The Captain’s Daughter
John and Roland stared at Nathan Longhezrt through the airlock window. Once the inner door slammed shut, the control panel turned green and John pulled out a small key, inserting it into the locking mechanism. He saw Nathan beg for his life but John had no choice; he had to do it.
With one hard hovering above the pressure release switch and the other on the outer airlock activation switch, he looked at Nathan with malicious intent. With the first turn of the key, the chamber flashed yellow. When John finally had enough of Nathan’s voice, he spoke, breaking the veil of silence.
“You know what we want. An entry into the flight program,”
Nathan stared back at him, eyes red from crying, “You know I can’t do that. I have no authority.”
John stood firm. “But you’re the captain’s son. Surely you can convince him?”
“Not even he has the right to do something like that. I’m telling the truth.”
John felt his right hand twitch with desire. “Perhaps a little de-pressurisation would help change your mind?”
John chuckled and smiled at his friend.
“You okay, mate? This was your idea.”
Roland moved out of the shade and stared in his eyes. “Man, I don’t think this is a good idea. We might kill him.”
John switched off the intercom. “Fuck, I’m only going to scare him. It’s our only chance. You’ve seen our test results; our dreams of becoming pilots are gone! This is our only chance.”
“But this is dangerous.”
John gazed back into the airlock chamber.
“It’ll be fine. I’m only going to scare him.”
“What will happen if he does do what you ask? Won’t he just inform the captain?”
Roland did have a good point. “I’ve got some dirt on him. I caught him dealing drugs to the lower sectors of this ship. Don’t worry, if he does what we ask, he won’t say a thing.” He decided to turn the switch, to lower the atmosphere…Just a little.
He felt confident the lack of air would compel Nathan in the right direction and with the switch turned to its locking position, he could feel victory coursing through his veins.
Compelled he made the right choice; he activated the sequence to lower the atmosphere slightly. Suddenly the outer doors began to cycle and horror filled his mind as the activation of the alarms drowned out all rational thought. He’d turned the wrong switch!
He franticly turned it back in a state of panic, but nothing happened.
“It won’t stop,” John could do nothing but stand and watch the disaster unfold. The hatch opened, a blast catapulted Nathan into the vastness of space and the shock of becoming a murderer raced through his soul.
Stood before the empty airlock window, with ice freezing over the glass, John wrestled with the impossible question: What the hell happened?
Two years later.
Kelly stood at the port window of the colony ship, The Morpheus, and stared coldly at the iron prop inside the wing of the ship. It swirled slowly, creating a wave of spectacular light that corkscrewed through the engine shaft.
But Kelly did not come to this spot to see the engines. She came to see the final resting place of her brother; Nathan, whose mutilated body had drifted into the engines and vaporised.
She had received word about his death a few days later, when he failed to return home. The Captain was worried about his son so he gathered all the security personnel and begun the manhunt to no avail. All physical evidence had been destroyed and the only clue was a poor video recording from one of the ship’s outer cameras.
Kelly felt herself explode with rage when she saw him inside the decompression chamber, then witnessed his merciless death. But the footage was so distorted they were unable to identify the culprits. Dedicated teams of professionals worked around the clock to identify the guilty party, but they had been unsuccessful. Kelly made fists of her hands and held back her anger. She wanted to be the executioner to take their miserable lives and so she’d battled through the two lonely years alone.
Still, as she paid her respects to her brother. She noticed a young man lingering in her peripheral vision. He wore the same uniform as she did, but judging from the insignia on his chest, this boy had just passed the pilot’s entrance exam.
To her surprise, he appeared to man up and approach. One thing she hated most was a stalker; the next thing she hated was a man that was too sure of himself. But she allowed him the opportunity. She needed a distraction.
“You’re with the flight school?” he began.
Without giving her the chance to reply, he continued. “What a coincidence, I am too. Pleased to meet you, I’m…”
What a shitty introduction. She had to end this mundane babbling before she got a headache. The only response this effort deserved was a simple, “Fuck off!”
With nothing else to say, she left, cursing the fact she even allowed him to interact with her.
The stranger was just one of thousands of many chancers who would love to get into her pants and he deserved no special treatment. Using a line she practised to perfection, she managed to escape without the incident progressing further. It was a result and something she repeated time and again to would-be hopefuls who fancied their chances.
Since her brother had been brutally murdered, she preferred to spend all her time looking for the culprit, and the weekly meeting was the perfect place to gather updates. There was no better person to weed out the culprit than her father, Maddox Longhezrt.
The crew had been in the room for a few hours, going over incident reports and resource intelligence findings.
Maddox sat and crossed his arms over his barrelled chest. His uniform was pristine and he looked like he needed some sleep.
“Reactor four is operating normally, but we still have reactor one down for repair,” the engineer waved his hands over the inbuilt displays inside the conference table.
“Good, good.” Maddox stood up and prowled around the room. He moved to the next subject, that made everyone shuffle to the edge of their seats.
“For two years I’ve been looking for these culprits.” He pointed to pictures that had been pinned to the wall. Kelly knew the others had grown weary of this investigation, but her father refused to give up.
“So tell me, who are these murderers?”
The images were barely recognizable.
One individual braved up and replied. “Nothing so far, captain. Teams are…”
“Enough!” Maddox slammed his fists on the table. “I’ve had enough of this shit. I want them found now! I’ve given you enough time to find these assholes. How hard can it be to find two murderers on this ship?”
He looked around the room and saw he was getting nowhere, the conversation was about to repeat itself like it had already done each week.
“I’ve given everybody all the resources needed to track down these culprits. If I don’t have results soon, I’ll revoke all privileges and you can count yourselves dismissed permanently.”
Maddox waited for the shocked murmurs to settle down before continuing. “I’ve waited long enough, get to work!”
Full of rage, he stormed out of the conference room while Kelly followed him through the winding labyrinth of passageways until they reached his quarters. Rushing after him, she tried to calm the situation.
“I don’t want you to have a heart attack, Dad. I don’t want to lose you like I’ve already lost Mother and Nathan.”
Maddox saw the tears in her eyes and sat down on the white sofa with her. He held her hand. “I see so much of our family in your eyes. I’m sorry I acted this way.”
She felt a tear on her cheek and embraced her father.
“I wish everybody was here. I miss them dearly,” she said.
Kelly hugged her father. It was just the two of them and she could not let the murderers of her brother drive a wedge through their relationship.
John stared in awe at the entry gates to the flight school. All his life he had strived to become a pilot and defend this vessel from asteroids, comets and any other dangerous phenomena. He had failed the entry exam two years ago, but due to the death of the captain’s son, the paperwork had been mislaid and forgotten about. This was John’s second chance but he still looked upon the incident as a scar in his life.
The first lesson was more than he hoped for. Basic flight control and engine thrust calculations. It seemed boring to the average person, but he was far too engrossed in the subject to find it mundane. Information was like a blessing and he used every minute to study and build up his profile for his chance to become a flyer.
It wasn’t until he gathered his food from the cafeteria that he spotted the same black-haired beauty sitting alone near the port window. She carried herself in such a way; it warned people to stay back.
Perfect, John thought. Let’s try again!
Zigzagging through the crowd like a mysterious interloper, John finally made his way to her table. She continued to look at her food and didn’t even acknowledge his presence. Her perfume rose from her clothes and her coloured uniform snuggled her frame perfectly.
“Is this seat taken?” John left no room for her to answer. “Good. I’ll sit here then.”
He unwrapped his knife and sat straight at the table.
“My name’s John.” He wedged part of a bread roll into his mouth.
“It’s very nice to meet you,” he continued sarcastically. “I understand that you’re first year too, but many months ahead of me.”
She still did not answer and John looked past her overwhelming grace and saw her clutching her fists.
“It’s not healthy to be angry all the time. Calm can often have a soothing effect, as well as talking to people.” John leaned forward and got to the point. “I’m new to the flight program and I really need a partner for the following months.”
“Make different friends. Leave me alone.” She got up and left, leaving John to stare back at her. He wondered what it would take to get on her good side; perhaps that come on was over the top.
In the end she could have been a friend to partner up with through the training but there was still time and having friends through flight school was always important.
It was common for pilots to learn basic martial arts. If someone landed on a hostile planet without weapons, hand-to-hand combat may be critical for survival. In the history of the colony ship, no one had used their skills in the field.
When Kelly walked into the combat area with her arc-sword, John stumbled over his feet at her slim erotic clothing. He preferred to remain anonymous and slithered into the crowd of trainees as to be away from her gaze. However, no matter how hard he tried to be unobtrusive, he was next, right after she had humiliated four opponents.
John dawdled out of the crowd, knowing his skills were mundane compared to hers. This was going to be a humiliating challenge. With his practice weapon in one hand, he waited for Kelly to make the first move; a gentle move for a first timer.
Kelly charged at him like an out of control lunatic. Swinging at him this way and that the young man had no choice but to defend himself anyway he knew how. It wasn’t even a fair fight as she lunged at him, slashing blows.
Her sweat sprinkled over his body, distracting him from her advance. She slipped her arc sword under his and pried his weapon away. Then—with shocking speed—she placed her sword under his chin and he felt the arc stream tingle his throat.
She moved away as the crowd of spectators laughed at John’s epic failure. But for him, this incident was one that finally made him see the error of his ways. He should have never talked to her in the passageway and he should have stayed well clear. She was clearly an attractive woman, but all this suffering was not worth it.
Wandering through a small park, John thought back to the moment he was humiliated in front of his whole class a few days ago. The dark-haired beauty with her psychological problems stood paramount in his mind. Then he heard a small voice call out to him, “I-I’m sorry.”
He stopped dead in his tracks and looked into the ring of trees. At first he dismissed the call as some trick of his mind, but he looked again and saw a familiar figure seated on a bench.
“I thought you didn’t want anything to do with me.” John said once he saw Kelly’s face in the flickering light.
“You’re right.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
John was still hesitant at first. It was only days ago she had humiliated him in training and had refused his advances in the past. He was sceptical at her sudden interest and even though the small park on the ship looked surreal in the simulated darkness; he decided to remain on guard. He crept over and sat on the far side of the bench, ready to move if anything went wrong.
“My name’s John Lighthard. And yours?”
She flinched and John watched her like a hawk. But the strange thing was, she looked and acted feminine, and not like the same ninja assassin as before.
“Kelly,” she whispered. Her captivating voice was layered over with pity.
John leaned back on the bench and he noticed the cool gentle breeze stir up her hair with fluid grace. He felt the desire to run his hand through it.
“Why did you join the flight program?” she asked.
“It’s a dream of mine.”
“Dream?” Kelly straightened her back, interested.
“My family died in sector seven. The pilot responsible for that area’s safety failed to stop the asteroid. As a result they all died.”
Kelly stared at the floor. “Asteroids are common. It takes extremely skilled pilots to defend this ship.”
John gazed up towards the ceiling. “I always wanted to protect everyone, to make sure no one suffers the loss I have. I’ve been prowling around in the darkness doing nothing, its time I did something with my life.”
For a split second, John caught a glimpse of her smiling and turned his head to meet her gaze. But she suddenly turned away, as if she caught herself in a moment of absent thought. “I’m sorry I-I can’t do this.”
John sighed as he watched her disappear into the shadows. He’d finally managed to break down some of her defences only to be beaten by even harder ones. He found himself in a mixture of emotions. What should I do if I meet her again?
At 12:30 the next day, John glanced around the food hall for any sign of Kelly, but he was unable to find her in the food hall. He did manage to find his long-term friend and co-conspirator, Roland, who looked nervous and seemed bursting to say something. John pulled out a chair and sat down.
“Spit it out, Roland, what is it?”
“Man…do you know the heat the captain’s putting on us? He’s determined to find the culprits.”
John took a quick look round for any eavesdroppers and once he was satisfied they were alone, he answered. “That’s to be expected. We did space his son.”
“No, man, you spaced his son, I was only an observer.”
“You’re just as much to blame for this as I am. Don’t go back on your word.”
“You know me, I won’t do anything stupid.”
“I hope not.”
“But we still have a problem, they’re concentrating on the outside video footage. I thought you had that covered?”
“I thought I did, but they must have restored some of the data. Is there anything you can do?”
“Perhaps, but man I feel time’s running out and we still have twenty years before we get to the new world. The captain is in his early fifties and won’t die any time soon. I’m sure his daughter is just as determined to find us.”
John placed both hands on the table and looked at his friend. The smell from his sour soup made his nose itch and stomach churn. “You know the routine. No one knows the identity of the captain’s daughter due to the kidnapping of his son. She could be anyone and her identity’s a secret.”
“But how could they keep it a secret, that’s insane.”
“He’s the captain. He has the power…”
“So she could be anyone?” Roland surreptitiously looked around, convinced that any woman could be the captain’s daughter. “Man, I can feel her in here with us.”
“Don’t worry. Just do your job and keep away from any female members when you’re deleting the footage.”
John leaned back and stretched his arms. “Don’t worry, Roland, everything will be fine.”
Two weeks passed and news about Roland’s mission had yet to be confirmed. But John had his own set of problems to contend with and Kelly was always at arm’s length.
Day after day, during training, the two would interact and although John found her highly attractive, her less than subtle attitude always got in the way.
With the urge to let go of some steam and forget the day’s hectic schedule, John entered the training hall and was surprised to find Kelly already practising.
She moved with perfect rhythmic movement. With mouth agape in shock, he allowed himself to be captivated by her curved body and sensuous looks. In shock and admiring her curves, he fell over his own feet…Loudly.
“Why are you here?” she demanded, jolting him from his fantasies.
“I came to train.”
“Train?” She stopped and stared at him. “You? Don’t make me laugh. Last time I trained with you, you were so useless I could’ve won blindfolded.”
Absent sight, now that would be interesting, John thought, but he was prepared for a second match.
“I’ve learned a few things since then – princess.” John failed to catch himself with that last word. She was no princess…Slip of the tongue.
Kelly stood straight and took that comment as an insult. “Now you’ve crossed the line. You want to train? I’ll show you how useless you really are!”
She made ready and immediately lunged at John. Unprepared, he danced to the left and narrowly avoided her deadly strike. He’d failed to see that she was someone with a strong sense of pride.
Both parties danced around the room, crossed feet, struck arcs and pulled back to gain a better angle. It was Kelly’s lack of judgement that caught her off guard. When she went for the killing blow that would cement her victory, her weapon caught the overhead beam and it came crashing to the ground, leaving John with an easy window.
He grinned and pointed his own weapon at her neck. But Kelly was not going down without a fight. Switching tactics, she tried to grab her weapon from under his legs, but was wrestled to the ground.
Kelly let loose with a flurry of kicks and punches, making his job defending that much difficult. She was determined to win and he didn’t know what to do.
Thinking she had the upper hand, Kelly swung right in with her attack and John rammed his foot in the path, causing her to loose her footing. John wrapped his hands around her in a valiant effort to prevent her injury, but she responded to his kind gesture by trying to break free. With his feet entangled with Kelly’s, he dragged her down and she accidentally kissed him.
It was only a quick peck, but John felt a torrent of emotion rush through his soul.
Infuriated by the kiss, which Kelly thought he did deliberately; she jumped to her feet and touched her lips.
“Y-you…” she stuttered. “…you stole my first kiss!”
“No-no-no, I would never give you my first kiss.” She stood straight, pointing a rigid finger at him. “This doesn’t count. It was nothing.”
Unsettled by the physical touch, she rushed out of the hall, forgetting her weapon. For John, the weapon on the floor turned into a symbol, it held her presence and his desire to know her more grew.
The next morning, Kelly knew she had another challenge, how could she act normally? The unintentional kiss had changed her view of him and she had left her sword in the hall. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. “I believe you left this in the hall.” John smiled and handed it to her.
Startled and relieved at the same time, Kelly snatched the sword and slapped him across the face.
“What’s that for?” John yelled, caressing his cheek.
Kelly put her free hand to her mouth and appeared horrified at her actions. She tried to calm herself and defend her action.
“T-This is a gift from my family. None’s supposed to touch it.” She spat the words in defiance. “I want you to leave!”
“Leave? You’re not even going to say thank you?”
“Excuse me? Say thank you to the likes of you…”
“Don’t speak, just leave me alone.”
He hesitated for a moment. He wanted to help her, be polite and kind, but she only responded with harsh words and rejection. But John knew that flight classes were about to start and it would be the perfect opportunity to help out. It was important for members to work together and John counted on the teacher to pair them up.
John waved his hands over the control panel of his flyer and watched though his HUD as his small craft soared through the pylons that supported the main rotating rings. His original plan to team up with Kelly had failed miserably and he found himself showing off to some spotty geek who continued to throw wisecracks through his intercom.
Once he’d finished his flight training, he was eager to fly on his own. He had a need for speed and wanted to test the full capabilities of his own craft. He was battling his desire to be with Kelly and the immense freedom he had when flying. So when the training lesson came up for external flight he jumped at the opportunity.
“Green team, I want you to drift through the midsection turrets and play dead. Yellow team, I want you to perform rescue operations,” ordered the commander.
John was on the yellow team and was more than eager to rescue Kelly. “Don’t worry, Kelly, your knight in shining armour is on his way.”
He heard giggles across the COM chatter and then a disgruntled voice replied, “I don’t need your help. Go away!”
John had other ideas. He fired his thrusters and edged his flyer towards Kelly’s, who was stationary between the midsections of the titanic ship.
“I don’t need your help, now fuck off.”
John ignored her warning and sneaked closer.
“I’m warning you.” She fired a shot across his bow. “I won’t tell you again!”
More giggles filled the COM chatter as other pilots watched with growing interest. John wasn’t sure if he should really take his chance. But he still had something important to say and now was as good a chance than any.
“I want you to be my partner,” he said, failing to hide his own anxiety and realizing that his comment could mean anything. Before he had the chance to receive a reply to his embarrassing request, alarms screeched through the cockpit. Everyone struggled to regain focus.
“Attention all pilots, high density asteroid field detected, the colony vessel is going too fast for evasive manoeuvres.”
“Teams, this time it’s for real,” boomed the training commander over the COM channel.
John could tell by the tone of her voice that she was nervous about using new recruits. The vessel was rapidly approaching the unanticipated asteroid field and the small band of flyers lacked combat experience to ward off threats such as this. But there was no choice. John knew his skills would be put to the test and he wished, more than ever, he was teamed with Kelly.
“Remember your training. All teams assemble at your designated coordinates.”
John turned his flyer away from Kelly and activated the COM channel. He prayed that a change in circumstances would persuade her to change her mind.
She hesitated, reconsidered her choice and to John’s disappointment, she finally said no.
After five minutes, the pilots were in their pre-determined locations, ready to defend the colony vessel from the mass of rock that could cripple the ship.
Sensors detected the asteroids dead ahead, but no one was able to see anything except the deep darkness of space.
Then the COM chatter between various pilots began:
“I don’t understand. Where are they?”
“M-my sensors are detecting them dead ahead.”
“But I can’t see them. The asteroids are almost on top of us…”
“I don’t get it.”
“This is strange.”
The chatters increased in intensity as the first asteroid filled the radar screen. John looked into the vastness of space and then spotted Kelly, who was flying beside him. He didn’t expect to see her because she had made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with him. To see her flying in formation was a pleasant surprise.
An object collided with the top wing of Kelly’s ship and sent her spiralling. John instantly fired his thrusters and wedged his flyer next to hers to prevent her blasting away into space.
Then he saw them.
He broadcast on all frequencies. “It’s black rock! The asteroids are black rock!”
The COM erupted with panicked calls and everyone opened fire indiscriminately. Amidst the chaos, an announcement came through from the colony ship.
“All flyers standby, we’ll open fire with unarmed marker rounds which will light up the asteroids. Reinforcements are on the way.”
John tried several times to communicate with Kelly through the radio, but her communicator must have been damaged. Using hand signals she acknowledged the announcement.
More alarms screeched through communications and each flyer was given sectors to defend around the colony ship.
John was allocated a spot near the aft section, next to the engine banks. Several rogue rocks were detected but that was not the main concern. He was worried about Kelly and her sector, which was at the front of the vessel and plagued with incoming rocks and shrapnel.
The colony ship opened fire with a barrage of projectiles that painted the rock green.
“There are your targets, men, open fire!” the commander ordered.
The area erupted in a hurricane of plasma bolts and multi shaped explosions.
John flew, ducked and corkscrewed his way through the rocks and fired his deadly load, breaking them up to catapult off the colony ship’s hull. Huge rocks were the deadliest, hull breakers, but so far none had penetrated the lines.
Kelly struggled. With one engine and low power she was soon overwhelmed and unable to stop a boulder hurtling towards the main control deck on the colony ship. John saw the whole thing unfold on his viewer, he prayed the captain could do something in time.
Completely defenseless, Maddox sank into his seat and watched the spectacle unfold through the panoramic windows. A huge chunk of green mass—with one side as black as coal itself—careened towards them at a painfully slow speed.
“Activate the blast shutters,” he ordered.
“Blast shutters not responding, sir. There’s been a strike in the shutter motor.”
Reality hit Maddox like a hammer blow as he knew there was no way they could survive a direct impact. “Everyone, abandon the flight deck now!”
One officer cried out in panic, “The doors are jammed shut!”
“What?” Maddox snapped.
“The bulkhead frame is bent, sir, the doors are wedged shut.”
Maddox looked back towards the window and felt helpless. There was nothing he or his crew could do.
Just when all hope was lost, a frantic call came through the COM unit.
“John, what the hell are you doing?” Shouted the training commander.
“My sector’s clear. I’m going to turbo thrust towards sector one.”
Shocked murmurs filled the background.
“Are you crazy? You’ll be killed travelling along the hull at that speed!”
“Kelly can’t get to that asteroid in time…I can.”
After he cut the transmission John lit the afterburners.
Within seconds he was careening at a reckless speed through the labyrinth of rotating pylons and support beams.
“No, don’t.” Kelly screamed through the COM unit. “Why are you doing this? What do you want to prove?”
Maddox could only praise the pilot for his bravery.
John could barely hold his course any longer; he set the thrusters to maximum, nearly melting the exhaust cones. He had to reach the asteroid before it smashed into the control deck and killed the captain. He might have killed his son—a fact that lingered around the back of his mind—but he was going to save the Captain today. Perhaps this would make him a hero and if he was caught, this act of good will would work in his favour.
With all his systems past critical and red alerts screeching throughout his cockpit, John increased speed for one last dash at the rock. In a blink of an eye he whizzed past the final rotating pylons and felt the upper wing of his flyer tear off. With three wings left, the flyer was sluggish but held true.
The target was in sight.
John grabbed hold of his controls and pulled the trigger to make peace with himself. Hot balls of plasma shot from his craft and smashed into the asteroid, shattering it into millions of pieces.
Once he cleared the debris, John glanced back at the cluster of the rock that bounced off the hull and filtered into the darkness of space. The local sun shone off the metallic hull and the cracks in the window glittered like a spider web. But as he calmed down from the incident, John still felt empty; although he saved the Captain’s life and gained some level of credibility, he still could not sweep the incident under the rug.
Once John had landed his damaged flyer in the landing bay, he stepped into a cheering crowd. Never before had he attained so much honour for one heroic act. In his determination to save the captain, he had become a hero.
Roland appeared from his open craft, full of praise, “Man! Outstanding flying there. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like out of a movie.” He looked at his damaged flyer. “I hope you got insurance.”
John laughed it off, but his peace only lasted a few seconds as he watched Kelly storm out of her flyer and march over to him, tossing her helmet onto the floor and pounding him on his chest with her small fists.
“Why did you do that? You could have been killed in that reckless manoeuvre! You blatantly risked your life… what about me? Did you think about me? I don’t want you to die…I need you.” Kelly covered her mouth, in a lapse of thought she had completely confessed her feelings.
John saw tears trickle down her cheeks before she ran off. Her hands muffled her cries as she left the hanger.
He felt touched by her words, but he had to do something. He didn’t know why, but the overwhelming urge to chase her flooded any rational thought.
Kelly ran through the passageways to escape the embarrassing moment. But the burning image of John flying through the colony’s pylons and narrowly missing death was too much. As others had watched in amazement, she had watched with sheer terror. She yelled, she cried and begged for him to stop.
But as she bolted through the corridors, she knew that her life had changed forever by her little confession. She had basically told everyone, including the man she was attracted to.
It was a faint touch of a hand that brought her to a stop and sent a shiver down her spine. Unprepared, she was forced to the ground by John, the last person in the world she expected to see.
Kneeling together, both breathed heavily. “W-Why did you chase after me?”
“I don’t know, but when I saw you running off I couldn’t leave you in that state and do nothing.”
The reality of what he just said reflected heavily on him. That disaster all those years ago was a constant reminder. But John also wondered why she had run. She was not the type of woman to run away from such matters. She was strong with the sword and hard with words too.
Kelly looked at him in the eyes and he continued. “So, why did you run?”
“I-I didn’t want the others to see me like that.” She stared at the floor. “But more importantly, I didn’t want you to see…”
John looked at her with an open heart. It seemed that she viewed his judgement with high regard and as an added bonus, he was happy. John saw a side of Kelly that was kind and gentle.
“It’s okay.” John lifted her chin with his hand. “I got to see a side of you that was full of love and compassion.”
Kelly felt some unrelenting force tug at her will. She felt the urge to kiss him. He was so close yet she was terrified of her own actions. How could I kiss someone I’m supposed to hate?
But it was the way he looked at her that sent a spark of electricity up her spine. She gave in to her desire and moved forward to kiss him passionately. She allowed her lips to linger there for a few minutes, forgetting everything and experiencing his hot embrace. She pulled back and looked deeply into his eyes. John could only utter her name.
The next morning John walked with his mind in the clouds. He could not forget that romantic moment. His daydreaming state soon drew the attention of his friend.
Roland was in a good mood and wondered why his friend was so distracted. But for John, that romantic kiss just played on his mind. He was barely able to sleep.
“Man, John, you look spaced out. What’s up?” He didn’t give John a chance to speak and placed a hard hand on his shoulder. “You’ve been distracted since that incident on the flight deck yesterday!”
John remained silent.
“I must admit that scene was heart-warming, it’s the talk of the vessel. Everyone’s talking about it, including the captain…” Roland paused… he realized the issue. “Shit. The captain wants to see you…”
John finally replied. “I’m sure it’s to do with me saving his life.”
Roland glanced around, looking for any eavesdroppers. “Yeah, but that must be difficult, knowing you’ll be talking to Nathan’s father. You need to keep your head on, don’t make any mistakes.”
John looked fearlessly into his eyes. “I’ll be fine, keep working on that video and we should have this under control in no time.”
It didn’t take long for John and Kelly to cross paths. As he walked towards the main passageway that linked the training school and the rest of the ship, he was startled by a familiar voice. It was soft, warm, and completely…Kelly.
“Good morning, John,” she said softly, it felt awkward like two teenagers courting each other at school.
“Good morning…Kelly,” was the best he could come up with. Yesterday’s kiss lingered in his thoughts and directed his gaze towards her lips. He felt a rush of pleasure.
Kelly edged closer, concerned about the sudden change in his skin colour. “What’s the matter? Your face has turned red. Are you ill?”
John could only think about the immediate moment. Everything around him faded and Kelly glowed like a beacon in the darkness. He became trapped in her presence and drifted into his own world. When Kelly placed a compassionate hand on his forehead, he felt a connecting force shiver from her hand to his mind. It was as if that kiss had heightened his senses towards her. She closed the gap and John felt his heart beat in his throat. But Kelly was not startled. In fact, she seemed normal, as if she’d written off the kiss.
John had to ask, find out where he stood. “Kelly.” He fell over his words. “About yesterday…in the park…”
Kelly interjected, derailing his train of thought, “John…Um…”
“What is it?” John asked, desperate for her to speak. Her face turned a shade of pink and he thought she looked cuter with some colour in her cheeks.
“I’m going swimming in the leisure park later and I could do with some company. So…could you come with me?”
John noticed Kelly staring away from him. She seemed so shy and timid. Not like the woman who challenged him in the training hall a few days ago.
He jumped at the offer. “Y-Yes, I’ll be honoured.”
Kelly looked into his eyes. “Really! I’ve got to see my father before I go, but I’ll tell you when I’m ready.”
John was bewitched by the moment. The manner in which she just appeared out of nowhere and asked him out on a date, a swimming date, was every young man’s dream.
John sat next to one of the many small trees that surrounded the domed area of the colony vessel. It was late and she had managed to make arrangements to isolate the swimming complex from the general public. John had no idea how the hell she managed to pull that off, but he assumed Kelly knew some high-ranking crew members that would do anything for her. After all, she was in the flight school and pilots had increased authority over common civilians.
“You’re here,” Kelly began, catching John off guard as she strolled in to the open space.
“Kelly!” he asked, red-faced. “How did you reserve this place?”
“I have friends in high places. Come, you can’t keep a girl waiting…” She took his hand and walked through the open door.
For half an hour they enjoyed the company of each other within the cool swimming pool, splashing and holding each other. John fell helplessly in love and she looked dazzling in her slim bathing suit. She coaxed him towards the edge of the pool and the night merged into a mind-blowing experience that’ll change their lives forever.
With his fate now in Kelly’s hands, John wanted to be with her forever, he loved her so much. So when she invited him to see her father before dinner, he jumped at the opportunity. But he was nervous about meeting the man who helped to bring this gorgeous woman into the world.
What was he like? How would he react and what did he expect from him? These were the questions that he pondered as he walked towards Kelly’s quarters.
He first noticed something strange when he walked along the high-class area of the ship, mainly reserved for high-class families and even the captain himself. He felt a lump in his throat, but walked through the security checkpoint. The guard gave him a ‘you don’t belong here’ stare, then carried on with his scans. Still, he ignored the idiot and proceeded to the last door on the left. It had no name, only a number. Before John had the chance to ring, the door was flung open.
Stood in all her beauty Kelly clutched the small elegant dress she wore for the evening. It made him shiver with delight and he immediately hugged her, his warm passion growing with every touch.
“My father’s still working, but he’ll be back soon,” she said, taking his jacket off.
“That’s okay, we can spend some time together.”
Kelly guided him to the sofa. She seemed radiant and daring.
Strawberries and cream rested on the tableside and she gestured with her left hand. She pulled a plump strawberry from its pack, placed it into the cool cream and teased John deliberately as she slipped the fruit into her mouth.
The experience hit his senses and he pulled her back and kissed her passionately on the lips and the cuddled and teased each other until her father walked through the door.
John felt like a dead man.
He was a dead man.
He killed this man’s son. No, even worse, he was now dating this man’s daughter, the girl he fell in love with, his companion for life. John knew he’d dug himself a hole all the way to hell.
“You must be John.” Maddox took off his jacket, hung it next to John’s and then walked right up to him, his barrelled chest clearly visible through his tight shirt.
Does he know everything about me? Does he know what I did two years ago?
The lump in his throat swelled to a point where he could hardly breathe and the rest of the evening was just as difficult. He lived with the crime all those years ago and now he backed himself into a corner with no exit. He checked his words and the evening grew even darker as time went on. One mistake, one wrong word could expose the lie he was hiding. It was as if he was in a interrogation room.
As the awkward evening came to an end, John felt his freedom as he left the quarters and walked along the observation deck. Space looked spectacular as huge clouds of particles and dust swirled with elegant beauty. John wanted to tell Kelly the truth about the incident all those years ago, but he would be signing his own death warrant and the end of his relationship. There was still was a chance no one would find out.
Three weeks passed and Kelly continued to date John more frequently than ever. All her spare time was used to see him, even during flight school; she would team up and practice with him.
Everything seemed to go well, and even giggles from the rest of the candidates strengthened the rumours and tales. John and Kelly loved every moment and each other.
But, deep within the bowels of the ship, startling evidence was finally recovered.
Maddox discussed the new information with his technical officers, who had managed to recover a drive with 20MB of data. Handing the flash drive over, the technician began to talk. “Sir, you might not like what we’ve found.”
He took the drive and the technician ran out the room. With the truth in his hands Maddox opened the OSB slot and shoved in the device. It only took a few second for the screen to load then it took a moment for the captain to process the video he was watching.
John was alone exploring the area near the park. He still loved the view of the space-cloud and often stared at it for hours as the disturbances whipped up the colours and tossed them into open space. But the airlock hatch on the other side of the ship always bought back haunting memories about his terrible involvement all those years ago.
He bowed his head and murmured to himself, “I’m sorry… Why did things have to happen like this?”
“Are you referring to the incident two years go?” A gruff voice from behind him hissed with anger.
John recognized the voice and his heart leapt to the next galaxy. He heard the footsteps and was too paralysed to do anything. He did not have to. He could see Kelly’s father and a gang of heavy men through the reflection on the port window. Maddox stewed in his own anger, fuming. With fear tugging at the very corners of his soul, John knew the game was up. He did think about running, but was trapped on a ship in the middle of space. He slowly turned and faced the Captain. “I’m the one solely responsible for the incident. The other guy had nothing to do with it.”
Maddox snorted. “He’ll have to face trial, just like you.”
John stood firm; he knew it would be impractical and completely foolish to beg for forgiveness.
But he had to do something first. “I do have one request. I would like to tell your daughter the truth…I want to confess to her.”
“Why did you date my daughter?” Maddox shouted. “To use her?”
John looked away as he teetered on the edge of complete misery.
“I had no idea she was your daughter until a few weeks ago.”
John continued to gaze at the man’s stone-cold expression and was unable to read his emotion. But with a shallow nod, he reluctantly agreed and now John was cursed with the biggest regret of all, to confess everything to Kelly.
Kelly might share her quarters with her father, but it was different today. It had a happier atmosphere, but not for long. John was about to tell her the truth and all the colourful hangings and fancy pictures would not cushion the storm he was about to whip up.
Maddox marched into the living room and signalled some of his men to wait outside; he poured himself a glass of wine and waited for his daughter to appear. He regretted this choice now, but he should allow this man to confess his crimes. After all, she deserved that much.
When Kelly heard a disturbance in the living room she stepped out and smiled at John. However, that smile soon changed to concern when she saw the angry expression on her father.
John took her hand and led her back to her room.
Outside in the living room Maddox sat, waiting for the moment, the flashpoint.
The minutes stretched out like uncaring hands on the clock, slowly ticking down with every second. Maddox could not hold back his grief and the moment he heard Kelly yell out her anger, he knew it was time to intervene.
When he went in, Maddox found Kelly crouched on the end of the bed and a grief stricken John staring back at him, tears in his red eyes painfully tried to control his emotions.
“You can kill me now. I know I deserve it,” John murmured.
“Don’t worry, I intend to. But we have a process to go through and you must stand trial.”
On the day John was to face trial, the security teams held him under tight watch and allowed no one to visit. John was sure Kelly could have visited, even Maddox. They didn’t. He hoped Maddox was with his daughter repairing the damage he’d caused. In the end, he wished that she would not have to wrestle with her feelings, the feelings for her brother and her lover. How did this get that far?
Within his cramped, metal-walled quarters, he stared at his food, which had been spoiled by malicious intent.
The door slid open, allowing a gush of air filled with assorted fragrances from the outer corridor to blow in. Maddox Longhezrt stood there in his immaculate uniform and gold epaulets.
“Are you ready for this? You know what’s coming. All I can say is that your confession cleared your friend. But you will not escape judgement.”
“Come, the trial awaits.” Maddox led the way and John dutifully followed.
The trial council consisted of Maddox and six other high ranking officials as well as a civilian jury who would decide if he was guilty or not.
The ceiling was transparent and showed the dust nebula with swirling clouds of different colours. It was a view he often saw with Kelly and was a fitting place for his doom.
As John entered all eyes focused on him with withering scorn. To his surprise, Kelly sat next to her father and he could tell she was hiding her grief. John wished he could do something to heal that beautiful girl, bring a smile back to her face. He even wished she’d showed some anger towards him. Shout, yell or do something, but she didn’t.
The trial was called to order. The room went silent and John felt sick.
As if Maddox was reading from a script, he began. “John Lighthard, please stand.”
John got to his feet and felt the cold draft encase his body, a prelude to his execution. “I’m standing.”
Maddox continued, “Please tell us in detail what happened on the night, two years ago that involved… my son and his departure from this life.”
A few people muttered and swore at him, others wanted the man hanged. Still, half of them would be dead if it wasn’t for his heroic actions during the two years. Ironic how things are forgotten.
He described the events that happened in great detail and made his apologies. He wished for a fair trial and expected no special treatment. “During the two years I’ve lived with this awful secret and I have tried to atone for my actions. Nonetheless, I still seek forgiveness and appropriate punishment.”
An old man with a long grey beard and white hair stood at the centre of the room. He was up high and listened intently to everybody.
“John Lighthard, I’m aware of your past heroics and the basic fact you saved the captain’s life and the lives of countless hundreds on this ship. However, our laws are the same. A life for a life. Two years ago, you terminated the life of Nathan Longhezrt and thrust the family into turmoil. Depending on the vote, I will have no choice but to sentence you to death.”
The judge looked towards the jurors and then back to his voting screen. “I have received the votes.” He paused, but not long enough to drag it out like some kind of game show. He respectfully continued. “And found you guilty. Therefore, as the law states, you are to be executed by spacing.” He looked towards Maddox and Kelly. “However, this sentence can be retracted or freedom given by the victim’s family. Maddox and Kelly, do you have anything you wish to add for the record?”
John looked at the two family members. Maddox still appeared cold and unreadable. But Kelly glanced at him for a few seconds and her icy expression seemed to melt, but she quickly caught herself and found the will to refreeze it again.
The judge continued in his deep voice. “Then, by the powers invested by me, the sentence has now been finalized. John…you are to face execution immediately by airlock decompression. May God have mercy upon your soul.”
The judge lowered the hammer and the case ended. John felt cold as ice and Kelly looked sick. He had finally come to the end of his life.
The punishment came almost immediately after the sentence. There was no time for John to accept his fate and now he was tossed into the airlock and waited for the final doors to open. He could only imagine the freezing, the sudden sharpness in his eyes and the immediate pain before death. This must have been the way Nathan felt before he died.
John knelt on the grated floor and prayed hard. He wasn’t a praying man, but it was the only thing left for him to do. The inner doors slammed shut and he looked around as blue lights flashed with warning. He knew the sequence well. Blue for ready. Yellow for lock-down and red for outer door opening. It was blue…
Then the lights changed to yellow. Fuck, this was going too fast.
He looked towards the small control room window and saw Maddox at the controls.
Nothing needed to be said. He had never expected to receive miraculous forgiveness but he hoped to see Kelly one last time. Now all he had was the small wristband she made for him. He clutched it tight and waited for the inevitable.
John lifted his head and perspiration dripped off his face. He felt the vibrations from the engines and he glanced towards the inner hatch with crowds of people peeking through the small observation window. He felt angry; this was not a spectacle to witness, but he knew that his actions two years ago justified this.
He had a few final words to say; in the hope of making them change their minds. He wasn’t going to beg, but he needed to say something. “I think I can accomplish more if I was to live. I’ve already done a lot for this colony. I believe I can do more, make up for my mistake.”
“The law is the law but I will listen to my daughter and accept her decision.” John watched as his father looked into the darkness of the room. He could not see her, but it was obvious she was present.
He looked back. “I’m sorry. This will continue.”
John nodded and looked towards the outer door. He waited for the final moment. But the silence seemed to hang there forever.
“John Lighthard, you know why you are here. Any final words?” John looked towards the small window, hoping to see Kelly. But she wasn’t there. He wanted to confess his love one final time, but that would be cruel and shameful. He could not hurt her like that. The warning lights made him dizzy and he felt sick. Perhaps all that would end once the outer doors opened.
“I’m sorry, Maddox, Kelly. I hope this will be suitable punishment and bring some measure of peace to you.”
Even now, John hoped the comment would weigh on Maddox’s mind. Opening that outer airlock was hard, especially if he was the one doing it. But the one thing that was on his mind the most was Kelly’s thoughts. He wondered if she was huddled in the corner, waiting. But the reality was far more terrifying as he watched the condensation drip off the outer door, ready for it to open.
Kelly did huddle in the corner and wait. She waited for the final moment and listened to his excuses, with pain in her heart. She heard his excuses and watched the trial. But she could do nothing. She was angry, but full of love. She had no idea what to do. Now her brother’s murderer and her lover knelt in the same airlock. He did try and fix his past mistakes and he had also saved her father’s life. Everything about his behaviour began to make sense.
But he was her first love and she had kept her name secret until the final moment. She knew that he was not using her. What they had was genuine. True love. Perhaps John could undo what he did by being with her. Knowing what he did, being responsible for her, beginning a family. Being with her forever would be one way to mend the damage. He did his best and now she was helplessly in love with him. She might be able to forgive him, but her father would not. Perhaps John would suffer a fate far worse than her brother’s death, knowing that he would have to face the father of the one he killed for the rest of his life.
Still, Kelly loved him too much. She felt her heart beat rapidly and she needed to do something. She did not want to lose the man she’d completely fallen in love with. It would be a hard recovery and John would have to pay the price, but in the end, she needed John.
She lunged forward and shouted, “Stop!”
Her father looked at her for a moment before he signalled his men to open the airlock door. Kelly was puzzled, was he about to release John so easily?
“W-What’s going on?” she whimpered in response to the sudden revelation.
Suddenly someone else was tossed into the room with him. John looked up; water flowing from his eyes and then shock filled him.
“No-” he shouted. “Roland has no part in this. It was me who activated the switch that killed your son, he was simply following my orders. I thought my confession cleared his name.”
Kelly looked on as the scene unfolded right before her eyes. Now two people were in the air lock. She always knew more than one person was involved with her brother’s murder. But now, her father had captured the second culprit.
Maddox leaned into the microphone and said, “John, it is honourable that you would take the blame for my son’s death, but new evidence has come to light and I had to see how far you would go.”
John turned to the window. “New evidence?”
“In my rage, I allowed the surveillance footage to run for ten minutes after you two left the air lock on that fateful day. After you left, I watched as your friend changed the cabling behind the control panel and disengage the safety protocols you clearly set in place. Although I don’t condone your involvement, I will not execute a man who had no intentions of killing him.”
John turned slowly to his so-called friend for his opinion. He stood there cold, eyes glaring at the outer air lock. John could only mutter one word.
“Why did you do that? Why did you frame me?”
Maddox had more to say. “Our investigations have shown my son had been dealing in illegal drugs throughout the ship with your friend. Roland was part of the team and when my son failed to help you two into the flight program, he blackmailed him into the air lock. He was hoping to get rid of a partner and keep all the profits for himself. It was a calculated risk and he was willing to frame you for it.”
John stood and continued to stare rigidly at Roland. “Why did you do it?”
“It was only a matter of time before you found out about my dark trades on this ship. I could not take the chance that you would tell the authorities.” Roland stared at him coldly, his ridged stand sent a chill up his spine and his phrase of man had completely disappeared from his vocabulary. “You always had a good heart, and with your determination to join the flight school, I know you would gladly sacrifice me to join them.”
“That’s not true!”
“Yes it is!” Roland shot back a look of firm resolve. “I knew your desire to join the flight school superseded your rational thought. You’re the one who thought of the idea to shove the captain’s son in the air lock, not me!”
“But I was never going to go through with it.”
Roland kept his cold composure, despite the mounting pressure on him. “I guess that’s the difference between you and me.”
The inner airlock door opened and guards marched in to remove John from the deadly chamber. Once he stepped through the hatch the inner door slammed shut.
Guards grabbed John by his arms and escorted him to the control booth. Once inside Maddox looked at him straight in the eye. John appeared frail and exhausted. A drop of blood dripped off his head and sweat rolled down his brow.
“Since he was the one who set you up for the fall, I will give you the option. Will you sentence this man to death, or will you allow him to live?”
John placed his hand on the control panel. Memories flooded through his mind and he could see subtle differences in his behaviour over the years. Roland might have gone down a dark path, but no one should suffer the fate of death. He did not believe in such a cold-hearted punishment. He removed his hand from the control panel and said, “There has been too much death already. I can’t kill him, you can do what you want with me, but I won’t do this.”
Maddox finally said, “Very well, despite your involvement in my son’s death, I believe it will serve no use to have my daughter suffer over your death and she did call out your name. Because of this I will be leaving your future in my daughter’s hands. Depending on its outcome, she will decide your fate in the future. As for your friend’s sentence,” Maddox placed his left hand on the outer airlock release button and turned it for justice.im
© Copyright 2013 Shane Ward.
© Copyright 2013 Shane Ward.