Sky in the Stars, Part 6

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Skylar finds out the only way to survive a shady organization, is to 'die'.

14 July 2930

Earth Space

Sol System

 

Aboard the cargo ship, the captain maintained a normal speed exiting the atmosphere. It would be some time before they reached the main ship to drop off the supplies. The captain, Gat Wilkes, was dressed in nothing but a grease-stained t-shirt, a rugged leather crewman jacket, denim jeans, and boots. He sat at his control panels, the room rusty and worn like the rest of the ship. It was reflective of the crew, who resembled the ship in more ways than they realized. Aside from his dingy appearance, Captain Wilkes was young with boyish good looks. The Caucasian captain wore a pair of large headphones over his messy brown hair.  He only stared out the window, his feet crossed on top of the control panel.

“Captain Wilkes. Come in, Wilkes. Over” A man said over the radio.

The captain sat upright quickly as if a superior had walked into the room. He pushed a button on the panel, leaning forward into the poseable microphone.

The captain spoke as clear as possible, “This is Captain Gat Wilkes, over.”

“We’re going to need you to expedite that shipment, Wilkes. We’re all prepped here for Sigma 5. Over” The man said.

Wilkes smirked, “ETA 2 hours. Don’t push the old girl. Let her ride the last run. You know she’s getting decommissioned after this. Over.”

The man chuckled, “Yeah, yeah. Give her a kiss for me. Over and out.”

Wilkes sighed. “Computer. Continue on course Alpha Sigma 5. Activate quantum drive.” The computer didn’t vocally respond. Wilkes only heard the quantum engines spin up before they were flung to incredible speeds. The ship continued on for nearly the full two hours before dropping out of the quantum drive and slowing to cruising speed.

Wilkes had been napping but awoke to a red light that started blinking to his right.  He brought up a screen, a schematic of the ship. There was a light blinking in one of the hallways. Wilkes raised a brow before taking his pistol and moving down the hallways to the indicated spot on the map. He kept his gun aimed forward before pressing the door’s button. The door slid open, revealing Skylar, distraught and scared. She cowered back upon seeing the gun, her hands raised in front of her face.

“Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot…” Skylar begged. Wilkes slowly lowered his gun. Gat was used to the rugged men of his crew, not a dainty woman. Skylar looked up cautiously. “Aren’t you going to arrest me… or something?”

“I uh…” Wilkes muttered. With a slow blink, he turned around and hurried back to the command deck.

“H-hey!” Skylar walked after him.

“Just… sit down.” Wilkes said, pointing to an empty chair.

“Are all cargo ships like this?” Skylar asked.

“This is an old vessel. Sorry that you couldn’t have stowed away on a more recent model.” Wilkes answered.

“I didn’t m---“

“What are you doing on this ship, anyway?”

“I didn’t…” Skylar rubbed her hands nervously. “I mean… I wasn’t here on purpose.”

Wilkes palmed his face, slowly sliding it down to his chin, “My God… did someone kidnap you and throw you on here?”

“N-not exactly… it was an accident though. I didn’t mean to stay here!” Skylar said.

“I mean, geez! Your parents. You got parents right? Don’t they know where you are?!”

“I haven’t seen them in a while. I…” Skylar cowered into herself,  folding her hands tightly in her lap, “I don’t want to either.”

“You’re a runaway. Fantastic. What’s your parent's name?”

“I’m not going back!” Skylar snapped.

A voice called over the intercom, a woman this time, “This is Gray Hunter dock control. We recognize your direct approach. Please identify yourself.”

Wilkes swung his seat around to talk into the mic, “This is Captain Gat Wilkes of the Drifa. Identification 34G11-S”

Skylar whispered, “Are you going to tell them to take me away?”

A gruff male voice came over the intercom, “Captain Wilkes, glad to see you made it back. Any problems?”

“We have a stowaway.” Wilkes answered. Skylar looked at him with shock.

“Unusual.” The man said. “You discovered him in time so there should be no appreciable danger and I presume you've informed Ship's Records so his nearest relatives can be notified. You know the policy. Follow protocol. I’ll have you connected with the ship’s records.”

Skylar looked at him, dismayed, “What did he mean follow protocol?” Wilkes looked at her with a sigh. “Jettison me? Not the way it sounded… he couldn’t have…”

“It’s exactly what it sounded like.” Wilkes said, flatly. Skylar backed away against the wall. “That is protocol. Gray Hunter has a zero policy on stow-aways. You could be a spy, a terrorist, a saboteur. We don’t know.” Wilkes turned to the control panel. “Computer. Connect me to the network. User T837.”

“You would just kill someone… just like that?” Skylar asked.

“Connecting.” The computer replied. “You are requesting a gray card, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Execution order. Time?”

Wilkes looked back to the trembling Skylar, “I’ll tell you later.”

“Error. The time of subject’s death is required before—”

“Screw the system. You’ll hear the reading first. Subject is a young woman, and she’s listening to this as we speak. Understand?”

“Continue.”

Wilkes pressed a button on his wrist communicator. Skylar’s began to illuminate. “Syncing data.” Information began to display on his display. “Name, Skylar Connor. Sex, Female. Born 21 March 2910. Height 5’9”. Weight 120lb. Hair, brown. Eyes, brown. Complexion, Light. Blood Type, O+. Irrelevant data, Stowaway. Destination, Sigma 5 2nd Quadrant.” Wilkes voice began to slow. “Pause entry.”

“Entry paused.” The computer replied.

Wilkes looked back at Skylar, “Look… I’m following orders. They do a headcount of everyone on the ship, if they find out we have an extra man onboard… well shit hits the fan. And you do not want to tick off Gray Hunter.”

Skylar looked up at Wilkes with wide eyes, “You don’t have an extra man.”

“Yes, I do.” Wilkes turned around and pressed a button the console, speaking into the microphone, “This is your Captain speaking. As part of a new protocol, please sound off on your communicators.” He then turned to other holo-screen and watched as a roster of the ship’s crew began to highlight with green for everyone that activated their beacon. There was all… but one. “Wait… what?”

“One of your crew…” Skylar began timidly, “He fell into the harbor before you took off.” Her eyes shifted as she began to lie, “I ran onboard looking for someone to help him out of the water… and then you kinda took off. Don’t you get a head count before you leave?”

“No no… Danny was on guard post. I sent a message to his communicator that we were leaving. He only had to take two steps backward and he was in the ship.” Wilkes leaned back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling with a heavy sigh, “This can’t be happening. Ugh… he fell in the water. Shit...” With a loud groan he pressed a button on the control panel, “Prepare for room 18 airlock.” He pressed another button. “Jettison complete.”

Skylar looked at him, confused. “What?”

“There has to be record of an airlock opening.” Wilkes rested his head on the control panel.

“You’re not going to jettison me?”

“I can’t quite do that, can I? One of my crew is stranded… and I can’t return short a man. It’s worse than if I returned with an extra one. Again… I could’ve left him to sell Gray Hunter secrets. It would look bad on all of us.”

“But the headcount…” Skylar furrowed her brows. “I’m not Danny.”

“The inner ship sensors only read bio-signatures. It doesn’t know who is who… just how many. Like I said this ship is old.”

“But the report.”

“Still going out.”

“But that’s a public record. My parents will---” Skylar’s voice began to crack.

“Think you’re dead.”

“So I’m…” Skylar quivered.

Wilkes stared at Skylar, “There’s nothing I can do for you. You’re going to arrive at the Gray Hunter station in Sigma 5. From there… well you’re going to have to improvise. If they realized I helped you, it’s not going to end well for either of us.” Skylar covered her mouth and pressed back against the wall. Wilkes lowered his shoulder, “Fuck me…” He approached her.

“I’m dead.” Skylar said softly.

“Listen… I know a guy who owes me a favor. I’ll forward this data to your communicator. Talk to him… he can help you. Just make sure that when we dock, you leave the ship as casually and unseen as possible. Once we’re in the station, you should be good. You’re looking for a man named Lukas Finley. Got it?” Skylar hadn’t seemed to hear much, only sinking slowly into a sob. Wilkes sighed, giving her a hug. Every regret, and thought about returning home was gone now. She was angry with her parents… but she never intended to hurt them this way. “You’ll be okay, Skylar.”

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