By Jamie Burns
“Are you sure about this?”
It was the first time any one of us had questioned our presence on Exodus. I didn’t blame Nathan for asking because truthfully I had my doubts. We hadn't been shot out of the sky on the way in, so that was a small victory. Getting back off the planet would be the hard part. Especially in what would be seen as a stolen ship. No point in trying to reason that I was just stealing back what was rightfully mine to begin with. Clara, Nathan and I stood on the bridge of the Lamplight looking out over the dirty, gray, shipyard. Ships and parts lay out for miles in front of us. A maze of junk and potential treasures sprawled out waiting to be bought, sold or stolen.
“It’ll be fine. We have to find the Thestrious then I can figure out how to get her back”
“We’ll find it.” Nathan said, reaching over and squeezing my shoulder. Now that we were on Exodus it seemed like the guilt was finally hitting him. It was, after all, his fault we were there.
“Clara, you should stay here.” I suggested
“You sure? Maybe Nathan should stay and I can come with you.” Clara said.
“No you’ll draw too much attention, it’s mostly men in the shipyard. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb.”
“Yeah, April here can basically pass for a 15 year old boy.” Nathan said and slapped me on the back. The memory of the kind comforting shoulder squeeze faded away. What else should I expect from my screw up brother.
I rolled my eyes and turned back to Clara, “For now, I think it’s best if you stay here.”
The shipyard was cold, which worked well for us. We wore our dark heavy coats, I pulled my hood up and made sure my hair was tucked in tightly. Nathan could have said it in a nicer way but he was right, I was a much more believable male from a distance than Clara could ever be. My total lack of curves made my figure ambiguous under my large coat.
We quietly searched the yard. It was still the early hours of the morning and there was almost no one around. The weather was gloomy and behind the smell of oil, rubber and garbage was a hint of oncoming rain. Several hours passed and Nathan and I still looked for the Thestrious, the rain must have kept people away because we had only seen a few roaming the ship yard like us. I started to look for any parts that might have come off the Thestrious, but I was afraid to find any, because the implication of what it would mean had happened to my ship. Several more hours past and the rain continued.
We reached the end of another long row of miscellaneous old ships.
I checked my watch, “We should go back and check in with Clara. It’s almost 1 o’clock now.”
“Ok, we should split up, go two different ways back to the Lamplight so we can keep looking along the way.” Nathan said as he scanned his eyes over the next row of ships.
“I don’t know if we should split up Nathan.”
“We’ve seen maybe four people in the last five hours, No one cares that we’re here.”
The shipyard looked just as empty and desolate as it had in the early morning. After hours of rain the ground had become a muddy mess, I couldn’t guess what the temperature was but I would describe it as frigid. Not many people would be out unless they had to be.
“Ok,” I hesitantly agreed.
“Alright I’ll take this path.” Nathan gestured to his left.
“Then I’ll swing back around. You take that one.” Pointing to his right.
“Then we’ll meet back at the Lamplight in about an hour. Sound good?” He had a hopefulness to his voice that I appreciated. As if the Thestrious could be right around the next corner. “Ok, be careful.” I said, and we split up.
It took me an hour and forty minutes to make it back to the Lamplight, the shipyard was a maze and I had hit a dead end on one of my chosen paths. The moment I entered the Lamplight and threw off my heavy wet coat I had Clara’s arm around me in a tight embrace.
“Thank God, you’re alright!” she said with her southern drawl too loud and too close to my ear.
“Yeah, thanks, I just had to take a little detour.” I said and she quickly released me from the hug. I started to pull off my mud caked boots, Clara still hovered over me.
“How long ago did Nathan get back?”
“He’s not. I was hoping you two were together.” Clara said.
“Why aren’t you two together?” Clara asked.
“We split up to cover more ground. He’s not back?”
Clara stared at me, her mouth agap.
“Haven’t you two ever seen a damn movie before? You never split up on a strange planet!”
Clara took off back toward the bridge. I followed barefoot behind her.
“Maybe he just had to take another way back, like I did.”
“Yeah maybe, or maybe not.” Clara’s voice was tense. We both looked out over the ship yard.
“I don’t know April. I have a bad feeling in my stomach.” Clara’s face was filled with worry. I knew her and Nathan had history but this was the first time I started to think Clara might have really been in love with him.
“Maybe I’m just being paranoid. If something was wrong you would feel it too right? That’s a twin thing isn't it?” Clara asked.
“Um…” I wasn't sure how to answer. Before I could decide the sound of a soft chime came from the console in front of the pilot’s seat, drawing both mine and Clara’s gaze. A moment of hesitation swept over the bridge and everything was still as we glanced back at each other.
Clara was the first to move as she rounded the console and plopped into the seat, clicking away on the screen.
“It’s a message…” She said.
“From who?” I rounded the console and looked over Clara’s shoulder.
The subject line of the message read: “To the comrade and concubine of Nathan Norien” The video message started to play, and there he was. The ass hat that stole my ship! If I had known him for any other reason I might have called him handsome, but I didn't. He was the head of a gang of thugs that was responsible for my current headache. The message continued.
“Hello Ladies,” He stared, his mouth too close to the camera, then leaning back into a chair. “My name’s Cryton Hays and I believe you are looking for something of mine.” My rage flared up at the statement. “We know you’re on Exodus and invite you to leave immediately. I’m a nice guy you see, so as long as you leave now I’ll stay that way.” He flashed a big toothy smile at the camera. “You leave now, I’ll keep Nathan here with me.” Cryton pulled Nathan into the shot by the collar of his shirt. Nathan’s face was almost unrecognizable. His nose was obviously broken and both his eyes were red and swollen shut. Clara grasped the arms of the pilot seat. “Or if you would like ol’ Nathan here back you can head over to our location and turn over that sweet little ship your pretty asses are sitting in.” It felt like all the blood drained from my body. It was that feeling of knowing you’re totally 100% screwed. “So it’s up to you ladies. You’re free to go or come swap.” Nathan pushed toward the screen “April, Go! Get off this rock!” He yelled before Cryton hit him in the face, to silence him. Clara looked away from the screen. “We’ll need your decision by 9 this evening, I’m a busy man after all.” The screen went black. Then in white letters a location appeared across the screen followed by the words “9 O’clock Ladies”
Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED