every pore, turned the eyes bloodshot for no good reason, and warped judgment like wood left out in the rain too long.

No outside observer would have been surprised to learn that our friends attempted to land at the first planet that came into view. Later dubbed The Healing Planet, for the purplish waters had magical powers to heal all infirmities. A water world like their own Hynerian homeworld, our friends thought they had found their needle in the haystack. Passion fruit was consumed in quantities beyond legal limits as happiness and joy appointed themselves king and queen of the day.

There always seems to be a “however” about this time in the story as the happy couples soon discovered all was not as it seemed. Oh, the waters of The Healing Planet were in fact magical but as the old Hynerian proverb stated, Take what you want, and then pay for it, our friends soon realized that while the dark purplish waters certainly did heal, they also aged.

Just as the stars appeared to melt into the planet’s lakes and oceans so too did a Hynerian appear to exchange life force, life years, in exchange for the healing properties. Had our four couples stayed, old age would have claimed them all within the year. Keep in mind a Hynerian’s average life spanned centuries. The reign of happiness and joy were short lived as anger and fear rode in like barbarians to resume their rightful place. Within the hour, Bravo-Four-Zero headed back into deep space.

Perfect Food


For long journeys to parts unknown, Hynerians had perfected more than just the galaxy famous passion fruit. They had also perfected what came to be called perfect food. Perfect food is what everyone else called Hynerian eggs. Perfect since each individual egg contained everything one needed to sustain life–all the vitamins, minerals, calories, not to mention water, needed for perfect health. On a supply of Hynerian eggs a space traveler could survive indefinitely.

Bravo-Four-Zero had not been given much hope of finding an inhabitable planet, but they had been given enough perfect food to survive long beyond the supply of oxygen their small ship could carry. Hunger would be absent from this voyage. Unfortunately the same could not be said for fear and uncertainty.


Coming in waves never seen before and beyond Hynerian scientists to either predict nor understand, massive hurricanes, like roving bands of wolves, made life untenable.

Life pod Bravo-Four-Zero, containing just four Hynerian couples, launched for territories unknown, a roll of the cosmic dice. A little unknown solar system, perhaps, just maybe, held a jewel of a planet capable of sustaining life. No time to plan, no time for research. Life in the balance. Non-believers converted like lemmings to the cliff.

Strapped in tight, eyes squeezed tight as if one’s lids were capable of resisting the unhynerian g-forces launch inflicted upon the crew. Five-four-three-two-GO.