Christ, I hate waiting.
I looked at the comm logs again. Sent 30min ago: “Request assistance. Ship apprehended, Europa-3. SOS.”
Received 29min ago: “Request received and granted. On our way.”
I’m not stupid, I know it doesn’t take half an hour to get to Jupiter from Earth. Either something went wrong (doubtful, considering every captain in the Armada has a stick up their ass), or, more likely, those assholes were micromanaging every damn thing they could in the mounds of regulations they had to follow. Thankfully, I wasn’t outside of the Solar system. Imagine if I was in the pg’Naarr system. Now that’d be a wait.
The authorities still had yet to charge me with anything or explain why I was being held captive in an escape pod no larger than myself. I know they had to put me in the pod for their own safety, but still, I’m a little too big for the damn thing.
I tried again to contact anyone on the ship.
“Hey, is anyone gonna come and charge me, or am I gonna have to launch and hope to God I’m pointing Earthwards?”
No response, as always. Worrying isn’t my thing. Takes too much energy. Besides, it’s not like I’ll be able to fix anything should shit hit the fan. But it was sinking in that maybe things weren’t right. I thought for a little while, trying to remember what the Feds would use to demand a response. It hit me, and I hit the comm button.
“Code Alpha Alpha Tango Two, respond immediately.”
See, worrying isn’t what I do, but I make up for it in panicking. I panic with the best of them. And now, it was time to panic.
I looked around the pod I was in. Naturally, the launch button was there, big and scary and necessary, but the displays left a little something to be desired. These things weren’t made to be piloted, they were made to keep you alive until someone else saves you. I decided that it was better than hanging out on a station with no one responding. I entered the eject sequence, and to my surprise, it ejected immediately. Usually, you need clearance from the station CO. Excepting, of course, when–
This was not the time, I decided, and I pulled into space as well as I could. The ship I was waiting for was nearby, in orbit. It was DEFINITELY worse than I thought. I hit the comm button again, calling to the ship:
“Can you hear me?”
Silence. A ship that size can’t maintain proper orbit unmanned, not like that. I looked at the comm display.
Channel 117.5, Europa-3 Base.
I switched to all channels and got ready to try again, when a signal from Europa-3 explained everything:
“QUARANTINE. QUARANTINE. THIS IS AN AUTOMATED MESSAGE FROM EARTH BASE EUROPA MARK III. A QUARANTINE IS IN FULL EFFECT. ACCEPT NO ONE FROM THIS BASE UNTIL AN ALL-CLEAR IS GIVEN. QUARANTINE. QUARANTINE….”
The comm display beeped once more, from the ship nearby.
“I’m sorry,” it said, “I’m so, so sorry.”
And the ship flew away as fast as it could handle, leaving me adrift and alone.
Drew Schackmann is a contributing writer for Gutai-Pravda Assembly. You can contact him on Twitter.
© 2015; David “Drew” Schackmann, Jr.