Trucker is crying. It isn't a normal cry either. He's developed this weeping sob that involves this deep wheezing possibly from him being sick. It sounds like pure shit. It's almost haunting. For some reason even though a few members of my crew are freaking out this seems to stick in my mind the most. Do the Upsetters cry? Do they feel emotion the same way that the rest of us do?
"What if the Upsetters were on Earth with us?" Idris asks, "Holy shit. What if they are on this space station right now?"
"Damn you might be right..." Katashi replies.
There were all talking over one another at that moment. It's mostly coming from Idris who is panicking walking back and forth like someone who is late for work and lost his keys. He paces trying to figure out something that we probably couldn't figure out. None of us knew or understood how the Earth was destroyed. No one had answers. The voices in the room mount on top of one another. They get louder and louder.
"Everyone calm down," Anne says, before turning to me with a long stare, "See what you did..."
"What I did? I told the truth..."
"That information was confidential," Anne responds, "Admiral Lincoln probably didn't want us to know about the appearance of the alien. For a reason."
Anne's backlash is strong. It might as well be Chad in here screaming at me for telling everyone what I saw. I was confused. You would have thought that they would have wanted to know the truth. I guess everyone isn't like that though. Some people wanted to be blind. Some people wanted to think that their superiors had their best interests in mind. For some reason I don't trust that idea though. I wish I did. It would be a lot easier to know that Admiral Lincoln had a good reason for keeping his secret.
Royce non-surprisingly joins into the conversation, "Anne is right. We don't want to panic. And we don't want to let anyone else know what Selah saw. We should...pretend like we didn't hear anything. We should pretend like we don't know anything."
I look over at Royce. I look at Anne. I look at the others.
Yes. They had this peaceful ignorance about them. They didn't want to know.
Anne rubs on Trucker's back, "Everything will be OK. Admiral Lincoln has this all taken care of."
We all leave the room drunk that night to go back to our sleeping pods. I'm so drunk that I'm tripping through the long plain hallways of the Pioneer station. My heart is racing. I'm mad. I'm emotional. I make it to the end of a hallway when I realize it all looks the same. This long hallway of nothingness.
"C`mon. I got you."
I turn to see Lucky.
"You been following me?" I ask him.
"You're drunk," he responds, "I figured you would get lost by how you were stumbling. C`mon. Your sleeping pod is this way."
Lucky is good with directions. He's damn good with directions. He puts my arm over his shoulder to help me walk. When you're drunk sometimes you think you're walking fine but it isn't until I get his support that I realize just how fucked up I am. I also notice something else though. Lucky is slurring his speech.
"You're drunk too," I point out.
"Yeah well shit went down tonight. I had to take extra shots," he responds, "You shouldn't have told them about the alien on board."
"Don't you want to know?" I ask, "Who the Upsetters are? Why this happened?"
"Not everything has a reason," Lucky responds, "They are aliens. They probably don't think like us. Maybe they did what they did because that's just...who they are."
"Yes. Humans are evil. Why not aliens? You know? Shit. They blew up our planet."
"The Admirals evil for not telling everyone."
"Maybe he has a point."
I look over at Lucky. I'd expect this from Anne and Royce. I'd expect this from Chad. I'd expect this from almost anyone but Lucky.
"You can't be serious."
"You saw how people reacted today," Lucky responds, "Maybe people can't handle the truth. Maybe you shouldn't have told anyone, Selah. Maybe Anne was right."
"Those are my friends."
"Are they?" Lucky asks.
"You said it yourself. The Upsetters can change form? What if there is another one on this space station? What if they really did know about us?" he asks, "Maybe there is a reason they were kept confidential. To keep the information getting into the wrong hands."
I think about it.
"Really? You don't think Anne knows a lot."
"She's just smart."
"Too smart," Lucky responds, "She knows a lot of shit that the rest of us don't know. She has answers that the rest of us don't have. I saw her reading a book on Quantum physics the other day. Who the fuck do you know reads books like that?"
"You think she could be...alien?"
"I don't trust anyone."
"Including me?" I ask him.
Lucky stops. At first I think it's because I've made him uncomfortable with my question but then I realize where we are.
"This is your room," he tells me.
"You didn't answer my question," I respond, "Do you trust me?"
"Fuck no. You look like motherfucking E.T," he teases.
I give Lucky a push as he breaks out into laughter.
"Man fuck you."
Lucky smiles. He has an interesting smile. It is uneven and goes up from the side. It flashes a little bit of his white teeth. Lucky is handsome but not in the perfect way. He has scars on his body. He has rough hands. He isn't this polished person by any means but there is something so sexy about it. He's not trying to charm anyone and he knows he wouldn't be good at it if he did. When he stares at me, like now, I can see a reality that makes me happy.
Lucky feels like life. When he looks at me I'm reminded that humanity didn't end with the Earth. We are still around. We still have all our flaws and all our quirks. We still exist. That's what Lucky was to me. He is existence.
He lifts my chin with his knuckles, "Why you care if I trust you or not?"
"I trust you."
"I don't know," I smile, "I just do..."
"Maybe you shouldn't trust me. Maybe I'm an alien. Maybe I'm watching the Pioneer and talking back to my Upsetter friends telling them exactly where we are. Exactly where we are going. And October 16th I'll order the attack that will destroy the rest of humanity. Maybe I'll kill every last one of you."
"Even me?" I ask.
Lucky licks his lips, "Especially you..."
Lucky stares me up and down. I think it's the alcohol. We probably should have parted ways a long time ago. But we aren't. It's so quiet that I can hear his breathing. I like it. I like it a lot. I take a few steps towards him so that I can feel his breathing up against my nose. His breath is tart with alcohol but I don't mind. I actually like it. It reminds me of the Earth.
I raise my eyebrows.
"What's so special about me?"
He places his rough hands on my chin. He moves my face around. I don't fight it. He's studying me.
"Because I may be an alien and you may be a human. And there is just something so human about you. It would annoy me. You know. Me being an alien and all. I'd hate you especially. The way you smell. The way you look. The way you seem so afraid..."
"I'm not afraid."
"Yes you are. When we saw the alien you were scared sick."
"The Upsetters scare me..."
"What if I'm an Upsetter?"
He takes a step forward at that moment and I take a step back because I think that is what he wants me to do. He takes another step forward and I take another step back. Another and another. Before long I am up against the wall. I smell his tart breath. I feel his hard arms. I look at his scarred face.
"Then I need someone to protect me from you," I respond.
"Nothing can protect you from me..." he responds.
I attempt to move but Lucky grabs me. He kisses me. His tongue goes into my mouth with a passion that lets me know that regardless of alcohol this is intentional. He's wanted this for quite some time. Lucky's hands trace my sides. I give in. I let him kiss me. I let him make me feel so alive. His tongue is wet and his mouth is full of saliva. More so than usual. I enjoy every moment of it as he cups my sides and presses his lips so tightly against mine that I have to breathe through my nose taking in his warm scent.
I push away though. Getting him off of me, even though my body wants him all over me. He can tell I'm excited. My penis gives it away. It stands as salute and both of us glance down at the same time noticing the thing poking between us.
Lucky grabs it, touching the head through my pants.
"Wait, stop," I state.
"What?" he asks, "Why?"
"I can't do this."
"We have chemistry," he responds to me, "It's not just the simulations. Everyone can see it. It's rare, nowadays. Chemistry. You know. Not enough people for chemistry anymore. I'm feeling you, Selah. I want to show you that."
I couldn't pretend any longer that I hadn't seen Lucky holding onto me a little too long or going out of his way to make an excuse to hang around me while he disliked hanging around anyone else. He was so distant and who knows how long it would have been for him to act on it if it weren't for alcohol. We were here now though and I had a choice.
So I come clean.
"Listen I have chemistry with someone else..."
He seems confused.
"Someone alive," I respond, "Someone on the Pioneer."
It seems unlikely. It seems almost impossible. I can see it in his eyes when he tries to figure it out. Everyone had spent the time on the Pioneer either crying or praying. No one had time for romance anymore. It was clear depression had taken over. Still, I remember how my emotion had brought me into the arms of Chad before.
"So it's true? The rumors about you and the Captain?"
"You going to lie right to my face?"
"I don't owe you anything," I respond.
There is a pause. We stare at each other and he takes a step back. I can't tell from his face whether he is mad or not. He squints at me, as through trying to figure out that exact same thing. Maybe he has something else on his mind. He surveys me like a physics equation.
He starts to leave and I watch him but he stops, probably realizing my eyes are still on him.
"When the Earth was destroyed, I didn't cry," he responds, "I felt like I used all my tears back on Earth. Glad to at least know there is still something that can make me upset."
I don't get Lucky out of my head that night nor the next day.
"Your mission is simple. Find a new Earth. This shuttle has everything that you'll need to complete your mission. Once you find the new Earth, return to the Pioneer and lead us to safety."
The next day we don't have simulation. It's first thing in the morning and we have an escort to the shuttle hanger. The hanger has a unique shape reminding me of some sort of cocoon. From wall to wall each is lined up with these shuttles. These shuttles would be what every crew on the Pioneer would be using to explore whatever galaxy we were in with hopes of finding life. These shuttles look to be the size of a large tractor trailer. From class I can tell the different parts of the shuttle. The thrusters of each shuttle were on the front. The living quarters and flight deck were in a cramped space after that. It opened and closed using an advanced looking cargo-bay door. Behind that were the huge wings, body flap, rudder and finally the very large engine.
"It's beautiful," Royce whispers to me, "Who knew we had all of these back on Earth."
Royce usually doesn't talk to me one on one. I think he's doing this to sound confident because of what happened last night. I wonder if he is trying to convince me to be confident or convince himself. These shuttles did look good but what would it matter? The galaxy was large and the chances of finding a habitable planet were small.
It's Captain Kane who speaks next with a large clipboard, "Everyone has jobs based on how you did in the simulations. Katashi and Royce will be at the helm. You steer the shuttle."
Katashi and Royce high-five one another. It's worrisome. Royce may be mature but Katashi wasn't. I knew from the simulations that everything was automatic but what if the Auto-flight failed. We would basically be trusting Katashi with our lives.
"Anne is in Engineering."
Anne nods, "I won't let you down."
She is responsible for the mechanics of the shuttle. She is responsible for all power generation, computer systems and propulsion systems. It makes sense now why she was reading a book on Quantum mechanics. It's almost like she knew she would get this job. Honestly the majority of us seem to have confidence in Anne. There is an audible sigh of relief. The next job positions don't seem to generate as much confidence.
"Trucker and Jonathan are in operations and Cassie is the Operations Manager."
Cassie interrupts almost immediately.
"Operations manager?" she asks scared at that moment, "I sucked at those simulations."
"We have no one else," Kane responds.
I could see why Cassie was worried. Operations were sort of like utility men.... doing a little of everything. They ran sensor scans, handled communications back to the Pioneer, monitors ship wide status and functions. They arranged power distribution to major systems during emergency situations. Cassie was in charge of all of that. Not only that but I see how she looks over at Trucker and Jonathan. Her team wasn't exactly the most responsible. Trucker was young and Jonathan was so quiet that he hardly said a word. I honestly did not envy that position and clearly neither did she.
"I did well in the simulation," Idris cuts off, "I could be Operations Manager."
I roll my eyes. Idris needs to let everyone know that he is the best at everything.
"I know you did good in the simulation," Captain Kane tells him, "That's why I need you to be my executive officer. MY XO and First officer. I need you to be second in command in case anything happens to me."
A couple of people gasp. Idris may have been OK across the board in all simulations but his personality wasn't exactly that of a leader. Idris panicked. A few people look over at me. They are probably wondering the same thing I was wondering.
I had assumed Kane would have picked me for his second in command. He had praised me so much that I thought I would be a shoe in.
Idris looks over at me and smiles. He must have assumed like everyone else that I would have gotten that position as well.
"Thank you sir," Idris tells Kane, "I won't let you down."
Jealousy rolls through my blood.
As though I'm some sort of afterthought, Captain Kane offers in a muffled voice, "Powell...you'll be with Lucky doing Tactical. You will be in charge of all defense."
He doesn't even look me in my eyes when he says that. He just sort of stares at his notes.
"Lucky isn't here sir."
Kane raises his head. He must have been so busy that he didn't notice.
"Where is he?" he asks.
I figured it would have been awkward if Lucky had showed up today. Maybe he figured the same thing. He just didn't show up at all.
I shrug, "I'm not his keeper."
Idris sighs, "Lucky doesn't give a shit about us or this mission. He only cares about himself."
"Stop shit talking him," I respond.
"Idris has a point," Anne challenges me, "We are all here, Selah. We are all putting in the work. Where is Lucky?"
"I hate to say it but she's right," Katashi says, "He hangs out with a bunch of thugs. They damn near beat my ass in the Mesh hall because I wouldn't give up my rations."
"Lucky did that?" I ask.
"The boys he hangs with did it!" Katashi responds, "Ask Cassie. She was there."
Cassie sighs, "Selah. Lucky is a good shooter but maybe good riddance. Birds of a feather flock together..."
A few of the others agree as well. They do have a point. It's annoying though. Lucky is just different. I knew it from the first day I met him. I know the reason he isn't here today is more because of me than anything. He doesn't want to be around me. It's not about the mission. It's not because he is nonchalant or even that he is scared. Lucky doesn't want to be here because I turned him down yesterday and the Captain of our team just so happens to be the person I turned him down for.
Kane has no idea. He's probably thinking what everyone else is thinking. Kane looks annoyed. He rolls his eyes. He whispers something to the escort that was with us and the escort leaves.
Kane shakes his head, "I'll deal with Lucky. What we don't do is gossip about a member of this crew. I hope the rest of you take this serious. This is very important. Our first mission is in a week."
"A week?" Idris asks.
Everyone is talking all at once again. Panic has taken over. My mouth gets dry. I'm thinking the same thing everyone else is thinking. How the fuck were we going to handle managing a shuttle through space in a fucking week? None of us had real training. These simulations weren't enough.
It's Katashi who raises his hand and says, "With all due respect sir. None of us besides maybe Anne knows exactly what the hell we are doing."
"We don't have much of a choice," Kane responds.
"What if we die in Space?" Idris asks.
"It's very possible," Kane explains, "More probable than not. Astronauts train almost 2 years for a mission. We just don't have that luxury."
This causes more panic. I've joined in. I'm muttering all types of curses under my breath. I can't deal with this. I know damn well that things aren't going to be the same. The world isn't going to be the same.
"Sir. Can you be honest about something? Is this is a suicide mission?" Cassie ask him.
"Not every shuttle is going to return," Kane tells us, "We are one of hundreds that are leaving the Pioneer to test for a new Earth. It only takes one to come back with positive results though. This is our duty to humanity. This is our life now."
There is silence. No one is happy. Kane isn't babying us anymore. He is being confident but at the same time he is being real. We weren't prepared for this. We weren't the only ones though. There were other crews. There were other young people that weren't prepared for this either. They had just as much training simulation as we had. The UCE was throwing us out into space, literally and wishing us good luck.
"We can do this," Anne says.
We all turn to her. She has this strong face structure and a demanding presence. I think she may be trying to rally us together.
"Anne's right," Royce backs her up, "Captain Kane will be with us every step of the way."
They sound like a Disney special. I roll my eyes. Royce and Anne should just get together and fuck already. They were the only ones living in that kind of fantasy. Idris, our new second-in-command looked like he was ready to shit himself. Trucker was on the verge of tears. Katashi and Cassie seem like they have a million questions. Jonathan was looking at our new shuttle silently with shock like it was some sort of flying casket.
Idris mutters something under his breath that seems to reflect what everyone is thinking at this moment, "We're all going to die even before the Upsetters kill us."
He whispers it but he didn't need to. It is so quiet that everyone can hear him.
I didn't know how to feel. Every part of me thought this was a bad idea. I rather go to bed and hide. At the same time, I felt like Kane needed me.
"What's the name of the shuttle?" I state.
Kane doesn't seem to expect me to ask that question.
"Captain. What is the name of the shuttle?"
Kane seems surprised but looks down at his paper, "Um...it's the UCE with Orbital Vehicle Designation of 489."
"Well that won't work," I respond, "We should name it."
"Why?" Cassie asks.
"Because like Idris said, we might die in this thing," I state shaking my head, "At least we will know we died for a reason. At least we'll know we died for a cause. At least we'll have a name to put to it. This may be a flying casket but no one wants an unmarked grave."
Kane nods. He doesn't smile or show any emotion. He doesn't give us false hope. I think we are all past that stage even if Anne and Royce would love us to believe that everything is going to be OK. Truthfully I don't think they even believe it. Truthfully I think they are scared as well.
Katashi's eyes turn to me, "What name were you thinking?"
I didn't have an idea. I just felt like a name was needed. Something to bond us together. I just needed a mark to know that we weren't just one more shuttle in an endless space. I wanted something to bind us together with."
I stare at the shuttle. I stare at the cold steel. I stare at the emptiness of it all.
Nothing comes to mind.
There is a voice that says something though. It's not mine. It's so low. It comes from the person just standing off to the side.
It comes from Jonathan.
"Did you say something?" I ask Jonathan.
"You know damn well he don't talk," Katashi tells me, "He was probably just clearing his throat or something."
"Shut up," I stated, "He just said something.
We all look at Jonathan. He looks back at us. He is so awfully shy that I'm scared he won't be able to say whatever he wanted to say again with all of us looking at him.
"Heavenly," he says.
"Heavenly?" Captain Kane asks.
"Yes...for all the people that died and went to Heaven back on Earth."
We all stand there and stare at the ship. Maybe it is the fact that Jonathan doesn't speak often but the words seem to have so much meaning right now. We stare at the shuttle and there is so much real emotion from everyone. I look over at Chad. A single tear runs down his cheek silently. It's rare that he breaks his professional exterior in front of the crew. I don't know who he is crying about. Maybe there is no one in particular. Maybe he sheds that tear for everyone. The trees. The grass. The animals. The cities. All of Earth was gone.
And the people. The people were gone too. We could only hope they had gone to Heaven. It made you want to be religious to think that they had gone to a better place.
Captain Kane, "I like it. I'll let Admiral Lincoln know that my team's space shuttle will be known as Heavenly."
The end of the week is almost here and we are almost going to make our first jump into a new Galaxy. Every day there is someone reminding us of our mission and how easy it was. It's the first thing we hear on the loudspeakers in the morning.
Your mission was simple. Find a new Earth.
It's the last thing we hear at night. We hear it all through the day. Captain Kane beats it into our heads through our final simulations. Our mission was simple. Find a new Earth. So simple, right?
I find myself staring out into the stars on the Observation deck at the end of the week. Tomorrow would be our first mission. This is the last time I'll be looking at stars like this. Once we make the FTL jump to another galaxy we would be leaving the Milky Way behind. Captain Kane let us know that complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies. Out of those 10% we had to find a new Earth with breathable air, water and resources. There were an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. We had to fly shuttle missions to these planets and get close enough to test for all of those things. We had to safely return back to the Pioneer before it jumped to another galaxy with our findings. The chances of success dropped even more as I think of it.
A hear a group of boys talking on the Observation deck. The deck is huge and usually I would ignore it but one of the voices sound familiar.
As I walk closer I notice Lucky.
I notice the other boys as well. It's Koopa...the boy who was messing with me a while ago. He has the same rough looking boys with him. Lucky honestly fits in with these boys. They've abandoned the UCE uniform and are all wearing casual clothes. They have a lack of real care around them.
"Someone's trying to eavesdrop, Koop," one of the boys says.
I approach and they stop talking. They cut off so immediately. It's almost like I'm a teacher who caught them smoking in the bathroom. They don't seem too happy to see me either. The looks on their faces says it all.
Koopa laughs, "Look what we have here."
Lucky seems annoyed when he sees me, "What are you doing here, Selah?"
"Selah," Koopa says before turning to Lucky, "Is this the one fucking Kane?"
My mouth drops open. Lucky told them that? Lucky looks immediately embarrassed when Koopa says it. To be honest I can't believe that he would go behind my back and say something like that to these fucking people.
"Whatever business Captain Kane has going on is above your rank," I tell Koopa.
"He got a smart ass mouth," Koopa tells Lucky.
"I'll deal with him," Lucky says getting up and attempting to pull me away.
Koopa stops him though, "No it's OK. He thinks I'm not on the same rank as Kane. Funny how that works. Rumor has it that Kane and his band of faggots are calling their shuttle the Heavenly. Thanks for giving us the idea to name the shuttle. You guys have to have the gayest shuttle on the Pioneer. My shuttle is called the Viper."
"Your shuttle?" I ask.
Lucky looks at me, "Selah, Koopa was the First Officer of his crew. His former Captain had an unfortunate accident. Ricky Koopa is now the Captain of the Viper."
Unfortunate accident? I look over at Koopa. There is something so shady about him and the guys around him. I look at Lucky as well.
"Why the fuck you hanging around these guys?" I ask Lucky, "You have a crew..."
There is laughter from Koopa and his boys.
"You didn't tell them?"
"Tell me what?" I ask.
"I need to talk to you---" Lucky says, "In private."
Koopa and his boys continue to laugh as though something is funny as hell. I feel so dumb when Lucky grabs me and pulls me away from the group of hyenas. I don't understand how he can be around them even for a minute. Those boys are annoying as fuck.
He pulls me back to the glass that looks out towards the stars. It's far enough that Koopa and his boys won't hear us. I haven't seen Lucky all week and the first time I see him it's in the presence of these fucking people. I don't get it.
"What are you doing here Lucky?" I ask him.
"I'm thinking about switching crews," Lucky explains, "I think I get along with Koopa and his crew a lot better."
"How the fuck would you know? You haven't even talked to anyone on the crew besides me," I state.
"And now I don't even have you."
"What qualifies that guy to fly a shuttle? At least Kane knows what he's doing. You really trust those gangsters?" I ask, "Are those the ones that were trying to rob Katashi?"
I look back over at them.
"Listen. I'll take my chances," Lucky responds, "Captain Koopa submitted the request for my transfer already."
"You got to be fucking kidding me..."
"I'm not Selah. I don't want to be back on that shuttle."
"It's because of me...isn't it?"
Lucky gets quiet at that moment. The last discussion we had earlier this week was him mad at me for turning him down. It was clear this was an extension of that. Truthfully I didn't know Lucky would do something so drastic as to try and join another crew because of it though.
"I don't respect a Captain who would have a personal relationship with someone he supervises," Lucky responds.
"You don't have any idea what the fuck you're talking about Lucky."
Lucky shakes his head, "You lucky I respect you enough that I haven't gone to the Admiral about it."
"Now you're just being petty," I respond.
"Maybe," he shrugs, "Maybe you're right. I am having a hard time processing emotions. I don't know how to deal with it. I'm jealous. That's your fault for making me like you. And maybe it's better for me to stay away. There's no way I'm going to be around you and Captain Kane."
Lucky turns before I say anything.
It's clear he means it.
Lucky still doesn't show up the next day. We all report to the Space Shuttle Heavenly. The space dock is crowded. All of the crews are boarding their shuttles before our FTL jump into a different galaxy. I look through the shuttles but there are so many of them. I don't see the crew of the Space Shuttle Viper anywhere. I don't see Lucky anywhere.
I approach the shuttle at that moment and see Kane standing there. He looks over at me. Our eyes connect. I know exactly what he's thinking even though he doesn't say anything.
"He isn't coming," I tell Kane.
Kane takes a deep breath. Our mission hadn't even begun and personal shit was already fucking with the crew. We had just lost the person who was best with the big guns. I'm sure that Idris or someone could take over the big guns on the shuttle if we needed to clear obstacles but they weren't Lucky. No one on our crew had the same chemistry with the Tactical guns that Lucky and I had. We were starting off at a huge disadvantage.
I can see it written all over Kane's face. He may not have personally liked Lucky but he needed him. We all needed Lucky.
"Let's get on the shuttle with the others. Buckle up and prepare for the Pioneer to jump. As soon as the jump happens the airlock is going to open and we have to take off."
"Yes sir, Captain," I state.
Kane follows me into the shuttle. That's when I see the inside of the Heavenly for the first time.
The command room looks just like the simulation room but it all seems so real now. As I walk I feel butterflies in my stomach. I'm not the only one. By the time I get to my station I notice the look of some of the others. There isn't a calm face in the room except for Kane. The Captain's chair is in the center of the wide room, making it possible for him to give directions and manage every station carefully.
I can't help but to keep my eyes on Chad as he does it. He seems so important. The way his head stands up tall makes him seem older than he is or looks. He stiffens his shoulders and purses his lips. He's so serious and so fucking sexy.
Our eyes connect for a second. At first I think he is going to break character and smile at me but he doesn't. He stares at me with those sexy eyes as though wanting to say something personal. Maybe he even wants to say something romantic.
Neither of those things happen though.
He mouths the words, "Seatbelt."
I nod at that moment. The room is quiet except for Trucker who has taken to closing his eyes at the Operations stations and praying to God that everything goes smoothly. Luckily Cassie is there to hold his hand and sort of give him some strength.
Then it's just a wait game.
We wait for almost an hour.
"Shouldn't we be gone by now?" Anne asks.
A few of us are thinking the same thing. I think Kane is even thinking the same thing because he starts playing with the panel in front of him reading the communications that are coming up on the commander's screen.
All of a sudden the ground rumbles. There is a loud sound.
"What the fuck is that! What the fuck is that?"
An alarm goes off at that moment.
"Please tell me that is the FTL jump?" Cassie asks.
"That didn't sound like a fucking FTL jump. That sounded like an explosion," I respond.
My idea is confirmed when we hear another one and another and another. The sound rumbles the fucking shuttle and the entire shuttle hanger. Trucker's praying gets louder and louder. His eyes are shut so tight as though that would change anything that is happening right now.
I look over at Captain Kane. He is reading something on his screen. His eyes are reading the screen in shock and I know at that moment that something has gone horribly wrong.
"What's happening? Why didn't we jump?" Katashi asks the Captain.
Captain Kane is sweating. He's unresponsive. He keeps reading whatever message is on the screen.
"KANE!" Idris screams.
Still no response from him!
Trucker is having a panic attack. I watch Cassie and Jonathan desperately try to help him at that moment. The rest of us aren't sure what to do. Idris has gone into a screaming fest shouting at Captain Kane.
"KANE! KANE! WHAT THE FUCK!"
The sweat drips down the Captain's forehead! He's nervous as all fuck. What is happening? What are those explosions? What is that alarm? What is going on with the Pioneer?
I release my seatbelt. I run over to Chad. I grab him by the face. He seems so panicked that I can tell at that moment his real age. All the professionalism that Chad had at one point goes down the drain with whatever message he received from the command center.
"Snap out of it."
I slap Kane across his face as hard as I can. I don't know what else to do. I slap him just in time for another explosion and I am about to go flying across the room but Kane catches me.
He pulls me back into him.
"I'm sorry," he says, holding me close, "I just got a message from the Admiral that went out to all shuttles. It shocked me."
"Don't be sorry," I respond, "Tell us what's going on."
"We are being sabotaged. The shuttles are exploding..."
"What?" I ask.
Trucker faints. Panic ensues all over the Heavenly. No one is calm. It is clear more than ever that none of us are over the age of 30. It's also clear that none of us are really ready for this mission or any mission for that matter.
"Who sabotaged us?" Anne asks.
I can only assume. I look at the Captain.
He is mad about me telling them about it but doesn't have time to show it. He turns to the crew and answers the question.
"Someone released the Upsetter alien..."
Our mouth drops. The Upsetter was loose aboard the Pioneer.
"That's impossible...that's..." I start off.
Was it? I had shared what I saw with everyone in this room. What was so impossible that someone would have released the Upsetter alien. Why would anyone want to do that?
"Shh..." Kane says.
"Do you hear that?"
My mouth is dry. Sweat rolls from each part of my body. I realize even through my fear that Captain Kane is holding my hand. He doesn't care that the crew is all watching us scared and worried. His grip gets even tighter.
Something is wrong here.
Something is very wrong and you can see it on everyone's face.
We are all wondering now what that ticking noise is under the floor of the Heavenly. We all stare at the ground wondering if our shuttle is going to be the next one to explode.
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