Cargo Serial, Episode 1
A science fantasy serial.
Suddenly, everything went sideways. Literally. Rebecca almost forgot to be scared. One moment she was arguing with a wolfman in a wrecked control room, and the next she was in the air as the vast control room seemed to precipitously slide by.
There was not a lot of furniture, thankfully, but the far wall was approaching rapidly. Like the others, the wall was a giant display, making it look like an opening into space. It made the visual even more terrifying. It was like the cosmos was approaching, ready to consume her.
The wolfman was suddenly next to her, grabbing her. He wrapped himself around her and spun around so she was looking at the receding wall. Only then did it occur to her just how massive he was. Sure, he towered over her when they walked together. But she felt even tinier in his embrace. She looked at one of his clawed hands that pretty much covered her belly. The other pulled her head back to his chest and she could only see between two of his fingers.
The impact was jarring. Rebecca seemed to blink for a long time before opening her eyes. She groggily realized it wasn’t a blink. She had blacked out.
She looked around at him. His black eyes were partially closed and he floated limply by the wall.
Rebecca looked down, then around. They both were floating. “So’rn!” She waved her arms then took a deep breath, feeling nauseated by the sense of falling.
So’rn blinked, then looked at her curiously.
“We’re weightless? We’re going to lose all our air!” Rebecca flailed her arms while taking another deep breath.
He grabbed one of her arms, wincing, and pulled her back to him. “What does weightlessness have to do with losing our air?”
Rebecca stopped flailing and stared at him for a long moment. “Um. I don’t know?” She looked around. “I just, it seemed, I freaked.”
“You’re hurt.” Rebecca turned in his embrace and pulled back the fur on his shoulder, peering down his back. No blood, thankfully.
“It’s nothing. We play harder than that as children.” So’rn pushed her away. He looked around, at the wall-display. “The wreckage is cooling.”
He glanced at her. “This part shifted, apparently.”
“That was a shift? A shift? We were standing over there a moment ago!”
“Becca, be calm. We are still alive.” So’rn pushed from the wall, dragging her with him. “Gravity flow generators must have gone offline in the shift.”
Rebecca looked back at the wall. On it she saw the wreckage of the hundred-mile-long space freighter. Actually, the forward shield was intact, as were most of the cargo containers. It was as if the asteroid was intended to destroy the rear engineering section of the vessel. Still, that was a good ten or fifteen miles of structure that was shredded at high velocity.
Intended? Rebecca remembered something So’rn had said just before everything went sideways.
“You said we were hit by a projectile?”
So’rn glanced back at her. “I did indeed.” He appeared surprised the Terran actually listened.
“No. That’s bull. We have protections.” Rebecca shook her head. It was hard to deny what she was seeing, though.
“Our shields protect us from impacting stuff. And our maneuvers protect us from stuff coming at us from the side. But none of our shields can protect against a guided projectile.” He looked back at her again. “You were there with me. You saw it.”
Rebecca gulped. They both had been on an observation deck and witnessed the black asteroid coming seemingly out of nowhere. It was traveling impossibly fast. And it ripped through their ship like it was foil. She closed her eyes as she remembered. It did seem to match their course change. She remembered the stars rotating as the ship attempted to avoid the asteroid. But the asteroid followed. “That’s impossible.”
“We move asteroids all the time.” So’rn grabbed a counter and pushed her into a chair. She gripped the armrests while he strapped her in. “This transit is a new mine, after all. We were supposed to leave two containers in orbit for the future crew.” He looked at the display, scowling. “This asteroid was only about thirty-two thousand cubic feet in size. But it was the velocity that did the damage.”
“Oh. Only thirty-two thousand cubic feet. What was I thinking?” Rebecca rolled her eyes. He actually used another word in his language. But that’s how it translated to her. She seemed to sink into the chair suddenly. “Oof, that was sudden.”
So’rn grinned at her. “Secondary systems are online.”
“No duh.” Rebecca unstrapped herself and stood up. The floor seemed to rumble and she looked around nervously.
“We’re still shifting. The impact caused a lot of heat expansion. Now we’re cooling.”
“Death by cooling spaceship. Not fun,” Rebecca grumbled.
“Can you name a fun death?” So’rn shook his head.
Rebecca grinned, then frowned, looking out the window. “So’rn?”
So’rn moved something in the air and looked at her while reaching up and moving something else. Rebecca couldn’t see it, but knew what it was.
“Who did this?”
He scowled and returned his attention to the air around him. Sighing, Rebecca touched the control panel and suddenly saw what he was seeing. Holographic displays floated all around them. Representations of data he was searching through. Apparently, he was pondering the same question.
“The Venda would be the easiest to blame.” He glanced at her. “They’re why I’m here.”
“Yeah, but don’t they normally hijack the ships?”
So’rn nodded. “True. This is different.”
“But the Cooperative doesn’t have any other enemies, do they?” Rebecca pursed her lips, nervous. The Venda were insidious and ridiculously relentless. Who could be worse than them?
So’rn chortled. “Oh, there are others. Contacts we’ve made that did not fare well.”
“I’ve never heard of them. Just the Venda.”
“Because the Venda are currently waging war against us. But they’ve focused on the core worlds.” He looked sideways at her. “They think they’re fighting on behalf of your deviant.”
“Steven Crow?” Rebecca shook her head. “He’s an Elf. And Earth… Terra, we’re not that happy with him either.”
So’rn huffed, returning his attention to his displays. “I need to get a sample of the projectile.”
“You’re going out there?” Rebecca pointed at a wall display, incredulous. Sharp shards of metal and fragments of the asteroid made the area near them a death-trap.
“Perhaps I can find a sample without going far.” He pulled up a 3D map of the ship that hung in the air around them. “Its radioactive signature will help identify the technology used to drive the projectile.”
“That would help me identify the responsible party.”
“Pfft. Then what? Our computers have lost contact with everyone.”
So’rn looked at her thoughtfully. “They hijacked the entanglement. We’ve only seen the Sadari do that.”
“And their Venda.” Rebecca waggled a finger. She shuddered. “I thought I’d be safe on a freighter. Now we’re being attacked by gods and their hordes?”
“Just another day in my life,” So’rn grumbled. He stopped and looked at her. “What do bovine have to do with it?”
“Huh?” Rebecca blinked, cocking her head.
“You mentioned a bull. I am still trying to figure that out.” So’rn squinted at her. “Did you bring any onboard?”
“What? No! That’s just something we say.” Rebecca held her hands out, exasperated. “We’re on a wrecked spaceship about to be attacked by who knows who and you want to know about bull?”
“I am just trying to make sense of your vernacular. Terrans are an odd people.”
“And then some.” Rebecca smirked.