December 11, 2007
By Brett Baggett, Park City, UT

The explosion shook the whole ship, rattling the already-broken engine and tilting the mechanic transporter upside down. Since the ship was in space, however, upside down meant nothing. The crew was thrown deeper into the darkness, deeper into death. They already were on the edge; if the enemy found the ship’s crew one more time, all would be lost.

Time passed as slowly as the ship was drifting through space. The ship was thrown off course several decades ago by the captain of the transporter. Tall and menacingly he crushed the metal of the engine, and with it the hopes of the crew and the universe. No one knew how the captain had come to leave the ship, but none of the evacuation pods were taken. To the crew, their best hope was that the captain was dead and the ship would be discovered, the crew discovering them knowing enough to bring them back from death. This was a futile hope, as the crew knew that they were several light years away from any civilization, much less a colony that would still be friendly to the crew.

A shadow moved swiftly across the hallway. The crew shrank into the darkness as much as they could, hoping that they would not be discovered by whomever or whatever was there. A radiant light pierced through the shadows, reflecting off of the ice-cold, metallic walls of the transporter. Time seemed to stop to the crew as the tall, blinding figure rounded the corner of the hallway. The creature revealed itself finally, after pausing at the corner and slowly probing the air for any signs of carbon dioxide. Instantly, the crew registered the figure. It was a light caecus, a bald, blind creature covered in orange mold that could seek out the breath of humans. The crew sucked in all the air they could hold, shuffling out of the light caecus’s way. The leader of the crew, a man of sturdy muscular build confidently lowered his hand to his side, slowly gripping the iron blade by his side.

Tension rose in his chest as less and less oxygen remained in his lungs. He couldn’t hold it anymore. Finally, his released his held breath. A wave of carbon dioxide rushed from his mouth and floated across the hallway until it reached the light caecus’s face. At blinding speed, the radiant creature spun around and opened its maw. A ring of light formed in the center of its mouth, blinding the entire crew and sending a sharp pain through their brains.

Blind and without direction, the crew’s leader unsheathed his sword and cut upwards. Instantly, the searing pain flashed intensely. The light caecus screeched loudly and painfully, the sword lodged it its side. Suddenly, the screeching stopped and the caecus landed with a thud on the ground. But the searing pain persisted. The crew members only saw light, only thought about the ring of light in the creature’s mouth. Brought to their knees, the whole crew knew their fate: to be consumed by the light generated by the creature. A tiny spark of thought formed in the mind of the leader. The sword was still stuck in the creature’s side. If he could get to it, there was a chance the light would leave.

A trembling hand crept towards the light caecus. Pain drove away any extra energy the crew’s leader could draw. Almost at the point of complete exhaustion, his index finger reached the hilt, then his entire hand. The cold, metallic feel of the hilt lingered in his palm. He had no more energy. He could not pull out the sword. With the light persisting in his head and the intense pain coursing through his body like a metal rod conducting electricity, they all knew that the caecus would be their demise. The entire crew passed out at the same time, with the leader’s hand wrapped around the hilt of the sword.

*** *** *** ***

Compared to his past experiences, this conflict was not the most difficult. During his time with the crew decades ago, he was second in command. Under the instructions of the captain, the crew carried out missions for whomever paid them the most in their empire. The team made a lot of money this way, and they all prospered. Then is when it started.
Nightmares started to flood the captain’s mind at night. Visions of horrifying creatures and his deepest fears flashed before his detained subconscious. Because of this, the captain developed a splintered personality; one governed by his nightmares; the other, his normal, day-to-day affairs. The crew, looking out for his safety, would lock him in a jail cell each time this happened until his ego reverted to what it once was.
One such night, the captain woke up inside the jail cell. Thinking it was mutiny, the captain escaped his imprisonment and destroyed his ship, taking the last of the escape pods.

*** *** *** ***

In the darkness of his mind, the leader walked along a path of light, suspended over a world of shadows. The path was brightly flashing, its edges composed of solid light. The crew leader was being pulled towards something: something at the end of the path. Walking for several minutes, the path slowly narrowed. Subtly and slowly drawing together, the leader did not even notice the path growing smaller. Eventually, the path was only a line, hardly able to be walked on.

It was then that the crew’s leader realized that the path of light was not a path at all. The leader was walking on his own sword, still lodged in the side of the light caecus. The light of the path was the reflection from the mouth of the creature. Looking up, the leader saw the caecus, its pale and dead eyes staring at nothing but its mouth still generating light. At that moment, the leader saw the caecus’ whole body shiver, then fall to the side. The sword, still lodged in its side, broke free of its side and fell slowly to the ground.

*** *** *** ***

The crew’s leader opened his eyes. The cold metallic hilt of the sword still lingered in his hand. Still with very little energy, he looked up to the creature. It was now laying facedown, the sword free of its side. The headache of light was gone. The crew’s leader slowly looked towards the rest of the crew: they were still alive, but unconscious. A wave of relief rushed through the crew leader. He got to his feet slowly and painfully.

They needed to leave. The light caecus would attract a lot of attention, the last thing they needed at that time. However, there was no way to leave the spaceship. There were no escape pods, no emergency rockets, or any other form of escape. The crew’s leader decided that they had to get off the ship and find some way of traveling to the nearest planet.

*** *** *** ***

After several hours, the crew was conscious again and seeking out a hiding spot. The crew’s leader finally had an idea. There was a possibility that an energy pack could be created using the light caecus. If everything went well and they weren’t discovered, they could use the light generated by the caecus to charge a machine that could help them.

The crew’s leader told his team of the plan, and the majority agreed. If they were detected by any number of the dank creatures that slithered and wandered across the ship, they would surely fall into the hands of death. This was a risk that every one of them was willing to take, a risk that was most likely destined to fail. Nonetheless, it had to be done.

When the crew finally regained enough energy to do so, they made their way to the storage room of the ship. There, covered in dust and debris, lie the machine that would save their lives. The Warp Transporter. Normally this would be attached to the engine, and it would use the ship’s energy to slow time, allowing the ship to travel faster. However, the ship was destroyed several decades ago by the so-called captain. The crew decided that they could use the light caecus as a surrogate for the ship’s power.

“The Warp Transporter needs to get out of this room for it to work. Let’s go,” remarked a heavy, high-ranking crew member. He rounded the Warp Transporter and braced himself to lift the colossal, ancient machine. With the help of the crew, they heaved the Transporter to the caecus’ corpse. They figured that if they could capture enough energy that remained from the caecus, they could stop time long enough to find a nearby planet. The crew members lugged the caecus, which was somehow heavier than the Warp Transporter, on the domed top of the machine. The Transporter was a dirty machine with space cobwebs and gravity mites attached to the sides of the thick wires wrapping and choking the area of the object.

Starting to rot and its light dimming, the light caecus’ mouth seemed to be trying to deplete its light as fast as it could. A loud rrriiippp sounded as the heavy-set crew technician tore the dead wire from the Transporter. He opened the caecus’ mouth, causing light to pour out into the hallways of the ship. Now they had to work fast, with the combination of the light and the ripping sound. Pushing the wire into the caecus’ heart, the light flowed like liquid through the Transporter. Lights flickered on and off as the hallway shook with the transference of power.

When the rumbling eventually stopped and the ship calmed its rampage, the caecus fell limp onto the ground.

“Finally, after several decades, we can get off this horrid ship.” The crew’s leader glowed with pride. He lifted the machine, along with the rest of the crew’s help, and placed his hand on the plate of the Warp Transporter.
“Everyone, hold your breath. We don’t have any oxygen in space, so we must find a planet on only one breath. Know that we most likely will not find a planet and die in space.” The rest of the crew hung their heads in silence. If they perished in space, everything they worked for during all those decades would be for nothing. They hopes, dreams, and lives would all die with them. But this was still the only chance they would ever get, and even with a 99.9 percent chance of failure, they would still take it. Every crew member sucked in as much air as they could, pushing their limits. They lifted the machine and the crew’s leader grasped a metal handle on the wall. With an echoing clunk. The lever was lowered and the wall started to peel back. Metallic gears were exposed to the ship for the first time in years, and the crew lunged into space. The dark and poor lighting of the spaceship was replaced by an even darker expanse of space.

The crew’s leader punched a button on the ancient machine and it lighted up and started to shake. A white bubble formed around the crew, as flashbacks of this same event happening while the crew was active rushed through their mind. The bubble of whirled and shimmered before expanding until the human eye could not see far enough. Inside the bubble, everything was tinted a light grey, although there was very little difference; the only thing tinted was the stars.

The crew cringed as time stopped. By now, their slow 21-mile per hour was increased by 219 light years. Stars and planets rushed by the crew as their air supply slowly diminished.

They could not make it. They had been going for a full minute, and they were getting light-headed. Eventually they drifted in a dreamy state where their failure meant nothing. They were just floating in space. They passed out.

When oxygen finally rushed into their lungs, they were unconscious. Their lungs were strained and strangled from the long amount of time without fresh air. The impact to the planet was lessened by the properties of the Warp Transporter; when the old machine detected an obstruction, it would produce a barrier that reduced the speed.

The crew survived, but their lungs were crushed. Unconscious and losing air every second, the crew was quickly spiraling farther into an abyss from which they could not leave.

Luck persisted. Out of thousands of planets they could have crashed on, they landed on one with life. The crew’s enemies inhabited the planet, but that was a long time ago, and none of their enemies could recognize any member of the crew. They were virtually invisible. From this planet, they could start another crew, this time with a captain who would not destroy everything. This time, the captain would be the current crew’s leader. Or, even better, the crew could split up and lead their separate lives.

The crew, or rather members of the crew surviving the crash, made their way to the nearest city.

There, in the vast amount of people walking through the city, was a tall man with aging, grey hair where a young, brown hairdo should have been. A man that once lead the team; the crew’s captain. When the sun finally set, the crew each bowed their head in order to not be seen. The captain was not free and walking about, but confined in a jail. A jail very similar to the one on the ship; one where the captain would just sit all day. The captain was consumed by his splintered ego.

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