The Phantom of Choice

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Where am I?

I opened my eyes and found myself in an unfamiliar space. Everything was covered in wood. Its smell was tickling my nose. It reminded me so much of home.

Where am I?

The ship, which board I was on, was pure steel; there is no way this amount of wood would be there.

How did I get here? What on earth is going on here?

I tried to stand up. My head was spinning in weird directions, but I withstood it. What I realized next were small movements from side to side. As if the room was constantly moving. But I just told myself it’s because of the headache I had. Probably just another part of spinning.

The other thing I noticed was that I was barely dressed. I was only wearing my underwear.

Next to the bed was lying a small pile of clothes. Leather pants, white shirt and something that resembled a corset I saw few times during military parades on those high class ladies. Next to clothes was a pair of boots.

Well, better than go out half naked.

“Oh, you are finally awake.”

I looked on the door with caution. Because of the light going though them I couldn’t see the man’s face.

“Get dressed, we talk after.”

I wanted to ask him all the questions in my mind, but he closed the door before I had a chance to. I just decided to go with it. The clothing was bit uncomfortable, pants too low on waist and very tight, and shirt, on the other hand, too loose. And I just decided to leave the corset be. At least the boots were the correct size.

The light in the room was dim; I couldn’t see any mirror so I just went out dressed like I was.

The first moment, after opening the door, the light got me blind. It was so bright, my eyes were burning. After few seconds I decided to open the eyes again. The result was better this time and it hurt less.

When I looked around me I realized the movement from side to side was not because of my headache. It was because I was on a ship. Not a spaceship. But an actual ship sailing the sea.

“The captain is waiting for you on the bridge. I take you to him,” said the man who came to me, while I was wondering about the blue mass around me.

I looked on him hoping that expression on my face is unreadable.

I nodded: “Yes, please.”

I followed him few steps until he got to the stairs and showed up. I walked the few stairs and there I saw a man looking into some maps.

“I am glad to see you well,” he said without even looking away from the maps.

“Where the hell am I?”

“That is not a way how you should talk with the man who saved you and decided to spare your life. But because of your... appealing appearance I will forgive you this time,” he finally looked up. I felt his eyes searching every inch of my body. “This is my ship Sister of Night, and my name is Zorach Shekon, the captain and your saviour. You owe me your life,” he smiled on me.

“What exactly do you mean?” I asked sceptically.

“Yesterday we saw how your spaceship fell into the ocean, and we decided to be generous enough and pull you out. But you and the other man just happened to survive.”

“I want to speak to him. Where is the ship? What is this place? What is this planet?”

“Oh, you don’t even know where you were flying? That is bit reckless, don’t you think so?”

A small memory buzzed in my mind. That was right. We had a failure in some systems. Engine? No, something similar, something that is part of engine? Energetic core? Distributions systems? I can’t remember.

“We must have crash landed,” I said to myself. But that can also mean, I may have no way on how to get home. I looked on the captain: “Who is the other one who survived? I want to talk to him.”

“Come with me,” he stood up and led me to stairs that led under the deck. There, on one of the bed sat a robot. One of the models that were used to maintain the ship system as well as guarding the ship in case of emergency. “He didn’t move a slightest bit since we got you here. We think he is dead, but I forbid throwing him out of ship. He seems odd.”

“It’s a service robot. Of course, he is odd. And if I remember correctly the switch button is somewhere...” I reached behind the ear; there I felt uneven skin of control panel. “Here.” The moment I touched the control panel, robot switched on. He stood up and looked on us. He was almost twice as big as I.

“Identify yourself,” I ordered him.

“Cannot engage to unauthorized personal.”

“I am higher officer of the Federation Space Program, part of crew of the spaceship Beholder, officer number 78854 mayor Verya Minenhle.”

Robot was silent for few seconds. “Service military combat robot number 13-8719 named Knave.”

Series thirteen. Those were special with something, but in that moment, I didn’t remember what.

“Seems like the robot likes you,” said the captain after a long while. “Verya. It was rude of you not to introduce yourself to me.”

“You didn’t ask,” I smiled on him innocently. “Knave, what is your status?”

“Damage 11%, battery running in safe regime, overall condition good.”

“Great. Now, do you know what happened with the ship?”

“The exact cause is unknown. The ship main energy corridor was interrupted.”

“What do you mean interrupted?”

“The main leading cables were insufficient to lead such great power.”

“So a mistake while making shit?”

“Negative. The blueprints were perfect according to all previous ships of this model. In recorded history, none of them had this error.”

This smelled fishy. Why use inappropriate cables to lead the power? Did they run out of materials or something?

“What is our location?”

Knave raised his hand. A small holograph lighted the room. “Our last recorder position was near the orbit of the planet Klamenus. According to the last update of ship diary, the course for the next destination was twenty-seven point eighty-one light years from centre the of galactic black hole and nine point eleven light years from last recorded position. The error in energy system appeared after fifteen hours forty-eight minutes and twelve seconds after engine start and opening of worm hole. Based on flight speed we used, according to my calculations, we are close to this position, near planet Wefromae.” As he was speaking the holograph on his hand was showing map of every location he was talking about.

“Does any of that sound familiar?” I asked the captain.

“You folks are from the Federation?”

“Didn’t I say that like two minutes ago?”

“This planet never was and never will be a member of that damn organisation. And you may consider yourself lucky that I will not kick you out of the ship,” his tone of speech suddenly changed so much. He spoke with so much hate.

“I am not here to make you a member of the Federation. We are only here, because we crash landed. You heard there was a bug in energy system.” I turned back to face the robot. “Anyways, show me all planets that are not part of Federation near this location.”

“No planets found.”

“What do you mean, no planets found? Do you want to say we are on Wefromae?”

“Negative. Structure of this ship and its construction materials is different than those on Wefromae.”

“Then where are we?”

“Current location is unknown.”

“What do you mean unknown.”

“We are on planet that has never been documented.”

“How exactly do you know about existence of the Federation?” I turned on the captain again who was still listening to us with huge interested. This man was very mysterious. He talks about the Federation with hate, even though he is not even supposed to know a single bit about it.

“We found something couple of months ago on one of the islands, where we stopped to refill our water supplies. The documents on the ship were talking about it.”

“Take us there and I give you much more than just those few information you found there.” I doubt he got to ship’s system. I should be able to access it. It wasn’t exactly according to protocol, but it was at least something. Definitely better than sticking on this ship.

“Information is precious way how to pay, but what else can you offer?” I was thinking what of the ship supplies they already plundered and what could still be there.

“There might be few things on the ship you have not noticed. I know all hidden spaces there can be. One ride and you can take all from that ship,” I wasn’t sure how well I am doing this barging. But the thing I was sure of was that I needed to get to that ship.

“Why do you want to go there so badly anyways?”

“Knave, will you be able to repair the communication system on the ship?”

“Depends on the damage made and resources present.”

“I want to get home,” I told the captain Zorach again.

“And you call those bastards from the Federation here to enslave our planet.”

“I swear on the graves of my parents, on my honour and everything I hold dear, that after I get on a functional ship I delete the location of this planet and everything about it from system database.”

“I must protest as such act is crime against the laws of the Federation,” said Knave, first time he spoke on his own. I just knew it has something to do with series thirteen.

“I am willing to take all the risk. So how it is going to be? Will you take us to the ship you found?”

Captain was thinking for few minutes. I think, I offered him more than he deserved from just a small journey on some islands.

“Lady Verya, we made a deal.”

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