The Lonely End
The internal dampers were supposed to be making this ride feel like Ayla was slicing through butter. Instead, the jittering control system of her shuttle informed her of anomalies being detected throughout the warp nacelles. An explosion from the back lurched her forwards into the pilot controls. Ribs protesting angrily at the metal bench.
This was not exactly what she had in mind when she snuck off the main vessel this morning. She was part of the entertainment class, not meant to pilot a shuttle. Not meant to leave her station.
But Ayla had other ideas.
Ones even she didn’t know about and now was one heck of a time to test it. Shifting her arse back into the pilot’s metal seat, this was not where her story ended. Her fingers flew over the sporadically flashing keys, attempting to isolate which ones were working. Step one, get the controls operational.
A crackle ebbed over the intercommunications, the deep hulking voice of the captain announcing himself.
“Ayla,” the sing-song tone sent a cold chill through her body as her hands stilled uncontrollably. She didn’t know the Captain knew her name, but as the last remaining human, she should have guessed. The temporal implant hissed the translation right into her ear, “You have had your fun, it’s time to return to captivity little bird.”
It was meant to be a joke, like a Captain to a subordinate. That was the tone he had. Ayla knew better than to trust that voice. It was the voice her father fell for all those years ago. It was the voice that condemned her via a recording to live a life of medical experiments. To be a slave, a pet to a creature that spoke no language she understood.
She was taught to be thankful for her gracious Captain as if the ominous voice were a God - she was kept alive after all, it taught her of her long-dead ancestors; the humans. Who was Ayla to refute this thing and its joke?
But Ayla was far from amused and the idea of going back there was not one worth living. She had survived for so long, though...
“For experiments?” she asked, voice raspy from the smoke casually billowing from the rear portion of her vessel.
“Better than your other roles,” the reply was accompanied with another shot to her ship.
Ayla’s ribs protested again as she was flung forwards, a crack sound warning of damaged bones. But Ayla didn’t need air. Not now. Her hands returned to their task - successfully managing to gain access to a partial keyboard. Nothing she couldn’t learn how to use on the fly. So, with her left hand running controls, her right hand was free to pull up the visuals of where the hell she was.
“Shit,” the word came out in two puffs of sound, but the tears began streaming down her face in defeat. She was heading towards a black hole- either she went back to them, or home beyond the stars. To freedom, and that alone was enough to die for.
The hiss from her translator numbed her body again, “Bring the vessel to a stop and we’ll take you back.”
And the stupidity of her long-forgotten ancestors bled through her. With her left hand plotting the course through the outer rim of the black hole, her right hand punched the few buttons on the centre console to engage the quantum slipstream drive. Her father had been an engineer turned pirate before his captivity so she could do this. It was in her genetics.
Not that she’d ever done this before. Just learned the theory.
Panic translated through the captain’s next announcement, “You will destroy yourself if you do this Ayla.”
And a desperate laugh escaped her lips, “I know.”
There was no way the vessel in its damaged state could do what she asked, and Ayla didn’t care. The translator embedded in her skull buzzed like a wasp as it transposed expletives of her ex-Captain. Ayla’s body trembled with adrenaline, gasping in air genuinely not knowing which would be her last. She slouched in her chair, wishing for a different life for herself, her family, and her species. And with renewed vigour, Ayla engaged the drive. The vessel jutted forwards and whatever inertial dampers she had? They weren’t worth shit.
Ayla bounced around the cabin like a rubber ball, praying to all the Gods she had ever been taught of.
Thoughts were hard to maintain. Every time she had one, a new pain hit her. Knocking comprehension to the wind. Ayla wanted to live so desperately, and focused on her erratically beating heart.
Anything to prolong her miserable life.
So when the light of the display screen shattered into a million pieces. The pain that entered her eyes felt like a tickle in comparison to her every cell burning alive.
Somewhere she heard the song her mother taught her. Before they were separated all those years ago. Before all… this. When she was free. The comfort of her almost forgotten voice echoed within her skull, as her mouth mumbled along desperately. “I’m about to lose my mind, you’ve been gone for so long… I’m running out of time. I need a doctor. Call me a doctor-” and in a metallic blast.
Ayla was no more.