By: Justin Miller
With Jason Pratley & Tim Chopourian
The finest exploration vessel developed by humanity drifted lifelessly through space. Barely a week into its maiden voyage, strange energy signatures led the crew of The Ascendant between two massive battle fleets of unknown origin. Both parties, surprised by the tiny, unknown vessel appearing in their midst, each assumed it belonged to the other and within moments The Ascendant was crippled in a hail of weapon salvos from all directions.
Petty Officer Vaan Dell choked as he regained consciousness on the ruined bridge. Taking in his surroundings he could see the captain pinned to his command chair with a spear of shattered hull sticking through his heart. The rest of the bridge crew were in similar states. Chief Engineer Jefferson got a live electrical conduit lodged in his throat and was convulsing. Communications Officer Clarke’s body was half charred, half frozen. Science Officer Daniels appeared to be sliced in half and then in half again and then in half again. Even the spunky new navigation officer was nothing more than a pile of quivering goo around his station. Vaan Dell was not entirely sure what had happened or how he managed to survive but, pushing conjecture from his mind, he staggered his way out of what used to be the door in a trance and into the long corridor that ran along the spine of the ship.
The ringing in his ears surrounded him as he staggered down the hall towards the escape pods, dragging one hand across the wall next to him to keep himself upright.
He was about to pass the kitchen when movement caught his eye. Shadows danced in the flickering lights inside the room accompanied by the sudden clatter of metal pans. Vaan entered the room and leaned near the entryway.
“Is anyone else alive in here?” he called out.
A dark mass stirred beneath one of the fallen tables, far larger than a human. The rummaging stopped and Vaan Dell realized he should have stayed quiet. As he turned to continue to the escape pod a spasm ran up his leg, it gave out from under his weight and he clutched to the edge of the steel table near the doorway. The figure among the rubbish crashed its way towards Vaan, pushing aside the fallen benches and tables around it. All Vaan could do was try to limp, but then the figure appeared, illuminated by the emergency lighting in the corridor. An eight foot tall being with four arms like tree trunks, each arm ending with a maul-like fist, and a head like an elephant. A Bolmorrean in the red light. The alien’s brow was deep set and it had a wild vicious look in its small eyes. Veins popped from its bulging muscles.
Vaan blindly reached for whatever was on the table next to him to defend himself. What he grabbed crinkled in his fingers. He looked down to find a bag of peanuts in his hand.
Vaan timidly offered the bag to the bolmorrean.
He forced a smile. The Bolmorrean gave a vicious smile back.
When Vaan finally awoke, the last thing he remembered was Bolmorrean fists flying at him. He lay there wondering how much time had passed. There was a dull throbbing all over his body, but no pain. Numbing agents?
Opening his eyes he looked sidelong at his surroundings. Bunks and cots of various sizes surrounded him, suggesting he was in someone’s crew quarters. The layout and tech was definitely not human. Beds of various shapes and sizes with bubbling apparatus and breathing tubes were laid out in hexagonal clusters about the space. The walls were a dark grey and shimmered beneath bright blue lighting tubes. He quickly realized that despite these unfamiliar surroundings, he was not restrained in any way. If he was rescued or if he was captured, they may not think he was capable of escaping on his own. Yet when he tried to rise from his bed, he found his muscles struck with a deep fatigue and gave into it.
Milling about the room were various species of aliens that Vaan had never expected to see in the same room without trying to kill each other. A feral looking Ventoshi was exchanging notes with a well groomed Mirrani holding a clipboard. A slick Muntir with shiny blue speckled skin high-fived a massive obsidian Dormant as they passed each other. On the strange beds were other shapes and masses he did not recognize. Vaan lay there beginning to contemplate his situation until a small furry being noticed he was awake and trotted over to the side of his cot. Without pausing, it jumped up to the edge of the bed.
“So, what’s your thing?” it asked.
“What are you? Some overgrown weasel?” Vaan replied.
The fubari looked annoyed. “I’m a fubari of course. You humans should remember what we look like.”
Vaan Dell closed his eyes. “Ohh crap.”
The small creature laughed and flicked his ear. “Don’t fret any, I’m fluent in Human Dialects, and I’m not here to subjugate you.- So what’s your thing?”
Vaan sighed. “Just please leave me alone. I’m sure I’m hallucinating.”
But the Fubari raised his brow a moment and kept talking “What I mean is, what’s your power? Most of the guys bet it was strength but I went with vivekenisis.” The Fubari motioned to the bag of peanuts sitting on the table next to Vaan’s bed. “We found you clutching that bag like your life depended on it. I’m guessing it’s your artifact. We’ve seen some weird ones out there.” The Fubari stuck his clawed thumb towards a troubled looking blue Bolmorrean in the corner with no tusks. It was rocking back and forth clutching a toy. The Fubari lowered his voice to a whisper “That one gets his strength from an adorable stuffed poodle that he carries around everywhere. At least that’s what we guess. He doesn’t talk much.”
Vaan furrowed his brow. “I don’t have any special ‘power’ that I know of.”
“So you’re telling me you took a punch from a Bolmorrean and you’re somehow not splattered against some bulkhead in that wreckage we dragged you out of?…I’m disappointed.”
“You and me both.” Vaan felt the numbing sensation leaving him and he lifted his arm and clenched his fist a few times, he was realizing a new sensation that his chest had been stoved-in. his breath caught in his lungs with the sudden pain. “I’m-…I was stationed as an engineer on an exploration vessel. We weren’t even a week into our mission before we were attacked…now… everyone’s dead… except for me.” Vaan looked at the fubari. “Is everyone dead except me?”
The Fubari nodded slowly. “Afraid so.”
“So now I’m your prisoner?”
The Fubari grinned. “You’re not my prisoner, you were conscripted! Think of surviving an exploding ship and that punch was your job interview.” His sharp weasel teeth glinted in the fluorescent lights. “Congratulations! You’re now a proud employee of Blackwagon Pest Control.”