By Matt Lao
Pain cascaded through Vert’s body, forcing him fearfully awake. Upon opening his eyes, he could see the storm-caller standing over him—palm open towards his face. Behind her stood the hot-headed gunslinger, arms crossed and all. Attempting to sprawl to his feet, Vert noticed that his hands were tightly tied together. Nothing left for him to do but smile at his captors.
“Well damn. Guess my one-way ticket outta here didn’t work out.”
“You see, that’s the problem,” spoke up the gunslinger from behind his partner. “Your escape attempt worked. It worked a little too well. Because you took all of us with you.”
“Well, ain’t that a kick in the head. Pretty damn funny if you ask me.”
“You got us stuck in this mess. You’re going to help us out of it.” Despite the efforts of Demora and Talon combined, Vert couldn’t help himself. He began to roll over, laughing almost uncontrollably. The sounds of Vert’s hysteria bounced all throughout the cabin; though there was only one, the Knights could hear at least four mad drunkards aboard the Endurance.
Finally catching his breath, Vert had said, “What in the hell makes you think I’d help the likes of you after you turned me into a matchstick? And even if I did decide to help you, you really think I got any idea how to use that alien wristwatch?” One eyebrow rose above the other as Demora contorted her face at the sound of Vert’s statement. As Demora lowered her arm, Talon could be heard chuckling softly in the background.
“What?” Shock and awe resounded throughout Demora’s single spoken word. “You had absolutely no idea what the tech you stole was capable of?” For a moment, Talon thought he could see smoke coming out of the storm-caller’s ears.
“That ain’t completely true; I knew it moved things. Saw one of them five-eyed floating metal monsters stick the damn thing to its forehead. After that, I blinked, and it was gone.” Demora raised her arm again, fist closed and poised to launch this time. Vert’s half-smirk fell right off his attitude. The storm-caller reeled back and struck Vert across his face.
“Hot damn woman! Don’t you damage this perfect complexion!” Before all hell finally broke loose, Talon managed to avert the terrible disaster about to ravage the entirety of Vert’s being.
“Alright hurricane Demora, I get you’re not exactly happy as of right now but there’s something that we have to do. Well, something I have to do.” The storm-caller remained completely fixated upon Vert’s quivering hands held up in an inglorious surrender.
“Tal, I don’t believe I have the ability to cope with your highly amusing pronoun manipulation.” The grind of Demora’s teeth poisoned the air. “What is it?” Talon peered out of the man-sized viewport and studied the dark, ashen planet which came into view every five seconds or so. Moons, imperfect and dusty, littered the dead planet’s orbit.
“I’m assuming you’ve already seen that dark world not too far out of reach. Tell me, Demora. Does it look any closer than it did than when you first saw it?” Reflected in their faces, Demora and Vert shared a silent scream—self-contained fissions of fear.
“Considering that about half my ship is missing, the O2 fountains are probably struggling to stay online. The lower deck, which is now space dust, contained the majority of our fuel reserves. And I’m pretty sure that I threw a part of the antimatter filter into deep-space. We’re not going anywhere. Unless, of course. I save this ship the way I saved myself.” Before he bothered to continue the list of the Knights’ plight, Talon reopened the cargo hatch, and dropped down into the airlock. In the belly of the ship, just beyond the immobile and silent steel guard awaited the promise of (almost) pure emptiness.
“Tal, what a-” was all Demora could voice before Talon cranked the handle of the airlock, slamming shut the cabin hatch and whipping him into space for the second time. The gunslinger gripped the handle of the door, the force of his exit slamming him against the hull. Instinctively, he recoiled from the blunt pain, but shrugged it off like insects. Crawling out of the demolished lower deck, Talon grabbed the carbon-fiber vines which jutted out of the ship’s exposed skeleton. In the distance, past the ship, taunted the bleak and slim chance at survival. The battered, colossal wings of the ship resembled a deathly moth. Talon eyeballed the planet from space, and centered himself upon the back of the ship. The heat of the Void began to rise up once more. This time however, the gunslinger would not wait for the inferno.
Squaring his body as parallel as possible to the back end of the hull, Talon peered off into the deep dark blackness—opposite from the churning planet. With both the nuclear drive and antimatter engines dead, the Knight didn’t have many options. As he called upon his Power, Talon cast his life upon the die, and rolled. Glorious flames shot around and encased Talon. The fire that surrounded his body shone in the vacuum, like that of a dying and faded star. The gunslinger drew from the hip, his now charred revolver ignited like kindling. Angry bursts of plasma and x-rays sparked to life from the gun. Steadying himself, Talon picked a random star perpendicular from the planet, and pulled the trigger. As the supercharged matter raced away from the gun barrel at near light-speed with about one-hundred times the mass of a standard bullet, Talon’s body bit into the outer hull of the Endurance as it lurched forwards. Still clutching his pistol and wreathed in flames, Talon climbed above the ship to peek at the planet. His shot wasn’t enough. The gunslinger repositioned himself upon the back of the ship where he had left a shallow impression, took aim, and fired. The dent deepened. Uncertain of the results, Talon took aim, and fired for the third time. Crawling out of the nook he had formed, Talon set his gaze upon the planet—its image grew closer, only ever so slowly.
Talon cast out his flames in a small but great blast, providing another push to the Endurance. Though his golden fire was of his own Power, it was true fire nonetheless. The heat of his golden aura lingered. Frantically, Talon climbed his way back to the airlock as a writhing mass of lively embers. Rather than the door exploding outwards, it opened with ease. Someone had depressurized the lower deck. After the airlock had shut once again, Talon lowered his head, smoke and hope rising. Upon reentering the cabin, Talon found Vert sitting upon one of the crew benches with hands no longer tied. Demora stood at the control module of the ship, staring at the blinking lights and empty gauges. The silence between the three Knights combined with the hum of the ship stung Talon more than the burns of space. Until Demora broke it.